Category Archives: Family

Gothenburg and the Obesity League Table


Luuta by Iiu Susiraja 2010 Konstmuseum Gothenburg
Luuta by Iiu Susiraja 2010 Konstmuseum Gothenburg

When we were in Gothenburg for a long weekend, except for a few obese men in the beer cellar, already scoffing beer mid-morning, and a scattering of overweight women, we didn’t see any other grossly obese men or women the first four days. Most people were trim, rather than thin, but even a bit of plumpness was uncommon.

Then, on day 5,  as we sat drinking coffee in an outdoor café, a family of an obese woman and her overweight children, well on the way to obesity, passed by. It was Monday and there were more people out and about than previously. A scattering of obese men and women then strolled past – none of the size portrayed in Ilu Susiraja’s selfies.

Back in London, our first morning back,  two obese women were queuing at the bus stop and then, as I made my way to Sainsbury’s, obese men and women were common.

According to the latest (2013) avalable data  International Obesity , only 12.9%  of Swedish people are obese, while here in England the figure is 24.8% (Scotland 27.7%, Northern Ireland 23%, Wales 22%). In the USA, heading the Obesity league table after the Pacific Islands and Kuwait, the Obesity Prevalence is 35.9%. Japan has the lowest figure for obesity at 3.5%.

Obesity is multifactorial but the abundance of cookshops we saw in Gothenburg (and in Stockholm) attests to the Swedes’ interest in home cooking as opposed to living on takeaways.
This must be a significant factor in their enviable place at 26th on the 2013 Obesity League table which shows England at 7th place and USA in first place, a clear winner – or loser!


Fresh from San Sebastian
Fresh from San Sebastian


Louise and her family come over from San Sebastian Easter, August and Christmas – during the school and college holidays. They always come bearing goodies – this time they brought this delicious box of strawberries and jars of my favourite pickled peppers.

Basque Pickled Peppers
Pickled Peppers from the Basque country

We’ve tried buying picked peppers in London but have only been able to find the fatter tough peppers that are best used for cooking. I like to have a pickled pepper in my home-made cream cheese sandwiches.


I might try  this tongue twister on my Basque grandchildren.

‘Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
A peck of pickled peppers Peter picked.
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers
Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter picked?’

I wonder who remembers how much a ‘peck’ is – 9.0923 litres or ¼ bushel. A bushel is a measure of volume (1.2445 cubic feet or 8 gallons) used originally for quantities of grain, fruit or other produce, so the actual weight would vary depending on the contents.
As a children in pre-WW2 London we had to learn all these old measures like rods,  poles, perches and  chains as measurements of length.  Acres (4840 square yards) are still used as measures of area, particularly in farmland.


Jody's self-published thriller
a meeting on self-publishingJody’s self-published thriller

I met Jody Medland of Penworksmedia at Indie Insights, a meeting on self-publishing, .  He self-published his scary thriller The Moors, a gothic tale of murder and child abuse set in present day Cornwall, and his company is about to publish a variety of books by other authors.

Jody liked the first three chapters of my memoir – Woman in a White Coat – so I am busy giving the manuscript a final edit before sending it to him.

I had originally written my memoir starting with my medical career, each chapter having  flashbacks to my childhood.  However, I decided it would work better if I split my memoir into two. Now, Volume 1 will cover my childhood until I start at medical school, 1931-1953. Volume 2 will take it from there.

What do you think?

Chapter 1 Continue reading WOMAN IN A WHITE COAT – VOLUME 1

All’s well that ends well

An early interest in getting stuck in
An early interest in getting messy. Can’t believe she’s now 48.

Perhaps an early interest in strange materials persuaded Jane, our fourth child, to take up the sciences. Now 48, she is a Science Professor.

We very nearly lost her. She was six weeks premature and so she is only 17 months younger than Louise. Now good friends, they clashed as teenagers and we had to put up with all the teenage angst one after the other. As soon as Louise emerged loveable and sweet, Jane started being difficult and hard to deal with.

Excerpt from my memoir Woman in a White Coat
Simon, our elder son,  was in St Margaret’s having an internal ear repair. I was 32 weeks pregnant and feeling very wobbly as we kissed him goodbye and went towards the lift. A trickle of liquid ran down my leg.
‘Oh God,’ I said. ‘My waters have broken.’
We crossed over to the maternity wing.
‘Look, Abby, you’re not in labour,’ the obstetric registrar said. ‘It would be best if we didn’t admit you. With your membranes ruptured, you’re better resting at home. Much less risk of infection. Let’s see if we can’t get this baby of yours a bit more mature.’
When we got home I went to bed and stayed there, except to go to the loo. No way was I going to use a bedpan. Our au pair was wonderful. She treated me as if I were made of china and very delicate. I managed to get to 34 weeks before I went into labour. I phoned for an ambulance. Continue reading All’s well that ends well

Simon doesn’t look the same either

Simon with some of the gorgeous toys we sold in our John Dobbie toyshop
Simon with some of the gorgeous toys we sold in our John Dobbie toyshop

Our elder son, Simon, is now in his fifties and like Joshua, my husband, he is now bald, tho’ he still has deep blue eyes and long dark lashes to die for .

When I had him in July 1960 I was completely sloshed.



Extract from my memoir Woman in a White Coat
I was bored out of my mind. Joshua and I had moved from our basement flat in Central London to a small terraced house in Wimbledon and I still didn’t know my neighbours. With only the two of us living there, the house took less than an hour to clean. Now I couldn’t even do that. My blood pressure was up, my legs were swollen and I was told I must rest until my baby was born.

I was delighted when David and Lilian, Josh’s cousin and his wife, invited us to dinner. It was great getting of the house. We were greeted with a glass of dry sherry – no nonsense about alcohol being bad for my unborn child. Dinner was delicious – a rich goulash with dumplings and Lilian’s luscious strawberry cheesecake. We shared a couple of bottles of Hungarian wine with our meal and, while the smell of our filter coffee still lingered, we sipped the cognac we’d brought them from Paris.
As I leaned back to pull my enormous belly away from the table, a trickle of warm liquid ran down the inside of my leg.
‘I think my waters have broken,’ I said, ‘but I’m not due for two weeks.’
Lilian put her arm around my shoulders.
‘Better early than late, Abby. Come on. I’ll fetch you a towel. It will soak up most of it.’
I eased myself into our old Morris car, making sure the towel was securely stuffed between my legs. I shifted uncomfortably, sticking to the shiny black seats. The car had very little in the way of suspension, so there was a spirt of liquid every time we went over a bump or dipped into a pothole. Continue reading Simon doesn’t look the same either

Busy Busy

Home made dinner rolls
Home made dinner rolls

Monday Bank Holiday. I love cooking – find it really relaxing. I cook Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and Joshua cooks the other days. it’s not as unfair as it sound because we quite often eat out on Saturday night. .Our son, Simon, is coming to dinner tomorrow and will stay the night. Our main course will be pastitsada – a Greek stew with tomatoes, cloves and cinnamon. The recipe used lamb but i find it a bit strong and will use beef with new potatoes and broccoli. As a desert i will make an easy favourite plum tray bake. Both Waitrose recipes that always work – not like some of the recipes in newspapers!