A year to mark: Covid has culled our numbers while creating more disabled people too.
This wretched virus has blasted through the care homes where the residents, by their very nature, were disabled people and more with previous conditions and vulnerabilities have also been hit hard. This has reduced the number of people with disabilities in the national population.
But the disease has gone a step further: the most obvious direct consequence is all those people with “long” Covid with damage to organs and more that will limit their lives for time to come.
More insidious and probably much higher numbers are all those people who are being disabled by the delays in NHS treatment. I think of friend Peter who has already been waiting for almost a year for a hip replacement. Not only is he nearly immobile and living in constant pain, his prospects of the operation and eventual rehabilitation are many months away.
Calling such surgery “elective” seems to suggest that it is a matter of choice when, in reality, it is an absolute necessity if people are to maintain some level of independent life. Understandably, these operations have been put on the back-burner but the long-term social, financial and medical consequences will be huge.
More of these people may never recover and will be permanently disabled – so needing care and support. More will not be able to get back to work – so turning to benefit support. More will become socially isolated, poorer and more likely to acquire additional mental and physical conditions – so placing even further demand on the NHS.
It is time that the Government raised its head above the parapet of the current Covid battle to look further ahead and prepare for the long-term support of more disabled people. They were already promising a national strategy – now it needs to be a fully costed, pan-Government action plan with adequate funding and realistic measures of success. The alternative is to store up long-term costs that will be as damaging to the economy as loss of our High Streets.
Uganda, Turkey and England
United in friendship
If it’s getting towards the end of the week and the fruit bowl is looking a bit sorry for itself, here’s a super hot dessert. When shopping can take too long and some food is hard to get, it makes sense to make the most of everything you have.
This hot fruit salad takes minutes to prepare from easy ingredients: 2 each apples and pears (cored and chopped to bite-size – don’t bother to peel), 2 bananas peeled and chopped, 2 oranges zested and juiced, a handful of raisins, a handful of crystallised ginger chopped.
Put all the ingredients into an ovenproof dish and add a little light brown sugar or honey if desired before stirring everything and covering with cooking foil. Cook at Gas 6 or 200C for 40-60 minutes and serve.
Leftovers re-heat well at a medium microwave setting. A peeled, de-seeded and chopped melon will make the hot fruit salad go further and, if you don’t have any ginger, try a cinnamon stick, star anise or some green cardamom pods for other exotic flavours.
If your other bananas have gone beyond the leopard stage, peel and cut in to chunks before freezing. Whizz to a puree in a food processor with a teaspoonful of honey and, if necessary, re-freeze to firm up before serving.
If your self-isolating hoard of UHT milk tastes awful in tea, here’s the answer: homemade yoghurt plus the vital ingredient for a simple bread. Two for the price of one.
The yoghurt is blissfully simple: just heat half a litre of UHT milk to 43.5 degrees Celsius and pour in to a container with a lid. Stir a tablespoon or so of plain natural yoghurt (ideally without any additives) in to the milk. Put on the lid and keep at the same temperature for 8-10 hours.
I’m lucky enough to have a sous-vide water bath that will maintain the pre-set temperature but you could experiment: perhaps a vacuum flask wrapped up in a freezer bag or insulated cooler.
Pour the yoghurt through a sieve lined with muslin and leave to drain to reach the consistency you want: the longer it drains, the less you make but the thicker it becomes.
Don’t waste the milky liquid that drains off. Mix 250g of plain flour with 2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda and a good pinch of salt. Pour in just under 200ml of the drained liquid and form the mix into a soft dough. Quickly knead into a rough ball and place on to a floured baking sheet. Slash a cross into the top and cook in a pre-heated oven at Gas 6, 200C for about 30 minutes. Knock the bottom to check if it sounds hollow – if not, return it to the oven upside down for a couple of minutes. Eat the same day with homemade soup or it will toast well for breakfast.
You can experiment with the yoghurt: try adding orange zest at the start , add milk powder for thicker results.
When life feels tough, it can be very satisfying to try something new, that’s created with the simplest ingredients and that you can perfect to impress family and friends when you see them next.