Tuesday, 9 January 2018

LINC: Anyone Can be Affected by Leukaemia

Marie who spent months as LINC patient.
LINC Supports You in Your Illness. By Dr Gill Rouse

The Leukaemia and Intensive Chemotherapy Fund is a local charity that gives total support to leukaemia, lymphoma and other cancer patients who are treated within Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The treatment of leukaemia differs from that of other cancers in that it involves a long stay in hospital receiving intensive chemotherapy, followed by either a stem cell or bone marrow transplant. Overall, the patient could be in hospital anything up to 6 months.

During that time, the patient is likely to be in one of the 8 ensuite isolation units – a very small area which will be home for the next few months.

LINC starts its care by providing welcome toiletry packs – leukaemia patients often come into hospital without prior warning so we provide simple things like toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, tissues until they have sorted themselves out.

We have also been instrumental in providing a broadband facility, televisions, sky TV, DVD players, individual fridges , reclining chairs – anything that helps to make the long stay in hospital more bearable.

The charity also provides financial care – being ill is always expensive especially if you are self-employed. Whilst the patient may be in hospital, life goes on and there are bills to be paid. LINC has helped with housing rents, mortgages, child care, travel expenses, dog walking and on one occasion, new pyjamas. Two LINC funded clinical psychologists give emotional support to patients, families and staff.

Marie (pictured top left) spent many months as a LINC patient in isolation receiving intensive chemotherapy before her successful stem cell transplant. As a nurse herself, Marie had to become a patient overnight following her diagnosis but remained a positive inspiration throughout her treatment.

Anyone can be affected by leukaemia-we need your support to continue the care we can give to local blood cancer patients and their families. For more information or to make a donation please visit www.lincfund.org

Country Matters by The Hodge Jan 18

Country Matters

By The Hodge

“The pig, if I am not mistaken,
Supplies us sausage, ham and bacon,
Let others say his heart is big--
I call it stupid of the pig.”

Ogden Nash, ‘The Pig’ 1935

With all the representations of the birth of Christ in churches and schools up and down the country, you will see all the main characters; Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus in a crib, the three wise man and the shepherds. As it all takes place in a manger, then there will be cattle, sheep and goats too and maybe even a donkey. But what of the other major farm animal, indeed the world’s most important one?

I refer, of course, to the pig, the hog, the swine, old grunter. But why should I consider him to be the most important one? Well, quite simply because in the world today more protein derived from pigs is eaten than any other meat. Pigs account for 36.3% of all meat consumed. Chicken is a close second (35.2%) but both are streets ahead of other types such as beef or lamb. This is truly remarkable bearing in mind that many countries with majority religions that forbid the eating of the porker are excluded whereas, to the best of my knowledge, nobody forbids the eating of chickens and they are consumed in every country. And that is where we came in; why there are no pink pigs nuzzling around the crib or rooting in the straw in front of the wise men. Political correctness.

Even though it is a recent phenomenon, political correctness has dictated over many decades that pigs shouldn’t appear in a recreation of the Nativity scene in Bethlehem since Judaism proscribes against the eating of the flesh of the swine, so they just wouldn’t be there, would they? Well, actually, they would. Archaeological excavations in Tell Halif indicate that both wild and tame hogs were commonly consumed in this area of the Near East even though they were prohibited under the terms in the Old Testament still taken as actual by certain religions.

But why should meat from the pig be forbidden? There are many theories, too many to detail here but in times of primitive medicine pigs were blamed for spreading diseases such as leprosy and trichinosis. The real cause though is likely to be a combination of various factors. Firstly, the pig is unsuited to a nomadic existence and many tribes at the time of the Old Testament were not settled farmers but peoples who roamed with their sheep and goats and cattle, looking for water and fresh grazing. They would despise any settled farmers – perhaps epitomised by those keeping pigs – because their land would be prohibited to the travellers.

The Near East was always arid and pigs demand more water than other farm stock although they do not require good grazing in the way that their cohorts do. Whilst the water issue was a real disadvantage, it was more than compensated for by their ability to give birth throughout the year, with multiple offspring at each occasion, and grow faster than other farm stock. But the book of Leviticus called the pig ‘unclean’ and forbade its consumption, (as it does also for rabbits and shellfish).

So the pig was not popular but nor was he banned entirely so that the manger in Bethlehem could quite easily have been home to a few pigs enjoying the company of all the visitors. Now, if your little Johnnie or Jenny was upset that they had been cast as a pig in their nativity play, please don’t rail against their teacher but celebrate the fact that the most important provider of meat to mankind has overcome so many PC obstacles to be given his rightful spot among the other creatures in that holy scene.

Again, a happy New Year to one and all.

Country Matters by The Hodge, Dec 17

Country Matters Dec 17 by The Hodge
“What happens to the hole when the cheese is gone?”

Bertholt Brecht (1898-1956)

No doubt we’ll all be going daft buying in food for the Christmas feast… turkey/goose/rib of beef/nut roast and then all the trimmings; the Brussels, the parsnips, the stuffing, the chipolatas and then the puds and the crackers and the booze But don’t forget in all this retail exhaustion, the cheese!

I glanced at a survey recently asking who would rather give up cheese or chocolate and the answers were pretty equal but I thought it was a daft question. My only comment would be that if you’re setting a mouse trap, mice actually seem to prefer chocolate, so keep all the cheese for yourself! Cheese in its many forms and guises can be robust or subtle, creamy or rocky, smelly or sublime. Did you know that there are more varieties of cheese produced now in the UK than in France? Amazing! Yet with all these artisan cheeses, we still tend to stick to the tried and tested Cheddar and if you think that the gorge in Somerset must be pretty impressive to produce all this, be aware that there is no protection on the name ‘Cheddar’ and something in the region of 150,000 tons of it is imported every year so eating Cheddar is unlikely to be helping our beleaguered dairy farmers.

Of course, the staple at Christmas is Stilton cheese, the blue-veined variety from around Leicestershire, Derbyshire or Nottinghamshire which does have European protected status. This seems a little odd as it originated around Peterborough in Cambridgeshire but we mustn’t try to fathom the European bureaucrat’s mind-set. Sacrilege it might be but to my taste it’s a little too creamy and I prefer my blue cheese to have a bit more bite so I won’t be competing with you for the last one in the shop – that’ll be someone else.

But Christmas is a great excuse to try a few different cheeses and expand your repertoire. So be bold and go out and try something different and build up a cheese board that will surprise and delight your family and guests.

Cheese making goes back thousands of years but how on earth did someone sit down and decide it would be a good thing to curdle milk with rennet, (the lining of a cow’s stomach), and then let it mature for weeks or months or years. The most likely scenario is that somehow it all happened by accident and the end result was so good that early man decided to replicate the process.

One explanation may be that before rennet, they used woodlice to curdle the milk instead and it may be that our forebears observed the effect of some woodlice falling in a vat of milk and causing it to curdle. An early name for the woodlouse was ‘cheeslip’, acknowledging his important work in the dairy.

And if on Boxing Day or beyond you tire of all the feasting and yearn for a simple cheese on toast, make sure you have plenty of Wensleydale handy. The British Cheese Board did exhaustive work on the subject with scientists and food testers and declared that Wensleydale made the best cheese on toast. Who runs the British Cheese Board? I don’t know but it sounds as if it might be Wallace and Grommit but whoever, you now know their recommendation.

And if you’re still debating what the subject of your main course is going to be, spare a grateful thought that you hail from the Cotswolds and not from the Outer Hebrides. There they wouldn’t give a walnut or a tangerine for your turkey or your goose. There they demand instead a ‘guga’, or baby gannet. Caught on the cliffs in early summer, they are stored outside until Christmas in salt. Around 2,000 are eaten this way every year. The skin, the best part apparently, oozes a sticky, black oil and the flesh is said to taste like a cross between a duck and mackerel. The islanders don’t like anything fancy to detract from their prized ‘guga’ so eat it accompanied only by boiled potatoes.

If I’ve whetted your appetite, go away and bother your preferred supermarket.

Whatever you feast upon, have a very happy Christmas and prosperous and healthy New Year!