Friday, 26 March 2010

Address Unknown - a warning for our time.

'Address Unknown.' Kressmann Taylor.
Having recently enjoyed 'The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society' 2008 by Mary Ann Shaffer and her niece Annie Barrows. I became interested in the letter as an art form, a way of telling a story and influencing events. BBC Radio 4 introduced me to Kressmann Taylor's wartime classic 'Address Unknown'. I heard part of a dramatisation but was interrupted by the door bell. This is a very small book - not much more than a short story but immensely powerful. Like the 'Potato Pie' book but published exactly 70 years earlier, it also uses humour and personal anecdote to tell of the horrors of World War two. This time from an American perspective. Kresssmann (Katherine) Taylor, her husband and young children were living in rural San Fransisco in the 1930s. She heard that liberal educated friends of friends had returned to Germany and been sucked into the Hitler phenomenon in a way that seemed totally out of character and made them behave most cruelly to their former associates. Mrs Taylor wondered how this could happen. Her family moved to New York in 1938 where it was easier for her to take up the reigns of her academic and literary career. Her research led to a terrifying insight into developments in Germany. She wrote these into a series of fictional letters between Max, a Jewish bachelor who remained in San Fransisco running an Art & Antiques Gallery; and his German non Jewish former friend and business partner Martin, who moved to Munich with his wife and his several babies and children. Max has a sister, Griselle, who was formerly Martin's lover and is now becoming professionally successful in the theatre in Vienna; the production is scheduled to transfer to Berlin. At first Martin is shocked by German poverty and loss of morale. He is sceptical of the almost hysterical adulation of Adolf Hitler and his meteoric rise to power. However Martin and his family need to develop a position in the local community commensurate with their wealth accrued in the USA. We see him and his family drawn into Nazism through social networks and his letter writing relationship with his old friend Max cools considerably. Martin becomes a Nazi officer and his son is elevated within the boys corp through a favour bestowed by a senior official whom Martin and his wife had impressed with her lavish dinner parties. The real turning point comes when Griselle is booed offstage in Berlin for being a Jewess and Max pleads for Martin's help to save her.
Katherine Taylor's publisher felt that such a weighty story needed the authority of a man's name and persuaded her to use her maiden surname as a Christian name. Like George Eliot and a whole host of women writers before her she kept her gender hidden. The story was widely published in journals in 1938 and in book form the following year. It was much acclaimed and provided a shocking insight into what was going wrong. It was of course banned in Germany. After the war the book fell out of public consciousness until its recent rediscovery, perhaps by those worried that political correctness or Islam or Christian fundamentalism could change consciousness and cause people to suspend their previously held liberal or academic philosophies, turn against their friends and destroy that which they had previously held dear. A book which should be required reading for everyone in the entire Western World at this un-edifying moment in our history. It has been translated into French and is apparently selling well in the USA. As we approach an election based on spin not substance I wish the BBC would put it out on peak time television rather than hiding it away as a midweek Radio 4 play - but no dramatisation will ever beat the power of being able to flick back and forth between the letters on the printed page, realising with horror what must have happened between each letter and the one which follows it. An easily readable, clever and astounding book!
(c) Jan Loxley 26 03 2010

Friday, 26 February 2010

Autistic Spectrum Disorders & Diet part 2

I think I ran out of space with part 1 - I'm new to blogging & writing on an iPod so I can't see all the screen at once!

What I was saying was that over the last 10 years being gluten free has got MUCH EASIER! Far more ready made products are available - there is even bread in Tesco & Waitrose that tastes like real bread - it's called Genius and is pricey but if you are in a hurry or want to make packed lunch sandwiches which don't fall apart it is great. Doves farm are now marketing a gf self raising flour which does most things that a conventional sr flour would do. And of course we have worked out recipes and strategies and found short cuts that work for us.

The problem with gluten is two fold -
firstly probably an allergy or intollerance which triggers mucous produltion and other allergy/ intollerance symptoms including for some enuresis. This can to some extent be controlled by sodium cromoglycate as Nalcrom taken before cheating and therefore facilitating social eating, French trips and birthday treats. The sodium cromoglycate taken before a treat stabalises the mast cells and thus stems the allergic response.
Secondly and not controllable by medication, is the problem with the large size of the gluten (and casein from cows milk) molecule. People with Autism & Asperger's Syndrome & some other related conditions have gut problems (this relates to the much maligned research into vaccines & Autism by Andrew Wakefield but it isn't just a vaccine related problem it is part of an ASD PROFILE). If, as in these people is usually the case, the gut is leaky, then the large protein & casein molecules pass into the blood stream where they charge around the body possibly interfering with the immune system as they get in the way. But what is the worst is that most ASD people also have poor intercellular structures throughout their bodies including the all important blood brain barrier. The oversized gluten & casein molecules invade the brain interfering with the neuro transmitters and the neural pathways that in ASD conditions are already less than fully efficient.

I feel very very happy with my purchase of 48 litres of rice milk and look forward to my son giving himself the casein free trial which the interference of busy bodies prevented me imposing on him 10 years ago. I wait with interest & excitement!

Jan 27 02 2010

Autistic Spectrum Disorders & Diet.

Yesterday I received a delivery of 48 litres of organic rice milk at a special offer price, below the rate of interest on borrowed money, and equivalent to the price of organic UHT cows milk. The delivery driver looked amazed & my ex husband, who was visiting, asked how I was going to pay for it. My answer was that it was well worth doing.


Because at the age of 20 my Aspie son has taken the decision for himself (which interfering do gooders pre enter me from taking for him 10 years ago) that he would be better off without cows milk!

He recently had a streaming cold & stopped cows milk for a few days because of it's mucous forming tendancies. Lo and behold he found that despite the cold he could think more clearly and was quicker when it came to editing the wonderful music which he writes. So he asked me to order rice milk which he says 'tastes ok when you get used to it'.

11 years ago he had pleurisy, the infection, or more probably the heavy medication he needed, triggered the start of CFS/ME which still blights his life. He struggled for months with lung congestion which wouldn't clear, until the enlightened ENT doctor Glenis Scadding from the Royal Nose Throat & Ear Hospital sent us to see her mentor Professor Jonathan Brostoff - then at the Middlesex.

Dr Brostoff looked for dietary and environmental causes for my sons difficulties. He sent us away to try two weeks gluten free! I was horrified! It seemed like a lot of extra work and extra expense. The comodities of time & money were both in short supply. The busy body educationalists & social workers who had got involved because of the amount of school my son had missed through illness used this as further evidence of my neglect - I was neglecting to give him bread for sandwhiches and instead substituting tuna & rice salad. I was neglecting to give him biscuits and substituting home made gluten free chocolate cake. They just didn't get it. They thought I had a vested interest in making him 'different'.

My son got it and it was wonderful! He was calmer. He could sleep better. His chest cleared and most unexpectedly but best of all his lifelong night time enuresis dissapeared! We reported back to Dr Brostoff and he wrote a letter for the busy bodies benefit saying that in his experience enuresis which was not proving easy to resolve was frequently the result of previously undiscovered food allergy or intollerence! They ignored his letter preferring their theory that the enuresis was something to do with problems in his emotional attachment to me. We proved Dr Brostoffs theory on holiday in France where the temptation of baguettes, croissant & crepes led us to the launderette with soiled bedding. The busy bodies never beleived us!

For ten years now my son has been gluten free, it has got MUCH easier

MPs & Train Travel

I know we all got upset (and rightly so) about second homes & cleaning moats or building bird platforms or husbands watching porn videos on wives expenses.
I think that we have gone just too far in demanding that MPs travel second class on the train.

We PAY our MPs and we expect them to use their time efficiently in the service of us , their Constituents.

Fine on a 45 minute commute into Westminster from their London base - or a link journey from a mainline rail station to a Constituency base. I'm all for them experiencing the world as it is to the rest of us.

But most of them are travelling at least two long journeys a week - between the Constituency and a main line London station.
This can account for 4 or 6 or 8 or even 10 hours a week! A whole day! 1/5th of their working week.

Do we really want them to be standing in a corridor listening to their iPod. Or sitting squashed together, at a table with 3 other people talking, so that they can't even concentrate on the poorly written novel they grabbed from the station kiosk, in the knowledge that there wouldn't be space to spread out even a tabloid newspaper? Or if they are lucky enough to get a seat with one neighbour and a tiny desk do we really want them to pull out personal letters relating to Constituents, not knowing wether the person sitting next to them is a terrorist, a tabloid journalist or the nosy accross the street neighbour of the person needing their MP to help them.

Wouldn't we prefer them to pre- book a single seat in first class where they can use the salary we pay them to sit at a desk and plug in their laptop and get on with the work for which we pay them?

Rail fares might be expensive but the difference between first & second class DOES NOT MERIT THE LOSS OF BETWEEN A TENTH AND A FIFTH OF EVERY MPs WORKING WEEK FOR EVERY WEEK THAT PARLIAMENT IS SITTING.

Second class travel on journeys over an hour just doesn't make sense at the salary level we pay our MPs. It is a total waste of our hardearned money.

Come on MPs fight back. We need you to travel first class so you can work for us whilst you travel!