Food and things



By the way, if you’re American, please pronounce ‘basil’ as ‘basil’ and not ‘bayzel’, and ‘herb’ as ‘herb’ and not ‘urb’. It has an ‘h’. Haven’t you noticed??? Haven’t you?????
While I’m on this subject…
If you’re British, please note – ‘h’ is pronounced ‘aitch’ and not, I repeat not, ‘haitch’. You drop the ‘h’ in ‘h’.
As for ‘historic’ – where you traditionally drop the ‘h’ – tricky one. I prefer ‘an istoric’ to ‘a historic’ but I think it’s now up for grabs. I noticed the BBC used both on Monday.
I also prefer ‘an otel’ to ‘a hotel’, but I guess that’s a bit old-fashioned.
But ‘urbs’ – no. This is wrong and deeply evil.

My Beautiful Laundrette

A happy ending to the washing machine saga, which I’m sure you’ll agree has been gripping beyond belief.
It’s all plumbed in and working, thanks to Pete – my only practical friend.
The house is now like an inner-city laundrette as I catch up on a month’s washing. I’ve stocked up on Comfort Vaporesse and am looking forward to a glamorous evening’s ironing.

Gillian the Impaler

Dr Gillian McKeith
I’m watching her on TV as I write. She’s currently showing her sobbing victim a choc-ice in the shape of a coffin. She’s the undead. She looks like a celery stick gone wrong. She ought to be locked in a MacDonalds, force-fed with burgers, impaled on a gherkin and then squashed to death by happy fat people – live on Channel 4.

Health Update

My neurologist has discharged me. Good feeling. It’s nice when doctors tell you to push off.

Cawthorne Cooksey

Cawthorne Cooksey sounds like a village in the Cotswolds, but it is in fact a type of exercise to help stop dizziness.
As you may know, my brain decided to switch off its mission control for balance last year (cerebellar infarcts affecting my vestibular system – to use the proper terminology) so my eyes do nearly all the work when it comes to keeping upright. As soon as I shut them, I’m swimming around in zero gravity and tend to fall over.
What I now have to do, using my Cawthorne Cookseys, is force the symptoms by standing and moving in ways which challenge my balance, and that’s supposed to help my brain adapt and get its act together again. It does seem to be working, if a bit slowly, so I’d highly recommend the technique.

Bifidus Indigestivum

I bought some Activia yogurt the other day. Apparently, it contains friendly bacteria which boost your ‘intestinal transit time’.
I thought this was a good idea, as I’m into healthy eating, even though I loathe Dr Gillian McKeith and would happily see her burnt at the stake, made into a Big Mac, and consumed by chavs, accompanied by high-fat chips with lots of salt and e-numbers.
So I had my first Activia yesterday – with Bifidus Digestivum – and it tasted like double cream with sugar in it.
I looked at the ingredients and sugar was third on the list, after yogurt (obviously) and prunes. Perhaps I’m a yogurt snob, but surely the point of yogurt is that it isn’t sweet, and that there’s a contrast between the yogurt and the fruit or honey you put in it.

Message For Extreme Coffee Drinkers Like Me…

Photos from a real experiment –

Spider’s web after it was given LSD

Spider’s web after it was given caffeine

Health Update

I went to Harefield yesterday for a heart check-up and the consultant declared my heart was ‘perfect’. I was very pleased, and celebrated by visiting my friend’s horse Ding and sitting on him – the first time I’ve sat on a horse for two years.

Health Update

I’m now doing a daily physiotherapy exercise to stop the dizziness. This involves standing for a few minutes a day with one foot directly in front of the other, which is easy for most people but makes me wobble like a weeble. This should bombard the braincells and nerve endings in the vestibular part of my brain which has been on strike for a year. And I’ll soon be attending a weekly class for dizzy persons.
As for my heart, I’m off to Harefield today for a routine check-up. By the way – ‘Transplanting Memories’ (Channel 4, Monday 26 June, 10pm) looks rather interesting. It’s about heart transplant patients who appear to have inherited memories and tastes from their donors. Presumably this doesn’t apply if your donor was a pig.

One Year On

Gosh. This time last year, I was being rushed in an ambulance with a flashing blue light to Neurosurgery at the Royal Free Hospital. On arriving at acute observation, I was told I couldn’t move, as I’d probably had a brain haemmorhage. I had double vision and had lost my sense of balance. It was one of the scariest days of my life.
Today, I’m sitting at home overlooking the garden on a lovely April morning, listening to a blackbird. After what turned out to be a cerebellar stroke, I still have a rather odd sense of balance, but my health and vision are totally back to normal and I’m just about to go for a walk down the river to the gym.
The moral of the story? Never give up hope. And if you’re having a rough time right now, you’ll probably look back on it in a year or two and wonder what all the fuss was about. Whatever happens, you will feel better – or at least more philosophical – with time.
Needless to say – carpe diem.
And if it really is looking bleak, you should still commit to being hopeful. As Goethe said: commit to it, and the universe will make it happen.


My pal H is new to the curious, verging-on-fictional world of gyms and is mystified by the grunting in the free weights area. This could be explained by the fact that H’s gym is in Essex. But there may be more to it than that.
I decided to investigate. And, having vehemently denied grunting myself, I realised that I grunt, on average, three times per gym visit – usually while doing the bench press. Genteel, understated grunts, but grunts nevertheless. I was deeply unnerved by the fact that I did it without realising. I also hiss occasionally like a disgruntled cat.
I once went to a gym, in Cambridge of all places, which was full of male-menopausal and frightfully ugly bodybuilders – many with moustaches. They not only grunted but yelled Anglo-Saxon words such as C and MF. These ejaculations always occurred, I noted, when they were lifting, and breathing out.
You should of course always breathe out when you lift. But where do the grunts and C words come from?
Well, I’ve discovered that there’s a natural tendency to hold your breath (the ‘Valsalva Effect’) to store oxygen when you’re facing up to a big task. And the grunting, hissing and yelling is a vocal response to the sudden release of breath after this. Some trainers even believe a good old grunt can help prevent injuries.
But that doesn’t solve the problem that it’s nearly always men, of a certain age, who emit the most grunts. With my linguistic hat on, I’d say that the grunting is an indirect speech act, stating subtextually: “I’m lifting a very heavy weight, therefore I must logically be a young hunk and not a sad middle-aged Muscle Mary with a chest like Dolly Parton and legs like a budgie.”
Peacockshock recommends: Muscle – by Sam Fussell (very funny book about an Oxford graduate seduced by the bizarre world of bodybuilding)

Health Update

Good news. I’m going to get physiotherapy for the dizziness. The latest theory is that the dizziness was caused not by antibiotics but by my brain, which had cerebellar infarcts last April.
And I’ve now solved the mystery of the weird ‘migraines’ I had from 1995-2005. They were probably caused by embolisms from my aortic valve, which was probably wonky for about ten years or more.
Anyway – the main thing is that – apart from the balance probs – I’m now very well.