Friday, 21 January 2011

The true nature of altruism

Altruism is defined as a selfless concern for others welfare.
 Pure altruism is giving without regard to reward or the benefits of recognition and need.

How many times do we do things in our daily lives, which directly benefit others, at no cost to ourselves? Is altruism different to common courtesy, politeness and a general sense of compassion towards others? If we give money to help victims of natural disasters, or the starving in the developing world, is that an altruistic gesture, or do we do it to assuage our guilt, at the sneaky little voice at the back of our mid that says thank god it wasn't me? Every day we do little things that we don't need to do, to help out other people, such as letting someone into the traffic ahead of you...but then we get irritated if someone doesnt acknowledge it, or do the same for you.

There are, i think genuinely few instances of pure altruism. moments or opportunities in our lives that can have a direct benefit to someone else, with no reward other than knowing we have done a good thing. Being a blood donor is a really simple was of giving, to directly benefit others. How many of us will end up having a transfusion in our lives, as a result of an accident,or surgery, or even treatment for other illnesses. My dads wife is having treatment for breast cancer at the moment. The drugs she is taking have knocked her iron levels down, to such an extent, that she had to have a blood transfusion before Christmas, in order to help her function at a somewhat normal level. So, if you are a blood donor, please be proud of yourself, and accept my thanks. I intend to sign up as soon as i am able; no more excuses. If you can, you should. Because you just never know.

I wish, when my babies were small, i had known about milk donation. As a breastfeeding mother, i could see the benefits of breast milk, in the growth and development of my infant. Every day, there are hundreds of tiny, premature babies in special care nurseries who, for one reason or another cannot be sustained by their mothers milk. Donated breast milk can literally save their lives, and help them to recover, to grow and go home. Which is where all babies should be. A good friend of mine recently gave birth to twins, who needed to be in special care for the first few weeks of their lives. They were lucky enough to have donated breast milk. That, with their mothers milk gave them the best start. and they are now at home, and growing into beautiful strong healthy babies.

Are you on the register? When i first passed my driving test, and got my license, back in the days when it was just a piece of paper, it used to come with a slip on the bottom, to be filled in, to indicate your desire to become an organ donor. I filled it in, and put it somewhere safe. Over the years, i have filled in umpteen donor cards, and then invariably lose them. So, to simplify things, you can now register to be an organ donor online. Of course, being on the donor register, doesn't mean you will become a donor. So many things depend on it, not least of which are that your family have to give permission for your organs to be used after your death. In their time of sorrow and distress, a doctor has to approach them, and ask if they will allow your body to be used to save the lives of many others. So. if you are on the register, discuss it with your friends and family, and make sure that they know. 

Of course, there is another way you can help others after your death, which many people don't think about. Today's medical students are tomorrows doctors. The people who will help you stay healthy, who will help you to fight disease, who will treat illnesses. And those students need to learn. There is only so much that cant be learnt by reading books, by browsing the internet and by attending lectures. Nothing quite beats hands on experience. And this experience can only be gleaned in one way; by studying human anatomy and physiology in the flesh. Literally. Some people decide to donate their bodies for scientific research. I am not sure i could do it, but maybe that is because i have met a lot of medical students, but it might be right for you!

Finally, what has prompted me to write about altruistic gestures today? As i write, I am sat in a hospital room, waiting for a friend to come back from surgery. He is a middle aged, single man, with no children, who is going under the knife today, in order to save the life of a stranger. A child, at this moment is waiting to receive a bone marrow donation, which will hopefully transform their life. Donated by my friend, a stranger, because he can. Because he is a match. He doesn't get paid for it,he gets no real reward, other than the knowledge that he has done a good thing.

And, of course, he has my utmost respect. And i am very proud of him.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Randy Cats and having it off.

Calliste is in season. It is quite funny really. She has got over her shyness, and has turned into a complete tart! she is chirruping, miaowing, rubbing herself on anything and anyone, and is just desperate for a bit of boy cat love. Which she isnt getting!

We picked her up from the cats home last tuesday, and she spent much of the first few days hiding under the sofa. She would come out and allow us to stroke her, but only when it suited her. Any attempts to pick her up resulted in her bolting back to safety. But over the last few days she has come out of her shell, bounds up and down the stairs, plays in the kids rooms and is so friendly and affectionate. It is a joy to behold. And the fact that she is in season shows how happy and settled she is.

Last night i went along to the running club, to join in the engagement congratulations of the club chair and her partner. I was asked by several people, if i was looking forward to having it off. They were, of course, referring to my brace! I had an appointment with the spinal consultant today, Mr B. He is a bit of a dish... We talked about kindles Vs Ipads, the glorious defeat of the australians in the ashes, and then finally my back. I have started healing well. The bone is mending and recalcifying, so i am allowed to take the brace off, when i am at home pottering. But, the best news is that i am allowed to do some 'gentle exercise' :-) . Of course, this means no marathons, no mountain biking and no ice skating....but i can do some stationary cycling, some pilates, some walking and some swimming, depending on how it feels.

So, back to work on monday.....for a maximum of 3 hours a day....

so am not having it off yet.....:-)

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Experimental cauliflower. Thanks to Riverford. And Clare. And Duncan too!

I decided this year to try and get the kids to eat more veg. They eat quite a lot, the challenge is to get them to eat more, and in a more varied manner.As it has been so cold recently, i have taken to keeping a box of veg in the utility room. It means it is nice and cold, but isnt languishing at the back of the fridge unloved and ignored...(some might say it was labguishing in the utility room, but thats another thing altogether!)

 The kids like brocolli, cauliflower, potatoes. Beans, NOT cooked carrots and various other things. But i will confess that the prospect of producing another dish of cauliflower cheese for tonights supper, just did not appeal.

For Christmas i was fortunate to recieve a lovely book; Riverford Farm Cook Book. This book is beautiful. I am a huge fan of Riverford farm, who operate an organic veg box scheme. There are of course, pros and cons of organic produce, which i wont go into here, but what i think is more important is eating seasonally. It aggrieves me when the kids want to buy watermelons in december, especially when we have a glut of them on holiday which i cant persuade them to eat. Worse still, for me, is the appearance of rows and rows of perfect, uniform apples. None of which are british. My favourite apple is discovery, which is a lovely pink blush apple,. almost floral in frgrance and taste, and has such a short season that i go direct to the orchard and pick them, as there is no point in waiting for the 'big 4' to get them in. By the time they do (if indeed they do) they are but shadows of their former beautiful pink perfumed selves.

Anyway, i digress. Riverford. Seasonal food, [picked and delivered fresh. Yes, of course there are food miles involved. Our farm, Upper Norton is in Hampshire, so a bit closer to us than the original Riverford Farm. If i deliver by weds evening, i will have delivered fresh to my door on Friday, by the lovely Jake, a box of deliciously fresh, muddy, earthy veggies, a leaflet with a recipe on it, and excitement. Yes, sad, i know, but i get excited when i delve into the box, and remove twisted carrots, earthy parsnips, and leeks that seem to be about 3 feet long.

So this evening, with a cauliflower in hand, i turned to my nice new book. I have found if i tell the kids EXACTLY what is going into something, i normally end up with a mutiny on my hands. So tonight i didnt..i glossed over the 4 shiny salty little anchovy fillets, that i mashed into garlicky oil. There would have been a riot otherwise.

I present, for your delectation, Pasta, with cauliflower, garlic and anchovies.
Very simple.
Cook florets of cauliflower in boling salted water for 5 mins.
Meanwhile, gentle cook one or 2 garlic cloves, chopped small in olive oil, without browning them too much. Rinse and finely chop the anchovies (i had whole fish in salt, that i brought home from france last summer) and mash into the garlic and oil.

At this point, i removed the cauliflower using a slotted spoon and put it into the frying pan with the oil/garlic/anchovy mix, and put the pasta (the recipe states penne, but we had twirls) into the cauliflower water to cook.
I mixed the cauliflower round, then covered the pain and cooked on a low heat for about 6 minutes. Took the lid off, mashed the cauliflower a bit, and added a good shake of cayenne pepper (there was mild rebellion, maybe i added too much?)

Once cooked, i drained the pasta, chucked it into the frying pan, and mixed into the cauliflower mix. A handful of grated cheese and done.

FG complained about the pepper......FT went back for seconds. Mostly successful.