22 February 2006


I've been overwhelmed by recipes, most of them from people telling me I need to get into what's online. OK, OK. But this is very nice: tried it this evening and seriously tasty:

Potato and Danish bacon soup

Eight thick slices Danish bacon, chopped
One large onion, chopped
Four large-ish red potatoes, peeled and cubed
One can cream of chicken soup
One small carton sour cream
One pint milk
Salt (to taste)
Pepper (to taste)

Fry bacon in frying pan until crisp. Add onion and saute 2 to 3 minutes. Drain. Boil potatoes in another pan for 10 to 15 minutes in not much water (couple of cups). Stir in soup, sour cream, bacon and onions. Add milk gradually, stirring constantly. Don't go mad and make it runny. Add salt and pepper. Heat to serving temperature. Do not boil.

All I'd add next time is a bayleaf, but not sure when: maybe to the spuds?


Very bad news. The brave Mark Damazer (Radio 4 controller), in the wake of his heroic resistance to protests against his getting rid of that silly theme tune that goes on for ages when no one is listening, is interviewed by the Evening Standard about the other rubbish his station puts out that ought to be chopped:
What of You and Yours, often maligned by critics as unfocused? "I told them after the latest burst of minor publicity [about the programme's future] that they were perfectly safe in my hands. For good reason: the audience has grown." Midweek? "You can't expect any massive upheaval there." Woman's Hour? "Discarding programmes which have big histories, brand names, is quite a tricky thing to do, especially if a programme is able to evolve."

21 February 2006


I've now got so much bacon and Lego I don't know what to do with the bacon. Recipes please?

19 February 2006


Here's the FT on the smoking ban:

Burning resentment at smoking ban in Labour's heartlands

Lighting up might not be the only habit broken in working men's clubs, where feelings are running high, writes Chris Tighe

If Labour wished to alienate supporters in its traditional heartlands, it is difficult to imagine a more effective way than presiding over a ban on smoking in working men's clubs.

Tony Blair might be well advised to stay away from Trimdon Labour Club. The one-time bedrock of grassroots support in his Sedgefield constituency, its members were outraged by Tuesday night's vote to ban smoking. They had hoped that membership clubs would be excluded from the ban.

"Disgraceful"; "nanny state"; an "encroachment of civil liberties"; "Margaret Thatcher in trousers" are some of the printable responses from north-east clubmen to the decision to ban smoking in their premises.

Tom Satterthwaitfe, secretary of the Northumberland Club and Institute Union, says: "Labour's not the working man's party now; it's not what it was when Wilson and them were in charge." His Newcastle office has been inundated with calls from angry clubmen. Labour, he says, might get a shock at the next election. "They've lost the plot."

It is not only the prospect that some clubs, if deserted by smokers, might close that has irritated him. Recent licensing and regulatory changes, all adding enormously to club overheads, have left him smarting about Labour's priorities.

Breaking a lifetime's habit, Mr Satterthwaite will not vote Labour at the next general election. He says he might switch to the Conservatives, depending on how David Cameron, the leader, shapes up. For a former miner, the son of a miner, this is a huge shift.

Down at Lemington Labour Club, on Newcastle's western edge, many share his disillusion. Traditional allegiances were already wobbling. Of a group of four one-time Labour men, one voted National Front at the last general election and one Conservative.

The two who stayed loyal are perturbed now. "Margaret Thatcher was replaced by a rightwing Labour government which has been trying to tell the working man what to do ever since," says ex-smoker Michael Lyon.

Some north-east clubs have contacted the CIU nationally suggesting that MPs be barred from clubs in protest.

David Clelland, MP for Tyne Bridge and Labour chairman of the all-party parliamentary group for non-profit making private members' clubs, accepts there will be a backlash against the total ban, which he did not support, but does not expect a disproportionate effect".

However Paul Trippett, manager of Trimdon Labour Club and one of the men who helped the young Blair secure nomination as Labour's Sedgefield candidate, is among those worried by the ban. He feels it illustrates Labour's "middle clas-sism". As a general election edges nearer, it will be a "running sore".

Banning fox hunting; promoting ID cards; outlawing public smoking; all trouble Mr Trippett, a Labour Durham county councillor. People worry "what next?", he says. The Conservatives can gain advantage here, he warns, by talking about freedom of the individual.

Mr Trippett fears the nanny state is taking hold. "I think people should be helped to stand on their own - and then left."

He suspects some middle-class Labour MPs do not understand the working class - especially those not motivated by health issues.

"Those who don't want to get into shape very much don't want to," he says. "I drive everywhere, I drink too much, I eat too much. That's what I want to do."

15 February 2006


The decision to ban smoking in pubs and clubs is wrong. If I want to have a cigarette with my beer, it's nobody's business but my own — and I really resent being told I can't by a bunch of non-smokers who visit the pub at most once a month for a nice meal.

But the ban is also, from the point of view of the Labour Party, stupid. Most of the people who are going to be angry about the ban are people who smoke in pubs and clubs. And a very large number of them are working-class and hitherto Labour voters. Even though opposition MPs also voted for the ban, it will inevitably be associated with the insufferable Patricia Hewitt and the government. It might not be Labour's poll tax, but I think it will cost the party dozens of seats.

12 February 2006


Paul Anderson, Tribune column, 10 January 2006*

The hoo-hah over the publication of cartoon images of Muhammad has been so disproportionate that I’m almost apologetic about bringing it up in this column. Almost, but not quite — because someone has to make the point that the real story is the disproportionality of the hoo-hah.

The most remarkable thing about the cartoons published months ago in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten is that only one of them is funny — the one of the Prophet greeting the suicide bombers in Paradise with the words “Stop, stop, we ran out of virgins”. (If you haven’t seen them, they’re on the internet here among other places.) The rest of them are at best dull and at worst asinine — the one of Muhammad with a bomb in his turban. But that might be because the origin of the cartoons was a complaint by a children’s author that illustrators would only work anonymously on a book explaining Islam to Danish kids for fear of violence from Islamist extremists. Maybe the cartoons weren’t supposed to be side-splittingly hilarious.

OK, the cartoons broke a Muslim prohibition on depicting the Prophet in illustrations. But so what? That prohibition has been broken inumerable times before without anyone making any fuss, not least by Muslims who don’t think it matters very much. More important, to state the obvious, it is not a prohibition most of the Jyllands-Posten cartoonists or the editors of Jyllands-Posten accept. And why should they, any more than they accept Muslim bans on eating pork or drinking alcohol or engaging in extra-marital sex?

All right, I admit that there is a difference, in that a devout Muslim in Copenhagen would not find it hard to avoid inadvertently munching bacon sandwiches, swigging beer or having sex but might easily inadvertently see the cartoons in Jyllands-Posten. Publishing, by definition, is not a simply matter of private behaviour.

It’s clear too, that Jyllands-Posten was deliberately attempting to provoke a reaction when it decided to publish, and by some accounts it seems to have been motivated by a rather crude antipathy to Islam.

I also accept that the cartoons might offend Muslims either because they include images of the Prophet or because a few of them (though by no means all) ridicule aspects of their faith — the ban on depicting the Prophet, the vision of Paradise, the doctrine of jihad (holy war).

But again, in the end, so what? Even if Jyllands-Posten’s provocation was gratuitous and unsophisticated — and I’m not convinced it was — it is entirely legitimate to ridicule religious belief. And much of Islam richly deserves ridicule. The same goes for Christianity, Judaism and every other religion. There is a long and distinguished tradition of ridiculing religion that goes back to the Enlightenment. And no one has the right not to be offended.

Which is not to say that Jyllands-Posten was right to publish the cartoons — just that it had a right to do so, and that that right is worth defending against the far-from-spontaneous expressions of Muslim outrage that swept the world last week. I would have expected Labour politicians in Britain to make this point emphatically and unambiguosly. Instead, we’ve had the grim spectacle of Jack Straw mumbling platitudes about how evil it is to give offence to believers and how important it is for editors to be “responsible”.

The British press has also played a far from glorious role in the affair. No newspaper has republished the cartoons — which is probably sensible given the hysteria whipped up against them by radical Islamists. Publication would place foreign correspondents and other Brits in severe danger in large swathes of the world.

But where were the clear expressions of the inalienable right to publish material offensive to religious believers? OK, there were a few in columns by the usual secularist suspects. The overwhelming majority of pundits and leader-writers opted for rambling on evasively about not pouring petrol on raging fires and the need to understand the depth of religious faith in the Islamic world. Only the Sun admitted — and then obliquely — that a major reason the papers didn’t publish is that they were scared that a Muslim boycott could harm sales.

This is not to suggest that secular democrats should abandon religious tolerance. Respect for the believer’s freedom to choose what he or she believes is another of the great legacies of the Enlightenment that deserves unconditional defence (against, among others, the most radical Islamists). But respect for the believer is not the same thing as respect for the believer’s belief. And if we can’t make it clear that this is a fundamental principle of our society, we’ve got a big problem.

* Copy not used as a result of a cock-up on the right date but run a week later. No hard feelings.

5 February 2006

2 February 2006


Thanks to the Popinjays for this.


Some fascinating stuff from the Danish Bacon and Meat Council:

According to DBMC research, bacon is an impulse purchase for many consumers. Twenty-three per cent of consumers who buy bacon in multiples are not planning to buy it when they enter the store - a much higher proportion than for many other staple foods.

Many consumers - 38 per cent remember in store that they need to stock up while others buy on impulse when they see the fixture. This reflects the commodity nature of bacon - it's often a staple for the fridge that often isn't included on the shopping list.

This reinforces the need to maintain a well-stocked, appealing display and emphasises the need for strong promotional activity. Impulse purchasing patterns underline the need for well-stocked and well-maintained fixtures at all times, as well as the availability of premium products to which an impulse shopper can upgrade.

On average, shoppers spend 20 seconds at the bacon rasher counter, which is longer than at many fixtures in-store. The reason for this extended stay is the nine-step thought process that bacon-buying entails.

Research reveals that the consumer makes the first three decisions in the selection process before he or she enters the store: to look for bacon rashers, the cure (smoked or unsmoked) and the cut (back, middle or streaky). These are subconscious decisions based on habit and preferences.

The second stage is a conscious process. A consumer will, on average, consider two or three products, comparing in order, leanness, packaging, price promotions and the number of rashers. Then they decide which product to buy.


Of all the cartoons of the Prophet published by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, I think this is the best.

"As for the Muslim Paradise, with its 77 houris per man, all presumably clamouring for attention at the same moment, it is just a nightmare." George Orwell, Tribune, 24 December 1943.

On this, I'm backing Harry's campaign.