Family meals

The enemy within


When I was growing up breakfast time was always a battle. A daily war would be fought between my brothers and I about who would get the top of the milk and who would get the toy out of the cornflake packet. If you were having a good day you could score both, an okay day would be at least the others not getting a toy, and if you were having a really bad day then you would be the person with the black cornflake or rice krispie in your bowl. What is it about that? Even though there is probably nothing wrong with the offending nugget of cereal you probably wouldn’t ever eat it, would you? “Don’t be so silly”, we would be told by our grandma, “just eat it”. But there would be squeals of disgust and in some cases a bona fide reason to completely abandon breakfast all together. At least that’s how we would see it.

Breakfast in my house these days is a bit more of a random affair. La Gidg, who is now nine, is getting quite self-sufficient with breakfast and I am trying to train her to make healthy choices. Some of the cereals that we have in our house are muesli based and not the sugary options that perhaps she would really like to eat, so occasionally we have a tussle about what I think she should be having for her brekkie, and what she wants.

“Mummy! I am not going to eat this! It has black bits in it!” I instantly think of my middle brother and his firm stance about not eating unidentified weird bits in his cereal, and I transform into my Grandma. “Just eat it babe, it won’t hurt you,” I plead. “No, it has black bits in it, and they’re MOVING”.

That makes a bit of a difference.  I investigate. I pick up the bowl and immediately drop it on the floor. There’s a moth in my daughter’s breakfast. I cannot tell you how foul that is.

“Yes chick, you don’t need to eat that.” Once I have got over the disgust of finding a creature I try to work out where it has come from. I have a look in the cereal packet, nothing. Then I start to look in the cupboard and notice that yes, there does seem to be something living in there. Straight off down to the ferreteria, “I have “polillas” in my kitchen, what do I do?” The man rolls his eyes, shrugs and points me to an aisle with a variety of sticky bits of cardboard which are designed for the moths to accidentally fly on to. “That’s all you can offer me?” I think, surely if we can put a man on the moon we can control some moths in cereal with a bit more aplomb. But no, that’s it.

So now we are on moth patrol in our house. Every single dried food packet is in a sealed Tupperware container, as if it’s in an Ebola isolation tank. Thankfully, like the rest of Spain we seem to have been successful so far in containing the issue. La Gidg on the other hand is now a big fan of toast.

Vicki McLeod

Perfectly flawed

‘Mummy?’ enquired my lovely, six and a half year old daughter. ‘Yes sweetheart,’ I murmured distractedly. ‘Am I fat?’ she asks with a concerned voice. This is the kind of thing to not only stop you in your tracks but completely stop your heart too. I turn and look at my beautiful, perfect, innocent daughter and think… how is this fair? At this tender age how can it even have entered her head? I sit her down beside me, take both of her hands in mine and say, ‘it doesn’t matter Gidg, if you are tall, small, fat, thin, yellow, brown, pink, or green. It doesn’t matter what you look like, it is about what kind of person you are inside that counts. You are a caring, considerate (cough, most of the time) little girl who needs to not be thinking about if you are too fat or too thin or too anything. Do you understand me?’ She nods gravely, gives me a hug and then goes off to play with the cats.

And I sit there and think to myself, why did I just lie to her? Of course it matters what you look like, in some cases and in some industries that is ALL that matters. It’s like the lie that mothers tell pregnant women: of course labour doesn’t hurt, it’s just like shelling peas, snicker. We tell lies to each other to be kind and to keep ourselves from having to face the truth. Perhaps I should have told Gidg, ‘actually sweetheart, you need to lose a couple of pounds because it’s been proven that if you look like this skinny minny then you are more likely to get that job, or get that opportunity.’ But I didn’t tell her because perhaps I don’t want to face the truth either. I was brought up to believe that what you said and did were far more important that what you looked like. And perhaps I am getting more and more ostrich like in my dotage as I want to continue to believe that despite all of the current evidence to the contrary.

What is going on with Mary Beard for example? This very well respected Cambridge scholar has been criticised by AA Gill this week for not being all that much to look at, she’s presenting a TV programme about the Romans for crying out loud, surely SURELY in this case what you say is more important than what you look like? Can you imagine Tulisa presenting the same programme? Well she just won ‘Sexiest Woman of the Year’ so I guess we can all prepare ourselves for ‘Tulisa explores Ancient Eqypt’, or some other totally inappropriate combination. But please explain to me why it is not acceptable for a woman with wild hair, and not a scrap of make up to present a tv show, when it is okay for the Hairy Bikers? Why do we all have to be perfect when in fact there is no such thing, and why do we continually try to be so? If there is one thing I want my daughter to grow up knowing and being is that she is kind to herself and to everyone else. Being comfortable in your own body juts got more important in my house.

Sick notes

We have been besieged again with illness. But this time it’s not just us. Evil flu and cold bugs have been spreading around the island. Amazingly, only the women in our house have been affected. La Gidg and I were struck on Saturday afternoon. I think I prematurely sent her back to school on Tuesday as when I picked her up from school she still looked game, but no, within three minutes she was conked out on the back seat. Bad mummy.

It’s pretty normal isn’t it to have to work through illness, especially if you work online, or make yourself available to people to contact you online. Many of my messages in the past three days have read ‘Hi Vicki, sorry that you aren’t very well, could you just do this thing for me….’.  It’s only the click of a mouse after all, right? So I guess I only have myself to blame.  So instead of getting annoyed with myself for not taking some time off to get better faster I asked my Facebook friends for their cures for the common cold. Some of them are pretty sensible, some of them sound pretty unpleasant, but each of them apparently works…. it’s up to you if you try them!

There were plenty of votes for whisky, honey and lemon. Victoria Davis said ‘it won’t cure you but you’ll sleep!’ Natalie Jackson’s dad always went for alcohol and vitamin C although she goes for the more sensible Lemsip.

Quite a few went for garlic.  Belinda Shaw’s granddad used to put cloves of garlic into a bottle of whisky. Garlic, which contains a ­chemical called allicin, can zap the cold viruses that lead to infection.

There were also a lot of votes for cayenne pepper and other spices. Lord Martyn Rose chomps on hot chilli peppers and gets himself around a good curry, he swears by them. Another friend, Alison Garbutt, stands by honey with ground cinnamon. She said she’s been using it every day for over a year and hasn’t had any colds or flu. Certain spices have been found to be beneficial bug fighters, including cayenne pepper, which contains an active ingredient called capsaicin that beats congestion by thinning the mucus in your nasal passages so you can breathe more easily.

Lisa Bonner came up with an unusual one, which I think is a variation on the German ‘wear wet socks’ idea for coughs. She told me to put Vick’s Vapour Rub on my feet and put socks on as it stopped coughs immediately!

You might also want to get stuck into some chicken soup which Selena Garfield said was ‘like Jewish penicillin’.

My more sensible friend, and the only one actually qualified to comment as she is a nurse, Sally Luxmore, said ‘night and day nurse! The old saying is treat a cold and it will last two weeks, let it run its course and it will take a fortnight’. Sage advice there, basically she’s saying there’s nothing you can do. Just drink lots of fluids, get indoors, keep warm, and find someone to supply you with plenty of cups of tea.

If you’re up to it now might be a good time to go and check on any neighbours you have that are elderly, just pop in and say hello. If they’re feeling under the weather they might need a bit of support, so don’t forget to do your good deed!


By Vicki McLeod

Published in the Euro Weekly News 23rd Feb 2012

Smart versus stupid

What seems like a very long time ago, my boyfriend (now my husband) and I lived in London. At the weekends we liked to go out and wander around the city, taking advantage of the free museums and galleries, spending hours walking through markets, looking at buildings, eating fine food. Then one day, when we had intended to go to a very high brow exhibition of something or other, we found ourselves caught in a torrential rainstorm in the middle of the South Bank. It was grim, the rain made the pigeon poo on the pavement really slippery and all of a sudden we didn’t really care about going to see some artist we’d never heard of and ran hell for leather for the nearest tube station. One thing led to another and we discovered ourselves stood in front of an advert for a kids’ movie, it was for Shrek. It tickled us that we had set out to see some fancy art and now we were eating popcorn and watching a movie about a green ogre. And so, Smart versus Stupid was born (although we could have called it Pretentious versus Simple Fun, but that doesn’t sound as good).

Wind forward a few years, and we don’t really get much opportunity or time for museums and wandering around cities, but last weekend we thought we’d take in a gallery, it wasn’t beach weather that’s for sure. La Gidg was quite keen to go, but once we got to the gallery in Palma, none of us were really all that impressed with it. We tried to get our money’s worth, but there wasn’t much to look at, and up popped that memory of Smart versus Stupid. One thing led to another (including a torrential rainstorm, fittingly, which meant that option 2 of riding around Palma on an open top bus, something we still haven’t done, will have to be shelved until another weekend) and we collectively agreed that Simple Fun would probably be more in keeping with what we wanted to get out of our Sunday.

Off we went to the lovely Tom Brown’s Restaurant in Magalluf where we all had roast dinners and pop, all for the grand price of 30€ all in (including jelly and ice cream). Then La Gidg and I played mini golf whilst Oliver watched Mark Cavendish win his green jersey and the final stage of the Tour de France.

Happy mum + happy dad + happy kid = happy days.

We’d like more suggestions of simple, cheap and fun family things to do in Mallorca. If you’ve got an idea then please leave a comment at