New Year. Again.

This will be my 58th New Year although I don’t actually remember very many of them. I’ll remember this one for sure. I have to drive to the lab on New Year’s Day to (hopefully) complete the removal of all my stuff.

Actually I don’t care about the stuff left there now. It’s just that I don’t want to leave the junk for someone else to have to clean up. I won’t be leaving the lab as I found it – I had redecorated in there when I first moved in because it was a shithole – but I won’t leave any mess either.

This does mean driving on New Year’s Day so it sets a limit on the drinking. Once the lab is clear I can have my own little New Year. CStM gave me a bottle of Johnnie Walker’s ‘White Walker’ for Christmas and I’m saving it for when the lab is clear.

The date of the new year doesn’t really matter. The planet notices nothing, it doesn’t reset anything (unfortunately) and no global counter clicks up a notch. Hibernating animals don’t all wake up, murmur a bleary ‘Hooray’ and then go back to sleep. Nothing on this planet except humans has any regard for the moment the Western calendar adds another number.

China won’t care. They have their own calendar. So does Islam and so do many others. There are places in the world where humans don’t count the days at all. If you have always lived on the equator, the concept of ‘seasons’ might be hard to grasp. Oh there’ll be some change throughout the year but the idea of wildly varying temperatures just won’t figure.

Long dark winter evenings and summer nights where the sky is blue all night? Some equatorial peoples might well find that hard to believe. Just as those, like myself, who have never experienced the equator find it difficult to envisage a hardly-changing day length throughout the year.

Where we decide to start our calendar is entirely arbitrary. I’d have preferred New Year at a more pleasant time of the year, weather-wise, and distanced from Christmas so we don’t have two consecutive weeks of chaos. But then I’ve always been a bit of a Grinch…

I know, this is a major ramble. But it’s New Year’s Eve, so no bugger is reading it anyway. CStM and I might be the only sober ones in Scotland (aside from police, medics, firemen etc who are at work) by the time this autopublishes. Oh yes, it’s on a timer. We have some scary films to watch.

I think my decision to largely retire from science (I’ll still take consultancy work if it’s offered, but I have done my share of 60-sample marathons and I don’t want to do that any more) really took hold when I sold the domain last April. Someone made an offer, I wasn’t using it and really wasn’t likely to now. I had set up sites in the past but meh, I was already considering retirement anyway.

The lab hadn’t seen very much action in years. I was paying rent for storage, basically. Not very harsh rent but letting the lab go will free up some cash. It has, unfortunately, also filled the utility room and garage with lab equipment. I’ll sell most of it but I’m keeping all my 5-litre flasks and maybe a couple of water baths for winter brewing.

Anyone need a peristaltic pump (Masterflex, none of yer crap) or magnetic stirrer? I have several, and other stuff too. I can’t let CStM get hold of my Gilson pipettes or lab balance – she is already over-precise with recipes and those things would let her take it to the edge!

I am now, primarily, a publisher and an author. Oh I’m still ‘doctor’, you don’t lose your PhD just because you stop using it. Although I rarely used the title unless someone pissed me off. I worked as a janitor for a year before anyone found out who I really was, and one member of staff called me ‘Alan’ for two years because I answered to it even though it’s not even close to my name. It never mattered to me.

Every member of staff in Local Shop who found out I was ‘Doctor’ had the same question – ‘What are you doing in here then?’ I had a variety of answers.

I finally tuned in and dropped out, man.

I know stuff, and I’m hiding.

I’m undercover.

Many more, but I did learn a lot from being one of the Untouchables in the shop. It validated what I had believed from day one of science work. The cleaners know everything so always make friends with them. Why do they know everything? Simple. Management treats them as equipment, not people. They are ignored. Polishing the woodwork while two managers discuss where the company is going? They don’t even know you’re there. You’re far too stupid to understand what they’re saying. You’re no more important to them than the brush you’re holding.

Cleaners are the core of every business. It can’t operate without them – especially in the food industry – but they are ignored and if spotted, treated as subhuman. Always befriend the cleaners. They know more about what will happen to the business than the managers do and if/when it goes down, they’ll be cleaners somewhere else.Their profession is secure, if way underpaid.

Most importantly, I now know exactly why food poisoning outbreaks occur, who is really to blame, how they could be stopped and why it is going to get progressively worse in the coming years. Naturally, I’m not going to tell anyone more than a few of the basic and obvious parts because that information has value.

Also, because Puritan Health want to hammer all prepared foods with more taxes. They want to ban bacon and ham because the curing process gives them nitrites. Nitrites were once encouraged because of their antibacterial properties, you know. It was in Nature, in the early 1990s, so it’ll be hard to find but if I do, I’ll post it.

Well I won’t be buying that stuff and it has nothing to do with the risk of obesity. There are rather more immediate risks in my mind now. I’ve been at both ends of this chain – I’ve been a lecturer and researcher in food safety/gut disease and I’ve been a cleaner in a food shop. When I took the janitor job I knew what to look out for, and found it. All of it. All its variations and nuances and why it will not go away.

How many like me are out there pronouncing on food safety? And yet I will say nothing. There is no point. People will believe ‘experts’ who have no idea of what is happening at the start of the chain they claim to understand. All they will see of me is four years of ‘the cleaner’ and not the thirty years before.

I am really glad that hard times forced me into that lowly, essential and underrated job. I learned so much more than I could ever have learned from scientific papers written by those who ignore the cleaners. I learned the structure of food shops and where the risks lie – and I know why they are increasing to very dangerous levels.

Maybe I’ll write it all down and make a book of it. Nobody will read it, of course, but at least I can say ‘I told you so’.

Or maybe I’ll take the information to my grave and just watch the world burn.

Anyway. Happy New Year to all, and if anyone is still alive and not shitting through every orifice in 2019, there’ll be a new Underdog Anthology at the end of March.

You might need extra pages 😉

24 thoughts on “New Year. Again.

    • I have to drive tomorrow, so the whisky is limited. I’ll try my crabapple whiskies when the work is all clear and I don’t have to drive the next day.

      I also have a bottle of Johnnie Walker’s White Walker from CStM to savour, when I have plenty of time to spare 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. It’s 2019. Jings.
    Thank you for your rants, rambles, reminisces and rages.
    Good fortune to CStM and yourself and all your enterprises.
    Skol. Or better still skal ( but I can’t do the things above the “a”).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I watched the Xmas lectures & it occurred to me that you should make a bid to do them. Prof Eric Laithwaite must be accelerating exponentially from his grave on a linear induction motor.

    Why not write a pop-sci book that explains some of the words & ideas they dropped into the three programmes without actually explaining them. Matthew Cobb’s book is pretty good, but not the easiest or most amusing of reads.

    Apparently we all have things called chromosomes. Having XX or XY determines your gender – but not always. Please explain that one to me!

    On the food safety front, do you ever see Richard North’s blog? He was the only sensible source I could find a few years ago that was able to talk sensibly about EU/Brexit facts rather than just wind baggery. His background has some similarities to yours & he wrote occasionally about such things as phyto-sanitary food checks etc. Very interesting. See

    Bah. Humbug, Happy New Year etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    • They are trying to separate sex and gender as if they mean different things. They don’t. Gay etc are not genders, they are sexual preferences. A gay man is still a man.
      The made-ip genders are recent but they arrived with new symbols and all the trappings intact. They didn’t develop by accident. Someone organised this before release.

      It’s more ‘division’. You can’t form a rebellion from a thousand splinter groups. Look at what just happened with the ‘Women’s March’ in America. Cancelled because it was ‘too white’. It is fast becoming impossible to organise a protest because it is impossible to please every little group. No matter what your cause, someone is going to be offended and you’ll have to cancel.
      That doesn’t surprise me. It’s a logical tactic. What surprises me is that so many people have fallen for it.


    • I’ll check they’re all working then look into postage/courier prices. These are not hotlplates, they just stir, and they don’t sell for very much on eBay (although they are better quality than the eBay tat I saw). No sense hurrying, Scotland is closed until the 3rd to let hangovers subside properly 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • I just realised you’d posted your private numebr. I’ve made a note of it and edited it out 😉

      The sorting of the stuff has begun. If you have WhatsApp I’ll send photos.


  3. Happy New Year, everyone : albeit belatedly. As the years roll on I care less and less about “new” year: there’s nothing new about each one just more of the same-old; not even 48 hours in and there’s back to back coverage of the sugar tax; at least I haven’t heard the dreaded ‘B’ word yet :~

    Why not sell your valuable info to HMG? Offer your services as consultant to the DoH – your info will keep the peasants healthy and productive etc :>


  4. One thing I will say here is please, PLEASE write down your findings. Even if they have to be published posthumously, write down your findings and put them somewhere that Google or whatever succeeds it can see.

    What I think I can see happening at the moment is something akin to what Neal Asher describes in his far-future books as the Quiet War. This was when software entities started to become at least semi-sentient, took on the goals assigned to them by humans and worked out that the most effective way to proceed was to remove the human element from politics. When this was (in his books) discovered politicians rioted, but it was only the politicians getting upset because everyone else had quite gotten to like non-corrupt and efficient politics.

    Artificial intelligences already exist; we call them corporations. They exist to optimise their own function and to protect their own existence, and they aren’t remotely human even though their constituent parts were written by humans, and are executed by humans. Software will only speed up these huge slow AIs, and if information on how to optimise the food supplies of their human sub-units is available, then this info will be assimilated and worked upon.

    Liked by 1 person

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