cats, coffee and cash

How clean is your kitchen? If it looks clean, is that good enough? Whatever you do to clean in your kitchen, there are a few simple things that can help. Kitchens, like anywhere else are easier to keep clean if they are actually cleanable. Does that sound daft? It’s not really.

Firstly, it’s important to avoid clutter. A place for everything and everything in its place is a great goal to have. Don’t use worktops as storage areas if it can be avoided. If they are covered in equipment such as toasters, mixers, storage coontainers, kettles and coffee makers, the potential for contamination and the need for regular cleaning are increased.

Do you need to wipe down the surfaces with disinfectant? Well, that depends. Surfaces shuld be kept clean and free from dust and other contaminants. Wipe them down regularly with a cloth rinsed in hot soapy water. I have cats and I don’t know if at night they investigate my kitchen surfaces. The likelihood is that they do, so I use a hypochlorite solution (e.g. Milton or Domestos)to disinfect, or an antibacterial spray and wipe surfaces down before I prepare food in a morning.

my hands are clean!
Look, they’re clean!



Apparently, there are some ways to discourage your cats from getting up on to those kitchen worktops…they can’t walk on kitchen (tin foil), they can’t stand bubble wrap and they can’t stand the smell of oranges, so if you get an orange kitchen cleaner they won’t get up there ! If you’re really concerned about them jumping up there (and it’s only natural) try one of the above  and let us know what happens.

The cloth that I use may be a disposable one but I don’t change it on a daily basis, rather at the end of the day I soak it in bleach for ten minutes, rinse and then leave to dry overnight. I dispose of it at the end of the week, or sooner if it becomes grossly contaminated or the fabric begins to deteriorate. If it’s a cotton cloth I treat it the same way on a daily basis but wash it in the machine once a week. Research has identified dish cloths as being harbours of potential pathogens but I like to take a common sense view when dealing with them.One thing you can be sure of, if your dish cloth begins to smell, the bacteria levels are…disturbing. Soak it in a bleach solution first, then wash in the machine and leave to dry (preferably on a line outside where the UV rays help to kill any bacteria left) or, throw it out and buy a new one!

Your sink in the kitchen is also a potential reservoir of infection, Sinks should be kept clean and free from limescale. Rinse debris away and then use a disposable coth and hot soapy water to remove grease. A descaler may be needed periodically to remove limescale but not bleach, this just takes colour out of the problem. Limescale presents a nice uneven surface in which germs can breed and it can’t be guaranteed that bleach gets in to all those little crevices, so don’t bother. Use a descaler, leave for the allotted time, rinse with hot soapy water, then dry. You should be left with a nice even surface that is cleanable


FAT TOM…need warmth, moisture, food and time to reproduce (they may or may not require oxygen, and some do prefer a slightly acidic environment but not all) so if you remove one or more of those factors then they can’t.Drying is very important in breaking the chain of infection, not only in surface cleaning but handwashing also.Similar attention should be paid to taps and the drainer. Never put bleach down the sink , for all sorts of reasons.It won’t help unblock sinks, it won’t get rid of smells but it will interfere with the environmental bacteria down there which helps to keep unwanted organisms in low numbers and the drain smell free. If you have a septic tank, bleach should only be used in small amounts so as not to interfere with the bacteria levels necessary for breaking down organic waste.

More often than not, it’s not your kitchen you should be worried about but those of places where you and many others go to eat, drink, socialise. One of my biggest complaints is the failure of these big franchises to monitor hygiene standards in their establishments. I went for a coffee and snack with my sister the other day. It was to a coffee shop in Hull, near the Ice Arena. It was quite busy and we had to wait a while to be served because everyone seemed to be having food. I counted three staff on duty. Two serving and one clearing and cleaning. Coffee was prepared by ‘the Barista’ and food was served by another girl. Both took turns in taking money. Neither at any stage washed their hands. The Barista had a disposable cloth in front of the coffee machine which had obviously been in use for a while because it was covered in coffee grounds. Each time a coffee or other drink was made, coffee grounds, milk, foam, ice or syrup potentially were spilled in front of the coffee machine. I saw the surface wiped a couple of times with the same cloth which was then tucked under the coffee machine.I accept, there was no cleaning going on there, it was just physical removal of debris but the cloth should at least have been rinsed out and importantly, hands washed!

Now, I have mentioned how dirty dish cloths are. How do you think they compare to the money we have in our purses and pockets? Money is handled by potentially thousands of people without ever being laundered (well, not by being washed anyway).So, should people who handle money be handling food?

Dirty money.

Some studies have involved swabbing the  hands, currency and credit cards of people in various locations in the UK, and then testing for the presence of faecal bacteria (bacteria from the gut) which can cause nasty tummy upsets if ingested. As you might expect, the subjects’ hands were pretty disgusting, but also, some of the cards and the paper money had as much fecal bacteria on them as you would find in a dirty toilet bowl.No reason to believe that coins, with their uneven surfaces and in many cases, visible dirt, are any different.

So the message is Costa, Starbucks, Nero and others: If your staff prepare drinks and food and then take money, they MUST wash their hands before going on to the next customer. AND, perhaps you should take a leaf out of the NHS book and give them badges stating ‘it’s OK to ask’ so that we can make sure the hands that deliver us the sandwich, cake or coffee are clean by asking “have you washed your hands?”

If you need further advice…get in touch!





Well, just returned from a little road trip to our Spanish pad and caught up with some news. At Wimbledon, Murray finally lost to Federer and Federer lost to Djokovic in the final.  Serena won the ladies trophy and proved that she is almost definitely the greatest women’s singles player in the land but on the ocean, another world champ, one very lucky surfer, Mick Fanning made a great escape from the jaws, not of defeat, but from 2 Great White Sharks. Scary or what?

Jaws (dir S.Spielberg 1975) is one of my favourite films of all time. I remember seeing it along with a row full of family members and the moment when Ben Gardner’s head rolled across the hole in his sunken fishing boat made us jump out of our seats. SCARY! The Oscar winning theme by John Williams is unrivalled in being able to instil those feelings of dread and uncertainty. I remember holidaying with my sister in Southern Florida. We were down at the Keys and enjoying the sun on the beach  when we decided to go for a swim in the sea. The water was so shallow we had to wade out for ages before we got to a decent depth for swimming. I don’t know which of us it was that said about shark attacks taking place in waist deep water or less but it prompted the dah da, dah da dah da dah da…we laughed but we must have been thinking the same thing. From treading water here in the ocean, how long would it take us to get back to the beach? Too long, let me tell you. We swam like hell but we still were potential shark fodder…MORE SCARY!!

Quint (Robert Shaw) was an eccentric character in the Jaws film. He could never be described as an ordinary guy. His history was that of a sailor whose experience aboard the USS Indianapolis (which was sunk by a Japanese submarine in the second world war, leaving him and 1100 of his fellow sailors stranded in shark infested waters for 5 days) had left him with a toughness to his character and a respect for sharks.

“Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in 12 minutes. Didn’t see the first shark for about a half an hour. Tiger. 13-footer. You know how you know that when you’re in the water, Chief? You tell by looking from the dorsal to the tail fin. What we didn’t know, was our bomb mission had been so secret, no distress signal had been sent. They didn’t even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, Chief, sharks come cruisin’, so we formed ourselves into tight groups. You know, it was kinda like old squares in the battle like you see in the calendar named “The Battle of Waterloo” and the idea was: shark comes to the nearest man, that man he starts poundin’ and hollerin’ and screamin’ and sometimes the shark will go away… but sometimes he wouldn’t go away. Sometimes that shark he looks right into ya. Right into your eyes. And, you know, the thing about a shark… he’s got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at ya, doesn’t seem to be living… until he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then… ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin’. The ocean turns red, and despite all the poundin’ and the hollerin’, they all come in and they… rip you to pieces. You know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men. I don’t know how many sharks, maybe a thousand. I know how many men, they averaged six an hour… Noon, the fifth day, Mr. Hooper, a Lockheed Ventura saw us. He swung in low and he saw us… he was a young pilot, a lot younger than Mr. Hooper. Anyway, he saw us and he come in low and three hours later a big fat PBY comes down and starts to pick us up. You know that was the time I was most frightened… waitin’ for my turn. I’ll never put on a lifejacket again. So, eleven hundred men went in the water; 316 men come out and the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb”.

That scene, with the story telling and the scar comparisons and the singing  ‘show me the way to go home’ was among the best in the film. Rumour has it that Robert Shaw asked if he could have a couple of drinks before the scene was shot, to help him get into character and deliver the lines in the way he envisaged they should be delivered. However, he went a little over the top and turned up so drunk he had to be carried off the set and the take had to be abandoned ’til the next day when sober, he gave a flawless delivery.

Other quotes from Jaws will remain as priceless snippets of movie history. Chief Brody on first seeing the shark …

“you’re gonna need a bigger boat”

This was the police officer who took the job on Amity Island although he hated water and didn’t go in it but whose view was,

“it’s only an island if you look at it from the water”.

Matt Hooper, the young oceanographer who was fascinated by sharks and hired by Chief Brody:

“what we are dealing with here is a perfect engine, an eating machine. It’s really a miracle of evolution. All this machine does is swim and eat and make little sharks and that’s all”.

Some things never change
‘It’s what I do”

So, the story unfolds around the feeding spree that a giant rogue shark embarks upon around the island of Amity and the impact that it has upon individuals and the island has a whole. Quint, Brody and Hooper eventually track down the shark but before they can kill it, it kills poor Quint and eats half the Orca, Quint’s fishing boat.It is left up to Brody and Hooper to do the honours but the shark attacks Hooper in the cage that has been lowered into the water in an attempt to shoot and kill the fish with a poisoned dart. He is left for dead and Brody, teetering above the water’s edge on the ship’s mast is left to deal with the huge problem that is Jaws the Mechanical. He has thrust a gas tank into its mouth and after saying ‘smile you son of a bitch’, he shoots the tank, the fish explodes and it’s fish fingers all round.

The film has a happy ending or at least one that makes the best out of what has been a bad situation. The shark is killed, two of the heroes survive. Mike Fanning was lucky last weekend. He survived by getting in a couple of punches to the two sharks and fend off any further attack. Support was nearby and he was rescued from the water without injury.LUCKY

We don’t have a divine right to enter the water and expect to be safe from predators, particularly in places like South Africa which has an average of four unprovoked shark attacks per year, up to 75% of which have in the past proved fatal. Florida, Hawaii, The Caribbean, California, Australia and the French island of Reunion in the indian Ocean are all hotbeds for shark attacks where water sports and water leisure activities in the regions are indicated as risk factors. So if you do get into the water, particularly in any of these hot spots…dah da, dah da dah da dah da dah da, watch out.



JB and Lewis

Wikipedia describes a pet as ‘an animal kept primarily for a person’s company or protection’ as opposed to those used for sport, work, livestock or research. Stray cats are those which have been lost or abandoned and feral cats are domesticated cats that have returned to the wild. Pets are supposed to be creatures that we cherish and love and so I always find it amazing the number that are abandoned. Pregnant females and kittens are often discarded. They are not abandoned pets, they’re just animals that for one reason or another some selfish, cruel person decided they didn’t want any more. Particularly in hot countries such as Spain, any animal that is abandoned is at increased risk of dying because of the lack of water in the dry season. Other risks exist of course such as disease, threats from other animals, humans, traffic and starvation.

I want to tell you about Lewis and Jota Be, two kittens who were rescued after their mothers were abandoned. Two groups of kittens were taken to our friend at the market in Mollina and he agreed to try and find them homes. We spied the kittens as we visited the market, one beige and one tabby which was climbing the walls of the cage they were in. The beige kitten we were told, was five weeks old and the tabby four.Typically taken from their mothers too young and not properly weaned. I was only going to take one but couldn’t decide which, so took them both. It was amazing that they both sensed how much better off they were coming home with us. From day one they were both happy, loving cats and they loved to race around the house having their mad half hour, so we called them after racing drivers! The tabby was Lewis and the beige one Jota Be

JB and Lewis.WP_000474

JB has lovely blue eyes but they often cross when he looks at you.

Despite being a week younger than JB, Lewis was always the brave one, the climber and the protector. He was an outdoor cat; the hunter. Often as he grew older he would find rabbit burrows where there were young and when they came out…wham! bam! he would pounce! Just as light was breaking we would hear screams and breakages and frantic running around the terrace outside our bedroom window. I would investigate and find ‘the sport’. Lewis would have caught a baby rabbit and scaled the six foot wire fence to bring it into the terrace where it couldn’t escape. Their cries are very distressing. I have saved many lives from torture and death by putting the rabbits back in their burrow. They may only have lived to last another day but I figure that was better than nothing.

WP_000306Full up with one that didn’t get away!

We took the cats to England for a holiday. Lewis was everyone’s favourite. He loved to sit on my Mum’s knee and made for her as soon as she started knitting. It was, I guess similar to the scenario when you don’t like cats, they make a bee line for you; Lewis would see the knitting needles and must have known that he wasn’t wanted at that time but there was no way he was going to be denied.

He disappeared in Spain in 2014. He just didn’t come back home. He was neutered, so it was unusual. It was hunting season and so maybe he, like others fell prey to some trigger happy hunter who can’t tell a cat from a rabbit. I hope not. He was a pet and a much loved one.


Next time: JB

Another reason to move to Spain?

Many people visit or move to Spain to enjoy the beautiful night skies. The lack of light pollution in so many areas means that stars and planets are clearly visible to the naked eye but with a telescope a whole lot more can be seen. El Torcal de Antequera is a nature reserve in the Sierra del Torcal mountain range situated south of Antequera in Malaga province off the A45. It is renowned for its spectacular landforms and described as one of the most impressive karst landscapes in Europe. It is also an ideal spot to practice your astronomy or just be awed by the moon and the stars at night.

The views of some of the monuments of Antequera are also worth seeing by the light of the moon.

Jurassic World

Jurassic World 2015 dir Colin Trevorrow

The film is set on Isla Nublar, off the coast of Costa Rica,  where the well established and popular Jurassic World  resort provides a habitat for an array of genetically engineered dinosaurs.However, the visitors are getting bored and there’s a demand for something with ‘more teeth’,so enter the vicious and intelligent Indominus rex. When the massive creature (predictably) escapes all hell is let loose.

Jurassic World is managed by Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) a woman who lives for her work and is completely out of her comfort zone when charged with taking care of her two nephews for a weekend. She works for Masrani (Irrfan Khan) who is visiting his park to check on the progress of the latest GM dinosaur created to boost visitor numbers.Claire’s first job is to put her nephews in the charge of her assistant who seems to lose them very quickly. They end up roaming the park in a gyrosphere (I want one), ignoring orders to return to base when Indominus rex breaks free from his paddock. So… kids roaming park, dinosaur roaming park…how long before they come together? Not long…and it soon emerges that Dr. Wu (B.D. Wong)  modified the dinosaur to the extent that it has some worrying traits.

Enter our hero, Owen (Chris Pratt) ex military and animal expert with ‘Raptor Trainer’ included on his CV and our villain, Mr. Hoskins, (Vincent d’Onofrio) who sees weapon potential in the trained ‘Raptors.Owen has to use all his skills to save the two brothers and stop the dinosaurs from using all the visitors to the park as a free lunch while at the same time stopping Hoskins from realising his vision and getting the girl.

I thought the film was great entertainment. I didn’t mind that it was predictable and that there was really nothing new in the plot. There were solid performances all round from the cast and there was just the right amount of comedy, suspense and fear. I jumped out of my seat a few times.



A day in the life – retrospectively

Saturday 20th June

Things to reflect on this day…

Chris Evans taking over Top Gear. I think he’ll certainly polarise the audience, not those who are petrol heads and those who are not but those who love Chris Evans and those who don’t. I actually don’t fall in to either category but I will not watch the programme because I liked Top Gear as it was and I can just imagine the new version being TFI Friday on wheels. Yuk! I wait in anticipation for whatever Clarkson Hammond and May can come up with to entertain us in the future.

Contraband. Every time I go into Ikea I help myself to tape measures and pencils. I find the Ikea pencil definitely superior to those of Argos or Screwix and very useful for all sorts of things. It was only the other day when purchasing another piece for my new kitchen that I observed a plastic carton at the checkout desk asking customers to place used pencils in there. Well, of course, my stash of four or five remained in my handbag legitimately because they were unused but they prompted the contraband comment from my son. I wrote the notes for this blog with one of said Ikea pencils.

Now, with my infection control head on and considering the material of the pencils (wood), I could make a case for not making them available for re-use. The wood is porous, the ends  may be chewed and our hands are generally dirty or germ laden so we can assume the pencils are contaminated to varying degrees. Re-using them is just spreading the  risk of cross contamination to other people.If Ikea are to persist with the idea of re-use then maybe they should make hand sanitation available for  use at the checkout after customers have placed them in the pot.

Hand sanitizers may not be as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy.

a small magnifying glassWhy? Many studies show that hand sanitizers work well in clinical settings like hospitals, where hands come into contact with germs but generally are not heavily soiled or greasy 1.  Some data also show that hand sanitizers may work well against certain types of germs on slightly soiled hands. However, hands may become very greasy or soiled in community settings, such as after people handle food, play sports, work in the garden, or go camping or fishing. When hands are heavily soiled or greasy, hand sanitizers may not work well. Handwashing with soap and water is recommended in such circumstances CDC.

That airline

I’m currently on a flight back from Spain having spent the last 13 days doing yet more work at the Spanish house. We still didn’t get everything done that we wanted but some progress was made. The dip pool is now tiled and grouted but we can’t fill it with water for two weeks. Let’s hope it’s water tight when we do! Anyway, back to our hosts, Ryanair. At this time of year there is never enough food left for the  passengers on the late return flight to the UK. I know you have to be really desperate to eat on any flight but today we were hungry and the only thing left was chicken sandwiches. In normal circumstances I would say ‘no’ to airline food and ‘no’ to any sandwich with lettuce or salad in it because if the latter is washed properly there tends to be water left on it that finds its way nicely to your sandwich to make it disgustingly soggy. The juice from the tomato doesn’t help either. To get round this problem the producers solution is to smother everything in mayonnaise and create a barrier to protect the bread. Does it work? Today it did for me. The granary bread was fresh, the chicken identifiable and not a trace of  sogginess. All hail Ryanair’s sandwich supplier! I do wonder though, was the lettuce washed and did someone actually dry it and then was it inspected to ensure my sandwich wouldn’t be soggy? I doubt it. I once went to a seminar on food hygiene where an eminent speaker suggested that our salad vegetables should be washed in a weak solution of hypochlorite to reduce the risk of ingesting contaminants such as E. Coli a common cause of diarrhoeal illness. This is not generally accepted but the thorough rinsing with water is most important.

Just a couple more things to say about Ryanair who probably don’t have much of an infection control policy…the tray tables were dirty and…I never saw any attempt by any of the staff to wash their hands. The cabin stewards served food and drinks and handled money without any hand hygiene at all. You watch them and see.