Standing up to save The Buckle !

I am East Sussex born and bred  and traced my family back 300 years before records ran out, but there were Bretts  documented in the  County before that and I believe my name came here with my ancestors in 1066!

After a lifetime teaching in secondary schools in London and elsewhere, I wanted to return to my roots in the beautiful South Downs countryside and be close to my childhood haunts and memories.

I  had a weekend job in a Seaford Coffee shop in the 1960s and friends who lived here (wonder where they all are now?) so choosing to move here less than 2 years ago  to the sea and the big skies with their stunning cloudscapes was not difficult. It has taken me a while to find my feet and work out what is going on here but people are friendly and chat everywhere you go.

I have learned so much about the sad state of local politics in the last month and this week have begun to attend meetings in the town to find out more about what goes on and why so many people are dissatisfied with the work of Seaford Town Council.  I attended a Planning Committee meeting where I was taken aback by the lack lustre response of the members to challenge anything the District Council might then reject, and asked for information as to how our Neighbourhood  Plan is progressing as we desperately need one and it is quite a long and involved process.

This lack is now highlighted as recently Lewes District council published its plans for building more homes in the area. Like many other residents I was concerned as we do not have a good infrastructure here to support more residents, especially as regards NHS provision. However when I heard about the plan so sell off  The Buckle car park for an ‘iconic boutique  apartment development’ and use the money to provide housing (some ‘affordable’ allegedly )…elsewhere in the district- I was  not impressed. This car park is the only one at the far end of the seafront where fisherman, surfers, canoeists, walkers, cyclists and users of the nearby Bishopstone railway station can park. It also has a recycling area and a public toilet used by tourists and residents alike

IFS began a petition to try to stop this  and with the paper petitions I and others have been circulating in the town this week we now have over 1000 signatures from all sectors of the Community.

There are so many other questions about what is going on here and I plan to attend the first full council meeting of my life on Thursday, but not until I have done my stint at the polling station and hoping all four candidates from Independents for Seaford will be elected.  Then we will see some local Councillors who will not sit back and let the town I have already come to love and enjoy be destroyed.

I’m for Seaford!                               Read more here:    twitter @ifseaford


My first Year with Fitbit

Last week  I received an email from Fitbit to tell me my stats for the past year.

My flexible friend was a Christmas Gift in 2013 and I knew I had walked over 1000 miles and worn out a pair of trainers but my stats were really quite surprising.

In 2014 I walked 1128 miles and 2552,528 steps.  Now when I was teaching I know I moved about 13,000 steps every school day and that would have been no surprise to me. Once I stopped that and life revolved around the home office and the garden I knew pretty soon I was in trouble. My stamina and endurance had gone and the pounds began to pile on. In late 2012 and all of 2013 I was trying to go for a walk every day and building extra walks into my daily life.

It’s true what they say about every little helping if you park the car at bottom of car park and get off the bus a stop early. I have even walked round the malls in Abu Dhabi to get my daily Fitbit fix (nice and cool in there). In fact the hotel manager was the first other person I saw wearing a Flex band!  I walked up and down the hill in my sister’s housing estate  in South Africa and along the pristine sand at Kersbosstrand.

Mostly though I just walk down the town and back via the beautiful seafront we are blessed with in Seaford or over the golf course into the South Downs National Park.  A trip to London or Brighton is a reason for a longer walk. Down to the station and back then London Park and city walks with a friend plus great conversation and coffee and lunch stops are my favourite easily clocking up over  6 miles in a day.

Tide Mills round walkstats

Tide Mills round walkstats

As a successful weight loss maintaining member of MyFitnessPal I was encouraged by  very active long term pal to join the monthly Move Your @ss Challenge  aka MYAC and over the year  have gradually increased my monthly goal (we only challenge ourselves so no major hassles there)

The Fitbit community itself was an eye opener. No sooner had I said hello in the over 60s section when I got loads of friend requests from people doing 20K plus steps a day. My 6k or 7k would leave me at the bottom of their chart and feeling superior so it seemed given they sent taunts! …so I soon knocked that on the head.

It seems there is a similar though younger element on UK Fitbit Fanatics on Facebook where up to 50K steps a day are being paraded by non runners. Sorry good for you, but I don’t find that very encouraging!  Another good thing though is there seems to be plenty of young mums pushing their buggies for miles.

I did discover a sensible shopping voucher earning system through that called and I have already earned £5 for doing what I do already. If you want to join use my code brett1102 to get a bonus and I will get one too. It connects to Runkeeper, MapMyWalk, Strava, Garmin  etc too and can be used in some gyms and strikes me as  a cost effective way to incentivise  and get the obese more active without costing the NHS more than the price of a Flex band. I mentioned this to the consultant at this week’s hospital appointment and she thought it was a great idea.

The Accuracy of all these smart devices has been called into question lately and yes there is a slight discrepancy between Mapmywalk and Fitbit with the former measuring distance as slightly longer; but my point is does it matter if it gets idle people like me moving?

Why bother with a packet mix for dinner tonight?

The Food industry makes a fortune selling us those little sachets of packet mix to flavour everything from cottage pie to fajitas. I have never liked to them due to the common inclusion of MSG which disagrees with me and of course their main ingredients of sugar (dextrose) and salt (sodium). They are also more expensive than mixing your own.

Back in the 70s and 80s When I lived in the inner city it was easy to go to the local shops and buy my own spices and experiment with all the then uncommon vegetables on sale, later on larger supermarkets began to stock a much wider range of spices for our increasingly spicy diets.
No little expensive jars for us but big packets to divide up and share with my friends as spices do go stale after a while and stored in honey or pickle jars in a dark cupboard. Don’t think I have ever thrown any out though.

With a few basic spices a wide range of meals can be created.
A medical student showed me basic curry mix learned from his Consultant and Mr Said’s curry became a household favourite (chilli, turmeric, coriander, cumin and salt that’s all- with cheap canned tomatoes to make the sauce.

Latterly as a teacher the students wanted fajitas and this is the recipe I will share today:

1/2 lime (or use bottled juice not the sweetened squash though)
1/2 green or red chilli or 1 teaspoon (5g) dried chilli powder
1 clove garlic
1x15ml spoon fresh coriander or parsley (Optional)
1x10ml spoon vegetable oil 1 medium chicken breast (or turkey or Quorn strips)
1 small onion
1/2 green or red pepper

For those of you addicted to the packet mixes try mixing up your own with half a teaspoon powdered coriander, cumin, chilli or paprika to taste, plus a little salt if you must.

1. Prepare the marinade in a bowl:
squeeze the lime;
peel and crush the garlic;
de-seed and slice the chilli;
chop the coriander;
stir everything together in the bowl with the oil.

2. On a red chopping board, remove any skin from the chicken and cut into strips.
3. Heat pan- Add the marinated chicken to the wok or frying pan and stir-fry for about 4 minutes.
4. Check that the chicken is cooked through should not be any pink
5. Add the onion and green pepper and continue to cook for a further 2 minutes

Wrap in tortilla and serve with guacamole or salsa!

Easy so enjoy


‘Best Before’ and ‘Use by’ Confusion

What Chris did next

When I was teaching the students were always confused about ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates. As we know best before means things are till edible and safe  just not at their ‘best’ There are probably numerous things in my pantry  like this including Marmite dated best before September 2011 but I can’t say I have noticed any difference in it and with that amount of salt it will probably last forever.

However why on earth do the supermarkets put ‘Best before’  on bags of potatoes and apples? They last for months if stored properly and no potatoes do not need to be  in the fridge gah!  More than once I have had to stop a child throwing them in the bin  even though they all looked perfect.

I would tell them that ‘Use by’ is an instruction applying only to high protein foods and although I would not…

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The Art of Remembrance

Lest we forget. I am pleased that the Australians are also honouring my grandad’s cousin Charles James Brett by projecting his name on their memorial at Canberra.

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, wants the poppy installation around the Tower of London to remain. Currently, as I write on the 6th November, it has had over 4 million visitors. My images were  taken a week or so back, and the whole work will not be finished until, symbolically the 11th hour of the 11th day on the 11th month – the time the armistice was declared to end the First World War.

Moat of blood Moat of blood

Three of my relations died in France, and one of my partners. Grandad, I was told, suffered the after effects from a gas attack until his death in the 1960’s. OH and I have bought one of the ceramic poppies in memory primarily of her Australian antecedent. Emigrating from Laughton in Sussex to Australia in pre-war years he returned with an Australian gun battery in 1916 to be…

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Baking with less sugar

With the current fashion for home baking thanks to The Great British Bake Off and other media influences I have been trying to extend my repertoire of sweet treats that will not add to the diabesity and heart disease explosion.

I was always taught to follow cake baking recipes to the letter in order to get the texture right however experiments with sugar substitutes when I was teaching just did not taste right hence my efforts to cut the sugar in many of the recipes we used. Fruit or plain scones without the sugar, muffins with 20% less all seemed to work well and taste fine.

At home I went further and started to look at some of our old favourites. Tea bread with 20% less sugar than the recipes and ditto lemon layer pudding or cheesecake. I also served up custard powder custard with no sugar at all in it over a crumble with no comments.

Fruit crumble is one of our all time favourites so this is the one I focussed on , Did I need to add sugar to the fruit –no not if it was canned in juice or had been frozen. How about apples? Well the secret is not if you add some home picked blackberries or fresh plums.

I experimented with the toppings for a while and although this does not have the solid texture of a traditional crumble it works for us!
Mix 400g blackberries – picked from the golf course last Autumn  during my foraging expeditions and frozen . Add  200g sliced apples – Bramley’s or dessert it make no difference. Place in oven proof dish
Make the topping by rubbing in 30g butter to 50g spelt flour and 50g plain white. Stir in 20g brown sugar and 10 g porridge oats.
Sprinkle over the fruit. Finish with 10g mixed seeds.
Bake at 180 for 25 minutes. Serves 6 and gives about 168 calories a portion

Blackberry and apple

Blackberry and apple

Celebrity Chefs and Healthy Eating


Hairy Dieters jerk chicken with home made low fat coleslaw and brown rice

In the UK we love our food porn, people spend a fortune on recipe books they probably rarely use and love TV programmes like The Great British Bake Off. Problem is most of these programmes and recipes are not very good for our waistlines, heart health or sugar and salt addictions. If eating out I am forever asking for the chef to not add any extra salt for instance (often with limited results)
During my 25 years as a food teacher I became very disenchanted with many of our TV chefs . Back in the 80s we watched and learned to broaden our horizons from the likes of Sarah Brown –in Vegetarian Kitchen. Inspirational chefs like Ken Hom and Madhur Jaffrey enabled me to get some skills in ethnic food preparation and I can even remember Gary Rhodes giving helpful hints on scone cutting. In the past we enjoyed the Galloping Gourmet and the antics of Keith Floyd. Moving on to the 1990s there was an explosion of what were now called ‘celebrity chefs ‘ and I soon became bored and switched off. I certainly rarely bought a cook book either. As the internet became more important, we would google for something we were interested in rather than buy a book which would sit on the shelf for decoration waiting for a rare read. I have been gifted cook books which I have hardly opened too. Cookery programmes have long passed into the realms of entertainment and competition . Twitter means they are a kind of spectator sport. Everyone has an opinion they can share.
Luckily we are starting to see a shift in focus and some of these now very well-known and affluent chefs are starting to think about the Nation’s Health, This started with Jamie Oliver and his school meals campaign followed by this efforts to get the locals cooking in Rotherham. He bit off a bit more than he could chew trying it in the USA too but all power to him for trying. More recently we have seen James Martin be the first chef in 21 failed attempts by other well-known faces to actually improve the Hospital food offering in Scarborough and the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in Birmingham. The Hairy Bikers got a meals on wheels service going again In various places; then owned up to their own Obesity. They took on a 3 month challenge to do something about it by changing their own diets and taking up exercise. Now they have started the Hairy Bikers Diet Club in an effort to help more people change their lifestyle and still eat the sort of food many of us have come to enjoy. Yes they charge a monthly fee if you want to use their App and get more support than the recipe books but then Weight Watchers and Slimming world charge too. BUT This is where I think they have a good point – their meals are made with ingredients from scratch. There are no low fat (high sugar) special ‘diet ‘foods as far as I can see. Yes dear readers I actually bought the book and find that the curries and spicy recipes they suggest work very well indeed. Many of the other recipes are similar to those I have already adapted for our own new lifestyle but I have certainly picked up a few more ideas from them too. My only concern is adding sugar to things that don’t need it IMHO – including savoury meals. Not good in a house where we have turned back type 2 diabetes.

Hairy Dieters recipe for Marinating jerk chicken no added oil


I am hoping that we are going to see more of this in the near future, after all I don’t think it is rocket science to adapt recipes to make them healthier. So come on chefs- who will be next to help fight diabesity?