London Diary: Third world Britain

In a scathing report, Britain’s Food Standards Agency has warned that some 60,000 children could be at risk of poisoning from contaminated food served in schools

London Diary: Third world Britain
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Hasan Suroor

Thousands of children are at risk of food poisoning from dirty school canteens where inspectors have found mouse droppings, filthy plates and staff who handle the piece without washing their hands.”

Readers brought up on the idea of First World perfection may be forgiven for thinking that this report from The Times is about some benighted Third World country. But it’s actually about the state of hygiene in British schools, many of which have been found to have “dangerously low” food safety standards.

In a scathing report, Britain’s Food Standards Agency has warned that some 60,000 children could be at risk of poisoning from contaminated food served in these schools. It found staff “handling food and not washing their hands”, “lack of suitable disinfectant”, and mouse droppings—besides dirty plates and poor food storage conditions.

The findings have shocked parents and food experts —prompting calls for a ban on schools with poor hygiene standards. “Nurseries and schools should not be in business if they have not got their staff trained in food hygiene,” said Thomas Hugh Pennington, Emeritus Professor of Bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen amid much public hand-wringing.

But, it still doesn’t quite beat the real Third World where you wouldn’t even get to know about those filthy plates and mouse droppings.

Here, at least they have the courtesy to let you know.

No more royal

There’s much media speculation about Harry and Meghan’s future as they prepare for an ostensibly “financially independent” life sans their royal title. How will they fund their existing lavish lifestyle once the royal cash-point is turned off?

Apart from setting up a new home in Canada (possibility of another in America) they have decided to retain their luxury Windsor “cottage” paying a commercial rent of a minimum £10,000 a month. They have also promised to return the £2.5 million that was spent on refurbishing it for them last year. Even after allowing for the grant Harry will continue to receive from his father, and the millions inherited from his mother, they will need to be on their toes to remain financially viable without having to dip into their savings, according to Palace watchers.

The buzz is that they are likely to follow the Clintons and the Obamas who have amassed millions from book deals, public speaking assignments, and film and TV ventures. Harry is already said to be busy touting his wife’s acting talents to his influential friends in Hollywood where Meghan herself is no stranger. Tabloids have gone to town with a footage in which he is said to be whispering something to Disney CEO Bob Iger while pointing to Meghan who is talking to a friend. It is claimed that he told him: “You do know she does voiceovers?”

Iger replies: “Ah, I did not know that.”

“You seem surprised. She’s really interested,” Harry apparently says.

Bob responds: “We’d love to try. That’s a great idea.”

Another clip appeared to capture Bob telling the couple to “email him”.

But what will Harry himself do? He has no proven record of achievement except a brief stint in the army and spreading stardust at charity fundraising events. Become a brand ambassador for charitable causes, or high-end consumer products?

But even more challenging than finding work might be adjusting to a life outside the royal bubble. Fun and games have just begun.

“Too woke”

A leading British actor has put the cat among feminist pigeons saying that he no longer dates women under 35 as they are “too woke”.

Laurence Fox, who was recently involved in a separate race row, has been accused of “sexism” after he boasted in a podcast how he once broke up with a girlfriend because she liked a pro-#MeToo TV ad about “toxic masculinity”.

“We were walking down the road and she was talking about how good the advert was. I just looked at her and went: ‘Bye. Sorry I can’t do this with you,’” he said.

The ad in question was part of a controversial Gillette TV campaign seeking to challenge traditional views of what it means to be a successful man. It included news clips of the #MeToo movement interspersed with images of sexism in public life.

Says something about modern relationships that it just takes a silly ad to send them crashing.

Still busy

Remember Theresa May? She was once Britain’s prime minister brought down by Brexit hawks. So, how does she keep herself busy these days?

“I’m learning to cook a new recipe every week,” she says.

Her former cabinet colleague , David Gauke, who lost his parliamentary seat at the general election, spends a lot of time watching cricket.

“I spent the morning watching the cricket. And there’s another Test match starting...,” he told the BBC.

When not watching cricket, he engages in “reflection”.

Well, that should keep him busy.

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