Thursday, 27 January 2011

Service and boot-shaped objects!

Well, I'm so much behind the times that I've only just got onto this post - blame it on hospitals. I think there is something wonderful about Michelle Roux Jnr; he appears so fragile, so beaten by time and yet, so unbreakable. He is rightly revered as a god in the kitchen and he and his relatives deserve every plaudit, knighthood and honour that come their way. Elegant, passionate, inspirational, convincing, caring and so in love with giving someone a decent meal; what's not to applaud? And like all the family, amazingly, a sense of humour. But like a lot of the people in my office building, I switched on to watch this and was immediately filled with feelings of horror. I have dived in and out of a few minutes each episode and still my nerves are immediately shredded... Masterchef meets Day of the Teenage Zombies. I cannot but help feel that some of these young kids need more continuous care (and the occasional boot-shaped object up the arse) to help them survive. But you cannot help but feel the purpose is noble and hope they all (as one did) realise that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Meemalee commented on service very effectively as has MRJ himself. His comment was that excellent service can redeem a bad or mediocre meal, but that bad or mediocre service cannot be redeemed by an excellent meal. In the final analysis, if somebody really makes you annoyed then the enjoyment of food will become irrelevant. It's so important for restaurateurs to understand this. Speaking of that boot-shaped object, I was inevitably reminded of that when I dropped into a resto a few years back and asked for a table in a largely empty room "We will see whether there is a table available..." Now only the Queen and idiots use the plural subjective pronoun. And as a way of selling a table it doesn't work. I said to the guy "if that was meant to impress me then you have very signally failed in doing so; if I had the time I'd sort this out with the manager. Good day to you." And walked...

I've learned that if a meal or evening starts like that, don't waste your time - get out. Now. Some people (and this is not restricted to the English) feel that a spurious assumption of a kind of hoity-toity (and yes, I did love The Thin Blue Line), namby-pamby superiority makes the food more desirable. Whereas with me (and I supect most people) somebody getting between me and my food will make me angry. And eating like that is not an experience anyone enjoys. (Not even Hannibal Lector...)

Saturday, 22 January 2011

The NHS and Doctor Octopus

So, the day before the procedure (see previous post) I start taking the Moviprep; what joy - no food and a 4 x 250 ml glasses of this foul fluid in an hour followed by 2 large glasses of something else over 2 hours and then bed; following morning repeat. Yeuch, yeuch, yeuch. It all adds to the gleeful anticipation. Await the ordered taxi - which for the first time with this company doesn't turn up... does not help the blood pressure, but I eventually just get to the hospital in time.

I make my way through the labyrinthine corridors and get to the unit reception, get changed and have the briefing... where they tell me that I have to have someone to sit with me etc for 24 hours after the procedure even if I have the sedative and not the GA. So I have a choice of going through this all over again, but with the added horror of an overnight stay in hospital and I've already seen an old skeletal guy (whom I nickname Skeletor - don't diss him - he might wake up) zonked out in what is euphemistically known as "recovery" or I can have the procedure without the benefit of any palliatives. I'm told that if there are complications it might be uncomfortable or slightly painful. Hah, sat in a non-existent plastic covering and a huge dressing gown surrounded by determinedly cheerful women, I sp
it on discomfort, I wave my private parts at discomfort (peculiarly easy at that point)...

Hmm. I am wheeled into the place of execution with a very attractive eastern European nurse obviously deciding to put me at my ease with "what do you do for a living..." when they're about to... I am congratulated on being a cool customer, which I am for the most part in these circumstances. Mr Khan is playing with his equipment, which irresistibly earns him the title of Doctor Octopus... Why worry, inshallah, all will be as it will be... But it doesn't help that I'm turned facing watching the high-res exploration through my innards on a 40" monitor. In an absolutely hilarious moment the beautiful Pole is asked for some jelly by Doc Oc.

But then there follows 20 minutes of increasing discomfort, physical manipulation with me being turned over, a bit like a spit-roasted turkey, and sometimes quite severe pain... even the nurses have fallen silent by the end; Doc Oc marvels at the sheer size of my internal landscape, which has swallowed the entirety of his equipment and they still hadn't got to the ileum... But it's a bit hard to be entirely dispassionate about this with 2 metres of tubing in you and the camera pressing, literally, into your diaphragm. And after all this there is, as predicted, no sign of any colitis (which is what quiescent means you dumb Doc Oc); so they decide to snip bits off on the way out to prove that all this has been worthwhile. Which doesn't hurt but does have some repercussions later. What you may not realise fully is that the combination of the Moviprep and the dilating influx of oxygen pumped in to provide space for the 'scope turns your nether regions into a chemical factory, with no polite way of getting rid of the gasses...

So, they get me out into the recovery room (Skeletor is still lying there after his encounter with Doc Oc) and let me use the loo, and ask me if I want to stay lying down or want a cup of tea; I ask if I can simply get changed and go. They are astonished at the speed of my recovery, but the honest truth is I know that there is half a canister of oxygen mixed with methane in me and I don't want to take hospital with me if there's a spark at the wrong time (and I want to sit on my own damned loo without someone knocking on the door to make sure I'm still alive).

I get home and eventually am OK enough to make something to eat. There follows a very uncomfortable night and day (I did go to work - I'm that sort of hero (idiot)) but I spend an awful lot of time sleeping) although you might not feel most of it, it is quite a fierce pummeling for your internal organs, one of which at least is still complaining 48 hours later. Besides being mildly amusing, I thought I'd recount this just in case you have to go through it. The pain is bearable, it's nothing like some of the other things I've suffered and I am peculiar in my internal landscape so for a normal sort of person you could quite easily do this without the aid of a sedative or general anaesthetic. For the most part the latter are intended to help the staff rather than you in that they are administered to stop you panicking. If can bear a moderate amount of pain then you will have no problem with this.

It is undignified, and what really gets to me was that I thought this was unnecessary and it bloody well was...

Illustration courtesy of the excellent Furious Fanboys

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Dressing for the halls of the NHS

Ah well, time for my serial encounters with the NHS to resume. I got rather fed up with blogging about the NHS and my manifold health concerns. So I won't go into gruesome detail (in case you're munching some sarnies), but the latest version involves sedation and is a pain in the arse. Most of you will guess what that's about. I don't actually believe I need this procedure, but they have a little list and my name it has been missed - for about 7 years.

What this rant is about is the preparation for this wretched event. I can't eat anything for 24 hours beforehand (and I can't eat anything like wholemeal bread, or other fibre rich material, which is actually recommended for the condition I have, for 48 hours). I have to get taxis there and back again, because I'm not allowed to drive with the sedation, but I mustn't bring in any valuables (i.e. the means to call or pay the taxis). The comment that someone (a friend - all working or at the far end of the country; or family - only one - out in the sun in Trinidad) could ferry me in and keep me company, was met with hostility... Worst of all is trying to find a dressing gown to cover the inevitably skimpy and minute surgical gown; hospitals delight in giving their female patients massively huge ones and big, fat blokes like me, minute ones. So you need something to cover your, ahem, modesty.

Now I don't wear such things, so I had to get one. I only need it (I hope) for such things so I bought a cheap, one size fits all one from Tesco. Sigh. I'm an idiot. The damned thing is made of completely artificial fabric and I have always been a static magnet, added to which it comes down only as far as mid-thigh. So it's doubly no use. I decided to go looking for a shop that sells such things locally - only they don't exist. There was one such place, but that has now closed down and all that is left are places like Next, who don't like fat people like me (actually they don't care, they just don't stock anything in my size), so I have to buy what I need off the internet.

That sounds easy, only I've left it a bit late so have to pay for next day delivery; but I've had real problems finding somewhere that delivers in my peculiar circumstances.... the office address has a post code that covers three different roads and about 40 buildings, all with their own unit numbers and varied names which are displayed at above lorry cab height. You can guess that deliveries here, if they involve people who don't know the area, go back and forth with address queries. Which has just happened (2 x out for deliveries and then back again to the depot - god bless tracking). Added to all this I'm at work half of the day and at home the other half and no-one will allow you to specify a morning or afternoon slot. But I've finally found someone who will put the thing in a wheelie bin...

Now all I need to do is find out how I call a taxi without my valuable mobile phone when I need to return after the procedure. The consultant couldn't understand why I didn't want what I consider an entirely demeaning, unnecessary, ruddy inconvenient and uncomfortable procedure done.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Pork Fennel and Tomato Stew

One of the things I did over Christmas was have a celebratory Pastis or two and I also like using it in cooking ...

  • 1lb pork loin - most of the fat removed and cut into 1/2" chunks
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 medium sized carrot diced quite small
  • 1 fennel bulb diced quite small
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 1/4 pt of chicken stock
  • 1 x 440 gmms cheap chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 wine glass (ca 80 ml) pastis
  • 2 squirts of coriander (or about 20 grammes chopped up)

  1. Trim pork and cut into 1/2 inch cubes; sprinkle with half each of the salt and pepper. In a deep-sided frying pan, heat half of the olive oil over medium-high heat adding the paprika so that it can infuse into the oil; brown the pork, in batches and adding more oil if necessary. Transfer to casserole.
  2. Add the remaining olive oil. Cook onion, carrots, fennel, garlic, and remaining salt and pepper over medium heat until softened and lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Add stock, scraping up brown bits from pan. Transfer to casserole. Now add the pastis and boil vigorously scraping any remaining bits up and add that to the casserole.
  3. Add tomatoes and thyme to casserole. Cover and cook on low (GM2, which I believe is about 120 c) for about 2 hours or until pork is tender.
  4. You can let it cool down and then reheat for an hour on GM4 and serve with boiled potatoes or some nice crusty fresh bread. But don't leave it too long.

Just a quick health note on Pork, besides the various diseases associated with undercooked pork, there are a number of parasites that the poor beasties are occasionally subject to. In Britain there are some pretty stringent control programmes which have largely reduced/removed the prevalence of these, including porcine tapeworm. Trichinella worms can get transferred to human beings; but what you really, really need to know is that this is common in carnivorous game, so beware when eating wild boar, for example. But the reason for mentioning this is that I didn't know until recently that some people are hyper-allergic to the toxins that the dead worms leave behind; so if you know someone who gets unwell when they eat pork, then that's the reason...

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

More time, less time!

Just a quick post to say sorry I haven't blogged recently (or even commented much), but Ms MarmiteLover has rightly jogged my elbow. I haven't given up, but as might be deduced from some of last year's posts I don't do the Winter celebrations too well and hibernate. More health aggro abounds. The vast panoply of my ailments means that every time the surgery wants to meet some target or other for referral, I'm a sitting duck... so I get to have some exploratories on something which has been the least of my problems for the last ten years. Mumble, grumble....

The more time is the weird thing - I'm now part-time (25 hours a week, in practice more like 30), although today with what we've got on I was in at 7 and didn't get away until about 2 ... However, let me not complain too much - I may be knackered. but not half as much as I would be if I had had to work until 5.30. Although the money is missed a bit I can survive on what I now get...

One of the entirely personal and weird targets I set myself as soon as I went part-time was to try to win with all factions in Alpha Centauri. You may gather from that, that I am a games freak but not the bash them up and shoot them down kind - more into Civilization building (a game to which I've been addicted for many years). Anyway, I've just achieved that. The combination of trying to restrict the time at the machine and the game has rather nobbled the blog. But I will return! And I am still reading the blogs I follow (rotten shark, yeuch)...

So Happy New Year to you all and I wish you well.