Thursday, 25 April 2013

We Are What We Eat

   An old phrase I know but very true non the less.
   A friend was bemoaning the fact that she had stomach ache the other day after being tempted to eat some fresh bread, thus confirming her gluten allergy. Someone else mentioned that gluten is nothing but a poison and that we shouldn’t be eating it. And yet bread has been the staple diet of mankind for centuries. So why this sudden development of gluten allergies?
   I am not a scientist, biologist or nutritionist; I have no medical training whatsoever only a lifetime of feeding a family, so please feel free to move on and ignore what I am about to say.
   Mild gluten allergy probably affects more people than anyone realises. Most people probably put the symptoms down to eating too much as it tends to make you feel bloated. I know certain foods are harder to digest than others so I avoid them. Do I have an allergy? I don’t know, I’ve never been tested. But my own common sense tells me if something gives me indigestion on a regular basis, don’t eat it. I don’t need to know why.
   Are we noticing it more because more people are going to their doctor asking for diagnosis? Is it because people are living longer than they did when mankind first started growing wheat and using it? In theory humans are natural hunters therefore meat eaters, so it is not natural for us to eat wheat or vegetables. (Don’t show this article to any vegetarians or kids who won’t eat their five a day!)
   So why do we fill our bellies with stuff we don’t need?
   Lactose intolerance is another thing that is common especially amongst the young. When you stop to think about it this is not surprising. Although milk contains lots of good useful ingredients, humans are the only mammals who continue to drink milk after they have been weaned. So maybe we should think twice about that yoghurt for breakfast or pudding.
   The trouble is when we go shopping we are presented with all these wonderful products which tell us how good they are for us. And we believe them. What we need to remember is that all the advertising and pretty packaging is there for one reason only, to make us buy things to make a profit for the food producing company.
   My latest concern is the proliferation of drinks that are full of ‘good bacteria’. In these we are giving our bodies something that most of us do not need. Most people are perfectly healthy without the addition of whatever is in these drinks. If they ARE so important to our health they should be provided on prescription. Ok, that might be a bit drastic and costly, but what I’m trying to say is they should only be taken with medical advice.
   I might be slightly biased here because I tried some once. The result was a belly-ache the like of which I had never known in my life. My own bacteria were raging a war against these invaders resulting in pain I hadn’t known since giving birth. You don’t see that in the adverts! And since then I have been unable to touch any sort of yoghurt on a regular basis without rekindling the war.
   But there is enough of this stuff being sold to make it worthwhile for the company to continue producing it. Even if a customer only ever buys it once, there are enough first time buyers to make a profit. Hook a proportion of those first time buyers into making it a regular part of their diet even if only for one month and the profit increases. And that is what the whole thing is about. Profit. Not making or keeping people fit. If it wasn’t profitable it would quickly disappear from the supermarket shelves.
   So back to the question of food allergies. Some things are truly dangerous. Going into anaphylactic shock after eating something you are really allergic to can be fatal. 
   Other things are merely a nuisance, they might make you ill but won’t kill you. How can we avoid such things? Not sure we can,  but I would suggest being more cautious about what you buy and eat. Yes, we need food to survive. But we don’t necessarily need everything that is on offer. There is no doubt that many people in the developed world eat too much, so when filling your supermarket trolley next time you go shopping stop and think about what you are putting in it. Are you buying it because you need it to keep your body going or because it looks pretty and the TV ads make it sound like you can’t live without it. Or maybe ask yourself, ‘Did my grandparents eat this?’
   Right! Now I’ve finished this I’m off for a cup of tea and a couple of gluten rich biscuits!

Monday, 8 April 2013

New Music Genre

I confess I am a classic music fan. Or maybe that should be orchestral music fan because it's not only music from the past that I enjoy but film scores and any music that has a decent 'tune.' For quite a few years now I have been listening to ClassicFM and have discovered a great many 'new' favourite old composers and styles.
    Last weekend (Easter, in case you are reading this in May) ClassicFM did a run down of the top favourite 300 pieces of classical music. All the normal composers were there, Beethoven had more entries than Mozart for the first time. There were quite a few 'one hit wonders'. And surprisingly up in the top ten were a couple of pieces of music composed for video games.
    This has provoked much debate and some condemnation, but when I heard the music the only reason I knew it was from a video game was because I was told so. These pieces weren't the boom-boom-boom electronic drone that often accompanies video games but 'real' music.
    It has taken a while for film music to be taken seriously, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if some of today's film composers were a little younger they might well be composing for video games. and who is to say that some of the more famous composers would not have done the same.
    Many classical composers have had their melodies stolen for ring tones and hold music, and have also had pieces featured in films. And many more could be ideal background for a video game.
    I was listening to Grieg's Hall of the Mountain King the other day and thought 'Now there is a piece of video game music.'   It starts quietly and builds to a climax. It has a repetitive theme with little variation. The same goes for Ravel's Bolero.
   The other way round, the first time I heard the piece of music called Romanza, a guitar piece by an anonymous composer, I was playing an arcade game (long, long time ago.)
   So look out for video game music turning up in concerts. Who knows, maybe one day there will even by a Prom concert dedicated to such music.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Welcome to Tory Fool's Day


1st April 2013. The day the government has introduced several new policies which are supposed to improve life and encourage people to get off benefits. Ha!
    Now I’m all for stopping fraudulent claims and putting a stop to people who do not deserve benefits claiming them. But this has always happened. The temptation is too great for some people. The majority of claimants, however, do have genuine need and should not be subjected to the stress of having their benefits taken away. Many people fall on hard times through no fault of their own. In the current economic climate many people who thought they were set for life have found themselves struggling to maintain mortgage payments and have lost their homes.
    So let’s have a look at some of these new reforms. First we have the Bedroom Tax. Not officially called that, of course, but that is what it is. For anyone living on benefits in ‘social housing’ (the latest name for council/housing association accommodation) who has a spare bedroom is having their benefit cut for each spare room PLUS they have to pay for the privilege of staying in their home if they don’t want to move. So if these people want to stay they are being penalised TWICE.
    What is the theory behind this. Well, say the government, there are not enough larger places for the people who need them. Making people move to smaller accommodation will free up these properties.
    Flaw in this argument – IF those tenants wish to move to smaller accommodation there is not very much available. The assumption that they will easily find something suitable is way out of line, especially if you are talking about one bedroom flats.
    The second flaw, many of those affected will simply go without, scrimp and save, to pay the extra money to stay in the place that has been their home for possibly a lifetime. They will go without heat and food to pay the bill rather than give up their HOME. For we are not simply talking about bricks and mortar, we are talking about the place where people have raised their children. They fact that this is rented accommodation does not lessen their rights or attachments to it.
    Who does this affect?
    The couple  who have raised their children who have now left home, who maybe want to sleep in separate rooms for whatever reason, but whom the authorities say should share a room. Once they might have been self-sufficient but due to ill health or loss of job they now have to live on benefits – through no fault of their own.
    People who have split from their partners and have a spare room so that children can come to stay overnight.
    The rules and criteria seem to be interpreted differently by different councils, so that in some places people who should be exempt are being told they will lose benefit and be charged for extra rooms, so people who have a spare room for a carer to help with a disabled member of the family, or where one of a couple is disabled and needs their own room are being told they will lose benefit or have to move.
    Having witnessed the problems of a couple living in a one bedroom bungalow when one of the couple has developed medical problems that have left the other partner sleeping in the kitchen while a carer occupies the sitting room all night, I strongly feel that NO ONE should be made to live in a one bedroom place.
    While I feel sorry for families living in one or two rooms when they need more, how will forcing other people out of their homes solve this problem? It will not. It is not a simple matter of swapping one place for another. All it will do is create more homelessness, especially for those borderline people who aren’t disabled, or have any other thing they can use to stay in their home and cannot afford the extra money it will cost to stay there.
    And on top of this Bedroom Tax, people on benefits will have to start paying Council Tax, so their income is reduced even further.
    If that is not enough to worry about, major changes to the NHS take place on the 1st April.
    A new emergency service is to replace NHS Direct. 111 is supposed to be dealing with non-emergency calls giving help and advice. It is not entirely certain that this system is ready to become operational but despite calls for a delay it is due to go live. Try not to fall ill today!
    And 1st April is the day doctors take charge of the administration of the NHS deciding what services should be prioritised. If that’s not a complete postcode lottery I don’t know what is. Suppose you live in an area where there is a large aging population (my village springs to mind here). Obviously there is a need for a large geriatric care pot, but what about the things that a middle-aged person might need? Will the funding be available?   The idea that everyone will get the same treatment regardless of where they live has always been a dream rather than a reality, but under this new scheme it looks like it will be even less so.

And this is just the beginning.