Kebab obesity virus shocker

Having been told on Horizon last night that obesity may be linked to a viral infection rather than overeating, today the BBC website is comparing the recommended daily calorie intake of adult men and women with the energy contained within your average doner kebab.

Guess what? Well, kebabs have lots of calories in them and could contribute to making you fat. And who would have thought the fact that kebabs are greasy and salty might not be such good news for your waistline either?

Child obesity, adult obesity, morbid obesity. We all know what these terms means and we all have plenty to say about them. We condemn those we consider to be overweight whilst making excuses if our BMI is higher than we’re told it should be. Not only do our eating habits seem to be getting out of control but so does our obsession with what to do about them.

Because now it’s not just about the four week detox diet that’s splashed across a double page between celebrity fashion and the week’s soap round-ups. We want science to back us up in our failed attempts to eat sensibly – an obesity virus means it’s not our fault. What do you mean a kebab contains nearly 150% of our daily recommend intake of saturated fat? Well, why didn’t the nasty kebab vendors tell us they were bad for us? It’s their fault.

In light of both these pieces of news, what I want to know is what would happen if a serial kebab eater caught the obesity virus?


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No room at the inn? Try the bus shelter

The Churches Advertising network have managed to procure donations of advertising space in bus shelters for their festive campaign to increase attendance in Churches across the UK. The painting, by Royal Academy Gold Medal winner, Andrew Gadd depicts Jesus, Mary and Joseph, in the form of a traditional nativity scene, taking refuge in a bus shelter, surrounded by the shepherds and wise men.

Church attendance in the UK is falling. Less than 10 percent of Scots are expected to attend church regularly by 2015. If a shop or service’s revenue is falling, they advertise. So why does religious advertising make us feel a bit icky?

Last year Christian Publishing and Outreach were sued over a poster campaign that used catchphrases from Little Britain and the Catherine Tate Show to spread the word. Legal action was taken because of copyright infringement, but there is also something that just doesn’t quite sit right in the association of the church with popular culture.

But the church must compete for attention in a market saturated with advertising. They can’t offer three for two on communion biscuits or double clubcard points on a Sunday, so how do you sell a cerebral product in a world overrun with stuff?

Religious people might say that it is all about reminding people of the true meaning of Christmas. But I have a feeling that this is a message that will make many of us vomit into our selection boxes. The fact of the matter is that Christmas, for many of us, is about presents and food and families, not the birth of Christ. And these people do not feel like they are missing out.

It almost seems a shame that the church is forced to sink to such levels that it has to slap up a poster next to one for a cut price Bernard Matthews turkey to get the point across. But then maybe this view is too precious – if the church is willing to pitch themselves against big budget advertising for computer games and flashy mobile phones, then why not, if that’s what it takes to get people through the doors?

And the painting itself is not bad. Tongue in perhaps, but not disrespectful. And completely free of copyright infringement. And all you greener public transport campaigners out there must be relieved to hear that Jesus took the bus.

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Should we boycott face-to-face fundraisers?

Yes we should! What a relief it was to find this article nestling on page 6 of the Guardian yesterday. A mystery shopper style operation went undercover to survey fundraisers in London. And, shock horror, their findings showed that in many cases the public were harassed, misled and outright lied to by these innocent looking youths in offensive coloured anoraks. To the extent that the charity watchdog Intelligent Giving, who commissioned the survey, are urging the public to boycott this method of fundraising completely.

I had not heard the term ‘chugger’ before yesterday, but I now know that it was created for face-to-face fundraisers because of its neat combination of the words ‘charity’ and ‘mugger’. Two words you might think of as mutually exclusive, brought together to describe a phenomenon that does actually rape your morals in the quest for your cash.

Many of them can be quite aggressive, refusing to back off if you are unresponsive. An example. “What’s your name?” Keep walking, affronted. “Why won’t you tell me your name?” Keep walking, still affronted. Me in my head “because I am in no way obliged to give you my name you cocky little… And if I did, you would probably write it on a form and then try to blackmail me into giving you my bank details, thus robbing me of £2 a month for life.”

Some are more earnest in tone, but disparaging if they don’t hook you. “Can you spare a few minutes to save the children?”…”No, I’m sorry, I’m on my way to work.” This is what I always say. Sometimes it is true. On this particular occasion I was, in fact, on my way home for a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit before I went to work but this seemed like too much detail and my end destination was the same. He shakes his head and looks at me like I have just sentenced several children to death. Again, keep walking, to slow down is to appear weak. Continue walking and wondering if he deliberately implied that I could single-handedly save all the children. And whether, if I was going to do it myself, would it seriously only take a few minutes?

The squirming sensation that comes with walking towards an on the street fundraiser is a bit like walking towards the revolting boy you snogged once when really drunk after splitting up with the one you believed at the time to be the love of your life and never told anyone about, not even your best mate. You know you have to acknowledge them and that you will say something lame and they will know that you are lying.

But at least revolting rebound snog boy isn’t after your money. Apparently this method of fundraising brings in £20 million a year for charities. But how much does it cost? Hourly rates range from around £7.50 per hour up to a whopping £18! And many of them make commission too.

Even if the charities who employ these people do break even after paying their wages, is it a responsible way to deal with their donors? Is manipulation and bullying the best marketing strategy they can come up with?

To give to charity is a wonderful thing, but in return I want the warm glow of goodness, not the relief of a lucky escape from the jaws of a monster. And so I am resolved to boycott the face-to-face fundraisers guilt-free.


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Ding dong the bills are going to chime

Quick, lets leg it before we have to spend anymore

Quick, let's leg it before we have to spend any more

Reports vary as to the average cost of a wedding in the UK but the cheapest figure I found quoted is £17,000. That is an awful lot more than I have at my disposal.

Bridal magazines and the internet are full of so called money saving tips. Make your own table decorations with artificial flowers and candles from the pound shop. Hand paint your own place cards. But unfortunately to me this smacks a little bit too much of an episode of Blue Peter.

And therein lies the problem. Just because I don’t want to spend a lot on my wedding doesn’t mean that I want it to look cheap. And I don’t want to seem tight, but I pretty much am.

I find myself wading through a sea of white dresses, table decorations and bouquets. Immaculately made-up faces grin wildly at me from the portfolios of photographers willing let them document my ‘big day’. And all the while the pound signs are spinning in front of my eyes.

At this rate the only thing big about my day is going to be the cost. I though it would be easy to cut out all the extras – I’m not interested in flower arrangements or candelabra. But there are more of these costly little extravagances lurking in the shadows than you might think. Up until a couple of months ago I had never heard of a ‘save the date card’. These, for those of you inexperienced in the wedding quagmire, are the cards you send out before the invitations to let your guests know that you will soon be sending them an invitation. And this is not seen as excessive.

Then, on the day, there is the cake that everyone will be too full to eat. The DJ who will probably play ‘Come on Eileen’ even though you specifically asked him not to. And the sounds of your guests’ wallets creaking open as the free booze runs out.

I’m leaning towards cheese sandwiches and a couple of pints in the pub on karaoke night. Food, drink and entertainment in one. And then I’ll have enough left over for a week’s camping in Scarborough.

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The Machine is Us/ing Us

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Alistair Darling’s pre-budget report announced today

It’s good to know that Alistair Darling is brushing up on his economics.

Controversially, it looks like Labour is planning to increase for high earners by introducing a new 45% rate for those fortunate enough to earn over £150,000 a year.

If this is the case, the measure won’t come into effect until after the next General Election (and who knows when that will be? I hear you cry) to make sure that Labour isn’t seen to be breaking its 2005 pledge not to increases taxes on the wealthy.

David Cameron is predicting a “tax bombshell” if these measures go ahead. What will she look like I wonder?

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