Thursday, September 07, 2006

AKRASIA - that is what I'm suffering from.
I've been wondering what my problem was and now I've found a name for it.
It is the state of acting against one's better judgment. Weakness of will, inability to make myself do what I need and want to do. Apparently it was a state of mind much pondered over by the ancient Greeks, and Socrates posed the philisophical puzzle that defines akrasia - if one judges action A to be the best course of action one can take, why would one do anything other than action A ? I need help, advice on a postcard (or in the comment box below) please.

Dunno by
Peter Inson

I came upon this book completely by chance, and I am so glad I did. In fact I am putting a copy into the Retiring Rooms at both the Youth Court and Family Court where I sit as I think all magistrates who deal with young people would benefit from reading it.

This is the story of six months in the life of a fifteen year old boy called Jon. The only child of a single mother of 32, his life has been one of physical and emotional poverty and abuse. He is a truant from a school system that he doesn’t understand, and which doesn’t understand him. From a young age he has drifted into petty crime, and now cannot see any other way of living. His life is a complete misery as he is caught between a loveless home, a rigid education system, and the threatening attentions of other criminal bullies – his future seems bleak to say the least. However as a result of an injury he sustained when breaking and entering his own home, he has to go to A&E at the local hospital where the male nurse who stitches his wound manages to get through to him, and slowly he finds another way of living through encountering adults who do not threaten or browbeat him. The solutions he finds may well not be what society wants or expects, but they turn his thinking and way of life around sufficiently to move him in a more positive direction where he has some hope of coping with adulthood without becoming one more of those individuals who spend their adult lives in prison or on the dole.

The language is strong and realistic, the tone is never patronising and the author doesn’t offer any hard and fast answers to Jon’s problems, just possibilities.

I see youths like Jon in both the Youth and Family Courts over and over again. This is the first novel I have come across which exposes the lives of those who live well below our radar, the underbelly of our society. The news media has been full of stories of ASBOs, hoodies, feral youths and so on, reflecting the glib comments made by our politicians – Jon is a hoodie if ever there was one, and whilst reading this book I felt moved by David Cameron’s instruction to hug a hoodie. If I could have given Jon a hug I would have done so immediately, he desperately needed one.

A teenage book for adults, and an adult book for teenagers, it may open your eyes.

This book has not had the publicity it deserves, as the author self-published it in 2004 it did not have the PR machine of the big publishing houses behind it. Peter Inson was an English teacher, and eventually Head of a large comprehensive school in Acton, west London. He then taught at an international school in Switzerland for five years.



If you live or work in London you have probably noticed these banners appearing on lamp posts all over the city.

What does it mean? What is it meant to mean? Who cares what it means?

“We are one, we are Londoners”? Or, “We Londoners are as one” ?

This is the latest whiz-bang campaign dreamt up by our beloved Mayor “Red” Ken Livingston, and sponsored by British Gas (I think most Londoners would rather they lowered our gas prices rather than help aggrandise Red Ken and his jammy job). Apparently this is to celebrate how we are now a multi-cultural bunch who all love one another. Oh yeah?

Anyway, if we are, do we need to be told? Surely we know already.

Personally I think this is all a load of claptrap.

Pause for a digression …. I suddenly thought that I didn’t know the real meaning of the word ‘claptrap’ which I have always used to mean bollocks. So I looked it up, and the real, original meaning is, according to my wonderful Oxford English Dictionary is:

1. (with pl.) A trick or device to catch applause; an expression designed to elicit applause.

Well what do you know, claptrap describes this campaign exactly!


Every family has foods that they eat so often they take it for granted that everyone else does so too, and in our household that includes coleslaw. There is nearly always a container of it in our fridge. It is such a useful salad, you can eat it all year round, it is cheap and easy to make and so versatile. Vegetarians and carnivores both seem to like it. Coleslaw can go with braaied meats, or with cold cuts, it can be added to sandwiches for packed lunches, it can be served with a baked potato or an omlette to make a light meal. And what is more, you feel so virtuous when you eat it - after all it is raw vegetables, how healthy is that?

There are loads of different coleslaw recipes in the cook books, but this is my own variation and I can practically make it in my sleep I've been doing it for so long.


Half a white, green or Savoy cabbage, finely shredded

3 large carrots, peeled and very coarsely grated

3 sticks celery, strings removed and finely sliced

6-8 spring onions, trimmed, and finely sliced (including green parts)

3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

A handful of sunflower seeds

For the dressing:

4 tablespns good quality mayonnaise

4 tablespns crème fraiche

1 clove of garlic, crushed

1 teaspn mustard powder

2 tablespns olive oil

1 tablespn white wine vinegar

1 tablespn lemon juice

Salt + freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the vegetables for the salad, (a mandolin makes life much easier!)

In a bowl combine the mayonnaise, crème fraiche, and mustard powder. In a separate bowl whisk together the oil, vinegar, lemon juice. Now gradually whisk the oil/vinegar mixture into the mayonnaise mixture. Season well.

Combine all the grated, shredded and sliced vegetables, parsley and sunflower seeds in a big bowl and pour over the dressing and toss with fork and spoon till everything is well coated. Taste for seasoning. Cover and chill before serving.

This salad is very flexible, you can substitute ½ a finely sliced onion for the spring onions, and ring the changes with the amount of carrot and the type of cabbage, and add some red cabbage for extra colour. It keeps well in the fridge for 2-3 days.

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