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Yes we Cynon!!

April 2, 2010

Well it has been a few months, but I finally managed to get a few minutes free so I thought I would type up a few words. I don’t seem to have as much time as I used to, but I thought one or two people might be interested to know what I have been up to.

For many years I have been interested in politics and current affairs.  I always thought it would be good fun to stand for parliament.  In fact, about ten years ago I sent off for a copy of a pack that would allow me to become an officially approved parliamentary candidate.  The pack duly arrived and was placed on a window sill.  Slowly condensation destroyed the paperwork and I never got around to applying.  Besides politicians all seemed really clever and had the gift of the gab.   After all, as I told you previously, I was never any good at public speaking.  One of Patrick Holford’s friends pointed out that I did not know what as I was talking about. No one, surely, would vote for an ordinary person like me would me?  However, the desire to do something never really left me.  Didn’t Trollope say that it was every Englishman’s desire to stand for parliament?

Anyway, back in 2008 the world’s economic system came close to collapse.  In Britain the FSA came very close to pulling the plug on HBOS’ ATMs.   The Iceland was insolvent which did not stop the British using the Terrorism Act to sezie the UK assets of their biggest bank.  The clever and sophisticated bankers at HBOS and Royal Bank of Scotland did not know what to do. Fortunately, help was at hand from politicians across the world who helped provide lots of capital.  Poor President George Bush got caught up in everything.  There he was accusing Barack Obama of being a socialist, but at the same time doing what some commentators described as nationalisation.   Still never mind, I am sure he is enjoying spending more time on his branch.  The population of Iceland were outraged when they found out what happened.  The government fell.  And here in Britain?  It is pretty much business as usual really.  Nobody seems to be that outraged.  On the rare occasions when people do demonstrate they are confronted with a rather menacing police presence.

So much for clever bankers and politicians.  So I thought why not have a go myself and stand as a parliamentary candidate?  You will often hear the word “disgusting” when you talk to people around here in Rhondda Cynon Taff about politicians.  It is easy to be cynical.   There are still many, many good people in public life.   However, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that there is something not quite right with our political system.  The Pontypridd Labour Party recently selected a drugs lobbyist as their paliamentary candidate and no one batted an eyelid.

Will I be able to change anything?  Not on my own, but if enough people cast cynicism aside perhaps we can change things for the better: yes we cynon! 

To find out how things are going keep an eye on my totally public Face Book account:

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Vote for Me!

August 2, 2009

Observing the political situation I was wondering how much better the world would be if I were in parliament.

So I thought to myself “why not stand for election to the House of Commons?”

Unfortunately, it is not quite as simple as that and I have some forms to fill in. I’ll let you know how I get on …..

Change your life in three days with Christopher Howard (with a little help from a nutritional therapist)

August 2, 2009
If you attend our $1000 seminar we will shoot you ......

If you attend our $1000 seminar we will shoot you ......

Back in December 2006 a Christmas card arrived through the letter box.  It was from a nutritional therapist.  I bet that makes you jealous doesn’t it?  Well, the card was from a fully qualified member of Patrick Holford’s Institute for Optimum Nutrition.  So there.  You may not think the Nutrionista religion allows them to celebrate Christmas.  Well they do, just not the same way as everyone else.  In with the card was the most expensive present anyone has ever given me. There was a ticket to attend an event that would change my life in three days.  Normally the charge would be £695, but since my friend was recommending me I would get to go totally free of charge!  Wow.

So in March 2007 I turned up at the Excel centre in London to listen to lifestyle coach Christopher Howard who was coming over from the United States of America to help me change my destiny.  On signing up I had to declare that I did not have any mental health problems.  It seemed of an odd thing for them to ask.  I also had to confirm that I would not disrupt proceedings.  I have to confess I lied and put my signature in the right place.  The challenge was on: (1) not to let on to anyone how weird I was and (2) not to cause any trouble.  Surely if anyone did upset the organisers they would refund the value of their £695 ticket ehhhh readers?

It seemed to be a less exclusive event that I thought it would be.  There must have been more than 2000 of us in the hall just waiting for our lives to be transformed.  Before Chris arrived there was a warm up act from a former Australian doctor now working as a key member of the team.  At the side of the room were young people known as “The Crew” dressed in black T-shirts.  Their job seemed to be to look enthusiastic and run around.   Then Chris arrived to a raptuous reception.  Obviously, he was a good looking 40-something American.  He told us a little bit about his life.  Apparently in his younger days he had been stuggling, but then started attending seminars which helped to revolutionise his life. It all reminded me of an exhibition I attended in Nuremberg a couple of years before.

We were then asked to “buddy” up with the person next to us.  By getting their Mobile telephone number we could provide each other with support.  Unfortunately, the “buddy” I found was a young Italian who had heard it all before and said he was going to leave.  Oh dear.

At various points during the week end Christopher gave us pearls of wisdom.  He seemed interested in quantum physics and quoting from Jung and Gandhi.   Where Chris had learnt about these subjects was very unclear as he told us that he had left school at the earliest possible age.  Possibly his education had been derived entirely from training seminars.  Every so often some one would be called up to the stage for a bit of special personal attention.  Two people stand out.  One was a cage fighter.  I cannot remember the exact technique, but I think he was told to close his eyes and visualise himself winning the fight.    This rather went against the grain of the cuddly image of the self-help movement!  Later in the day Chris helped a single parent who worked part-time to change her life.  She seemed a bit lacking in confidence that Chris’ advice would work.  Funnily, enough he did not advise her to join a trade union, political party or campaign for better training and child care facilities.

I certainly met a number of interesting characters over the three days.   One of them was a postman who wanted to be be a life coach.  Not such a bad career choice as he would certainly know the way wouldn’t he?  Unfortunately, he had been off sick for the last six months.  How the course was aiding his recovery was most unclear.  In another practical session I found myself paired up with some one else who worked as some kind of a life coach.  He offered a bit of one-to-one tuition.  Excellent.  I told him a bit about my life. He suggested possible solutions.  Apparently, it was all about whether we as individuals were cause or effect.  He had decided that I was just an effect.  No matter what I suggested about future plans he always told me that I was an effect.   Fortunately, the session was over before I could become the cause of him having a black eye.  My partner in the next session was also a life coach, though she seemed a much more sympathetic character.  Her response to everything I said was: “Wow. That sounds great. You go for it.”  This proves I suppose that if you are not happy with your life coach just change the coach rather yourself!

Of course three days was not sufficient to change.  It was necessary to come back for more.  Unfortunately, there seemed to be costs involved.  However, by signing up that day we could make serious savings.  The most interesting seminar being offered was the Billionaire Boot Camp which offered the chance to get you inside the mind of a billionaire.  How they would do that or why you would want to be inside the mind of a billionaire was left unexplained.  Chris kept telling us that if we followed his techniques we would have loads of money and be able to live the life of our dreams.  All we had to do was follow the principles of NLP.  Unfortunately, by the end of the seminar I was still unclear what exactly his techniques were.  One could well understand how a vulnerable person could sign up in the expectation of being initiated further in to the mysteries of NLP.

As the seminar closed I was pondering on what I had learnt over the last few days.  I then heard a voice and looked across and saw a smiling young woman

I have been looking for you

Have you now

I walked on not really paying much attention as my mind was on other things.  It then struck that the friendly who had just spoken to me was the sympathetic who had seemed so enthusiastic about my life a couple of days before.  There was only one thing for it.  I had to go back in to the hall, find her, invite her out to dinner, be coached and live happily ever after.  Unfortunately, the hall was filled with several thousand life coaches so finding my friend would have been like looking for a needle in a haystack.    There is a moral to this story, but for the life of me I can’t think what it is ….

 

Food Doctor Bagels – Are they Kosher?

June 14, 2009

Sometimes people ask whether I can think of anything positive to say about Patrick Holford and the Institute for Optimum Nutrition.

Well, every cloud has a silver lining as they say and I have to confess to having been a real fan of The Food Doctor’s bagels.  Though something happened to them about three months ago.  They and the pitta bread seemed to disappear.  It was impossible to find them in Wales and when I went to England on a visit I could not find them there either.  Relecutantly, I slowly started to consider that I might have to find another type of bagel.

However, last week there they were in my local Tesco.  So with joy I bought a packet of pitta bread and bagels!  But there seemed to be something a bit different about them.  The bagels I was familiar with had the letters KLBD on them meaning, of course, that they had been certified by the Kashrut division of the London Beit Din.  Have they lost their kosher certification?  Also, if I remember correctly the sodium contact of the old bagels was .23 or .26g.  However, the new ones have 0.3g which should mean – according to my copy of Nutrition for Dummies – that the salt content is .75g.  (To calculate salt content you multimply the sodium content by 2.5)  However, they list the salt content as 0.9g.  Is something nutritionally strange going on here or can some one just not add up?

I’ll try to give them a call later in the week about the salt content and kosher certification.  Until then I’ll be buying The New York Bakery Co’s multi-seed bagels which come in packs of five rather than four, have 0.8g of salt and are 5p a pack a cheaper.

Cycling in the Rhondda Valley

June 14, 2009

Last year I did a post on some research at the University of Cambridge that proved exercise and healthy eating could lead to a long life.  It was the theme of Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science that celebrity nutritionists often unnecessarily complicate things with their attempts to make us eat so-called super foods and go on expensive detox diets.

By making little changes over the long term we can lead healthier lives.

Having recently moved to a new area I wondered how I could that in to opertion in my own life.  As luck would have it there was poster in Pontypridd library advertising a Sunday morning cycle ride organised by the local council.  So earlier this morning I cycled up to the Rhondda Heritage Park.  It was closer than I thought so, for once, I was early.  I took the opportunity to have a look at the exhibition inside.  It told the story of how difficult life was miners in the 19 and 20th centuries.  Certainly it was difficult to see what good a detox diet would have done.  Archie Cochrane’s autobiography “One Man’s Medicine” tells the story of how his interest in evidence-based medicine began in the Rhondda.

People started to arrive at the heritage park. For just £1.50 you could hire a bicycle and helmet for the ride.  For the next two hours  we were taken up and down hills and tracks.  It seemed an excellent way to meet new people and also get fit.  (As you know from one of my previous posts I am always very keen to meet new people!)  The leaders provided excellent advice on how to cycle better.  Thanks to Rhondda Cynon Taff council for putting the event on.  There was even water and squash provided at the end of the ride.  Certainly I never experienced anything like that back in the south-east of England.  It seemed like a cheap and easy initiative to get people fit and healthy.

Why not see if something similar is going on in your area or try to set something up if there isn’t?

The Death of Celia Wright

June 14, 2009

Do you remember Brian and Celia Wright?  Patrick Holford mentions them in The Optimum Nutrition Bible as being a great influence on him.  They worked together for many years. Until September 2007 Brian and Celia’s company sold lots of vitamin pills with Patrick’s face on them.  In return he would market their pills through his website.    After reading Optimum Nutrition for the Mind in early 2007 I bought some pills that would enable me to have a grear memory and concentration.  Unfortunately, they did not seem to work.  Anyway, buying the products meant that ever since I have been on their mailing list.  In fact being all the mailing list meant I found out that Patrick and the Wright’s had parted company.  In October 2007  Holford Watch blog announced this to the world.  Can’t think who told them.

Every month Mrs Wright would write an editorial for the readers.  Often it was nothing to do with with nutrition.  I do remember one of human rights in modern Britain.  However, the editorial in the March or April magazine was penned by Brian for once.  He announced that Celia was ill though did not go in to much detail.  He went on to say that they were making use of alternative remedies to help with the treatment.  I was quite incensed and nearly wrote a letter of complaint.  He almost seemed to be advocating alternative medicine as a means of treating cancer.

However, I am glad I did not put my foot in it because recently the May edition of Higher Nature’s magazine arrived.  Neither Wright had any hand in the editorial, but it was written by one of their staff who informed us that Celia was no longer with us.  This came as a quite a shock to me.  It must be very sad for her immediate family, friends and the staff at Higher Nature.  I’ll certainly miss the editorials even though they often had me tut, tutting in my breakfast cereal.

May you rest in peace

The Blog is now unpacked

June 14, 2009

Hallo dear Readers!

Any welcome back.  It has been a long time and I did wonder whether I should return to blogging.

You see I have left the south-east of England with its expensive houses and crowded train for the green valleys of south Wales.

Now I could spend all my free time surfing internet dating sites in search of nutritional therapists, admiring the view from my window and exploring the river Taff. However, that would be rather selfish and superficial wouldn’t it?  As you know I am not like that.  In Buddhist mythology there are being known as Bodhisattva, who although being enlightened spiritual beings choose not to enter Nirvana, but rather return to the material plane to help others obtain enlightenment.

That so that’s what I am doing now readers. I am back with a vengeance so prepare to be enlightened ….

One coincidence after another …

December 21, 2008

Do you remember dear readers how I told you about my seminar with Patrick Holford? Well he was very pleased that Health Products for Life were able to attend. What a coincidence that they were free that evening! They were selling plastic containers with Patrick’s face on them. They were filled with pills coincidentally recommended by Patrick. Mrs Holford was running a book store at the back of the hall. It just so happened all the books were written by her husband.

I have experienced a number of coincidences recently as well. Recently I learnt that David Colquhoun will be in Oxford on the afternoon of Saturday 07 February 2009. Rather coincidentally it appears Andy Lewis of the Quackometer blog will be in town at the same time. Even more bizarrely Oxford Town Hall has a room available for hire on the very same afternoon. By a strange twist of fate I am free that afternoon as well and could bring some coffee and biscuits along if I can find any shops selling such items.

Possibly some of you will be in Oxford as well that day or would that be a coincidence too far ???

A man who really knew about coincidences was the late and much-lamented Professor Richard Feynman:

You know, the most amazing thing happened to me tonight. I was coming here, on the way to the lecture, and I came in through the parking lot. And you won’t believe what happened. I saw a car with the license plate ARW 357. Can you imagine? Of all the millions of license plates in the state, what was the chance that I would see that particular one tonight? Amazing…

Enjoying your food

December 7, 2008

Were you aware that it was recently British Food Fortnight a celebration of British food producers? In this country we are often guilty of selling ourselves short when it comes to food in favour of supposedly superior products from other countries. According to the British Food Fortnight website Britain now produces more cheese than France! Yesterday, I purchased a very nice looking chilli and lime condiment from my local farm shop. I am very looking forward to trying it out on my next Chinese stir fry. I also got myself a bottle of Satan’s Sister – that’s a bottle of beer in case any of you are wondering! There seem to an awful lot of small independent breweries round here producing high quality real ales. I’ll report back to you when I have got through them ..

If you are a supporter of ex-professor Patrick Holford and the Food for the Brain Foundation you may have missed British Food Fortnight. You would have thought they would have been keen on promoting healthy, wholesome and nutritious British food. Apparently not as they have certainly not sent out any emails promoting it recently. Perhaps the commission being offered was not high enough? I found a very interesting article on The Guardian website which made me wonder if celebrity nutritionists actually like food very much. Journalist Rachel Cooke went to interview Gillian McKeith. (Her full correct academic title as Ben Goldacre pointed out is actually Gillian McKeith.) She gained the impression that, dare we say it, Dr [sic] McKeith was not very healthy:

She is famously tiny woman, but even so, there is something papery about her skin; when she shakes my hands, I feel bones wrapped in parchment. She would no doubt laugh out loud at the suggestion that she is absolutely famished but, beyond all the wild enthusiasm and the preaching and the ‘positive energy’, this is precisely what she radiates. She looks hungry.

After listening to Dr [sic] McKeith Ms Cooke concludes that:

the real problem with her is that she is so anti-life. Food is about history, and culture, and ritual (…) there is so little that is celebratory ..

I very much enjoy visiting Basingstoke Farmers’ Market. It would be great to take ex-professor Holford there with me. How about a bottle of English apple juice? No too much sugar! Or some freshly made doughnuts? Also too much sugar. For some reason he seems to have a grudge against sugar. How about some minced beef or pork sausages. No, meat is unhealthy for reasons not too clear. How about some Cotswold cheese? No, apparently you will develop a dairy allergy if you eat too much. Ahhh yes, he does like his berries doesn’t he? Raspberry Mr Holford?

Michael Pollan in his recent book In Defence of Food suggests there is a real problem with he calls nutritionalism:

In the case of nutritionism, the widely shared but unexamined assumption is that the key to understanding food is indeed the nutrient. Put another way: Foods are essentially the sum of their nutrient parts.” (In Defence of Food, p.28)

He goes on to declare:

[P]eople don’t eat nutrients; they eat foods, and foods can behave very differently from the nutrients they contain.

He then goes on talk about how certain supplements may actually increase mortality. Do you remember the Cochrane Collaboration’s report earlier this year?

The quest of our celebrity nutritionist friends, people like Patrick Holford and Gillian McKeith is to find the ideal combination of nutrients to create the ideal diet. If that were genuinely possible you would possibly expect to find that different kind of diets would produce different health outcomes. Unfortunately, this does not appear to be the case. Human beings appear to be able to survive on a wide variety of diets. Think of the Greeks and the so-called Mediterranean diet, Scottish crofters and their oats or the Inuit who eat a diet rich in fish. Pollan coins an interesting term when discussing the current nutritional related health problems in the western world: the Western Diet. The Western Diet is high in processed food. Are celebrity nutritionists part of the solution to this problem? Down at my local supermarket you can find a Gillian McKeith Vitamin C bar. Can you think of better sources of vitamin C? Possibly you might like to buy an orange? However, according to Ben Goldacre our friend ex-professor Holford believes some supermarket oranges do not contain any vitamin C. (It is there in black and white in the latest edition of The Optimum Nutrition Bible.) Rather coincidentally, you can get some vitamin C pills from Health Products for Life the company he recently sold to Biocare for £464,000 Goldacre invites Holford to send a vitamin C-free orange to him care of his publishers. (Note – send the orange to Ben NOT me.) Truly I hope things have not quite got that bad! Pollan points out:

Most consumers automatically assume that the word “organic” is synonamous with health, but it makes no difference to your insulin metabolism if the high-fructose corn syrup in your soda is organic. (In Defence of Food, p.178)

Nearly a year ago The World Cancer Research published a report Food, Nutrition, Physical Acitivity, and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective on lifestyle and cancer. The idea was to do a systematic review and look at all the available data on lifestyle and cancer, though readers of The Daily Mail could be forgiven for thinking the report was simply about demonizing bacon! Their conclusions tie in very well with what Pollan recommend in “In Defence of Food”, for example,

limit consumption of processed food with added salt (p. xx).

The report informs us

Rates of overweight and obesity doubled in many high-income countries between 1990 and 2005” (p. xvii)

It is very depressing that having conquered malnutrition in the Western world many of us are eating ourselves to death. The sad thing is that celebrity nutritionists and their army of admirers are playing on our fears. For example, Dr [sic] Gillian McKeith offers us a detox potion available for more than £15 from our local supermarket. So what can we do?

Be subversive. Don’t pill buy the pills and potions offered by the lifestyle gurus. Eat lots of fresh fruit, vegetables and wholegrains. Check out local suppliers who you might miss if you rely on supermarket advertising. Get a bit of exercise. (In a few weeks I’ll tell you how to get 40% off the retail value of a bicycle.) Above all cook your own meals from scratch then you’ll be the one doing all the processing! Possibly you could even grow your own vegetables or better still get them from a member of your family who does. Enjoy your meal !!

A Letter to Oxfordshire County Council Education Services

November 22, 2008

Ms X
Head of Adult Education Services
Oxfordshire County Council

22 November 2008

Dear Ms X

I was interested to read the section on complementary therapies in the latest brochure of Oxfordshire County Council adult education services. I hope you are willing to answer a few questions.

A frequent criticism of practitioners of complementary therapies is that they often claim to be able to cure particular medical conditions even when there is no evidence to support what they are saying. For example, on page 42 you are offering a course in kinesiology a belief system which has no basis in science. What steps does Oxfordshire County Council take to ensure tutors on complementary medicine courses are not making false or fraudulent claims about the treatments they offer? Indeed, how do you recruit tutors?

You are doubtless aware of the case of Dawn Page who suffered brain damage after visiting the Oxfordshire nutritional therapist, Barbara Nash. (See http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/2380792.detox_diet_led_to_brain_damage/ to read the full story.) I note that you are offering courses led by a local nutritional therapist. If any harm were to befall a student following advice given by one of your tutors the council might possibly be held liable. At the very least I think you should consider adding a disclaimer to the courses, something along the lines of: “Our complementary medicine courses are for information and entertainment only. If you have a medical problem please see a GP or nurse at your local health centre.”

Finally, I should very much like to know how much public subsidy is being used to support these courses. Presumably the true cost per person of, for example, “Crystals & Herbs for Health” on page 41 is not £33.

I very much look forward to hearing from you soon.

Yours sincerely

Lee Thacker