All entries for September 2006

September 29, 2006

Jaffa Cakes And Tax

No, this isn’t some really crazed idea about how we could possibly receive our tax rebates in perishable goods (although personally the idea of the £100+ the tax office seems to owe me showing up in confectionary form is tantilising), no this is about the answer to the second most burning question about small, sweet objects.*

Is it a cake or a biscuit?

You’d be forgiven for thinking this is another of those stupid debates which have no real resolution but exist purely to get students to row about things which bear no relevance to real life. You’re wrong. God, it must suck to be you.

Jaffa cakes are cakes for tax reasons. No seriously, they are. Most people who argue that jaffa cakes are cakes use the logical argument that when they are stale they go hard, whereas Digestives and Penguins go soft. Cake = hard, biscuit = soft. It was using this reasoning that McVities went to tribunal against the Inland Revenue over the jaffa cake’s status.

Basically biscuits are classed as a luxury item and incur a 17.5% VAT charge. Cakes, supposedly are basic foodstuffs and are therefore VAT exempt. The government wanted to get this tax flow and took McVities on. The soft/hard debate was what settled it.

Now what does this show? I’m sure if we really wanted we could put our Daily Mail hats on (fucking asylum seekers, etc etc) and moan about this being another example of the waste of time that the government can be sometimes every minute of every working day. But that would be stupid, and not just because it involves thinking like a newspaper which has paid no attention at all to major revelations like it being the 21st century and Genghis Khan not being considered a good model for leadership. No, the jaffa issue is important. How would you feel if they were a luxury item? Do you want to be priced out of those delicious little pieces of joy? If small people can get away with buying kids’ shoes and not paying VAT on them, then I’m damned if (with my size 8 adult shoes) I’m paying VAT on my jaffas as well.

So inclusion – cake and anyone who says biscuit is only out to ruin your life and remove you jaffa cakes permanently to a massive, exclusive gated estate filled with modern day Marie Antionettes declaring “Let them eat cake… cos jaffa cakes ain’t cakes!”.**

Rar!

*The most pressing being is does scone rhyme with phone, gone or done?

**History Pedant says “Although Marie Antoinette probably didn’t say this”.


September 18, 2006

The Big Question

If it’s true that inside every fat person, there’s a thin person trying to get out, does this mean that the population of Britain is secretly 69.9 million?*

I’m not fatist. It’s just been in the news a lot recently…

*Current obesity rate in England is approx. 16.5%. This is extrapolated across Scotland, Wales and NI.


September 16, 2006

Childcare

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/south_yorkshire/5349392.stm

Don’t you just love blame culture? This modern illness in which everyone and everything else is repsonsible for all the woes which are inflicted upon a person or their family. A trip in the road is a shoddy piece of council maintainence rather than being too immersed in your texting to watch where you’re going. It’s the way things are today, yet no one wants to admit this.

So good on the Great British PublicTM to once again prove how amazing this country can sometimes be when it comes to blaming other people. A school in South Yorkshire has witnessed the parents of children buying food from the local chippie and passing through the school gates to the kids inside. This follows the quest of St Jamie of Oliver to deliver us from fried fat and lard milkshakes as school dinners, thus freeing us from becoming so heavy that we actually cause large portions of the country to subside into the ground. So what’s going on?

Naturally both sides have had their say, but the parents’ main criticisms seem to be that:
  • The children aren’t allowed enough time to eat at lunch (half an hour).
  • The children are no longer allowed off school grounds at lunch.
  • The children don’t like the healthy menu.

Now fair enough, thirty minutes seems like a very short period of time to get and eat food, although it’s worth noting that a lot of jobs only offer a thirty minute lunch break so the kids aren’t facing anything they won’t find themselves up against in the future anyway. As for not being allowed off the grounds well that gets no sympathy from me I’m afraid. At my secondary school only sixth formers had any real freedom to roam outside of the gates. It’s a school, not a youth club, the kids can roam as free as they like after school unless they have more important things to do like eat crisps and watch TV/surf the internet/fester which obviously preclude actual exercise.

But to moan that they don’t like the healthy food? No, I don’t buy it.

Some of the parents maintain that healthy orders were being placed (baked potato, salads) but I bet the majority were chips and fizzy drinks. I have news for these parents – most children don’t like to eat healthy food. They will do anything to avoid it. And it is a parental duty to stand firm and say “tough, that’s your dinner, now eat it or no pudding”. I know loads of people whose parents had to do this. Hell, mine did (oh boy, did I hate eating potatoes). But many of these parents will also moan at anyone else when their children are huge, citing having to hold down their own jobs or the difficulty of dangerous roads and the necessity of driving a child 500m in a 4×4.

Now I’m no Victorian, and think children deserve a lot of respect and basic rights, but they’re not adults, they are not the informed, objective people that can work out that they’re gonna get fat if they eat so much junk. Yes, they know that’s what happens, but they don’t know, don’t register that it could be them. This is why kids climb trees much further than adults do, they haven’t quite grasped the concept that they really could fall from the height.

I’m willing to accept that there’s always the possibility that the food this school serves is rubbish. If this is the case then I suppose it’s not unreasonable for parents to get concerned as their offspring don’t eat (and I suppose the healthy food orders mentioned in the article suggest that some kids are willing to try to eat healthily despite the school). But it’s then surely their duty to take on board the messages which are so loud and clear – fatty foods = fatty and unhealthy kids. It’s a parental duty and not something you can blame on the media or the government or immigrants. Simple as.


September 14, 2006

Daddy Long Legs Scores Eleven Goals For Country

Long limbs. Bouncing around the place with no obvious sense of purpose, direction or logic. Gentley colliding with things and causing no real damage. Occasionally fulfilling their life purpose, albeit seemingly by accident.

Why has no one else noticed the amazing similarities between daddy long legs and Peter Crouch?

daddy long legs

Am I right or am I right?


September 07, 2006

Gordon Brown's Silence

Am I one of the only people who doesn’t find it odd that Gordon Brown’s lips have been tighter than his purse strings over the past couple of days? Surely it’s all too obvious what’s going on. Of course he’s not going to be saying anything whilst all this rages as he has to consider several important factors.

Firstly any talk from Blairites of disloyalty seems a bit churlish given that Blair has apparently reneged upon his part of the Granita pact. It would be quite crazy to expect the Chancellor to speak out against the plotting as a favour to Blair. He knows what he wants and what he has been promised. There is no doubting that he wants to be PM.

After that we’re into easy territory to consider. Splits in the party could be fatal, as they were to the Tories in the 1990s. Brown needs to avoid this so he’s not speaking in an attempt to distance himself from the factionalism, something which Blair doesn’t seem to have managed quite as well. He doesn’t want to be tainted in his election campaign, either for Labour or (should he win that) for the nation. He doesn’t wish to be seen as a distrustful backstabber who reneges on agreements.

And thus he does not defend Blair. Partly this is because there’s no love lost. But Brown also sees how unpopular Blair is and wants distance, he does not want to be Tony version 2 in the electorate’s eyes. To defend him could be seen as associating with damaged goods which would not go down well with many people. Therefore an ambiguous role in Blair’s downfall is a good thing, not obviously disloyal, but not slavishly devoted to an unpopular leader. In a way it’s quite a clever ploy, especially as he will be quite similar to Blair in many ways were he to get power.

Silence speaks volumes sometimes, and right now it’s doing so quite well for Brown. Maybe he has got more PR sense than we thought.


September 06, 2006

Cassandra Day

A Cassandra Day (n.)

1) One of those days when you spend all day running around telling people things will go wrong and are then ignored only for your predictions to come true.

From the myth of Cassandra, the only person in the entire story of the Trojan War who was completely blameless and didn’t deserve to die. She was cursed so that her powers of prediction were useless as everyone always ignored her. Fortunately a Cassandra Day does not result in the death of the person having it at the hands of their lover’s wife.

Note how in this painting of Cassandra she is pulling out her hair. That’s what a Cassandra Day feels like.


September 05, 2006

Weight

Weight. It’s a funny issue isn’t it? More specifically, it’s funny to laugh at fat people. And thin people. Sometimes you can laugh at both simply by buying a single copy of Heat, Now, Stare, Gawp or Lookatthesefuckingfreaks! Look at the amazing round people and marvel at how the caption declares them to be American as if we don’t have massively obese people in Britain. And hark at the skinny celebrity as she wafts through the paparazzi photograph before turning the page and reading 101 Tips On Getting A Beach Figure For The Summer.

And yet at the end of the day there’s a fundamental fact which makes all of this so hideously complicated. Technically everytime these magazines mock those who appear to have a weight problem, in either direction, they are correct. Being overweight will destroy your heart, arteries, liver. Not eating properly (and let’s not kids ourselves that any of these superthin celebs are losing weight via working out, they’re the wrong shape) will give you arthritis, liver problems and disrupt most of your body’s functions. The tone may be patronising, especially set against the magazines’ rafts of diets and junk food adverts, but we really shouldn’t accept the terrible cost of being like this.

Weight issues differ from other big dangers like alcohol abuse or smoking as it doesn’t obviously harm others. You can’t passive eat. If you have salad and the person next to you has burgers then you’re still going to run home full of vitamins and free of reprocessed nasties. Binging on three packets of crisps won’t make you start a fight in the street. Weight problems are not caused by single decisions. Weight problems tend to build slowly, like the teen who cuts out fatty foods, then skips meal, until anorexia is established. Weight problems are complex and develop slowly. People aren’t born overweight. The causes are way too complex to go into here. Suffice to say we have enough people who have been affected by those causes to require tackling of the outcomes (weight problems) as well as the causes. We can’t just give up the current generation of over- and underweight people as lost and concentrate on helping the next generation only.

But there seems to be a general lethargy about tackling such problems.

Now we are getting to the stage where 33% of men are considered to be a good weight or underweight (quoted in a recent edition of the Guardian). Considering that male anorexia/bulimia is rising this is not great reading.

The problem seems to be how to cope. Shops are already increasing their range of clothing sizes, there are calls for sturdier furniture to be available, both in shops and in the public sector. Some are calling fat the new racism, grounds to insult and demean people. Society’s treatment of the overweight undoubtedly causes anguish to millions. But at the same time it’s not healthy. Previous representatives of ‘fat’ in the media, like Dawn French or Johnny Vegas, look positively svelte compared to many people on Britain’s streets today. You could probably morally justify allowing French and Vegas to remain at the their current sizes (though they won’t be as healthy as people who aren’t overweight) but for the huge, who are increasing in number, it seems wrong to let them do that damage to themselves. How are we to react to the needs of the obese? Should we give them the resources they need to cope at 30st, or should we refuse as it doesn’t encourage the potentially life saving weight loss they need to engage in? We don’t seem to be quite as tolerant towards anorexics, or is this because they deteriorate in health faster than fat people?

It’s a truly difficult argument. Either way we are allowing harm to befall people. Acceptance of fat will make fat people feel better in the short term as we are less mean to them on the streets, but it might prevent them from deciding to lose weight and kill them with coronary at 46.

And so we mock the skinny, openly and increasingly viciously. Those twig like stars whose bones are more recogisable than our neighbours’ faces. The least believable thing about Bend It Like Beckham was the concept of Keira Knightley as a footballer. Anyone that skinny would get snapped in half on the pitch, leaving aside the issue that were she really a footballer she’d have developed some more muscle from the training. But the tabloids are happy to show many photos of the super skinny, and a debate rages as to whether this encourages them to remain this way for publicity reasons. As was recently pointed out, uber skinny Posh Spice has managed to have three kids, something a proper anorexic couldn’t do as her condition would have stopped her periods and ability to conceive a long time ago. Posh can clearly decide when to starve to fame and when to eat to sustain a foetus.

It’s considered impolite to tell a fat person “don’t eat that, you’re already fat”, yet I’ve been told by people that I should eat more as I’m too thin. Should we be consistent on these matters of weight, considering that being overweight and underweight are both dangerous? Can we justify the short term discomfort for those who are not healthy weight at this time if it helps stop it in the future? How are we meant to view those outside of BMI 20-25? Would over- or underweight people hold different opinions to those who are a healthly weight?

Either way these health problems are starting to strain the NHS which we all pay for. People need to think about this as it’s their money which is being spent. Sadly, it’s probably only when it’s presented in these terms that people will start to really consider these issues.


September 2006

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