Notes from the Green Party MEP for East of England. Biographical reflections on life as an MEP. Longer reflections and discussions on issues relating to policy, the good life, justice, equality, anti-austerity economics and the future of the planet. This is also a forum for exchanging ideas on how to tread lightly on the planet and avoid supporting exploitation and corrupt practices. Here we go...

Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Things useful for the task of bringing up children without a car

Besides a pram, we used to find a baby sling useful.

Before the baby can sit up there's no way of carrying it on a bicycle, but you can strap it to your body and ride a bicycle with the baby held firmly to your front. The sling needs to be one that holds the baby's wobbly head in position, and won't drop baby out as you whizz round corners.

I think nowadays people sometimes use one of those trailers that goes behind a bicycle and maybe you can put the baby to lie down in it, or put a car-seat type baby carrier in it.

I think it's debatable whether that's safer than a baby sling. I'm not sure I'd terribly want to cycle on the road with baby in a trailer down there behind, where the cars can't see.

The flag at the back rather suggests that the parent is not entirely confident that the cars won't just drive over it.

Tuesday, 27 February 2007


Results of anti-soya chocolate investigations shows the following ranking.

First prize to Traidcraft Organic Swiss Made Chocolate. The Cappuccino variety is heavenly, despite containing some vegetable oils. Other varieties sampled so far are also delicious: the milk chocolate version has nothing but wholesome ingredients.

These chocolate bars contain no emulsifier at all.

Runners up:
Plamil Organics, non-dairy and gluten free. Contains sunflower lecithin.
Peter Rabbit Organics. Seems to be designed for children, but is sadly dairy free and made with fructose not sucrose. Contains sunflower lecithin.

Flavour not wonderful in either case, doubtless due to the lack of the yummy bits like sugar and milk.

Also ran:
Tesco value chocolate, contains lecithin from Rapeseed. The flavour is fine, but I don't really approve of rape plantations, or of Tesco.

Monday, 26 February 2007

Heating 5

I've been doing some experiments with my electricity consumption in Norwich. For two weeks (one cold and one mild) I kept the heater in the living room on all the time instead of on a time switch. I used 266 units of electricity in the cold week and 198 in the mild week. Last week, which was mild, I had it on the time switch. I used 119 units.

This suggests that it is more economical to have it on only some of the time. HOWEVER this doesn't take any account of my gas consumption (the more I use the gas fire, the more the electric heater will switch off). So I really ought to read my gas meter as well.

How complicated.

What this is all leading to is my wondering whether the best solution to being a bit greener about my energy would be to install a wind turbine, rahter than have some gas central heating. Because basically it takes quite a lot of energy to heat the place, and whether that's electricity or gas it is using precious resources and giving off greenhouse gases unless I can find a way to secure some renewable energy to feed it. I've got a pile of logs in the garden, but the gas fire occupies the place where I'd burn logs so that's not an option right now.

Things calculated to make a cyclist angry

Speed Humps

Example: the new work on the Avenues in Norwich.

Where there used to be a bicycle lane there is now no bicycle lane, but rather a series of terrible humps and a 20 mph speed limit, which is a volatile combination that causes the motor traffic to be a serious nuisance to bicycles, and bikes to be a serious hazard to motors.

Here, for instance, in the space of three minutes are some of the consequences.

1 The humps are placed such that a car must squeeze in close to the left to get a wheel either side of the hump. As a bike approaches a hump, the car behind must hang back to wait until after the bike has gone past.

2 If the motor vehicle chooses not to hang back and wait, it may pass the cycle at the hump by travelling on the wrong side of the road. However, since it is limited to 20 mph it will need to spend some considerable time on the other side.

3. If there is traffic coming in the opposite direction, overtaking on the right is not an option. The motor vehicle must stay behind.

4 However, 20 mph is not sufficient speed to pass a sequnce of cyclists between humps. If the cycles are travelling at 10 or 12 mph and the motor vehicle is travelling at 20 mph it will not have time to pass even one cyclist, let alone several, before coinciding with a cyclist at the next hump.

In order to get past, then, the motor vehicle is obliged to move out to the right hand side of the road and accelerate as fast as possible, rush past the cyclists on the wrong side of the road, and then swerve urgently into the extreme left, cutting in in front of a cyclist, so as to have its wheels square on either side of the left hump.

5 The alternative is to drive on the right hand side of the road at break neck speed the whole length of the Avenues, hoping that nothing will come in the opposite direction.

It is, of course, also impossible for cyclists to overtake each other between the humps. In the three minutes I spent getting these photos I didn't catch one of the problems that ensue for the cyclist who needs to get past a slower moving cyclist. Maybe in another post...

Saturday, 24 February 2007

Tescos train

Good news that Tescos are moving goods by train (so I discovered from a leaflet they sent round recently). It's a bit hard to discover any details on their web site, other than a press release from May last year. There's also a report in the Guardian from the same time which claims that Asda do so too and have been doing so for longer. It also looks as though Tesco were talking only about non-food products.

Still, maybe if I'm looking for ways to justify the occasional visit to my local Tesco Metro (which has quite appalling lorries cluttering up the narrow lanes in Norwich, especially in the morning when I'm trying to squeeze past on a bike), perhaps I can add the expectation of more train transport to the list of plausible excuses?

Sad news on the Urban Farm Shop

I tried to go to the Urban Farm Shop to buy cooking apples today and found that it has shut down. Alas.

Reflections on why it was not a success: one would be its opening hours. It opened too late in the morning. For instance, on a Saturday morning, you couldn't go there first, to buy whatever was obtainable there, and then finish your shopping at the market or the supermarket. But it didn't make sense to do it the other way round, because the range available at the Farm Shop was more limited, and you didn't know what to hope for there.

Also, unlike the Green Grocers, it was not in close proximity to a supermarket or other staple shops, so you couldn't go there in the knowledge that everything you needed could be bought in the vicinity.

Also I think that because of the late opening hour it must have missed out on the mothers taking their children to school, who should have been able to go to school with little Billy, carrying his book folder and lunch box, leave him there and go back empty handed, stopping on the way to buy the vegetables and meat for the evening meal. You don't want to do that shopping when you fetch little Billy from School in the afternoon, because then you have an arm full of his gym kit, lunch box, the paintings he has to take home for the kitchen wall and the invitation thrust into your hand by Emily's mother outside the school gates. Also you need to hold Billy's hand. So doing the shopping then is much less satisfactory than the morning slot after you've dropped Billy at School. So if you open your shop at 10 a.m. you've missed the key moment, if your shop is on the prime route to the primary school.

Thursday, 22 February 2007

Parking £3.20 all day

Parking £3.20 all day.

This is what it says on a large sign facing the railway just outside Norwich station.
It's obviously addressed to people travelling on the train. I assumed initially that this must be to allow commuters who catch the train from Norwich to see that they could park their car near the station for the day and then take the train (to London, say). It now occurs to me that it might be addressing those who commute into Norwich from Norfolk, Suffolk or wherever, suggesting that you could travel by car instead and here's a place to park that will be just as good as coming in by train.

I imagine some people whose train ticket costs more than £3.20 a day might be tempted to think they'd save some money that way. It's a sad situation that many people seem to judge their happiness and well-being by the immediate amount of money going in and out of their purses in obvious, measurable amounts.

One morning last week on Radio Norfolk there was another example of that. It was a discussion of the declining quality and increasing cost of the bus service. It's true that the service is declining and the ticket prices have risen sharply. That is at least partly due to the government cutting the grants that assist with provision of services to rural communities. Such is the government's commitment to the environment, and supporting efforts towards sustainable lifestyles.

But however much one laments the failure to subsidise country buses, here is a very stupid thought, uttered by one of the listeners who phoned in:

"The car park costs less than the bus fare so it's cheaper to drive in than to take the bus."

How many mistakes is this person making when she thinks like that?

Saturday, 17 February 2007

Borsch (at last)

I'm not 100% sure this is the recipe we usually use (and the professor, who might know for sure, is out as usual). But it's from a book that is 100% reliable and it's not too complicated. It also seems to me to be familiar, unlike others I found in the many useless, fussy and complicated books that clutter up the kitchen shelf.

This recipe is from Clare Walker and Gill Coleman, The Home Gardener's Cookbook, Penguin Books 1980. On matters regarding copyright see the note at the foot of this Blog.

I have adjusted the wording and provided only imperial measures (let me know if you prefer metric). The measures are British measures not American ones.

Serves 6 to 8 people.

1 lb uncooked beetroot, leaves and stalks removed.
2 1/2 pints of stock
1 small carrot
1 medium onion
6 oz cabbage
1 bouquet garni
salt and pepper
Juice of half a lemon
sour cream (one tablespoon per person)

Wash the beetroots carefully (this time you need to get all the mud off but don't peel them yet).
Put them in a large saucepan with the stock.

Peel and dice the carrot and onion. Wash and finely shred the cabbage. Add all the vegetables to the saucepan with the bouquet garni and the salt and pepper.

Cover the pan and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for two hours until the beetroots are cooked.

Remove the beetroots from the soup and leave them to cool slightly. Remove the bouquet garni from the soup and discard it.

Top and tail the beetroot and peel off the skins. Dice the flesh and add three quarters of it to the soup. Purée the soup (e.g. in a liquidiser or through a seive).

Add the lemon juice to the puréed soup. Throw in the remaining diced beetroot.

Just before serving, bring the soup back to the boil (make sure it is well heated through if it has been left for a while). Serve hot in bowls, with a spoonful of sour cream dropped gently into the centre of each bowl.

Things calculated to make a cyclist angry

  1. Putting in a cycle lane but making no provision to discourage motorists from parking in it, even at times of day when children need to ride to school. (Example, Gilbert Road in Cambridge, shown in this picture).
  2. Road signs that assume that the only road users are motorists. This includes signs that say that a road is a dead end, when in fact it is a through route for cyclists, or indeed a recommended route for cyclists to take them off the main roads. (Example: Herbert Street, George Street and Chesterton Hall Crescent all of which are recommended routes for cyclists to get from Chesterton Road to Milton Road avoiding Mitcham's Corner). These photos are from See below for note on my blatant use of copyright material without permission.
  3. Cycle lanes provided where the road is perfectly wide enough anyway, but which come to an end as soon as the road becomes too narrow for a car and a cycle together, or where the road has been made too narrow for that because provision has been made for more lanes for the cars, and none for the bikes.
Example, Maid's Causeway.

This photo is copyright © Keith Thomson (Find it on

Would copyright owners please contact me if they object to my use of their pictures; otherwise I shall assume it is acceptable to reproduce them here.

Friday, 16 February 2007

My guilty secrets

What I bought in Tescos today and where I should have bought them...

  1. Organic cider in a box (like a wine box, only cider). Not sure where you could get this: perhaps a proper wine shop.
  2. Bananas, reduced for quick sale. These should have been Fairtrade but weren't. I could have got them from the market, not necessarily at reduced price. But if I hadn't bought them, probably Tescos would end up throwing them away...
  3. Apples, a weird sort of green English apples that I've never seen before. They're called Greenstar, and they appeared to say they were grown in Kent. I bought them because I'm a trifle bored with coxs, and although the professor likes russets best, I'm not so very fond because they're too dry for my liking. I very much like Granny Smiths. However it irritates me that the only Granny Smiths you can get in the winter are from France (why apples from France, I ask you?). Well here are some green apples from England. I presume they ripened in the Autumn and have been waxed and kept in carbon dioxide. They may prove to be horrid. I haven't tried one yet: I'll report back. As for where else I might get them, well I'm pretty sure I wouldn't find exactly those anywhere. But the place one should buy local English fruit is the Urban Farm Shop.
  4. White bread from the instore bakery. This I should have made at home, or failing that I should have gone to the local independent bakery baking on the premises on Norfolk Street or on Burleigh Street. But I was a bit late in the day for that.
  5. Traditional chutney. This I should have made at home, or failing that I should have bought it at the Urban Farm Shop.
  6. Two special treats from the Reduced for Quick Sale counter: one was some hummus and one was a kind of appetiser of mozzarella and oven-baked tomatoes. These I just wouldn't have gone anywhere to buy, because they weren't necessary.
The only reason I actually went to Tescos was to get a loaf of warm freshly baked bread in time for lunch, which I couldn't do if I made it myself. Lunch ended up a bit late, but it was yummy, and the extras I got made the day a bit more fun than it might have been.

I also earned double green clubcard points for the organic items and for the fact that I used my own shopping bag. I think Tescos should be commended for providing an incentive to encourage their customers to change their habits in both those aspects.

Things useful for the task of bringing up children without a car

Besides the pram and the toddler seat, by the time the baby is about five months old you need a back rest for the pram (couldn't find a picture of one of these) and a baby harness.

The back rest for the pram is a kind of board with three pieces, which fold round and clip together to make a triangle. This goes in behind the baby when the baby is sitting up (but when the baby needs to sleep you take it out and flatten it and put it in the tray under the pram, or at the foot or whatever). My feeling is that there's something important in developmental terms about this hard back rest, because the baby sits up on a firm base and against a firm support and learns to exercise the lower back muscles to keep balance. This must be expecially good practice if the pram is in motion. Someone ought to do a study to see if children who ride in a real pram between six months and a year learn to walk earlier than those who slouch in a stroller.

I think maybe some prams have a back rest built in, which folds up or down.

And I believe the really old prams with the cavernous coach built body (like the one I myself occupied on my earliest outings) had a removable board in the middle of the base, so that when you removed the matterss and removed the loose board, the pram became two child seats facing each other, with space in the centre for the child's legs to drop down into the body of the pram.

The harness, of course, is for safety, once the child is capable of getting about in various ways by itself. You need one for the baby in the pram and one for the toddler on the toddler seat.

This picture, by the way, is not a picture of me but just a random picture I found on the web.

The toddler seat is also important for child development, not for physical co-ordination but for IQ. You have a conversation with the toddler as you push the pram.
(How very different from the lack of contact with a child in a forward facing pushchair!)

Half term at Tescos

Foolishly I went to Tescos this afternoon (Shock Horror!!).

Lots of families had evidently decided that since it was the last day of half term, and quite a nice day, one should have an outing with the children. Tescos on the Newmarket Road was a popular destination.

The crowds were unbelievable. The children were dawdling round the aisles and peering into freezer boxes. Most of the adult world seems also to have decided to take their lunch break there.

I was not quite sure what the attraction was. I suppose it is maybe a bit like the zoo?

Wednesday, 14 February 2007

What does it mean to be green?

It means having to turn your waterproof trousers inside out to dry when you get to work.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Things useful for the task of bringing up children without a car

First, a pram.

It should have large wheels, so as to be comfortable to push for long distances and not bumpy on rough pavements or difficult at kerbs. It should have decent springs. It should have a sizable basket below for carrying large quantities of shopping and other clobber.

A pram like this will also take a child seat for the toddler, so that two children can be transported, and all that shopping too.

Twenty years ago it was possible to take a pram like this in the luggage van of a proper loco-hauled train. I remember taking our pram on the train from Cambridge to London, on a visit to the grandparents, though I have a rather dim memory of how we got from Liverpool Street (or was it King's Cross?) to Dulwich.

I suppose it may still be possible. Is it permissible to put a pram in the cycle storage area of a train? I'm not sure.

Monday, 12 February 2007

The smell of baby

Another thing that was mentioned on Radio Norfolk was the wonderful smell that a baby has— natural baby smell, so to speak.

Do you suppose we are naturally wired up to respond well to the smell of a baby? Or is it imprinting from our early years? Or is that the same thing?

And does nature give baby a special smell so that that happens? And if so, doesn't that also fit with the more general idea that, on the whole, it is best not to do too much to mask the natural smells that enable us to find our children and our mates and so on.

This (by the way) is connected to thoughts sparked off by a theory my mother has about matters to do with bathing, aftershave and the divorce rate. I think dotty theories probably run in the family.

Saturday, 10 February 2007

The smell of clothes brought in from the washing line

Sometime last week the breakfast show on Radio Norfolk indulged in a bit of reflection on what are the nicest smells and the ones that make you say "ah" when someone reminds you. Listeners were invited to phone in. A number of "ah" smells were mentioned, including (some I remember) the smell of lighting a match, the smell of rain on hot tarmac, the smell of newly mown grass, and the smell of pigs. I forget what the excuse was, though it might have been the fact that the scientists at UEA have decided that they've worked out what causes the smell of the seaside.

One smell that was mentioned, which I also agree is very special, was the smell of washing when it is brought in from hanging in the garden. I mention this here, because it is a smell that can't be achieved any other way, and it's not obvious that it would strike you as a lovely smell if you hadn't learnt to associate it with a particular set of positive experiences. I also mention it because it bears no resemblance whatever to the acrid and pungent scents that those who market washing powders and fabric conditioners describe as "laundry fresh" or "sunfresh". In fact it is a rather mellow and blunt kind of smell, with no sharp edges.

It's not clear to me whether you'd get this wonderful pure smell of fresh air and clean cotton in your laundry if you'd washed it in the detergents and conditioners that have those powerful pungent artificial scents in, the ones that cling to the laundry both wet and dry. Indeed the conditioners seem designed precisely to do that: they are made deliberately not to wash out at all.

Sometimes if I buy second hand clothes it takes several washes to get rid of the terrible smells of other people's washing powders. even blowing in the garden is of no use at all. You can't wear a garment until that smell has gone. It drives you mad.

I'm not sure how some people live with the terrible smell of the clothes and sheets and pillow cases and towels and all that, if they wash them with those pungent products. I used occasionally to stand next to someone in the choir who must have washed her clothes in that kind of stuff. Fortunately she's left now, but even the incense was not enough to smother the acrid pong. I presume that if one lives with that smell in the house and one's bed and one's wardrobe all the time, the brain shuts it out and no longer finds it offensive.

But does it inhibit sexual attraction? More on this anon.

Friday, 9 February 2007

Lychees again

By the way, the lychees came from Madagascar. In case you'd forgotten Madagascar is a large island some way off the west of Africa, with an amazing variety of otherwise unknown species of animals.
According to the World Bank 70% of the Malagasy live on less than $1 per day so one might try to justify buying their produce on the grounds that it helps.
Unfortunately I suspect in my case quite a bit of the 99p for the lychees went to Tescos profits, and some must have paid for the transport even if that was underpriced and didn't include any carbon taxes. Quite likely there's some agent who buys the stuff for Tescos too. So how much of my 99p got to the person who grew and picked the fruit? Alas, rather little. Perhaps a penny?


I haven't yet explained in detail what my negative views on soya are based on. But a Guardian article from July 25th 2006 gives some sense of the nightmare. See also Annie's theories (you have to read to the end of that post to discover the bit about soya).

But now here's another thought: perhaps the soya cloud has a silver lining?

I've just noticed, on re-reading the Guardian article, that it reports that 30-40% of babies in the USA are raised on soya formula. I take it this means 30-40% of babies, not 30-40% of bottle-fed babies (though I guess the few lucky ones fed at the breast may also have their milk heavily contaminated with soya isoflavones). So, assuming the boy and girl babies are both fed on it, this should mean that approaching 40% of US males will be infertile when they grow up. So providing we can ensure monogamous partnerships, and don't allow the girls to go round until they find a fertile male, this should mean that only just over half the population can have any children next generation round. If they continue to choose soya-based milk feeds or even increase their use, the next generation will be even smaller and only half of that generation will be fertile too. So the population will decline until the US is no longer a threat to world peace and stability, because the few real men there are will have to spend all their time trying to beget children, to stave off extinction.

Good God!

"Natural toothpaste"

I was delighted the other day to discover, while passing a few moments of idleness in the bathroom, that my Kingfisher Toothpaste is made not just in the UK but IN NORWICH. Or at least the firm that makes it is based in Norwich. Presumably, if that is where it is distributed from, it had not travelled too far to get to the Green Grocers, where I bought it.

(But actually it is impossible to discover where it's actually made and where it's distributed from).

As for the description "natural" one wonders what there can be that is not natural, if toothpaste is natural. For sure, it does not occur in nature, as far as I can discover.

The tube rather helpfully tells you what the ingredients are, what they are derived from and what they are for. One item is sodium laurel sulfate, derived from palm oil. I rather suspect we should not investigate too closely whether we approve of this ingredient.

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

My guilty secrets

There are some things I still do which I guess I shouldn't do. Here in no particular order are some of them.

(1) We still do a small amount of shopping at Tescos.

(2) I rather like drinking sparkling water at breakfast and after dinner, especially when I'm in a no-coffee phase. The water comes in plastic bottles.

(3) I occasionally go somewhere by plane, even when it's possible to go there by train.

(4) I sometimes drive to Wales and back just for fun.

(5) I have a bit of penchant for lychees (I bought some yesterday).

Probably there are others. I'll let you know when I have qualms about something else.

Now the question is, shall I try to justify and rationalise these weaknesses, so as to be able to live with them? Or shall I "offset them"? Or shall I try to get rid of them?

What does it mean to be green?

It means never having to scrape ice off the windscreen.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Heating 4

In Cambridge we've turned down the thermostat on the heating from 20º (that's roughly where we had it mostly last winter) to 19º. So far, not a problem, except that the way thermostats work it has to get down to quite a bit less than 19º before the heat comes on again. When the weather isn't very cold, the process of going down below 19º can take a very long time and we seem to sit at about 18º for ages. Then you get chilly, especially since you hadn't put on your largest woolly jumper, since it was a mild day. So ironically, it's warmer and more comfortable in cold weather than in mild weather. And this winter has been mainly composed of mild weather.

In Norwich I typically keep the panel heater set quite low, and on a time switch, and then use the coal fire to make the main living room feel warm when I'm there. The rest of the house is generally quite cold. The bathroom is always very cold, hopelessly cold.

Is this an efficient way to do it, I wonder? In 2005/6 the cost of gas and electricity for the Cambridge house was £873.79 and for the Norwich cottage it was £366.12. In Cambridge we have 9 warm rooms for that price; in Norwich we have one warm room (some of the time).

Umm. This might have something to do with double glazing and other things regarding insulation. I think I need to do some experiments. Would it be worthwhile installing central heating in Norwich I wonder?

Saturday, 3 February 2007

Heating 3

You'd think, with all those sources of heat, that my Norwich place would be warm.
After all it's only got one bedroom and one living room (and a bathroom and a little kitchen and a bit of a lean-to out the back that the estate agents fondly called a "dining room" haha).
So with eight heaters (not counting the oven etc, or the outdoor chimenea) that's about four per room, and you'd think I should end up being quite cosy.

Probably if I used all of them at once all the time it would be quite cosy, actually.

Help! Chocolate mountain!

Too many chocolates have soya lecithin in them!
I have five useless boxes of chocolates here, one started and four unstarted.

Can't bring myself to give them to anyone, because I don't like to pass on rubbish. (But if anyone wants to volunteer to relieve me of one, let me know).

Even Green and Blacks organic ones have the dreaded soya-based emulsifier. I must write to them and complain. Funny how they don't mention the dreaded soya gunk when they describe how they make it.

More on what's wrong with soya in future posts. Watch this space...

Bringing up children without a car

Two conversations yesterday evening prompt me to post on this theme.

A while back, cycling to work up Recreation Road in Norwich, I encountered a kind of mayhem even more extreme than the usual mayhem caused by people bringing their children to school at Heigham Park First School. Recreation Road is a steep hill, bottom gear variety. On this particular occasion I was struggling up this hill on my bicycle, but was brought to a halt due to the car in front of me having to stop. That was because a car coming down the hill had pulled up to stop and unload children where there were already parked cars on both sides, entrances to drive ways and other complications, in such a way as to prevent anyone from moving up or down the hill.

Stopping a cyclist on a steep hill is not popular. They say that whenever a cyclist is forced to stop and start off again it takes as much additional energy as if the journey were 100 metres longer, but that's presumably if you have to restart on the flat; I suspect that restarting on an up hill slope is quite a lot more.

In this case it wasn't just a matter of starting again. There wasn't actually room for me to continue my journey on the road. In fact I had to get off, walk my bike up the pavement, and get on again beyond the obstruction.

As I went past the mother unloading her child from the car, I asked her, in a rhetorical kind of way, why she didn't bring her children to school on foot. It's always struck me (on the times when I make the mistake of riding past that school at that time of the day) that the ones being unloaded from cars look fat and unhappy, while the ones being walked to school are chatty and lively with a lovely hubbub of conversation with their accompanying adult.

The mother with the badly parked car didn't offer me a reason for why she didn't bring her children on foot. She just said "you've obviously never had children!" as though it was obvious that if you had children you had to be late, in a hurry, shove them in a car, drive to school, yank them out of the car, drag them in to the school door and rush back to move the car, because it's causing an obstruction. No time for goodbyes. No time for conversation. No time to talk to the other parents. Just dump them and run. This is what bringing up children is all about.

Well, perhaps it was a bad day. But if you don't have a car at all, a bad day never looks like that. It may look like something else, but it never looks like that.

"Actually," I said, "I had two children, and we never had a car." By this time I was on my bike and gone. "Never once," I thought, "did my children go to school by car." In fact, of course, they never went to ballet by car, they never went to music lesson by car, they never went to orchestra by car.

Was anyone the worse off for that? Well, our life was not the life of a taxi driver, which seems to be what the life of many parents is these days. And their life was, as far as one can make out, certainly not worse for it. Perhaps, dare I say it, better? Some thoughts on why in due course.

Thursday, 1 February 2007

Beetroot in pink sauce

An old favourite from my childhood, rather less often used in our household for some years because our Elizabeth was always opposed to this kind of sauce.


Beetroot, as many as you like.

Traditional white sauce, made by the roux method with butter, flour and milk, and seasoned with salt.

No need to wash the beetroot unless they're thick with mud. If you do wash them don't damage the skin.

Boil the beetroot in sufficient water to cover them completely. About 45 minutes should be sufficient unless they're very large.

Towards the end of the cooking time, make the white sauce.

Drain the hot beetroot and find some way to hold them (e.g. a fork, or oven gloves, preferably some that are pink already) while you peel off the skin. If they're properly cooked this should fall away very easily with gentle rubbing. Cut off the ragged top and the long tail if there is one.

Slice the beetroot and add them to the white sauce. Warm them through, stirring until the sauce is nicely streaked with pink. Serve hot as a vegetable accompaniment.

This dish can also be made with left-over beets that have previously been boiled and peeled and stored in the fridge. In that case you'll need to warm them in the sauce for a little longer.