Muckdonalds and Yucky Fried Chicken

                Fast food is too cheap. It is also too easy to obtain and too gratifying. It creates weight gain, litters the streets with non bio-degradable cartons and contributes to health problems.

                When you walk past a ‘Macdonalds’, a ‘Pizza Express’ or a ‘Kentucky Fried Chicken’, how often is it unoccupied? The abundance of food takeaway outlets in any shopping street is testament to how popular they are. Not only does the country need to raise revenue to address the debt left by the bankers [who have not been asked to make recompense-but that is a different issue], but it needs to reduce the burden on the National Health Service. So why isn’t there a substantial tax on fast food?

                If fast food were taxed so that prices were in line with average restaurant prices, the revenue could be used in any number of ways. It could, for instance be used to subsidise the cost of fruit and vegetables; or it could supplement the support we currently provide to developing countries, where finding enough to eat is their problem, not overeating!

                It may be a generational thing, but I’m not tempted by Macdonalds or Burger King. I did try a ‘Big Mac’ once or twice, but the experience was akin to chewing on a piece of lumpy rubber sandwiched between two bath sponges, accompanied by a bag of nasty, salty, fatty, greasy little sticks. I tried the ‘root beer’ –a strange, straw coloured liquid tasting vaguely of chemicals. We have been lured into Macdonalds on occasions when travelling by their claims of free internet access. We would only need to purchase a coffee to use the facility. Sadly, though, the access is rarely available. It has usually ‘crashed’ or the signal is too weak to get an email or anything else. The coffee, to be fair, is palatable.

                Similarly, I tend not to choose pizza when dining out. What an incredible profit there must be on these large circles of stodge and fat, for there to be so many pizza outlets and takeaways! It must be the easiest, cheapest way to make a buck in the food world! A couple of weeks ago, on a whim, I thought I’d give pizza making a go. I’d made versions of pizzas with children before, but using bread mixes, grated cheddar and such items as might be transfigured into ‘faces’ and so on. This time I was going to make proper, grown up pizzas with mozzarella et al. I used a BBC recipe. Reader-it was easy. Even the bases, formed from a yeasty dough mix, were simple.

                And what about the famous Colonel’s chicken? The advertising alone is enough to induce a grimace. There is nothing recognisably ‘chicken’ about the images, which portray blobby orange lumps protruding from bags or boxes and accompanied by the ubiquitous, greasy, stick-like ‘fries’.

                I believe if apples were to be individually encased in gaudy packaging that also included a plastic action figure toy they would become objects of desire to children. But shouldn’t kids be wanting to eat because they are hungry and because the food they are offered is delicious?

OK. Rant over. Blogging makes me hungry. I’m off to see what’s in the fridge…

The Great Land Grab

                That waterside properties have become so popular is surprising, when you take all the floods into account. You would think people would be seeking homes on top of mountains by now.

                I don’t know when, exactly, a home with a view over water became an object of desire but when we bought our sea front house seventeen years ago its proximity to the sea was not mentioned in the advert at all. I first spotted a black and white picture of part of it in the local property rag, a blurred shot of the front door and surrounding brickwork, looking like a house on an [admittedly well kept] council estate. It was not until we made a trip to view the exterior that we realised only a road and a zig-zag cliff path separated it from the beach.

                Since then we have seen a gradual but accelerating rebuilding of the properties along our road, every family home that is demolished being replaced by an apartment block, the plans endorsed by a council eager to meet the government’s targets for new homes, as well as satisfy the clamorous desire for living by some water. There is nothing wrong with apartments. In most heavily populated parts of the world they have become the solution to housing. Almost everyone living in Hong Kong has a lovely view of Victoria Harbour, albeit sandwiched in a flat somewhere within a forty story plus block.

                The UK is not short of homes. There are many empty houses. They are in places like Stoke on Trent, where last August there were 5,000 empty ones. Terraced hovels can be bought for £1 provided certain conditions are met, but don’t get romantic ideas of stupendous views or chocolate box cottages because you have to renovate them, live there for five years and find some kind of employment in order to get a door on to the street and maybe a back yard. I’d have settled for that for a first home, though.

                So as more of us want to squeeze into any, tiny gap by a river, lake, harbour or beach, less of us want to take up residence in a dilapidated back-to-back terrace in a rundown northern industrial zone.

                There are rumours that here, along the seafront, the last remaining pub-hotels are due to be demolished, presumably to make way for still more apartment blocks; the revenue from such developments more than any publican, hotelier or hotel chain could make in their wildest dreams. Two more, nearby hostelries have been developed into flats in the last two years and another is ‘pending’. What’s next, as the availability of land in desirable areas becomes less? My vote goes to football pitches, and then to churches and churchyards, followed closely by betting shops, snooker halls, MacDonalds, Little Chefs and Pizza Huts…unless you feel differently?