Here is the latest piece of non-research for you to get your teeth into – courtesy of the Daily Mule.
Dr Eugenia Cheng, a mathematician at Sheffield University, has apparently devised a statistical formula for the perfect combination of jam, cream and scones for a perfect cream tea. She says that the best weight ratio is 2:1:1, which means an average scone, weighing 70g, requires 35g of jam and 35g of cream. Dr Cheng set the ideal thickness of the scone, with all its elements added, at about 2.8cm, allowing a relaxed open width of the mouth when taking a bite. Curiously the composition of the scone itself (flour, fat, weight of fruit) is irrelevant, as they are not mentioned. This poor piece of research also fails to mention wasps, splinters from the picnic bench, stainless steel tea pots that pour everywhere except into the cup, and cheap florid crockery (cracks and chips optional), all of which are traditional ingredients of a cream tea, essential for full appreciation of the British summer experience. Oh, and rain.
I was watching the TV news the other night and in amongst all the doom gloom, the mayhem and murder, was this gem: several universities working together have decided that penguins don’t fly because of…………………………………… their wings. Thank God for that, it’s been keeping me awake.
I was browsing the BBC News website this morning, a habit I’m in when up very early, and came across a story about food safety in China. According to the author, Martin Patience, rat meat is increasingly (and currently illegally) served, disguised as lamb, in restaurants. I know that things are routinely eaten in China, in fact in other Asian countries too, that we in the ‘west’ find objectionable: dog, cat, insects, reptiles and so on, but this blog isn’t about cross-cultural sensibilities. What I found alarming was the inescapable conclusion that China is finding it difficult to feed itself. The “largest migration in human history” has been taking place as chinese people abandon the countryside for an increasingly urban and industrial life. According to Patience, middle-class chinese are so worried about the safety of home produced food (remember the baby milk contaminated with melamine?) that they are turning to “trusted” western brands of processed foods and, increasingly, importing food (especially meat and dairy products) from Australia and New Zealand. They are also spending their leisure time trying to grow food that they know the provenance of, though a wholesale return to the land is completely impractical. Where is this going to end? Is famine a real possibility, is global competition for food going to result in shortages here? With the burgeoning influence of China in Africa, will there be pressure on their scarce resources? Here, in the UK, there has been a generational shift towards more self-sufficiency, and reconnecting with the land, but perhaps we’ll all need to learn to eat rat?
It was great! My day started at 04.00; by the way, how/why is it that you always wake up before the alarm? Out of the door at 04.45 and there was only light icing to scrape from the car (after all it is only 10th MAY!) so the drive to Inverness airport at that time of the morning was quick and uneventful. The 07.00 flight was also unremarkable apart from being allocated a seat next to a terrified young woman with halitosis (why me, God?) and we were in a wet and windy Gatwick by 08.40. I had taken the precaution of buying my train ticket on-line, so that would speed up my transit through a busy airport. Silly me. I had an ‘off peak’ ticket which meant I couldn’t arrive in London before 09.50. Can you wait on the platform? No, said dragon lady, in case you are tempted by evil and try for an earlier train. So it was a mad dash through the gate to the train; thank goodness I had only a small rucsack, people encumbered by giant suitcaes, push chairs and flight-tired children had no chance. Into London Bridge at 10.15 I met a dear friend, who lives and works near there, for coffee and brioche in a very trendy coffee house in Borough Market. Then it was on the tube to Westminster, where I had arranged to meet my brother. Thankfully the rain had eased off and by 12 noon, the appointed hour, we were at the site of the demonstration – the Department of Health at 79 Whitehall. For those of you who don’t know, Whitehall is at the very centre of, and synonymous with, the UK government: a four lane road but wide enough to land a ‘plane on (except for the lamposts). The green flags and bunting of the Lyme protest were, from a distance, somewhat overshadowed by an adjacent demonstration on behalf of Professor Davinderpal Singh Bhullar – a sikh held in solitary confinement under sentence of death in India. Both demonstrations were oddly silent and polite, but physically penned behind barriers. Perhaps this was because they were literally opposite the entrance to the gates of Downing Street. God forbid that a handful of sick and desparate people be allowed to threaten to safety of Dave or Nick. Actually Dave was in Russia, meeting Poot-in, and who gives a toss where Nick was (or is, come to that)? There were one or two journos there, but more interested in the London Lyme threat than the story per se . One notable ‘meeja’ personality was there in a private capacity: a man who presents a weekly TV show on the BBC was there in support of his sister – a Lyme sufferer. It’s funny how you recognise a face (I watch the show every week) but, out of context, can’t put a name to it. Anyhoo, I introduced myself just as his sister, with whom I e-correspond, gave me a big hug – so that made me persona grata rather than just another gushing, “I just love your show” fan. He was charming.
The gang had made loads of flags with personal stories, hanging them on the barriers, and made placards and signs. I had designed some self adhesive, vinyl, signs which looked great stuck to street furniture and caused some positive comment. I’ll post a couple of images from the day. At some point the 5000 signature petition was handed in, but I missed that as I had decided to try to ‘engage’ passers-by who showed interest. Any negative observation seems churlish: it was a spectacular effort, brilliantly executed, and certainly got the attention of the broadcast media. Nevertheless I did think we were too introverted: being a small community, whose relationships are mostly conducted over the internet, we spent a lot of time looking inwards, literally in our pen, exchanging experiences and information instead of facing outwards to the public. I met a man who was infected by a tick he got from a dog grooming business in Chelsea and many fellow Lymies who are, or have been, much sicker than I and who have had limited or no treatment. Of course we mustn’t forget the many who were there ‘in spirit’ but too ill to travel. I still feel relatively lucky, but I’m only too aware that this is a long fight and it may never be fully won.
Trying to grab the attention of Londoners on a major tourist route, and on a Friday afternoon, will always be a challenge (even if your message might be a life-saver) but Londoners have perfected the art of ‘ignoring’ as they move about the city. Consequently almost everyone I spoke, or handed leaflets, to was a foreign visitor. I did accost a teacher shepherding her class across the road: “I don’t want your money, but please read these leaflets – you might save their lives”. Sounds pretty pompous now. I’m glad I took my folding tripod stool as there was no way I could have stood for 4 hours. My brother stayed for two hours, good on him, but I forgot to eat lunch, and only had one drink (tea) all day, so I was absolutely shattered by the time I got back to Gatwick and my feet were ‘fizzing’. Well done Nicola (UK event organiser). WELL DONE EVERYONE!! Hugs and love all around, including Judy who, in the run-up, put up with an even more Lyme-distracted husband than usual.