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Nobbut laiking: Ross Brewster

Date: Tuesday 31st January 2017

IT’S the trendy lunch choice of everyone from office workers and sports stars like Sir Andy Murray to Hollywood film stars.

I’ll try more or less anything once in the interests of reporting back to my readers. But “once” is destined to be exactly that in the case of sushi. Yuk.

Having spied out a sushi bar, I took the plunge and grabbed myself a stool alongside a revolving counter displaying a baffling selection of cold fish, wrapped up in what appeared to be black paper.

This was the Generation Game of eating. Electric kettle, portable grill, toaster, cuddly toy. Why, I almost expected Bruce Forsyth to pop up from behind the counter announcing “good game, good game”.

At least the fishy concoction I finally chose appeared to be deceased, unlike the sushi Jeremy Clarkson ordered on his recent trip to China. He was presented with a still living fish, cut into strips on one side of its body.

The sushi market in the UK is worth £69 million a year, largely due to its reputation as a low-calorie, vitamin-rich food endorsed by celebrities including actresses Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston. Not to my taste. I wonder how many people quietly grimace as they force down yet more raw fish in the interests of looking cool and fashionable?

We have this thing about foreign countries and diets that will enable us to live longer, albeit with a miserable existence of never looking forward to a hearty lunch.

But hold on. Questions are being asked about sushi. It’s damaging our bodies and fish stocks in our seas, say marine biologists. Not only are we eating all the tuna, the raw fish is filling us with microbeads, those microscopic plastic particles set to be banned in the UK.

Leading Canadian academics blame the “Popeye” effect where everyone ate spinach for its vitamin D content. Then vitamin C was supposed to save us from cancer. Now it is omega 3 for a healthy heart. Yet all we really need, say the professors, is a balanced diet. A commonsense diet.

Thank goodness we’re almost through with January, the month when newspapers are traditionally stuffed with diet plans aimed at those of us who put on a few pounds over the festive season, when cheap gym offers are doing the rounds and folk give up their glass of wine to go dry. On Wednesday it will all be over and we can go back to living normal, happy, sushi-free lives again.

BREKKIE AL DESKO

ON a similar subject, it seems posh office workers are eating prepared salads for breakfast, seated at their desks. Waitrose reckons lettuce will be the “food trend for 2017”, just like it is in the US.

Waitrose says ready to eat “al desko” salads are aimed at health-conscious workers who eat breakfast at their desks. The salads include egg recipes and a vegan version.

Healthy and eating at your desk? Isn’t that an oxymoron? I can’t think of anything less healthy. What’s wrong with a boiled egg and soldiers eaten at home? Is the life-work balance really that out of kilter that workers have to be seen getting in early, forcing down a limp lettuce leaf then spending the whole day slaving over a hot computer?

LANCASTER’S RENAISSANCE

FORMER England rugby union coach Stuart Lancaster took a slating after his team’s premature departure from the 2015 World Cup, but he could be thankful for one thing at least — he wasn’t manager of the England football team like Graham Taylor, whose unsuccessful tenure was met with unforgiveable abuse in the media.

Heaven only knows what animal or vegetable the press would have turned Lancaster into, given his roots in rural Cumbria. Poor Taylor was forever condemned as the turnip, no matter that, England apart, his career in football management was distinguished by its technical knowledge and human decency.

Sad that it was only after his death that Graham Taylor received the public plaudits and the praise of some in the newspapers who once took delight in ridicule.

It’s good to see a decent, honourable and honest man enjoying a quiet renaissance, as Culgaith-born Lancaster is now experiencing as part of the coaching set-up at top Irish provincial side Leinster.

Remembering the dignity with which Lancaster departed the England job, distinguished Irish sport writer David Walsh says: “Crucified as he was in the weeks after the World Cup, a lesser man might have kissed goodbye to a career in coaching.”

Instead, Lancaster, who learned his rugby as a pupil at St. Bees School, West Cumbria, travelled the southern hemisphere, offering his coaching services in return for further education. It was, says Walsh, a demonstration of the humility he expects from the players he works with. He returned from his travels a wiser and more determined man.

With Leinster doing well in European competition this season, it’s another step in Stuart Lancaster’s rugby rehabilitation. Thankfully, he is involved in a game that’s a little less prone to hyperbole than football. But given the comparisons between himself and Graham Taylor, I image he’s forever grateful that the “turnip” soubriquet was taken long before it was his turn to suffer the slings and arrows of outraged writers and supporters.

“HATE INCIDENT” RECORDED

I SOMETIMES wonder what’s going on in our universities when people like Oxford atomic physicist Professor Joshua Silver can waste valuable police time with spurious allegations about a speech he did not even hear first hand.

The Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, said in a speech at the Tory Party conference last October that she wanted to ensure foreign workers were not taking jobs that British workers could do. Not unreasonable, you might think. Not very different from Gordon Brown’s “British jobs for British workers” proclamation when he was Prime Minister in 2008. Brown was hailed as a defender of the working people.

Not a peep from Prof. Silver then, But, hey, Amber Rudd is a Tory and her words might inspire hatred of foreigners. He called in West Midlands police after reading press coverage of the speech, consulting a draft of it and monitoring feedback on-line. He subsequently admitted he had not heard the speech.

The police, having assessed the complaint, said the inquiry was over, but that it had been recorded in line with the National Police Chiefs Council’s manual as a “non-crime hate incident”.

So no crime had been committed, but the implication remains that there was a hate incident and Mrs. Rudd was jolly lucky not to have had her collar felt. The policy of blanket recording of all alleged hate incidents was set out in 2014 by the College of Policing in its Hate Crime Operational Guidance, ironically backed last year by Amber Rudd.

So a politician says something certain people regard as controversial. An academic gets on his high horse and Amber Rudd’s name will forever be on police records and the Internet, associated with a “hate incident” that effectively never was.

We’ll soon reach a situation where nobody dare say anything, even the blandest of words, for fear that they will be branded as intolerant by the very people who themselves are intolerant of freedom of speech when it doesn’t suit their causes.

TROUBLE ON THE BUSES

BUS drivers have a tough enough job being responsible for their buses and passengers on today’s busy roads without being expected to fulfil the roles of diplomat and bouncer.

However, I suspect Supreme Court judges have very little knowledge of the bus driver’s life. Hence their woolly-minded decision in a case last week where a disabled man had been left at a stop because a mother refused to move her pushchair from a section of the bus reserved for wheelchair users.

The judges decided drivers should take a sterner line and refuse to drive off in such instances, with a view to “pressuring” or “shaming” the non-wheelchair user into moving. This may sound reasonable enough to their honours, but real life ain’t like that. As standards of behaviour decline, people tend towards being stroppy, even violent.

It’s fraught with problems for drivers involved in these disputes and it’s unfair to expect them to be on the front-line of passenger wars while the law vaguely supports the disabled man, but leaves them to mediate between angry, unreasonable people.


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