David J. Rogers
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Mornflake is a brand of cereals that contain oats, among other things. Its range goes from your bog standard porridge oat right through to a real posh breakfast cereal, and boy is it ever tasty. The company that makes the Mornflake products is called Morning Foods Limited. Founded in 1675 in Crewe Cheshire, where they remain to this day, they have been milling oats now for over 300 years. They are International Gold Medal Winners for their products, and very deserved too. Oats were used as one of the very first breakfast cereals and in those far off days whole grain cereals were the major source of nutrition, providing a healthy diet for our ancestors. This is shown by the fact oats have been found in many archaeological dig/finds. Most people now realise that these health giving properties are as important today as they ever were. When you take a close look at many cereals, and other foods, you will be quite surprised at just how many have oats as part of the ingredients. Mornflake Oats are produced from grain grown on Farms throughout England, Scotland and Wales and many of them are grown under Contract on the same Farms, year after year. This is another plus with this manufacturer; they contract and buy from home. Not so many years ago many of our farms would have fields of oats but the demand, and low import costs, have seen a massive decline in home grown oats. Indeed some of the biggest growing countries now are the USA, Canada, USSR, West Germany, France, Australia, and Scandinavia. Once harvested you would think the process of turning the oat grown in the field into the product would be simple, that could not be further from the truth. Among other things the manufacturer, in this case Morning Foods Ltd., have to do to the oats is, clean and sort through to the product, dry it, kiln it, (I think that might mean something like baking) hull, polish, cut and then clean it again. They then go on to, grade, steam and flake the oats. As you can see even what seems, on the surface, to be the most simple of harvests takes a great deal of work, and knowledge, to get it to the “end user” (that is us… the eater) stage. Okay now the good bit, the bit where I get to tell you about some of the cereals this company makes. Of course they produce the standard oats we all use to make our porridge every day, and in several differing types, but they also produce some really exciting mixture cereals. But first some of the oat only products: SUPERFAST OATS Available in 500g, 1kg, 1.5kg, 2kg and 3kg packs plus in a 750g carton Organic OATS Available in 500g pack and a 750g carton Jumbo OATS Mornflake Jumbo Oats are milled from the largest variety of flaked oatmeal and are ideal for making a superbly thick and tasty porridge with plenty of texture. They tend to have a slightly nutty flavour and are great for making biscuits with. Available in 500g and 3kg packs and a 750g carton Fine OATMEAL If you like milk puddings this variety makes a lovely smooth one. You can also use it as a thickening agent for soups, sauces and gravy. Available in 500g packs. There is also: Coarse Oatmeal available in 500g packs. Medium Oatmeal available in 500g, 1kg and 3kg packs. Now for my favourite, the product they call their “Premium Selection” This is a cereal that takes the humble oat, combines it with other, very tasty, products and then bakes it into clusters full of the most wonderful flavour. In an attempt to set the idea of how it looks I suggest you think of Muesli, stuck together in small clusters with the aid of maple syrup and joined by the other nuts and/or fruits as detailed in the product names. So here is some of the “Premium Selection”: Banana and Toffee CRISP (Dried banana slices and soft toffee pieces) Triple Chocolate CRISP (M ilk, White and Dark chocolate flakes) Pecan and Maple CRISP (My all time favourite) Strawberry CRISP Raspberry CRISP All the above are available in 500g cartons The producer does not forget our younger family members either and makes another wonderful cereal called, “Chocolate Squares” They say some of the best cereals come in square shaped packages and none could be more delicious than Mornflake Hazelnut Chocolate Squares. This would be my one, and only, argument/complaint with this fine company. “These delicious chocolate squares are far too nice for children, I feel they should be labelled as “Only suitable for adult consumption” They are, without doubt, one of the nicest tasting cereals I have had for a very long time. We have found ‘some’ of the range available in both Tesco and Iceland but, in general, neither offers the full range. Maybe once you have tried it, and like it, a letter to the store may get them to stock a bigger selection. Over the past few months Iceland have had both the Pecan and maple Syrup and the Banana and Toffee flavours on a “buy one get one free” offer. When not on offer both Tesco and Iceland charge about £1.85 per 500g box, not the cheapest I know but you are buying quality here and the product is also of great nutritional value. Of course it is also a great source of fibre and we all know the value that brings!! (Alex in Big Brother could do with some by all accounts) The “Premium Selection” is also a very crunchy cereal and anyone with weak or painful teeth should be aware, as the company state on their boxes. However this cereal can be eaten warm and if mixed with milk does soften up quite a lot. I eat it dry because it has such a great taste that to add anything else would, in my opinion, be a waste. Not only does this company have a commitment to producing fine products but it also has a commitment to its customers. Its claim to replace any of its range not to the customers complete satisfaction is written on every pack and is both meant and adhered to. I had reason to complain about four packs of my beloved Pecan and Maple Syrup Crisp a few weeks ago, it was not to my taste nor to the standard I had become used to. I sent an e-mail, via their web page (link shown at base of this opinion) and am pleased to say the problem was dealt with in a way very seldom seen with other manufacturers today. Following my e-mail I received a telephone call explaining they would be sending me some bags to return the products, an apology and an assurance a replacement would be sent. Inside a matter of a couple of days a parcel arrived with the replacement product, five sample products and the bags to return the boxes I was unhappy about. As you can see they did not wait to get the goods back first they replaced them without question, along with some free samples and an apology. I returned the boxes and, after another few days, had another letter explaining that they agreed there was a problem and that they had asked for a report from their quality control department, they included two recipe books free of charge with this letter. They also promised to inform me just what had gone wrong as soon as they knew. As you can imagine I was very impressed with this service and happy to continue buying the companies products. To my surprise this was not the last I was to hear from them, just 3 days later I received yet another parcel containing a further 2 boxes of cereal. My only reason for complaining was because I had always been so very happy with the product, the great care and service I received following my complaint was very rewarding and reassuring. I now know that the days when a company cares about its customers are not gone, as we may have started to wonder given the way we get treated by some of the larger manufacturers of today. Thankfully there are large companies out there that still recognise that without us, the customer, they have no business. To this end, and the fact that the product is so very good anyway, I have no hesitation in recommending Mornflake Cereals and products to you. http://www.mornflakeoats.com
My wife really enjoys decorating, every holiday the kids and I know one room, at least, is for the makeover. There is no major cause for concern on our part because she likes to be left to get on and as long as there is a good supply of tea we can go about life pretty much as normal. I, however, always feel very frustrated/guilty watching her working away, given my limited ability to help much. Because of this I try, and please note I say try, to help out wherever I can, even if that is just cleaning around or keeping well out of the way. I used to help by doing some of the gloss painting on the ground floor but over the past couple of years even this had become very restricted. I watch all the TV DIY programs and try to remember tips and hints that may help me become more useful and one such thing was seeing gloss paint being applied by roller. For years, even before my accident, gloss was always brushed on and took forever. All our doors and frames are painted white, not our choice but how they were when we bought the place, and to replace them with wood, which would be our choice, would simply be too expensive. I make the point about the doors here because this holidays project has been the hallway, landing and stairs, and we have no less than 10 doors in this area. The guys on the TV made it look so easy to gloss with a roller and seemed to take much less time and effort to do, and the end result looked better too. The roller also seemed to cover the wood very evenly and flat and this is something I like to see. I asked my dear wife if she would check the prices when she went to the local DIY Superstore and, as long as they were not too expensive, get me one to try. Our local DIY Centre is B&Q and we have always found them to be very competitive on price and the roller was no exception. For £2.28 we got, 1 x Mini gloss paint roller. (About 4 inches long) 1 x Mini emulsion paint roller. 1 x Roller handle. 1 x Paint tray. At this price I was not worried if it turned out to be a waste of effort because the mini emulsion roller will always be helpful to get at those little bits of wall a standard roller cannot anyway. Over time we had also learned that it pays to buy a good quality paint too. There is no doubt that some of the stores “own brands” are far from good. Many are weak in colour and also very runny too. Indeed it was almost always the case that if we tried to get away with a cheaper paint, during one of our economy drives, we had to give the gloss areas two coats, so no money saved and certainly no time. So we went for one of the better known brands, Dulux, a bargain at £4.99 for 750ml. I also prefer the gel type of paint, it covers much better than the liquid type and saves a lot of runs that need correcting. So, how did we go? By only painting a small area at a time the job was done with one coat, neatly with no spills or splashes and when dry had a great, even finish. Other areas that I was surprised I could paint with the roller were areas such as the beading along doors, the edges of the wooded stair rails and the flat of the door frames. There is still the need for some brush work however, the cutting in around any glass panels or the rebates on door frames and the skirting boards, for example, are not accessible to the roller. All in all I would say that at £2.28 this is a great deal and an easy way to paint with gloss. It is less effort and far easier on the wrist too. The finish is far better than one left by a brush, flat and no brush marks in sight. There is a saving on the amount of paint you use too, in fact it took just under a tin (750ml) to cover all the areas I spoke of above, along with the skirting boards and the extra bits and pieces. I am also sure that the paint dries faster when rolled, it was touch dry inside 3hrs, in a non heated room, when brushed on the paint was still tacky well over 6hrs later. Of course it still ta kes the 24hrs to really be considered dry. Below are my scores after the first ever attempt at roller painting gloss paint: Cost, 10/10 Ease of use, 10/10 Overall finish, 10/10 Coverage, 9/10 (This really does depend on the quality of the paint.) Instructions, 0/10 (There were no instructions for use.) Ease of cleaning, 8/10 (It is “quite” easy to clean to use again, if you really want to.) I will be using this method to paint on gloss again. ‘I’ know it is easier because my back was not affected anywhere near as badly, or quickly, by painting this way and that has to be a good guide. I was able to paint for around 15 minutes before needing a rest while I had long since stopped trying with a brush. Indeed I found I could paint a lot of the area from a seated position because the handle on the roller is longer than that on a brush. After this experience I would recommend anyone to give this method of gloss painting a go, it is, I feel, easier and at the end of the day the worst thing that could happen is you waste £2.28. (Even less if you use the emulsion roller anyway) I got a couple more tips to help when painting gloss, either by brush or roller. (1) If you rub your hands and arms with a small amount of Vaseline gel before you start any splashed simply wash off with the use of soap and water. (2) If you need to take a break, before finishing the painting, wrap your roller, or brush in some wet newspaper and then place them in a plastic bag and you will find they remain soft and ready for use, even if left overnight. (3) If you have some paint left in the tin, make sure the lid is put back on tightly and store the tin lid side down. This way you prevent that horrid skin forming over the surface of the remaining paint. (4) Always wash down old paint work to remove any grease. (5) Lightly sa nd the whole area to be painted. The surface of the old paint needs to be broken if the new is to stick. (6) Wipe the surface again after sanding, to remove any dust that may have collected (7) Never try to put on a second coat of paint before the first is 100% dry. Any attempt to do so, with the roller method, will simply end in tears. If the first coat is still tacky you will find that the roller lifts it off again.
I do not agree with the comment above, laying out what this topic is about. Special Educational Needs is not simply aimed at, indeed is seldom used for, mentally disabled children in mainstream schooling today. There are still separate schools that teach children with a mental disability. The funding described above, that can take up to six months to obtain, is mainly used in mainstream schools, any child attending a special school, for children with mental disabilities, will have been assessed well before starting school and the money, and resources, will already be in place for them. It is seldom the case that a child with a mental disability would not be getting help prior to attending school anyway which would allow for a statement of needs to be prepared before reaching school age. Whenever there is more than one of a thing then there are differences. No two things are exactly alike and that is especially true when it comes to learning, and even more so in children. My experience of this subject comes from being a governor, both at primary and secondary levels for almost 14yrs. As well as being the chairman at the primary school I was also governor designate to special needs. School governors have a duty to ensure the curriculum is taught, on an equal basis, to all ability ranges and also to assist in, and finally approve, the policies to ensure this happens. This includes Special Educational Needs too. I am of the firm opinion that there is already a substantial sum of money handed down, from central government, to local government, and thereby the Local Education Authority, to ensure that the needs of most children are met regardless of “educational” ability. What is lacking is enough good, dedicated teachers, with enough subject knowledge, to provide a comprehensive level of teaching for those with special needs. The teachers there are work hard, very hard, often working as many hours at home as they do at school , because the paper work involved in this area is much more than at any other level of teaching. This, of course, impacts on the ability to spend enough time teaching in a manner whereas every child, regardless of their needs, is catered for fully. This is not the fault of the teachers but of the system, a system that seems hell bent on pushing out many of the very best teachers by plain pressure of work and a lack of recognition of the service they actually provide. There is far too little praise in the system today and despite the desire to teach, and the hope to do well everyone, regardless of profession, needs a pat on the back, or a “well done” every now and again, it costs nothing but makes a huge difference. Instead of this they get OFSTED Inspections and office workers constantly criticising the work they do. Far too many non teachers are being allowed to judge the ability, and progress of trained, long term, professionals, this is wrong, demoralising, depressing, de-motivating and unfair. Special Educational Needs teachers rely on, and work closely with, classroom teachers, and they can only start to work with a child once they have been identified as in need of the additional help. Unfortunately, in my opinion, far too many children are being referred on due to bad behaviour, and that alone. This, I feel, is something that should, as always was, be dealt with in the classroom, but I accept there will be the odd exception to that. Special Needs covers a massive range of things, from children who need extra help to catch up with their class mates to children that are far brighter. Brighter children are just as special as the slower ones because they need extra help to ensure they are being challenged, and not being allowed to become fed up or frustrated, and everything in between. Much of the bad behaviour is now being seen to stem from frustration, frustration because the child is not able to keep up or from children that are way ahead and become frustrated. The correct use of the Special Needs Program should be able to reduce this bad behaviour by setting work at the level the child can succeed at, a child that is engaged in work is far less likely to be disruptive or naughty. This would then leave enough time, and resources, to be able to really work closely with the remaining few that are in need of real help, educationally. For this to happen, with less pressure on the SEN department, teachers have to be given the time, money and recognition to plan a very wide teaching plan for their class. It is known as “Differentiated teaching” and if done correctly often means time spent teaching a child, or children, the reason there are rules, the rights and wrongs in life and how to mix with others. This is all separate to, but necessary for, good behaviour and thereby good teaching. It has to be noted however, none of the above skills are considered when assessing a teachers ability during inspections or on test papers, hence the reason we see so many children being referred simply for bad behaviour. It follows then that the money being given to schools for special educational needs is not going to be enough to make a big impact on helping those with educational weaknesses. It is also obvious that what time there is will be overused to simply contain children with bad behaviour. The methods used to allocate money for children with identified special needs is muddled, it varies from county to county and really needs a big overhaul. Some schools have been known to use money designated for special needs to boost areas other than this, and this is not helping either. There are rules but they are weak and allow for far too much interpretation by cash strapped schools. What this means is some head teachers use the money to benefit the whole school rather than just the special needs children. That is not always bad, or wrong, but will, of course, mean a watering down of just wha t special needs teachers can, or cannot, buy by way of aids to learning. There is no doubt that far too many children are being labelled as special needs for all the wrong reasons. Again I do not feel all the blame lays with the classroom teacher who is, all too often, faced with a room of 30+ children to teach and not enough time to do it in. This means for every minute they spend dealing with a disruptive child it is a minute lost from the teaching plan. They need to use every minute of the day trying to make sure that the majority of the class reach that all important “National Average” score in their tests. Everyone that has seen a schools league table book will notice that everything is based around a few subjects from the National Curriculum, nothing is stated, or assessed, on how much any one child has improved since joining school. All of this means that more and more children are being passed on as having special needs simply because the class teacher has not got the time to sort out the silly things in a way they have always done in the years past. In one school I visited recently it had over 40% of its children listed as needing special help, 40% of a schools population? I think this shows just how pressured some teachers feel now. IT must also be noted that there are levels of special needs, running from 1 – 5 and that no additional funding will kick in before a child reaches at least level 3, often 4. This means that an already tight school budget has to find money to employ a special teacher. Given that it can take as long as 6 months to get a child from level 1 through to level 4, and thereby assessed for funding, it is easy to see some children will never benefit fully from the provision. Not only is there this time problem but the amount of paperwork needed, for each and every child, is massive, and I mean massive, and this again shows that much of the time of a special needs teacher is taken up filling out paper s and not teaching anyway. Even before a child begins to get the additional help they have to be monitored in their classroom setting, judged as in need and then have an IEP (Individual Education Plan) written. This means meetings between the classroom teacher and the special needs team and the time to fully arrange the new teaching for that child. It is also at this stage the teacher has to decide if the child can be helped while remaining in the classroom or by being taken out and taught in a different room. This is known as Inclusive, or Removed teaching and there are deep feelings in the education world as to the merits of both, unfortunately this means that there is also no one right way and no 2 inspectors that feel the same either. Once again it is a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t when it comes to OFSTED. All in all I feel that the money passed on to schools, to help with children that have real educational problems, is reasonable. What waters this down, and therefore makes it too little, is the amount of children who have nothing other than behaviour problems. It is often the case that the child with a behaviour problem is average, or better, when it comes to educational skills and so the time, and money, spent on them is wasted and therefore not being targeted towards those in the most need. If schools were funded separately for the two different groups, and specialist employed to deal with them, I feel there would be a massive improvement in results. Of course this would also require the Inspectors to recognise the difference as well as allow for the time, effort and money needed to bring the children up to national averages. By allowing this I know we would not be seeing so many schools falling foul of OFSTED inspections and there would certainly be a drop in the number of excellent teachers leaving the profession. Those of you who feel that some teachers are too quick to have a child placed on the schools specia l needs program take on step back and look again. Teachers are teachers because they want to do what is best for the children, often the only way to deal with a disruptive child, and thereby ensure maximum benefit for the rest of the class, is to pass that child on. Is this wrong? Or is this indeed right? Once again there are two separate, strong thinking, groups on that but one thing that is certain, teachers simply want what ever is best for the children under their charge, and if this is the only way to get that should they not be supported? What uis needed is a return to the use of specialist behaviour units where children that are simply disruptive can be referred, and taught, in a separate environment to the rest, thereby allowing both the children, and their teachers to get on with the real issue of learning. Unfortunately the government is set on closing down the units in favour or inclusive teaching. In an ideal world it would be great to have children of all abilities taught together. Of course it will never work so long as there are targets to be met, inspectors that can see no further than the book in front of them and LEA’s who often fail to give the right support to schools. It also has to be accepted that there are schools that have the bulk of their children coming from socially and economically deprived areas. Children that have had a rough start in life anyway and therefore children that will take longer to settle and children that may never reach the “National Average.” Unfortunately schools of this kind are not given any form of recognition and often fail their inspections. They then get closed and the children dispersed to other schools in the area, it doesn’t take a master mind to work out the effect that has on the other schools special needs program and budget. I promise you that I know this happens because it is happening to a school in the town where I live as I type this opinion. What is needed is more time and money to deal with the huge range of needs among children today. Time to make a difference, without the constant pressure of meeting unrealistic targets. The retention of teachers with the specialist knowledge of how best to cope with this problem and less interference from people that have no idea what goes on in the classroom. Many so called experts have never taught a day in their life and others left teaching, years ago, because they felt pressured yet are now the ones putting that same pressure on today’s teachers. Money alone can not help a child improve it takes time, experience and effort plus the freedom to do this at a pace that suits each child, not one that suits the press cuttings of the government.
In life things can be difficult or they can be easy, eating is easy while many foods are difficult to prepare/cook. Soup, however, is both easy to eat and easy to prepare and what’s more it is filling, tasty and great to eat anytime, day or night. Indeed many homes used to fall back on soup as a main food during hard times, both during and soon after the war. The truth is you can make a great tasting soup with the smallest amount of ingredients, and can then turn this into a full meal by adding anything special you may get, meat, poultry, game or fish for example. It was soup that made even the toughest of meats, and the cheapest cuts, good to eat, filling as well as tasty. One thing every soup is going to need is some form of liquid, this can be plain water, with a cube, or stock that is simple to make, I have to say the latter is by far the better. To make stock is so simple even the children could do it. All you need is a large pan, any vegetables you may have, or their peelings, and any off cuts of meat, fish, bacon, and the like, and a low heat that will allow the water to just tick over for about an hour. During the cooking stage of your stock you would be well advised to skim off any fat or yuck that may appear on the surface, even though this is not absolutely necessary. Once the time is up you can strain the liquid and use it as your base liquid/stock, or just ladle the liquid from the pot into you’re your soup, it will be full of flavour and add that extra something to the soup. Soup has to be one of the easiest and most enjoyable foods to make, it requires no skills and can be made from the most basic of materials, indeed during the wars many families lived on soup that was constantly on the stove, day after day. My dear Nan used to insist that the longer the soup was there the better it tasted…. I am happy to take her word for that because with the amount of bugs about now I prefer to cook and eat, or co ok and freeze. It is also from the basic soup many casserole dishes began. As food became more readily available, following the war, people started to add chunks of meat, dumplings and such and when served with potato it became a very substantial meal. In order to make a plain, but enjoyable soup, you will need nothing more than: 1) Water (Preferably made into a stock, either as above or by the use of the magic cube) 2) Vegetables. Potato is the most important because this is what will thicken your soup when it is processed, or passed through a sieve. Other vegetables that will help are Onions, carrots, Leeks, peas, beans, and tomatoes. Any of the above, or all of the above are great. 3) Salt and pepper and any other spices you have, or like. 4) Any meat or fish, indeed anything you have or get that takes your fancy. I would advise, of course, that you use either meat or fish, I can’t say a mixture appeals to me much. Having said that it is often the case that Anchovies are now used in lots of soups regardless of their base, it adds salt and a special something? I have yet to find out what that special something is… and I have to say I do not like Anchovies at all. 5) A food processor, or sieve, and a bit of time. The base soup, and one to enjoy on its own, is so simple it is embarrassing. Take your pan, make the stock. Take another pan and add chopped vegetables, Lots of potato plus any others you so please, cover them with stock and boil. Once boiled for a while then this is the time to add any herbs you wish, if you add them right at the start you tend to lose the full flavour. Dried herbs can be added earlier than fresh, and are, in the main, much stronger in taste. Once the veg. is soft, allow to cool a little, (it is very unwise to try to and work with the liquid while it is still boiling hot) then either whiz it in your food processor or pass it through a sieve. If, at this point, the soup se ems to thick for you’re liking add more stock. Now you should have a thick (ish) mixture that is, all on its own, a soup. Simply add salt and pepper to taste and enjoy with some crusty bread. This is now the time to add anything else you want. If you have bacon, cook it, chop it and add it. If you have other meats do the same. If it is fish then the same applies with the exception maybe that you would flake the fish rather than chop it. You can also add more vegetables, left in chunks, should you wish to bulk the soup out. I like to cut my veg. in to similar, bite sized, chunks cooked until just soft and then add them to the soup as you are re-heating it, which is something you have to do prior to serving. (Unless, of course, you have made a soup that is nicer served cold.) Below are a couple of recipes for soup that I have either made up, found, altered or had passed to me, they are really nice and filling. (Note: A cup is literally that, a cup. So long as you use the same size cup, normally a standard tea cup, for all the measurements all will be well.) HANGOVER SOUP This is a kind of all in one soup, by that I mean it is a soup made by cooking everything in one pan and not as above, but is very tasty. Very practical at holiday time. Some people call this soup slaughter man's soup, according to my research, but I can tell you it is not the same, but they are very close. The procedure to cook them is the same, but the ingredients are different. The slaughter man's soup has pig chitterlings, and/or chicken giblets while the hangover soup doesn't. (Thank goodness) Originally this soup was made from lamb on the bone, but can be made with poultry, rabbit, or loin of pork. My favourite is with loin of pork. 500 g loin of pork 1 medium onion 1 cup dry white wine 2 Knor beef soup cubes 1 pinch of marjoram 2 tsp. cooking oil 1 tsp. spice mustard 1 b ay leaf, half lemon, or lemon juice 500 g mixed soup vegetables (carrots, parsnips, celery, Italian parsley, or parsley leaf) Sauté (that’s fry in a little oil until soft) the finely chopped onion. Add the meat cut into small pieces, and the diced mixed vegetables. Fry for a few minutes over a high heat. Be careful not to burn them. Put in 1,5 lt. of water, the soup cubes, the marjoram and the bay leaf. Cover with a lid and cook over medium heat, until the meat is tender (approx. 45-60 minutes). Finally add the white wine, stir in the mustard a little lemon juice and season it with salt and pepper to taste, if you use parsley add it now. Bring to the boil again and cook for 5 more minutes. Serve piping hot! LENTIL SOUP 1 onion, chopped 2 carrots, diced The white part of 2 leeks, diced 2-3 slices of any, but lean is best, bacon, diced 1 cup dried lentils 5 cups chicken stock 1 large potato, diced Salt and pepper to taste 1/4 cup vinegar Sauté the diced bacon and onion for a few minutes. Add the diced carrots and leeks and continue to sauté for a few minutes longer. Add the chicken stock and the lentils and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours. Add the diced potato and cook until soft. Season the soup to taste. Add the vinegar and serve hot. The vinegar will cut the heaviness of the lentil soup **Veggies can leave the bacon out of course** VICHYSSOISE (a nice cold soup) 3-4 leeks (white part only) washed, sliced 1 onion, peeled, diced 4 large potatoes, peeled, sliced 4 cups chicken stock 2 whole cloves 1 bay leaf Salt Freshly ground black pepper 1 cup double cream Chopped parsley and/or spring onions for garnish Combine the leeks, onions, potatoes and stock in a saucepan. Add the cloves, bay leaf and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, cover and lower the heat. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are t ender. Remove the cloves and bay leaf. Cool the soup and puree in a blender or food processor. Refrigerate, covered, overnight. When ready to serve, stir in the double cream. Correct the seasonings if necessary. Serve ice cold, garnished with parsley or spring onions. ** Again veggies can substitute the chicken stock for a vegetable one** As you can see there is no limit to what you can use in a nice soup. Once you have some stock, which you can even buy in the supermarkets now, if you really want to be quick. Even the water left after cooking vegetables or ham can be used, with added cubes of course, so there is no excuse not to have a great bowl of soup. Enjoy.
I have posted this now because the past week has been a bad period for me, this has reminded me just how affected my life is by panic, anxiety and fear. ============================================= My panic attacks are separate to but caused by, and are as a result of my injury/accident. Due to the fact I was stuck in bed for around 16 weeks directly following damaging my spine, either following surgery or on traction, I had become used to being inside all the time. Even when I came home I was only able to leave the house in a wheelchair, which is something I was loathed to do, and so I tended to find excuses to stay home rather than go out. After a few months of this going outside, even in to the garden, became something I dreaded, so much so I would get into a state days before I knew I was due to go to the hospital for treatment or a clinic appointment. Almost a year passed before my condition was such I was starting to make excuses for everything that involved leaving the house, even claiming I was happy at home and for the family to go on day trips and leave me behind. I even convinced myself that I was fine and that everyone around me accepted my excuses, I had become blind to anything but a way to remain in the house. My wife and children had, of course, been very worried but said little to me, indeed it was only after a stay in hospital that they told me they had been talking to my doctors and pain management team, about my ways for months. I had become agoraphobic and didn’t know; yet everyone else that knew me, or had dealings with me, did. A big part of this condition is panic attacks, a massive fear of leaving the house, the house was my safety blanket and like a child I would not be without it. My panic attacks were/are something very difficult to describe; as are those of others I am sure. I would know when I was starting because of a feeling in my stomach, a churning and a feeling I had only ever had just before d oing something a little scary, that feeling you get before the fairground ride starts. This would be followed by sweating and heart palpitations, rapid breathing and then the light headed feeling you get when breathing too rapidly. I would start to shake and almost pass out, needing to sit and calm down before anything else. My biggest problem was that this feeling was starting even when I simply looked in my diary and saw I had to go out the next week, just the thought had started to bring on a panic attack. Although I never told anyone I was getting so frightened about everything all I wanted was not to be here, not to feel this way and not to have to make an excuse every time the word out was used. It had reached such a silly state I began to have some of the effects when it was time to get my children’s lunch ready. I would look at the clock and see it was around 11am and start to worry because I knew they would be home at 1.15pm for lunch and so start to get the food ready. It was getting to a really crazy level where I didn’t want to deal with it. . Even going out in the garden was now beyond me. As if by plan my next, in-patient, pain management treatment course was due to start the next week, a six week period where I would be in hospital getting training to live with the pain, and not against it. I wanted to do this so much but even so I found myself starting to think up excuses why I couldn’t go. I spent all my time thinking of things, not concerning myself with anything but how to stay home. Thankfully my wife and the doctors had prepared for this and even though nothing was said to me, anything I can I recall anyway. Arrangements had been made for a car to come up from London, I was going back to St Thomas’ Hospital for the treatment, and then I would only need to get from the house to the car and would be met, right outside the door at the hospital. My wife had been given some different tablets to add to my daily medicat ion, ones that I didn’t notice given they were the same as some of the others. I now know that the new tablets were Prothiaden, which I still use now, which are a good, strong, anti-depressant drug that has a sedative effect. Of course I was unaware of the plans and nothing could stop the panic I was going through before the trip anyway and so the time came and despite every ploy I could think of I found myself dressed and ready to leave home. Looking back I now know that the morning of the trip was different, I remember not being sick, not sweating as much and no shortness of breath. I recall it being difficult to go through the door but once in the car I was okay again, relaxed even. The trip to London was no major thing, I remember chatting to the driver and telling him about my accident, him telling me all about the different people he had to pick up to take to hospital. Of course once I knew of the different pills I had been taking for the previous 2 days it made sense. This was the beginning of me taking control back of a whole chunk of my life, a time where I would once again be me. Alongside my pain management course I was confronted, head on, about my fears of leaving the house. This was a shock to me given I thought I was the only one that knew I had this fear, you see suffering with agoraphobia and panic attacks blinded me to anyone, or anything around me. I was consumed with dealing with “my” problem, but of course it was, and to a tiny degree still is, everyone’s problem. But it was only when I was asked directly I knew this, it was also then that I knew I wanted to change, that this was no way to live. Even when I was at the hospital I had to leave the treatment area and go outside to get back to the main hospital and so the problem couldn’t be hidden, not even there. To my amazement I found myself agreeing to allow my key worker, who is a Psychologist, to inform the group I was there with of my problem. The group was only 7 in number so was not a major thing but we were going to be together 24/7 for six weeks, sharing almost everything and when I really thought about it I needed their help too. What also amazed me was just how willing everyone was to do anything they could to help. In a matter of minutes 2 of the group offered to be my “outside buddies” this meant they would make sure that every time we needed to leave a building, or go outside for anything, one, or both would be there with me. Again I was unaware of the planning that was going on to get me back some independence. Because my days were very busy, filled with exercising and learning new things, I just fell in to a pattern, one I was comfortable with and one where I didn’t need to think about going outside. Over a period of time and without even noticing, I had started to walk back and forth from treatment areas alone, not waiting for my buddies and not even looking for them. They were there though, as I was to learn, but about 100mtrs behind me, along with my key worker. I had, I was told, learned to walk a lot quicker, due to a fear factor it was felt, but I was also managing to go in and out with no pause. Inside a period of about 3 weeks this had all happened to me and as if to celebrate I found myself walking to the local pub, near to the hospital, with the rest of the group for an evening out, something I had not done in about 4 years. I was starting to live again, my life was coming back to me and I loved it. I guess my reason for writing this is because I know the terror of panic, I know the fear that is agoraphobia and I now know there are ways to beat them. It is not anywhere as easy as it may seem after reading this, I did say it was something hard to put in to words, but, with help and with determination anything is possible. Having a choice about going out or staying home is something most take for granted but when that choice is taken away life is tough. I still suffer some degree of both problems now but with help, and the use of medication, in the form of Prozac and Prothiaden, both which I have written opinions on, I have a life that seemed to have all but gone just 4 years ago. My advice to anyone suffering with this type of problem would be seek help, open up and trust someone. I was lucky in as far as my wife and doctors worked together and helped me but I knew, regardless of that, I wanted to change. I knew that I couldn’t live as I was and I was a very, very miserable person. Seeking help is not easy and if you know of someone that is suffering take care, you may think you are helping by pushing them to change but you could so easily be making it harder. This is a problem/illness that needs specialist care. It needs someone that understands the steps to follow if help is to succeed. Your understanding and company is probably the best help you can offer, but you could also make sure that a doctor is aware of the situation, which, sadly, is not the case very often. If you are a sufferer then I understand how hard it is to ask for help, how difficult it is to cope with help and how much you would rather be left alone to get on as best you can. I also know how great it feels to be free again, and I promise you it is one hell of a lot better than staying as you are. Take that first step and then follow the path that will be laid out for you, it is one step at a time and there is no rush, and nobody that will rush you either. You future is in your hands but there are people out there willing, and able, to help you get one back.
~~**~~**~~**~~**~~**~~**~~**~~**~~**~~ Still using that old polish and duster routine every day? Still waxing the wood for the all important shine test? Or have you moved over to the micro fibre cleaning cloth revolution now? If you have the chances are you are paying top $ for the best brand you can find and for what? Because the name on the box is well known isn’t going to make them work all by themselves you know. Save your money and look for Spontex Sprint Magic Duster. Available today at a supermarket near you it is just what it says on the packet, MAGIC. Cut the time it takes to dust your house in half with no messy polishes or cloths in sight. Just take the cloth, screw it up and wipe away all that dust. No dust can survive the Spontex Sprint Magic Duster, and at a price that will astound. Ladies forget the £4+ packs of this and that simply ask your friendly shop assistant for a 10 pack of Spontex Sprint Magic Duster at the low, low price of £1.59. YES that is £1.59 for a pack of 10 magic dusters. At less than 16p each you can afford to dust and chuck, yes just dust the house and chuck the cloth in the bin. How many maids do you know that would dust your house for less than 16p? ~~**~~**~~**~~**~~**~~**~~**~~**~~**~~ Okay the ad is over but the cloths ARE almost as good as they claim, and if they used my TV ad, as above, every house would have them. The price is real and the fact they will dust the whole house is not far from real either, you may need to shake it out once in a while but they are very long lasting. Compared to the bigger name brands, Vileda and so on, these dusters hold their own and at a price that is great. I still use polish on some of the more special wooden surfaces, but not every day. This duster will lift the dust that settles between polishes and leave that deep shine with no smears. There are no smears because you use it dry and due to its micro weave texture it holds on to the dust. On the side of the pack they also claim that because they work so well at lifting the dust they reduce the allergic reactions many have with the common dust mite. I have to say I have no way of knowing if that is true or not given none of us, as far as we know, suffer from such an allergy anyway. These dusters come in a nice deep pink coloured box with blue panels sporting the name of the product. You will also find some information printed all over the box telling you how to use the duster, as if anyone today needs a lesson on how to dust…… or do they? The claim is that they work so well due to being “impregnated with a mineral oil” However that is as much as they say. I have been using these particular dusters for about a year now and have to admit they last well, do a good job and are some of the best priced around. I do find that special wood surfaces need a real polish once in a while, to keep that deep shine but by using the magic duster most days I now only need to use polish maybe once every other week. At the end of the day these dusters are, at 16p each, great value for money, time saving and disposable. They take away the need to clear off every surface before you polish, just lift each item as you go and dust under it and they do exactly what they claim … Dust. We buy ours at Tesco and I have no hesitation in recommending these to anyone, this is one product ‘I’ use every day of the week.
We, well my wife more so now, given my lack of mobility much of the time, shop at Iceland, for our main shop, every week. It is generally on a Wednesday, that happens also to be market day where I live, with street stalls selling all manner of goods. We use the market mainly for fresh vegetables, given our eldest son works on one of the fruit and veg. stalls, as he has done since he was at school. But I digress. Mind you that is part of the joy of shopping, you can digress to your hearts content, if you have the time. Following my decision to stop driving, and the start of the “home delivery” service we now take advantage of the *free delivery every week. (*£40 minimum online order or £25 in store buy) This takes away the need for my darling wife to either get a taxi or lug the shopping home on the bus. It is also very reliable at our local branch. Every Wednesday morning I have a task to perform, it is one of the important tasks in my life, given I have very few now, and that is to telephone our local store and ask to book a delivery. I tend to call them at around 8.30am, prior to the shop opening, because this means I do not have to wait for an answer if the place is busy, it also means I have a better chance to get the delivery spot I want. The staff at the shop are more than cheerful each time I ring, now knowing my voice after the first “Good morning could I” which is both pleasing and time saving.. I am very mean with the amount of time I spend on the telephone you see! So, they right away ask me if I would like the 2 – 4pm slot and then say okay Mr R it is booked and “have a nice day my love”. The “have a nice day my love” is real and not a silly comment either, the staff at the shop really are so nice, so helpful and very seldom grumpy, unlike some of the bigger retail giants around… say no more! This 2 – 4pm slot suits us just right because my wife works mornings at the loca l primary school and gets to town around 12.30pm, making straight for Iceland to get the big shop done and dusted prior to wandering at leisure doing all the other shopping. I should also add, except due to illness and no drivers at all, there has only ever been one occasion where we have not managed to arrange a delivery on the day, not always at the preferred time, due to holidays like Christmas when it pays to book days ahead. Like most major supermarkets there are always special deals on the go, BOGOF’s (Buy One Get One Free) and “extra in pack”, but in the main there is no getting away from it Iceland are a lot cheaper for the frozen foods. They are also now holding their own with the prices on dry goods too and that makes life a lot easier too. Of course they do not stock everything you would expect to find in Tesco or Sainsbury but are not far off when it comes to everyday bits. My wife has often done a price comparison check with different stores and knows that many of the special offers, as shown in the TV ads. are real bargains. There is no getting away from the fact you do save money when buying food at Iceland, maybe not always as much as they would have us believe but none the less a saving is a saving. It is also funny to see the vast array of goods that are £X.99p; do they really think we are still fooled in to thinking £2.99 is £2 rather than a penny cheaper than £3? Long gone are the days when shoppers fell for that ploy and rounded down. The Iceland shop of today is a long way forward to how it was in the beginning, when you were just greeted with aisles of freezers, now there are shelves above, around and beside, all groaning under the weight of dry and tinned goods. You can even buy your wine and some cleaning products there now. It is also strange to see their own brand goods on sale, just like the bigger stores. Of course there have long been Iceland labelled products available but they were in pretty coloure d boxes and packaging, unlike the shops own range in its no frills look packaging of today. I have to say I am not sure that the price has gone down with the new packaging, unlike the bigger stores, but they were not so high before, it has to be said. I also smile a lot at the till receipts of today, they show total cost of shop and at the very bottom is a total of the amount you have saved on that shop. This is the amount that would have been paid had you not taken advantage of the BOGOF specials, and lets face it who would have 2 of everything if it wasn’t a “buy one get one free” offer? So I guess that is somewhat misleading and is not a true fact of your savings for that shop. Having said that the general prices are, as I have said, as good as, or better than, many other stores. Often the goods on offer are ones you use, and can be stored, which means that, at a later stage, you do not have to buy another one so I guess it is fair to say you have saved £x this shop. I, like many of you I guess, have often asked how they can afford to do these deals, and why, if they are making so much, don’t they simply lower the price. Well it is all down to volume of sales of course, the more you sell the lower the profit on each item can be. A silly example of that would be, sell one item with a 10p profit mark up or sell two with a 7p mark up?? Of course it is not as simple as that but the basics are the same. I am happy to believe we are getting better value for money when I see the same item on sale, in another store, at a higher price, and that is generally the case with Iceland. I would like to see days where they have different special offers, for OAP’s and low income families, where the offers could be adjusted to offer so much off an item rather than the need to spend a little more to benefit from the BOGOF, or extra in pack offers. Many of our older folk, and families on lower incomes, cannot afford to buy bigger packs, even at a reduced rate, and they have no way of keeping it once they get it home. I think that it is possible to make offers available to a wider range of people. B&Q make a point by offering 10% extra off to OAP’s every Wednesday maybe Iceland could start a new price war by following that example. All in all I am satisfied that Iceland offer a good, well priced, friendly service that is every bit as good as any other major supermarket, with the added bonus of being smaller, in many cases, and therefore a much more personalised shopping experience. Latest offer, as at 22nd May 2002: Buy 50pk Breaded Chicken Nuggets for £4.99 and get the following: ‘FREE’ Findus 4pk Chicken & Bacon Pancakes Iceland 2lb Straight Cut Oven Chips Ross 8pk Cheese & Tomato Pizza Iceland 10pk Assorted Fruit Splits **A saving of £6.26** I feel that this is a great deal because the nuggets are cheap and the free goods that come with the deal are all things that many families would buy, and use, anyway. It is not a case of buying a good product and being dumped with a batch of odd ball items that may just sit in your freezer for years to come. Iceland also offers an online, and telephone shopping service and has a great information area where students can research the company and its way of working. The web site also has a regular competition running and offers many items not always available in its smaller shops. Things like freezers, microwaves and the like and all are, once again, priced at a very competitive rate. Of course there is also always a list of the latest offers available and a store finder search facility. I have no hesitation in recommending Iceland as a good place to shop, given our experience of the local branch. I would also say that the company do take any complaint seriously too so, if you have had a bad experience while shopping with them, telephone, write or e-mail their head office, and I would be surprised if you did not get help. Iceland Foods plc Second Avenue Deeside Industrial Park Deeside Flintshire, CH5 2NW http://www.iceland.co.uk
This benefit is the follow on from, and includes, Mobility Allowance and, to some degree, Attendance Allowance. This benefit has a mobility component, set at 2 levels, Higher and Lower, and a care component with three different levels, Low, Medium and High, surprisingly simple names considering they was thought up by the DSS. It is an allowance that is given in an attempt to assist people with mobility or care problems. Of course, as the levels suggest, and life shows, everyone has a different level of ability, or disability, and the aim of this benefit is to help pay for the person to live life as near “normal” as is possible. The care component could, for example, help towards paying for someone to look after the person in their own home, which is both cheaper and preferable to being in hospital or in a home. The amount payable at each level is: (as at December 2001) “A WEEK”. Care Low… £14.65 Medium… £37.00 High… £55.30 Mobility Lower… £14.65 Higher… £38.65 As you can see the amounts available can make a massive difference to the standard of life for a disabled person. This allowance is not a “means tested” one, that means it does not matter if you have savings in the bank. It is also an allowance that is not taken in to account, as an income, when applying for rebates on rent, council tax or such. It should also be said that just because you are entitled to this benefit you are not automatically entitled to any further benefits, as suggested above. The one thing that is a deciding factor in getting this benefit is a medical, by a doctor named and arranged by the benefits agency and his/her report as to your ability. Many will claim you have to be unable to walk or make a hot drink for yourself to be able to get this money, that is not the case. The reason for the different levels is because there are differen t levels of ability, as I said before. All you do need is to be disabled, honest about the effect that has on your life and be able, and willing, to show/prove this to the doctor. There is a leaflet that lays down some guidelines to help you self assess if you might be eligible to claim and in that they say things like. “Able to walk more than 50mts” “Climb stairs” “Take care of your own toiletry needs, day and/or night” or “Need help getting dressed” etc. These are, as I say, only guidelines and not rules. Everyone I know with this benefit, including myself, have very varied abilities but we all are restricted by our condition/disability. Many of the things I was asked about, during my medical examination, I could do, but not without additional pain, and not for any length of time. In most cases the doctors asked me anyway, but simply by explaining this the doctor could see I was not trying to make my problems seem worse than they really were. I have found that most of the doctors are not set on proving you are well enough to live without help but have to be sure, after all that is what they are employed to do. Anyone trying to fool the doctor will, I have no doubt, soon find out they were not successful. In many cases I have seen people try to fool the doctor into accepting they are almost comatose and unable to manage at all by themselves. Clearly a doctor is a professional and deals with people every day, they can spot a fool a mile off. It is my experience that so long as you are honest, try to carry out any moves asked and do not attempt to make your condition sound worse than it is you will be treated fairly. Of course, as with any system, there are exceptions and it is very hard when a mistake is made and a person that is entitled to the benefit gets turned down and has to fight on. However there is an easy way to appeal against the decision and if it is wrong the benefit payment is backdated to the day of your claim. Some of the things I was asked to do during my examinations were… Lay flat on my back and lift each leg as high as I could. Bend forward, and back as far as I could from a standing position. Twist from the waist. Lean to the left, and right, as far as I could. Climb as many steps as I could. As you can see it is not exactly asking me to try out for the Olympics and the part about “as far as I could” was stressed over and over again. I was never asked to do anything I couldn’t or anything I said I couldn’t, and I was asked not to even try if it brought on extra pain. I may simply be lucky but I was never refused the benefit nor made to feel like a fraud or charity case. After the first 3 years, and a medical examination in each of those years, I was awarded the benefit for life, or age 75, whichever comes sooner. Other benefits that come with Disability Living Allowance include a right to apply for an orange badge to allow you to park in restricted areas, and you can also claim free car tax. If the rest of your income is low you could also be entitled to free prescriptions, dental treatment, eye tests and glasses. As I say above this is not automatic but having this benefit can help. I would advise that anyone looking to claim this benefit should be certain to explain to the doctor just what it is like on the worst days, and not generalise. Indeed many doctors now ask you to tell them how you are affected at the times when things are worst. I should also add that it is unlikely you will be awarded the highest care component unless you also need help during the night. I was only awarded this level following a very bad period in my life, caused by deep depression from the constant, chronic, pain where it was no longer felt safe for me to get my own medication or be up alone during the night, and that remains so even now. My wife has had to take care of certain things for me d uring the night since then and only then was the higher rate awarded. Being awarded the lower or medium rate is not a statement that you are more able than you claim but simply that you are able to manage some things for yourself. I would recommend anyone that is disabled, or restricted badly, following an illness or accident, or because of a disability from birth, to make a claim for this benefit. The worst thing that can happen is you get turned down, but by not claiming you might be missing out on some additional money that you are “entitled” to, and enough to make a difference. No amount of money can reduce your suffering but it can help make it easier to live with. To make a claim you need to obtain a claim form, which are available at most Post Offices and Benefit Agencies. The form is big running to around 30 pages, but much of it is simply box ticking. If you cannot get out to collect one yourself you can telephone your local Benefit Agency and they will arrange to send you one. The claim is dealt with by an office in Blackpool and they are also available by telephone, details will be with the form. There is also a very comprehensive explanation document that comes with the claim form, and it really does help to make filling the claim out easier. Following your claim it can take several weeks to get a reply, I seem to recall about a six-eight week wait with my first claims, but again your benefit, should it be awarded, will be back dated to the day your claim was received at the office. Booklets or forms that may help you, and available at most post offices are, GL23 Benefit rates. (Has a list of benefits available and how much they pay.) SD1 A guide for sick or disabled GL16 Help with your rent GL17 Help with your council tax. There is also a web site: - http://www.dss.gov.uk
As someone that is disabled I am more aware than many of the ‘services’ that are available to help us manage to live an independent life in our own home. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ **I should add here that this opinion also relates to the consumer. Everything I speak of was bought by us, from people we chose and none were simply forced on us** ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ During the early months, and years, of my disability I felt very alone, very isolated and as if there was nothing, nor anyone, that could, or would, help me. I soon found out just how wrong I was. My GP and my surgeon had both contacted Social Services to alert them to the fact I was in need of evaluation at home, in an attempt to see just what needed to be changed to help me manage as well as remain in my home. I, being a little old school, and a lot stubborn, only heard the words “Social Worker” and was not ready to have any of it. I had heard how they dig in to your life, how they become very much in control of things and I was going to get better, to walk and I was also going to work again…. Or so I thought. Because of this, and my ignorance of just what it is this service really offers, I just wanted to be left alone to make the best I could of what life I had. For over 2 years, and despite numerous telephone calls from the Social Worker, I resisted any home visit, indeed any contact at all. In the end this lady rang again and asked if I would allow her to call even if it was just so she could close my case file, and, after some thought and a lot of persuading I agreed to talk to her. She turned out to be just like you and me, a “normal” human being, someone that really only wanted to help if she could and in no way interested in making me feel trapped or uncomfortable at all. It turned out that she herself was disabled, by the pain and treatment for the cancer she had, and I started to wonder why I had bee n so darn difficult all this time. She called round, made herself at home and over coffee we chatted, well she and my wife mainly if I am honest, and she saw that I wasn’t managing well at all. My home is a standard mid terraced home with the bathroom and WC, along with the bedrooms, upstairs and I was only going up those stairs once in a while, in fact only when I really had to. I was sleeping, for the most, in an armchair or on the floor downstairs and even that was not comfortable. She just looked at me and asked why? Why have you allowed your life to become so restricted? Why is it you fear the help on offer and what is it about me that upsets you? Of course I had to admit, having met the lady, nothing upset me about her but I explained my feelings, and she really understood. Of course she was female and she couldn’t resist the chance to remind me about male pride! But what she did was put me at ease and then explain just what she, and her department, could do to help me. I will list what changed, and who was responsible/involved, and see if you are as shocked as I was when offers became reality. There are many services for the disabled, or people with a disability and most you would never have thought about. What I ended up with was… ~~Within hours~~ An electric recliner/stander chair, to help me until things could be changed. The offer of bottles etc. to save having to climb the stairs every time I needed a wee. The permanent, free, loan of a wheelchair. 24/7 telephone contact with a case worker. Claim forms to apply for a grant towards altering my house to meet my needs. ~~I went on to have~~ An 8mtr extension built on my house, to enable the ground floor to be made 100% wheelchair user friendly. The extension was needed so I could have a ground floor bedroom, shower room/WC, larger kitchen, larger door frames, new lounge (the old one had now become my bedroom) a newly fitted, and enlar ged, kitchen/dinner to allow for wheelchair use. Plus many other alterations to allow me to use my home easier. Total cost of the work was over £30,000. ~~The people/agencies/groups/services involved were.~~ **Social Services.** Of course this is where my case worker cam from (Note I say Case Worker and not Social Worker) This lady, and her team, were able to lend me equipment and aids to ease living at home. They were able to negotiate, on my behalf, with, the DSS, The Local Council, Hospitals, Doctors, Solicitor, Insurance Company.. and much, much more. They were able to ease one of my biggest concerns following my accident.. that being the worry about how we would manage if I was not working. **District Council.** It may surprise you to learn that the councils *Environmental Health Department handles all claims for home improvement grants for disabled people. (The money comes from central government and not local taxes) They were also able to help us better decide what, and where, we would like things too. Another department at the council that played a massive part, by our choice, was their *Planning Department. We decided it would be easier to use their drawing office, surveyors, building inspectors and Planning Department (on a paid as used basis, just like in the real world) because that way everything was under the one roof. They drew up the plans; three sets in all because we didn’t like certain things in the first two. Put the work out for tender to five building companies and draw up a very comprehensive specification list of the work to be done, even down to the size of nails in a piece of wood. We also employed our Clerk of Works from within the council too. I should add that by doing all this we saved over £2000 on the next cheapest estimate we asked for. Another department from the council that helped us a great deal was the *Housing Department. Even though we own our home they were will, free of charge, to act as the go between our mortgage company and us so as to keep them updated of the changes to the house. This was another worry gone, and one we had not even really considered. Al the council departments above, plus a few more, were there, ready and able, to help me live as near a normal life as possible, despite my disability, in my own home. They may have been paid to do the work but I can assure you they were far better than any money could buy, they really cared. **Local Hospital Trust.** These were able to help me by way of their *Independent Living Unit. These guys were able to suggest, obtain or loan me, much of the equipment I would need in my new home. They had names and addresses of specialist suppliers, could show/lend me certain items to see if it met my needs before I bought them, and they visited my home, with my case worker, to help plan out what I needed. I was also supported, and still am, by the Trusts Physiotherapy Department, Occupational Therapy Unit and Pain Management Unit. **The builder** Again this guy could just see me as another job but he didn’t. He explained everything he was going to need to do and warned us of any major disruption. He even helped us move things around so that they were neither damaged, nor in the way during the work. All in all he was very thoughtful and very helpful. The total cost of all this work was, as I said earlier, over £30.000 but due to help, and advice, I got awarded a claim for £20.000 and was able to also secure a further grant of £2.500 from local government. (County Council) Which meant all I had to pay was around £7.500, plus all the new fittings. I have to say I feel that was a good investment, even though it left us with very little savings. I now live a pretty independent life, in my own home that is altered to suit many of my needs while not hindering those of my wife and three children who do not have a disability. During all of this I was still getting first class treatment from the hospital in London, where I receive much of my treatment now. They too, well my Pain Management Consultant and case worker, who was also a Psychologist, had an input in what may, or may not be of benefit to me by way of changes. So as you can see there are a lot of “services” out there that are willing, and able, to help. Once you have found one then they will find the rest for you. My life is, without doubt, so very much better for their help I could not start to explain. My advice to anyone in a similar situation is, do not allow pride to stop you asking for help, I suffered for 2-3 years more than I needed to because of pride. This is not charity it is your right and believe me once you make that first move you will soon see just how much these guys want to help.
A dinner that is quick, tasty and so very easy to make. Of course it has the standard chicken we all use so much now but believe me it is not one of those meals where you will say “Umm tastes a bit like chicken” This meal can be prepared well in advance, say the morning of the meal and stored in the fridge. Place in the oven just 30 minutes before your guests are due to arrive and that is as simple as that. To make time even easy to manage you can serve this with baked potatoes, again which can be part prepared and left to finish off during the 30 minutes that you need to re-heat and brown the chicken dish. Finish it off with a nice salad, a plain green one will do but the choice is yours. Okay the ingredients and method for this dish, and, as I say, it really is quite simple but really stunning… “CRISPY BAKED CHICKEN” (For 2/3 people) 4 Chicken portions (cooked and skinned) 25g butter 175g button mushrooms 4 shallots, peeled and finely chopped 25g flour 150ml milk 150ml cream 450g tomatoes or 397g can drained and chopped Salt and pepper 1 tsp. tarragon (optional) 50g cheese, grated ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Preheat oven to 200C or 400F. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add mushrooms and shallots. Sauté gently without browning. Stir in the flour and milk and mix thoroughly. Stir in the cream; bring to the boil stirring continuously. Lower the heat; stir in tomatoes, seasoning and tarragon if used. Cover and simmer gently for five minutes. Place chicken portions in an ovenproof dish, pour the sauce over and sprinkle the cheese on top. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until cheese has melted and browned. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Do not try to take a shortcut with this, packet sauces just are not going to give you the same meal, and lets face it there is nothing very major about the recipe anyway. It is not a diet conscious meal either, the cream, butter, milk and cheese are needed, if you break it down there is very little per person anyway. :o) Just cook it and enjoy. I am not one to stick to the rules with regards to wine but would say that a nice fruity white does do this meal a favour. It needs to be well chilled and even a light sparkling wine is not too much. My wife and I enjoy a very cheap, very nice, sparkling wine that will be well known to many, Lambrini. It comes out at about £2.50 tops and can be as low as £1.00 in the right shops. It is a light fruity wine that really does need a chill to be best enjoyed. It is not a strong wine either, averaging around 7.5%Vol, mind you it is a wine that can creep up and slap the back of your head if you have a good session. If you want to push the boat out on another, more refined wine then go for a hock or such, nothing too heavy or full bodied as the meal is subtle and could be overpowered by a strong wine. Garlic bread is a nice addition to the table with this meal too, as are nice crispy rolls. Vegetables can be an option but we have never found they are needed, it depends on how much you like to eat or how little meat you take in. If you do like the idea of some veg. Then stick to the standards, carrot, pea or sweetcorn. Despite my wife’s cries I have to say ‘I’ feel this might benefit from a little garlic in with the main dish. It can be added at the last stage so give it a taste and see how you feel. Everyone that has tried it while dinning here have stood on my wife’s side and claimed that it is not needed… but what do I know anyway I am just the man about the place… Bon appetite my friends.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ As a frequent user of the NHS service, needing over 100 visits in the past 4yrs, my opinion is based on experience and information gathered while using the services. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The simple truth is our N.H.S. is good, it does work and we all know that it will be there at a time of real emergency. What is not so sure is how long you will have to wait if your problem is not an emergency and much of the uncertainty is down to us. The reason we are forced to wait to get into hospital is the lack of spaces and the lack of staff, right? Well in part that is true but there are other factors that make this problem bigger. Factors caused by people not turning up for appointments, not calling in to cancel their operation, and bed, for whatever reason and people that are simply not in need of the bed they are in. I would bet most of us know someone that has failed to attend an appointment, either at the hospital or their doctors, and forgotten to call in and cancel it. Or someone that has decided, no matter why, not to go in and have the operation planned but again failed, or forgot, to tell the hospital thus preventing them calling in someone else that is waiting. We also know about the older folk that are in hospital, not for health reasons, or because they wish to be, but because there are no places for them in nursing homes. The term “bed blocker” is used to account for these folk, not a term that is true nor fair. Most, indeed almost all of these people would rather be anywhere than sitting in a hospital ward all day long with nothing to do but watch the time go by. However, it is a fact that the bed they are in is one that cannot be used to get someone else in for treatment. But I feel that these people are not there by choice and would exclude them from the rest I have listed above, the ones who simple do not turn up. I have tried to get resent figures of missed app ointments and surgery but they seem hard to come by, all I was able to find out is that the number runs into tens of thousands a year. Think of that, tens of thousands of appointments that could have been offered to people waiting, tens of thousands less on that endless list. So there is a lot we can do to reduce some of the delay, attend your appointment or call in and cancel it. Advise anyone you know who is not going to keep their appointment to do the same and ask them to follow suit, in no time we would see the waiting lists drop and could then really put pressure on the management of the trusts to do their bit too. As of this moment in time there are some *1,050,400 people waiting to go in to hospital. This number includes those that are new to the list as well as those that have been waiting a long time, but it is a marked improvement to the *3,000,000 or so a few years back. I do not feel that any government can claim credit for the reduction, other than for the pressure they have placed on managers to offer value for money… at last!! What is happening is that many people are now getting perfectly good service by the use of day surgery, I have opted for this method myself on a couple of occasions, feeling, as I do, that my recovery would be quicker, and cheaper, if done at home. It is true that people are also not being kept in hospital a long as the once were either, and this has, on occasion, caused some problems whereby people have had to be readmitted due to complications. However there are a huge number of people that went home quicker and made a full recovery in the comfort of their own home, and that has to be a good thing, and a step in the right direction too. *The National Health Service was set up in 1948 to provide healthcare for all citizens, “based on need, not the ability to pay”. I believe this is still the case, and more to the point I believe that it will remain so for many years to come yet. As with anything there are limits to just how much can be done in a certain amount of time and with people living longer, advances in medicine and care hospitals are, of course, struggling to keep up. We all expect to get treated as and when we want it, rather than when we need it and that is not possible today. Because of the pressures placed on the service there have to be priorities set and those in most need will, and should be seen first. Because that list changes daily, while many illnesses do not, it will, unfortunately, mean some people, and I have been one of them from time to time, remain on the list longer than seems fair. I happen to feel that if someone has a life threatening illness they have every right to bump me down the list again, it is not nice, it hurts and it means I will suffer my pain longer but I will live. I am currently awaiting surgery to put right problems from my last operation, back in the summer of 2001, but it is not something that is life threatening and so I have no choice but wait. In England the people that have waited more than a year for surgery is around *26.000. A lot of people eh? Or is it? In the scheme of things this is much better than it has been in many a year and should be seen for what it really is, a massive improvement but, as in my school books, a could do better mark. It is not often reported but there is a major fact about our NHS >> * “It is recognised as one of the best health services in the world by the World Health Organisation and is now the largest organisation in Europe.” That is a major thing when you consider the fact this organisation looks at, and works with, medical services all over the world. I happen to believe that we should be very proud of this fact and support, no knock the service. Other facts that have recently been released are lists from the public, of what they see as the priorities for the service: - * 1. More and better paid staff - more doctors, more nurses, more therapists and scientists. 2. Reduced waiting times - reductions in waiting overall, for appointments and on trolleys and in casualty. 3. New ways of working - including 'bringing back matron'. 4. Care centred on patients - action on cancelled operations, more convenient services. 5. Higher quality of care - especially for cancer and heart disease. 6. Better facilities - more cleanliness, better food, getting the basics right. 7. Better conditions for NHS staff - reward and recognition for the work NHS staff do. 8. Better local services - improvements in local hospitals and surgeries. 9. Ending the postcode lottery - high quality treatment assured wherever people live. 10. More prevention - better help and information on healthy living. I have to say that the list amazed me somewhat, in the fact it is so broad and yet offers no real benefits that may come from the choices made. I accept that everything listed is desirable but wonder just what any of this will do to reduce the waiting times, or indeed speed up the service in any way at all. There is no mention of management, its role or its size and cost. I am sure everyone would accept that unless the management is improving the service, or making changes to the good, their huge salary is something that has to be a priority. Indeed the sheer numbers of management has to be a concern taking, as it does, a fair amount of the money being put into the NHS, money that could be better used if directed to patient care. There is also no mention of the vast sums of money spent on patient transportation, something I do have knowledge of, using it, as I have to, on every visit to the hospital. For the disabled, frail or those simply unable to make their own way to hospital, for clinics or day surgery, or indeed to go in, and then return home after surgery, there is a car service that is paid for by the trusts. This service w orks very well for the people it was set up for but has now become abused by many. In London, where I have to go for my treatment, I see, every time, people, perfectly able and mobile, using the service as a free taxi. Many live only a short bus ride from the hospital, and others even closer, but because they have been allowed to abuse the service continue to do so. Again hundreds of thousands of pounds are wasted year in and year out. Drivers tell me, often, of trips to places as far away as several hundred miles were wasted because nobody bothered to tell the transport company the appointments had been cancelled. Many of these wasted trips cost the service several hundred pounds and are far from uncommon. This, I suggest, is another area of waste that is seldom talked about in public debate, probably because it is something so easily rectified by the managers employed to run the transport. The savings to be made in this area are, I feel, massive. All we have been promised, even after the announcement in the budget, is: - * “A 10yr plan promises… More power and information for patients- more hospitals and beds- more doctors and nurses- much shorter waiting times for hospital and doctor appointments.- cleaner wards, better food and facilities in hospitals -improved care for older people- tougher standards for NHS organisations -and better rewards for the best.” Is any of this really going to alter the service for the better? Is it not far more important to look at the cause of the problem first? Is it not fair to ask if we, the people paying, are getting value for money from the management in the NHS today. I was always taught that to ensure value for money those responsible for the spending of it have to be closely monitored and taken to task when they fail. It seems to me, from all we hear, that failing managers in the service are being paid even more of our money to leave. My feeling is that a major audit of every hospital should preceded any big injection of extra funding, and that any extra money should be accounted for to the last penny. * http://www.nhs.uk/default.asp David J Rogers 2002
What’s a school governor? **~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~** If you feel this opinion is in the wrong category please do not down rate it for that… there is no better place for it as yet. Thanks. >>Request is now in for school governor category<< **~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~** I have been a school governor, both at primary level and at secondary level, for some 13 odd years now and enjoy it tremendously. At primary level I have been the chair of governors for all but 6 months of my time there. I feel that school governors offer a service to schools that is on par with, as well as complimentary to, a teacher, hence the area I have placed this opinion. I first thought about becoming a school governor while my children were at primary school, soon after my accident that left me disabled. I felt that there must be something I could still do that would be of use to someone and offer something to the community where I live. I was very aware that I would not work again but at the age of 38 sure as heck didn’t feel, or accept, I had no use anymore. This is when I read a letter, sent home from the school, asking for nominations for parent governors. I knew little of the role, my only real knowledge of it was from my school days where they were people we considered VIP visitors that walked around the school once in a while, and to some degree that is still how many see them. I happen to feel this is okay because the role of a governor is not to get noticed, or to be seen as something or someone special, it is to help in any way you can. Of course there are still some people that have the title of “school governor” because it sits well on their CV or sounds right when chatting among friends, but, thank goodness, this kind of person is now in the small minority. As I say I see this role as one of support and help but, due to added powers, handed down by government, the role is fast becoming more and more like a job, or profession, and the responsibility levels have grown every year. Indeed it is the governing body at all schools that is now the employer, or the schools named authority. Despite handing much of this responsibility down to the head teacher it is the governors themselves that are now asked to answer for many of the problems we read about day after day. It is also the governing body that has the job of interviewing, employing and accounting for the head and deputy head teachers in the school, a very important factor in any school. Of course it is the head teacher that runs the school day to day but it is the governing body that is held to account if they get it wrong, despite being the only non paid, generally unqualified, people within the system. This makes the role very important and, to some degree, unattractive too. There are massive shortages of governors around the country now and I feel it is because of the weight of responsibility laid on them. Long gone have the days where you were only asked to attend sports days, assemblies and special events, now it is a case of attending quite a lot of meetings that tend to run on for 2 or 3 hours sometimes. The governing body also has a very major part to play when a school is inspected, by OFSTED or such, and in planning the future following this. However there are many good things that come from being a governor too. I started, as I say, because it was something I saw I could do but soon became captivated by the warmth that is felt inside a happy school. The team spirit that runs within the teachers, the desire to learn that the children have, the strength that the parents show when supporting their school and the way the a school stretches out to the community around it. There is no doubt that the feeling you get inside a school is special, something that is hard to explain but is wonderful to feel and be a part of. Despite everything we read teachers are as dedicated today as th ey ever were, many, indeed most, spend many hours, of their own time, working with the children outside of school lesson. This same dedication is present among all the other staff that a school needs to run too, assistants, dinner ladies, cooks, caretakers etc. and certainly among governors. The main role of a governor is still one of support, a role that can help ease some of the pressure placed on staff by added paperwork, policy making and budget planning and to this end the role can be very satisfying. In both the schools where I am a governor the staff make me feel very much part of the team, and very much a part of the school and because of this I find I feel wanted, of worth and useful. Many say the role of a governor is as a “critical friend”, I feel this is not the right description. I feel it is a role of a friend, a partner or an ear to listen and offer suggestions. I certainly feel that unless everyone feels comfortable with each other then there is never going to be anything constructive. Therefore the first thing I feel any governor must do is respect the fact that the staff at the school are the professionals and work with them, learn from them and never assume a role above them. There is a great deal a school governor can help with but there are also very fine lines between helping and instructing. I also believe that as a school governor the staff should be certain of your support, no matter what. If things go wrong then they need to be righted but that should be done privately. I have found that I want to support, protect and guard those I am lucky enough to help and even when things have to be said, things that could normally be confrontational they get said, and sorted in a friendly way. Here are just some of the things governors are expected to answer for, or do…. Interview and appoint the Head and Deputy Head teachers. Assist the head in appointing their staff. Assist and approve all school polici es, and there are a great number of these. Assure that discipline among the children and staff is dealt with. Assure that the national curriculum is taught. Prepare and approve the schools budget. Visit the school and observe classes in action. Keeping the buildings and grounds maintained. Dealing with any staffing matters relating to discipline. And the list goes on forever, literally. Of course there are advisers that can be brought in, but also have to be paid for from the budget, which helps ensure all the legal requirements are met. But even this can be fun and rewarding, if a tad boring. You see, despite offering to do all of this, for free, there are a great many things that help you forget that last meeting that ran on forever. Things like hearing a child laugh, seeing children playing together, watching a school play where even the quietest of child speaks out with great confidence. Sitting in a classroom and watching the look of joy on a child’s face when they suddenly understand what it is the teacher is saying, seeing their chest puff with pride as they answer a math question right. On top of that there is the feeling when a teacher says thank you for everything you do. A feeling that sends a warm feeling deep inside your heart, a feeling that says, ”Yes I am helping” “Yes I am making a difference” and the feeling that says “I am enjoying being a small part of all of this.” You see helping others while not looking for, or expecting, any reward is, in itself, rewarding. By being a governor at both levels of education I get to see the follow up from primary to secondary, I get to watch the children grow, from a 5yr old child into a 16yr old young adult. I get to see the benefit of everything and I know our education system works. I would urge anyone that might be thinking of becoming a governor to go for it. Maybe ask to attend a meeting or two first and see what really goe s on after school closes to the children. Being a governor really does benefit the children in our schools today and despite all the responsibility and time it really is a special thing to do. There are several types of governors, as far as they come from, or are appointed by, different agencies or groups. There are parent governors, they are voted on to the board by the parents alone. There are co-opted governors; these tend to be local business people, or people working in specialist areas, that are appointed by the board. There are governors appointed by the local education authority and there are also governors that are appointed by the local council, churches and by the staff. No matter where they are appointed from they all have one thing in common, they are doing it because they want to and they all want to do the best they can to make sure every child gets the best education possible.
Disability and fitness. No matter what your condition or ability it is important to remain as fit as you can. To remain fit you need to exercise, exercise is not always the iron pumping, all bulging, heavy sweating Arnie types we see in the films, and on the holiday beaches of America. Fitness and exercise is especially important for those of us with disabilities, it helps keep our bodies working and allows for better, and faster, recovery from things such as surgery and set backs, things like colds, flu or other forms of illness. Just like anyone disabled people can, and often do, claim all sorts of reasons for not being fit, or even trying to get fit. Indeed it is probably easier for the disabled to claim this, we are, after all, less able and therefor find it harder to keep fit don’t we? The simple answer, in most cases, is no. I am sure most of you will have seen the huge range of fitness video tapes for sale, and among these you can find programs that are specifically made, and suited to, disabled people. Many good exercises can be done while seated and many more with little or no major mobility requirements. Of course, as with any program of fitness or diet, you should consult with your doctor before you begin, indeed they may even be able to arrange for you to join such a program at your nearest hospitals physiotherapy department. In fact it is probably more important for the disabled to have a controlled exercise plan. I began my exercising, following the injury to my spine, while still in hospital recovering from my first ever operation. Many of the exercises I was asked to do seemed stupid at the time. Raising my arms as far as I could just five times each side, or lifting my legs for 10 seconds a couple of times, plus other very simple, very minor, movements which, over a short period of time began to get easier to do. By the time I was able to get out of bed, around 16 weeks later, I was feeling quite strong, not at all w eak as I had been told I may. I was in a wheelchair at that time but found myself able to use it quite freely and on my own, this was due to exercise, plain and simple. I will list a few of the exercises I still do every day, at least three times a day, and hope this will show you how easy exercise, and thereby fitness can be. Standing: Feet together arms stretched out to each side not raised just straight out. Rotate you arms 10 times in a forward motion, and repeat in a backward motion. Feet apart and hands on hips. Turn your upper body, from the waist, to the left, as far as you comfortably can 10 times and repeat to the right. Feet together with hands down by your side. Bend forwards, again only as far as is comfortable, and stand again, do this 10 times, repeat this but leaning back. Standing straight turn you head as far to the left as you can, do not stretch it, and as you slowly turn it to the front again nod your head up and down, like a nodding dog, do this 10 times to each side. Seated: Sitting up straight, feet flat on the floor stand up slowly and then sit again, remember each time to do this slowly and controlled. Holding on to the chair with your left hand turn your upper body to the right, do this just 5 times. Repeat this by holding on with your fight hand and turning to the left. Still sitting straight up raise your feet and legs, only as far as if comfortable, straight out in front of you. After this exercise shake your legs freely so as to relax them again. Lift each leg in turn and this time rotate your foot 5 times, again shaking it to relax after the exercise. Lifting each leg again this time simply pull your feet towards your body and then point them away from it, again 5 time each way. If you are mobile, in as much as you can walk a little, then find some steps, or stairs. Step up on to the first step by placing one foot on the step an d then bring the second to join it, do the same back down. Do this 5 times. The above exercises are the start to every session and are the least you should do but if you feel any added pain, or are going through a bad time then leave them. The idea of any exercise is to help you not hurt you. The saying “no pain no gain” is not true and should not be considered a rule when doing any form of exercise. If you are experiencing pain then it is a fair bet the exercise is either being done wrong or you should not be doing it at all. It is from these very basic, simple, exercises that you can build a program for yourself. Over a period of time you could find yourself even managing some sit ups, walking, even press ups but the key word here is “time” Never rush and never force yourself, give your body the time it needs to adjust to the new demands you are placing on it. As you build your strength you will find yourself able to attempt slightly more energetic exercises, like running on the spot, or using a training bicycle. These bigger exercises will start to form a cardiovascular program, don’t let the term worry you though, all it means is that you exercise so that your heart beats faster than it does at rest. This need not be by much to be beneficial. Again the best pace to obtain coaching, or a program is at your physiotherapy department but more and more commercial gyms are now becoming aware of the demand for the lighter programs, both for the disabled and the elderly. You can find any gyms in your area in the yellow pages and a telephone call could be all you need to arrange a free session to see if it is right for you or you it. A good gym owner will be aware of the needs of each type of person and should be able to plan a good set of exercises to suit your demands. It pays to check out the qualifications of training instructors, just to make sure you are in the hands of someone that knows how to help. Always remember that you are exercising to your limits and not trying to compete with anyone else, if you can do this you may be surprised at just how much fun can be had while doing yourself some good.
Dutch Kedgeree. This is a dish with a twist in every ingredient. It is best served hot, with salads or just crispy bread. Works well if used as a main plate filler at a finger buffet. My wife and I found this dish during a visit to a trade exhibition when we worked in the hotel business, some 20yrs ago now, and have enjoyed it ever since. Maybe if I list the ingredients first it may fascinate you enough to read on, or even better give it a try. It is so tasty and at no time in all of these years have we had anyone not like it, indeed we have always been asked to pass on the recipe. So the bits you will need to make this wonderful dish: ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ For about six people: Edam Cheese ... ¾lb Corned Beef … 1 standard size tin. Onion … 1 medium - large. Rice … 4 cups of standard long grained. Peppers … 2 or 3 (mixed coloured sweet peppers) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ That is it, nothing fancy, no special trips to buy anything strange or unusual. In fact much of this will probably be sitting in your store cupboard or fridge already. This dish is as simple to make as the ingredients are to collect and the finished product will leave you amazed at just how good something so simple can taste. Take your onion, as much or as little as you please, let’s say one medium one here. Skin and then chop quite finely. Put a little oil in the bottom of a casserole pan and cook the onions lightly, they need to be soft but not coloured. While they cook open the corned beef and chop this into chunks, again a size that suits you. Do the same with a couple of peppers, maybe one green and one red, and if you feel really decadent then add a bit of yellow too, why not! Add the peppers to the onions just before they are soft and allow these to soften up too. Okay now to the rice. I find that washing the rice in lots of cold water bef ore cooking helps reduce the starch. For every cup of rice you have you will need a minimum of 1.5 cups of water, if you wish you could add some stock rather than water but it really isn’t needed. Add the rice to boiling water and cook until just soft, not mushy. Once it is cooked run it under cold water, this will stop it cooking further and also wash away more of the starch. Now chop you Edam into cubes, size is not important (as I keep telling my wife) but not too big because you will want this to melt. Now take a break to have a drink and prepare for the hard bit. After a glass or two of fine wine you now need to bring the casserole dish, with the softened onion and peppers in, and add everything else, fold it all together so as not to break the meat up too much. “Put on the lid” and put in an oven, 220c or gas mark 4 until it has heated right through and the cheese has melted. That is all there is to it… When you come to serve, or eat, you will see that the cheese has become very stringy and sticky, this holds everything together, you may want to add extra salt but normally the cheese has enough. For vegetarians just leave out the meat, or add a substitute, for those that really cannot get on with Edam use another stringy cheese, mozzarella or such. If you really cannot take corned beef then use tinned ham, or any such tinned meat, the flavour will, of course, vary dependant on what meat you add. All you need to do to present this dish is, place it on a table mat along with a buffet or, for a light supper try it with a nice green salad. Lots of crispy bread also goes down well with this dish as does a nice glass of wine, and it really makes no difference which colour you prefer either. That is it, simple tasty food with the least amount of effort, Bon appetit.
Tea, the great British drink eh? Well it is our most popular hot drink but it sure as heck is not British. Tea has been an item of trade for at least three thousand years. It was first cultivated and brewed in China, and many of the best varieties still come from there. Some of the finest oolongs (a variety of tea) in the world are grown in Taiwan. Japan also produces a considerable amount of green tea, most of which is consumed domestically. It was after the British took up tea drinking that we began cultivating the plants that are native to India in order to have more control over the trade. India, Sri Lanka, and other South Asian countries produce a large portion of the worlds harvest. So here we are at the start of the topic and already several countries come long before the UK. The word for tea in most of main land China (and also in Japan) is 'cha', so now you know where that phrase “a cup of cha” came in… As luck would have it, the first mass marketers of tea in the West were the Dutch, yet another country before the UK, whose contacts were in Fujian. They adopted the name, and handed it on to most other European countries. Russia and Portugal retained direct links with China, the Portuguese call it 'cha', the Russians 'chai'. Other areas (such as Turkey, South Asia and the Arab countries) have some versions too; they call theirs 'chai' or 'shai'. But enough of the history lessons for now, on to the types of tea, well some anyway because the list, I find, is huge and if I add on all the different blends my opinion would become a book. So here is some info on the more common types.. The three main categories are green, black, and oolong. All three kinds are made from the same plant species. The major differences between them are a result of the different processing methods they undergo, prior to marketing. Black teas undergo several hours of oxidation in the ir preparation; oolongs receive less oxidation, and green teas are not oxidised at all. As we know most of our common teas are dark in colour and here are a few of the “black” unblended types, and the countries they come from. It is from these teas most of our mixes stem from: Assam (India) Ceylon (Sri Lanka) Darjeeling (India) Keemun (China) Nilgiri (India) Sikkim (India) Yunnan (China There are three main blends that then tend to dominate, and are used as the base for many more blended, or mixed, teas we buy in our supermarkets… English Breakfast Irish Breakfast Russian Caravan A bit more info on the background, and making of our daily cuppa now.. Tea is made by infusing leaves of the tea plant (Camellia sinensis, or Thea sinensis, wow I went all Latin there for a minute..) in hot water. The name 'tea' is used to refer to the leaves themselves. It is, of course, also the name of a mid- to late-afternoon meal in the UK, where tea (the drink) is served along with various foods, intro “afternoon tea” or “High Tea” with cucumber sandwiches. “Boy this guy is full of facts ain’t he?? What do you mean no!! I have taken ages searching for this stuff so takes notes, I may be asking questions later”. Okay, a few more bits of info for you.. There is no real need to heat the pot before making tea, however it may help a little by not reducing the water temp. in the early stages of infusion. Tea needs about 4-5 minutes to brew. Loose tea is better than tea bags, if not as convenient at times. The reason for this is, in a tea bag there is a bigger area for the tea to dry out during storage. Tea is best kept dry, packed inside a light proof box, hence the early tea chests for shipping, and is not best if stored cold, that means not in the fridge. It is quite okay to store tea in our traditional glass jars so long as the y are not kept in direct sunlight. The water for making tea should always be drawn from the cold tap before boiling. Water in the hot tank is prone to holding heavy metals that will change the taste of the tea and should be avoided. In fact water from our hot water systems should, as a rule, be considered unfit for human consumption. If you live in a very old house even the cold tap should be run for a minute or so before filling the kettle, again the old pipes tend to hold onto, and add, heavy metals to the water. I guess most people know that tea was very expensive when we first got to use it, and it was kept in locked boxes, generally by the gentry, and used for special occasions, or when trying to impress, or entertain. Members of the household staff would get to enjoy tea too by adding more water to the remains of the pot after it was finished with upstairs. It was also a very generous gift, often given at Christmas or on Birthdays. It may help to remember; when looking along the massive shelves of the stuff in our shops today, that most of the brands you see come from the same plant species and the differences are due to the many ways tea is processed and blended (mixed). It may also be good to remember that despite the ease that we can obtain it today, and the generally low price, tea comes from a very posh background and is probably a royal amongst hot beverages. That is about it, I may well write another opinion offering you more of the history of tea, because I found it so very interesting during my research, and there are so many other forms of tea now, herbal, medicinal and so on. For now though I suggest you get that kettle on and make yourself a nice cup, with or without sugar… as you please. ================================= **If the rating is still not working please leave a comment, thanks.**