Social affairs


The women that have it all … to do

IT might have a Paisley postcode, but the island of Lismore, with its view of the west coast mountains of Morvern, is 150 miles from Glasgow. Home to just 160 people, it feels a world away from Scotland's urban corridor; further still from Westminster. Policy wonks in the juice bars of Soho may be frothing about the coming general election, but from this distance their effervescence seems strangely flat.

All the major parties are competing for the affections of a creature brought to life by today's political myth-makers to encapsulate Britain in 2005. Where once they wooed Mondeo Man, now their quarry is Do-it-all Woman, who has a job, children and elderly relatives to care for.

The election may not be the talk of Lismore's one shop, but here, as everywhere else in Britain, there are many women - and men - whose lives are a patchwork of these different roles. So how does the prospect of a Labour third term affect them?

Read more: The women that have it all … to do

Stories to help obese children

Unlike the obese children often pictured when weight problems are discussed, ordinary chubby children can be much harder to spot as having a problem. Evidence shows that parents, teachers and even health professionals can struggle to identify the children whose body mass index puts them at risk of weight-related illness. This is presenting something of a problem in Scotland, where a government programme is requiring every health board to get a certain number of overweight children into treatment programmes.

Read more: Stories to help obese children

Thorough bread

IN France, "give us our daily bread" is a saying that still stands and the trip to the boulanger for a mouth-melting fresh baguette is a cherished part of life. The French like their bread fresh, traditionally made and free of preservatives, which means it goes stale very quickly. In Italy or Greece, the stuff is dipped straight into olive oil and eaten with every meal. In Arab countries, it comes flat and chewy while in some parts of Germany it is black and made with rye.

In contrast, British bread is mostly awful. As a result of our weekly supermarket shopping habits, it comes in stay-fresh foil packets. Bizarrely, it rarely goes stale but it can become mouldy and still feel soft thanks of to the crumb-softening enzymes within the mix.

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Listening to the voice of reason

MADNESS is a creative way of dealing with pain, " argues Rufus May, a recovered schizophrenic who used to hear voices urging him to kill himself. He and Dutch psychiatrist Dirk Corstens told a conference of mental health workers in Dundee recently that they need to explore more creative ways of dealing with voice-hearing.

Mental health professionals travelled from as far as Italy to hear about the "voice dialoguing" technique, in which, at its most extreme, the mental health professional engages with the voices themselves, in the first of a series of seminars on recovery.

Hearing voices - for instance after a bereavement - is a surprisingly common experience. Corstens says: "My aunt, who had lost her husband, used to sit on the bed and talk to him every evening. She could hear him talking back and that was a very reassuring and happy experience for her."

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The bar is half-empty

"Don't head off into town and spend a fortune on weekend-priced drinks, when you can come to your very own union instead. New this term: fantastic, better-than-ever drinks promotions - trebles+mixer (incl Red Bull) for £2.50 - new DJ line-up, stilt-walking, stage dancers and fire performers."

This rather desperate promotion for the Newcastle student union bar tells a story. Those who look back fondly on an old-style university education may remember passing long hours in a union bar offering perhaps little more in-house entertainment than hard chairs, cheap beer and intense conversation.

Fire dancers forsooth, older readers may shriek, surprised at the efforts that have to be made to lure students into the bars that are provided for them nowadays.

Read more: The bar is half-empty