Bullies’ Charter

Set aside the politics: I am in despair that our Prime Minister has just given carte blanche to every bully in the land to abuse work colleagues with impunity.

Now it seems that “it wasn’t intentional” and “no-one told me” can be claimed by anyone who is taken to task for their behaviour.

I weep for all those junior workers, the men and women doing their jobs, who are experiencing abuse, indignity, and torment who have now been told by the highest elected person in the land that their suffering is of no significance and can carry on with no-one held to account.

The lesson: don’t be afraid to speak out (preferably in writing, with witnesses and the date) to anyone and everyone in your workplace and, if you see bullies at work, don’t be afraid to report them too.  Politeness, respect for “authority” and   loyalty are utterly misplaced in the face of a bully.  Stand up and be counted even if you have to claim “whistle blower” protection.

ORTORU

One Rule for Them, One Rule for Us !

 

 

 

 

Every little counts – use Amazon Smile

I’m very proud to be Life President of our local Catisfield Memorial Hall  which everyone can support (at no cost) using Amazon Smile.  You can choose this charity through the very straightforward Amazon Smile page and then Amazon will donate a tiny amount to the Hall every time you make a purchase.

The Hall serves local people in Catisfield, Fareham and further afield: classes, fitness, community and private events.  Check out https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjkssqszZDtAhU-UhUIHbLxB2UQFjAAegQIBRAE&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.catisfieldmemorialhall.co.uk%2F&usg=AOvVaw2_rs05XmakonRgXxZckNjd

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Babies’ Heads

 

One of those pieces of Royal Navy food slang.  Imagine a tray full of individual steak and kidney puddings: rows of glistening and moistly steaming pale domes….

I haven’t made these for probably 40 years but thought a little warming nostalgia would be cheering in these days of isolation.  I hadn’t realised that steamed suet puddings had also recently featured on Bake-Off and that the success rate with the Sussex Pond version was distinctly low – why it’s called a lemon?  But this is a much more fool-proof method more suitable for the rest of us mortals.

This approach takes not too much preparation time spread over a couple of days and produces puddings that can be cooked straight away, from the fridge or even from the freezer in minutes.  The only drawback is that the quantity (driven by the size of the suet box) made exactly seven small individual puddings.  I could have stretched the filling with some carrots and/or leeks but would still have been a bit short on the pastry to make the eighth.

 

For the filling:

3 tablespoons olive oil.

2 large onions peeled and chopped.

500g mushrooms chopped small.

500g stewing beef, cut small.

2 lamb’s kidneys trimmed and chopped.

2 tablespoons plain flour.

Good grinding of black pepper.

1 generous teaspoon mustard powder.

2 beef stockpots/cubes.

6 dashes of Worcestershire sauce.

3 bay leaves, stems removed and torn small.

440ml can of Guinness.

 

For the pastry:

1 pack (240g) suet.

480g self-raising flour.

Grind of black pepper.

Cold water.

Day 1.

Sauté the onions in the oil until becoming transparent and then add the mushrooms.

When the mushrooms are nearly cooked, add the beef, turning to cook all over.

Add the kidney pieces and flour, stirring to mix through.

Add the remaining ingredients and stir thoroughly as the mixture comes to a gentle simmer.

Cover the pan and place in a low oven (Gas 2) for two hours (or cook on the lowest heat on top of the hob or in a slow cooker).  Add some water if it seems to be reducing too much.

Allow to cool then chill in the fridge overnight.

Day 2.

Rub the suet in to the flour and pepper then mix with the water to a firm dough that leaves the sides of the bowl (around 3 tablespoons or so).

Take pieces of the dough and press flat and thin to line individual 1/3 pint bowls, leaving a lip at the top.

Fill the bowls with the meat mixture.  Keep any gravy to serve with the puddings.

Take more dough and press out into a circle, dampen the edges and press firmly to seal to the pastry lining the bowl.

Trim off any excess pastry.

 

To cook the puddings:

Microwave: suitable for plastic bowls only  (Lakeland)– cover with paper kitchen towel and cook on Medium power for 4-5 minutes (1 bowl) or 7-8 minutes (2 bowls), allow to stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Steam: cover each bowl with a double layer of greaseproof paper plus a layer of foil on top, fold all the layers together in the middle to form a pleat for any expansion, tie the coverings to the bowl with string and trim off any excess.

Place on a saucer or similar in a pan of simmering water (water about half to two thirds up side of bowls), put on a lid and simmer for one hour.

Remove string and coverings and turn upside down on to plates.

The microwave method is much easier for me as I don’t have to fiddle around with the greaseproof, foil and string – not so easy when you can’t see.

This is also a great dish to make beforehand: the puddings can be kept uncooked in the fridge for a day or so or frozen and de-frosted before microwaving.

Wonderful served with mashed potatoes, some of the reserved gravy and green vegetables or even a stir-fry – memories of our youth!

 

 

 

Loving Lock-down.

 

The traffic isn’t as quiet but the people are definitely louder.  I wish I’d maintained a graph of the exponential increase in sociability during the last few months – it would have been a wonderful antidote to those awful official Covid ones.

Over at our local Blackbrook Park, there’s a new community life thriving.  When we first ventured there in March while even breathing in the same square mile as anyone else seemed too dangerous, other walkers were distinctly chilly.  As time has passed, distancing still stays social but exchanges have become happily chatty.

Dog-walkers are easy prey for anyone seeking some human contact: the smallest pooch generates a whole conversation from age and breed to obedience and energy.    Familiar faces have graduated from a bare nod to exchange of greetings.  Even the local teenagers can be persuaded to swop a few sentences.  Even on a damp grey November afternoon, the park literally hums with people talking to each other.  We may not be putting the world to rights (yet) but we are all living, breathing proof that man and womankind is a sociable species that relishes interactions – even at 2 metres distance.  Perhaps we can build on this new community spirit for the future and find the silver lining to the Covid cloud.

Simple suppers this week with my favourite smoked salmon mousse:

3 leaves of gelatine, soaked in cold water.

500g smoked salmon pieces (ideal for this dish and less expensive than posh slices).

2 tablespoons cream

2 tablespoons mayonnaise (optional)

Zest and juice of a lemon

(lots of) ground black pepper to taste

 

Pour off most of the water from the gelatine and heat in a medium microwave until dissolved.

Whizz all the ingredients in a food processor to make a thick and fairly smooth paste.

Adjust the seasoning with more black pepper if needed.

Spoon into serving dishes, cover and chill.

Serve with bread, toast or savoury biscuits plus a slice of lemon.

 

Disability

Q: What difference has 25 years made?

A: Not a lot if you’re a disabled person.

This week marks 25 years since the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (later included in the Equality Act 2010).  And the result is a raspberry.

Whether it is business, voluntary organisations or even Government Departments, there is little doubt that most weigh up the risk of being challenged under the law and decide compliance just isn’t worth the bother.  All of this contributes to people with long-term health conditions and disabilities getting a much tougher time than others.  Just a few recent examples:

Getting health information and communications in a format that is accessible for me is still hit and miss.  This week I was told that the reason I couldn’t access a report about my own health was because it had to be created using a specific template.  Despite the health sector dealing with every disabled person in the country, they still can’t get it right.  And one of the consequences, as reported by a former national Chief Medical Officer, is that people like me, for whom standard communications are more difficult due to visual or hearing impairment, have far worse health outcomes than other people.  Essentially, because the health sector won’t fulfil its legal responsibilities, I’m likely to die earlier/be sicker.

On another front, I’ve just marked the sixth anniversary of my continuing dispute with DWP: supposedly supporting disabled people to work but, due to arbitrary decisions, maladministration and injustice, they have brought my business to its knees and still no sight of a resolution.    No wonder the number of disabled people out of work is so high – and don’t believe that they are scroungers.  I’ve worked with thousands just desperate to get a job and have a place in the world.

And, talking of discrimination, what’s the difference between a care home and a student hall of residence?  Some clues: the residents in one haven’t been topped up with infected hospital castaways, have some chance of seeing their families for Christmas and aren’t all disabled people.

On a more positive note, and I need to declare an interest having worked with them for many years, our tax men and women are trying to do better.  HMRC has played a key role during the pandemic and has recently published its Customer Charter and principles of the extra help they can give to people with long-term health conditions and disabilities:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/hmrc-charter

Please share this link with anyone you know who might need a helping hand with tax or Working Tax Credits.

And, if you want simple, straightforward and practical information  to help more disabled people, please get in touch or visit www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

End of rant!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lest we forget.

 

Not even Covid can stop us remembering those who gave their lives for our futures, freedom and democracy.

Get your Poppy face mask from the Royal British Legion on-line shop and put on a brave face amidst our own troubles today.  I’m hugely grateful to friend Jane who found one of these for me so I too can honour those who served the country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I’ve been busy with some different flower arrangements too: one features the iridescence of old CDs plus a little tinsel while the other sports a fluffy pink straw bird’s ness and a black beaded cone – just a little reflection of Halloween and all created with just three stems of lilies!

And talking of forgetting: friend and frequent co-cook Karen created a superb Pavlova meringue for her son’s birthday and left it in the oven to finish cooling.  The drama of the weekend lock-down announcement threw all her plans awry: last minute dash to the supermarket to grab some essentials, pizza for supper and oven on to heat them.  A pall of acrid smoke greeted her on return: the Pavlova had been reduced to cinders and they’d been lucky to avoid a fire.  She had to re-start her birthday confection and I inherited over a dozen yolks.

Luckily, there were just enough oranges and lemons languishing in the fridge to make this

St. Clement’s Curd.  You can definitely reduce the proportions:

12 egg yolks

12 ounces granulated sugar

8 ounces butter, cubed small

Zest and juice of 3 and a half oranges plus 3 and a half lemons

 

Put the egg yolks into a heat proof bowl to reach room temperature while preparing the other ingredients.

Add the zest, juice, sugar and butter cubes to the bowl.

Place over a pan of barely simmering water and gently whisk ingredients together until the mix reaches 71 degrees Centigrade throughout the mix.

Pot in to sterilised jars and eat soon, keeping in the fridge.

 

 

Quick cakes for tea

Friends Joan and Jeff visited for a Covid-secure tea and came laden with their allotment produce including an enormous potato weighing in at over 750g – that would feed a family of four.  They’d brought peas that can be planted now and will grow over winter and tiny self-seeded rainbow chard plants that can go into the pots vacated by summer’s tomatoes.  Most intriguing were the coconut sugar and flour they’d found in a local supermarket – definitely worth trying in my next baking session.

Creating something interesting and delicious to entertain them hadn’t taken long.  A few minutes preparation the night before and just minutes in the morning produced these very simple little fruit cakes that came out perfectly: soft and spicy, rich with fruit and not too sweet.  Just one left at the end of their visit!

 

A generous handful each of:

Raisins

Currants

Sultanas

Dates, cut in half

Dried apricot, chopped

Glace cherries

250g each of:

Butter

Soft brown sugar

Self-raising flour

4 eggs

2 heaped teaspoons mixed spices.

 

Put all the fruit except the cherries into a bowl, cover with water and then drain off virtually all the water.  Microwave on low/medium power for a few minutes until the fruit is warm.  Allow to cool.

Whizz the butter and sugar together in a food processor until soft and fluffy.

Whizz in the eggs one at a time, with a little of the flour.

Pulse in the remaining flour and spices.

Pulse in the fruit and cherries – you might need to fold in by hand.

Place dollops of the mix in to muffin or cupcake paper containers.

Cook at Gas 1 for 45 minutes.

 

I warmed the fruit,  put the butter and sugar in the food processor bowl, weighed out the flour and spices, got out the eggs the night before so everything was at room temperature.

It only took about 15 minutes to create the mix and put the 12 cupcake containers into the individual holes of a metal tray to support them while cooking.

The mix made 12 small cakes and another larger one (cooked for an extra 30 minutes, for later in the week).

This would make a good alternative last-minute Christmas cake.

 

 

 

 

Accessible communications.

 

If you need some tips about making information easy for anyone, try this little handbook I put together:

http://www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk/index_htm_files/151123%20-%20Accessible%20Communications.docx

 

One colleague sent me this feedback this week:

“I’m a carer for my dad who has advanced Parkinson’s disease and dementia and the following points especially hit home with me:-

1/ ‘a person may be one of the over 2 million people who need others to have more patience in listening to their speech which is less fluent due to a speech impairment, a stroke’.

My dad now has a severe speech and cognitive impairment and we really have to listen very carefully and try to interpret what he is trying to say, more so now than ever, he often can’t think what he needs to say either.

2/ Talk to the disabled person, not the support person.

This is so true, when we take dad out people often talk to us instead of him which is also frustrating.”

 

I completely recognise that frustration: I was at a hospital just recently and the person controlling entry and Covid safety measures just couldn’t manage to speak to me.  It was rather as if my white cane had become magical: I was invisible, incapable of either hearing or speech.  Those who know me will understand how it became an utterly humiliating and embarrassing  experience for that wretched person – thank goodness her manager saved her!

 

The handbook is short, straightforward and free for anyone to use so please share it around.  And it helps with Equality Act compliance too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hungry children.

It seems rather shameful to be writing these Covid cookbook recipes each week when there are clearly millions of people very much struggling to get a meal on the table – especially for their children during this half-term.

I too remember that I and my brothers had free school meals – and there was no stigma about it as far as I can recall.  Money was certainly tight in a single income household with four fast-growing and strapping boys.  Every piece of fruit was counted out; evening meals for the week were scrupulously planned; it was a balancing act to create satisfying and nourishing food on a budget.  Meat-and-two-veg lunches plus a good stodgy school pudding   kept us going.  Thank goodness Marcus Rashford and other public and political figures are making a stand: if we can afford £7m re-branding the Highways Agency and, doubtless, more on MPs’ recent pay rises, we as a society can certainly afford to be a bit more generous and caring for those who need it.

Here’s a dish that doesn’t cost much but tastes super:

1 medium aubergine

2 tablespoons oil

Salt and pepper

4 medium tomatoes, chopped small.

Handful of mint leaves, chopped

125g sausage meat.

Cut the aubergine in to an even number of slices – about 18 or 20.

Line an oven tray with foil, drizzle over the oil and season with salt and pepper.

Place the aubergine slices on the tray in the oil and seasoning and then turn over.

Cook the slices for 10 minutes in the oven at Gas 4, remove and turn the slices over and return to the oven for another 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the tomato pieces and chopped mint with black pepper.

Make 9 or 10 marbles of sausage meat and press out in to circles.

Using the largest slices of aubergine: top the slice with a round of sausage meat and top with a spoonful of the tomato mix; top with one of the smaller aubergine slices and more tomato mix.

Lay the aubergine sandwiches on the tray.

Cook in the oven Gas 4 for 20 minutes and then Gas 2 for a further 20 minutes.

Served with half a courgette sautéed with garlic and some spinach leaves, this made a very good lunch for two.

Once the aubergine slices have been pre-cooked, the sandwiches can be constructed and kept on the tray in the fridge until you are ready to cook them.

I learned this classic Umbrian antipasto recipe on a cooking course near Perugia with my Australian friend, Rosemary.    The usual authentic version uses cheese instead of the meat and a little extra over the tomato topping.  My version works for those, like me, who are cheese-intolerant.  I’ve made the dish many times but this is the first year that the aubergine, tomatoes and mint all came from the garden.