Side-servings of cyanide

Two hot and hectic days in the community café. My brain’s turning into a cheese and ham toastie. White bread. No salad. Funny how people react to salad. Some look at you as if you’ve offered them a side-serving of cyanide. Others say yes. Then return it untouched. I could write a whole post on the amount that goes in the food waste every day. A few actually eat the stuff. One or two even ask for extra. And eat it.

From observation, the Great British Public divides into four broad categories when it comes to salad. Fruit and veg in general. There are those who hate it outright. All of it. Wouldn’t be seen dead eating anything that looked as if it might once have been attached to a plant. And are not afraid to say so. Aggressively. They’re comparatively rare. Much more common is the second category. They feel exactly the same way about plant-based food. But they know they’re supposed to eat it. And they’re too polite to say no. They’re the ones who poke their mixed leaves with their forks but don’t actually put any in their mouths. They’re also the reason we’ve halved the size of our salad portions. The third group quite like salad. In moderation. With plenty of mayonnaise. Or at least they like some elements of it. Probably not radishes. Beetroot. Or anything a bit out of the ordinary. The rest of us can’t get enough of the stuff. However, we’re often obliged to play this down. After all, we don’t want to look too much like goody-two-shoes.

I sometimes wonder whether politicians and health experts have the smallest understanding of human psychology. My guess is sales of fruit and veg rose briskly when the five-a-day campaign began in 2003. I wouldn’t mind betting a whole lot more started going in the bin too. Now they’re making noises about seven-a-day. Trouble is we get all in a tizzy when someone tries to tell us what to do. Especially if they use thinly-veiled death threats to enforce compliance. We don’t like being pushed around. But we feel guilty.

I love fruit and veg. I could live the rest of my days on avocado salad and olives. Washed down with red wine of course. I’d be in seventh heaven. But now I hear they’ve decided red wine’s not good for you after all … My doctor once told me most patients deliberately underestimate their alcohol consumption. Hardly surprising when fear and guilt are such major components of our national attitude to drink. According to a World Health Organisation report around a third of those who drink in the UK sometimes binge. It’s a habit that can be very harmful to health. We have relatively high taxes on booze. Controls on who is allowed to buy alcohol, and where and when they’re allowed to buy it. Yet our rate of binge drinking is around five times that of Italy where the attitude is far more relaxed.

Coercion in relationships never works. You might use emotional blackmail to hold onto your partner. But you’ll never have her heart that way. You can’t build a sound relationship on a foundation of fear. Likewise, government-sponsored guilt trips will never make us change our ways. We might buy more vegetables. If all they do is ferment in the fridge we might as well have bought booze in the first place. We might give up drinking from Sunday to Thursday. If we blow the whole thing on a bender at the weekend there really wasn’t any point. Far better to admit the truth. We don’t like salad. We’d be happier with a couple of beers and a rare steak. And if we didn’t feel so bloody guilty about it we might not want to get hammered every weekend.




I’m blogging to raise funds for a charity close to my heart. I’ve given up NOT being a writer for 125 days in support of One25’s work with vulnerable women in Bristol. If you’ve enjoyed reading this, you can find out more about what I’m doing by visiting One25’s website at You can also support them by visiting my fund raising page at where you can make a donation and suggest an idea for a short story or a post on the blog. Thank you.


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