Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Cricket at Lords Tuesday 3 July 1984

I was going through an old commonplace book when I found, tucked away, a few pages torn from an old mini-notebook. I thought I would transfer them to my blog because I rather like the idea of having them floating around in the ether, and also because it was the last time I attended all 5 days of a Test match
Another cold overcast morning at Lords - despite Francis Wilsons promise of a bright warm day. I believed him & wore a shirt & strappy t shirt - though took the precaution of packing a cardi &, at the last moment, putting on tights rather than go bare-legged. Thank heavens

This is not turning out to be one of Marshalls better matches. After losing the battle with Botham yesterday he at last managed to dispose of Lamb (c Dujon) with the first ball of his second over today. Only to have young Foster come in & dispatch balls 5&6 for 4 through the covers down to the short Tavern boundary

Marshall is the bowler who seems to give most thought to his fields - redirecting people without always seeming to consult Clive Lloyd

Pringle promptly went during the next over - another lbw

England declare, without further ado, at 300 for 9

Thus saving Willis the bother of batting. He does not look at all his old self - or rather, perhaps thats what he does look. After a very short net this morning he returned to the pavillion looking sweaty - in the face as much as anywhere. A sure sign of someone not at the peak of fitness

Willis had Greenidge worried during his first over - in particular one which was only just kept out of his stumps

Botham too bowled a lively first over to Haynes from the Nursery end

WI 0 for 0 after 2 overs

57 for 1 after 14.1 overs

Haynes unfortunately run out - after being sent back by Greenidge. The decision must have been a close one. Haynes lay prostrate for several seconds. Off Pringles first ball

It is interesting to see who plays the part of bowlers friend. Is this the job of mid-off, or is the friend put at mid-off to do the job?

Gatting adopted the role for Foster: he was particularly noticeable during the over, about 6 after lunch, when Greenidge really got going again

Lamb missed a really hard chance in the covers: Foster, though he jumped quickly, could not even get a finger to a straight drive

Greenidge makes the fielders look like fools because he is such a hard hitter. They dive & seem to get a hand to the ball but still it goes on its way towards if not actually to the boundary

Richards hits the ball through the gaps, Greenidge hits it through the fielders

In the 1920s Chris Broad would have been the answer to many a maidens prayer. Strong square chins however have not been in fashion since the 60s

Lamb plays bowlers friend to Botham though he usually fields no further forward than mid wicket

Willis in his trance has no need for a friend

Mike Brearley joined the ground staff on the Nursery benches in mid afternoon. I didnt see him arrive but I get the distinct impression that he is happier there than he would be in the Pavillion. If only he had a walkie-talkie to Gower

After Gomes has got his eye in & loosens up he seems to grow at least 6 inches taller

Never have I seen them changing the sight screens so often at the Nursery end. It has something to do with Bothams bowling - & of course the left hand/right hand bat combination (Haynes & Greenidge)

One MCC type who came to sit here after lunch was driven to exclaim 'They must be the worst side we have ever had' He wore brown suede shoes with gold buckle fastenings, so his opinions must be suspect

Greenidge making his 200 with a 6 to long fine leg off Foster

To see Richards walk down the ground from the Nursery to the Pavillion after nets you would think he had just got off the boat after 15 months on the raging Main. Still got his sea legs. Landlubbers need not aspire to the heights of batting

If Gomes (or Greenidge) had got out, would Lloyd have come in to bat his final innings at Lords? Pause to sigh for my all-time hero

Coloured clothing must be better, cant be worse, than the miscellaneous collection of so-called whites. Sweaters look almost brown against the over-white synthetic trousers. And someone ought to tell them about the visible panty line

When are the nice men who run Lords going to do something about the PA system at the Nursery end? Its fine - so long as there are not more than twenty people sitting here to deaden the acoustic


Friday, November 24, 2006

Shelling peas

Childhood memories - we're talking 1950s here. For me the memory of shelling peas provides one of those madeleine moments; it was a communal activity - you, your nan, your mum, your sister (no men), sitting in the sun outside the back door; peas into the saucepan, empty pods & haulm on to a sheet of newspaper later to be wrapped up tidily & deposited in the bin

A pound or two of pods, some flat & green, some fat, some warty, sere & yellow. The plump yellow pods usually provided the fattest palest peas & were easiest to pop; the flat, bright green pods were hard to split open, often had to be torn apart, & frequently provided no peas at all, just minuscule seeds which could not be sloughed into the communal saucepan. But they did provide the guilty treat - guilty because you thought you had to do it without your mother seeing - since they, pods & all, were sweet to eat whilst raw; the idea that we should pay a premium price for mangetout lay in the future

Sometimes, most pleasing of all, the peas were fresh-picked from the sun-drenched summer garden, but more often than not they came from the greengrocer or the market. If it had been a wet week a proportion of the pods were slimy & totally unpoppable; then extra sheets of newspaper were required for wiping the gloop from your fingers as you grappled to salvage a usable number of peas from the pulpy mass of their covering

In winter however, vegetables - especially green ones - were both harder to come by & unappetising. Revolting slimy cabbage (why did nobody know how delicious it could be if briefly cooked or lightly steamed? Was it because the ribs needed to be boiled for half an hour to make them tender, the black slimy leaves just the price you had to pay?) Or sprouts, after the first frost had got to them; the varieties we had then needed frost to ameliorate the bitter taste. Given these choices, winter Sunday dinner often relied on dried peas for that necessary touch of green

The blue sugar-paper bag of shrivelled, alas NOT sugar, peas from the grocer usually contained a flat wrapped tablet of sodium bicarbonate. You had to soak the peas in plain water overnight; then the bicarb would, if added during the boiling, restore a pleasing shade of green & stop them from turning yellow & sulphurous; some argued that this came at the price of destroying the flavour

Tasty or not, dried peas were spectacularly fart-inducing, especially in the dog, whose own Sunday treat consisted of the scrapings from our plates - cold roast potatoes (the hard bits), congealed gravy &, overwhelmingy, bullet peas

Then came the day we were introduced to frozen peas. As is the case with so many innovations, especially the convenient ones, they were attacked as depraved, immoral, not nearly as good for you as those communally shelled ones which we had before (from time immemorial). It did not help that frozen peas were the favoured accompaniment to that other invention of the devil which was corrupting our childrens tastes & eating habits - the fish finger. In vain, at least in those early days, did the manufacturers protest the nutritional superiority of peas picked & frozen within hours compared with peas which sat for days on the market stall or in the greengrocers shop, albeit in their pods. Uniformity, green intensity, MUST be less natural, & therefore less good than, the spectrum of variety from fat/warty/yellow to thin/flat/green

But we got used to frozen peas, & fish fingers would now, in some quarters at least, be considered infinitely superior to anything MacDonalds has to offer. Their familiarity perhaps explains why they are now faintly out of fashion. On the other hand it may be just that the difficulty of eating peas, in these days of finger foods, has led to their decline

Peas have not totally had it however. They have subtly gone upmarket in these days of ready-prepared. I still remember how decadent I felt when I bought my first plastic tray of 'fresh' shelled peas from M&S. They cost about £1, itself a sinful sum. They allowed me to avoid the physical labour of shelling & the intellectual labour of deciding which were edible; they lacked variety, were uniformly green, round & perfectly formed. They tasted delicious

Is there a moral to this story? it certainly tracks important changes in society since I was a child in the 1940s & 50s. Division of labour, for one; instead of growing peas in your own garden or buying them in their pods from the market, then shelling them as a communal family activity, they now come grown & harvested, selected & shelled, prepared (probably in Africa), ready for 5 minutes cooking, or less in the microwave. This new division of labour has been made possible by the development of air transport & concomitant expansion in methods of communication - supermarket managers need fairly instant methods of making known how much & how many they want & where they want them

Women work outside the home & cant, or dont want to, waste time shelling peas. And then there is the matter of choice; all of us, even very young children, have got used to deciding, almost then & there, what we want to eat, rather than being told to eat up - for the sake of starving children in Africa! - whatever Mum has decided to cook for tea at 5 o'clock. Its like having servants, without the stress of havimg them there to observe your sins & foibles

Should we worry about all this? What about the pollution from the planes busily transporting these peas? What happens to all those empty pods, haulm, peas which are the wrong shape or colour? Is their disposal better or worse - for the planet, for gods sake - than what happened when we used to put all the bits in the dustbin & send them to landfill? If waste is minimised, for example by ensuring that the peas all grow to the requisite shape & size, are we interfering dangerously with Natures variety? Even if we dont use GM methods?

Are we exploiting African labour, or do jobs in the pea fields & factories offer a more dignified way of life than that which the workers had before, or than that which used to be on offer to domestic servants in this country? Is it better to serve others at a (maybe considerable) distance, in return for a wage or salary, rather than serve them intimately, responding to their instant whims?

Has anything good replaced that communal pea shelling?

Well yes, if you live in the present & look to the future. The Sainsburys in Hazel Grove is open late, cafe & all, fresh peas in plastic trays & all, bus stop outside, easily accessible to those without cars, gives us many more options in the way we live our lives. I just hope that, by some process of symbiosis, this will also help improve the lives of others employed in the process. It seems better, less condescending, simply to enjoy the peas than to gush over 'their' wonderfully crafted textiles for which I pay more than I would in a commercial shop because I want to give them a slightly greater proportion of what would otherwise be 'profit', thus giving them less opportunity to build a life, dependent on divided labour, such as the one I lead

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Quantum words

Theres probably a proper (or at least an existing) term for this. I just made it up for words which can hold completely opposite meanings, are their own antonym, can be in two places at once

Wan: can mean dark or pale. I heard someone somewhere once explain that the old English word for dark acquired new meaning after the Black Death

Before can also mean behind. 'The prospect before her' is obviously in front. 'Before I came into the room' is obviously behind. Perhaps Einstein can explain this confusion of space & time

Federal in England means being ordered around by a supra-national power. In Germany it means that central government cannot tell the lande what to do. In the USA it means that state rights are jealously guarded


Saturday, November 18, 2006


I was just re-reading my commonplace book for 1997 & came across the following quotation from Theodore Porters admirable book Trust in Numbers:

'As an abstract proposition, rigorous standards promote public responsibility & may very well contribute to accountability, even to democracy. But if the real goals of public action must be set aside so that officials may be judged against standards that miss the point, something important has been lost. The drive to eliminate trust & judgement from the public domain will never succeed. Possibly it is worse than futile'

Which I had annotated:

'cf the need to find politicians we can trust [Blair, Clinton, Reagan] even if, especially if, they dont actually do much?'

How perceptive of me (!)


Friday, November 17, 2006

Tony Blairs Bad Hair Day

I am actually starting to feel a bit sorry for the man. You can hear the strain & depression in his voice, his hair has receded still further &, in my opinion, it looks as if he is now wearing something akin to a full wig rather than just a top piece. Just look at the photo on p35 of The Times 16 November - you can see the 'hair line' going round to the back of his neck with his sideburns peeking through. The Times has also helpfully provided a series of then & now pictures for comparison


Tony Blairs black day

Conservatives have only just begun to recover from Black Wednesday, the day when Norman Lamont appeared on late night tv to explain how we had just fallen out of the erm or whtever it was called then. The country just quietly turned its back & let them get on with it, whatever

I believe the equivalent happened to Tony Blair on the day it was revealed that he, personally, participated in the switch from donations to loans. In that sense the details & legal niceties, whether charges will be laid, matter not one jot. Here is this aw shucks Im a good guy I am, who promised an end to sleaze, promised to make us feel good about ourselves, knowingly cicumventing his own law.

Yea, yea, Tony, whatever you say.

Has he gone yet, Ethel?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Did I say that?

Copying & change are the fundamental processes

Genes hold the secret of life but not of living

Patients have problems, not complaints

Translation - like forgery - always shows its age

I cant understand what you say unless I already know what you mean

Art is a way of making you see

Everybody wants to be special but no one wants to be different

If ends justify means then the future justifies the past

All logic fails when pushed to its logical confusion

My body is just the space I move around in

'Originality is just another word for faulty memory' - John Patterson, Guardian Guide 28/6/1998

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Random reflections on Reading The Times Books supplement Saturday 11 November

Jeanette Winterson Our disconnection from the Earth is pushing us towards extinction Oh dear!.....

Vintage chart 1965 a momentous year for me a surprisingly literary list not too much to my taste the only one I have read is AJP Taylor later in paperback I remember sitting reading on the bus to work & being astonished at how small was the geographical area covered by WWI battlefields......

Why didnt somebody notice the 2 howevers in the 1st sentence of the extract from the Ashes book?........

Sad to see Johnson Beharrys book apparently not doing well ....quel surprise

Sassoon - people really did use to make thick down strokes & thin up ones! Despite my teachers best efforts I never mastered that art of angling the nib correctly.....

Not in the mood for Fergal Keanes emotion, or for masonic conspiracies .....

Wordsworth & Coleridge - lovely portraits I suppose it is clear enough which is which......

Palin & Rhys Jones ouch! Both in the same week.....

Must have a look at the Gladstone/Disraeli book......

Simon Blackburn the review tells me (more than) all I want to know......

I increasingly admire Jane Shillings deceptively simple prose (thats not an estate agents deceptively spacious) must read this food book....

Hurrah! a good audio review for Beharry......

Doesnt (didnt?) William Styron look like Dick Francis!......

I did love the 2 Mishimas I have read - & didnt he write Woman on the beach? but, unusually flinch from finding out more about the life of an author......

1491 at last glad to know this exists but does not sound like A Good Read. And yes, of course modern environmentalism is just 'naive therapeutic (?not sure about that) nihilism' - German Romantic Nitzchean fascism......

I must be psychic! Skimming through the Doctorow (whom I tend to confuse with Caleb Carr) - admiring but thinking hes too much like hard work - & how does the review end?.....

Now for the Xword & Sudoku

Thats the end of my annoying habit of reading out bits commenting on the paper which you cant see


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Global warming

The Right Reverend Reginald Heber, Bishop of Calcutta 1823-26, deserves honour as the prophet & founder of our modern Green movement. For he it was who wrote the hymn From Greenlands icy mountain which contains the line Where every prospect pleases & only Man is vile

And yea it has come to pass. For we are all sinners & the end of the world is nigh!

Stop driving

Stop flying

Stop importing food

Turn off that tv & that computer

Now lets see. Which of our ancestors lived the perfect green life?

But wait. For we are guilty not just of our own sins but of theirs as well

Auschwitz? Mea culpa

The Irish famine? Mea culpa

Slavery? Mea maxima culpa

Personally I should like to put on trial those who cut down the beautiful Peak Forest. And hacked out those ancient limestone quarries. And riddled the place with lead mines. And forced railways through to scar our countryside, using the power of money & clever fat cat lawyers

Why did they not take more seriously thier duty to future generations? To Us

Why were not they as clever & far sighted as we are?


Monday, November 13, 2006

The Peoples Princess

I havent seen the new Helen Mirren film about the Queen & the death of Princess Diana. But I wonder if it deals at all with the Queens reaction to Tony Blairs Peoples Princess remark?

For the Queen herself, at 21, had been given the same soubriquet:

Since it was an egalitarian, democratic era, much ingenuity was exercised
in presenting her as a peoples princess

Ben Pimlott: The Queen

Did Alistair & Tony know they were not being original - or does that 'a' make it significantly different from 'the'?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Qual der Wahl

If I hear Tony Blair or one of his minions say, once more, that they have made a difficult decision, I shall scweam & scweam & scweam

All decisions are difficult on their day. What to wear, what to have for supper ...

The whole point of having power is to be the one who makes the decisions. But it is also your responsibility as a politician to persuade us, to offer reassurance to those who may have doubts about your rightness, that you have given proper consideration to all the arguments then used your wisdom & experience to come to the best decision. That way the people will feel they are in safe hands. They might even feel good about the decision

Dont just tell them, irritably: Look. It was. A difficult decision. I made it. (And Im a good guy I am). So. Will you all now. Just. Please. Shut up. And. Move on

Todays Victorian Quotation
Pray do not go & hang people right & left to please The Times
Advice from Sir John Mellor QC to Baron Bramwell 1856

Is North up or down?

For reasons too boring to go into, I recently decided to buy a compass & carry it round so that I could orient myself at all times. I was subsequently enchanted to find that this practice is highly recommended by the Dangerous Book for Boys

I got a shock however when I checked it on the bus one day: it told me we were travelling due west when our route lay east. A glance out of the window revealed that our driver was taking an unorthodox route round a well-known spot of congestion - that must have confused me

But back on track, we were still travelling west. I spent most of the journey staring at my compass, trying to work it out, even at one point drawing diagrams in the margin of my Times. It was only when, close to home, the bus takes a definite 90 degree turn that I knew I was not suffering from a somewhat prolonged senior moment. Something other than the earths magnetic pole was drawing my compass needle

A friendly bus driver I consulted about this explained that the electrics run along that side of the bus, & suggested that it might be fun to experiment (on a quiet day) to find the 'navigators seat'

In the interests of scientific enquiry I thought I might do this. So, standing at the bus stop, I checked the compass before the bus arrived. Only to find that the needle swung markedly to follow some of the cars which passed. It seemed to be the newer, bigger models which have this effect

End of my project

The second most worrying thing about all this is that my compass needle now has a small but distinct kink - it lines up north & a bit south-west

The worst thing is wondering what the effects might be on us humans. Or is that the same as worrying about radiation from tv sets (in the 1950s) or the ability of VDU screens to cause miscarriage (in the 1980s)? Or, suddenly now, wi-fi?

And must we now all depend solely on sat-nav to orient ourselves in the world? Dont tell those Dangerous Boys ...

When I moved up from Brownies to Girl Guides I was given a beautiful compass as a gift. No bigger than my thumbnail it had a brass case - fashioned out of a spent shell by a bored soldier during WWII. I polished it lovingly week after week but cannot now remember when & where I saw it last. I am inconsolable
Todays quote
Once before, in Hellenistic times, scientists came to see their tasks as restricted to mathematical forecasting; what followed was disastrous
Stephen Toulmin: Foresight & Understanding 1961

Are we there yet?

Would it be cruel to have the following conversation in the car?

Are we there yet?

No. We are here

Well, when will we be there?

We've been there, now we are here

Do I exist?

Its funny how, in my memory, so many formative experiences took place when I was 14. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I never grew any taller after my 14th birthday - just as well really, since I am 5ft 10

One important event was my introduction to the 'existence' question. A friends father pointed out that I couldnt know that he & my friend would still exist after I left their house. For a while I thought that maybe I could if, on the way home, I suddenly turned & ran back as quickly as possible to catch them unawares ...

The idea that the world might be a mere figment of my imagination upset me for some time. Two thoughts eventually kept me going

First, if I had invented the world it would be a much nicer place. And second, it was in any case the only world I knew, so I might just as well stop worriting about it

To be continued

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Sir Arthur Sullivan: A notable black Englishman

Sir Arthur Sullivan was black.

I cant remember any modern repetition of this fact about a man considered so quintessentially English (Gilbert & Sullivan, Savoy Operas, D'Oyley Carte)

It may interest some who only saw him in after years to learn that he was golden-curled in his student days, & this in spite of the strong strain of African blood that became increasingly perceptible with increasing age ... & accordingly subjected to increasing inconveniences & annoyances during his visit to the US which permanently embittered him against Americans & American ways - RE Francillon: Mid-Victorian Memories 1913

Another snippet about Francillon described Sullivan as 'a smiling youth with an oval, olive-tinted face, dark eyes, a large generous mouth, and a thick crop of dark curly hair.'

Gladstone, Quetelet & the Body Mass Index

I was trying to find out why Quetelet invented the Body Mass Index.

Well the short answer is that he didnt. He did weigh & measure an awful lot of people in 1830s Belgium, & he did observe that, after puberty, weight tends to increase in proportion to the square of the height, but no mention of an ideal weight or of the magic numbers 20 or 25 or 30. To the extent that he had one specific purpose it was to establish a formula for ascertaining someones age. Especially if that person were dead (see postscript).

In his 'Treatise on Man' which reports these findings, Quetelet also publishes some figures for the weights of children in Stockport & Manchester & observes that they were generally lighter than their Belgian counterparts, though it should be borne in mind that the English children came exclusively from the lower orders.

William Ewart Gladstone & his brother John embarked on a Grand Tour of Europe in 1832, to celebrate the formers recent graduation from Oxford. I have just been reading the Philip Magnus biography of Gladstone & was intrigued to see the following description of a military parade at Brussels cathedral, taken from Gladstones diary for 5 Febbruary 1832.

The men were small, for both John & I could see over their heads with ease

I dont know how tall Gladstone was, though I do know that one of his brothers was famously tall - over 6ft 5 - and one of the sights of Liverpool

And so .... ? Well, what, really. But one of the joys of being a hedgehog is the tiny little coincidences, connections & links you come across. Why should an Englishman & a Belgian be making comparisons like this? Why should Philip Magnus choose this as his sole quote from Gladstones visit to Brussels?

Postscript: "A witness cannot give evidence of his age unless he can remember being born." - Judge William Collis Blagdon


Friday, November 10, 2006

Mobile phones

My current pet hate - far worse than "Im on the train" - happens when I am just walking along the street minding my own business. Then somebody behind me suddenly says "Hello!"

So naturally you stop & turn


Thursday, November 09, 2006

neo classical endogenous growth theory

Once upon a time there were three factors of production - land, labour & capital

The amount of land is fixed

The amount of labour grows in its own sweet way

The amount of capital (plant, buildings, machinery) grows from investment

Investment can be generated from within (endogenous) or from without (exogenous) - ie from savings or from outside investment

In the equations used by classical economists to explain how economies grow & prosper these 3 factors were given capital letters

But the equations did not always give the right answers when actual growth was compared with what had been predicted

So they stuck in a little t - technological change - to explain the difference. Bit like gravity & the movement of the planets really

Then light dawned. Technology is itself a factor of production

Technology can grow from pinching other peoples ideas (exogenous) or we can grow it ourselves from within


The answer is simple, stupid

Education! Education! Education!

Fizzy water on tap

The best way of reducing environmental pollution is to find a use for the 'nasty' which is causing the problem

Example: coal tar dyes discovered. Waste products of gas works put to good use. Ladies suddenly happy to be fashionable in mauve. Problem solved

Now I am certainly not a chemist. But I offer one possible solution to the problem of CO2: fizzy water on tap via the mains in every home & work place. Problem solved

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Electricity pylons

I think I may be the only person I know who actually loves electricity pylons. Aesthetically, for themselves I mean, not in a "but think of all the benefits of electricity" kind of way

There is something magnificent about them in their proportion. I love to see them marching over the Pennines. Instead of degrading the landscape, damaging Nature, I think they multiply the awe one feels in contemplating the forces which pushed the Earth up in such dramatic forms

And I love too the more stately line of pylons across the quieter landscape of the Cheshire Plain near Middlewood. They put me in mind of those old black & white futuristic sci-fi films. But rather than scary monsters these are gentle giants with dangly arms whose purposes are wholly benign

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Food you cant buy in supermarkets anymore

Chicken with giblets

Thin sliced bread - not even Hovis. And my local Tesco claims that its slicing machine only works on medium

Most cheaper cuts of meat
Any offal except liver
Chicken livers

Proper avocadoes - big ones with shiny green skins. Only horrible Hass

Sainsburys withdrew their loaf-size pain rustique in favour of 'speciality breads'


Ripe fruit

Monday, November 06, 2006

Women really do wear the trousers now

When did trousers become the default mode of everyday dress for the women of England?

Just yesterday, it seems, the Sex Discrimination Act was being used to obtain the right for little girls to wear trousers to school, at least in cold weather, but failing to give the same right to the woman who was required to climb ladders in a bookshop

Now - walk round any shopping centre, go to any office or any social occasion & women of all ages, likely as not, are wearing trousers

And when was the last time anyone spotted an undergraduate wearing a skirt during the hours of daylight?

I think it is a symptom of the retreat from domestic chores. Trousers simplify underwear (no petticoats to wash) & need much less in the way of ironing

And at least we dont have to have the kind of argument about shalwar kameez as we do about scarves & veils

Sunday, November 05, 2006

How El Nino caused mad cow disease

1 Fish meal used to be the main protein ingredient of animal feedstuffs. Remember how, in the 1960s, people used to complain that the new fangled frozen chickens tasted of fish?

2 Peru was the near-monopoly supplier of fish meal from abundant stocks of anchoveta. But an El nino in the early seventies caused a shift in the Humboldt current & the anchoveta disappeared

3 At the same time increased prosperity in England was leading people to reject the cheaper cuts of meat. Have you been to an agricultural show, seen the size of a prize bull? What to do with the carcass if only rump & fillet are eaten directly?

4 Denatured protein, once advocated as the solution to world hunger, thats what. Adding denatured bull protein to animal feed does not turn them into cannibals

5 Denaturing requires heat but the oil crisis of the early 1970s put pressure on industry to reduce their energy requirements wherever possible. So the temperature was reduced below the level needed to destroy the agent causing BSE

Quod erat demonstrandum

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The devil on the plate

Why do we always demonise childrens favourite foods? In my day friends mothers always apologised for giving you beans on toast if you went round to tea. But no decent mother would have sent her children off to school without a proper cooked breakfast inside them - bacon, fried egg, fried bread, the lot. Nor would she have neglected the once a week (at least) cake baking session. Vance Packard tells the story of the initial failure of Betty Crocker cake mixes: what woman would not welcome the saving of labour brought about by simply adding water to a box of powder? But this failed the 'decent mother' test. Problem solved when the recipe was adjusted so that mother had to do the wholesome decent thing of adding an egg

Next came fish fingers - decent mothers cook proper fresh fish

In the 1970s sugar was the devil, with sugar companies & any scientist who had ever accepted a penny of their ill-gotten gains his agent here on earth. So mothers fed their children nice savoury crisps instead

Now its burgers. My mother told me never to eat anything made of mince when I went to a cafe or milk bar, since mince was probably a euphemism for yesterdays left overs, some even scraped off plates & put through the mincing machine. I remember a highly laudatory article in Time magazine in the 1960s, praising the new McDonalds phenomenon of fast clean food made from ingredients you could rely on. And it offered the perfect nutritional balance of starch (from the bun), protein, calcium from the cheese & vitamins from the lettuce & tomato

In my day the emphasis was all on protein for building healthy bodies in what was still a time of shortage. As far as I remember the fat on meat counted as part of the protein. And if you needed to lose weight for health or aesthetic reasons then you cut down on carbohydrates, obviously. Bread, potatoes, cakes, biscuits, these piled on the pounds

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Ilkley Moor Argument

As the song goes (when translated)

If you go out on Ilkley Moor without a hat on you will catch your death of cold
Then we shall have to bury you
Then worms will come and eat you up
Then ducks will come & eat the worms
Then we shall come & eat the ducks ....
If there is only a fixed amount of matter in the world then we are all cannibals

Casareep - a neat philological circle

I heard on Radio 4 of a kind of Chinese fermented fish sauce called cat-see-ap (I made up the spelling). We get our words catsup & ketchup from this

In Guyana & the Eastern Caribbean there is a sauce, originally produced by the Amerindians, called casareep which is made made from fermented cassava or manioc. This is used to make a meat stew called pepperpot (not to be confused with Jamaican pepperpot, which is a very fiery soup). Casareep imparts magical keeping qualities to this stew; providing that you boil it up every day, you can add more meat & keep it going for a year - or so I was told. I never knew anyone who did this. We had it as our special treat for Sunday breakfast

Casareep looks like soy sauce. In Trinidad soy sauce is known as Chinese casareep, thus bringing us back to the country in which we began

PS Damn! On yesterdays (November 12 2006) R4 Food Programme a man called Ivan Day said that cat-see-ap comes from Vietnam. How could he spoil my conceit in this way?

Serendipity corner. Today (26 March 2007) I chanced upon another website which gives Dutch/Indonesian/Sranantongo words for Surinamese ingredients.

Kasiri is a kind of cassava jack, a weak liquor

Kasripo is casareep, used for stews

End of argument: OED says ketchup derives from ke-tsiap, an Amoy dialect word. And so another circle: one of the most widely available brands of soy sauce is ????

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006


I hear that there are no subtitles on digital tv. If this is true it will be a sad loss

I often watch with the sound off. This started when I needed to be quiet, but has now become my preferred mode

A whole new art form has developed, at least for programmes that can be subtitled in advance. Art form is probably too poncy a word; maybe I just mean a grammar, involving for example the use of placement & colour to indicate to the viewer which words belong to which character

My favourite new piece of grammar should be imported into everyday writing. Irony, or sarcasm, is indicated by the use of ? or ! as appropriate, but each inside brackets