Monday 18 March 2013

Chocolate Trading is dangerous for my mental health!

Haven’t seen me for a while? That’s because for the last three days I’ve been drying my hands. I’m standing in a public toilet, holding my hands under a machine called something like Storm-Eco-Hygi-Dry, which is emitting onto my wet palms a tepid breeze more minuscule than a butterfly’s fart.

I try to keep my hands clean, but it’s no easy task. Having pumped a portion of liquid resembling a minor marsupial’s ejaculate onto my hands from the soap dispenser, I pressed the hot tap in vain, eventually washing the soap off in cold water. Finally, knowing my hands are far from germ-free, I give up and act the boy, drying my hands on my jeans.

As I walk out, I wonder if we haven’t all gone bananas over health and hygiene. I’m no Howard Hughes, but must confess that with the norovirus raging rampant, when visiting hospital loos I wash with hot water and soap, then antiseptic gel, and then, as I leave, wrap my coat sleeve around the door handle that everyone else has used, with all their varying levels of cleanliness.

In UK airports they have hands-free loos. Entry doors have been replaced by twisting hallways. Soap, hot water and strong blasts of warm drying air all turn themselves off and on with impressive efficiency.

Mind you, we are innovative types in the West of Ireland. Before watching a three hour long film at the Galway Omniplex, I visit the Gents, because missing any part of a film is like viewing a portrait with its eyes obscured.

Sometimes in public situations you just can’t get started. So I was very impressed that the good folk of the Omniplex had instslled a motion sensor water jet that serves as some kind of Pavlovian flow accelerator: the sound and vision of gushing works a treat

As society obsesses about clean hands, I’m reminded of what my next-door neighbour used to tell me when I was a little lad: “You have to eat a bag of dirt before you die!”

In a world where people are becoming allergic to everything from peanuts to plastic, it makes sense to keep our immune systems battling away. I have no doubt that today’s super-clean homes contribute more to immune disorders than they benefit our health.

Trouble is, we are bombarded with so much nonsense about health and hygiene, we don’t know if we’re coming or going, so it’s just as well that the Universe made them different colours.

We’re told to eat lots of carbs and then told carbs are terrible for us. We are mammals raised on milk yet now, apparently dairy products are no good for us. Lactose intolerance is on the up, so the food industry has come up with a new kind of milk. I saw it advertised in one of those red-top Sunday tabloid supplements.

“Milk intolerant? Digest this.”

runs the headline on the ad, but in the small print at the bottom of the page they say that this product is

“… not suitable for anyone medically diagnosed with galactosaemia, lactose intolerance, a milk allergy or other milk protein intolerances.”

Do-what guv’nor? Milk intolerant? Digest this, but not if you’re milk intolerant.
A couple of pages further on I hit their Health Page, where they run an article entitled

“Cold and Flu, We’re So Over You!”

which offers the following advice on how best to fight coughs:

“DON’T: spend a fortune on medicines - a recent study by Which? reported that many well-known cough remedies offer little proof to back up their claims.
help the little ones with honey - research has found it to be an effective way for kids with coughs to sleep. Give them 10g manuka honey half an hour before bed. Medibee Manuka honey, £18.99.


No wonder we’re all confused. Don’t spend a fortune on medicines but take a mortgage out to buy a pot of honey?

I refuse to believe that we’re all as dumb as they make us out to be. When you snarf a sausage roll or a slice of chocolate fudge cake, you’re not pretending that you’re eating healthily. We all know pretty damn well that sugar, fat and salt are bad for us, but we’re going to eat them anyway, so my advice is to enjoy yourself. I’m not saying go forth and become morbidly obese, but I do think that it’s counterproductive to worry about eating badly.

Devour the cream cake and the bacon sandwich, revel in your cocktail of self-indulgence and self-loathing, but don’t exist on either. Fearing your food is a pointless and dangerous game.

Mind you, I’m a long way from perfect in such matters. The other day I found myself caught up in a bizarre game of Chocolate Trading, while making a cup of tea.

Carbon Trading is that particularly insane process whereby wealthy heavily-polluting countries pretend they care about the environment by trading their filthy air for ‘clean air’ quotas from poorer, less polluting nations.

Well, Chocolate Trading is much the same, but performed on a domestic level. As the kettle came to the boil I reached for the chocolate digestive biscuits, but remembered how the doctor said that of all the bad things that ever existed, chocolate biscuits topped the league. Crammed with butter, sugar and salt, those chocolate digies were death disguised as little discs of heaven.

‘Hmmm….’ thought I, ‘I’ve got a bar of 70% dark chocolate in the other room. Doesn’t that stuff dilate my veins? Why, it’s almost good for me! If I don’t eat the biscuits I could probably snarf that entire bar and still feel I’d eaten something good!’

Chocolate Trading: digestive biscuits for a whole bar of chocolate and a clean conscience.
Maybe I really am as confused and whackadoodle about health as they say I am.

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