Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Maw Broon's

In good time for mother's day I received a selection of the Maw Broon's home and kitchen range to review. While I vaguely knew about the Broon's, I had no idea about the extent of the Maw Broon range - or that it included food items. So currently our house is not only filled with left over birthday cake and other home baking, but very tasty fudge, shortbread and caramel shortbread from Maw Broon's, all displayed in rather lovely looking tins. Yum.

There's a stylish tea cosy and shopper yute bag too, and that's literally a tiny sample of what the Maw Broon range has to offer. Admittedly, I do have a bit of a soft spot for the quirky Scottish designs.

Apart from the items I received to test, I quite like the look of the jam making kit (ok, it's not exactly jam making season) and the set of coasters and place mats, and I like the fact that there's different versions of the Maw Broon theme, all vintage in look, some more colourful than others, so that there's really something for any taste.

The price range is more than decent for very pretty and useful items. So definitely a thumbs up from the Cartside home.

Disclaimer: I received a few sample items in return for a review post. All views expressed are mine.

Sunday, 23 March 2014


It must be true, the date tells me so. My baby is seven. I look at her and can't quite fathom it, such a tall girl, my little girl is most definitely gone, she is her own personality, goofy as goofy goes, and getting into so many things. Not long now, and she'll beat me at Tetris even. I look at the photo from her birthday just 2 years ago, all princessy and pink, and wonder what happened that it's got to be a Star Wars party and that she is clear that she likes "girl things and boy things". Phew. Because, like, I had been a bit worried about that rather sticky pink princess phase.

Still a whirlwind, still very definite of how and when she'll do things, still a people's person. She's fun to be with and ever on the lookout for fun things to do. Every day she challenges me in so many ways - never a boring minute, and always a new perspective on life, love and the universe. I'm actually not sure if she keeps me young or ages me, or both. And she's growing up far too fast.

Favourite song: Ghostbusters
Favourite movie: Lego Movie and Frozen
Favourite food: Eggs, beans and toast
Favourite book: Frozen
Favourite animal: baby deer
Favourite game:Snap and Operation
Favourite place: Glasgow
Favourite present: bicycle, tweeting blue tit, crystal stone, mini build-a-bear, bratz doll, Frozen soundtrack (which we've been singing and dancing too ad nauseam)

Happy birthday Cubling, I love you to the end of the universe. And there may not be one.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

The last walk of the year

2013 has probably be the year with the least blogging since I started blogging 8 or 9 years ago (I don't remember exactly when it was). And that's ok, I've been working more hours than ever after having kids, and juggling work, kids and trying to fit in some hobbies means that the choice is between blogging and knitting/reading. While in years past, I went for the former, the balance just needs to be redressed a little. So this little blog may look a bit abandoned, but it isn't really, it's just turned from main focus of my little spare time to one amongst others.

For the first time in a long while, I'm off for more than 2 weeks in a row, it's even a bit more than 3 weeks. So we're spending the holidays with family, friends and holidaying, and what seemed like an eternity of course is now looking like it's running out of our hands far far too quickly.

And in between the torrential rainfalls, whenever there's a bit of reprieve (or not, as was the case today), we venture out for those little walks. Our last walk of 2013 took us to Chatelhearault Park, a gem of a park in Hamilton. The Avon water, or on another walk, the White Cart waterfall, all look rather impressive after the heavy rains.

There's tons of other stuff I could mention, but in all the year's hustle and bustle, the most important moments are those spent without the clock in mind, just being and listening, and taking baby steps at the kids' pace.

So here's to 2014 and many more walks, adventures, making, doing, creating, imagining, seeing, feeling, experiencing, exploring and discovering.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Scottish Ballet's Hansel and Gretel

A good while ago, we were offered tickets to review Hansel and Gretel, a Scottish Ballet production, and considering that Cubling hasn't been to a ballet yet and in fact, I've only ever been to one before (which was a very modern production that, well, was maybe not the best introduction to the genre), it was great opportunity.

From the above you can also tell that I'm no expert and it would seem presumptious to pretend I am and give Hansel and Gretel an expert review.

What I can say that it was a wonderful afternoon out. I was worried that Snowflake wouldn't be able to sit through it at her tender age of just 3, and that it may be aimed at adult ballet goers and not be suitable for children in general, especially as there was a different production aimed at children available too.

So I was prepared for having to nip out to keep a 3 year old happy, of it being a visit fraught with unsettled kids and not much enjoyment.

Much to my surprise this was not the case at all. Cubling was very much following every move on stage and simply got it. In fact, I could ask her what each dancer was impersonating when I didn't get it. Snowflake was also following the basics of the story, but got a bit confused by the changing set and didn't quite understand that the door that lead in was now a door that led out so that we were now looking at the inside of a house rather than the outside. Other than that I was more than surprised how much both children got out of the performance.

I suppose it was classic ballet, an orchestra underneath playing a very nice score, the dancers dancing pretty much as you'd expect a ballerinas to dance, the set design was magical, and both children sat for the full duration (ok, towards the end, Snowflake struggled a little bit, but nothing too serious).

It was dark enough to create serious suspense for Cubling (6 years old) but her fears (of the witch) never materialised because the production team was rather clever by making the actual witch a little bit comic and giving her a light grey outfit rather than the obvious choice of dark clothes. In fact, I was rather relieved because Cubling was so worried about the witch making an appearance that a scary looking witch may have sent her imagination out of the roof.

There were also pleasant minor departures from the traditional storyline which made the story more believable, and less dark. Yes, the witch was thrown into the oven eventually (Snowflake was not happy about this, even though the witch was a bad person, bless) but it was so close to the end that the witch almost instantly came out to the applause, clearly alive and unburned.

There was nothing to fault the production, it was simply beautiful in all aspects, music, dancing, costumes, set (oh the set... I just loved it).

All in all, it was magic on a dreich and dark December afternoon, there was hardly a better way to spend the day.

Hansel and Gretel is still touring until February throughout Scotland.

Full disclaimer: we were given tickets to see the ballet in return for a review post.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

We don't need no education

The news that Ofsted is recommending that children should be able to start formal schooling aged 2 in an attempt to close the attainment gap between children from wealthier and poorer families caused me more than a little bit of a jaw drop.

It is true that there is a significant attainment gap between some children from poorer families and some children from wealthier families, which can lead to a difference of up to 18 months at age 5. Of course there are other factors that play into this, and I think the average gap is more like 9 months. However, it has been demonstrated that it's better for a child's educational success to be born rich than clever, as many intelligent children from poor families are overtaken by less intelligent children from rich families between ages 8 and 11.

This situation is shocking and totally unacceptable. It speaks of an unfair society where wealth determines educational levels and the one route out of poverty, education, effectively is not a route at all, but actually favours the wealthy.

In comes Ofsted and suggests that rather than tackling the causes of this sorry situation (poverty and inequality), the sticking plaster of sending kids to school early in the hope to make up for all the damage our unequal society does through a few hours of early education.

This is wrong for so many reasons. Baroness Morgan claims that many deprived children have “low social skills”, poor standards of reading and an inability to communicate adequately, which apparently translates to being “not ready to learn” when they start school.

1. Children are always ready to learn. Children are wired to learn. The reason they fall behind is that they do not have a wide range of learning environments and experiences which isn't going to be helped by sticking them into a classroom.

2. Children up to the age of 6 learn through play rather than formal education. They need free play, active play, develop motor skills, and play with other children and adults to develop their language and social skills. A classroom setting is not conducive to being the best environment to achieve this. I read somewhere that children need to learn to skip before they can learn to read, which summarises how motor skills come before language and literacy.

3. School readiness in the sense of ability to become literate depends on passive vocabulary. In fact, as a parent who raises her children bilingually, I've researched this a fair bit and I know that there's a critical number of words that children have to be able to use before they are able to learn how to read and write (which in our case made me decide to delay literacy development in the weaker language). There is no point in developing letter/word recognition or writing skills before this critical mass of words has been developed. Now one could say that this is to be done through the school setting, however:

4. Any schooling only accounts for a minor part of a child's life and the best case scenario is that schooling can influence between 10 and 25% of the total attainment difference between children (the rest is due to home learning environment, community environment, innate ability). This means that any effort to narrow the attainment gap between richer and poorer kids through formal education can at best be a sticking plaster but not make a real difference.

So what can make a difference? Well, ideally, and excuse me for being political, we need to reduce income inequalities, as these are the root causes for the attainment gap in a complex interplay of factors. Great wealth disparities in a rich nation leads to people feeling they have no control over their lives, people who don't feel they have control over their lives have low self esteem and are stressed in a existential kind of way, which in turn leads to poor health and having to focus on the day to day survival, making it much harder to plan ahead or even manage to move out of the low income bracket. Stress leads to family conflict, family conflict stresses the child, a stressed child cannot learn. Sending the stressed child to school is at best tokenistic and at worst futile (in fact, the attainment gap between rich and poor kids increases during the years of formal education, schooling does not narrow it!).

I'm a realist though and in the current political climate I don't see a change to a more equal society any time soon (although I'm still hoping/waiting for a little more outrage and anger by the general public about this ridiculous situation that the 5th richest country in the world is happy to be leading the way on income inequalities). In the short to medium term, we need to support parents to be their children's first educator, in an empowering way that is based on true partnership rather than the deficit model that some parenting programmes are happy to portray. Fact is that parents want the best for their child, but circumstances mean they are unable to be the parent they want to be (and that doesn't just apply to "poorer" families!)

But if we're really serious about our children's future, this isn't enough because the vicious cycle of poverty (or rather income inequality, because it's not the absolute income that matters but the relative status and difference between the richest and the poorest) undermines healthy child development in so many ways that even the parent with the best intentions and abilities will struggle to make up for the disastrous effects of poverty on child development.

All in all it's just another brick in the wall.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Goodbye Mimi

Any day now could be the last time I'll ever breastfeed. It's such a bittersweet time.
On the one hand, I've been looking forward to the last breastfeed for about a year, because it's just a bit uncomfortable feeding a growing toddler/pre-schooler. On the other hand it'll be the end of mothering small children, and in a way we're still hanging on there in that respect.

We haven't nursed in public for a long time now, and only very occasionally in the presence of good friends. That's ok, I appreciate that it's not the norm to nurse beyond a year, and the few negative comments I got did hurt so we kept it hidden. But I'm too defiant to keep it hidden good and proper, after all, I'm not a blogger if it wasn't for a certain happiness to share what matters to me.

All in all I breastfed just over 5 years, and considering the rubbish start to it I had, when I literally kept going just for one other feed, and repeat, I am happy and somewhat proud of this achievement. Not in a way that should make anyone feel less than good about themselves, but there's no harm in feeling good about something.

Snowflake sure was attached to her mimi, This recommended weaning approach of "don't offer, don't refuse" would probably mean she'd still be exclusively breastfed. I had secretly hoped for self weaning but it became pretty clear that this child won't self wean. We've been trying seriously to fully wean for about a year (a process that took a month with Cubling). This is what she says about mimi: "It's so yummy, it tastes like chocolate, cheese, yoghurt and strawberries". Tonight, for the last time ever, I fed her to sleep. This magic moment when you watch your baby relax all muscles and surrender to sleep.The calmness, oneness, the being in the moment of it.

She hadn't asked for mimi in 4 days but I needed at least one last feed that was a proper closure, rather than the reluctant, half asleep 4am one that was the previous potentially last feed. Of course I don't know if this was it for good, but we're not far off.

While I'm a bit nostalgic about moving on, it's the right time too. This child of mine is growing up, she is independent and really doesn't need this particular comfort anymore.

I'm holding on to the memories, lest I forget, recalling them in these last suckles.
Syringe feeding her colostrum in hospital, my mucussy c-section baby.
The frst proper milk feed, still in hospital, and her milk drunk face captured on my phone.
The amazement when I realised that breastfeeding could be pain free. The anger when I realised that something could have been done about the pain I'd experienced 3 1/2 years earlier and that it was only now that I found out about tongue tie and lip tie.
Waking up due to fullness and this tiny moany cry right beside me, instead of sleeping through and possibly waking up to her never waking up again.
Feeding her through her illness, keeping her nil by mouth twice pre-op, and the comfort that those hospital feeds brought us both. When it seemed that her health is outwith my control, it gave me something I felt I could do for her.
Feeding her in almost every place imaginable.
Feeding her through smaller illnesses, when she regularly refused all other food, she never refused this, which was reassuring.
Walking out of the GP surgery after a tirade of how I should stop breastfeeding instantly (she was 10 months), without a word because I knew there was just no point in arguing.
That first feed to reconnect after nursery pick up when I returned to work. That last feed before leaving her, in the nursery chair (she never took the formula offered, and opted to wait for my milk on my work days)
Being confused by people saying how it's so hard for me to be still breastfeeding when actually, it's not.at.all. Breastfeeding was never a sacrifice I made, and somehow people still saw it as such.
Being amused at my beloved Mr Cartside telling everyone who cared to listen, regardless of how well we knew the person, how she's still breastfeeding, at 1,2 and then 3 years of age, and secretly enjoying how uncomfortable this disclosure made some people (and understanding their discomfort).
Far too many breastfeeding discussions initiated by me in the office (although I really didn't mean to)
Learning so much about the politics of breastfeeding and infant nutrition and how we as a society are being conned for profit.
Developing and expanding an interest in infant nutrition, and realising how critical an area this is for the nation's health.
The delight when Save the Children took up the importance of breastfeeding in the first hour after a baby's birth and took on Danone and Nestle. And developed a proper breastfeeding policy (too late for my babies but it's there for those soon to be born).
The chuckles had when my request for a room suitable for private expressing in the new office was passed on to the project manager responsible for setting up the new office. It was clear she (!) had never considered the idea of expressing milk and that someone would do this at work (surely, working mums don't breastfeed? They do? Really? How bizarre)
And of course the endless cuddles while feeding, the smiles while feeding, the relaxation and time out it gave me, the excuse to sit down and stop and admire my miracle baby.
The pride when my then 3 year old told the nursery that while the baby they were role playing with had a bottle, her own baby drank mimi. Even a 3 year old can challenge the normalisation of bottle feeding.
And here's hoping that my youngest, who won't see me nurse another baby, may remember in some way how nice mimi was and pass it on to the next generation.

And that's only the memories of my youngest's breastfeeding journey.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

How not to raise your child on junk food

Well over 6 years into this parenting experience, it feels like either I'm on a different planet or that the gods of profit and consumerism have conspired against me.

Was I naive thinking I could raise my kids on a reasonable diet, that is nutritious, varied and does not destroy their precious bodies?

Every day, the pestering is endless, the black and whiteness of liking or hating food is doing my head in and it feels very much that as a parent I have no influence on my children's diet.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not the exclusively organic cooked from scratch with no sugar, salt or additives kind of mum. Like other working mums, cooking has to be quick and I'm also not exactly someone who gets satisfaction out of preparing a complex meal. I do think I'm the average mum who simply wants her kids to eat reasonably healthy, with a decent variety, while instilling positive eating habits and a joy of food.

However, I'm on my own.

All around me, there's junk food.
There's junk at school and nursery. They call it healthy meals. But fish comes in fingers, burgers without veg, and pizza with pasta.
There's junk at the swimming pool/sport centre. Every single vending machine sells junk. Every Glasgow Life cafe counter is filled to the brim with junk.
There's junk at the supermarket/kiosk/ every effing shop that we pass.
There's an icecream van parked between school and swing park that has to be passed on the way home from school.
There's junk at the school disco.
There's junk at every single school event.
There's junk at parties and those parties are plentiful.

Home becomes a bubble and because of the amount of junk food virtually everywhere, I feel I cannot even allow a treat at home anymore because they had so many elsewhere already, and I become the bogeywoman who doesn't let her kids have a treat.

Any food that is not a favourite is hated. And favourites are demanded. The cry for sweeties, snacks and treats is constant (my youngest had a phase where she must have had the idea she could have marshmallows for breakfast and every morning began with a tantrum when there were none). My "no's" are constant too.

At school, the children are taught about making healthy food choices. Just that they can't actually make healthy food choices. It's simply beyond a 6 year old to choose salad over a bun, and it doesn't help that the message is received in a very warped manner (apparently, because bread is healthy, as is milk, it's enough to just eat bread and milk).

It's not a secret that an ever increasing number of children are overweight, that we are in the midst of an obesity epidemic that brings with it heart disease, diabetes, cancer and possibly other illnesses. It's costing us as a society a lot of money. Yet we won't bow to the pressures of the profit makers who sell us rubbish food, and let them market the food to our children in an unashamed way. They give the illusion of healthy snacks (cereal bars anyone? Fruit juices?). There's the argument that kids wouldn't eat the healthy options (yes, maybe for a while until they realise that's what there is and if they are hungry they'd better eat it). But really, are we so keen to just give up on our kids and let them indulge as if there was no tomorrow? As a society, we are reducing the life expectancy of our children significantly, and nobody seems to care because it's all big business.

So the school fundraisers have junk tuck shops to raise funds for the school (I'd be happy to pay for my child not to be exposed to the tuck shop). If I don't give money for the tuck shop, child feels excluded and is upset, and a teacher or parent is sure to give her some money to make her happy again. School dinners establish questionable food preferences under the health umbrella, or offer so many choices that every child is sure to be able to avoid all fruit and veg and binge on simple carbs and processed junk.

And here I am little mummy average, trying to fight a losing battle, with only two choices left: give in or take it on.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Take Action and Give A Helping Hand for Childcare in Scotland

Childcare. The devil is often in the detail. When older daughter started school, my head nearly exploded trying to get together the patchwork of childcare that was needed so both parents could work their allocated hours. Often I feel so frustrated trying to juggle work and childcare that I feel like throwing in the towel and give up work.

For over a year, I've tried to improve on this situation. Younger daughter has been on the waiting list for the council day nursery that is in the same building as the school for years. This year we even got offered a place. These were the hours:
Monday, Thur, Fri 1-4pm
Tue and Weds 9-4pm

My application had been for 2 or 3 full days, with flexibility on which days of the week the full days would fall on. We've been on the waiting list for 2 full years. 9am-4pm are not full days, especially as I work a 45 minute car drive away (I've given up even considering cycling or public transport). I pleaded and pleaded because fact is that our circumstances are thus that it's touch and go if I can fulfil my work requirements even with our current childcare set up. But no, it was 9am-4pm or nothing. So I had to say thanks, but no thanks.

My case is no exception. Council nurseries, even if they offer extended hours (which is not the norm - in Glasgow most council nurseries only offer 3 hours a day to 3-5s, usually as afternoons for the ante pre-school year and mornings for the pre-school year), hardly ever offer them as 8am-6pm which would actually allow parents to fit in a full day's work plus the travel to and from the work place. Currently, the best I could get is a nursery 3 miles from home and 4 miles from work, 3 days a week from 8.30am-5pm (when I would need it from 8.30pm-5.30pm), supplemented by one day at a childminder, and a back up childminder for the 5th day of the week in case I have to work it on occasions. And I'm not alone: A friend was offered 9am-5pm and couldn't accept the offer either as her work could not accommodate such hours. In theory, these are council nurseries that are open 8am-6pm, but they do not generally offer the full length of hours, making it impossible to use them if parents work full days.

Effectively, this means that working parents have to choose childminders or private provision, both of which are significantly more expensive and sometimes do not offer the same quality of service. If the working parents in question are on low incomes, private childcare more often than not is unaffordable.

Add to this that there aren't many council nurseries who offer full day care at all, and the prospect for parents on low incomes becomes rather bleak. I have met aspiring young mums who couldn't take up the college place they were offered because of lack of childcare or inability to pay the one month deposit plus a month in advance that private nurseries ask for. Or mums who wouldn't even apply for a job because they knew the waiting list for a nursery place was long and they would have to start the job within a month or two, with no prospect of sourcing a childcare place in the same timescale.

If I was on a low income, and didn't have a car, there would be no way I could continue to work, or take up a new job. For one, the daily home-school-nursery-work-nursery-childminder-home run is planned out to the minute and only doable by car. I only got a place for the younger sibling because older sibling was already at the nursery (who in turn had been on the waiting list for 2 years before getting offered a place). And I'm lucky that having been with the same council nursery for years, they have accommodated that I can take the 5 free pre-school sessions over 3 days, a set up which would not be offered as a general rule.

Save the Children have just launched a childcare campaign in Scotland asking the Scottish Government for more high quality, accessible, affordable and flexible childcare, so that especially families on lower incomes are able to access affordable and flexible childcare that allows them to work. Currently this is not the case, and the lack of suitable childcare is the biggest barrier particularly for mums to stay in or enter the workplace.

If you can spare a minute, please support the campaign by signing the petition to the Scottish Government to extend free childcare and make it available in a more flexible way, which is currently being debated for the new Children and Young People Bill. Feel free of course to share the petition link in you networks, so that the Scottish Government can hear the voices of parents loud and clear.

You can read the full report Give us a Hand with Childcare here.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Meet our new babies!

Once upon a time there was a little girl who loved animals small and big, who wanted nothing more than be a vet when she grew up. She fed snails to fledgling birds, copied birdsong and loved the visits to a friend who had all kinds of animals and another friend who lived on her hometown's last farm. She campaigned for a calf not to be slaughtered, cried when birds ate her mini turtles, and her pet caterpillars died of unknown reasons. She went to walk a poodle everyone hated because he'd bite people left right and centre and would run off like an utter nutter to chase rabbits. He never bit her. This girl also loved her only pet, a budgie who would sit on her specs while she was doing her homework, and occasionally would literally gnaw away at the jotters.

This little girl had a dream to have a cat. And a horse, but she wasn't daft and knew that a horse doesn't quite fit into an 80m2 flat. She dreamed of living on a farm in the country so she could have all the animals she wanted. She truly believed that the kitten her auntie "gave" her (which stayed with the auntie for keeps) was hers. Even when auntie totally couldn't remember what she was talking about.

When this little girl became a mummy to another 2 little girls, who did nothing but play with the kittens on the farm they stayed on for their holiday, and when these little girls wanted nothing more than a kitten in their own home, she remembered how much she once also would have loved to have a cat.

So enquiries were made and 10 days ago, brother and sister kittens arrived:

This is Gingy. I have no idea where the name came from and it wiznae me.

This is them sleeping on top of one of my numerous stuff corners, the most untidy places in our house and it doesn't help really if kittens decide to sleep on it...

And our little baby girl, Smokey. I do have to take responsibility for that name but I didn't mean it. Really. I just called her that once and the kids thought it was a good idea and now it's too late...

They are our babies. Snowflake does Row your Boat with them, Cubling carries them everywhere and even cleans the litter tray (long may it last). They snuggle up with mummy and daddy at night time and are clearly happy that we don't constantly carry them. It is also rather surprising how much they are like human babies, just with the difference that their reach of havoc creating is not limited to a certain height. Yucca plants have become scratch poles, and somehow they manage to take the upholstery off the sofa, which is quite a feat.

On the minus side I have to admit that my cat allergy is worse than expected. I knew I was somewhat allergic, but having slept in houses with cats, I thought it would be ok. Unfortuately though they give me, amongst other things that are more easily managed, asthma. So I can't wait until they are ready to become outdoor cats, as much as I like the evening snuggles. Any tips on how to manage pet allergies - fire away..

One childhood dream come true. Kids are great, they give the best pretexts for doing what you'd always wanted but were never allowed to.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Jamie Oliver and Effing massive TVs

So Jamie Oliver had a go at how families on low incomes shouldn't spend their money on massive effing TV sets but rather make a tasty dinner with 25 mussles and pasta for 60p.

And then he defended himself on the One show by saying that he does more good than harm and that it was all a media outrage that wasn't to be taken seriously.

As soon as I read his initial comments, I was deeply unsettled. The main reason for this is that he feeds into already well established perceptions of the poor being to blame for their misfortune. This is neither true nor helpful.

Let's look at the big picture for a moment: The UK is the 4th richest country in the world, yet rife with income inequalities. We are a rich country yet 1 in 4 children grows up in poverty. Apparently the richest earn well over 250 times as much as the poorest. And there is no way that the poor are to blame for this sorry and unnecessary state of affair. It is true however that the it is in the interest of the rich to blame the poor for their own plight, so that they can defend their own position to be one of merit achieved by hard work and strive.

Personally, I don't think any meritocracy can account for 263 times the income of the poorest, to me that's just greed and selfishness, and if you call me a socialist for saying this, feel free.

Anyway, fact is that in an unequal society is that as long as the public opinion blames the poor and justifies the rich, the status quo can be maintained. Jamie Oliver has done just that. And that is deeply wrong, unhelpful and actually works against some of the really good work he does. It particularly pains me because I like the bloke otherwise and think he has indeed done heaps for making cooking be cool, and ensuring that our kids get decent food at school.

His comments were also misled because they were patronising (he offered a hug to the poor, as if they need a hug, that's not bringing any food onto the table last time I checked) and simplistic. A massive TV? Well, maybe that was acquired before the crisis point, or given by a relative, or maybe it's the one and only item of "yes" in a life dominated by "no's" as the Guardian rightly pointed out.

Interestingly, Jamie Oliver also points out that cooking from scratch is so much cheaper and better for you. I wonder why he sells a range of ready made meals then, making a fortune from them. But more to the point I would actually defy that this is the truth. With the price of fruit and veg, and even staples like rice and bread going up while prices of ready meals are going down, it is actually cheaper to get your 10 (horse) burger pack from Farmfoods. If you even want to buy organic or locally produced food, the price tag is unaffordable even for middle income families, because food is the one cost that can be controlled more than others. If you have a bill for rent, that's paid first: eviction is more serious than having rubbish food for a week. Some examples: a can of coke is less than a bottle of water. When I was a student with very little money to live off, I would eat a chocolate bar and a packet of crisps which was and still is cheaper than a sandwich. And where exactly would I pick up the mussels Jamie mentioned? They are not exactly kicking about in Glasgow. Most housing estates are devoid of any decent shops - it's your farmfoods, overpriced newsagent and chippy and that's that. No market, no fresh veg. If you want that, you need a car or an ever increasing bus return fare to get to the nearest supermarket. I'm not sure where Jamie's idea of that market stall comes from, but it's certainly not the average housing estate in Glasgow.

Then there's the cost of cooking. Gas, pots and pans, even a hob are not things that families on low incomes can take for granted. Nevermind the cost of ingredients - it's nice to do it from scratch but herbs are over a pound a glass and you'll need a few of them to get you started, not exactly attractive if you can get cheap convenience food that fills your tum and tastes ok and can be cooked in 3 minutes in the microwave.

Next up is the whole concept that apparently rubbish nutritioun it's a problem of the poor. Rubbish nutrition is a problem of this country, regardless of income. The rich and middle classes have the means and resources to cook well but do they do it? Convenience food is convenient for them too. Making nutrition into a class thing just misses the point. I am middle class and overweight. My diet is not the best (although it's not the worst) and like everyone else it's bloody hard to resist the ever present temptation of sugar, carbs and convenience foods. Cooking from scratch is a daily hard choice that isn't made easier by the conundrums of working family life. Kids are influenced by their peers and demand fish fingers instead of fish, baked beans instead of lentil bake, and sweetened yoghurts instead of natural yoghurt. And when your children once again tell you they hate what you cooked, the fish fingers are more than tempting because you really don't want to be wasting food again.

Should I also mention that Jamie is one of the rich, who has no experience of the reality of being poor and human decency would dictated that he should keep his gob well shut about experiences he is so far removed from that he has no idea what he is actually talking about.

Above all, Jamie's comments have nothing to offer other than alienating audiences and contributing to perpetuating stereotypes that need to be challenged instead. I'm sure he's done his own campaigns more damage than good (although being in the news with patronising comments is probably in the end good for his profile). Instead, he should offer inspiring and fun ways of cooking with limited resources (i.e. that don't necessitate his cook books, utensils and fancy ingredients), and just be what he's best at: contagiously passionate about food.

And then, if he wants to go a bit further, how about tackling the reasons for this country's inequality and campaigning against the shame of this countries poverty statistics, for a fairer society where no child has to go hungry.



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