Fiction with an edge

Thursday, 31 December 2015

A cheap shot at Postmen by the BBC? You decide ...
Pointless (Quiz Programme -- BBC 1)
Series 10 -- Episode 2 of 70
Programme first aired 27th September 2013 at 5.15pm.
Repeated on 30th December 2015at 5.45pm
I saw this episode of the quiz programme (as a repeat) on 30th December 2015 and my complaint (on the same day) to the BBC about it was that, during the introduction the presenter, Alexander Armstrong, joked that his co-presenter, Richard Osman, was called the Postman as, and I quote: "he always delivers and he isn't above stealing ten pound notes from birthday cards".  
I felt the remark was not only offensive and classed all postmen as thieves, but promoted an incorrect and slanderous stereotype.
I asked for a reply to my complaint which I received promptly the next day and is shown here:
Dear Mr  White
Thanks for contacting us about Pointless.

We understand you’re unhappy with a comment made by Alexander Armstrong.

Alexander and Richard have a very long tradition of introducing each other in a humorous way, but the joke is always firmly on them. In this case Alexander was deliberately using an outdated stereotype to poke fun at Richard, and we’d hope viewers would appreciate that the reference is obviously baseless. That said, we’d never set out to upset or offend viewers, and we’ll make sure your comments are circulated to the Pointless team.

Thanks again for contacting us.

Kind Regards

BBC Complaints


 My reply to the BBC (31st December 2015) was:

Your response:  "In this case Alexander was deliberately using an outdated stereotype to poke fun at Richard, and we’d hope viewers would appreciate that the reference is obviously baseless" I'm afraid I don't agree with, for the following reasons:  

1) Calling it an "outdated stereotype" implies that the public had thought postmen/women were thieves. I'd like to see your proof for that assertion.

2) If the reference was "obviously baseless" as you suggest, why create it? 
3) The use of the reference in the programme by a well-known personality not only gives it a base, but also promotes it as a given -- all postmen steal. So what you have done in allowing this reference to be aired again, (as it was a repeat from 2013) is give further oxygen to the myth that postmen (and postwomen) are thieves.

It was a cheap joke at the expense of hardworking, out-in-all-weathers individuals who are doing a valuable and essential role, often for less than the national average annual wage.

Someone in your organisation chose to allow this reference to be aired - why I don't know, but it smacks of elitism at the detriment of a sector of the working class that pays that person's salary, via the licence fee. 

I would like the BBC to apologise for the use of this offensive reference.   

 Is it just me, folks, am I super sensitive to this sort of crass cheap joke? I wonder if postmen / women would give it  a second thought? Maybe I should ask them. Watch this space! 



Monday, 18 May 2015

Terbinafine - Beat it!

It's back! My taste returned last Sunday, but I wanted to check that it was not a flash in the pan before I posted.

It's been 13 weeks and whilst my taste began to come back a couple of weeks ago, the ability to taste sweet things has taken a couple more weeks. If anything now I feel my taste for sweet things has heightened - I'm assuming that will regularise over the coming week or so.

For those of you still suffering this horrible so-called side-effect keep eating what you can. I know it's difficult and there were times when I felt totally depressed because I didn't want to eat (or drink) as food and liquids just tasted so terrible. I have lost weight because of this problem and now need to get back to eating healthily to put it back on.

I do believe doctors need to do more research before they prescribe this medication and I also believe the pharmaceutical companies producing it need to revisit their patient leaflets as, I believe, the information contained within them is misleading. The leaflets will suggest that (1) the possibility of developing this side-effect will be minimal and (2) what they call 'taste disturbance' will disappear as soon as the medication is stopped.Both are at inaccurate. My case and that of others is that once you have this loss of taste it can last a minimum of eight weeks (mine 13 weeks!) before you fully regain it - that's not minimal. To call this problem a taste disturbance is also grossly wrong. When it happens it brings with it a host of other problems, loss of interest in food, loss of interest in eating and drinking, medical problems associated with not eating and drinking enough, relationship issues and depression, to mention a few. These are not conditions to be treated lightly - especially in people who may already have physical or mental problems.

My GP had no knowledge of this side-effect and although he said he would stop prescribing it, there will be other doctors out there who will prescribe it, whether through a lack of knowledge of the side-effect or because they feel the on-line drug advice suggests minimal risk. I daresay, too, there will be people who will have used this drug without experiencing this side-effect and will wonder what all the fuss is about. They have been lucky and I am pleased for them. However, my concern is for the people who have and will suffer this problem and the horrible way it impinges on their lives. 

In light of the horrid situation this drug can bring on, and the fact people will not know until around 6 weeks in whether or not they will be affected, by which time it's too late to do anything about it, Terbinafine needs new medical tests and an updating of the patient advice information. Then and only then can people make an informed decision about whether to go forward with the use of this drug. And, it may be to some, that the possibility of prolonged taste loss is something which they are prepared to accept in order to deal with the fungal infection for which this drug is prescribed. But at least they will have made an informed choice which is not the current situation - because no one is informing them.

So, in summary, there is light at the end of this dark tunnel - just keep eating and drinking even though you may not feel like it. Your taste will return and you will enjoy food and drink again.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

There's no such thing as a free lunch ...

What you see below was posted on Facebook on April 21st. It told people that they could win two Range Rovers by liking and sharing the page. They were also asked to pick a colour for the car.  

On closer inspection there is no company name on the page - no information about who is giving away these cars and no history to the site. So, would you waste your time liking / sharing such a page?  No - guessed not. Neither would I, but what amazed me is that, here we are two days later, and 55,000 people have done just that, and I'm guessing by the 26th (if the page is left on FB for that long) that figure will have risen considerably. Now, I'm guessing that the creators of this page are looking for 'likes' so that they can sell it on. No one will win any cars.

There are many scams like this on Facebook - some offering cars, high-value shopping vouchers, cash prizes - purportedly from bone-fide companies (who know nothing about it) in fact anything that will attract people and play upon their greed, their conscience or their vulnerability. In all these cases many thousands of people will not only 'like' and 'share' the page - but leave comments begging to win.

So, what is it about these people that makes them think there is such a thing as a free lunch? Does their greed take over and blind them to the truth of what the page really is? Or do they know the page is a scam, but their judgement suddenly becomes impaired the more they look at the prize? Or do they regularly take everything they see at face value in all areas of their lives and never question anything?

How gullible can people be? Are these 55,000 the tip of an iceberg? Why do people not check? If there's no company information, no contact details, no history to the site - then be suspicious! Check! Do yourself a favour - wake up and smell the coffee!     

For the FIRST time in facebook history we are giving away 2 Range Rovers to two winners that we will select on April 26 2015 completely at random.
Would you like to join this amazing giveaway for a chance to own a brand new Range? Simply follow the steps below to enter the competition :
Step 1) Likes this Page...
Step 2) Like this Post
Step 3) Comment which color you want. (Black or Red)
Step 4) Share on your wall

The winners will be messaged via inbox message
Good Luck
See More

 53,142 like this.         57,483 shares

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Three schoolgirls + Syria = Police apology

Can anyone tell me why the British police are having to apologise to the parents of the three 'bright' schoolgirls who flew out from the UK to Turkey in a recent perceived bid to get to Syria?

I'm at a loss to understand how it's the fault of the police that these girls somehow and, apparently without the knowledge of the three sets of parents involved, managed to get together the best part of £1500 each and, one of them, a stolen passport for their journey.

Am I missing something here? 

By the way, I truly hope the girls are safe and return to their parents soon. Maybe then we will know what it was that enticed them away. Was it online grooming - or a belief that Syria was their destiny? 

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Terbinafine taste loss - a continuing saga of cardboard and seawater!

Well, I'm into the fifth week of taste loss. Feeling quite depressed now by the so-called side-effect of the aborted course of Terbinafine that I was prescribed. Food still resembles the texture of cardboard and all drinks still resemble seawater. I do not feel like eating or drinking as neither is a pleasure any longer and I'm now also experiencing problems trying to swallow food as my saliva ducts seem to have given up altogether and my mouth is very dry all the time. Family meals are not the social occasions they used to be and I am losing weight, which for a 68 year-old bloke of 5' 10" and weighing 12 stones is not good. My energy levels are greatly reduced and my motivation to do anything even remotely creative has gone. Hence, the story line for my latest book is lying fallow which depresses me even more. My wife is worried about my state of health as am I, but as all food has no flavour and the textures seem bland it is a chore to force food down - even though I know I should. What makes it worse is that I can smell the food and drink as I raise it to my mouth, however the instinctive expectation of flavour when I put it into my mouth is suddenly dashed when I eat. 

As I mentioned previously I know people suffering cancer and undergoing chemotherapy often experience taste loss - a side-effect of which they are warned and, as the chemotherapy is essential to their fight against the disease, have little choice in not accepting. As someone who had cancer and, fortunately did not have to have chemotherapy, I feel for their predicament. But here we are not talking chemotherapy we are talking medication for a fungal infection and the patient advice leaflet does not, I feel, place enough emphasis on this side-effect. The advice, and I know I am repeating some of what I have written previously on this subject in this blog, gives the impression that the taste loss is a minor ailment and its duration listed as 'for some time'. Not exactly a warning of the debilitating physical and mental effects this drug can have upon one's life for what looks like, in my case, is going to be a further month at least.

So as you will have guessed, based upon my ongoing problems, I would warn anyone prescribed Terbinafine to think very carefully before taking it. (You would be wise to look up Terbinafine and check out the facts about this medication - also check out the links concerning it that I have provided previously on this blog).  One of the major difficulties with this problem of taste loss is that you will not know you're going to experience it until it happens and then, of course, it's too late. Not only will you have the problem for a minimum of eight weeks (and indeed the possibility that your taste may not fully return) but as soon as the problem arrives - you will need to stop taking the drug, which will mean that as you didn't finish the course you will be left with the infection for which you took the drug in the first place. Not a particularly good trade off.      

And don't rely upon your doctors knowing how bad this so-called side-effect will be. From their reference material, they will believe that the instances of taste loss with Terbinafine will be extremely rare. So rare that it's not worth mentioning to you - even if you're over 65 and have a low BMI which means that you could be more susceptible to getting this problem - and at a time of life when you can least do with it.
Below is a 2005 objective assessment of Terbinafine-induced taste loss, the conclusion of which states:
These findings 1) support anecdotal case reports of taste loss after terbinafine use, 2) demonstrate that all four major taste qualities are affected, and 3) suggest that olfactory dysfunction is not involved. Because self-report markedly underestimates chemosensory deficits, more extensive quantitative testing of patients receiving terbinafine will likely reveal a much higher prevalence of terbinafine-induced taste loss than currently reported. Since being older than 65 years of age and having a low body mass index are reportedly risk factors for terbinafine-induced taste loss, physicians should be particularly on the alert for elderly persons taking this medication who may become depressed or alter their food intake in response to decreased taste sensation.
Watch this space!

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Terbinafine - two weeks on and it's still tasteless

Well, it's almost two weeks after I stopped taking the Terbinafine tablets and still everything I eat is like salty cardboard and everything I drink is like seawater. Mealtimes, which used to be a pleasure, are now a chore and I'm losing weight as I don't feel like eating.

The more research I do, the more I realise that there are many people out there suffering with this particular problem. Take a look here: is a US site, but I have found others here in the UK too. In many of the cases, the patients have recorded that, when they reported the problem to their doctors, the latter were 'unaware' that the drug could cause this particular debilitating side-effect. Now, either that's because the doctors are reading information on the drug which doesn't highlight this problem or they feel that the trade-off for being free of the fungal infection is worth the reported three month's duration of taste loss. However, the majority of online reports I have read (like the one above), record patients as saying that if they'd known about the severity and duration of this problem - and the possibility that their taste may not return at all they would have tried an alternative to Terbinafine.

If you read the reports on the above site, you will see other 'side-effects' which are also not at all pleasant for those suffering them.       

An interesting piece of information here: 
contains the following :    5.2 Taste Disturbance Including Loss of Taste 
"Taste disturbance, including taste loss, has been reported with the use of terbinafine. It can be severe enough to result in decreased food intake, weight loss, and depressive symptoms. Taste disturbance may resolve within several weeks after discontinuation of treatment, but may be prolonged (greater than one year), or may be permanent. If symptoms of a taste disturbance occur, Lamisil Oral Granules (Terbinafine base equivalent) should be discontinued."

You'll note that it states that "taste disturbance may resolve within several weeks [after discontinuation], but may be prolonged (greater than one year), or may be permanent".

Which is somewhat different from the patient advice leaflet (included with each box of tablets) which states, under Possible side-effects, "Uncommon (occur in less than 1in 100 people) -- Taste loss or altered taste which usually disappears when you stop taking these tablets. However, a very small number of people (less than 1 in 10,000) have reported the taste disturbance lasts for some time and as a result they they go off their food and lose weight"

The inferrence in the latter is that the taste loss will be gernerally resolved (immediately?) upon stopping the tablets. And that 'taste disturbance' could in extreme cases last for some time. How long is some time?

Both these instances give no measurable definition of the time one will be without taste. I believe this failure to adequately specify even a minimum time period is a failure to warn patients (and doctors?) sufficiently for them to make an informed decision on whether or not to take (prescribe?) the drug.

Watch this space, folks.    





Tuesday, 17 February 2015

"... but on balance it'll be a plus." Bill Clinton, 2005, Hong Kong

Check out what Bill Clinton says from around 6 minutes in on this video - and then his follow up comment "You'll have all kinds of problems with them, but on balance it'll be a plus".

The reference would seem to alluded to aliens, and suggests that not only are they already here, but have been interacting with covert interests for long enough to establish that along with the benefits will come a trade-off. I wonder what we've traded off so far?    

Friday, 13 February 2015

HMRC - only tackling the easy targets? Looks like it.

Multi-millionaire Paul Bloomfield paid no tax for 24 years - despite being 'checked out' by HMRC. So, what are we to make of this? Were HMRC incompetent or was Bloomfield just too much work to bother investigating properly over this 24 year period?
The truth of the matter is that HMRC would much rather come down hard on us, the easy targets. We have no where to go, no offshore accounts, no tax avoidance schemes, no option but to pay! You owe £100 they want it now! No excuses. Now! Or else they'll take you to task ... and add interest.

Tax inspectors failed to prosecute a property tycoon who did not submit returns or pay any tax for 24 years, documents seen by the BBC reveal.

TERBINAFINE Tablets -- Tasteless? I should say so!

Back in December I was prescribed this tablet (one a day for 6 months) for a fungal toenail infection. Six weeks in I began to find my sense of taste diminishing. I couldn't work out what was happening at first, but then, by a process of illimination (and some online research), realised the tablet was probably the cause. I stopped taking it on Tuesday (10th Feb) by which time my ability to taste had disappeared completely and the back of my tongue felt like it was coated in plastic.
Everything I eat now tastes like salty, soggy cardboard - everything I drink (hot and cold) has no flavour. I spoke to my doctor and he seemed rather surprised that this could happen! However, he did say that he would no longer prescribe this particular medication. 
It seems there is nothing I can do about this taste loss other than spend the next seven to ten weeks waiting for it to return - hopefully in full. In the meantime, I don't feel like eating or drinking much. I force myself to have something, only because I know I need to, but the process holds no pleasure whatsoever. 
The leaflet in the tablet pack suggests that taste loss occurs in less than 1 person in 100 - then further suggests that in less than 1 in 10,000 the taste 'disturbance' lasts for 'some time' and as a result the person can 'go off their food and lose weight'. However, it doesn't say if the lab's results are based on results for the 125mg or the 250mg tablet - or what the 'some time' actually is. 
Either I have been unlucky in getting this reaction or the truth of the matter is that this taste loss is far more prevalent than the manufacturers would have us believe.  I will not be taking Terbinafine again and will be warning colleagues and friends about it. I have recorded it as a Yellow Card on the NHS yellow card site.      

Thursday, 29 January 2015

A rite of political passage?

Politics, to use an Americanism, should be of the people for the people. However, it often seems to me that politics is of the hierarchy for the hierarchy, with the people left to scratch around looking for the crumbs from the lofty table of those who run the country.  

Now, you may think that I’m one of those who believe the world owes them a living. I don’t. I believe those who can work, should. However, there are those who, for whatever reason, can’t and we should help them to look after themselves, if they’re able – if not, then the country should have the wherewithal to do that for them.

Prospective Members of Parliament should have to know who ‘the people’ are. After all, it’s the public who these candidates are purporting to represent when they get into office – although, media reports have shown that there are many who forget that and see their appointment as a doorway to money, personal power and reciprocal favours. Of course, before voting, Joe (& Josephine) Public need to do their homework on who these candidates are and what they’re promising – not that there’s a great deal of difference between them at the ballot box, mainly because they’re all telling us what we want to hear – until they get into Parliament and then it’s a different story.

It’s true that Parliament needs a mixture of representatives in its ranks and maybe it’s asking too much for those who understand the machinations of Government to truly understand the plight of Joe Public. There will, of course, be some candidates who come from backgrounds which help them to empathise with those who don’t know where their next pound is coming from, whose accommodation is poor and who might be reliant on benefits to survive. But I feel these are few and far between. Often the ones who hit the headlines are the rich, many of whom it seems believe the definition of a poor person is someone who either had to win a scholarship to get to Eton, or might be down to their last quarter of a million pounds. It’s not the MPs fault, many of them have never had contact with the poor – why should they – they have had no need to.

Is it wrong to expect everyone we put in Government to have at least some semblance of what it’s like to be Mr and Mrs Public? No, it isn’t wrong. We should expect MPs to have a genuine  understanding of what it’s like to be without. After all, they never fail to tell us how important we are when they want us to vote, to pay taxes or to fight.

So, in the future, how do we get the people who want to represent us in Parliament to understand what it’s like to be Mr & Mrs Public? I'm sure any of you reading this will have your own ideas, but the one I suggest is to make sure every candidate has completed at least three months working unpaid for the homeless or disadvantaged. It should be a rite of passage before anyone can look to represent the people – no matter which party they favour.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Apostrophe catastrophe ...

I wonder why the apostrophe causes so much confusion and misuse?
It used to be the domain of the greengrocer (Carrot's - Banana's etc) and the occasional restaurant (Salad's - Pie's). Not forgetting of course the misuse of "it's" when the expression wasn't referring to "it is"  - as in  sign I saw a while ago advertising: "Food at it's best".

Nowadays, I see advertisements in newspapers for garage services, and on forecourt signs, offering MOT's.  

So who do we blame, the sign-writer or the person who commissioned him or her? Does anyone care? Will it eventually become an accepted form?  Or will it just become a new game - Spot the Misused Apostrophe.  

Or should I just get a life?