Sunday, 31 May 2009

Musical Recommendation of the Week:
The Night - Frankie Valli & The 4 Seasons

How To Bestride The Urban & The Pastoral With Only A Dog & Some Aftershave

Because my children are weekly borders, I very seldom get out to the countryside. Every weekend, all they want to do is come home and flop. Even though London is at its loveliest with people strolling around as brown as apple pips in this beautiful weather, I still yearn to be out of sight of any concrete; to be deep within the restful green of the country.

The last time I was there was weeks ago. I had driven to a leafy corner of Sussex to see an ancient friend called Wing Commander Kit Young and his wife, Judy. Their house has remained unchanged since my childhood, with willow-pattern china, faded damask curtains, parquet floors and a carriage clock toiling huskily in the hall. Unlike most other houses, where sitting room furniture is arranged around the television, here the sofa has its back to the room and sits inches from a large bay window. Kit and Judy are avid sunset recorders.

Each evening, they mark the windowpane at the point where the sun vanishes behind the Downs and thus calibrate its incremental shift across the horizon from north to south and back again through the seasons. Theirs cannot be described as an exact science – not least because however close they sit, they have marginally different lines of sight. The final position of the mark has been the cause [or possibly the excuse] for almost nightly fights for the past three decades.
This year, in an effort to promote harmony, the sofa has two car headrests bolted to the back of it and they have taped the marker pen to a raspberry cane so they can reach the window without getting up from their seats.

Supper at the Young's starts the moment the clock wheezes out six chimes and we begin another long held tradition: chasing miniscule cubes of vegetables around our soup bowls with outsize spoons. It was all proceeding quite quietly until - as though by some secret signal – the arrival of the cat, or the distant music of the shipping forecast, they both turned on me.
‘Why must you insist on living in London dearie?’
‘Such a filthy place. Everyone there is so certain it’s the centre of the universe. It is a sinkhole.’
‘You’re all so arrogant about the countryside, is if it's just there for you to slouch around in for a couple of days.’
‘You’d burst into tears if you really had to fend for yourself in the countryside.'
'Have you ever plucked a chicken?'
'Gutted a trout?'
'In our day we just got on with things. No one wears hats any more, or gloves. Slovenly.'
'There wouldn't be this Swine 'Flu panic if people simply dressed properly.'
On & on it went as we chased miniscule cubes of fruit in thin custard with tiny teaspoons. In desperation, I said, 'Isn't it sunset?' It worked. Mid-harangue, they downed spoons and rushed from the room. I found my coat and popped my head round the door. 'Off now.' I called.
'Lovely to see you dearie.  Won't you stay till we're done?'
'No, no I'd like to be back in time to see moonrise over the gasometers'
I said, but they weren't listening.
Driving home through straggling suburbs, I knew they had a point.
 Even though I grew up in the country I have over the years developed a slight phobia, call it hedge horror. I fear long term immersion they will drive me mad. Like city living hasn't.
However I am quite capable of living off the land.  I lived on a desert island for a couple of years, so I'm not the totally helpless townie the Young's like to paint me.
If anyone can straddle both the rugged & the urban, c'est moi.  
In fact, such are my credentials, in March I was invited to contribute to a chic fete champetre manual.
I had been dawdling over the writing, waiting to be propelled by deadline panic, but stung by Kit and Judy and determined to compose a written counter blow, I began that night.

Excitingly, my effort was to be 'Lighting a Fire Without Matches.'
Here's what to do in an easy 5 point plan:
1. Forage in the back of your car for rubbish, until you have gathered an armful of sweet wrappers, empty cartons, crisp packets, lost pages from the road map book, single flip flop, scratched CDs etc.
2. Depending on your shopping habits, soak in either aftershave or nail varnish remover. Be generous.
3. Pluck some twigs from the landscape and cover the sodden rubbish in time-honoured wigwam shape - near, but not too near the car. [see left]
4. Put car in neutral and rev hard for a minute.
5. Call your dog to the car [most breeds will do; labrador is optimum, bulldogs a close 2nd].
Grabbing the dog firmly by the tail, thrust the tip into the lighter point. When sufficiently ablaze, feed it between the wigwam staves. 
Woomph, et voila!

Monday, 25 May 2009

Musical Recommendation of the Week
Crazy Bout You Baby - Ike & Tina Turner

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Musical Recommendation of The Week:
Dub Be Good To Me - Beats International
the only song I know that features hilarious humming

Keep Away! You Animal!

Just when I thought I’d managed to reach the end of my children's youth without a pet, I am under pressure once again. It’s my friend and studio partner Raffaella's fault. She has just taken delivery of a black pug called The N.O.T.O.R.I.O.U.S  P.U.G aka Pugsy Smalls.
Our studios are not short of dogs: we have a Labrador, a curly white thing with no apparent face and three dachshunds called Roger, Archie & Mr Binky Bobbles, but the arrival of the pug puppy, so tiny it is dwarfed by Roger et al that it has made everyone go a little mad.

We have had a couple of run-ins with pets before. We kept crickets, which sounded nice but ate each other and forty were reduced to four grotesque titans who would have chomped off one of my children’s feet if I hadn’t sent them on their way.
We had a crab. Well, the children thought it was a pet, but I cooked it and then had to make up a ridiculous story about how it had escaped over the garden fence and then had to stick to it for years.
We had a kitten called Sputnik, who was psycho. Sputnik means traveller, so that’s what he did, all the way to a St. Alban’s where he was inducted into a home of feline delinquency.
Finally, we had Peabody, a divine puppy sold to us as a Jack Russell, but swiftly displayed elements of spaniel? Alsatian? Pointer? All three? Poor Peabody threw up every single time he went in the car. It got so bad he started heaving when I picked up the car keys, so Peabody went on holiday to a country dwelling family, and there he stayed.
My abiding problem is that husbandry is not my strong suit and thoughts of another responsibility gives me the horrors. There’s the suspect personal hygiene, the unwritten rules of street etiquette, the restaurant bans, the problems of foreign travel; and that’s just the childcare.

Growing up in Scotland, dogs were not pets; they were combat personnel. The animal world was a Venn diagram of vermin and food, with hares and rabbits in the overlap. With rabbits being both food & vermin it was only after hectic lobbying that we were finally allowed to keep a rabbit. We named it Michele and she lived in the garage where my father kept his E-type jaguar, except one day, when she travelled thirty miles under the bonnet. She was only discovered when a garage attendant checking the oil pulled out a slightly singed stowaway by her ears. Cars went on to feature strongly; leitmotifs in our pets' lives. My mother ran over two of her own dogs; my aunt three. [Whisper it softly, but Pugsy Smalls is a replacement for the late, lamented Pearl; flattened under her mistress's wheels.]

My first adult experience of pet care was only custodial, but it was not a success. Looking after a friend's canary housed in a beautiful but rather bare cage, I decided to enrich its little life with a mirror and a darling bell on the end of a ribbon. Next morning, I came downstairs to find my charge hanging upside down, leg tangled in the unfamiliar ribbon, head babnging against the mirror. A moving ceremony in a neighbour's garden using an empty fag packet as a catafalque was followed by a shallow burial amongst the onions and an anxious wait for the friend's return.

There was a polite pause before I involved myself again and by this time I was living in Africa with my husband, Willie. Friends leaving the country asked us to adopt their Norfolk terrier, Snuff. What they failed to mention was that Snuff had had a parting tryst with a dachshund - or possibly a ground squirrel - on her way from their house to ours.  As she grew larger, Willie diagnosed a phantom pregnancy and so sure of this was he that when she went into labour, he became convinced it was rabies; I had to beg him not to club her to death.  
Snuff was joined by Lobster, Lemon and Hogweed, but they all eventually fell prey to scorpions, snakes and baboons thanks to an absurd abbreviation in the leg department.

Next, we bought two camels. Of all the animals I have owned these [apart from Hogweed] were my favorite. From their sad, haughty eyes, to their kettledrum feet, I adored them. They were called Makende [Balls] and Billa [Without] and we bought them in a town in northern Kenya, intending to walk them hundreds of miles on a safari down to the coast, where we lived. It was wild, lawless country near Somalia, where the border was just a word and the Shifta [bandits] did their shopping using guns instead of currency.  The land was flat, but with few views - like an endless, annoying orchard - and even though the camels were taller than the surrounding  vegetation, they would vanish within twenty feet of wandering away from us.

Every evening, before we could think about cooking, we would have to find enough wood for three fires: one for us, and one each for the camels, who knelt over them warming their necks.
If we were too tired, or couldn't find enough fuel and ended up building one fire for us and a single fire for them, they shoved each other endlessly and the night would be punctuated with bad tempered groans. If we built only one fire for all of us - then we who would get the shoving.
I left the safari early and after I had gone, Willie was attacked by an army squadron who could not believe anyone would voluntarily walk through this area and arrested him as a spy [another story for later]. Willie was slung in jail and the soldiers took Billa and Makende 'into custody', which meant roast meat and biltong for a couple of weeks.

These experiences of lynching, flattening and roasting have all contributed to profound reservations.
And what if pets could vet their potential owners?
Don't all bark at once....

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Your Jury Needs You

I was nurturing a bit of back shelf dismay about never having been asked to do jury service, when the letter plopped onto my doormat. At last, the biro of fate hovering over the electoral roll had dropped onto my name.  Finally, it was my turn to listen to a case and decide the guilt or innocence of a fellow Londoner.  Ahead lay men in wigs, the solemnity of court, the raw theatre of cross examinations and the anthropological thrill of being shut in a room with eleven strangers for a finite amount of time; what was there not to like?  The call to jury duty came with endless bits of paper and booklets explaining what was required of me, advice about what to wear [ballgown and elbow length gloves would have to stay in the cupboard], what I could find to eat within the building and what I should expect to be reimbursed for performing my civic duty.

The day arrived and I got up early to be on time to get inducted into the jury pool. Middlesex Crown Court is a handsome building on the north side of Parliament Square, but within, it has suffered a hideous institutional makeover: excruciating paint combinations [caramel and lemon anyone?] bad chairs, bad lights, bad carpets, leaflets everywhere.  Nothing happened in a hurry.  Various court officials came in and announced things, treating us as if we were very slightly dangerous mental patients.  Behind the scenes, prepartions for each case took hours and even then, some were canceled at the last minute because the defendents had better things to do with their time and failed to show.  
Eighty or so fellow jurists sat about reading until our names were called to go to the various court rooms.  The trial I was called to started after lunch. Eighteen people got whittled to twelve and we filed into our seats. It was alarming how many peple struggled to read out the oath.  

Our case was a middle aged man up on a charge of indecent assault against a twelve-year old girl on a train traveling from Kent into London.  The witnesses were the girl's father and sister, a ticket collector, a policeman and a fellow passenger.  The man was short, thick set, with greasy grey hair, he looked about fifty, but was in bad shape, so could have been younger.  
The girl was a tracksuit-wearing, tall for her age, but chubbily pre-pubescent and inarticulate. She gave her evidence over a video monitor from a nearby room. 

The story went like this: The girl, with her father and older sister, was traveling back home to London after a visit to family in Tonbridge. The night train they were traveling on was partially open plan with some closed compartments.  The family had one of these to themselves. Towards the end of the journey the two girls went down the passage to use the toilet.  As they passed the next door compartment they noticed two men in there and both made eye contact with one of them.
Because the lock was faulty, they went into the toilet together and took it in turns to lean against the door.  Someone tried to push it open, but they both shouted. When they were done, the older sister walked back down the corridor, not noticing her younger sister was not behind. 
According to the girl, she had been drying her hands and as she emerged from the toilet a man suddenly pushed her back in and shoved his hand into her crotch. 
The assault was over in moments, the girl got away and returned to the compartment in tears. Her father asked what was wrong and when she told him, he went to get the guard, but only after calming his daughter, who was frightened of being left alone.

When he returned with the guard she told him she thought the man was from the next door compartment. The guard went and questioned the passenger sitting in there, but when the girl was asked to identify him, she said it was not him.  The passenger said there had been someone else in the compartment, but he had recently left, although there had been no station stop.
Both the girl and the passenger described the man's clothing in detail; the descriptions tallied.

The guard called the police, who ordered the train to stop one station short of its final destination, where they placed a policewoman at the ticket turnstyle while a team searched the train.  They walked the length of it twice, but were unable to find the man.  By this time, the girl was on the platform. As they were about to give up, the policewoman stopped a man carrying a small bag, but his clothes did not fit the description and she was about to let him go, when the girl called out that it was indeed the man and he was arrested.  
The man's story was that he had been sitting in the carriage and decided to move up the train to be closer to the front for when the train reached London Bridge Station.  When the train stopped, he decided he would have a shave and change his clothes.  It was by chance he had been locked in the toilet during the search.  When the train did not move, he got off and headed for the turnstyles. It was a one word against another. The man was slippery; the girl was nervous and when asked what type of accent the man had, said, 'Sort of maybe um Irish-Indian'. When the testimonies were done, the judge sent us to retire telling us he needed a unanimous verdict. I thought the girl was muddled on some very minor points, but convincing on the main ones; I didn't buy what the man had said and if he was lying, then it must be because the girl was telling the truth.  It seemed fairly straight forward. 
We decided to take an initial vote before discussions. I was amazed - it was the opposite of 12 Angry Men: 11 people thought he was not guilty, only thought he was guilty; it was 1 angry woman.  Discussions began, in earnest, with me having to explain myself.  Occasionally, people would say strange things: a man from Sierra Leone said, 'we cannot say, because we were not there.' and a Filipina Harrods worker said, 'It is difficult when they never said the star signs.'  One man sat in the corner reading the Sun for the duration.  'Why should we listen to a posh bird like you?' was another.  After a while, someone else decided they thought the man was guilty.  Another two hours passed and people were getting pissed off. 
 I was 'trapping' them there. tempers were not improved by a third juror saying she was moving across to the 'guilty' verdict.  I suggested we ask the judge for a majority, rather than unanimous verdict.  I felt we were really letting the girl down and if the man was going to get off, she needed to know that not everybody had dismissed her evidence.  The judge said he would need 10-2: we were 9-3 and fucked.  I certainly wasn't going to be able to turn them all.  After another hour the last juror went back to 'not guilty', 'just to break the dead lock'.  And that was that.  It was over.  By the end, I was aware just how heavily the jury system leans towards the defendant.  It had been completely, fascinating, exhausting, frustrating and ultimately  - & even though I lost - democracy in action is always thrilling. I left believing in the jury system.  
The only thing that needs to be changed about it is that it is far too easy for busy, educated people to duck out of it.  For whoever of us on the electoral roll the biro of fate falls upon, it should be a compulsory civic duty, with no exceptions.  
Speaking to a barrister friend later, he said in 98% of cases of assaults on children, the defendants walk because their alleged victims are rarely able to express themselves clearly enough in the witness box.....

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Musical Recommendation of The Week:
The Stone Roses - Fool's Gold

Not Waving, But Browning & A Kenyan Conviction

Aaaaaargh the news stories in the weekend papers are like injecting a breeze block of pain into the brain.
What a dirty rotten world we live in. First the bankers, I think it people are maddened by their proximity to money and can only think to pay themselves more and more and more money. They swallowdive into the ethical void where the quantity of transactions becomes more important than the quality.
No one blinks at the idea of enticing the dirt poor [with no savings, no prospects, no financial acumen, but a longing for a decent house] into 100% mortgages, where the game is to offload on an inevitably rotten debt to some other sucker as fast as possible.
They think nothing of hovering around a company that might be suffering setbacks to 'short sell' their shares. In fact, they nudge things along by spreading rumours to ensure the shares head towards the floor. They are only 'responding to the reality of the market' they say.

When a lion is slightly lamed by a thorn, it can recover completely in a day or two, but not with a pack of hyenas circling. If you have ever seen a hyena skull it is remarkably thick around the cranium,with vast jaws.......not unlike Mr Average Bankerman.
There is much I don't understand, but I suspect the reason ther
e is no clear overall explanation is because the bankers don't either. What I do understand is that there is no work and what work there is, the pay has been slashed. No book advances, little freelance work. Big trouble, long fall, hard landing. One busted businessman said to me. 'The thing is Liza, you're used to being poor; for me it's a nightmare.'
If I had my way, it would be off to the naughty step with the lot of them.

The thing about corruption is that it isn't a 'feeling'.
People don't sit there like Dr No rubbing their hands and laughing maniacally.
Bankers go home, satisfied with a good day's work. As they slip out of their Savile Row suits and into their power showers, the last thing on their mind is how they have affected a Wal-Mart shelf stacker in Tennessee, or a single mother in the uplands of Brent. Our ministers flounder about saying that something 'must be done' but do zip. And here's why....

They're all in the 1st class carriage of their own goddamn gravy train.
We are highly taxed and are given a mostly dismal return in services while our 'representatives' suck out 10s of 1,000s of pounds in endless crummy expenses. There are times, when I walk out of my house and see the road being mended, the streetlights on, a passing fire engine and I for a moment, I think my money does go on some social goodand yet the papers this weekend tell me that I have also been paying for MPs mole problems, ornamental gates, porn
films, hanging baskets, sparkly loo seats, babies' nappies, the PM's brother's cleaning lady, cat food, pool maintenance, piano tuning,
 pizza cutters and anything and everything else these people can snaffle.

Listening to the radio this morning, an eloquent Nigerian 
was putting the point that this was not a scandal confined to Britain, it ripples out into the wider world, especially to corrupt countries whose few anti-corruption campaigners look to us as an example of probity and whose greedy political elites use it to keep fingers pointing at us & away from their own embezzlements.

When Brown finally got to his longed for job, he trumpeted his steady hand on the tiller. But as chancellor, he presided over the banking insanity and tries to dodge the bullet by endlessly stressing the word 'international' when talking of the crisis, when it was him who flogged off our gold reserves and did nothing at all to save for bad times.
As the son of a preacher man did he not ever think about this?
It's biblical stuff.

His other boast was that compared to Blair's lack of political integrity, he was the man of deep with personal aides running smear campaigns of trumped up sexual allegations, who didn't even balk at using the depression suffered by rivals' wives as ammunition. It's time to say fucketybye.


And now, on to the trial of the Hon. Tom Cholmondeley in Kenya.....

The figure of the Delamere heir has offered great dollops of class-riddled prurience to the press. Cholmondeley is a newspaper reporter's dream: like a character from fiction, he is a nob burdened with an absurdly pompous 
surname and at 6'5" five, with thin lips and cold blue eyes, looks like an Edwardian rake, who might just give someone in the lower orders a damned good hiding with a swagger stick.
Even the normally cool-headed Channel 4 News found it fit to mention where he had been to school, although it was unclear if the implication was that being an old Etonian made his trial all the more shocking, or mitigated his behaviour.
Tragically, instead of a swagger stick, Tom Cholmondeley was fond of carrying a gun and on Thursday, he was finally found guilty of the May 2006 manslaughter of Robert Njoya, an impoverished stonemason who was poaching game on Cholmondeley’s father’s huge Soysambu estate.
Njoya was killed by a rifle shot while hiding in a thicket; betrayed by the movment of his dogs. It makes for potent imagery when a rich man ends a poor man’s life, widows a wife; renders children fatherless for the sake of some small antelope, running wild.
It is not hard to sympathise with a small-time poacher. Njoya was not stealing the silverware; he was trying to feed his family.
The shooting was some sort of blood-drenched Groundhog Day for Cholmondeley. Almost exactly a year earlier, he had shot and killed Samson Ole Sasini, who he also thought was robbing him. Sasini turned out to be an undercover policeman in some cack-handed investigation into suspected illegal bush meat trading out of Soysambu.

There was a national outcry when the Attorney General dismissed the case having taken Cholmondeley’s word that he was fired upon first, without warning. The collapse of the case caused tensions along racial lines all across the country. And while fellow whites stayed quiet, in private they have expressed fury that Tom Cholmondeley single-handedly made life more dangerous for them all.

Tragically, it was probably nervousness about reprisals after the first killing that persuaded Cholmondeley to continue going around armed. Unless their livest
ock was under imminent attack from lion, carrying a gun was a rarity amongst other white farmers I knew.
After the second death, Cholmondeley was remanded in Nairobi’s Kamiti Jail with the trial proceeding at a glacial pace. Thanks to there being no stenographers in Kenyan courts, the judge took down every single word uttered in long hand. On occasion, the lawyers spoke so slowly as to render their arguments unintelligible.
[Njoya's widow and children at his grave]

Cholmondeley’s girlfriend, Sally Dudmesh, who I knew when I lived in Ken
ya found her love life turned into something like a plot line from Bedazzled. Even though they had only been together for a year, for the next three years of his imprisonment she acted as a dogged campaigner on Cholmondeley's behalf. At times, her loyalty was blind. In one mass mailing she wrote:
‘They say, "Every great man has been incarcerated" Mandela, Gandhi...'.
Far from bearing any comparison whatsoever to Gandhi or Mandela, the person whose fate it has far more echoes with, is in fact OJ Simpson.
When Simpson was on trial for the Vegas armed robbery of two collectibles dealers, Judge Jackie Glass ordered the jury to make their judgment solely on the evidence of the trial at hand. Repeated warnings were given against the temptation to right the wrongs of thirteen years earlier, when Simpson was found not guilty of the murder of his estranged wife Nicola and her friend Ronald Goldman.
Cholmondeley of course had no malice aforethought in either of the deaths on his land, but like OJ, he was the beneficiary of a shock decision. Due to the universal frustrations over these outcomes, both faced the risk of bias in their subsequent trials.
When the Njoya case finally came to trial, Cholmondeley’s lawyers, like Phil Spector’s, argued the ballistics angle and worked hard to cast doubt upon whether it was Cholmondeley who had in fact fired the fatal shot. In his turn, when Cholmondeley took the stand, he pointed the finger at Carl Tundo,[pictured right] the friend who had been with him when they had stumbled across Njoya. 
For anyone following proceedings, this chimed an odd note.
Would someone who had already got away with killing one man and now stood accused of another really take three years to say this?
Surely, a man innocent of any killing [and particularly one for whom it is the second time] would argue his case loudly and clearly from very outset.
Cholmondeley had stayed inexplicably quiet.

When he is sentenced next week, it could be for life, or, having already served three years on remand, he could be lucky and walk free. Either way, the manslaughter conviction is correct.

Now that our country has fallen so far from grace, Nigerians could look to their distant African neighbour for the occasional good example.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Musical Recommendation of the Week:
Trouble Man - Marvin Gaye

Goes Nuts

    Reading the forward of a ostensibly normal cookery book, I was enraged by the following statement: 'we hope to bring you an imaginative variety of nourishing meals, none of which contain nuts'. What did that mean? That if I had a nut allergy I would plough ahead with their inclusion if a recipe told me to, like some suicidal zombie?
A few months ago, living it large on an Easyjet flight to Austria I asked the trolley person  if she had any dry roasted peanuts.  [I think at some point somewhere they were called trolley dollies, but on Easyjet you are more likely to get a trolley troll; but I digress.] Call me a damn crazy fool, but I kind of like their dirty old trouser smell, & given the choice of that or some styrofoam sandwich with a boarding pass filing , I'll go with the nuts.  It was like pressing the panic button in the Oval Office.
 'We NEVER sell. Peanuts. On Easyjet! They. KILL. People.' 
'But surely the people who they kill don't actually ask for them' By now I was spoiling for a ruck.  'Aren't you being a bit nutist against those people who can eat them?' 
'You could breath particles over them though!' She was shouting now. 'They could go into our air conditioning system and poison the atmosphere!'
'Yes! Really.' She took a breath and attempted to reinstate a bit of calm. 'Now, madam how about some potato chips, they're only £2 a bag.' 
'Sure,' I said. 'I have a fatal tuber intolerance, but find them delicious. Give me two.' 

I do realise that anaphylactic shock is on no one's wish list, but do nut-involving recipe's really have to be excised from an orthodox cookery book?
That's the nanny culture at its repressive maddest.Will there soon be a black market for Alpen? These days matron is everywhere

 In the not too distant future when the government puts CCTV inside our homes, I shall be forced into having a hard-hat wearing Health & Safety chappy in attendance for all my forays into the kitchen because the smoke alarm is the Pavlovian bell in our house: my little darlings know supper is ready whenever it goes off. 

Alerts and stipulations are everywhere, treating us like drooling morons.
'Danger! It is inadvisable to clamber to the top of this pylon!  
Warning! Do not feed your hair extensions between the teeth of the escalator!
Warning!  Do not submerge your head  in this Jumbo carton of Popcorn!  Danger! Licking the tarmac in the fast lane of the carriageway can damage the road surface!

I strongly believe that not only do children have a right to climb trees, they have the right to fall out of them and break their arms. Helicopter parents who fuss over children, don't make them safe, they make them fearful. Fear is contagious &  if something is obviously frightening a grown up, a child quite sensibly follows suit. You can contage children will all sorts of excessive fears that have no roots in any experience except your own, of dogs, of flying, of germs, of cashews. 
 As parents we have a duty to bite our tongues and let our children climb and explore, and we as consenting adults have a right to jump on and off buses & crack our heads open on the pavement when we screw up. Even if we are mortally allergic to nuts, we should be allowed the option to end it all that way.

I once interviewed Ranulph Fiennes [pictured right, or an impostor?] before he headed off for a solo attempt to the North Pole [the one where he got frostbite in the fingers of one hand & hacked off the offending numb black stubs in the privacy of his garden shed when he got home] He was describing how he was going to haul four months of supplies over the icy Arctic rubblescape, [not unlike dragging a wheelie suitcase along the top of the Rockies, but colder]. As an aside, told me he had once paid £4,000 at auction for one of Captain Scott's biscuits. I was impressed. 
[[pictured left, Capt. Scott, or an impostor?] 
I like to imagine him treating himself to one really expensive polar dinner - but I have this awful dread that as he sat down under the midnight sun and prepared to take a bite, it would be knocked form his hands by some frantic busybody ex-Easyjet employee shrieking, 'Good God, man, that's not just century old hard tack - that thing contains traces of almond! There's a woman in Nuuk who could die if you cough!'
[pictured, Nuuk, capital of Getting Greener All The Time Land]

The moral of this tale is never ever be tempted to read the forward of your cookery book.