Sneaky Piggy Profits

I have uncovered one of the underhanded tricks by a major corporation in the UK.

Since time immemorial, Marks and Spencer have sold Percy Pigs. For anyone outside the UK (as there would be no one inside the UK unfamiliar with Percy Pigs) they are a raspberry-flavoured gelatin-based, and yes, pig-shaped confectionery. In other words, they are small chewy pink sweets. They are delicious. Everyone likes Percy Pigs, proving the words of George Orwell that some pigs are more equal than others. Some people have been known to be almost addicted to them at times.

When I was in M&S recently I intended to purchase a bag of Pigs. I usually bought the largest size (400 grams), but recently had been in the habit of buying the medium size (200 grams) Percy Pigs together with a medium size bag of lemon-flavoured but identically shaped Penny Pigs.

I picked up a bag of Pigs and immediately noticed that it seemed lighter than usual. I thought perhaps it had been split open and some of the contents fallen out. No, further inspection confirmed that the bag was intact. I picked up another bag and it also felt unusually light. Then I saw something strange.

I saw a 7. I happened to glance in the direction of the lower left hand corner of the bag and there was a 7 next to a 0. It all became clear. There was not 200 grams of delectible pork-derived gelatin in the bag. There was 170 grams.  That woud be 15% less.

But wait, there was more. I looked at the price tag. Had M&S lowered the price to reflect the reduced quantity of pigs per package? No. Rather they had raised it. That’s right 200 grams of Pigs at £1.09 had become 170 grams of Pigs for £1.19. No announcement. No fanfare. No warning.

It’s because M&S is losing money so they have to tighten their belt, right? No. In May this year, they reported that their profits were up 20% over the previous year. They tucked £1.1 billion into the bank after paying their bills.

I will be calling M&S later today to get an explanation about this development.

Leftovers

Reading about Elizabeth’s tooth reminded me of information I got from the Unnamed Woman over dinner yesterday.

She took the Older Child to the dentist because a filling had fallen out, whereupon it was discovered that he had a (fortunately painless) abscess under the tooth. The dentist is always quite snooty to the Unnamed Woman and always feels she has to remind the Woman what sort of foods are dentally appropriate for our children. The Unnamed Woman, being rather intelligent and healthy food conscious, never fails to take a bit of offence at this condescension.

Remarkably, the Ms Dentist was subdued. It turns out that the abscess was due to the dentist leaving something behind in Older Child’s mouth at the last appointment. The Unnamed Woman was a little pleased to see to the dentist bumped down a peg.

Little Monkeys

Today I went with the Unnamed Woman and the Unnamed Children to Dudley Zoo.

We were offered an annual pass for the price of two visits, but wisely chose the option to see it first on regular admission before having the single visit price refunded in exchange for the annual price. We decided not to take out the annual subscription.

It’s not a bad afternoon out, but not necessarily one that needs to be repeated. They have some of the requisite animals, though the lions and tiger were all asleep, as were pretty much all the cats. Come to think of it, so were the sea lions and the tapirs and the solitary capybara. The meerkats were awake, unless there were more than three of them.

Some enclosures appeared to be entirely empty. For example, we saw nary a prairie dog. Many of the enclosures, whether occupied or not, and other areas are a bit run down.

The petting zoo area had three little goats and a bunny. Oh, and a plastic cow with plastic udders filled with water and a bucket underneath. The younger unnamed child had a natural knack for milking.

If you like little monkeys, then you will get your money’s worth. The place is full of little monkeys. Especially squirrel monkeys. Every area of the park seems to have enclosures for little monkeys. One of them is a walk-through area and the keepers have to shoo the little monkeys away from prams, as they want to jump in the baskets underneath and take anything they can grab.

In other places they are behind wire or behind glass. Behind glass there were some pigmy marmosets. One of them saw a little stuffed puppy that the older unnamed child carries with him. It ignored us and fixated on the puppy, which is about the size of the marmoset. We noticed this and moved the puppy up and down and all around on the glass. When we cocked the head of the puppy, the tiny little monkey did the same. It was hilarious.

The only monkeys that disappointed were the chimps. This was because they were apparently on Prozac. They just sat bored in the middle of their enclosure. It was a very big enclosure with lots of things to climb on and lots of open area to run, but they couldn’t be bothered.

If you want to eat while you are there, I would recommend taking a picnic. The food in the cafeteria leaves a bit to be desired. My jacket potato was okay, but the salad was terrible. I only ate it because I was really hungry. The Unnamed Woman had to wait for her food, because they didn’t have any more potatoes cooked. (I would have waited instead, but she ordered mine first and then found out they only had one.) The older unnamed child also had to wait because they also didn’t have the healthy option children’s selection cooked and ready.

The thing that convinced us to avoid the annual pass was the play area. There were slides and climbing frames and swings, but they were surrounded by dirty sand with cigarette butts scattered throughout. It was typical of the general upkeep.

Huffin and Puffin

I watched Gordon Ramsey last night as he was sky fishing for puffin in Iceland and cooking the freshly netted birds. I was quite impressed with the whole sky fishing idea, not to mention eating a bird with breast meat the colour of venison.

As you might expect, Channel 4 received complaints from viewers, including accusation of “puffin murder”. Yep, this is where the animal rights folks lose touch with reality.  Murder has always been an intentional homicide – that is the killing of a human being.

Now I’ve always said if you can kill it, I will eat it. However I know there are those folks how don’t like the killing of animals, live on granola, ride bicycles, and wear comfortable shoes. I’m happy for them. But killing an animal is killing an animal and murder is killing a human. You can call it fraterculacide or aukicide, but not murder.

I thought this comment was particularly telling: “A very bad move on Gordon’s part to be seen to condone practices in another country that would definitely not be tolerated here.” Ah yes, Brits are so culturally superior to those savage Icelanders!

Then there was “Are there no depths he won’t sink to in his quest for the latest gastronomic fad? I don’t care if islanders have eaten them in the past, or if they are considered a delicacy… these birds are adorable, and surely an endangered species?” Hmm… Icelanders have been eating them from time immemorial and still eat them, so is this really a fad?  Oh, and they are not an endangered species. Cute≠endangered. They are a protected species in the UK, but not in Iceland.

You’ve Been Warned

The Unnamed Woman opened a carton of eggs tonight. (My apologies to the scandalised Orthodox.) Inside the lid, next to the nutritional advice (why does a dozen eggs need nutritional advice?) there was the statement, “Allergy warning: contains egg”.

Eating Like Humans

You probably don’t have to worry about your children eating like animals. Mine sometimes get into role play as dogs or cats (when they aren’t superheroes or cartoon characters) and they have to be encouraged not to take this too far at the dinner table.

When we went out for my birthday dinner last weekend, the woman and I realised how well behaved our kids were. We sat near a family that trashed their dining area and at one point the woman got a splash of soup or some such on the face. When they left the restaurant, we were embarrassed seeing the cleaning crew come in and scrape everything away.

Many families eat like animals and don’t even realise it. Their children may be even better behaved than mine. Nonetheless, they lack the distinction that makes us different from all other creatures at mealtimes. They don’t bless their food. Fr Alexander Schmemann of blessed memory points this out in For the Life of the World. It is not just the essence of the sacramental life, it is the essence of human life. I don’t need to preach to the Orthodox choir that we are, after all, first homo adorans and only as a result homo sapiens.

I have sometimes been embarrassed around visiting unbelievers and not blessed the food. Either that, or I can have a tendency to rattle it off like an auctioneer. I didn’t want to impose my religion on them. Predictably, I had it all backwards. What I should be offering them is an opportunity to experience their own humanity. Religion is either a compartment of life that can be sealed off when inconvenient, or it is the very nature of who we are and to deny it is to make us not just less than who we are, but other than what we are.

By not blessing, we turn the food into an affirmation of materialism with the inherent value of cardboard. When we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we no longer deny a heavenly gift to our guests. If we would deprive them of this, then we cannot say we love them, regardless of how closely we may be related to them.

Even in restaurants, sitting amongst strangers, if we bless our food, we bless them. This is not because we make a show openly. This would be the Protestant idea that value is only derived from knowledge. By blessing the food, we make Christ present in and at our meal. Who is not blessed by proximity to Christ? Even by these small actions, we fulfill our essential mission to bring Christ to a hungry world starved of the love of God.

Lenten Guilt

All my Orthodox blogging friends are excited that Lent is almost here. We Orthodox really do Lent. None of that giving up chocolate or just going teetotal. That’s not to deny that chocolate is off the menu – thanks to dairy in the ingredients. Alcohol is reserved for weekends and all of the fifth week. We even give up meat for an extra week before Lent, before going totally vegan for the duration.

I say “we” in the sense of being a member of the Orthodox Church. I don’t do Lent very well. For most Orthodox it is a time of spiritual renewal and cleansing. For me it is mostly a time of guilt. I sometimes get through the first week without meat. Forget Cheesefare Week. I mean the first week starting on Clean Monday (the Orthodox version of Ash Wednesday). I am a carnivore. Not an omnivore. Okay, I eat the vegetables that take up a small area of my plate next to the meat. Left to my own devices – i.e., unless my wife cooks my meals – I’m perfectly happy to just eat meat.

The only mitigation is fruit. I do like fruit. But you can only eat so much of it. I don’t think I could be a fruitarian for six weeks. I’d eventually have to have it on top of a meringue, covered in cream. Neither are fasting foods.

I’m the second person St John Chrysostom was talking about in his Paschal Homily. “Ye sober and ye slothful, honor the day. Ye that have kept the fast and ye that have not, be glad today.” And I am very glad when Pascha arrives. I love singing “Christ is Risen”. And at least for Bright Week the rest of the Church is fast-free like me.