Sunday, 20 September 2009

You ungrateful prick!

A number of posters on this blog have been a little splenetic – hostile even – in their attitude towards my criticisms of the food I’m currently being served. Some of these well-intentioned but miserable and humourless gits have even gone so far as to lecture me on hunger. Their assorted abusive messages tell me what an ungrateful prick I am and that the tucker on offer in this hospital is so appetising and delicious that starving children all over the world would be only too grateful for the privilege of licking my empty dinner plate clean.

This was something my parents also used to tell me when I was about six years old. I remember telling them at the time that I was only too happy for them to send any leftovers to the poor children of Biafra, if that’s what they wanted. Even then I had a charitable and selfless streak about me.

Anyway, since those ill-tempered postings were made I have received a number of emails purporting to be from impoverished children from the Dark Continent begging me not to call DHL to arrange for my leftovers (can you call them leftovers if you haven’t touched them?) to be sent to them. It appears that Crofter’s Hotpot is universally despised, even by the hungry and starving.

Some other posters have been telling me that I am a spoilt little shit for not liking my food and that there are homeless people on the streets of this country who would be extremely happy to eat my lunch.

Well, I’m not too sure about this claim because in my career as a journalist I’ve done a fair bit of research on hunger amongst the homeless and my experiences point to the contrary. While I found homeless people to be universally thirsty, I often received impolite rebuffs when the matter of food came up. I can remember one conversation in particular…

“Got any spare change, guv?”

“Sorry,” I replied. “What do you need it for?”

“Cup a tea and a hot meal. I haven’t eaten for two days.”

“Well I don’t have any cash but I do have a credit card. Why don’t you come with me and we’ll pop into Prêt à Manger and I’ll get you a nice sandwich and a cup of coffee? How does that sound?”

“Fuck off! Tosser,” the man snarled while menacingly loosening the string that was holding the mangy dog sitting next to him. “Give me cash or piss off!”

Now call me unsympathetic but that sort of talk strikes me as being a tad ungrateful. I even had a suspicion that the vagabond may have wanted my money for alcohol or even drugs!

From that day on I’ve always been a bit suspicious when anyone lectures me on my good fortune and lack of charity. But just in case anyone is genuinely in need of some mushroom stroganoff and would like me to send it to them, drop me a line on the blog and I’ll see if I can sort something out. The postage will probably be a bit steep on account of the weight, but if it helps relieve genuine hunger then I’m happy to pay.


  1. "Extremely happy to eat [your] lunch"? Hmmm. Maybe for a tenner.

    I have to say though ... I think you were a bit hard on the goulash.

  2. Your post brought back memories.

    A few years ago we holidayed in Victoria on Vancouver Island. Over the first few days we were struck by the large number of beggars on the streets. After a week or two it became apparant that there were at least some 'beggars' who worked the streets for a few hours before jumping in their cars to go home. Judging by the number of tourists throwing coins their way, these guys seemed to be doing OK.

    I feel sorry for anyone having to eat the slop you have been offered and I don't think I could wish it on anyone...especially the ill.

  3. Excellent rebuttal Mr Traction.

    I can offer you a genuine food begging story - alas from another continent.

    A couple of years ago, I was in San Francisco and was approached by a fairly scruffy middle-aged chap asking for money.

    I said I'd buy him a McDonald's if he was hungry - his face lit up and a Big Mac with extra large everything was woofed down.

    What was the breadcrumbed thing by the way?

  4. If we're geting serious here - and why not - there is lashings of evidence that the provision of good food is a significant contributor to optimum clinical outcomes for in-patients.

    Thus speaks the NHS Estates' own website:

    "Intake of nutritious food is crucial for patients who are recovering from the effects of medical or surgical procedures. Patients who receive good nutrition may have shorter hospital stays, fewer post-operative complications and less need for drugs and other interventions."

    Note that it is not just 'nutritious food' but also its 'intake' that counts. It has to be eatable as well as edible. May be wholesome, but if it looks like something the dog just sicked up it won't be consumed.

    What also do we know? That many people - in particular older people - actually enter hospital in a state of malnutrition. We know too that the problem is increasing and it is very often undiagnosed. (Nursing Times, 8th Feb. 2008)

    Do we not also know that there are increasing concerns that a number of people who need physical assistance and emotional support with eating in hospital are not receiving it? (See the Age Concern campaign 'Hungry to be Heard.')

    Now our Traction Man is not going to die of starvation. He knows that and makes no claims that he will be at such risk. But there are plenty of people right now in British hospitals who are suffering dire consequences because they are not receiving an adequate diet - food they can eat, served in ways that they can ingest and given direct assistance when it is needed.

    Hospital mealtimes used to be sacrosanct. No visitors allowed, doctors discouraged from ward rounds and all the nursing staff focused on ensuring every patient was properly fed. None of this now applies.

    In having some tedium-breaking fun with his 'Food Bingo', our host is very properly once more - and globally - highlighting a crucial NHS failing.

    You carry on mate. For every plate of dog sick you show, I know that there are scores of very ill hospital patients who are growing weaker by the day in part consequence of the poor quality, presentation and serving of their food.

  5. Good points, Peter. My greatest wish is that through humour I can raise awareness of an important issue that can change and save lives.

  6. Write to our mate Jamie. He'll sort it all out. Bet you. Strikes me as just so damned stupid that the hospital you are in doesnt think that what goes in, makes you better. Or at least a tad more healthy. Grrr. Go on, show Jamie Oliver your blog and see what happens. PLEASE!!!

  7. Grrr. Go on, show Jamie Oliver your blog and see what happens

    Just hide the link to the downfall video? He may not view the situation so charitably after watching that .. .. .. ..

    The hostiles are only jealous and searching for the love that their mothers never gave them.

    After all of the fanfare that was made about revolutionising hospital food the end result seems a little bland and unappetising.

  8. The people who are being hostile to your good self are commonly known as the 'Righteous'.

    They 'Righteous' know what is good for the rest of us and constantly tell us what to do and think. Any thought crime is quickly shouted down and the perpetrator is usually labelled with a name ending in 'ist' or 'phobe'.

    They are a favourite subject on free thinking blogs.

  9. A recent study in the U.S. comparing hospital food with prison food found that prison food was more healthful and flavorful. Additionally, here in the U.S., we are on the edge of an industrial food revolution in both public schools and hospitals. I hope the drive for change continues. Anyone who supposes you should like what you are forced to eat (at about a gajillion dollars a day, I reckon) just because you have something to put in your mouth can suck it, in my humble opinion.

  10. That's your best post so far. Very funny. Heh I'm wondering if you could capture a bunch of these meals in Perspex or formaldehyde or whatever it was that German so-called artist was doing with cadavers. Then either raffle it or sell it as a work of art - like that wanker with the diamond-encrusted skull or Tracy Emin's slept-in bed. Malkie, Paris.

  11. I actually think you, Mr Traction, are the one in need of charitable gestures. I feel sorry for you having a serious condition and eating this rubbish. I think if they could pump a good amount of fresh food into you, you would recover faster!

    The starving folks in the Dark Continent excuse is lame. All food, whether it got through your system or not, goes back to the Earth eventually.

  12. Only boring people say such things as ''starving children in africa would be grateful'' those people with very little imagination as it totally irelevant to your situation.I too would be hacked off with the slop they serve up with a good dose of misery no doubt.Keep your chin up blog Mr TM,you are making lots of people laugh so ignore the miseries or like me, just laugh at them!

  13. Help is on its way Traction Man, just this week the powers that be have announced that they are persuing an expensively produced piece of research which shows that people who eat good food get better faster, it is an amazing discovery, one that will empty hospital wards all over the country. They are very excited by it. It cost hundreds of thousands to produce.
    Whilst you are lying around doing nothing, how about writing a piece of research for them - something along the lines of a circular apparatus for fixing to the bottom of cars and trucks to help them glide along the road should do the trick - you could be a wealthy man by the time you get out.
    I'll give you a start, a good title would be 'The Wheel' - it will knock 'em dead!

  14. Don't know how long you are going to be in hospital for, I spent 6 months in a South Coast Hospital, 3 months of which was spent in glorious isolation, due a not so glorious bout of MRSA, and still get shivers down the spine when I see rubber potatoe and sloppy sprouts. As for the lump of sandstone, which is obiously there to stop the plate escaping, I was told that this was going to be removed from the menu as too many people had lost teeth.

  15. It makes me absolutely fume that anyone would criticise you. There are terrible situations all over the world - and yours is one of them - you're in traction, for god's sake. It's like comparing apples and elephants.

    The unappetising food in hospital continues to contribute to the illness of those unable to get away for it, and you're speaking up for all of those who cannot speak for themselves.

    Fricking miserable gits - I hope as they're sitting down to their roast beef and yorkshires today that after they've vacuum packed the extra portion for Africa that they choke on their properly cooked brussels.

  16. The people who wag fingers at you, Mr T, are the kind of people who think that if something hurts or it's vile to eat (insert other self-flagellating alternatives here), it must be good for you. I thought we got rid of that attitude when the Victorians bowed out but clearly some people like to have a big dollop of misery and discomfort to chow down on.

    Peter P smacks the nail firmly where it works, too. Under the humour, satire and general ice-cream-and-green jelly-throwing of this blog there's a serious point that you're making, and making extremely well. Serving patients ghastly-looking muck like this does absolutely nothing nutritionally or psychologically for wound healing, general morale, or energy, although at least you can lift a fork and move it about unlike many elderly patients who can't, and who sit and quietly starve.

    You can't even get up and walk about or nip to the hospital shop for the newspaper headlines. Maybe there's another assumption that Them Up There are making - that you don't need variety and interest, and that you can happily and mindlessly lie there day after day without becoming intellectually and psychologically desperate. The highlights of the day, as any current or ex patient will know, are the meals. Or they should be. Instead you're being thrown sloppy, ghastly-looking mush as though you were less than farm animals.

    DOH!! Hang in there. Hope you've got some good books, too.

  17. Dont listen to them If you dont like the food it is your god given right to complain about it.

    Fuck em they would be the same if they were in hospital.

    Anna makes a very good point and I know what she means.

    I dont mean to come across as bossy or anything but I mean well and I would like to see you out of this hospital.

  18. You are so right. I found this blog thanks to the good old daily mail and i now check back every meal time. Keep up the good work (if you can call it work) but i hope not for too long!

  19. Lots of excellent points being made here TM, not to mention the millions of pounds being wasted when this muck is thrown out.

  20. JUst woke up from a mini snooze to all these lovely messages. Thank you so much. Sunday's are very lonely as I don't get any visitors. So you are now my virtual visitors. A lovelier bunch couldn't be found.

  21. Your posts make me laugh a lot. Thank you for writing them, really.
    Thanks to you I discovered delightful british slang ( 'lightweight porkies'! I had never heard of it before! I love it to bits): D
    Hospital food here in France is bad too.
    Keep Fighting! *cheers*

  22. Ah, the prissy and self-righteous are always with us (as an opera singer I am regularly told I'm a waste of good money and that my pay should be channeled to teachers'n'nurses... I happen to disagree). Ignore them - the rest of us are enjoying your writing immensely!

    The most money I EVER gave to a beggar was to an extremely bedraggled and bloody specimen I met outside Paddington. When I asked what he wanted money for, he said "I've just been beaten up and really need to get pissed". Everything in my purse, with my blessing.

  23. If there's one thing that ticks me off it's those do-gooders with no sense of humour! (or perhaps it's just that time of the month for a lot of them?)

  24. Mate, having worked as a Food Services Manager for two hospitals in Sydney, I can fully empathise with your plight. However, please dont lay the blame at the hospital level. This privelage belongs exclusively to the pencil-pushing, beurocratic knob-heads who make the in-comprehensible and often in-concievable descisions which affect and effect the public hospital systems. I was 'forced' into changing from a 'cook fresh' system to a 'cook-chill' system, despite every patient and staff survey that stated the contrary. As a result, I'd secret special dietry -cook fresh- meals to some of my pallative care patients in one of my hospitals. This took a LOT of organising and cohort actions, as I and several of my staff risked loosing our jobs. HEY, these people had served our society, earned they way and paid their taxes, why then have these f*&*ing pencil-necks, the right to deprive them of their security? As anyone who has worked in or had the unfortunate need to be in a hospital knows, food remains the ONLY solace within a strange, un-familiar and often frightening environment. TM, you've discovered a new weapon. One which allows you to voice the opinion of thousands, if not millions of unfortunate souls. By remaining anonymous, you retain a mystique and power which would otherwise have you labled simply as yet another whinger.
    Keep up the good fight and dont allow yourself to become side-tracked by those who dont share the faith, some of whom may well be the 'anti freedom' Nazis. Otherwise known as THE G MEN...
    Cheers Mate and get well soon, but not before you lead the people out of the land of ignorant bliss... Poppy...

  25. Our food is processed by a large American outsourcing company. It's the Haliburton of hospital food. I don't blame the staff in the kitchen who are reheating it. However, I do blame the overpaid gutless knobhead who awarded the contract knowing head never have to eat this shit on his £200k salary.

  26. We all would react with horror if science told us they had discovered a means (besides botox that is) to turn the most beautiful women (beautiful of soul, heart and face.) into zombie automans with an appetite for toddlers. And we sure as heck would not tell the very scared toddler- be grateful you still have your mum. We would just know that "hey this putting the cat in the sandbox of life is just wrong."

    You don't take something that God gave us for life and pleasure and Frankenstein it. Sooner or later the villagers will go for the pitchforks. And no we are not grateful that a scientist of Frankenstein's stature has decided to set up the lab right here in River City.


  27. Hello Traction Man!
    Greetings from Brisbane!
    I picked up your blog via my email of the Sydney Morning Herald Tech News - wonderful!

    I have only been in hospital to have babies: here's my anecdote: I had my first child 28 years ago in the Royal Sussex in Brighton. The Maternity floors of the tower block we were in had been designed with their own kitchen as someone had realised that new mums are not sick and need normal meals (not small portions etc). Alas, cuts rendered the kitchen unused except for filling flower vases from the taps and the food arrived from miles away, tepid and unattractive. I particularly remember fried fish which looked like deep fried flip-flops. The staff openly urged us to get takeaway via husbands. In those days, you were in for a week with your new bub. On day 3, your milk comes in and you get STARVING. You await your husband's arrival in the evening feverishly - flowers, cards and that hand-crocheted from vicuna wool blanket from Great Aunt Alice are tossed aside and the food parcel is attacked - packets of Hob Nobs vaporise - Mongolian lamb and fried rice vanishes and you begin to feel human again. The spare food is stashed away gratefully: I remember eating M & S chicken pie at 5am - could not wait for breakfast (cinder toast). I hope that the NHS has now learnt that birth is not an illness and healthy lactating mums need good food - now!

  28. Dear Traction Man,

    I have been reading your blog daily. Excellent. Fantastic. Keep the blogs coming. It brings a smile to my face every morning at work (this is a hard task).

    I hope you feel better soon.

    bored office worker. australia.

  29. I am presently a patient in Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick NSW Australia... that's POW for short, but I think POW's may have been fed better.
    I cannot complain about the doctors or nursing staff, they are amazing, but the food & hygiene are much lacking and I blame our government and cutbacks.
    I am 4 kilos lighter than when I came in 2 weeks ago, I have another operation due on this Friday, 28th September 2009, meaning I will be here for another 3 weeks or thereabouts, and I cannot afford to loose more weight.
    I have been keeping a daily photo shoot of my meals because I cannot believe what they have been feeding us, last nights soup looked more like a seafood finger bowl for washing hands, clear, with a tinge of green and no flavour.
    The patients are given 2 daily doses of 2x MOVICOL to keep bowels regular, but have been refusing it as I'm not eating enough to do #2’s anyway. I figure the cost of daily MOVICOL meds would be better spent on meals.

    The bathroom on our floor doubles as a open storage area for bed linen & towels, this cannot possibly be healthy. I noticed some unidentifiable muck on one of the rails in the bathroom early in on my stay so I have made a point to touch very little in there, and to always wash hands of course. It has been wiped since, but a residue remains and I doubt the area has seen a proper clean in quite some time. Cut backs on cleaners too????

    In reply to the some who think we have nothing to do but complain, you are SO missing the point.
    Being impressed by a meal is NOT what this is about, it is about the right to be fed a nutritious meal when we are unable to look after ourselves, so we CAN get well & go home.

    None of us are in hospitals because it is fun, and if you are here long term there is more risk of illness because of the lack of hygiene and nutrition in the food.

    My only hope is to voice my concerns here, write a few letters to my ombudsmen/council/government and hope that somebody will talk some sense into our current health minister, Carmel Tebbutt.

    Good luck Traction Man, and to all of you in hospital, patients & staff.

    Last nights dinner here:

    Cheers, Ravinut

  30. Outstanding blog - would really like to see one test given to hospital food. Get the prat who approved the contract to live on it for a couple of weeks. After all, if it's good enough food to cure your ills, to make you better, then it should be good enough for them.

  31. Dearest Traction Man,

    I so enjoy your amazingly talented blog – it is so refreshing to see articulate, brilliantly written prose on the genre of Hospital Food quality. Proust had nothing on you for nuance and, I can adamantly say, that I have never encountered articles that have ever really captured the Zeitgeist of Hospital Food so succinctly. You are – quite simply – a genius.

    Oh, and deflecting the fact that you are a whining prat by associating people who actually question the raison d’être for your complaining about food by with drunken street bums is brilliant! I bet you’re also great at aligning questioners of ‘Climate Change’ with deniers of the Holocaust too aren’t you?

    I’m sorry that you’re banged up in hospital, I really am. But, frankly, if you don’t like the food – which they serve you because they have to, not because you are paying for it at an exorbitant rate from room service menu – then get your own brought in.

    Oh, and people who say that the starving around the world would appreciate it are absolutely right. Even if some bleeding-heart, left-wing, liberal woman from Notting Hill or a poncy, ‘eco-warrior’ from Cheltenham who have never known real poverty or hunger or deprivation say so.

  32. I surrender. I've been out-satired. Got it wrong on global waning though. Proust, eh? He was confined to bed for years too! Thanks for entertaining

  33. You are whining too much for me as well.
    I've seen much worse food in hospitals in Italy, where we have much better food normally than UK (wanna bet on that?).

    The food in the hospital isn't delicious because they have to care about the cooking procedure - cannot fry it, or put strange aromas or bring you a butter fried entrecote, sorry man.
    You're not in a restaurant, unfortunately, and I am sorry for you, but you're being too picky.

    As for the food being cold, do you have any ideas how many people they have to serve? What do you want, a nurse bringing you the dish directly from the kitchen?
    Without counting that most of the times the vegetables are overcooked so some poor ill old man will be able to swallow them.

    I am sorry for you being in a hospital, it's horrible, but I really think you're just complaining to get famous, and this is so narcissist. Although is keeping you busy somehow which is nice for you by the way.

    Hope you get well soon. My best wishes.


  34. Yep! I'm definitely doing this to get famous that's why I'm choosing to be anonymous. Do you think before you speak or is it just some form of verbal incontinence?

  35. Totally agree with you, dude. Easy criticism, bullshit people always bring up when you use the slightest ironic accent.

    Keep up the good job


  36. Hi. I've also noticed that often the hungry ones are actually thirsty. A friend's family suffered of alcoholism, bad marriage and very sad financial situation.
    I wanted to help them, especially because there was a little boy in the family. I knew they needed money but I did not want to give money. In stead, I went to a grocery store and bought them three big bags full of food.


  37. Hi Traction Man,
    I am sorry you are ill and hope you get better soon.
    I have been in hospital recently and as I have cancer will likely be back soon.
    I was wondering if you had addressed your concerns to the catering manager. I guess (s)he would welcome constructive critisism and may find some simple steps to improve things. I know you fill in satisfaction cards but have you challenged someone to your bedside, at mealtime, to discuss the situation in person?

  38. I've got to say, if I was a homeless fella and you offered to buy me a sandwich from Pret a Mangy, I'd tell you to "Fuck off! Tosser" too. If I was a homeless bloke down on my luck, the last thing I would want would be a BLT or a dolphin-friendly Alaskan salmon butty. I'd want a nosebag topped to the brim of the finest Bolivian marching powder or a needle full of brown. Mainly to forget my miserable existence for a short while.

    You think you're doing badly, I've just had to suffer 24 hours worth of in-flight "cuisine". Give me your brown muck and you can have my chicken surprise.

  39. "Keep your chicken surprise, tosser!" :-)

  40. Yes, we should get the filth off the streets. And the wops, eh?

    What a vile person you are, blogwriter. I wonder how loudly you'd howl if taxes were inched up to provide high quality food to people in hospital? Would that count as spongeing off the state, I wonder? I expect you'd have that letter off to the Mail before the words were out of the minister's mouth.

    Enjoy your breakfast!

  41. What are these wops you speak of?

  42. Interesting that many of the negative comments are posted anonymously! I quite understand why you, dear Mr T, would want to remain anonymous pro tem but if your readers want to bad mouth you the least they could do is put their name to it.

    I was in hospital for one night last year and the food was so-so and that was a private place.

    As for inching taxes up (can you inch a tax?) I think I'm right in saying that less gets spent on hospital food than in prisons on food. Get rid of some of the pen pushers and 'managers' to improve the food!!

    Keep up the blog and DLTBGYD