100% wrong

We have reached that time of the year when even I, a lover of black and white striped mint sweets for sheep (baa humbugs), must admit that Christmas may not only be coming (which is always the case) but is sufficiently close that I may have to do something about it.

Yesterday, whilst wandering the aisles of a local supermarket,I noticed a packet of tasty Xmas treats labelled “100% butter mince pies”.  Surely the only thing which is 100% butter is butter – and unsalted butter at that.  Now, I like butter as much as the next man – but expect my mince pies to have some other ingredients: mincemeat, flour, sugar and perhaps an egg and a dash of milk.  I know footballers and other mathematically challenged individuals have been giving 110% for many years, but these mince pies would have to be giving well over 200% to be even remotely satisfying.

Talking of the mathematically-challenged, I notice that the Chancellor justified his plans to reduce the highest tax rate using reasoning thoroughly debunked as complete nonsense on More or Less more than a week earlier (by those well-known left-wing subversives: Tim Harford and a senior tax planner to the wealthy).  I have no idea whether the change is a good idea or not – but judging by his explanation, it is an even worse thought out change than the rest of government policy (and that can’t have been easy given the amazingly “high” standard of the competition).  Perhaps it’s time that More or Less became required listening for all government ministers – it is less than 30 minutes per week and at least while listening they should be unable to implement innumerate new policies.

I survived

(but it was a close-run thing).

Yes, I’m back at Fish Towers after a week in Auld Reekie – and am still more-or-less intact (more about the less in due course).

In the last week, I have had more late nights than in the preceding 11 months, “enjoyed” a pretty major shift in my diet (5-a-day has still been achieved but only if we substitute the words “fried food” for “fruit and veg” in the standard dietary advice: when in Rome etc) and consumed rather more alcohol than is perhaps compatible with the life of simple purity that makes up my quotidien existence.  I have also spent a lot of time sitting on some seriously uncomfortable chairs (the rest of the country, and perhaps even much of Europe, must be stripped of dodgy temporary seating in August), mostly in rather cramped and sweaty conditions.

As a result, blogging and sleep have suffered somewhat.  However, the last week has provided much needed fresh material for future posts and the lack of sleep should be resolved by a few early nights (those Zs don’t count themselves, you know).

Perhaps more worryingly, my left foot and both ankles seem to have put on rather a lot of weight whilst away – they are looking decidedly chubby.  It may be that my body starts storing excess calories (or joules) starting at the ground and slowly working up.  If I spent a whole month in Scotland would it reach my knees, or even higher?  Do I quite literally have hollow legs (as has often been proposed)?

Talking of Scotland and deep-fried food, I fear it may be losing its pre-eminence in this field.  As East Coast was whisking me south (while plying me with food and drink), I listened, on my iPod (other MP3 players are available), to The Bugle podcast.  If you like your news discussed with somewhat silly, some meet even say puerile (which, based on my schoolboy Latin, I assume means “boyish”) humour (well, you are reading this blog!), I can thoroughly recommend the Bugle.  On last week’s edition, I learned that the folk of Iowa take a block of butter, pierce it with a stick (like a butter lolly), coat it in batter (to make battered butter – there has to be a tongue-twister in this!) and then deep-fry it.  I can feel my arteries hardening just writing about it!  By comparison, even stereotypical Scots eating is looking pretty healthy.

The only alternative explanation for my puffy pedal extremities that has come to mind is that, rather than gaining weight, perhaps they are swollen – perhaps caused by my enforced separation from my bicycle or walking on cobbled streets or over volcanic hills. Has my body become overly adapted to cycling on the relatively flat?

However, neither explanation really covers the divergent impact seen on my left and right feet.  My feet are pretty much inseparable – I have rarely caught them more than 6 feet apart (or would 2 metres be a less confusing measure?) – and so surely anything affecting the left should also affect the right?

Still, I’m not in any pain – though my left shoe is a little tighter than normal – and if my feet have put on weight, it should lower my centre of gravity and lead to a much needed improvement in balance.  Surely, it’s not too late for a career as a gymnast?  Though I will admit that most gymnasts I’ve seen are slightly younger and shorter than me – but my study of the field has been less than exhaustive.  I’m also slightly concerned that even as a (supposedly) flexible primary school child I could never manage even the lowest BAGA award – the backward roll was always beyond me.  Then again, I couldn’t manage differential calculus in those days either – so there’s always hope!

Still, despite my sub-shin tumefaction, I had a really wonderful week away.  Where else could I take in 30+ shows covering music (old and new), poetry, photography and comedy in a single week?

Sliced Bread 2.0

The normally robust Fish constitution has rather let itself (and more importantly, me) down today. As a result, I am contemplating very thin rations – probably nothing more exciting than dry toast – in the hope of acquiring some nourishment without any (or at least diminished) unwanted side effects.

I tend to make toast from shop-bought sliced bread – as I view my own lovingly crafted loaves as too good for toasting (however stale they may have become).  This sliced bread is kept in the cryogenic custody of the lower and colder portion of my fridge-freezer until needed – either for toast or to form the basis for a bread (sometimes, and butter) pudding.  Often the frozen slices are reluctant to be parted from their brethren, and dangerous work with a knife is needed to break a slice away from the “pack”.  Many years ago, I came up with an idea to make this problem a thing of the past – and, at the same time, address many of the other day-to-day inadequacies of sliced bread.  Now this idea is safely patented (or this blog at least establishes precedence), I thought it opportune to share it with the wider world.

I find myself applying butter, margerine or similar spreads to toast for the sole purpose of stopping the jam or marmalade soaking into the crisp perfection of the toast, rendering it an unholy, soggy amalgam of toast and fruit preserve.  The spread adds unwelcome Joules (I will replace the word calorie in this context, if it is the last thing I do) and fats to the toast experience – and in these days of rising global obesity this cannot be a good thing.  Further, adding the spread irrevocably alters the aerodynamic properties of the toast for the worse – leading to that most dreaded of loss of potential energy-based incidents: the toast landing butter side down.

At the same time, I observed that my carpets and some of my clothes were protected from sticky or oily liquids becoming bonded to them by dint of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), or ScotchGuard as the 3M company liked us to call it.  This wonder chemical is not recognised as food by the human body, and so would be completely non-fattening.

My plan was to coat one (or both) sides of each slice of bread in a loaf with ScotchGuard.  This would greatly ease their separation when frozen, obviate the need for a fat-based spread and could be applied as such a thin film that it would not alter the aerodynamics of the bread.  Even better, if the bread should fall jam-side down, the slice would be wiped clean and could be re-used rather than wasted (cutting down on food wastage and landfill).

The only worry was the potential toxicity of PFOS – and indeed, this worry was correct as the substance has now been banned by the Stockholm Convention.  Luckily, boffins have developed an alternative, non-toxic alternative which is now sold as ScotchGuard – perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS).  So, I think now is the time for final tests (mainly to check the resilience of PFBS to being toasted) on the product before its global launch – I really think this could be the greatest thing since, well, sliced bread.