Thursday, May 26, 2005

Family of faggot fans fly the flag

I was trying to define faggot, as in the British delicacy. I got as far as "Essentially big meat(y) balls made from pork liver and pork", when I thought I'd check the web - I was astounded to read the(old) news of the Doody family from Wolverhampton who were crowned ‘The Faggot Family’ in a national competition in 2003. They won the exciting privilgea of launching National Faggot Week.

Apparently, the Doodys were chosen to front the campaign after impressing judges at the Savoy Hotel in London in November when they displayed their fanaticism for the delicacy during quizzes, role-plays and mock commercials
Fred Doody said” "The great British faggot is full of flavour and a great belly warmer at this time of year." – Thanks Fred!

I remember my grandmother serving Mr Brain's Faggots to my uncle Raymond every Wednesday. I thought they had vanished - but I am pleased that the Doody family are keeping this tradition alive.

Visit the Hillingdon Times for exciting faggot recipes.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Crinkly Old Man

Welshcake reminded me that I haven't posted about stopping smoking yet. I stopped on the 6 May – I know the easy question is ‘What took you so long?’ Whatever – at least I have now. What was my motivation?

  • It wasn’t really the benefits to my health, although I do feel better.

  • It wasn’t the smell – although old jackets from smoking days stink.

  • It wasn’t even the cost – although I could afford a new soundcard and Nigella goodies now I stopped.

  • It wasn’t because so many other people have stopped – although the last couple looked guilty the other>
  • It wasn’t to please my mum – she’ll find out this weekend and be really pleased, I am sure.

  • It wasn’t to keep the house fresher – although I am pleased that the new sofa and paintwork my stay looking new for longer.

  • It wasn’t so I can look with disdain on smokers – although this is loads of fun!

  • It wasn’t so that me and the boyfriend have longer together – although I am really happy that we may live our old age without sharing emphysema and amputation.

All these things matter, but my main motivation was my niece, I want to see her grow up and to be part of her life – not the stinky old uncle who died before she left school, or the old man surreptitiously smoking at her wedding.

Monday, May 23, 2005

BBC staff strike over job cuts

I switched on the radio as usual this morning to hear ‘Just a minute.’ Normally, this would be great, but considering it was 7.30 am, (yes, overslept again), I was a bit confused as I was expecting the Today Programme . I wasn’t sure if it meant I had slept right through from Sunday night to Wednesday evening, or if this meant the country was at war and the BBC were off air while information was gathered.

Then my partner told me that the BBC are on strike and my coffee was getting cold. BBC employees are protesting at plans to cut 3,780 jobs and privatise parts of the corporation. Another strike is planned for the May bank holiday weekend – but I’ll probably sleep through that one!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

How to be a Domestic God

Dantallion posted the other day about realising that domestic chores and a quiet home life can easily stop you being a social as you were in your twenties. (There was a lot more to his post, but you get the gist)

I am sure that my boyfriend would say that I have fallen into the same trap. He is the one who has to bully cajole me into going out and having fun. Trying a new bar or a restaurant is like an unpleasant adventure, even though I will usually have a great time. We joke about my limited geographic range – I get nosebleeds if we are more then a mile from home.

Dantallion made me realise that the things I tend get most pleasure from the rather mundane home based tasks. For all my moaning, I take pride in my pristinely ironed shirts. My homemade almond biscotti are a real pleasure to eat and I enjoy setting out the ingredients and using the food mixer (someone has to!). Arranging flowers in the guest room when our parents are coming to stay and having bright, white towels ready are important details that would bug me if they weren’t done.

I think what has really brought all of this home to me has been getting the new kitchen and my obsession with Nigella Lawson’s Living Kitchen range. We now have the mixing bowls, whisk, lemon squeezer, measuring spoons and bread bin. These were bought under the guise of being necessary for the new kitchen, but they are really just kitchen porn. I am coveting the cake tins and salt pig next. Thank god they are on offer at Fenwick, or I could easily blow a weeks salary in one go.

We got to put all this domestic bliss into practice last night with a great evening. We have finally got the dining room back in order after having the new kitchen fitted and had our first dinner party in months. A great menu (halloumi wrapped in peppers and char grilled; thyme-roasted chicken salad with freshly made croutons; and extra-rich orange-chocolate mousse. We finished with my home-made fairy cakes, iced in pastel colours and topped with dolly mixtures and candy flowers (Uber-gay, but very popular!), coffee, homemade biscotti, liquers etc)

The company and conversation were relaxed and entertaining and I didn’t even mind being up late on a school night! We had done most of the prep the night before so there wasn’t too much to do. Everything went straight in the dishwasher afterwards, (never had one before – what a difference it makes), and ready now for the parental visit at the weekend. So, it is possible to combine domestic bliss and socialising!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The times they are a changing

I didn’t know that it was International Day against Homophobia (IDAHO), and it took the Daily Mail to remind me! Their website reports that ‘Homophobia continues to be a "serious problem" across Europe’, noting that, it was only 15 years ago today that homosexuality was removed from an official World Health Organisation list of mental disorders.'

Josep Borrell, the President of the European Parliament, said that the proposed new EU Constitutional Treaty includes non-discrimination as one of the major principles in the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
"Whatever their origin, nationality, social background, religion or sexual orientation, all citizens of the Union have the same rights" said Mr Borrell. He acknowledged: "While it may be true that homosexuality is freer today than in the past, discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation remains a serious problem experienced by millions of people all over the globe and within the Union. It remains our duty, as an enlarged European Union, to continue the struggle against the moral discrimination and physical violence related to sexual orientation. Such injustices must be overcome in all countries by all means."

Frankly, the fact that the Daily Mail is reporting this in an unbiased way tells me that things have come a long, long way in the last 15 years!

Kylie Minogue has Breast Cancer

The news that Kylie Minogue has been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer hit me a little this morning. It was the second item on the Radio 4 8 am bulletin, which was a surprise in itself. She is such a lovely little pocket Aussie. Hope she is Ok. The only silver lining (if there is one) is that this could do a lot to promote self-examinations and awareness for a whole generation of women.

Apparently, one in every nine women in the UK will develop breast cancer at some point in her life - more than 41,000 cases are diagnosed each year. It has become the most common cancer in the UK, and is the leading cause of death for women aged 34 to 54.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Yes, the World has Gone Mad

According to this story on the BBC site we don't need to worry about our cars catching viruses from mobile phones. Well, I can sleep safely now, as that has kept me awake with unparalleled fears many a night! I just need some research to now confirm that I am safe from my kettle and toaster becoming infected.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

'til the Cows Come Home

Living where we do in Newcastle has several good points:

  • We have good access to the city centre (15 minute walk)
  • Close to the main transport links
  • We are not surrounded by a transient student population
  • Good schools close by (for when we come to sell),
  • We are bordered by the town moor and parks

We usually walk across the moor to get to our local pub - it is a 15 minute walk – this is the only downside of where we live, but better than living in Jesmond with its main strip of pubs and drunken students. Crossing the moor usually involves walking through the cows, which my boyfriend sees every day on his run and has grown quite fond of. Last Saturday, we popped out for a couple of pints and were heading home when we saw a group of louts, one with a dog, chasing the cows round their pasture and trying to lead them out of the field into a local playground and on to the road. So, we did what any good citizen would do and rang 999. The police arrived about 3 minutes later and promptly chased after the louts away. They didn’t catch them, but the cows were safe. I must admit I felt a bit stupid when the policemen came back, but they seemed quite happy to have been called out for something other than a drunken fight. We went home happy to have saved the cows!

Monday, May 09, 2005

All Change

A usual, following the General Election, there has been a reshuffle of the cabinet. Geoff Hoon leaves defence to become the Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons. I know what the Leader of the House does, but I had never heard of the Lord Privy Seal Apparently, this is one of the traditional sinecure offices in the British Cabinet. Originally, its holder was responsible for the monarch's personal ("privy") seal (as opposed to the Great Seal of state, which is in the care of the Lord Chancellor). [I love that the definiton of sinecure is "A position or office that requires little or no work but provides a salary", I will be looking for sinecure jobs from now on!]

John Reid takes over in Defence, which leaves Health free. Patricia Hewitt has taken this on this role, coming from the DTI. As I work in the NHS, I am interested in her approach. She spent several years at Liberty (I am assuming that this refers to the human rights organisation and not the department store), which is encouraging and has done a lot to promote work life balance while at the DTI, so I am hoping she will be fair in this role. Tony Blair also promised a reduction in targets during the election, so I will be seeing if that promise is kept.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Back To Normal

I finally feel as if my life is getting back to normal. Last week I handed in my last assignment for my MSc. Two years of weeks away in Birmingham and weekends researching journals have come to an end - well at least until my dissertation starts. I am pretty confident that I have passed all my assignments with high enough marks to proceed to the dissertation, with a few recent assignments scoring merits or distinctions.

The MSc has swallowed a lot of time with it being at the back of my mind even when I am not working on a specific assignment. If I had know the amount of work involved I may have reconsidered applying, or at least tried to time it to not be in the same 2 years as changing relationships, moving house and starting a new job! Having said that, it is mainly out of the way now and an MSc in Health Economics should really help with future job opportunities and bring a new perspective to my work. While I have enjoyed the course it is also frustrating in that the economic principles make perfect sense but are very hard to apply in the NHS. In theory, we would only make decisions on the basis of cost effectiveness. When there is a limited resource (money) it seems rational to make decisions that maximise the health benefits to the wider population. Unfortunately, we do not live in a rational world, especially during the general election period when point scoring and sound bites take priority over informed decision making.

For example, health economics may suggest that spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on drugs to manage multiple sclerosis is a poor decision when the same investment could provide free eye tests to a much larger number of people, potentially ensuring more people’s eyesight is managed and their dependence on other services reduced. But politicians do not want to take these unpopular decisions and risk a media backlash, even when there is clear evidence to support such a decision. Similarly, in my job it is very hard to argue for cost effectiveness against a group of consultants who have a vested interest in protecting the status quo and their jobs.

Equally, economic principles may argue that taking some investment out of NHS services to provide community services to reduce isolation and loneliness for older people would be a better use of resources. Supporting older people in meaningful activities could reduce depression, heart disease, falls etc, but no one is brave enough to argue this case and be seen to reducing investment in the NHS. This is a by-product of the political system we have with decisions being made (in part) on the basis of popularity rather than clear evidence.

Anyway, I should have more free time for home life now, which is especially important with my new niece and wanting to see more of my family and friends. My partner will also be relived as jobs aroi8nd the house that I have delayed can start to be tackled. We had the kitchen replaced last week and it will be good to spend time getting the finishing touched done rather than burring the midnight oil researching economic models.

I also hope to have more time for the blog. I haven’t had the time to post as often as I wanted and posts have been limited to comments on odd articles rather than developing my opinions and sharing some aspects of my life in the way I wanted to. Thanks to those who have hung in over the past few months.