Island Life by David Slack

Three Score and Ten

Poor old beleaguered McDonalds. You do your best each morning as you empty your hash browns into the deep fryers and melt the cheese over people's breakfast sandwiches, but what thanks do you get? A generation ago, you called yourself a family restaurant and everyone agreed with you. Today, thanks to obsessive health Nazis like Morgan Spurlock, you're just another evil corporate monster and an enemy of the people.

Where did it all go wrong? I asked myself last night as I finally got around to watching Supersize Me on the lately-equally-maligned-TV One. There was no arguing with the data as Morgan ploughed his way through 30 days of Big Macs, fries and buckets of Coke.

His liver is melting! We've never seen anything like it! declared his doctors.

His tongue was in his cheek! declared McDonalds in a commercial made specially for the occasion.

You guys will have to peddle faster than that I declared, as the commercial scrolled through the company's diverse rebuttals.

He ate too much! they said. We have salads now, and our beef is 100% pure! We sponsor kids' sport! Please don't keep watching this! What's on Prime? Hey, is that someone at your front door?

You can declare that your heart is in the right place, and you can get the estimable Sarah Ulmer to make all the arguments you like in favour of your salads, but dude, come on. You give kids free toys to make them eat your food. A bucketful of Coke has more spoonfuls of sugar in it than even Mary Poppins would think was good for you. Your food is crap in a pretty wrapper and you know it.

* * * *
I have been a poor correspondent lately, so let's catch up on responses to various recent posts. First: that list of Christmas presents at Hammacher Schlemmer.

Kathinka writes that my mention of that venerable retailer reminded her of "long ago, cold war, nuclear shelters.... and a poem written by E.Y. "Yip" Harburg"

Hammacher Schlemmer is selling a shelter,
worthy of Kubla Kahn's Xanadu dome,
Plushy and swanky with posh hanky-panky
that affluent yankees can really call home.

Hammacher Schlemmer is selling a shelter,
a push-button palace, florescent repose,
electric devices for facing a crisis,
with frozen fruit ices and cinema shows.

Hammacher Schlemmer is selling a shelter,
of chromium kitchens and rubber tile dorms
with waterproof portals to echo the chortles
of weatherproof mortals in hydrogen storms.

What a great come-to-glory emporium
to enjoy a deluxe moratorium
where nuclear heat can beguile the elite
in a creme-de-la-creme crematorium

Robert Southon, on the other hand, said bugger the Christmas presents, how was the half marathon?

Thanks for asking Robert. Getting closer to 1 hour 30 all the time, thanks. According to this, I did 1.34.11 but as well as starting the race about six minute early, the buggers also stuffed up the capture of the net time of many runners, myself included, so I WILL have my 14 seconds thank you and I WILL declare myself to have done it in 1.33. Not that you get precious about this or anything.

The Harbour Bridge course is a great run, and I came in two minutes faster than last year, feeling much more comfortable with it. Robert writes that he's running a half in Barcelona on the 27th aiming for 1.28, which gets you automatically into the New York marathon in the men's 40-50 age group. Now that's a target I could really get excited about next year.

People were asking me at the start of this week: as someone who exercises regularly and who has a heart attack in his imperfect medical history, how was I feeling? Meaning, I guess: if that can happened to Rod Donald, how much comfort can you take from pursuing good health?

How I was feeling was: this is awful for his friends and family, and it seems wrong to be dwelling on my own fortunes. And yet, it's a fair question. As we now know, it wasn't a heart attack, but it's nevertheless true that sometimes fit healthy people can die of one. Still, the more you do to protect yourself, the more you diminish your vulnerability. It doesn't give you an absolute guarantee, but it improves your prospects, and that's reason enough for me.

Beyond that, you just have to reconcile yourself to the fragility of human life. By far the greater number of us will live to 70 and beyond, but the sobering reality is that terminal illness, accident, and sheer rotten luck will take friends, family and maybe our own life sooner.

A couple of months after the heart attack, I met one of the nurses from coronary care at the swimming pool. We sat at the end of a lane, chatting. She told me: "perhaps you should prepare yourself for dying soon." I've been swimming, running and living my life with the determination to prove her wrong for the last 17 years. I might, and I might not, but it won't be for want of trying.

On a less perturbing subject, the list of Pania suspects motivated Mark Payne to write from Denmark with news that proved just how damn hard it is do something that hasn't been done somewhere else.

It must be the State of Denmark who did it, he said; they need a replacement for their own. Details here and here.

No doubt about the motive, then. As for the means, he posits that it would have been something involving an expensive chair, a blonde porn star, and a pastry. Sure, they've arrested someone else now, but how do we know they're not just leaning on this suspect just as they apparently did on the first two, to get to the big fish?

From a civil liberties point of view, you'd have to say there's something a bit perturbing about chucking the first two in the cells for the weekend, but then on the other hand, it was just one weekend. In Britain, you could be in there for thirty days.

Going yet further back in neglected correspondence - and I really promise not to get this far behind again - some interesting responses to the question of risk assessment.

I'm becoming an ever-greater disappointment to Phil Sage, I can tell, who writes: "yeah it is a real shame those church designers 500 years ago did not think about the impact of electrical lighting & EU safety directives." Look ahead, Phil, look ahead! Like Andrew, for instance, who writes:

Lighting that can enhance a room is so available, long life, low voltage high wattage bulbs, energy efficient placed around the walls using stands, lighting paintings, wall hangings, just feature lighting or hung low over work stations so cool.

As for churches, he says, they should "just go back to using candles as befits their bronze age gods and philosophies."

With such illumination, when people walk into these places they will realize they are stepping back in time…hey presto, no ladders needed for bulb changing, legislation rendered obsolete.

My principal interest, though, was the question of risk assessment and how onerous or otherwise it might be.

Adam Hunt grew up just over the border from Norfolk and is fluent in "Naaarfark" so he offered a phonetically correct risk assessment for the church in question

"Oi Jarge [george], eve yew gart toime tew change a bulb in the Chaaarch?"

"Oi dewnt new, have yew gart a loight boh"

"Its a bit hoigh boh"

"Bargered if'd oid gew up thoyar, ars abewt 50 foot boh"

"Tell yew warrrt, thaart silly owld baarrstard at the church is tew toight tew boy wun oh them long loif bulbs, sew eee makes me gew up thoyer evry yee-ar.

Woi dewnt the old twat put one o them thar lew energy lamps in, then we'd ewnly aff t gew up evry 5 yoir?"

"oh arr, but then them tory twats wouldn't have nuthin to woin abewt would they - after all, Crutch of Ungland is a bot ard up int it?"

"ohh arrr".

Sally helpfully wrote that we have much the same experience here in New Zealand.

I work for Universal Homes, and there are many firms in the construction industry that now adopt the policy that anyone [who is going to go on or work at] a building site needs to have a "Site Safety Certificate" ie they've attended a course which outlines the same sort of 'risk assessment' you mentioned. (Apparently the big companies get a discount on their ACC premiums if everyone does it)
The basis is summarised as (from memory) 5x5 - Take five minutes at the start of the job to stand back 5 steps and look for any areas of risk, and how these can be 'minimalised' (note this is not 'eliminated'). Falling is still the highest death and injury cause in the building industry.
The other main thrust of the seminar is to have a safety register- where any issue is written down, so data can be accumulated over time to determine if the problem is ongoing and can be minimalised.

For more info, she says try

Fair enough. We'd all like to live to 70 and beyond, after all.


One more random reflection on life, courtesy of the ever-entertaining Llew at Sunnyo who's not quite sure of its provenance.

Women are like apples on trees. The best ones are at the top of the tree. Most men don't want to reach for the good ones because they are afraid of falling and getting hurt. Instead, they just take the rotten apples from the ground that aren't as good, but easy to pick up...

The apples at the top think something is wrong with them, when in reality, they're amazing. They just have to wait for the right man to come along - the one who's brave enough to climb all the way to the top of the tree.

Share this with other women who are good apples, even those who have already been picked.

Now Men...

Men are like a fine wine. They begin as grapes, and it's up to women to stomp the shit out of them until they turn into something acceptable to have dinner with.

Have a nice weekend.