Tuesday, 29 April 2008


“Out, out damned spot”, I roared at my germ ridden hands. No matter how many times I washed them, when I placed them back under the ultra violet light, white spots indicating deposits of bacteria persisted.
Poor old Lady Macbeth, no wonder she went demented. I too was beginning to feel the somewhat obsessive, compulsive desire to get clean as I sat under the tutelage of the food safety training officer at HMS Raleigh, who informed me in no uncertain terms that my hands were bio hazards ready to strike those I feed with certain death. I was not alone. I had brought company with me including two other mums from the PTA and 10 ladies from the WI. The Royal Navy had been kind enough to provide us, free of charge with a day’s tuition on food safety. It was entertaining and informative and something my colleagues and I had to learn in order to pass the exam, get a certificate and thus consider ourselves legal, when, in the role of PTA mums at least we are safe to serve a bi-annual cuppa and scone at the Christmas and Summer Fairs and also when at our annual barn dance, we don’t poison any unsuspecting heel and toe-er with, at best the norovirus and at worst e-coli 0157.
As I sat there, listening to terrible tales of food poisoning and errant practices, I considered my own fridge. God forbid any raw meat should be within contaminating distance of cooked meat, yet I knew full well that the raw bacon was shoulder to shoulder with the cooked ham on the second shelf, well not exactly shoulder to shoulder but certainly adjacent. But what of my son, whom I’d left in bed that morning, his school being closed due to a strike? Would he have the forethought not to slap one, willy nilly onto the other after he’d made his lunch? I was desperate to contact him but, as I was sitting in the front row and therefore right in front of the instructor, I could hardly pick up my mobile and text my son thus: ‘Bacon raw, cook well, replace unused rashers in fridge covered on different shelf to ham’, now could I?
My paranoia only got worse as the day went on. By the time we broke for lunch at midday and we trooped over to the very nice, very new restaurant which feeds our troops I was on the blower immediately, convinced that by now binary fission had reached a dangerous level, intent on killing us all. I needn’t have worried. A very sleepy voice answered the phone, “Hello?”, it croaked.
“Darling, whatever you do, when you make your lunch make sure that you wash your hands thoroughly before and after and be vigilant in scrubbing down the work surfaces afterwards and keep the meats apart.”
“Sure ma”. The line went dead.
I was surprised by how greedily we ate our food considering the awful facts which had been presented us that morning, but our instructor had kept the best til last and it was only on our return to the classroom that he produced a sticky trap, which had adhered to it a substantial number of dead and mightily aggrieved cockroaches.
After our photographs had been taken, for no doubt the Class of 2008 alumni year book, it was time for our exam. Now I haven’t sat an exam for over ten years but there were poor ladies there that afternoon whose age meant that they had not even taken ‘o’ levels let alone GCSEs. Multiple choice questions were an anathema to them. Personally, when the instructor told us, “You may now turn over the paper”, I felt quite sick, but guess what? I think my Nintendo Brian Training has paid off, because my mind was as sharp as a blade and I’d completed my thirty questions within fifteen minutes. I put down my pencil triumphantly, handed in my paper, whispered a thank you and went outside and waited in the corridor for my friends. Most of them followed immediately but as we walked back to our cars, the inevitable post mortem ensued.
“The danger zone is between 5 and 63 degrees isn’t it?” asked one.
“Oh no”, groaned another “That’s not the box I ticked”.
“I couldn’t remember how to use a probe properly”, said another.
“Calibrated and cleaned”, came the reply and so on and so on, so by the time I’d driven away I had grave doubts as to whether any of the questions I’d answered were correct.
I walked through the front door at 4pm to find my son making his lunch, bacon sandwiches. He’s a creature of habit. Before I opened my mouth, he said, rather gravely, “I was just looking in the basement for something and I just found it. Now don’t go crazy but...”
But I’d already legged it and was hurtling down the stairs, only to find the guest room, which had just had a new carpet laid, literally swamped in 20 litres of white emulsion. I fell to my knees, groaning and wailing. One step forward, two back.
“I don’t know what happened?”, my son repeated.
My reply was rather profane and my son scarpered. An hour and a half later I was still on my knees attempting to mop up and clean my honey coloured carpet, to no avail. Finally I gave up and woefully went and knocked on my neighbour’s front door. For the following hour and a half, my very dear neighbour did his best and steam cleaned ferociously but I fear, it is a fait accompli, the carpet and the cupboard under the stairs, where the paint ran into, has had it. By the time Hubby came home, I was quite literally, ‘threaders’. “Don’t let the pathogens get you down love” he quipped. I smirked. He had yet to descend into the Dulux bog.


Kit said...

It's amazing how we and our families ever survive! I had to do one of those courses, back in the days when I was providing picnics out of the backs of minibuses in the Italian countryside. We never dared confess that our chopping boards were protected only by a layer of kitchen towel from the floor of the bus where a hoard of muddy walking boots had just trodden! And that absence of running water meant that a splash of mineral water sufficed for all washing needs. Luckily the paranoia receded before I had to do the next picnic and all my clients survived!

Alice Band said...

Kit- Hilarious! What's a bit of dirt between friends anayway?!

Trudy said...

What about the 5 second rule?

If a cookie or other highly sought after sweet falls to the floor, one can safely eat it (provided it didn't land goo down)...or my children's firm belief that we can all eat off one another's plates as we are family and have the same germs? In fact, you can bite off a part of your sandwich and hand it over to your brother, complete with your delightful saliva....

And with such santitary habits why were my children rarely sick? I guess their immune systems are strong from all the bacteria they have cross contaminated each other with....

enidd said...

lummee alice, enidd would have skinned the wretch, sliced him up and put him next to the raw meat in the fridge. (and thanks for the kind words on enidd's blog. enidd is sorry to be such a grump lately.)

thefoodsnob said...

So sorry about the basement, I've been there but not with it finished, that's horrible!
My dogs did spill a can of paint once, and promptly tracked it all over.
The pawprints are still there.


Domestically Challenged said...

What about last nights news...
keep up the bio-hazard....apparently it's terribly good for them!

Mine never puke, and my house is filthy!

(MMM, maybe I shouldn't have just admitted that)

Sally Lomax said...

Gosh Alice..... I think I may have lost it there....