22 December, 2006

My very merry mix

I knew this photo would come in handy, when I took it circa 2001

I was off work with a cold and feeling a bit grotty about two months ago. On the other hand I had a few precious hours away from Rosa in which to play all the music she doesn't really like very much. So I made this lovely mix for my mate Gareth. He didn't get around to using it yet (Gareth - I'll make you another exclusive mix, just as soon as I get a new computer), so instead it got sent to Bruce at House Plant Radio and ended up here: OLO Radio.
Happy listening.

Here's a vague track listing from what I can recognise listening back to it now:

  1. Nosrep

  2. Squarepusher - Go Plastic

  3. possibly(?) some BS2000 in there.

  4. Dom & Roland - (the one with the radar on the cover)

  5. Goldie - Demonz

  6. Patrick Dawes - Creep

  7. Him - don't know which track, sorry.

  8. Hal Wilner - Alamo Hellfire

  9. True Colours - Cyndi Lauper

  10. Stock, Aitken and Walkman - again, it's brilliant stuff, but I can't Name That Track

  11. The Beatles - Eleanor Rigby

  12. unknown artist and tune - Break dat (thing)

  13. Triosk - unknown track

  14. BBC World of Sports

  15. There's Monolith by The Beta Band in the mix somewhere, but I haven't found it yet

  16. Venetian Snares

  17. James Dean in A Rebel Without a Cause

Anyway, it's the Friday before Christmas and a "working lunch" beckons;
Merry Christmas one and all!

20 November, 2006

What a marvellous weekend

I am, it has to be said, feeling someone what tired and satisfied after an amazing weekend of fun with my friends. Most of them, it appears, are leaving the country forever, but nevertheless: superb.
On Friday I got home from work and cooked Rosa dinner as she slobbed out on the sofa in a knackered and immovable way. My poor lady's sleeping has not improved much and so she's still (semi-)functioning on half a night's sleep all the time. She wanted to come out to Sami's leaving do, but couldn't make it in the end, so I went solo, and met up with a whole load of people in The Lansdown in Clifton, which is a lovely pub.
Sami is off to America forever, because he is in love and she is in love and their world is golden and glowing. Awww.
Also in the pub was a whole load of strangers and a whole load of old friends from Clevedon who we'll be spending New Years with. It sounds like it's going to be an excellent event. We've an ancient YHA Hostel with no-one else in it and nothing but countryside around us. There will be just enough drinking and raucousness and fun to complement the cosy fireside nodding and board games and, weather permitting a few trips through some muddy Wlesh backwaters turning maps around, scratching our head snad trying to trigonometry from far-off mountains.
Saturday night was spent hectic as hell. One of my best mates from secondary school came to stay with his lovely wife Sam, who is a postie. Poor Sam had been up since before dawn, nevertheless we dragged her off for some food at Budokan in town (quality sushi and noodle-soup kind of affair, we got a small but cheap meal deal before 7, which was a bargain!) and then had a few pints at the Zero Degrees Micro-Brewery on Park Row. Zero Degrees is like a 50s science fiction writer's depiction of a brewery or pub in the year 2000. All shiny metal and ... [Here I stopped writing and went and did something else, running out of steam completely]

13 November, 2006

Pickled Eggs

After the last post it seems a bit weird to post such a mundane thing, but I guess really getting into pickles could be a normal reaction to fatherhood.
Last night I watched the latest episode of In Search of Perfection on the cable Watch Again thingummy and made pickled eggs.

This is the recipe I used for the eggs, which smelled proper nice, but I can't check for six weeks (i.e. Christmas)

  • 2 and a half pints cider vinegar
  • 12 eggs (preferably organic ones)
  • 2 blades mace
  • 12 cloves
  • 1 ounce (25g) pickling spices
  • A couple of hefty jars - I had to finish off some gherkins and still had too much vinegar and not enough eggs

The recipe is really quite simple: You hard-boil the eggs and put them in cold water, you boil the vinegar with the spices (all wrapped up in muslin) for 10 minutes and then put it all in sterilised jars; put half the vinegar in first, then top up once filled with eggs.
Sterilising Jars is a pain. I always end up chucking them in a pan of boiling water and then putting them in a low oven (160 oC) for ten minutes.

My hope is that this will be ready for Christmas, with my sloe gin, elderflower wine (which will free up the demi-john for blackberry wine with the blackberries in the freezer) and the ancient mincemeat from last year. It's a homemade wholesome gargantuan festive feast. The only shame is Rosa won't eat the eggs or drink the booze, poor thing.

10 November, 2006

I'm going to be a daddy.

Cutest foetus on the planet.
Check out this gorgeous blob. One of the sweetest blob things in a load of dark water one could look at. Of course when I was looking at it it was beating it's heart and twitching around a bit as a midwife pushed a ultrasound scanner into my girlfriend's belly.

What to say? Well, aside from that bombshell of news

  • Yes, it was planned, after some discussion and attempt to reach various comprimses we realised that actually if we really wanted kids there was nothing not money to stop us. Babies, technically are free. But like every too-good-to-be-true offer it's the accesssories that really sting the pocket. So we're going for it and screw anyone who gets in my way.
  • This is my Queen's 14th week of pregnancy; due date: May 10th 2007
  • As you can see from the picture the sex of baby is inderterminate (lady's have slightly outtie innies at this stage, anyway.)
  • We're thinking waterbirth at home

I can't think of anything else at this stage. The shock and excitement has kind of worn on so that I'm used to the idea now.
Just wait til I'm holding a 0 Days year-old in my arms, then I'll be shitting myself!

07 November, 2006

The ordinary madness of Charles Bukowski

If the video's bust, click on this!

I look forward to getting time to actually watching this later. But I love Bukowski and the first few minutes seem to imply that this is a top documentary. Watch, if you like.

Bastards nicked my laptop

Some bastard nicked my laptop from my house on Friday. I think I've got everything backed up, but if anyone gets offered a cheap Compaq Pressario in Bristol, let me know!

This does mean that I now have to indulge my techie side by doing some computer shopping for a new one (and my religious side by praying that the insurance pays up when there was no sign of a break-in), any recommendations?

That is all.

Random crate of beer

I missed a delivery from a parcel company yesterday, and when I popped home to pick it up from the driver returning today, it was a crate of beer.
24 beautiful bottles of Corona (looks like I'll be picking up some limes on the way home tonight!).
It took me ages to remember that I had entered a competition last month (the same time as I won those Starter for Ten tickets). I think the first prize was a weekend away, but this will make a lovely weekend in.
I'd big up whoever it was who promoted this if only they'd sent me a note to say congratulations, you've won a fantastic box of beers. Nevermind, thanks Corona (I assume).


01 November, 2006

Perfection - the TV series

Last night the TV series started. I was pleasantly surprised by how personable Heston Blumenthal came across as being. My expectations from his photos and writing manner was that he would be a lot gruffer and more surly in that kind of blinkered obsessive way. The man himself seemed quite charming.
The programme was good, but having read the book I expected it to be far more in the documentary style, following him around as he weighs the dry weight of potatoes and gets lessons in feeding sausage meet into a lamb’s intestines.
Instead, each half-hour episode looks like it is taken up with a small amount of his research (having read the book it could be over an hour for each dish, but I would like that; I like to know the reasons why each potato is good for sauté rather than Bombay wedges) some of his talking head saying about why this dish is special to him (I reckon this will invariably be down to childhood nostalgia) and the rest is just making two dishes in a TV kitchen.
I was double-excited to see dry ice ice cream being made at last, though. Gonna get me some of that stuff (If anyone wants to get in on some of the ice let me know as you can only buy it as ten 1kg blocks, apparently). In summary, I was pleasantly surprised by the charisma of Dr Blumenthal and the program overall. I would have liked to see more of the research and less of the putting-the-recipe-together bits. But that’s just me, I’m sure most people were happy with the already fastidious attention to detail and amazing chemistry as it was.

27 October, 2006

In search of Perfection

I keep meaning to post up a cathartic rant about how I'm always staying up late and watching crap films on TV. It drives me crazy. I used to berate myself for wasting my life away by getting stoned and doing nothing. Then my asthma got too bad, and I cut back and then gave up smoking pot. Next I berated myself for drinking most days of the week, not necessarily heavily, but, you know...
Now I just berate myself for watching crap and wasting my life by being permanently tired.
Anyway, last night, I got back from watching Little Miss Sunshine at the Orpheus (which was brilliant) and managed to not collapse in front of the telly, but nevertheless stayed up late reading my new book.
In Sarch of Perfection

I bought this half price on Amazon.

That Heston Blumenthal is a bloody great genius (is what he is). I'm not entirely persuaded that I would like him, but I certainly respect him to hell and back.

This is the accompanying book to an upcoming BBC TV series in which Dr Blumenthal (recently granted an honorary degree by Reading University; he aspires to write a paper on Umami in tomato sauce)creates some very standard everyday meals. The twist is he makes the very best version of them that he can possibly muster. Last night I read the chapters on roast chicken and roast potatoes; bangers and mash; spaghetti bolognese and pizza; and I don't think there was a single recipe at the end which you could easily cook in less than a day.
I mean, let's take the example of a roast chicken (and I hope I don't spoil this for anyone here). He tracks down the finest breed of French chicken living off the perfect soil and running free. Pickles it in brine, roasts it slow with regularly thermometer probing, injects flavoured butter into the flesh and then fries the bastard up in a frying pan to make it golden brown.
It's not a typical chicken.
I was quite expecting him to go for the standard haute cuisine of par-boiled potatoes in goose fat, but to my surprise he boils them for about 20 minutes until they're barely held together and then roasts them up in olive oil in a separate pan to the chicken!
I'm not sure I totally agree. But the man is a genius and I haven't tried his version yet, so he's probably right. I'll have to track down the specific family of potato first, too.

Anyway, the book is brilliant, he describes the history and beauty of each dish, travels around to find the ultimate suppliers and goes into great detail about the molecular composition of the food, how it's usually done wrong and all his reasons for doing the weird things he does.

In all honesty I'm expecting another late night of reading definitive recipes and exhausted mental self-flagellation.

25 October, 2006

My song

These words to this tune is an old song called King Pippin. Which is nice, for anyone who cares.

It's all a bit twiddly-diddly for me, though.

Omega 3 oils

Following on from an interesting series of articles in the Ecologist the other month, the Guardian is now highlighting some research into the effects of diet on Anti-social behaviour and in particular the ongoing discussion over whether we should be force-feeding schoolchildren and prisoners cod liver oil.
He has been rocking his 6ft 2in bulk to and fro while delivering a confessional account of his past into the middle distance. He wants us to know what has saved him after 20 years on the streets: "My dome is working. They gave me some kind of pill and I changed. Me, myself and I, I changed."
The UK prison trial at Aylesbury jail showed that when young men there were fed multivitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids, the number of violent offences they committed in the prison fell by 37%. Although no one is suggesting that poor diet alone can account for complex social problems, the former chief inspector of prisons Lord Ramsbotham says that he is now "absolutely convinced that there is a direct link between diet and antisocial behaviour, both that bad diet causes bad behaviour and that good diet prevents it."

I'm not sure how good for sustaiable fisheries this news is, but that your diet has a huge impact on your life is clear to anyone who's in my house about 8 o'clock; typically, I'll still be halfway through crashing about the kitchen and swearing about how there's no coconut milk, oblivious to some burning onions. The rage and the fury will be beautifully counterpoised by my girlfriend's drained expression as she stares with blank hunger at the half-chopped vegetables on the chopping board.
As soon as we've eaten we get sleepy and then about an hour later we can get stuff done again.
Proper eating is like proper sleeping. If you don't do it correctly it's not surprising you go a bit doolally. I can't really speak. I have been skipping breakfast for about a year now, and generally don't get hungry until about eleven thirty in the morning.
Anyway, do clcik on the title and read the article above, it's quite interesting.

24 October, 2006

Starter for Ten

The preview of this bestselling-novel-turned film was an understatement and a half, last night. There was a distinct lack of showgirls, red carpets or marauding press on Union Street in Bristol. This was partly because the press have had their screenings weeks before, and partly because the celebrity attendance was a two-man behind-the-screen affair. The writer and the director introduced it and stuck around for questions afterwards. I guess this is why - so that a little word of mouth goes a long way.

The film starts with an unrecognisably youthful and bad-skinned James McAvoy (who appeared in Shameless and the recent version of Macbeth on the BBC) having his interview for a place on an English course at Bristol University.

It spectularly remained understated the whole way through, with the lead character's emotional crises being exactly the kind of thing I went through at Uni. The cast were pretty, but not drenched in the kind of senseless glamour and sheen that an American campus movie has and the plot was gritty and real enough to be believable, but enough also to keep the film moving along fast enough.

Tom Hanks notoriously bought the rights to this film, and sadly (for the British film industry) it is a largely American-funded film. However, the good thing about it is just that it is so very darned British. Maybe, as a Bristolian, I am being over-homely about this film, though.

Catherine Tate also does a good turn as the mother. Holds the role down well, but I'm too used to seeing her in a rubber mask to believe in her character.

20 October, 2006

Creating the perfect woman

I really like the series of adverts running at the moment by Dove, partly because it features lots of women in their underwear looking very happy, and partly because I am sick to the teeth of seeing perfect women all over TV. I found this little video online, and hope that it manages to post up here OK:

Uploaded by cybermac


The question for me is whether men suffer from poor self-esteem and the burden of trying to live up to the expectations and mis-representations of manhood in the media.
The answer for me is: Probably not much.

17 October, 2006

Pumpkin Pie

The pumpkin in my gardenOur garden was covered by thick chords of creeping vine this summer from our five Giant pumpkin plants.
Only one solitary pumpkin made it from this sprawling mass, all the others either dropped off in the heat when they were tiny or got eaten by our mouse (who lives in the wall).

We harvested the only pumpkin about a fortnight ago, before the rain mushed it or rodents got it.

Rosa turned half of it into a really nice soup.

I got the remaining half and found a recipe for Pumpkin pie in "Food from your Garden"
Half a pumpkin on a plate

This is a typical 50s recipe consisting, consisting of getting a few good ingredients and basic flavours and lacing them heavily with cream.

  • about 200g shortcrust pastry
  • 500g Pumpkin
  • cream
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ground cardamom
  • ground cinnamon
  • sugar! (I forgot)

First up, the tricky bit that I got wrong! - Scoop the flesh out of your pumpkin, carefully taking out all the seeds. Next boil it with a little water (it will make it's own juice once it's got going a bit). About 15-20 minutes on a low heat is good, then strain some of the liquid off and sieve it into a puree.

Pumpkin Pie in progress
Whilst you're dong this, blind bake some shortcrust pastry for ten minutes. Blind baking is simply baking the pastry on its own in a greased dish with some dried beans to weight it down.

This was where I was having problems as, not having removed all my seeds I had to go through it as ach batch went into the sieve. The other problem was, it wouldn't really go through the sieve. I don't whether pumpkins weren't as hady or sieves were made of sterner stuff back in the day, but mine certainly didn't look up to the task.

Next all there is to do is turn the mush into a kind of custard mix.

To do this mix the cream, sugar and pumpkin together. Flavour with spices (the original recipe had nutmeg and cinnamon, but cardamom is my current favourite), then stir in two egg yolks. I forgot the sugar at this stage and then went out to the pub whilst it baked.

Rosa astutely recognised something was up and put some sugar on top and tok my mini flame thrower to it. That's why it looks a bit like creme brulee in this final picture:

Slice of Pumpkin pie

16 October, 2006

Cheesy pic

Shortly after I bought my record decks, I took this picture:

: /Pavailable for funerals and other inappropriate occasions.

I found the photo again in a box yesterday and realised I loved it very much. Even if it's been done before.
I remember spending ages fiddling with my camera to get it to sit behind me on a cabinet, whilst I held a mirror in my hand and looked into the lens.

I'm a skinny girl whinging about pretty models

I recall contemplating, at some point last night whilst failing to sleep, about a comment Sami made about beards. He said that every man would basically like to be bearded; and I agreed.
There something about getting around to having a shave that is just tiresome, and something very soothing about stroking the course fibers of overgrown stubble that is very reassuring.

If true that, left to his own, man would let his hair go wild and do it's own thing, or a least warm his chinny-chin-chin, then what does this say about society? Removing my head from my poncy-art-critic-arse for a moment, my point is just that is man's naked chin an equivalent complaint to that of women complaining about the demands that society puts on them to be skinny?
If men only shave because women like a boy-like face (and hate the stubble-rash of an unshaved man), we men have grounds for launching a campaign against hairlessness. Although there is clearly a need for a better slogan, I think there should be more pride in beards, OK, they're not the best to look at (especially in teenage boys trying to prove themselves men), but damn it they feel good, and that should count for something. The old stubble rash will go when the hair becomes soft, think of the storage advantages, the styling possibilities (Rarg!) and the benefits in winter!

Not to mention the fact that it would cause a drastic reduction in Gilette adverts and beauty products, which can only be a good thing.

13 October, 2006

Suing my bank

This morning in the post I received the letter I had been waiting for for over a month.
A while ago, Someone called Jambon Spandau (allegedly) posted a message up on choke about penalties from their bank and how very unfair they are.
I had a look into this, and apparently many banks charges may be deemed unreasonable as they do not adequately reflect the true costs of the administration necessary when somebody goes over their overdraft limit or fails to pay back their credit card or has an unauthorised payment or whatver it may be.
On 5 April 2006, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) concluded that default charges over £12 are automatically presumed to be unfair in terms of the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations. Unfair terms are legally unenforceable.


The point is, that if you breach a contract and somebody charges you more than you would be expected to pay back, then this stops being known in legal terms as a charge, and instead turns into a penalty. (Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Co. - vs. - New Garage and Motor Co. Ltd, 1915).

People have been suing banks left, right and centre as far as I can tell. It has been on This Morning and discussed on Money Box on radio 4, I think. Due to the nature of English law, the banks appear to be unwilling to fight it in court as they may then have to change their charges to a reasonable amount. in other words the equation is:

if ((unreasonable bank charges - reasonable bank charges)>legal costs, then continue to settle out of court).

I could be wrong. I'm no legal or financial expert.

First I got a letter from HSBC saying that they did not accept the charges as illegal but to save them from paying all the legal costs, would I accept a token amount (about half) in settlement of this matter.

Next I received a letter from their solicitors not accepting that there was anything wrong with their charges, but offering to pay the full amount + my legal costs as an out of court settlement. the only thing was that I would have to sign and return the letter and agree to treat this matter confidentially.

I had to think long and hard about this, as it wasn't pocketmoney. It was almost a month's wages they were offering to pay me back, and all I had to do was agree. I very nearly did, but then I got courage from the testimonies on penaltycharges.co.uk and wrote back saying that I couldn't do that. I waited. I checked the mail every morning, and finally I got a letter agreeing to accept. I signed it and returned it Recorded Delivery the next day, and a few days ago, the payment came! Yeah!

So anyone who thinks they have been charged too much in the last six years - I recommend fine-tooth combing your bank statements and check the fees and charges they have slapped you with, count them as an investment, add 8% interest and then write to your bank and see what they say!

09 October, 2006

The British stiff white upper lip

A British Dairy farm has caused controversy within the EU after it has been closed down.

Various EU Member states have banned produce from Bowland Farm in Lancashire after the European Commission found serious breaches of EU food safety rules. It stated:

There was evidence that raw milk containing antibiotic residues or contaminated with substances such as detergents and dyes was being used to make curd cheese, as was out-of-date milk collected from retail establishments. Bowland was also using mouldy and contaminated cheese (including “floor waste”) to vacuum-pack for sale.

The milk curd was sold in Europe to be turned into processed cheese.

The European Commission will be sending a team of investigators from the Food and Veterinary Office in November, with a brief to investigate the standards of the whole British Dairy industry. The UK FSA, on the other hand are not prepared at this stage to state that they are at fault. There is, they say, "a genuine difference of scientific opinion between the UK and the European Commission about how you interpret testing results for antibiotics in milk."

At present there is a Mexican stand-off between the two parties. The ban, which came in on 6 October 2006, will remain in place until the EU Commission is satisfied that the UK FSA has demonstrated that "there is no risk to human health and has changed its procedures with regard to what it demands for antibiotic testing in milk."

Until then, I shall be happily drinking Organic Milk.

Following strong campaigning by the Soil Association, Glasgow University has conducted tests on organic milk. On carrying out an assessment of their evidence, The UK Food Standards Agency concluded that it showed that organically produced milk can contain higher levels of types of fats called short-chain omega-3 fatty acids than conventionally produced milk.
The report went on to downplay these results, however, stating that the results showed these fatty acids "appear to be of limited health benefit compared to the longer chain omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish."

Nevertheless, The Soil Association has won a victory here. It has further scientific evidence for the link between organic food production and good quality food.

23 September, 2006

Walking around Wales

Alex and I spent last week stomping over mountains in Wales.
The plan didn't exactly go according to plan.
To start with I was getting over severe sleep deprivation from a series of late nights, including a rather long and hard fought poker night at Sam's to celebrate his distribution deal with a known record label. Of course, kids, in poker there are NO WINNERS.

Anyway, Alex decided that it woud be best to leave at 6 in the morning and drive get to North Wales nice and early, which is such a foreign idea to me. We took in a fried breakfast in Chester, on the basis that everyone there would look like (or perhaps be a part of) Hollyoaks. There was the beautiful drug addict with fake purple-ringed eyes, the tight-tracksuit bottomed girls (body doubles judging by their faces) and the matronly mother figures.
My directions brought us up 3 miles short and we had an extra-long headstart walk around the headland called Little Orme and Great Orme. Great Orme is a nature reserve, and the cafe will gladly sell you a certificate saying you walked all the way around it for £1.50.
The weather man couldn't make his mind up all week. We stayed at a YHA in Conwyn Bay on Monday night, and checked the weather in the morning, which basically said it was going to piss on us from a great height with gales and hurricanes and piss.
Given that my priority for the week was to do Mount Snowdon (the tallest mountain in Wales), we hopped it back to Alex's car by bus, got over there and yomped it over to the start of the path up, with one bag filled with emergency stuff and a couple of beers.
The path up the side of Snowdon from Pen Y Pass is a broad bridleway covered in gravel. You could ride up it on a bike easily and the whole thing was a bit dissapointing until we good to the last 200 metres or so of big, bad vertical hill. Then I got my walk head on, fumed, "Right!" and stomped up half a mountain . I spent the next two days whinging about my broken left arse, where I had strained a buttock muscle.

Here's a couple of snaps I took on my phone. The first is from a hotel which let us camp on some nearby grass and have a little bonfire. They were very talkative and I got the feeling that they didn't get much custom this time of year and were a bit desperate for a couple of lads to prop up the bar all night. I had a really nice time there, though, and dnk plenty of vitamin-rich stout for 'energy'

Franklyn's superfine shag tobacco poster

The other picture is from a wall we walked passed and then started furiousy snapping pictures of with our phones as it had really nice moss:

Mossy dry stone wall

15 September, 2006

Long live...

I used to have a little Victorian morality story for children about a selfish rich child called Pippin. The Book was called King Pippin and I seem to remember it had a horrible ending in which Pippin drowned or something. Hold on one minute ....

No. Weird; after all these years it's missing from the book shelf and all I have is a half-memory of a lithograph of a boy running. It seems like a weird thing to title yourself after. It is, I guess.

I do have another book on my shelf though. Something a little bit more contemporary:
The Short Reign of King Pippin IV, John Steinbeck

Steinbeck, very uncharacteristically (although I don't know a lot about John Steinbeck)wrote a farce set in France on a hypothesis of a 2nd French revolution and a return to a monarchy. It's set in the mid-twentieth century and is quite astute and quite funny. Alright, at points I was only reading it because he had my name I admit, but, all the same, recommended.

The other thing to set me off, was assuming an alter-ego on Choke of 'The King', which taught me far too much about Elvis (and the King o the Jews).
Elvis & I Elvis of the bleeding heart

For me, his diet was one of the interesting things. He would wake up in the night and snack heavily. Towards the end of his life when he was clinically obese and addicted to prescription drugs (he was strictly legal, I think; when he met Nixon he was trying to get appointed drug tsar for the US) his Doctor had him on a diet of just jello, but he still had a cook on the payroll who would cook him whatever gorgeous fatty concoction he would dream up. Various myths surround his actual weight at the autopsy.

14 September, 2006

Nappies - are Real Nappies healthier?

The affects of Cotton and disposable nappies to health

I have been investigating real nappies for a project at work. It wasn't a subject particularly close to my heart, but I grew to understand how it can turn into a crusade for interested parties.
The best source of information, if you interested in finding out more or wish to talk about related topics, is the women's environmental network.


There are benefits to using both disposable nappies and real nappies, although the vote on the basis of environmental benefits is out (or so you would think; the results of this Environment Agency Report were surprisingly critical and have caused a wee furore: Click here for the contreversial EA report on the Environmental Considerations) there is still a lack of evidence to support the claims of the Real Nappy camp, and most disposable manufacturers do not reveal the contents of their nappies, for obvious reasons.

Cotton nappies are simple, studies have shown them to be financially beneficial, and they are of benefit to the environment. They are basically a terry towelling fabric made from cotton, with dispoable liners to collect solids in and often a pretty multi-coloured outer layer.

Cotton nappies are more likely to keep the infants skin in contact with the ammonia which can be formed by a combination of faeces and urine. This is the most common cause of nappy rash. The argument for Cotton Nappies is that parents are aware of their child’s discomfort with cotton nappies and therefore change the nappy more frequently. Studies on infants in their first four weeks tended to show that cotton nappies were better for the infant.

The second most common reason given for using cotton nappies (in a survey of 15% of the parenting population of Buckinghamshire carried out by their Council) was for the health of the child. The primary reason given was for environmental concern. Click here for full report

Disposable Nappies are convenient and easily available in a number of styles to suit the changing needs of babies as they grow. They usually contain absorbent materials to keep the baby dry.

Little research has been done into the chemicals used in disposable nappies, and manufacturers are under no obligation to list what is used, although some of the known common constituents are outlined in this report.

Disposable Nappies:

Modern disposable nappies are constantly being re-invented, with cotton-soft and ever more breathable nappies being added to companies’ ranges.

Disposable nappies are based on two main materials; cellulose fibres and polymers. The core is composed of fluff pulp and sodium polyacrylate (super absorbent polymer or SAP), which is a water absorbing polymer. The function of the core is to absorb and contain liquid excreta. The top layer, referred to as ‘non-woven’, is a polymer-based material with a textile structure. From the top layer, the fluids flow through a pulp-based tissue layer down to the core. They can contain up to 200 chemicals depending on the manufacturer.
Disposable Nappies work by absorbing the liquids from urine and faeces away from the baby.

Areas of concern include the constituents of absorbent gels in disposables, raised scrotal temperatures, the contamination of plastics with TBT (tributyl tin), chlorine bleaching of the wood pulp used in nappies and possible respiratory implications.

SAPs are supposed to be non-toxic and have been approved by the American Food and Drug Administration. However, there is a distinct lack of research into the effects of extreme dryness on babies' thin skin and genitalia. Warrington Borough Council proposed that this dryness was counter-productive as parents would become accustomed knowing when their child had soiled their nappy and be more easily able to identify if they are dehydrated.

Super-absorbent gels can include sodium polyacrylate crystals which forms a gel when in contact with urine. There are particular concerns about these super-absorbent chemicals entering the body via broken skin, especially as sodium polyacrylate and other chemicals designed to increase absorbency have had to be removed from tampons as they were associated with the development of Toxic Shock Syndrome.

Research has also shown that disposable nappies keep babies' testicles at higher than normal temperatures. This has raised concern over whether this could pose a risk to their future fertility, as research shows brief elevations of testicular temperature can suppress spermatogenesis and sustained elevation of temperature may contribute to testicular pathology in cryptorchidism, varicocele and occupational male infertility. I t should be noted that, despite speculation, there is presently no evidence to state that an increase in scrotal temperature of 1.5 to 2 degrees causes long-term damage in infants.

TBT or tributyl tin is a toxic chemical, it can contaminate certain types of plastic during manufacture. Recently commissioned research has shown significant levels of TBT in many brands of disposable nappy. Babies may be in contact with up to 3.6 times the World Health Organisation's estimated tolerable daily intake. TBT is a recognised environmental pollutant and is also used as a constituent of ship paint. It is known to disrupt the immune and hormonal systems of marine shellfish and there are plans to phase out its use worldwide.

Chlorine bleaching is used much less than previously in the bleaching of wood pulp for white paper products. Chlorine bleaching creates toxic dioxins, dioxins are considered to be extremely toxic, so much so that there is debate over whether safe levels actually exist. There is presently no legislation requiring manufactures to print the nappy materials or processing details on their packaging.
An independent study done in 1999 has shown that the airborne emissions of some disposable nappies can produce acute respiratory toxicity, including asthma like reactions, in normal laboratory mice. The researchers suggest that further study is required into a possible link between disposable nappies and the increasing prevalence of childhood asthma (Anderson, Rosalind, and Julius Anderson. "Acute Respiratory Effects of Diaper Emissions." Archives of Environmental Health, 54, October 1999).
A potentially serious problem associated with disposable nappies is the ease of disease transmission via faeces left on the nappy and then disposed of in regular household waste. More than 100 enteric viruses are excreted in human faeces, including hepatitis and polio (if the live vaccine is used for immunisation) Viruses can live for months creating risks to both sanitation workers and contamination of ground water in landfills.

Re-usable Nappies

Re-usable nappies are generally made from terry-towelling, a cotton-based material. They often come with a separate or built-in waterproof covering and additional liners made of fleece or silk.

Almost all parents who use re-usable nappies also use disposable nappies, as they are broadly considered to be the more convenient option.
The fit and padding of most cotton nappies promotes correct hip development and they are often recommended for babies with ‘clicky hips’. Most will also give additional protection and padding for the lower spine, which can help with falls when toddlers are learning to walk.

As cotton nappies are re-used and do not contain bacteria-killing chemicals the risk of them carrying infection is greater. However, many companies offer cotton nappy collection and laundry to a hospital standard.
Commercial laundering of nappies, although successful in cleaning the nappies, may also use bleach and therefore be as hazardous as disposable nappies in this respect.

The Environment Agency study, Life Cycle Assessment of Disposable and Reusable Nappies in the UK concluded

there was no significant difference between any of the environmental impacts –
that is, overall no system clearly had a better or worse environmental
performance, although the life cycle stages that are the main source for these
impacts are different for each system.

Additional information:

There are a number of causes of Nappy Rash, the most common of which is prolonged dampness; however diet has also been proved to be a considerable factor in the degree to which contact with urine and faeces irritates the skin.

The type of nappy used is not a significant factor in the incidence of nappy rash. Research carried out by The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) also known as 'Children of the 90s' has shown that infants in their first four weeks are given little protection from Nappy Rash by Disposable Nappies.

This finding helped to endorse a hospital scheme arising from environmental concerns that encourage parents to use cotton nappies instead of disposables.

The most important factor in avoiding nappy rash is keeping the baby clean. Dirty nappies should be changed immediately and wet ones regularly, and bottoms washed at each change.
Cotton Nappies do not have chemicals to treat the faeces and urine immediately in them, however, babies in cotton nappies are also more likely to make a parent aware that their nappy is oiled more often.

Fresh air is important too; babies should be allowed to ‘go bare’ as much as possible. Prolonged skin contact with soiled nappies causes nappy rash. Germs from the bowel have time to break down the urine and release ammonia, thus inflaming the skin. Nappy rash may also be a symptom of teething, or a reaction to new food that the baby's digestive system isn't ready for. However, studies into the causes of ‘severe nappy rash’ have been inconclusive and it is not known what effect the type of nappy used has in these cases.

The National Eczema Society says, “Cotton clothing and bedding keep the skin cool and allow it to breathe, whereas synthetic fabrics and wool can irritate.” This is worth considering given the increasing cases of Atopic (infantile) Eczema in tandem with asthma (which is, in turn, more prevalent in inner city areas).

It is important that the skin is not kept too dry where eczema is present and disposable nappies function by keeping the area dry. Despite personal testimonies to the contrary, a study of infants with eczema using different fabrics discovered no discernable difference between the fabrics (Diepgen TL, Stabler A, Tepe A, Hornsein OP. A study of skin irritation by textiles under standardised sweating conditions in patient with atopic eczema.[German] Z Hautkrankheiten. 1990;65:907-910)

07 September, 2006

Indoor BBQ

I'm halfway through making a BBQ for Rosa when she gets back all wearing and punctured from acupuncture. As there were no rolls for the veggie burgers I picked up on the way home, I tried making some in the bread machine. I followed the recipe, set it to knead. Watched it need for five minutes (whilst I pre-boiled some sweetcorn) and then got fed up, took it out and kneaded it myself. Time is of the essence here (despite me sitting at the computer instead of cooking).
Also on the menu: salad from our little garden (and round lettuce from the shops) and a whole range of chutneys (yay! Chutney! I can't eat the plum chutney I made yet, as it must sit for 4-6 weeks first. Dag nam it.
After sitting in the drizzle at my sisters on the weekend (admittedly having a good chinwag, but still feeling damp), you'd think I'd have accepted that the British BBQ season is well and truly over, wouldn't you?
My chilli plant still has no flowers, :-(

29 August, 2006

The Itch is worse than ever

I woke up after a dream about asthma, walking and gone-off meat to discover that I was in the midst of an asthma attack. Being too lazy to get out of bed until I was up, Rosa kindly fetched my inhaler and got me up.
We'd washed a sheepskin rug, and left to hang up and dry in the room I was sleeping in, which pretty much goes against every allergy thing there is and I've been feeling the itch in my nose, sneezing, sniffing and scratching all morning.
The rug must be full of dust mites, and there's dust everywhere as we took the curtains down to wash them, too, and then damp stuff hung up everywhere is perfect for dust mites to breed in. Aaargh!
It gave me a feeling of involuntary loss of bodily functions (careful, now.) I wandered about the flat tic-ing and running about for loo roll, scrunching up my face and saying, "Gahk!" a lot.
I then had to post bike keys off to France (after having borrowed bikes and wandered off with them) and started getting all morose about being back in the city again (and having rubbish vegtables, rant, rant, rant ...)
I came home the other day to find Rosa had covered our kitchen wall in a kind of brain-storming exercise for how to survive the pending oil crisis (and corresponding economic collapse according to Rosa - I'm sceptical that it will be as bad as she says). More on that, and maybe a photo, another time.

24 August, 2006

Getting over the countryside

Its been hard coming back from a holiday in the countryside, going back to work in tis dusty, crusty city.
My nose has got blocked up again, my lungs have recognisably got worse (although I'm not back on the Ventolin yet), I'm back in my routine of staying up until about 1am, which means getting up for work really hurts towards the end of the week.

Basically, I think I need to leave town and live in the countryside, is what I'm saying.
The view from mum's garden

I had a good long hungover think whilst I was waking up in the shower this morning and felt almost copernican about buggering off for some countryside goodness. My mate Caleb made it out to Yeovil, but I don't really know how that whole lifestyle is going. I guess it must be good.

Too tired to be angry now. I think I'll join Rosa on th sofa sucking up that telly juice through her eyes.
Mmmm, telly juice.

23 August, 2006

First posting

So. I've been trying to develop my own blogsite for a while with all my recipes and photos and gubbins on, and it's amazingly silly trying to get my head around all the coding necessary.
This, in other words is an experiment to see how flexible a blog is and if I can adapt it to do everything I would like in my own blog.
I know I can do fancy biz with this, to allow people RSS feeds and such like from it, even put in photographs and change all the colours around. But I want to find out how easy it is to tag, sort and categorise my pages, personalise layouts and generally mess with it all.

Sorry, that was a bad start and a typically terrible blog entry, just spurting whatever rubbish is in my head; let me start again.

I am a 29 year-old guy from Bristol, UK. I've been toying with the idea of keeping a diary again for a while after my live journal got lost to the wilderness of internet moribundity: Called Pippinsfeet & Pippinsback .
I'm really into food and photography, so expect lots of recipes, reviews and photos of food here. I also seem to get typically lateral thoughts on a variety of topics, so expect random entries on any topic I fancy (recent favourites include Google Earth Models, real nappies and pigs).
I've got my driving test on Wednesday 30th, but I've been having lessons on and off for years, so I'm not too worried (unless I fail again and have to pay up another £100 for lessons and a test; Yaargh!)
I have an online alter-ego as a fake Elvis on Choke forum, which is chat area for the Bristol music scene that rarely sticks to the point.
I set up a flickr account once, too, but won't link to it as it was never used once the work server blocked me from abusing the internet from my desk. The End.