Magazine article The Spectator

Farewell Notebook

Magazine article The Spectator

Farewell Notebook

Article excerpt

So we are all going to have to pay for fatties to have stomach bands and bypasses, are we? It may be 'cost-effective' to treat the obese before they go on to develop diabetes and other medical problems, but I'm not sure how much sympathy they will get when we already hear about cancer patients having operations delayed and drugs withheld because of stretched NHS budgets. According to the OECD, Hungarians are the most obese people in the EU, followed by Brits. Rather surprisingly, Romanians are the least fat. Surprising, because on a recent holiday to the island of Lefkada, there were a huge number of Bulgarians, Serbs and Romanians. And, yes, most of them were huge. I am not particularly fattist, but there is something rather off-putting about large, wobbly men and women (in bikinis, for heaven's sake) plonking themselves on the beach between oneself and the sea when there are long stretches of empty sand. Are they completely unaware of 'personal space'? All those skinny Romanians needn't be too smug, however: they top the charts of alcohol consumption among adults.

What to read on holiday? Some people go for the blockbuster, but I like to mix it: reading both classics and modern novels, on my Kindle and in the flesh, so to speak. It's about the only time when one has the chance to read for two to three hours at a go, without being distracted by telephone calls and the like. I am ashamed to say I had never read any Elizabeth Gaskell before, having been rather put off by the television series of Cranford . This time in Greece I read Mary Barton , and thoroughly recommend. The friend who lent it to me reckoned the novel should be made compulsory reading for teenagers so that they could learn about everyday hardship in Victorian northern England and realise how lucky they -- we -- are nowadays in comparison. On the other hand, I wouldn't have blamed Michael Gove for removing Of Mice and Men (another of my first-time reads) from the GCSE syllabus: I confess I didn't care what happened to Lennie, but I minded a lot about the Bartons.

British scientists have identified a set of proteins in the blood which can predict, with 87 per cent accuracy, the start of dementia. Symptoms, apparently, take about ten years to appear after the actual start of Alzheimer's. Having lived with someone with this horrendous condition, I am certain that I wouldn't want to take a blood test that would show that in a decade I would develop dementia unless, obviously, I could have it reversed. …

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