Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Ten Questions: 91-100

91    Who was said to have been lovely as Peer Gynt?

92    How do you say "Hamlet, I am thy father's ghost" in Afrikaans?

93    When did Lancelot first appear?

94    What four words mean (roughly) "tiredness" and all begin with the same letter?

95    What flew before the girl could go into the garden?

96    In 1961 Rous, then Havelange, and since 1998, who?

97    Clint Reno, Vince Everett, Danny Fisher, Chad Gates, Lucky Jackson. Who were they?

98    Who is the only divorced US President?

99    Which Antipodean town is named after the wife of Sir Charles Todd?

100  Why, according to the French Foreign Legion, is there no black pudding for the Belgians?


Earlier questions are HERE

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Essential sugar pills

Self Help Homeopathic Remedy Kit for Friends & Family

Ainsworths Essential Remedy Kit contains 42 remedies in 30C potency in 2g vials (approx 35 doses per vial). The remedies are made with sucrose pills. The kit comes in a beautiful dark green plastic box with sturdy hinges and includes a 72 page instruction booklet.

The remedies included are:
Aconite, Allium Cepa, Ant Tart, Apis Mel, Argent Nit, Arnica, Arsen Alb, Belladonna, Bryonia, Calc Carb, Calendula, Cantharis, Carbo Veg, Chamomilla, China, Cocculus, Drosera, Euphrasia, Ferrum Phos, Gelsemium, Hepar Sulph, Hypericum, Ignatia, Ipecac, Kali Bich, Lachesis, Ledum, Lycopodium, Mag Phos, Merc sol, Mixed Pollens, Nat Mur, Nux Vom, Passiflora Co, Phosphorus, Pulsatilla, Rhus Tox, Ruta, Sepia, Silica, Staphisagria, Sulphur

Cost: £43 (plus £2.50 P&P)

Now there's an attractive offer: all that for little more than a pound a remedy!

While this advertisement doesn't say what these things are actually good for, you can no doubt find that information in the 72-page instruction booklet. Ainsworths have to be very careful about what they claim for fear of being found to be contravening the regulations of the Advertising Standards Association, which now apply to advertising on the web as well as in leaflets and on packaging. The ASA is already investigating many false claims made by homeopaths relating to the value of their products as a "cure", as a "remedy", or "for the relief of" named conditions.

However, one claim which may be made with absolute confidence by vendors of homeopathic preparations is that they do not cause undesirable side effects: they cannot, for they contain no active ingredient whatsoever. One third of a drop of some original substance diluted into all the water on earth would produce a remedy with a concentration of about 13C.

Those in this kit are all at 30C dilution, the "potency" advocated a couple of hundred years ago by the inventor of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann, for most purposes. On average, this would require giving two billion doses per second to six billion people for 4 billion years to deliver a single molecule of the original material to any patient. So you don't need to worry about whether it is the Belladonna or the Lycopodium that you need to ease your distress, for none of the little vials contain any of the exotic ingredients listed; you can swallow the whole contents of all 42 vials in one go: they will do you no good, and no harm either, though it is never advisable to consume so many sugar pills at one time.

[HERE is an explanation of "potentization", and other terms used by homeopaths.]


Monday, 20 February 2012

Mr Rudson and all that lot

One of my grand-daughters has lived in Spain since she was a toddler. Her name is Meadow, but she can't help that. Now nine years old, she is very bright and as near bilingual as it is possible to be.

The other day her mother said to her, "What are you going to do about your homework?". Meadow's response was, "I don't know, but [singing] what are we going to do about Uncle Arthur?"

Apparently she watches Upstairs, Downstairs on TV with her mother every Saturday morning; I do not know how many of the 68 episodes they have seen so far.

Meadow does not visit England very often, but great efforts have been made to keep her familiar with things English, and it has struck me that watching this old drama, creaky though it may be, will give her some insight into events in her native country between 1904 and 1930, and the zeitgeist of the period.

Later she will work out for herself that England isn't quite like that any more and perhaps never was.

[Last night's ITV showed the first episode of the second chunk of the continued series of UD, all about the Munich crisis. Not bad, but suffers by comparison wth Downton Abbey.]


Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Lock up your ferrets

I have never been greatly interested in ferrets. Cheery little fellows, I grant you, but lacking the gravitas of your typical weasel or the diffident charm of a couple of British stoats—both called Arthur—to whom I tried teaching a few simple tricks, without, I have to say, much success.  

But a letter published in my local paper a couple of weeks ago introduced me to the fascinating world of ferret distemper, the existence of which I had never before suspected:

I am a ferret owner and member of a group of owners on Facebook who have been discussing the issue of ferret distemper.
I have also been very careful with mine by not letting them out as I am aware of this distemper outbreak. I know it's not mentioned specifically in our area but things like this have a habit of spreading very quickly and easily.
There are still people walking out with their ferrets, maybe some who just haven't heard about the outbreaks. Not all ferret owners will be on Facebook.
So, if you know a ferret owner who knows nothing about this outbreak, please pass on the details. It could be in all innocence wiping out animals before very long if no warnings are to go out.

I am posting this because I feel that OMF should give the warning wider publicity;. Also, I have never actually seen anyone walking out with a ferret but if I do I shall not hesitate to accost him (or her) and point out the irresponsibility of her (or his) actions. As we all know, even those of us who are not on Facebook, this type of distemper affects dogs as well as ferrets; it can be fatal or lead to many nasty conditions such as vesicular/pustular lesions on the abdomen, and we all know how painful they can be.


Friday, 10 February 2012

Let Them Eat Bread

A few months ago we wanted to have a major decade-related family birthday celebration, but our favourite caff couldn't accommodate a party of nine, so we chose another local one, also Michelin-starred. I will call it The Gannet, for that was not its name.

Last week there was an exchange of emails:

Me to The Gannet
Will you please take our names off your mailing list. We shall not be visiting The Gannet again.

The Gannet to me:
Yes, of course we will remove you from our mailing list, right away. I am so sorry to hear that you won't be visiting The Gannet again, may I please ask why?

Me to The Gannet:
Well, yes, as you ask, I will tell you.
Last year my wife and I booked a birthday dinner for nine family members. We had some email correspondence with you beforehand, and consulted all the guests so that we were able to tell you exactly what everyone wanted for each of the three courses. We also ordered the wine and, to facilitate the service, provided name cards and a table plan. It was an enjoyable evening, and we had no complaints about the dinner or the service.
However, we had asked if there could be a few black olives and some amuse-gueules on the table when we sat down, and in your reply you wrote:
"...With regard to the amuse [sic] and black olives unfortunately they are neither things that we offer. We do however offer our chef's freshly baked bread, which at the moment is a warm fruit bread served with chestnut honey and butter. This is served to you once you are seated."
In other words, "...It's not what you want that matters, but what we intend to give you"; some such observation was made to me by several friends who heard the story. It was a very small thing that we were asking; the fact that, given more than a week's notice, you could not be bothered to get a jar of olives and put them in a couple of bowls shows an inflexibility and lack of eagerness to please quite unacceptable in any restaurant, let alone one of the top rank, and a customer proposing to spend five hundred pounds on a meal might well be dissatisfied.
As for the amuse-gueules, if your chef is unwilling to make them, or has never heard of them, so be it, but warm fruit bread and honey is no alternative.
Had we not already gone to some trouble in asking our guests (some of whom were coming from overseas) to order in advance from your menu, we would have cancelled the booking and gone elsewhere. As it was we merely resolved not to come again, and it was only recently, when I noticed your newsletters piling up in my junk mail folder, that I thought of asking to be removed from your mailing list.

The Gannet to me
Thank you for the feedback. We’re glad that you enjoyed the overwhelming majority of your experience at The Gannet.
We do not usually serve an amuse bouche or olives at The Gannet, it is out of keeping with the offering for which we have become renowned. Our pre-meal offering is complimentary and very well-received. We were offering our warm bread, chestnut honey and butter as an alternative to olives, and something more in-keeping with The Gannet's British philosophy and values. Had we known your predilection for black olives, we would, of course, have supplied them.
We’re disappointed you weren’t able to embrace The Gannet experience in its totality. The Gannet is purposefully an informal, relaxed restaurant. We remain committed to serving excellent local produce to a community passionate about food served with imagination and flair. As a kitchen, service team, family and business, we work incredibly hard to ensure visitors to The Gannet enjoy their experience, it is a commitment unrelated to the lining of our guests’ pockets.
It’s a shame the absence of an amuse bouche left you so down in the mouth and that you no longer wish to receive our newsletter especially as it continues to put a smile on the faces of those that receive it.
Me to The Gannet
Thank you for your email explaining why you were unwilling to give us what we had asked for.
To say that a few olives are "out of keeping" with your British philosophy and values is fatuous; if you reject everything foreign then you should not have "crème fraîche" on your menu. Merely leaving off the accents is not enough: you should call it "sour cream"'.
We do not have what you call a "predilection" for olives: we asked for them because one of our guests was an eight-year-old girl who lives in Spain and loves them; it had occurred to me that they would keep her amused while we had our pre-dinner gin. I did not think it would be necessary to explain this, imagining that a simple request for such a trivial thing would be enough.The absence of any hint of apology, and the patronising and generally arrogant tone of your response, makes me certain that our decision not to "embrace The Gannet experience in its totality" was a wise one.

I am not a complainer by nature, and am normally sympathetic towards the failings of those whose task it is to please the public. But here was a perfect example of the wrong way to handle a complaint, and I could not let this incompetent idiot get away with it.
Of course, it really wasn't worth the bother of writing at that length, or indeed at all. However, this exchange began last weekend, when I was snowed in and there was nothing much on TV.


Sunday, 5 February 2012

As Shakespeare would have put it...

Those who had nothing better to do and followed the link in the answer to question 40 of Another Twenty Questions will have learned a great deal (perhaps more than they really wanted to know) about The Hokey-Cokey (or -Pokey).

Here's some more about it; one of the the Washington Post's Style Invitational contests asked readers to submit "instructions" for something (anything), written in the style of a famous person. The popular winning entry was "The Hokey Pokey as written by William Shakespeare":

O proud left foot, that ventures quick within
Then soon upon a backward journey lithe.
Anon, once more the gesture, then begin:
Command sinistral pedestal to writhe.
Commence thou then the fervid Hokey-Poke,
A mad gyration, hips in wanton swirl.
To spin! A wilde release from Heavens yoke.
Blessed dervish! Surely canst go, girl.
The Hoke, the poke -- banish now thy doubt
Verily, I say, 'tis what it's all about.

[Wikipedia's fairly comprehensive entry briefly mentions Larry La Prise, one of the many people who have been credited (if that is the right word) with devising the Hokey-Cokey. Whether he did or not (similar dances and lyrics dating back to the 17th century have been found) it was said that when he died in 2002 his family had great difficulty with the funeral: they put his left leg in the coffin, and it was all downhill from there….]