Bloody heroes

Michael Munnik showing his bandaged arm after a platelets donation, next to a sign encouraging donations at Christmas timeOne of the reasons my wife and I were happy to emigrate to the UK nine-and-a-half years ago was to enter into a different way of living. We love Canada, but some things about it rub at us, and one of those is the car culture. Investment in public transit is lower than here, and roads proliferate like replicating aliens from a cheesy horror movie. Big, fat ones, too, that force people into large, noisy metal boxes and then devour them. The scale is just wrong. I remember driving down the West Coast after high school from Nanaimo all the way to Ashland, Oregon with a friend. Our return journey coincided with Seattle’s rush hour, and we were jammed on the I-5 when we noticed that the bus and carpool lane was open for vehicles with two more more occupants.

Two.

I need to separate that to emphasise it: that’s how low the bar was. So we two, at the back end of a camping and theatre jolly, sped our merry way, passing all these legitimate commuters in their one-apiece cars, driving out from work to their impossible personal footprints.

I was happy enough to sell my car when we moved over here, and for nine years, we haven’t needed it. Correction: for nine-and-a-half years, we haven’t needed one. Gotten on fine with buses and trains, of course bikes, and hiring a car wen we have a longer trip to take.

But when we visited old neighbours now moved to the north of Italy this summer, part of the deal was to buy their old people-mover and drive it back here. At that point, we’d either keep it or sell it. For the time being, we’ve kept it: it proved useful for getting visiting grannies around, and it did give me some spontaneity and flexibility when seeking a new guitar.

Something else it has done is allowed me to return to a very helpful practice that has actually been an important part of my life for a few years, now. Continue reading

A Heartwarming Christmas Story from the Miners’ Strike

So, I did my Superman bit today. I’ve been donating platelets for over a year, now, because I fit their bill. It’s a sort of blood donation amped up: they take less stuff out of you, so you can do it more frequently, and as a result, you’re in every month rather than every three months; also, the period of the donation is about an hour and a half altogether, about 55 minutes of which is being hooked up to the machine with blood cycling in and out, rather than the 20-30 minutes for a standard pint of your finest A-negative. When they gave me the brief on how it all worked, I was most impressed to learn that, should they need platelets, they spin that standard pint to separate it, and they get about a quarter of a useful unit. Four donations are therefore needed to do one job at the hospital. When you give platelets, they usually take two units, but it is possible to give “a triple,” which would mean you’re really doing the work of 12 human beings over the space of half an afternoon.

Punch line: today I did my first triple.

I’d tried before, but it hadn’t worked out for whatever reasons. They have computers and such that work out of it’s going to go ahead or not, and despite my willingness, conditions were not right. Until today.

Give a little extra at Christmas, sez I. Chatting about Christmas with one of the nurses as she unhooks me, and somehow it gets round to one from the past. “You weren’t here in ’84, were you?” she says. Charitably, I just say, “No.” I don’t need to add that I was five.

“Well, that was the time of the miners’ strike, and my husband was a miner.” Tough times, and they had a bairn, too. She knew it would be long, and she knew that Christmas would be tight. But she put aside her coppers–her ones and twos; she couldn’t stow five-pences in the jar, because they were too precious, too useful in the day to day. Because every day was tight, not just Christmas. Continue reading

I’m Idaho, or Practice these before Giving them as Gifts

Over the past year, I’ve been working through a cookbook my wife bought me for Christmas – a very dangerous cookbook called the DIY Cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen. I’ve reviewed it in stages here on this blog. But I want here to zero in on one recipe: chocolate sandwich cookies.

One promise the book makes is to replicate all the brand-name preservative-laden junk Americans buy at the supermarket, using simple ingredients. I say ‘junk’ as though these people condemned the stuff, but quite obviously they don’t. From ketchup to peanut butter to American cheese slices, they glory in the contents of the stereotypical suburban larder. And one place where I met their enthusiasm is the Oreo cookie. Continue reading