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Open gates but no open invites

This is proving to be a relatively "green" week. Meetings on hydrogen energy, the working of our planning system with the environment and, slightly off-topic, eating cereals. All in two days this week.

My staff have obviously heard that my weight has crept up by one and half kilos, obviously psychic powers as I have made no mention of the fact, and have scheduled meetings for me from 1145 to 1400 today. So less, perhaps no, lunch today. Herself will want to watch the FM's press-conference as usual from 1230, so fingers crossed on the Internet bandwidth front.

My own day always starts well. I think the rolled oats which I turn into porridge since there nothing but a mechanical process involved. And unprocessed cereals are generally recognised as being the best possible start for a healthy day's eating.

Nuts are pretty good too but have quite a high calorific value. Herself hides her supply from my grazing tendency. So I will just have to settle pro tem for the carrot batons purchased for that purpose.

There are a few of us in Parliament, a very few, who remember the post-war days of food rationing. The population was never healthier than when the Ministry of Food determined what we ate. To establish this was almost one of the UK Government's first acts only a couple of days after World War II started.

They created a number of dishes which were designed to be nutritious and focussed on efficient use of raw materials. One which is referred to in the "Dad's Army" series still regularly re-playing on TV, despite the last episode having been first broadcast in 1977, is Woolton pie, named after the Minister of Food.

In the TV series, it seems not to have attracted much praise. Elsewhere it is described as a steak and kidney pie with no steak and no kidney. Spices were in short supply and nutrition was more important than taste.

But it must have had something going for it. It features even now on the BBC Food website as "a comforting dish .. a great way to use up root veg and mashed potato." (recipe at https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/woolton_pie_98706).

Another was a fish pie based on snoek (apparently this is the Dutch word for pike) which was imported from South Africa. It was never popular, and even when food was short during the war, tins of it were relabelled as cat food and sold at a substantial discount to the original price.

After the war, rationing became even more strict. The US redirected its foreign aid towards rebuilding Germany with the effect of reducing the imports the (near?) bankrupt UK could obtain.

My immediate post-war generation, nicknamed "the bulge" not because of our circumference but because we were so numerous, therefore spent our early years without, for example, sugar. The only time I recall its being used in our house was for making jam. It was too precious to waste in any way.

Indeed I recall going to the sweetie shop without my ration card for the first time when I was six. Our health was also looked after via visits to the local Ministry of Food office to collect medical bottles of orange juice (diluted not fresh) to boost our vitamin C. We also got cod-liver oil. It was substantially less popular. And once a year a fresh orange would be in our Christmas stocking. Well done, Santa!

Today our health is substantially influenced by what we eat, mainly by eating too much of it. I hover right on the edge of the normal Body Mass Index range for my height and gender. So to hear about what other countries are doing on eating wholemeal was interesting.

In Denmark, the average wholemeal intake is about 84g per person against a target of 75 grams. But here it seems we consume no more than twenty.

I can readily see that I must be a wee bit ahead of most people as my daily porridge comes in 27g portions. I realise that most of the products I buy do not readily help count how much I may be eating from other foods.

The five portions of fruit a day rule is probably known by most of the population. I certainly exceed that. And I have just finished a packet of carrot batons that will have me harm at all.

As we are seeing that people who are overweight are much more likely to suffer very adverse reactions if they become infected by the COVID-19 disease, that's yet another reason for public health professionals to be focussing on weight.

Some colleagues have reported putting on weight during the lockdown. If you ain't out and about one may be avoiding the temptations of "on the hoof snacks". But boredom may have moved centre stage. And we know that is a big cause of snack browsing.

When I am down south for Parliamentary meetings, I keep no biscuits or other similar temptations in my accommodation there. The temptation to snack may still exist, but the opportunity is removed.

On the 8th of May, I wrote about my father's skipping his public health lectures. In the good times, it remains the poor relation in health care just as it was when my father studied to become a doctor.

It's worth looking at Vietnam's experience of the pandemic. A country of 93 million with a bare handful of infections and zero deaths. Mainly because they had been through it before and were ready.

Scotland is hed up as an exemplar of an advanced country's response. But today represents a big shift and an increase in opportunities for the virus to be passed from person to person. If no one carries the infection, then that won't be a problem. We can continue to move closer to a post-pandemic, perhaps even a post-infection, world.

In our own little world, it is also a big day.

It was exactly seventeen weeks ago that we shut our gate between us and the world.

We opened it again today.

But please continue to keep a safe distance from us.

Safe for us.

Safe for you.

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