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It's supposed to be a secret ballot

But when you go over to the machine to cast your vote you have to enter a four-digit code which tallies with the same number on a piece of paper you just signed, so if *they* want to they could find out who voted for who by matching the two numbers.

It was the same in the UK too - the last time I remember voting there (the 1997 general election I think), my ballot paper was torn out of a book, rather like a book of raffle tickets... and this is where my memory gets a little fuzzy because it's been so long, but I think there was a number on the ballot paper which corresponded to the same number on the stub in the book where it had been torn from, and the number of my voting card was written on the stub, so again, if *they* really wanted to they could match the ballot paper to me.

Harrumph smiley - cross

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Latest reply: 5 Days Ago

I have at times been konwn to be guilty of humbuggery

But I think I must be getting soft in my old age as I've started getting into the Christmas spirit far more this season than I have done in many a long year.

To be fair, there is much about Christmas I like, even some of the religious trappings, despite being a devout atheist. Christmas for me just wouldn't be Christmas without the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King's College, and the moment the lone choirboy, standing in front of that Reubens, starts singing Once in Royal David's City, my eyes do start to moisten a little.

And let's not forget the comestibles, the edibles, the vittles and the drinkables. My Christmas pudding is undergoing its first (six-hour) steaming as we speak. I've never experienced a Christmas without smiley - xmaspud in my entire life, and I don't intend to break that run this year.

I shall be watching a Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show again this year, possibly the one with Penelope Keith. I haven't made up my mind yet. And perhaps a Royle Family too.

But this year I've done more than just the few traditions I hold onto each festive season. I'm actually enjoying some of the Christmas music that's around me. Not the awful and continual stuff that's played in the shops, but certainly the carol arrangements the local classical music station plays around this time of the year. And I went out and bought a few modest decorations a few days ago. I haven't put any of those up in a long while. It's given me a rather comforting feeling.

I suppose that when you get beyond the point in your life where you know there's more of it behind you than in front, and most probably by a margin, you start to wonder how many more Christmases you might see, and perhaps decide it's time to make the most of each one that's left because it might only be in single figures. Eric Morecambe, for instance, died at the same age as I am - 58. Many have died younger, including our noble founder. A few schoolfriends are no longer around, as are several names on the Researcher list here. You never know when the scythe will fall.

I do hope it isn't too soon. I feel like I'm just starting to get the hang of this life.

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Latest reply: Last Week

Can one of our British readers please do me a little favour?

Next time you're at the supermarket can you check on the price of glacé cherries? And the weight of the package? The only time you can get them here is around Christmas and they're hideously expensive - pre-packed bulk in plastic containers at $5.99 a pound smiley - yikes

smiley - ta ever so.

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Latest reply: Last Week

You're not helping

I was going to put this in the Oh, Twitter conversation, but it deserves one of its own. The catalyst for it is this story about what a rich and privileged person said today about those who are less fortunate

Before I get on to gist of what I want to say, I also have to add that hardly a day goes by now without someone in the public eye saying or doing something stupid and then having to apologise and/or resign for it. Have people lost the ability to know how to behave? Or are instances like this simply being reported more because almost every news organisation now has so much space to fill and not much to fill it with? She says that she was speaking "unscripted". So I guess the answer is yes, people have lost the wherewithal and the judgement to know what should be said and what shouldn't. We seem to have got to a point where everything has to have a light-hearted and flippant aspect. Jokes and puns always have to be made. Being serious about something is seen as a Bad Thing. It seems to have robbed people of good judgement.

Any road up.

Naturally, all parts of what the Baroness said about poor people are being ripped to shreds on social media, and the exaggerationists are out in force on Twitter. Baroness tells poor people to eat porridge for 4p! Let them eat gruel!!! smiley - facepalm

She was exhibiting a condescending attitude in what she said, or rather, the way she worded it, but the actual content of her statement was rock solid, and naturally the negative aspect of it's been blown up out of all proportion by the news media.

People today - poor and rich alike, but mostly poor - *have* lost a lot of their parents' cooking skills. It's not passed on from mother to daughter (or son) like it used to be. That's how it was for my generation and for my mother's, and perhaps for hers too. The Hairy Bikers brought it to the fore in their series Mums Know Best. Every episode (which always featured three mums) had at least one with a cookery book going back sometimes two or three generations, and there was a strong sense of continuity from mothers to daughters (I think there were actually one or two mums who were dads too).

That all started to change when the food industry got behind convenience and processed food in a big way, I guess in the 60s and 70s. They were doing it before then of course - even Bird's Custard smiley - drool is a convenience food and that goes back a century. My mother learned from her mother, and she rarely cooked anything that was processed - she cooked from ingredients and a recipe.

I have to say here that I despise the term 'from scratch'. It usually gets bandied about in a manner meant to elicit surprise, wonder and admiration that someone has actually bought ingredients, read a recipe and made something. Says much about what modern cooking has become.

In the 70s my mother did start serving up a few convenience foods - Vesta Chicken Supreme and Vesta Curry were actually looked upon as a treat. Angel Delight and Dream Topping.. was it Dream Topping? No, Dream Topping was faux cream, wasn't it? There was another one like Angel Delight but called... I can't remember. Something Whip? Instant Whip? Or am I thinking of Walnut Whip? And every once in a while she might use a Green's cake mix.

So, over the succeeding decades, with more and more microwave meals and oven chips on the market, and with fewer women staying at home, the art of cooking has faded somewhat, and it's no longer passed down from generation to generation like it was, so the Baroness is quite correct in that aspect.

The food industry have created more and more processed and convenience foods over the years, and pushed them with slick advertising, telling us how we shouldn't have to spend time slaving over a hot cooker, how cooking = drudgery, how we don't have time to cook, how easy it would be to just bung a box in the radar range and sit down to a meal in five minutes in front of the telly.

The braying Twitter hordes are berating the Baroness for telling the poor to spend 4p on porridge. Well, porridge is in fact very, very good for you (I know - I wrote the h2g2 entry on oats smiley - blush), very cheap and very satisfying. Far more so than a bowl of cereal or a pop tart. Even toast and marmalade is better for you than that. And she *didn't* tell anyone to eat porridge - she told them what she had for breakfast. It's a stretch to interpret that as a command, but people will make that stretch and the dogmatically blind will slavishly repeat it.

I've been out of work for the best part of two years. In all that time I've eaten like a king, in my own estimation, in that I've stayed away from all convenience food and saved a heap of money by simply cooking for myself, *and* with more expensive organic ingredients, I might add. Which I also used to do when I was working five days a week - it's a political thing with me. I refuse to support the processed food industry and encourage them by purchasing their products.

If you don't have much money it's really not that hard to keep down your food costs and eat well by cooking with simple and nutritious ingredients, but you have to cook. A Girl Called Jack has made a name for herself (and hauled herself out of poverty) by showing people how to, having been in dire straits herself for a long time.

The food industry itself isn't the only party to blame here though. The death of the high street is an all too familiar phrase these days. The council estate I grew up on was built in the 1950s, and the planners included two areas of shops - one a small parade of about a dozen; the other a more substantial high street setting. The parade had one of almost everything you might need - a newsagent, a sweetshop/tobacconist, a grocer, a greengrocer, a butcher, a hardware shop, a gents and a ladies hair stylist/barber, a chippy and an off licence (no baker, as far as I remember)*. The high street had toy shops, a Woolworths, a post office, timber merchants, ladies and gents (and kids) outfitters, a Co-op, a Sainsburys, a fishmonger, shoe shops (of course smiley - winkeye), a branch library, you get the idea.

Without going very far, and certainly within walking distance, you could get everything a family required for everyday needs

Supermarkets have helped to kill off a lot of that business, so for people who can't afford a car or for whom the buses don't go to where the supermarkets are, the term food desert has come to apply. That's especially prevalent here in the US where so many towns and cities have grown in a way that relies entirely on the car. Oh, it's all very well if you live in a big city, or even a medium sized city like Austin, with a bus network, but a lot of smaller towns, both British and American, have lost shops and markets selling basic items - meat, fruit, veg, bread, dairy - that people can easily get to. And where they do still exist, also as corner/convenience shops, they can't compete with the chains and the supermarkets on price.

So, to finally come back to the subject line - you're not helping - it's utterly counter-productive to exaggerate and deliberately misinterpret something, the way Baroness Jenkin's remarks have been. It doesn't help the cause and it only gives ammunition to the enemy which they can use to discredit anything you say in the future.

*I've just had a look at the parade on Google - the chippy, the offy, the barber and the newsagent are still there, and in the same spot, but they've obviously changed hands since I were a nipper. There's a dry cleaners where the greengrocer was, a bookies where the butcher and sweetshop were, and there's also a party shop, a saddlery and a tarot reader smiley - rolleyes But there is finally a bakery smiley - ok

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Latest reply: Last Week

Stand back, I think I'm going to be sick

There's a thing called cuddlepuff?

Oh gawd smiley - ill

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Latest reply: Last Week

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