It can’t have failed to escape your notice in recent months that most of the major supermarkets have been pulling beef products off the shelves at a rapid rate of knots due to the fact that it has been discovered that they have been adulterated with horsemeat.
Unlike many other cases of food adulteration, this isn’t necessarily a public health issue. In Britain, at least, the decision not to consume horsemeat is a cultural choice (although this hasn’t always been the case); however, this is more a case of whether we can assume honesty and are able to trust the products that we buy – or not. If our microwave meal claims to contain beef, for example, then beef is exactly what it should contain.
What is in our food is actually regulated by law, but that hasn’t always been the case either – and the horsemeat scandal shows how ineffective even these modern laws can be against those determined to make a fat profit out of the food we eat, whatever the consequences. However, a horsemeat lasagne is really nothing compared to some of the highly disturbing things that have been found in foodstuffs in the past.
Despite this week’s rain and a wind so gusty that I almost thought I was going to be blown away like the queue of nannies in Mary Poppins, it seems that spring has finally arrived – much to the relief of everyone, including this lovely dog. Happily sunbathing on a lounger atop a houseboat moored on the Grand Union Canal at Ladbroke Grove, he sat up to watch me go by – and posed rather beautifully when I got my camera out!
Broaden your vocabulary with Another Kind Of Mind! I’m fascinated by words and where they come from – and the English language is full of some seriously weird examples of words describing and defining some incredibly random concepts you probably never knew existed. Researching this subject out of curiosity, I came across quite a few of these words which I had to share with you all.
So, every once in a while I’ll be defining a couple of these words for you – and here’s today’s…
A desire path (or desire line) is the name given to a concept you would never think actually had a name. You’ve probably seen plenty of desire paths in your own neighbourhood – they’re those shortcut tracks across grassy areas made by walkers and cyclists repeatedly cutting through from one place to another (you can see plenty of examples in this fascinating post over at the excellent Spitalfields Life).
Cute, aren’t they? This magnificent seven live along the Grand Union Canal at Ladbroke Grove in west London, and are being beautifully looked after by mum and dad. In fact, when I passed them this evening, they were sat on the grass, all trying to wriggle under mum’s wing at once to keep warm! I couldn’t help but smile at the sight of these seven little signs that spring has finally arrived…
More than ten years ago I began compiling a list of what can only be described as sportspeople with ridiculous names, after I discovered the existence of the gloriously-monikered footballer Jermaine McSporran (strangely enough, he’s not Scottish…). The list lay dormant for quite some time until my recent discovery of another footballer with a quite astonishingly ridiculous name – the Brazilian lower-league striker Creedence Clearwater Couto (see below for more on this chap).
Posting this discovery on Twitter led to a flood of quite brilliantly silly new names (and a few old favourites) from many of my followers – leaving me clinging to my desk, breathless with laughter, for the whole of one evening last month. God knows what the neighbours must have thought! As a result of all this social media fun and games, a number of people asked me to put together a complete list in one place (it ended up being two places: Part Two to follow!) – so here it is…
Goodies and baddies:
“Eden Hazard is a cracking name,” correctly observes a Twitter correspondent, “Would make an excellent high-school superhero”. I concur (despite Hazard’s recent run-in with a ballboy), and would also suggest that the Chelsea and Belgium winger teams up in a superhero partnership with the ex-Swindon Town, Kilmarnock and St Johnstone player Danny Invincibile.
I just realised I haven’t posted anything in almost a month – my apologies for that. Unfortunately real life and a painful back injury have eaten into much of my recent blogging time, but I will be back very soon with some brand new posts and a few that have been promised for quite a while…
Thanks for your patience!
Back in early March, I posted about The Diagram Prize, a literary award which exists to celebrate the oddest book title of the year. After a public vote, the 2013 winner was announced a week ago, with the prize going to Reginald Bakely’s Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop.
Horace Bent of The Bookseller magazine (which runs the annual prize) obviously approved of this year’s winner, commenting:
In Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop the public have chosen a hugely important work regarding the best way to protect one’s fowl from the fairy realm’s most bothersome creatures.
The award was accepted on behalf of Mr Bakely by the book’s US editor Clint Marsh, who was clearly delighted at the prize:
Reginald and I take this as a clear sign that people have had enough of goblins in their chicken coops. Our campaign against the fairy kingdom continues.
Consider yourselves warned, fairy creatures all….
Kings and queens don’t usually feature that highly among my regular historical interests, but even I was fascinated to learn last month that the skeletal remains found during a recent archaeological dig in a Leicester car park (of all places…) have been identified as those of Richard III, the last Yorkist king of England - whose body had been considered all but lost for centuries. And the twists and turns of this complex historical detective story got me thinking about history and about how we portray and interpret it.
Richard has long been a controversial figure historically. Not initially ‘born to be king’, he is believed by many to have been a severely physically disabled and emotionally embittered man who connived his way to the throne, murdering his young nephews in the process (these nephews being the sad little figures known to history as ‘The Princes in the Tower’); a dark image both reinforced and exacerbated by the works of some near-contemporary chroniclers, later plays such as that by William Shakespeare, and countless portraits and engravings produced long after Richard’s death.
As a human being it is very difficult not to have sympathy for somebody that I cared about deeply, but it is also important to remember that that person that I cared about deeply did not in fact exist. I cared deeply for somebody whose life was intermingled with mine, and that person’s life story is a fiction.
These are the words of an activist, named only as Lisa, who gave evidence to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee last month. Lisa’s testimony about her ex-partner is part of the Committee’s Interim Report on undercover policing, a subject which has rightly caused a great deal of outcry and controversy over the last year or so.
The collapse of a high-profile court case against a group of environmental activists in early 2011 revealed that a police spy known as Mark Stone (real name Mark Kennedy) had successfully infiltrated various activist groups over a long period of time, acting as what can only be described as an agent provocateur.
This case was just the start of a series of revelations concerning the activities of Kennedy and a number of other undercover officers – revelations which have left many within the activist community quite rightly shocked and angered, and have led to wider calls for public inquiries and investigations into the use and tactics of police spies like Kennedy and his colleagues (hence the Home Affairs Committee’s involvement) .
Last Saturday, I headed off to Sipson to wish the wonderful Grow Heathrow project a very happy third birthday. Although they have the possibility of a legal judgement looming over them that could – sadly – lead to their eviction from this fantastic site, they still know how to throw a great birthday party – and I hope they have many more!