Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Waste not, want not

The Treasury Christmas tree
The term PFI may sound like a nasty medical condition but it is, in fact, a nasty financial condition. Those three innocuous letters – PFI – actually stand for Private Finance Initiative. Our previous Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, was a big fan of PFI and he used the scheme to finance a lot of public expenditure when he was masterminding the nation's economic miracle.

PFI works in a convoluted Byzantine way that only an accountant could dream up. Say the government wants to build a new school or hospital but doesn’t want to borrow the money and thereby appear to add to the national debt, it does a sneaky little trick of going to some nice money lenders and asking them to build the school or hospital. In return the money lender gets a juicy contract to rent the building back to the government and provide all the services required to go with it.

Now, moneylenders aren’t known for their philanthropic gestures so the government has to offer them a pretty big carrot to get involved. Imagine a carrot that’s taller than Mount Everest and juicier than a ripe papaya; that’s the sort of carrot we’re talking about. To get the PFI companies ‘on side’, the government agrees to grant 30-year contracts to run and maintain these new establishments. Kerrching!!

So far, the government has managed to secure £60 billion of new public assets via PFIs, at a bargain cost of just £260 billion. The PFI schemes have produced a veritable torrent of cash for the providers of these dodgy financial instruments.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. When Gordon Brown wanted to tart up the Treasury, rather than taking money out of general taxation which he was far too busy hosing over his client state, he got a PFI set up to finance the whole thing. The deal meant that the company running the PFI would be responsible for everything that happens to the fabric of the Treasury buildings. This is something that the new Chancellor, George Osborne discovered a couple of weeks ago when the estimate for providing the Treasury’s Christmas tree dropped on his doormat. The Chancellor was staggered to see that the PFI firm responsible for the Treasury was going to charge a whopping £875 for erecting and decorating the tree.

Understandably, the frugal Old Etonian was livid so he instructed his top mandarin to pop out to B&Q and buy a £40 tree and have that put instead. “Sorry, no can do,” said the man in the bowler hat. "It’s PFI rules," he explained. Anything that needs erecting in the Treasury – be it a light bulb or a Christmas tree – is now the responsibility and the purview of the PFI contractor. It’s all there in the small print on page 187 of the contract that Gordon signed.

George was fuming and ordered a report on the ridiculous situation, only to be told that only the contractor had to put up the tree on health and safety grounds, and that if the Chancellor insisted on bringing in his own tree then the contractor would refuse to water it, turn the fairy lights on and off and there would also be problems in disposing of the tree on Twelfth Night since it would be classed as industrial waste and would have to be removed in a vehicle that was licensed to remove business waste. EU regulations, guv.

Well, George then threw all his toys out of his pram and the PFI contractor, no doubt anxious to please the new boy, agreed to donate a tree to the Treasury free of charge. However, the contractor refused to decorate said tree, no doubt feeling it had already done more than it should to celebrate the festive season. George's mandarin was duly dispatched to Argos and decorations were procured for a very reasonable £40. Treasury staff then decorated the tree but the contractor bridled at supplying a ladder in order that the star might be placed safely at the apex of the tree. Fortunately, the Treasury’s top mandarin, who had enhanced clearance for health and safety, having attended a ladder awareness course, was able to place the star on the tree himself. Job done.

Now all this PFI chatter may sound a million miles away from the NHS and hospital food, but when you realise the amount of colossal waste and overcharging that goes on in the world of PFI, you can see that billions of pounds are literally being poured down the drain in this dreadful waste of money in many of our hospitals. For instance, the PFI contractor in one of the hospitals I was being treated in charged the hospital a staggering £45 to provide a sandwich to patients outside of mealtimes. So, when patients returned to the ward late for a meal after having had an operation, the contractor got paid almost £50 for turning up on the ward with a cardboard box containing an apple, a dry little sandwich and a cheap low-fat yogurt. And we wonder where all the country’s money has gone.

Merry Christmas.


Yet another yummy treat from Daniel in Perth, Western Australia. Looks like Weetabix that's been coated in breadcrumbs and then deep fried before being lovingly nestled on a bed of baked beans. However, I've heard from Daniel that it is in fact: a beef croquet (horrible things - like a cheap, soft meat pie), rice bubbles with full-cream milk, and orange juice, with some prunes in the covered bowl and toast in the bag in the top left.

Don't you just love the presentation? Eat your heart out Gordon Ramsay!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Gold snap

TV chef Heston Blumenthal's latest recipe for this age of austerity is a pudding made of gold. The Spiced Popping Candy Chocolate Tart was created by Heston especially for supermarket chain Waitrose and features a hazelnut shortbread base with orange chocolate ganache on top.

The dessert is decorated with gold leaf, gold lustre and that horrible popping candy that was popular back in the 1970s when it was called Space Dust. For those who don't have any spare gold lying around in their larder, a sliver of gold leaf is available from Waitrose for a very reasonable £3.99, while gold lustre will set you back just £2.49 and Space Dust is priced at a mere £2.99.

Neil Nugent, Waitrose executive chef, said the gold leaf was an affordable way of adding a touch of Blumenthal's magic to home-made desserts. 'For those who missed out on the sell out Hidden Orange Christmas pudding, this is great way to stamp the Heston hallmark on your Christmas,' he said.

'The gold leaf is something that is fun and innovative – and a great way to recreate some of Heston’s theatricality and spectacle in your own home. It is an affordable luxury for Christmas when people want to add a bit of sparkle and glamour.'

I doubt NHS patients will get to taste Heston's little confection which costs as much to make as four days' worth of food budget per patient. Still, if you feel like a 24-carat Christmas then here's the recipe:

For the spiced chocolate popping candy tart:
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground nutmeg

¼ tsp ground ginger
100g dark chocolate (minimum 60% cocoa solids), broken into small pieces
25ml grapeseed oil
50g popping candy

To decorate the tart:
Spiced chocolate popping candy (see above)
2 tbsp cocoa powder
½ tsp Rainbow Dust Gold Lustre
1 sheet edible gold leaf

Measure out the ground spices into a bowl and mix them all together thoroughly.

Put the chocolate and oil in a bowl and place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Using a spatula, mix the chocolate until it has fully melted and is well combined with the oil. Take the chocolate off the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Once cool, add the popping candy and mix well. Pour the mixture through a sieve in order to remove the excess chocolate and then spoon the popping candy on to a parchment-lined tray and spread with a spoon. Transfer to the freezer for 10 minutes to set.

Break the set popping candy into small pieces and add the spice mix. Toss them together in the bowl. Keep in an airtight container until needed.

To decorate the tart:
Sprinkle the spiced popping candy generously over the surface of the tart. Place the cocoa powder and gold lustre in a sieve and dust over the tart. Add the gold leaf for a really glitzy finish.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Nothing to do with us, Guv!

A great-grandmother was left in soiled bed sheets for 12 hours as nurses chatted outside her room in a multi-million pound NHS hospital, according to The Daily Mail.

Ruby Hamilton, 75, had been admitted to the new Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Edgbaston, Birmingham, with heart failure five weeks ago but was forced to sleep in urine and vomit-covered sheets despite repeatedly buzzing the nurses for help.

Ruby's horrified daughter Christine, 48, said: 'I was so shocked a patient could be left in such an appalling state. 'My mother had been lying in her own filth overnight. It was so bad her sheets were drenched with urine. She was very distressed and humiliated but the nurses didn't seem to care. They just stood outside her room gossiping while my mother suffered.'

Ruby's family are now so concerned about her being left in squalor again they are taking it in turns to sleep in a chair next to her. She is expected to be discharged later this week when she will return home to Birmingham where she lives with her husband Hurbert, 85.

The new 1,213-bed Queen Elizabeth Hospital opened in June and was hailed as one of the most modern facilities in the world. Hospital bosses yesterday apologised to Ruby and her family.

Kay Fawcett, chief nurse at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, said: 'The hospital is concerned about the question of care delivered to patients at all stages of their illness. I am satisfied that the patient was not left for a long period of time in a wet bed and, as soon as the nurses were alerted, they took immediate steps to address the situation and to unreservedly apologise to the patient and the relatives.'

So, it sounds as though the hospital is saying Ruby's family made it all up and that the poor old lady wasn't left soaked in her own urine, vomit and faeces? Nothing to see here... move along!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Not as daft as it sounds

An article in today's Daily Mail suggests that hospitals serve Big Macs or Pret à Manger sandwiches to short-term patients. I can already hear the likes of Gillian McKeith holding up garlic and a crucifix at the very suggestion, but hang on a moment... it's a fairly sensible idea. Besides, some hospital food makes the I'm A Celebrity bush tucker trials that so revolted Ms McKeith look like a hearty and welcoming meal.

Almost everyone, whether they're willing to admit it or not, would, if faced with the choice of a wholemeal tofu sandwich or a cheeseburger, probably opt for the fast-food option. Oh, of course they'll pretend to prefer the 'healthy choice' but unless they want to end up looking like Ms McKeith, they'd be better off with something a bit more tasty.

Now, no one is suggesting that you feed pizzas, burgers or baltis to long-term patients, day after day. However, so much food is wasted when fed to short-term patients that it's just a scandalous waste. Either do away with food for short-term patients and bring in an outside caterer from the high street from whom patients can buy their own food, or else serve up something edible. It's no good serving up Second World War slop just to keep Unison members in a job.

When it comes to longer term patients, hospitals really need to move up a gear and start planning menus of freshly cooked nutritious food that's tailored to each individual patient's nutritional needs. Alongside this, the hospitals should be offering vitamin and mineral supplements as well as probiotics for those who really could benefit from their use.

There... NHS food problems solved and money saved.

A matter of concern

Stephen Neary is a 20-year-old man with Autism trapped in a Kafkaesque nightmare. It's a story that should be on the front page of every newspaper – but it won’t be. They will keep silent. If you are concerned that we're marching towards an unaccountable and arrogant police state, then please read this heart-breaking story and spread the word.

More Aussie grub

Yet another appetising snap from Daniel. It's a piece of fish with cubed pumpkin, murdered broccoli and some unnaturally white mashed potato. I will say one thing for Australian hospital food, they do at least try to give you whole pieces of meat or fish. Frankly, I'm not sure what I would have done with a whole piece of protein as most of my meals were mashed, hashed, sliced, diced or otherwise beaten to a pulp in order to accommodate patients without the benefit of their own teeth. That said, I'm still not sure that this plate of sustenance would do anything to raise my mood while lying in my sick bed.

Monday, 6 December 2010


According to the UK Patients' Association, the number of elderly people leaving NHS hospitals in a malnourished state has doubled in just three years. Apparently, nurses are too busy to make sure that patients eat their food. Some 13,500 frail patients developed malnutrition in our nation's hospitals last year. How on earth nurses and doctors can allow this to continue is beyond my comprehension.

There's a lot of talk about serving food for vulnerable patients on so-called 'red trays' but the evidence I have collected so far on my research into the scandal of inadequate NHS food, tells me this is not always effective. Nurses may well claim they are too busy to care but I've personally experienced sloppy nursing, staff gossiping around the nursing station and a general couldn't-care-less attitude displayed by some healthcare workers.

No one on the wards of our hospitals appears to be in overall charge and more time is spent on form-filling and the collection of box-ticking statistics than it is on general healthcare. Many times when I was unable to move I was just tossed a cloth and a bowl of water and told to wash myself. Hardly ever was there sufficient time or care to help me maintain a reasonable level of human dignity. It's an absolute disgrace and made me really, really angry.

If I can do something about this scandal by publicising the problem here then I will. At least something good may come out of my experience. If any readers of my blog would like to email me stories or evidence of neglect and inadequate food then I'll do my best to publish it here.

It's time we stopped this stain on the reputation of the NHS.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Look at the size of that...

Another shot from Daniel and just look at the size of that sprout! It's a mini cabbage. Where in Australia can you possibly source a brassica that large? Can't say that the unidentified dish is floating my boat. I can't decide whether this meal was put together as some cruel and unusual punishment or else it was assembled by a blind chef. Wise decision to leave this one, Daniel.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Masterchef reject

Another photo from Daniel showing how dire hospital food can be. I can only assume that Australia has imported its hospital chefs from Blighty. We've done a few bad things to Australia over the years but they never deserved this. Time for reparations?

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

It's freezing here...

While Britain suffers arctic temperatures and snow drifts, the Hot Air Carnival currently taking place in Cancun, Mexico, continues at a red hot pace. Some 20,000 delegates attending the green jamboree were enjoying themselves courtesy of the world's taxpayers at a beach party where the tequila flowed like rivers and the prawns were being served by the bucket. Meanwhile the delegates are calling for the rationing of food, transport and energy in the developed world in order to stave off global warming. Oh... and they want more green taxes to fund their eco fantasy. Pass the sick bag!

Upside down

Daniel from Perth, Western Australia, has emailed me some photos of his favourite hospital food and so I thought I'd kick of with this excellent demonstration of why hospital chefs should never take LSD. Apparently, this offering is a pork medallion with apple sauce, pureed pumpkin and a dose of peas that have been artfully hidden under some anaemic mash. Daniel doesn't say whether it was tasty but personally I don't think I could have got passed that pumpkin without wearing sunglasses. Still, credit where it's due, at least Daniel has been given a lump of meat that hasn't been minced, shredded, macerated or liquified so that counts for something. That said, just imagine if this was the culinary highlight of your day!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Illiberal idiots

When the last bunch of illiberal twits running the country were replaced by the Clegg-Cameron Coalition, I had high hopes that the micro-managing health bullies who never tire of lecturing us on our diets and alcohol consumption might have become a thing of the past. However, I'm an idiot to presume that any politician can be anything but an illiberal moonbat who gets off on pushing people around.

It seems that our new overlords are on the verge of introducing a minimum unit price for alcohol in order to protect us from ourselves. The Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, is going to introduce a white paper on a range of interventions intended to 'reduce health inequalities'.

Rather than clamping down on the minority of people who cause a nuisance by binge drinking, they feel it necessary to introduce punishing alcohol taxes. This sounds like nothing more than a revenue raising exercise. The highly educated morons masquerading as politicians have learned nothing from America's disastrous prohibition experiment or the experience of countries like Sweden and Norway. Oh well, let's give this a go... after all, the bars in the House of Commons are still subsidised and a rise in the cost of our politicians' favourite tipple is hardly going to put an overpaid MP out of pocket.

If politicians are so hellbent on protecting us from ourselves by controlling everything we eat and drink, they should at least pay some attention to the crap that's being served up in our hospitals. Maybe the extra cash they rake in from a burger tax or higher alcohol duty could at least be ploughed into the catering budgets of our hospitals. Fat chance!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

No Common Sense

According to the Daily Mail, MPs were under fire last night for wasting taxpayers’ cash on a £500-a-day ‘Commons food-taster’ to ensure Westminster’s restaurants are up to scratch. They have drafted in the food consultant to run the rule over the Palace’s catering. Hospitality expert Jon Hewett will work on a daily rate as an adviser to the Commons administration committee. Sources were unable to confirm what Mr Hewett would be paid but insiders estimated he would receive the £500-a-day fee.

The move comes amid furious complaints from some MPs that Commons food is now ‘overpriced’ and ‘literally uneatable’, with ex-Labour Cabinet Minister Bob Ainsworth even calling for the entire operation to be privatised as ‘it could not be worse’.

But last night, the decision to pay an outside consultant to advise on Commons food was condemned as ‘ludicrous’. One senior MP told The Mail on Sunday: ‘It is ridiculous to bring in some outside food-taster to advise us on what the soup tastes of and whether the meals in the Palace are value for money.’

MPs have been up in arms since the summer when prices for the notoriously cheap Commons food were increased to save £500,000. A bacon roll in Portcullis House that used to cost £1.30 is now £1.90. MPs are also livid over the new ‘all or as little as you can eat’ £15 flat fee for up to three courses introduced in the MPs’ dining room.

According to the job brief, Mr Hewett, from leading hospitality consultancy EP Business Evolution, will receive a ‘per diem allowance for the work, which is expected to require a few hours per week until the early spring of 2011’.

A spokesman for the committee insisted it was ‘normal’ for Commons select committees to draft in expert outside advice and dismissed the idea that Mr Hewett would be ‘going round, tasting the soup and saying more salt is needed’.

MPs have vented their fury about the catering to the committee, with Lib Dem MP Lorely Burt complaining that ‘several of my colleagues, including at least one Minister of State, have now boycotted the dining room’.

Millionaire Tory Margot James complained of ‘a very specific flinty style of Chardonnay’ which was ‘frankly acidic’.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

It gets better

This stuff almost looks good enough to go back into hospital for. Apparently Richard is having scampi tonight. Any more food like this and he'll be leaving hospital on a mobility scooter.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Dinner is served

Friend Richard had the slow roasted lamb with garlic mash for his evening meal. Looks very nice. Unfortunately I didn't get to taste it as he'd scoffed the lot before I got there. Still, good private hospital grub. Mind you, those carrots look a little unwieldy.

Posh nosh

My friend Richard has just uploaded these photos on his slinky iPhone. He is being treated privately and this is the sort of grub on offer. I have advised him to go for the slow roasted shoulder of lamb and a decent half bottle of red from the hospital's wine list (yes... they really do have a wine list!).

Oh how I wish I could have gone private.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Soap dodgers

Good grief! The mad greenies of this world appear to be turning their swivel eyes towards those of us who like to be clean and fragrant. Now, I know eco warriors have always had something of a loose acquaintance with personal hygiene and most are in need of a map to help them find their way to the bathroom, but there appears to be a definite trend towards infrequent washing in a bid to lower water consumption.

According to a survey published by tissue manufacturer SCA, 41% of British men and 33% of women don't shower every day, with 12% of people only having a proper wash once or twice a week. So what do these filthy beggars do to keep themselves from reeking to high heaven? Well, apparently some women wipe under their arms with wedges of lemon instead of washing while others have a quick rub down with half a Wet Wipe. Half of all British teenagers, according to research by Mintel, don't wash every day – with many opting for a quick spray of deodorant to mask any stink. Okay, so that's not much of a surprise, but the thought of grown-ups travelling on buses and tubes smelling like a piece of overhung game fills me with dread and makes me almost grateful to be virtually housebound.

However, there are, says The Guardian newspaper, environmental benefits in smelling like an old dustbin. Environmentalist Donnachadh McCarthy, 51, limits his showers to about twice a week. "The rest of the time I have a sink wash," he says. "I believe that I'm as clean as everyone else." It has helped him to get his water consumption down to around 20 litres a day – well below the 100 to 150 average in the UK.

As McCarthy points out, it's only recently that we have expected people to bathe or shower every day. "When I was a kid," he says, "the normal thing was to bathe once a week." Head much further back into history, and we find Elizabeth I bathing once a month, and James I apparently only ever washing his fingers. In 1951, almost two-fifths of UK homes were without a bath, and in 1965, only half of British women wore deodorant.

Quite right, Donnachadh. And in those days everyone smelt like a decomposing kipper and I doubt very much if L'Oreal shifted a whole lot of product either. Why do these soap-dodging greenies want to take us back to being neanderthal cave dwellers? I wonder if they really fancy the whole authentic experience. How about a world with no antibiotics or anaesthetics? There you are, in your cave, nibbling on an old bit of tofu, shivering in the freezing cold and you've got a raging toothache and a streptococcal infection that could scare the shit out of vancomycin. As you lay there in absolute agony, all you can smell is the fetid armpits of Ugg sat next to you. Is that the sort of world these people really want us to live in? It can't be long before they call for mandatory limits on the number of showers we can take.

I swear civilisation is going backwards.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Finger on the pulse

A report commissioned by the UK’s Food Standards Agency is advocating a massive shift in our eating and cooking habits in order to combat climate change. The report was produced by a team at the University of East Anglia, the same institution that was recently at the heart of a row over possible manipulation of dodgy climate data used in a report about global warming.

The academics at the university want the UK population to move to a vegetarian diet, or a least a diet that’s very low in meat, cheese and sugary foods. They'd also like to see us drinking less tea, coffee and cocoa. They say our diets should, in future, be made up largely of vegetables, pulses and yoghurt. The report also says we need to change the way we cook our food, making better use of microwaves and pressure cookers so that we cut down on the energy used in cooking.

The report says schools and hospitals should lead the way and set a good example serving lentils, carrots and other yummy and appetising foods such as turnips and natural yoghurt. Naturally, the Food Standards agency is endorsing this silly report, probably because it’s staffed by the same swivel-eyed zealots who appear to at the helm of virtually every quango or public body in the country.

I suppose it was only a matter of time before the puritans who infest every crevice of public life got round to imposing compulsory vegetarianism. Now that they’ve banned smoking and are getting their miserable claws into alcohol consumption, meat was bound to be next on their miserable agenda.

These humourless cretins won’t be happy until we’re living in cold stone huts living off rations of tofu and rainwater. I can’t wait until they’ve created that particular paradise here in Britain. Needless to say I’ll be on the last boat out to somewhere altogether more tolerant and happier… Afghanistan, perhaps?

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Totally quackers

A young mum who took her two young sons to feed the ducks in her local park in Hailsham, East Sussex has fallen foul of the local pond warden. Lisa was told off by the functionary who criticised the bread Lisa was feeding to the ducks. It turns out that the bread being thrown for the mallards to munch was white sliced bread. It seems that, these days, white sliced bread is about as hazardous as dining on fresh asbestos, especially if you read The Guardian. The park warden suggested that if Ms Taplin wanted to come back and feed the ducks again then she should be sure to bring granary or wholemeal bread for the birds next time. The warden also added that feeding ducks white bread was as bad as feeding children chips every day. Unfortunately, the jobsworth didn't say whether the granary or wholemeal bread should be organic or Fairtrade.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Don't come out!

I noticed the other evening while watching the tv news that a large Sodexo truck was parked up next to the giant drilling rig being used to make an escape tunnel for the 33 miners trapped underground in Chile. For those who may not know, Sodexo is a massive corporation that has its tentacles in so many pies around the world, mostly supplying catering on behalf of governments to schools and hospitals. The company is an enthusiastic supporter of the Private Finance Initiative scheme run by the NHS and supplies many of the disgusting meals eaten in hospitals in the UK. Having tasted the stuff they produce I would advise the miners to stay put until the Sodexo truck leaves the rescue site. On the other hand, it occurs to me that Sodexo may be producing the meals being sent down to the miners. What a dreadful thought. Have they not suffered enough?

More photos from Portugal

Here's the view from the house I was staying in. Unfortunately, one week later it was raining like a monsoon and the roof was leaking. My clothes were damp, my money was damp, my book was damp... unbelievable humidity.
Here's a shot of one of the many granaries that can be seen all over northern Portugal. For some reason I have an unhealthy obsession with these espiguieros. Not sure what it is about these strange buildings but they are used to store corn and other foodstuffs through the winter. The strange platforms at the top of the stilts are there to stop rats and mice gaining entry to a free feast. Obviously, putting hospital food in the granaries would be another effective way of discouraging hungry rodents.

Saturday, 9 October 2010


Hello everyone...

Just returned from my first holiday in two years. It was challenging getting through airport security and thank goodness for wheelchairs, but we managed it and spent two very lazy weeks doing very little. I'll try to write a bit more later but here's a photo that gives a flavour of my rural destination.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Slow news day?

My first act as world leader will be to ban infantile surveys dreamed up by PR companies during the silly season when the nation’s newspapers are even more devoid of meaningful copy than usual.

The latest piece of statistical nonsense to be published comes to us courtesy of Polo Mints. For some reason, the mighty Nestlé decided to commission a study of Britons’ eating habits in the post-dining room age.

And what did these geniuses discover? That a third of us think it’s acceptable to feed ourselves without the aid of a knife and fork. In fact, women are the worst culprits, choosing to eat with their fingers rather than using implements or ‘eating irons’ as one old colonel I used to know called them.

Not only do Britons use their fingers to eat, but a sixth of the population lick their plates clean. Why they can’t use hot water and washing up liquid, I really don’t know. However, the mind-numbingly banal survey goes on to reveal that 35 per cent of us save our favourite part of the meal until last. Thank goodness for that; you have no idea how long I’ve been searching for that particular statistic.

According to Judi James, Nestlé’s resident body-language guru, you can tell a lot about someone by the way they eat. “The way we eat and how we treat food can often give away more about us than a ten-minute conversation. Our subconscious food habits reveal our attitudes to everything from relationships to work, and define us as a nation.”

To round off this dissertation in digestion, the survey says that we are also a nation of quirky eaters with half of us choosing to lick our ice creams in a circular motion and preferring to suck our boiled sweets instead of crunching them between our molars. Two-thirds of us eat crisps one at a time instead of ramming them in our mouth by the handful… using fingers, presumably.

This behaviour, according to the buffoons behind this exercise in the bleeding obvious claim that these discoveries show that we are a nation that takes a delayed gratification approach to eating, prolonging the experience for as long as we can. Finally, the boffins claim that food is the way to our hearts because three per cent of those surveyed (yes… a whopping three per cent) said that their idea of a perfect date would be a candlelit dinner.

Apparently, Nestlé’s next survey will investigate the toilet habits of bears dwelling in woods and other heavily forested areas.  Goodnight!

Monday, 9 August 2010

No more Mr Nice Guy

Well that’s it! No more Mr Nice Guy for me. After a life spent being decent, kind and honest, I’ve finally decided to shed the Mr Nice Guy persona and become a Bond villain. Let me explain…

For most of my adult life I’ve tried to follow a path that includes being very soft and considerate. I’m the sort of sucker who opens doors for other people and offers their seat to elderly ladies in the hope that what my mother told me was true. As a kid, I was repeatedly told that being a fine, upstanding and polite individual would pay dividends and that my life would be blessed. I now know this to be an utter falsehood.

The past month or so has brought forth so many mishaps and misfortunes in my life; enough catastrophes to make your average rash of Biblical disasters look like an afternoon at Scout camp. I won’t go into details but as I sit here trying not to cough myself into an early grave thanks to the mother of all chest infections, I’m plotting the rest of my life on earth as Mr Evil. It’s only an experiment but I want to see if being a complete bastard might turn my fortunes round.

I’m not a religious person but at the back of all our minds are the words of teachers, aunts and grannies telling us how the meek shall inherit the earth and how when we pass on from this earthly existence we shall have a deckchair in Heaven and be ministered to by beautiful angels who will feed us our favourite sweetmeats and morsels while playing the lyre for us whenever we wish.

Well, I’ve been thinking about this fantasy and have decided that with my luck it wouldn’t really go like that when checking in with St Peter:


“Traction Man.”

“Ah yes. You're down here on the list between Mother Theresa and Albert Schweizer. Unfortunately I have some bad news. Heaven is closed at the moment. It’s been extremely tough up here since the credit crunch and we've had to cut back membership dramatically.”

“What do you mean ‘Heaven’s closed’?”

“Just what I said, mate. We’re not accepting any new members. I’ve got a couple of places in Hell Lite going, if you’re interested. It’s a bit like full-fat Hell but without the heat and the raucous parties. Is that any good?”

“No it’s bloody not! I’ve just spent my entire life being trampled on by estate agents, lawyers and politicians, trying to be a kind and decent individual, and all you can offer me is a place in Hell’s annexe. It’s not good enough.”

“Well how about Limbo. It’s a bit boring but it’s not all that bad. I can then put you on the waiting list for Heaven and with any luck one of our members will do something naughty and we can shift them downstairs and let you in. We’ve got that Pol Pot bloke in here at the moment; I shouldn’t really tell you this but he’s on his final warning. You might not have to wait too long.”

“How many people are on the waiting list, then?”

“Not many.”

“How many?

“Couple of million... tops.”

“ So how long am I going to have to wait in Limbo?”

“Couple of aeons… maybe.”

See what I mean? I just know that doing the right thing is going to blow up in my face and backfire spectacularly. What’s the point? Why bother? So if the next time someone fails to hold a door open for you or nicks your parking space, it could very well be me practising my new guise as a Bond villain in the vain hope that my life will finally start moving in the right direction.

Sunday, 18 July 2010


Sorry for the recent silence. I'm progressing well but have been feeling so tired. I'm trying to do a bit more and to mobilise a little further and it's really hard work, hence my inability to blog. I'll try hard to get back to it as soon as I can.

Monday, 5 July 2010

We were only following orders

The cretins at Barnsley Primary Care Trust have managed to comprehensively upset the parents of a 11-year-old boy by writing to them to tell them their son is fat and could be in danger of contracting type 2 diabetes or cancer. The boy in question, Tom Halton, is a fit and active young man whose weight and height placed his Body Mass Index slightly outside the Department of Health's guidelines.

As most schoolboys know, muscle weighs much more than fat so an active young man of above average height could probably look slightly overweight on paper. In a sane world, a properly trained nurse or doctor would take one look at the boy and realise that weighing 7st 10lb at 5'1" meant he was not in danger of keeling over at any minute. However, the semi-trained chimps and their computers at Barnsley PCT decided to spew out an automatic letter and cause offence by insulting Tom's parents by suggesting they were overfeeding him. The letter upset Tom so much that he stopped eating. Genius... we now have one young boy erroneously tagged overweight and no doubt anorexic within the next few months. What halfwits!

No doubt Tom was weighed at school and his data passed on to the PCT by an imbecile with a silly job title. This then triggered the Nanny State into full offensive action and ended up causing all the trouble. As the new Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, said the other day, government must stop lecturing people. Of course, NuLabour Super Nanny has been poking its nose into areas where it wasn't welcome for far too long but let's hope this stupidity is going to be increasingly rare now that we have a change of government. I hope that the fatheads whose job it is to send out these letters are reassigned to more useful duties very shortly... picking up litter or cleaning toilets would probably be more within their capabilities.

Barnsley PCT was approached for a comment and said it was only following national policy. Hmm... that old chestnut! They have since issued a grovelling apology. Not good enough. Send them to the gulag!

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Latest x-ray

I wonder how much I'm worth for scrap. Still, this ought to help keep me in one piece.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Bone-headed bureaucracy

It's not just here in the UK where bureaucrats appear to have undergone a frontal lobotomy. Virtually every nation under the sun seems to have been taken over by complete morons. Take the example of a South African man, mistakenly listed as dead by authorities, who has spent four years fighting to prove he is alive so he can get a passport, register a car and change his wife's marital status from "widowed".

Claude Pretorius has been working to correct the bureaucratic error since 2006, when he discovered, while applying for a passport, that the Department of Home Affairs had listed him as dead. "They told me that I could not apply for a passport as I am deceased," the Johannesburg man told the The Star newspaper.

Mr Pretorius said he got a sworn affidavit from police affirming that he is alive and was issued a new identity number, enabling him to buy a car. But the problem resurfaced last year when he tried to register the car with the traffic department. "I found out that my status has again been changed to deceased," he said.

Three weeks ago, Mr Pretorius was given a ticket for failing to license the vehicle. "How is it possible for me to purchase cars, but the minute I need to obtain any form of licensing, I am declared deceased?" he complained. His wife has been unable to give legal help - since she is officially listed as his widow.

Amazing, isn't it? The poor man is declared dead and can't do any of the things he should be able to do but as soon as he infringes one of their petty rules they are able to issue a dead man with a ticket and bring him back to life as if he were Lazarus. I expect they're still taxing him too. 

It never ceases to amaze me how efficient the punishment arm of government works but the bit of the state which is supposed to help people is a shambles. 

Monday, 28 June 2010

Sweet Jesus!

NHS Chiefs in North Wales have decided to ban sugar from vending machines that dispense hot drinks in hospitals. The miserable, shrivelled and humourless idiots that run healthcare in that benighted part of Britain think sugar has no nutritional value so they, egged on by the ridiculous Welsh Assembly, have decided that all their subjects must be prevented from exercising the personal choice and freedom to sweeten tea or coffee.

Experts claim that sugar is a 'risk to health', although probably nothing like as risky as a stay in an NHS hospital. Welsh Assembly documents circulated to NHS hospitals in Wales also recommend that water, juice, seeds and dried fruit be placed in vending machines as healthy alternative snacks. That's bound to cut the takings of vending machines dramatically which in turn can only lead to an increase in parking charges in order to recoup lost income. Of course, sugar in tea has little nutritional value but that's not why most people use it... they put it in their tea because they like the taste. Incidentally, the advice also recommends that Cheddar cheese sandwiches are also banned as they contain too much fat. That's vegetarians stuffed, then.

As a nation we really do have to begin asking ourselves how these brain-dead gastropods and incompetent fuckwits manage to worm their way into highly paid and responsible positions within the public sector. How can these fools possibly imagine that their pathetic attempts to micro-manage people's lives is going to go down well with anyone but themselves and their pathetically timid political masters? It's time we stopped being in thrall to these idiots. The Soviet Union had ways of dealing with people like this: gulags. Isn't it time we introduced the concept here? Or, at the very least, village stocks.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

A bridie in the hand

My thanks to The Englishman for passing on this shocking story of disgusting hospital food (I'm using the term 'food' very loosely here). The food in question was served up at Hairmyres Hospital in East Kilbride, Scotland. A local doctor, Grace Campbell, was horrified to see the food her husband was given following an angioplasty at the hospital looked as if it was designed to fur his arteries up again as quickly as possible.

It appears that the local health authority feels that the best food to serve people recovering from coronaries and other heart conditions should include bridies (a fatty meat and pastry delicacy hailing from Forfar, that centre of culinary excellence and home of the deep-fried Mars Bar), cottage pie, sausages and haggis.

Following his angioplasty, Dr Campbell's husband, who also happens to be a doctor, was offered high-fat, processed food, most of which, according to Dr Campbell, was unrecognisable. She said: "The staff were very apologetic but they said that was all that was sent up for all the seriously ill patients in the coronary care unit. The poor staff were mortified as they served the meals which were at best inedible."

Mrs Campbell said that she was forced to bring meals into the hospital for her husband, "as if in a Third World country".

Complaints about the catering at Hairmyres date back to 2001 and NHS Lanarkshire was among the health boards criticised in a report on the quality of hospital food in March. It was one of four that received a "red rating" from a National Facilities Scotland report for failing to meet government standards. The report said that overall, Scotland's hospitals were failing to improve the meals provided for patients.

And the response from the hospital? "All inpatients are presented with nutritionally balanced menu choices, all of which are of nutritional value. We are aware a complaint has been received and we will be fully investigating this."

"All of which are nutritional value"! What sort of fuckwit with a PR degree came up with a quote like that? Of course it has nutritional value: a block of lard has nutritional value, but not necessarily very good nutritional vale. Where in god's name do they find these pen-pushing twats?

Another candidate for the gulag when the revolution comes.

Make your own Bridie

12oz / 300g plain flour
3oz / 75g butter (diced)
3oz / 75g suet
Couple tbs. of cold water
Pinch of salt.

Meat Filling
1lb / 450g finely chopped beef
1 finely chopped onion.
3oz / 75g grated beef suet

Cook for 30- 40 minutes until golden brown and meat is cooked at 200 degrees C or 400 F.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Help needed

Sorry for not blogging for a while but I've been paying attention to my rehab and doing quite well getting mobile again. However, I now need to turn my attention back to pushing the campaign along for better hospital food. I'd really like to hear from anyone in UK hospitals who would like to send me their images and experiences of hospital food. I need to collect more examples from a variety of hospitals in order to confront some of the catering companies who are supplying very poor quality food and making rather a lot of money out of the NHS in the process.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Let them eat cake

Give a simple job to a bureaucrat and then stand back and watch them make a complete hash of things. The latest example of the stupidity of officialdom is the response by the Department for Education to the call for a relaxation in school nutritional standards for boarding schools. Some of you may remember a few years back, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver tried to draw attention to the poor nutritional standards in Britain's state schools. The result of Jamie's campaign was the setting up of the School Food Trust: a bloated and overfed outfit that's provided a large stone for a number of nutritionists to crawl under.

The new stringent rules surrounding school food standards mean that the nation's 35 state boarding schools can no longer feed children in their care anything that is high in fat, sugar or salt... not even as a treat. A cake and a cup of tea after games and before homework? NO! Verboten. Sausages? Banned! Butter? Banned! Breakfast cereal? Banned... unless it's All Bran, of course.

The rules for school meals were designed for day schools, not boarding schools that provide children's food seven days a week. The poor little sods are now forced to follow some nutritionist's wet dream around the clock. Never mind the fact that the school is their home and that means a bit of comfort food or stodge is occasionally called for.

Paul Spencer Ellis, headmaster of Royal Alexandra and Albert School in Reigate, Surrey, said: "The whole logic is that the regulations are for a day school where the parents aren't going to feed them properly at home, but in a boarding school we do all their meals.

"But, as it stands, pupils come into the boarding house after school and they want to grab some carbs and it's illegal. It's illegal for me to give them a sticky bun."

Mr Spencer Ellis asked the bureaucrats what would happen if he relaxed the guidelines and was told he would be prosecuted if he did and could face jail for contempt of court.

There are times when I think only a stout piece of rope and a tall lamppost will solve some of our problems. What is it about some public servants? Where do they get their common sense chip removed? But as my father always says: "The trouble with common sense is that it's not that common".

Thursday, 10 June 2010

More balls

Not being a football fan, I might have missed this little gem had I not stumbled across it at the excellent Nanny Knows Best blog. It appears that the government is worried that we're all going to be sat on our backsides staring at 40-inch plasma screens for the next four weeks. Because of this, the Food Standards Agency has issued some guidelines to armchair footballers about what sort of food and drink they should be eating as they cheer on their favourite team. Now, put the salted peanuts and beer to one side and consider this helpful advice:
"If you're throwing a party for friends and family to watch a game, there are lots of tasty and healthy options you can tuck into as you cheer your team on. Why not serve a vegetable curry with boiled rice or a tasty chilli with plenty of kidney beans? 

If it’s just nibbles, how about some tasty, healthier snacks, such as: 

  • low-fat dips (less than 3g fat per 100g) with vegetable sticks, bread sticks or mini pitta breads for dipping
  • lower fat/salt crisps – compare labels so you can choose healthier varieties
  • some easy-to-eat fruits, such as apples and grapes
  • homemade plain popcorn – made in the pan from popping kernels"
If that's not bad enough, the advice goes on to tell you how to barbecue safely before going on to give some advice on which takeaway meals are better for you. In a cringing nod to the diversity industry there's even a piece of advice about how you can eat food with a multicultural twist. Naturally there are the usual warnings about drinking too much alcohol and not eating salty snacks and, finally, there's a hectoring jab to tell you how you should also take exercise during the competition.

If the government needs to find somewhere for its money saving axe to fall, I don't think it could do better than the department of tosspots who drew up this heap of bollocks.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

I must be feeling better

There's nothing like the feeling of raw anger surging through my body to make me realise that I must be feeling a bit better. And what is the cause of my current ire? It's one of those quangos which is currently leeching off the public purse in order to provide non-jobs for people who appear to be incapable of working in the real world.

Allow me to introduce you to the wonderfully named organisation: "Play England". This Lottery funded ragbag of do-gooders is part of the NCB. This 'charity' was founded in 1963 as the National Bureau for Cooperation in Childcare but now calls itself NCB. It has a staff of 270 and an annual budget of £19 million - most of which comes from the public purse! Its subsidiary Play England has the following flaky objectives:
  • promote local play strategies
  • build partnerships for play
  • research and demonstrate the benefits of play
  • promote equality and diversity in play provision
  • raise awareness and promote standards
Apparently it does this by providing:
  • resources and information
  • training, conferences and seminars
  • networking and referrals
  • advocacy and campaigning support
The NCB is currently moaning that the budget cuts proposed by the new leaders of our bankrupt nation will interrupt their vital work and harm play. Now, I know that turkeys don't particularly relish the sight of an Advent calendar being pinned on the wall, but it's this sort of bollocks (along with Five-a-Day coordinators and Diversity Tzars) that's got us into the supersize heap of financial crap we're currently covered in. 

I don't ever remember anyone needing to teach me how to play. Children seem to manage to play and amuse themselves and each other quite easily without some twerp called Damien or India showing them how to kick a ball or climb a tree. Surely these people aren't using children as an excuse to dip their hands in the nation's piggybank, are they?

Rant over!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Thank goodness for that

Sorry for the break in transmission but when your leg is leaking Lucozade and you're drugged up to the eyeballs, blogging comes way down the priority list. I'm happy to say that the good ship TM is back on an even keel and everything seems to be healing nicely. I'm still a frustrating 2cm short in my left leg and the ORIF (open reduction internal fixator) makes me feel a bit like a cyborg, but at least I no longer have a left leg with an extra hinge in the middle of the femur. You'd be surprised how difficult it is to walk when two thirds of your leg isn't properly attached to the top third... stop squirming at the back!

Anyway, my thanks for all those continuing messages of support. This really is turning out to be something of an education in how much punishment one body can take and home many litres of anaesthetic, antibiotic and opiates one human can digest. It tells me that the human body is a brilliant and durable machine that simply couldn't have been invented by a human being... unless they were Japanese or worked for Apple.

I'm feeling slightly more cheerful today following my perusal of the newspapers this morning. It seems that our new coalition government has decided to make hospitals responsible for their patients' care for up to 30 days after a person is discharged. This is music to my unscathed ears. I have suffered far more than I should by being sent home too early from hospital so that the Health Trust can meet statistics on waiting times demanded by our old government. From now on, if a hospital discharges a patient too soon or botches an operation, it will have to bear the cost of putting things right if the patient needs to be readmitted as a result. That should sharpen the minds of a few of our overpaid pen-pushers. At this rate the government may even do something about hospital food!

Monday, 7 June 2010

Another update

Things seem to have settled down and I'm healing well. A combination of sore leg, antibiotics and painkillers isn't really making me feel great right now but it's good to be feeling a bit better. Once again, thanks for all your kind wishes and I'll try to get back to posting as soon as I can.

Friday, 4 June 2010


Thanks for all your kind messages. Not out of the woods yet but certainly no further down the track. Metalwork still inside and resting up in order not to upset the leg more than necessary. This is some sort of epic... no? It seems like a rollercoaster ride from where I'm laying.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010


Sorry for not posting. I seem to have developed some post-operative complications. May have to go back in.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

The recovery goes on

Still at home in a horizontal posture. This op was far bigger and more painful than I realised. It's going to take 3 to 6 months for rehab, apparently. At least the food is better at home.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

The Recovery Position

Whisky is clearly helping me to recover by recharging his own batteries. Tough life being a cat!


I'm out of hospital and resting at home. Things are going well and I feel far better than I have a right to. Thanks for all your good wishes and messages.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

To conclude

I've been here a week now and since my last stay in November I have to say the quality of the food is more consistent and slightly better. The recipes could be a bit more imaginative and ingredients more local and fresher.
Tonight's Scotch broth was tasty but strangely contained not a single shred of lamb in it. No doubt a cost-saving exercise but scrag end of lamb is not expensive and would have transformed this soup and made it more nourishing.
This cheese and tomato sandwich doesn't look too bad but the use of an extremely low-grade, non-dairy spread spoils the bread which itself is nothing special and certainly not local. The tomatoes were good but the amount of cheese in the sandwich is so small it's nutritional value is negligible.
At least the sandwich was better filled than previous examples I've been served but as a main course choice it is a bit pathetic. That said, I'm pleasantly surprised that there has been an improvement since my last stay when I fear I thoroughly embarrassed the hospital's management board. It's a small step but I really think change is on the way and the importance of the message of good nutrition in hospital food is finally getting through.

Healthy lunch

Someone in the kitchen must have read my comments about the omelette masquerading as a shoe insole. Today's cheese omelette was very good indeed and accompanied by a passable salad.

Finally, a rather tasty apple crumble with pretty good custard. Move along please... nothing to see here!

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

New chef?

Mushroom soup isn't my favourite but this one was perfectly adequate.

The vegetables may have been waterlogged but the Lancashire hotpot was very tasty.

Well, two out of three isn't bad!

New organic shoe insole launched

This should sort out my slight leg-length difference.

The yellow peril returns. The custard has been resaturated with Agent Orange. I wasn't sure what the pastry thing underneath was, but don't expect to find it stocked in Waitrose or M&S in the near future

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Why me?

Sometimes you eat something and you know... you just know it's been recycled. Today's broccoli and cheese soup was just such a dish. I distinctly remember leaving some of my cheese last night and no one eats their broccoli in this hospital. Normally I have no intention of eating the soup I order as it's uniformly awful, but like some poor sucker who does the lottery each week, I tick the box just in case it might actually be edible for a change. The truth is we have more chance of being hit by a giant asteroid than I do of getting a soup that doesn't taste of sick. So here it is...
Oh well, I thought I was on to a winner with my main course. I mean, who can screw up Macaroni Provençale? A bit of pasta, some tomato sauce, handful of herbs and maybe a bit of cheese. Job done! Sadly I didn't get Macaroni Provençale. I got this instead.

I think even Stevie Wonder and Andrea Boccelli could work out that that was no Macaroni Provençale. I consulted the menu and soon deduced that this was chicken and leek pie. It was available with gravy but as I hadn't ticked the chicken and leek pie box, I obviously hadn't ticked the gravy box on the menu so I didn't get that either. I did however order green beans and croquette potatoes just for a giggle. As you can see, the green beans morphed into cauliflower while the potato croquettes somehow turned into something like turkey twizzlers. As for the pie crust... there's enough material there to repair all of last winter's potholes.
Apple Cake and Custard. It looks like a half a loaf of Mother's Pride sliced bread that's been ripped up in temper, added to stewed apple and lovingly smothered with NHS premium custard. What have I done to deserve this?