Parenthood: Expect Uncertainty — Await Joy

The first few days, weeks, months can be difficult, but boy do the next few make up for it.

By Liam Bailey

To all new parents out there — don’t worry, if you are feeling any uncertainty about whether or not you are a good parent, whether you are doing everything right, or at least as good or the same as everyone else, and whether everyone else is feeling the same uncertainty, it is all perfectly normal. In fact, I feel safe to say that most parents probably experience the exact same feelings of uncertainty.I say this because now that my little pride and joy is over 6 months, when I think back and note the complete change in him, I know exactly why I felt uncertain. Because there is absolutely no way to communicate anything to a newborn baby — they are in an alien world, they can’t see, and in a haze of brightness, darkness, shapes and strange smells, all they recognize is the occasional sound and one or two voices they have heard from the womb.

For us his first days were worse than the norm, as I wrote in my last article on parenthood, specifically infant feeding, my son Scott picked up an infection during his delivery, luckily it turned out to be nothing serious. But Scott spent around a week in our hospital’s neo-natal unit, with sticky-pads to monitor his temperature, an I.V. anti-biotic drip and doctors continually poking and prodding him — not to mention his mum (my partner) Susan’s inability to feed him as often as she or Scott would have liked.

To make matters worse, as Scott’s condition improved and other babies in worse condition were brought in; Scott was moved from the intensive care room, where he spent three nights, to another room in neo-natal, where he spent two nights, and then into Susan’s room on the maternity ward for his final night — not that we knew it would be his last night at the time.

With Scott going to sleep in one place and waking up another so many times, then falling asleep in Susan’s room on the last day, waking up in the car on the way home, then waking up back in his cot in our bedroom, the poor little man was scared to go to sleep in case he woke up somewhere different. Needless to say, our first couple of days and nights with him were quite trying.

To some degree it must be the same for all new parents. As I said, babies need to get used to all the new smells, shapes, and sounds outside of their aqua-cushioned home. So, they must first get used to the labour ward, then again whenever you take them home. Here’s a tip: the mother’s voice — and the fathers depending on how much the latter spoke to the foetus in the womb — works wonders on a screaming new-born.

My voice worked wonders to calm Scott down just after he was born and before he went to neo-natal unit. But when I went back to work, he started to be a bit off with me on occasion, but fine with his mum. That was because of him spending a lot more time with his mum and getting to know her so well as the bringer of food since he came home from the hospital, and now, while I was at work most of the day, his mother was his main source of affection and the bringer of anything else he needed.

Obviously it was upsetting when me picking him up made him cry, but I found out it is quite common in breastfed babies to develop a stronger bond with their mother. My working long hours only exacerbated it. After a concentrated effort on my part to make sure he heard my voice as often as possible he soon came around. Once he stopped crying when I picked him up, it gave me a chance to play with him; bounce and sing to him on my shoulder and play other games — he quickly fell back in love with his daddy.

I found our next uncertainty was over, are we spoiling him by pandering to his every whimper? To which I now know the answer: a definite no! And I’m about to explain why. Other worries were: does everyone else’s baby nap this much, or are we putting him down too often? And as Susan was breast-feeding and Scott wasn’t putting on much weight at first, is he being fed properly and/or often enough?

After a while, we realized that Scott’s weight gain was satisfactory when he was weighed from one time to the next on the same scales. It was when a different set was used that he hadn’t put on as much as the time before. Once we and the health-visitor realized this it was a weight off all our minds. As for the other uncertainty, we just had to put Scott down when he was getting tired, but there is no way to know if you are correctly assessing his behaviour as tired or if something else may be wrong.

Now six-months on, I know nothing else was wrong. Scott still has plenty of naps, but in-between naps, the occasional filled nappy and rumbling belly, he is the happiest baby I have ever been around. He has brought us through all the uncertainty into a world of almost constant smiles, laughter, gurgling, growling (very comical) and talking his own language — mostly aimed at innate objects.

I think I know why it is so good now:

Me and his mum speaking to him, singing to him and playing with him as much as possible over the last 6 months has shown him that we love him and want to make him happy. Our pandering to his every whimper has shown him that we are always there when he needs something. I believe a big part of Scott’s almost constant happiness now, comes from knowing that if something were to become wrong with him, mummy or daddy would sort it out immediately.

So, my advice to any new or prospective parents is: speak and sing to your child as much as humanly possible. I don’t need to tell you to play with them, once you see their first smile all you want to do is make them smile again and again — their first laugh is awe inspiring! The most important advice I would give is: don’t listen to the people who tell you have to let your child cry or you’re spoiling them. Within reason, pander to their every whimper!

May 21, 2007 at 7:20 pm 2 comments

Making More Difference than Madonna!

Strong Scottish souls selflessly give better chances to many Malawi infants.

By Liam Bailey

Pop star Madonna recently adopted a child from Malawi. I’m sure most of you know of Madonna’s possibly ill-advised but undoubtedly well intentioned adoption Ill-advised in the bending of the rules for money, power and influence possibly leaving the door ajar for gang-lord people traffickers to do the same. Well intentioned in the difference made to little David Banda’s life, undeniably the transformation of a poor child’s life for the better, a good thing, even if just increasing his chances of surviving past the age of five.

Some 96.14 children die in their first year out of every 1000 born in Malawi; which has the 15th highest infant mortality rate in the world, the above figures are taken from the World Factbook estimates 2005, and infant mortality in Malawi was recorded at 94.37 for this year, which is again the 15th highest infant mortality rate in the world.

I’m also sure not so many of you will know of a possible reason for the slight improvement… people, unknown compared to Madonna, from the Scottish medical and midwifery professions devoting their spare time to charity, and combined with a substantial aid program from the Scottish government, their work is making sustainable improvements that will continue making the chances better for thousands of babies (Ref 0 Malawi children) in Malawi long after they are gone.

The Scottish Parliament really set the ball rolling when the government published an international development strategy March 2005 following a visit by some of its members to Malawi in Feb 2005, although the charity ALSO (Advanced Life Support in Obstetrics) UK had already sent a team of eight Scottish midwifes led by a doctor on a three week placement to Malawi. During the tour MSP’s visited Bottom Hospital in Malawi capital, Lilongwe, where the ALSO team was at work teaching staff and students, and assisting only two doctors and 25 nurses with no proper medical equipment to deliver around 10,000 babies each year, many of the mothers suffering complications like pre-eclampsia and possibly Malaria, TB and/or HIV/AIDS. Their findings led to Jack McConnell going to Malawi in May 2005 and among other places, also visiting Bottom Hospital.

Jack McConnell said of what he saw: “The statistics for mothers who die in child birth and for infant mortality are shocking. No one could fail to be moved and angered by the reality of the conditions in Bottom Hospital.” and announced that the Scottish government would support a new three year programme which will see up to 300 Malawi medical staff trained in life saving techniques. The cost, £120,000 per year will be covered by a grant from the £3 million International Development Fund, and will finance a further ten Scottish trainers to provide training for up to 100 staff and students a year at Bottom Hospital and other sites in Lilongwe, building on the work already being done by ALSO UK.

During his visit of Bottom Hospital and afterwards to the Lilongwe College of Health Sciences, where up to 600 medical staff are trained each year, Jack McConnell was accompanied by the deputy Minister for Health Frank Mwenifumbo and leader of the ALSO team, Dr Graeme Walker from Edinburgh’s Simpson Memorial Maternity Hospital. Now leading a second ALSO 8 midwife team on a ten day mission to turn the dire problems noted on the February mission, which was predominantly a fact-finding expedition into comprehensive and sustainable solutions.

One of the midwives on the second ALSO mission, and every subsequent mission since is a dedicated midwife from my local Maternity hospital, who has kindly donated some time to provide largely undocumented details of ALSO’s magnificent work in Malawi.

As part of the ALSO team led by Dr Graeme Walker, Frances Wright rolled up her sleeves on her first mission to Malawi, which turned out to be a unique mission for all involved. After dropping their luggage at the hotel in Blantyre, where the training part of the mission would be based, Bottom Hospital Lilongwe was the team’s next destination. It was the rolled up sleeves that subsequently made the mission unique.

The first ALSO mission in February 2005 had been in a predominantly training capacity, offering some help with emergencies when the need arose. The second ten day ALSO mission in May was the first and only mission to take large quantities (Ref 1: Packed Car) of essential medical supplies to the Malawi capital’s main maternity hospital. Frances told me they used “most of their package deal” luggage allowance on the badly needed surgical supplies.

As well as the first mission to take supplies, which are now sourced locally using charity and IDF money to pay a facilitator. The May 2005 trip was also the first ALSO mission to involve hard labour in the form of a 24 hour make-over at Bottom Hospital. Frances kindly gave me (all) pictures as she listed the ALSO team’s work in one day at Bottom hospital:

“We cleaned the entire hospital” (Ref 2: Even the curtains, Frances on the right), painted the labour ward (Ref 3: Painted ward BH May 2005) and employed local joiners to repair the window and build suitable storage cupboards (Ref 4: Filling built cupboards BHMay2005) for all the newly provided medical supplies (Ref 5: New equipment BHMay 2005 mission), all using fund-raised cash.

“Then we drove back to Blantyre”, back to the hotel with conference facilities to continue the team’s usual work, training Malawi’s future medical staff in all the life-saving techniques that give our (developed world) babies much better chances of survival.

In the remaining nine days of the mission the team ran two 2 day provider courses (Ref 6 Frances busy training 2005) on how to deal with labour ward emergencies, and selected people with potential for one instructor course, all in Blantyre. Frances said, “The provider courses are us simply training students in better techniques, the brightest then go on to learn how to effectively train others in the life-saving skills, with the long term aim of sustainability.”

The next, third ALSO mission, Frances’ second with the team was only five months later in November 2005, on the two week mission based in Lilongwe the team helped out medically where necessary at Bottom Hospital as well as continuing the work of training for Malawi’s future; self sufficient maternity health services, which was done in a hotel nearby.

Frances said the team were “delighted” to see that standards “were being kept-up.” The [Bottom] hospital was much cleaner, “morale” was “good” and word of their success on the first visits was spreading so there were “more people keen to do the courses”. Frances also told me that their fundraising is continued all year and said: “as long as we keep raising the money there are people out there making sure the work is getting done.”

The third ALSO mission was training and assisting emergencies only, all the team took was essential training equipment, anything else was sourced locally through a facilitator as the need arose, therefore aiding the impoverished country’s economy. Because of the November 2005 mission’s strong focus on training for sustainability the team managed to squeeze in three provider courses and two instructor courses, which “successfully trained over 20 local instructors.”

And from small acorns… grew great oak trees when the team returned to Blantyre for a two week training only mission in May 2006, the fourth mission was very different to the second; ten day Blantyre based mission just a year before. This time four provider courses and two instructor courses were provided by the selfless Scottish souls and this time the team managed a two day break in between. Even the training equipment was bought locally, Frances told me ALSO UK “employ” a facilitator to buy goods locally in Malawi.

Frances also told me that the team’s fifth mission, her fourth in Malawi was planned for November 3rd 2006, this time to a place called Ekwenwdeni in the North East of Malawi. Ekwendeni has among the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in Malawi, largely due to it being a favoured resting place for truck drivers heading North to Tanzania, Kenya and beyond, so the Advanced Life Support in Obstetrics techniques Frances’ and her team can teach are badly needed.

Since the interview Frances has e-mailed to tell me that the latest trip has been postponed till January, but I am planning a more detailed follow up piece on the mission in Ekwendeni. From what I have seen and heard so far, and the drop in Malawi’s infant mortality rate in the first year since the work began, this is a charity working hard to make a real difference.

If you feel you would like to help in anyway please call the ALSO UK enquiry line on: (0191) 2765738 or visit the website.

October 28, 2006 at 12:26 am 1 comment

Mother Friendly = Baby Friendly!

This is a feature I wrote, along with a news article for Lifescape magazine, the news article was published but unfortunately there was a shortage of space as this piece was submitted rather late.  If you would like to publish this article e-mail me

Mother Friendly + Baby Friendly!

Aside from the obvious financial benefits, breastfeeding a newborn child provides unsurpassable health benefits for both mother and baby, the Baby Friendly Initiative are making sure it latches on.

By Liam Bailey

In recent years medical research has and is proving breast milk to be far ahead of formula milk in infant feeding; developing the baby’s immunity against wide ranging infections and conditions much more rapidly.   Many studies since 1990 have provided significant reliable evidence that breastfed babies have a reduced risk of gastro intestinal infection (vomiting and diarrhoea), respiratory infections, ear infections , urinary tract infections, allergic disease (asthma, and/or wheezing, eczema), insulin dependant diabetes (mellitus) and, mainly in premature babies, necrotising enterocolitis; a serious childhood disease inflaming the tissues of the intestine, this can lead to a perforation (hole) developing, allowing the contents of the intestine to leak into the stomach, likely to cause severe infection.

There is also some evidence to suggest that breastfed babies have better neurological development but further research is needed.  For the mother breastfeeding lessens the risk of hip fractures, ovarian cancer and breast cancer, possibly also rheumatoid arthritis but again, further research is needed. Breast milk is formula milk; milk specially formulated by the mother for her baby; with regulating substances to give the baby the correct amount of only the nutrients he/she needs at the time, and if the mother’s immune system fights off an infection antibodies are transferred through breastfeeding, which in effect immunise the baby against the infection.  In baby’s born prematurely breastfeeding comes into its own again; aiding brain development, breast milk for a premature baby is higher in growth factors and antibodies and has special properties to prepare the babies bowels to tolerate milk.

Despite the significant health benefits for mother and child, British breastfeeding rates are still some of the lowest in Europe.  At birth, only 69% of UK babies are breastfed. This figure falls rapidly to 55% at one week. Just one in five babies (20%) are still receiving breast milk at six months, this is because many midwifes and health visitors have inadequate training in how to breastfeed correctly, leading to problems of “latching on” (how the baby takes the nipple) and failure to feed on demand (the baby does the demanding).  Ultimately leading to cracked and/or bleeding nipples, puerperal mastitis (blocking of milk ducts, pain, fever, redness) and/or an inadequate supply of milk, which in turn leads to mothers being told they aren’t producing enough milk.  Although some hospitals (not BF) still offer formula supplements, a baby needs nothing more than breast milk in the first six months of life.  Baby Friendly are trying to put an end to hospital and unintentional midwife misinformation.

The Baby Friendly Initiative is a global programme run by UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) and the World Health Organisation to promote breastfeeding; working with a country’s health service to ensure all mothers are properly educated on feeding their baby, and if they decide to breastfeed that they are shown how to feed their baby correctly.  On July 26th this year the Baby Friendly Initiative was held up by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) as the minimum level of care maternity units should provide, NICE released a costing report on the same day which showed that based on the projected rise in breastfeeding levels if their recommendations are followed, working towards Baby Friendly status would start to show cost savings for the hospitals and the NHS after three years.

There are currently 50 hospitals in the UK with full BFI accreditation and many more at various stages of the accreditation process meaning the number of accredited hospitals is firmly on the rise.  This summer, a record seven hospitals received accreditation in six weeks, between them representing 130,000 births a year according to BFI news August 8th.  Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend, Neath Port Talbot Hospital, Tair Afon Midwifery Unit in Aberdare, Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil, North Manchester General Hospital, Cheltenham General Hospital andWalsall Manor Maternity Hospital had all been working towards accreditation for some time but their almost simultaneous ascension was a major boost for Baby Friendly UK.

You can find out if your local hospital is Baby Friendly on the website.  If your local maternity hospital(s) isn’t Baby Friendly, or you feel the staff aren’t adequately trained to assist effectively in breastfeeding, you can lobby the hospital management by clicking on the notepad icon at the far right of each hospital listing.   My local maternity hospital has been granted its certificate of commitment and is currently striving towards full accreditation.  As a dad-to-be I am glad my partner and I will receive the best information and advice on feeding our baby now and when the time comes.

September 23, 2006 at 7:18 pm 2 comments

Fair-Trade Balls: Bouncing Around The World!

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A 2 year old UK fair-trade company specialising in sports balls and equipment, launched its U.S counterpart in September 2006.  Fair-Trade Sports has achieved incredible success in its 2 years in the UK, its year in Australia and six months in Canada, with big hopes the U.S sister company will do the same.  Structuring a global network of fair-trade sister companies around a new and unique method of collaboration/communication (blogs), and donating all after tax profits to children’s charities are I’m sure reasons in part why this company is going down such a storm.

September 16, 2006 at 2:09 am 7 comments

Centres of Inspiration

All Britain’s best eco-visitor centres have never appeared together in one guide, with a little help Greenfutures magazine make that a thing of the past.

By Liam Bailey

In association with Friends Provident and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Greenfutures, a bi-monthly environmental news magazine have put together a 32 page full colour A5 booklet.  Locating the top 20 environmental and sustainability visitor centres on the map, free to download, Centres of Inspiration contains all information necessary to visit each of the centres, including up to date information about facilities, opening times, admission prices and how to visit on foot, by bike or using public transport.  The layout of the guide is excellent, having a central section containing all the general information about each centre, with all the visitor information in a separate section down the right hand side.
    
Greenfuture’s Hannah Bullock, editor of the guide said.  “We wanted to show that there’s a real wealth of centres right here on our doorstep in the UK.  Some are off the beaten track, hidden away in forests or on cycle trails, so you can make it a real day out.  The buildings are really innovative as well, using clever technology to make their own energy.  Anyone who’s at all curious about anything ‘green’ will come away inspired.”  Additional aims of the guide were to introduce more of the business sector to these excellent sustainable projects, i.e. environmentally friendly buildings that generate their own power and can be hired for events. As well as on the net copies of the guide are available free of charge at all visitor centres featured and elected tourist information centres across Britain.  In my opinion, and I’m sure all those of you who choose to obtain a copy of the guide will agree, Greenfutures magazine and their associates have succeeded in all their aims. 
   
The guide features twenty eco-visitor centres all excellent in their own different ways, three that I thought were particularly outstanding for one reason or another were:  The Horniman Museum and Gardens, London, outstanding because it is an amazingly informative museum, and has spectacular gardens definitely worthy of an entry fee, but entry is free.  The current museum opened in 1901 and along with the surrounding land dedicated by Frederick Horniman, as a gift to the people of London, forever for their recreation, instruction and enjoyment.  The original collection contained cultural artefacts, musical instruments, and natural history specimens.  Over the last century, the museum has added to the collection significantly, with original artefacts and specimens now making up only ten percent of the collection, for details of how to visit refer to the Centres of Inspiration guide.
    
Secondly the London Wetland Centre, outstanding because it is over 40 hectares of created atmospheric wetland, right in the heart of a capital city.  London Wetland Centre is also outstanding because of the amount of rare species regularly spotted there.  In 2002 it was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), because it was providing a suitable habitat for Gadwall and Shoveler Duck in nationally important numbers. The Centres of Inspiration guide contains full visitor details for this attraction.
   
Last but by no means least the The Eden Project, Cornwall, which I have covered in-depth see Ref 2: Eden Project Info.  After researching all the centres featured, the Eden Project became my favourite, because of the projects mission, and in my opinion it’s high likelihood of success. I’m sure you’ll agree when you’ve read the information, the Eden Project is doing something small but very special to help the world.
 
So, for all you eco-warriors out there, or just the growing number of people who are finally realising that we have to start treating our world with respect, this is the guide for you.  When you’ve read it I’m sure we’ll all agree that Greenfutures and their associates have succeeded in all their aims, with the bonus of creating increased publicity for these ecologically informative centres, which will in turn, up visitor numbers and therefore numbers of people knowledgeable in helping keep our planet healthy.  For the full list of the centres featured in the Centres of Inspiration guide see Ref 1: Centres Featured, I’m sure there’s a place for everyone. Check out this wonderful guide, find your place, and help your planet.

END

Ref 1: Centres Featured

• The Eden Project, Cornwall.
• CCANW Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World, Devon.
• Genesis Centre, Somerset.
• The Living Rainforest, Berkshire.
• BedZED Exhibition Centre, Surrey.
• The Horniman Museum and Gardens, London.
• London Wetland Centre.
• Ecotech Centre, Norfolk.
• Brocks Hill Country Park and Visitor Centre, Leicester.
• The Ecohouse, Leicester.
•  Attenborough Nature Centre, Nottingham.
• National Wildflower Centre, Merseyside.
• Solaris Centre, Blackpool.
• 
Meanwood Valley Urban Farm, Leeds.
• Nature’s World, Middlesborough.
•  English Nature, Nationwide.
• Our Dynamic Earth , Edinburgh.
• Craigencalt Ecology Centre, Fife.
• National Botanic Garden of Wales , Carmarthenshire.
• Centre for Alternative Technology, Powys.
• The Organic Centre , County Leitrim.
• Ecos Millenium Environmental Centre, Ballymena.

Ref 2: Eden Project Info.

Owned by registered charity the Eden Trust, the Eden project was set up to mark the year 2000, as one of the landmark Millennium projects in the UK and structured as an educational charitable trust.  The Eden Project’s mission: “to promote the understanding and responsible management of the vital relationship between plants, people and resources leading to a sustainable future for all.”  The trust intends to make Eden a completely sustainable project, to act as a guideline for everyone.  They intend to do this by explaining how man constantly changing the world affects plants and the rest of the natural world, exploring the best way to compensate for these changes, and therefore reaching an understanding of what sustainability could mean.  Then, by running the project on these principles, when Eden has proved the project’s complete sustainability, these principles could and should become guidelines for a greener world.  As for every centre featured, full details necessary to visit the Eden project from anywhere in the UK can be found in the Centres of Inspiration guide.  You will also find out that the Eden project has something we can all be very proud of, “the worlds largest jungle in captivity” in the form of it’s huge biome’s, providing a suitable habitat for tropical specimens and plants, these bubble wrap domes maintain the necessary temperature of 35 degrees centigrade.

June 22, 2006 at 8:03 am 1 comment

Tasty Boxes

Organic box schemes have been around for well over a decade now, but never before has there been such a variety of strongly ethical schemes, run by people who obviously care deeply about the world we all live in.

By Liam Bailey

An organic box scheme is a home delivery service for organic products, in this article I have featured 10 schemes all run in an ethical and sustainable way; growing their own produce, buying locally where possible and most companies only delivering their fresh organic produce locally; limiting the miles travelled (food miles) and therefore pollution from vans and lorries.  Although some schemes featured supply Fair-trade products, all supply organic products only, which alongside delivering locally often means reduced income at least in the early years.  This shows that the people running the schemes care less about profits and more about the environment.
    
The organic food industry has been growing steadily for years now but some still don’t know the difference.  Well, as you may have seen in April’s issue of Lifescape growing numbers of celebrities are buying organic, this is because organic produce is free of harmful chemicals from pesticides and artificial fertilizers, fresh organic produce contains up to 50% more vitamins and minerals, and celebrities are what they eat.  For further reasons why buying Organic is much better for the environment and us see Ref 1: top reasons to go organic.  If now knowing the difference you want to join the growing number of people and go organic, read on, between them the schemes in this article deliver to most of the UK.    

Delivering from the tip of Lands end to London, Oxfordshire, and part of South Wales is Riverford organic vegetables.  Guy Watson converted his father’s farm to organic status in 1987, it is now one of Britain’s largest independent organic growers and part of the South Devon Organic Producer group with 14 other family run local farms.  Between them growing 85 different varieties of vegetables, on land spanning from Dartmoor to the coast where the warm sea air provides frost-protection allowing the growing of winter crops, keeping Riverford boxes interesting all year round.  Their range includes: carrots, purple sprouting broccoli, cauliflower, leeks, mushrooms, spring greens, butternut squash, flat lettuce, valor potatoes, orla potatoes, and onions. Organic boxes of such quality cost from £7.50 for a mini-veg box to £13.50 for a large-veg box and £13 for a mixed box.  Fruit alone will cost you £7.50 for a box containing oranges, pears, royal gala apples, bananas and a melon.  Riverford customers receive a newsletter and recipes with every order.  
    
Delivering to Central Berkshire and South Oxfordshire including Marlow, Reading, Wokingham, Bracknell, and Henley on Thames is Eat Organic, starting sale of organic produce from an old van in 1988, and growing into a successful home delivery service.  Diana May and Francesca Perino took over the business in November 2005, maintaining quality by spending a day each week checking all their fruit and veg, ensuring all vegetables are fresh each week, and wherever possible delivering within hours of picking. Customers can order individually from their selection of over 400 fruit and vegetables, organic drinks, meat, poultry, fish (certified by Marine Stewardship Council), vegetarian products, milk, eggs, dairy, bakery, and pantry products.   Unusual vegetables including Radicchio, land cress, curly kale, and cabbage spring greens are grown on site meaning they are delivered within hours of picking, and with the full range can also be ordered in three seasonal boxes: a vegetable box for two at £10, salad box for two at £7, and fruit box for two at £10. 
    
The scheme with among the biggest range of organic boxes is Abel & Cole, delivering across London, south to Poole in Dorset, westerly to Cheltenham and Bristol and as far as Cambridge to the North since 1993.  Customers can order meat, sustainably sourced fish, dairy products, bread, wine, beer and household products, as well as their fresh produce, with occasional treats like white sprouting broccoli, seasonal treats like blueberries in the summer and organic turkeys for Christmas in 13 different boxes, which tailored to individual needs range from £6.50 to £22.00.  Including a small mixed organic box typically containing:  aubergine, bananas, carrots, cauliflower, courgettes, oranges, pears and potatoes, enough for a couple over a week for just £10.00.  Or Able mixed organic box with: courgettes, globe artichoke, green lettuce, green pointed cabbage, kiwi fruit, oranges, pears, potatoes, and white onions, for 3-5 people over a week at £14.80. Able & Cole send out weekly newsletters to their customers, with supplier stories and two recipes.
 
Also sending out newsletters and recipes with their boxes is London based, The Organic Delivery Company, known for their exceptionally high standards of quality and freshness.  Delivering their eight set boxes of dairy products, dairy free products, pasta, pantry items, beer and wines, and wiggly wiggler composters, alongside their range of fresh organic produce to all the London postcodes, as well as Kingston, Richmond, Croydon, Sutton and Enfield.  The Organic Delivery Company allow its customers to make up their own boxes, selecting products individually from their range.  Their set boxes range from £11.95 for a small veg or fruit box containing for example: carrots, tender greens, onions, leeks, aubergine, broccoli and courgettes, and Gala apples, D'Anjou pears and oranges respectively.  To £24.95 for a large fruit&veg box typically containing: carrots, tender greens, onions, leeks, aubergine, broccoli, courgettes, celery, Batavia lettuce, green peppers and tomatoes.   
    
Also known for high standards, delivering by local distributors in Eastern England and part of the Midlands is Riverford’s sister company, Rivernene Organic Vegetables. Since April 2000, Rivernene have kept their service simple, like Riverford offering a range of six seasonal boxes. Ranging from £4 for a small fruit bag containing apples, bananas and oranges, £7.50 for a fruit box containing the same with additional mangoes and pears, or a mini veg box containing purple sprouting broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, onions, salad pack, and Orla potatoes.  For £9 is the small veg box containing the same except the salad pack, with the addition of leeks, mushrooms and pak choi, a medium veg box contains the same as the small except leeks, with the addition of courgettes, parsnips and peppers for £11.50. Rivernene’s large £13.50 veg box has the contents of all veg boxes except the salad pack, pak choi, and peppers, with additional lettuce, rocket lettuce, and celery.  Their £13 mixed box contains apples, bananas, plums, fennel, purple sprouting broccoli, cauliflower, celery, leeks, mushrooms, and a salad pack, newsletters and recipes go with every order.
    
Those of you in Lutterworth, Rugby or the surrounding villages, may have seen Naturally Good Food's van making Thursday deliveries, they offer a same day delivery throughout Leicestershire using a courier.   Naturally Good Food are another scheme allowing their customers to order goods separately or as set boxes, but unique in letting it’s customers specify a set value each week, leaving the selection to them.   Naturally good food certainly has plenty of variety, and ethical variety at that, they grow lettuce, tomatoes, courgettes, Helda beans, fresh garlic, supplying alongside their large range of organic produce, a range of whole-foods, gluten free, dairy free, and fair-trade products mostly local and all organic.  Including non-homogenised milk and cream bought locally from Lubcloud dairy, and local meat from Elmhurst organic farm.  Naturally good food now supply only Fair-trade bananas and coffees, along with many of their teas, their Demerara sugar, and Divine chocolate.  Also selling organic toiletries puts Naturally Good Food at the forefront of the organic home delivery industry.
    
As is north Lincolnshire’s Eden Farms, supplying organic produce throughout Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, and Leicestershire since 1983.  Growing a range of fifty vegetables, Eden farms guarantee delivery within twenty-four hours of picking with the slogan. “Taste the difference, feel the crunch!”  Their pick and mix service allows customers to choose individual items from their range, or select from eight seasonal boxes complete with newsletter and recipes.  A late April veg box might contain: carrots, onions, cauliflower (family box), chestnut mushrooms, leeks, Desiree potatoes, purple sprouting, salad bags, lettuce, and sweet potatoes (family boxes) all produced in the UK. Seasonal boxes include: a 3kg fruit box containing mixed fruit for £6.50, a small veg box containing approx 2.5kg of 7-8 different vegetables for £7.50, and the extreme veg box containing up to 15 varieties and extra family staples is £15.  At £15.50 the 7-8kg family fruit and veg box containing 10 vegetable varieties, and 4 fruit varieties has stand-alone value for money.
 
Another company offering individual selection as well as set bags, delivering throughout Wales, Western England, Bath, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire and London is Carmarthen based Organics To Go. Offering organic eggs, cheeses, butter, granola, and marmalade, alongside their range of 35 different fruits and vegetables including: potatoes or new potatoes, onions, celeriac, parsnips, beetroot, purple sprouting broccoli, white cabbage, red cabbage, sweet potatoes, and pak choi.  Set bags contain a selection of vegetables, salad and fruit ranging from: £6.50 for a small bag for a single person or couple, a standard bag for 3-4 people £9.50 and a large bag for 4-5 people £12.50, with customers stating any preferences such as no cabbage. Organics To Go grow most of their terrifically varied range so crops travel only a few hundred yards to be packed, you can’t get less food miles than that.  Excellent growing facilities mean they make most deliveries within 24 hours of picking, giving excellent freshness from one of the most ethical companies around.
 
Another is Farmaroundnorth, delivering across North Yorkshire and Northern England, and unique in allowing customers to bolt additional modules onto their order. Including the green module with: cauliflower, Savoy cabbage, French beans and purple sprouting broccoli for £6, the Mediterranean module containing: white mushrooms, courgettes, green peppers, French beans, Swiss chard and fennel for £7.50, and the salad module at £6 containing: iceberg lettuce, tomatoes-on-the-vine, rocket, bean sprouts and Hass avocados.  Their range of 4 set vegetable bags, in spring containing a selection of: red potatoes, carrots, onions, Savoy cabbage, cauliflower, purple sprouting broccoli, tomatoes-on-the-vine, courgettes, asparagus, flat parsley, Swede, beetroot, and fennel.  Prices range from £7.00 for a mini bag for one person, to £13.60 for a luxury bag for 2-4 people.  Fruit bags range from a mini bag for one person at £5.00, to a luxury bag for 2-4 people at £12.70 containing selections of: bananas, Ataulfo mangoes, Golden apples, Anjou pears, Valencia late oranges, Star Ruby Grapefruit, Kiwis and Gallia melons.
 
I only found two schemes in Scotland ethical enough to include.  The first, Stair Organic Growers cover South-South West Scotland including Ayrshire, Glasgow, and Renfrewshire.  Growing fine organic produce, while nurturing local wildlife by planting hedgerows in their field margins since 1996, Stair organic growers have been delivering to homes since 2000.  Allowing customers to select from five seasonal boxes ranging from £14 for a box of vegetables, to £15 for a mixed box, or individual items from a range of chicken, eggs, dairy and non-dairy products, alongside their own produce range: Batavia green lettuce, Marvel Of Four Seasons lettuce, Perpetual spinach, spring onions and Swiss chard.  A range of potatoes, swede, red cabbage, large beetroot, purple sprouting broccoli, and Tundra cabbage from local producers, and Hass avocados, aubergines, broad beans, Fortuna clementines, lemons, kiwis, Star Ruby grapefruit and Jonagold apples from Europe and further a field. Although most of the schemes covered source some of their range from abroad, I mention where S.O.G source their produce only because they are forced to import so much because of poor Scottish weather.
 
Bee-Organic, covering North Scotland including Dundee, Perth, North Fife, Tayport, Newport, and St Andrews are in the same boat sourcing in winter around 65% of their produce abroad, and 40% in the summer, though like Stair organic they are still a highly ethical company.  As well as organic eggs, Bee-organic deliver fruit and vegetables in five set boxes:  the mini fruit and veg box, the small veg box at £10, the standard veg box at £13, the standard fruit and veg box at £16, and the salad selection at £10.  As well as providing set boxes Bee-Organic allow customers to select a set box and any extras from their range, or make up their own by selecting individually from their comparatively large range, making them among the most versatile schemes in Scotland.   All clearly priced, their range includes:  cauliflower, four types of cabbage including white and Chinese, celery, carrots, butternut squash, strawberries, bananas, avocados apples and much more.  
 
If I haven’t covered a scheme delivering to your area you can visit Living Ethically, you will see links for local deliveries, and national organic deliveries, by searching both you will probably find a scheme delivering locally in your area, but if not national schemes are the next best thing.  Including Able & Cole and Naturally Good Food, there are many highly ethical schemes delivering throughout Mainland UK, but unfortunately, despite thoroughly searching the web I could not find a scheme delivering to Northern Ireland.  Luckily, there are many schemes currently delivering anywhere in the UK, unfortunately I could only cover one of them, see Ref 2: Organics 4-u

Ref 1: Top reasons to go organic:

Organic produce isn’t covered in a cocktail of poisonous chemicals, unlike conventionally grown crops.

Organic food contains on average 50% more vitamins, minerals, and nutrients than conventional produce.

Buying organic is the only practical way to avoid eating genetically modified food.

Organic farmers look after nature and the environment.

Organic produce tastes so much better, full of juice and flavour

There is scientific evidence proving higher instances of cancer, respiratory problems, and other diseases in farm workers using conventional methods, than organic methods.

Organic food isn’t more expensive than conventional food, the latter we pay for through taxes to cover the billions spent on cleaning agro-chemicals from water supplies, and on things like the BSE crisis.

If you like the idea of our children and grandchildren playing in the fields for years to come, go organic for our and their futures.

Ref 2: Organics 4-u

Set up in 2005 providing next day delivery on a range of five seasonal boxes of fresh organic fruit, vegetables and other products direct to anywhere in the UK, including Northern Ireland and the Scottish islands for an additional £10, Organics 4-u are already one of the UK’s largest organic home delivery services.   I can personally vouch for the freshness of their produce, when I opened the box they sent me as a free trial I could immediately tell that it was incredibly fresh, most of the vegetables still having soil on them.  I used most of the vegetables in a sausage casserole, and as well as being incredibly fresh they all tasted delicious, the box also contained: a fresh beetroot, closed white mushrooms, carrots, parsnips, cauliflower, Swede, potatoes, onions, cherry tomatoes, leeks, a large cucumber, apples, pears and clementines, from their range of 26 fruits and vegetables.  Other products were basil pesto, penne pasta, and oatcakes.

June 21, 2006 at 6:31 pm 2 comments

P.E.T.A’s (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals): Peaceful, But Very Public Revolution

From ignorant or intentional mistreatment, to deliberate and systematic abuse of domestic pets and circus animals, cosmetic testing and badger baiting to some of the world’s greatest species: polar bears, seals, and even dogs and cats in China being skinned alive for their coats. Animal cruelty and abuse is a worldwide epidemic of shocking proportion.  Luckily, the few are doing something to save our animals for future generations of the many. 

By Liam Bailey

Groups like P.E.T.A, (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) affecting a peaceful revolution in animal cruelty, from exposing the hidden trade of endangered species, their fur, ivory and other “commodities” from the far reaching corners, to publicizing totally unnecessary cruelty in some of the western world’s biggest fast food chains and other capitalist ventures.  Of late P.E.T.A has adopted a two-tong approach to fighting animal cruelty. 

Naming and shaming: announcing global cruelty atrocities and campaigns as loudly as possible by whatever means (media) possible, but mainly over the Internet.  Naming who, or what company is responsible, and backing up their claims by hard evidence, including if possible shocking video footage (shaming), or in the case of cats and dogs skinned alive in the Chinese fur trade, publicizing celebrity Heather Mills-McCartney’s support for the campaign in a television documentary.     

Alongside naming and shaming P.E.T.A, lobby parliament, governments and frequent many courts around the globe as both claimant and defendant in an attempt to make a real difference.  To re-use the Chinese dog and cat fur trade example, alongside the television documentary with shocking video evidence of appalling cruelty. P.E.T.A and Heather Mills-McCartney are currently lobbying politicians in Britain and Europe for a ban on real fur in Britain and throughout Europe if possible, or if not at least for all fur to be clearly labeled Real or Fake. 

This is only one of P.E.T.A’s noble and important missions, among the others are:  Publicizing K.F.C’s inhumane treatment of its chickens, i.e. their beaks ripped off while still alive.  Petitioning HRH Queen Elizabeth to stop using bear pelts to make headgear for the five guard’s regiments, and showing the world Covance’ appalling treatment of monkeys, after beating Covance in the courts when they tried to suppress the shocking truth.   

Part of the reason P.E.T.A’s naming and shaming campaigns work so well is the high level of publicity their campaigns get from their long list of celebrity supporters/members.  Including: Pink, Pamela Anderson, Heather-Mills McCartney and Traci Bingham to name but a few, and given the massive rise of the glossy magazine, celebrity backing for campaigns such as these can make as much difference as any of the other steps put together. 

For instance, you or I writing a letter to the queen asking her to stop using bear pelts wouldn’t get that much publicity, none probably.  But news getting out of a high profile celebrity writing the same letter will be doing the rounds of glossy magazines for months, if necessary years to come, and with declining support for maintaining the Royal family at an all time low the last thing they need is a pile of bad publicity, or a bunch of naked people.  Which is exactly what they got, increasing bad publicity against them further when as another P.E.T.A protest hundreds of activists stripped to their bare-skins to campaign against the use of bearskins by the Queen’s guard regiments. 

It is these excellently managed, always peaceful demonstrations that, by gaining support from animal loving celebrities make P.E.T.A’s peaceful revolution not only possible, but also extremely effective in helping to stop the most serious animal cruelty atrocities worldwide.

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May 22, 2006 at 11:45 pm 6 comments

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About Liam Bailey

My name is Liam Bailey and I am a freelance journalist from the UK. My port-folio follows, with links to all my articles published on-line. All my published and un-published articles can be read on my War Pages and Better World blogs

In my best achievement yet Information Clearing House published my latest article on the Israel/Palestine conflict yesterday.

The Centre for Research on Globalization published my analysis article:

Is Attacking Iran a Viable Option?

It was also published on several other sites including:

Uruknet: Information from Occupied Iraq

Persian Journal

Canada Watch

My articles on the Israeli Palestinian conflict have also been published by: Arabic Media Internet Network:

Does U.S Support Prevent Israel From Committing to Peace?

Gaza: Shock and Awe 2006

IDF: Killing Peace; Keeping Misconceptions Alive and

Will the Israeli/Palestinian conflict ever end?

Does U.S Support Prevent Israel From Committing to Peace? Was also published by Desicritics

Gaza: Shock and Awe 2006 was also published by:

The Palestine Chronicle

The Palestinian Return Centre

Big City Portal Auckland New Zealand And Desicritics (Updated version-after ceasefire)

IDF: KIlling Peace; Keeping Misconceptions Alive was also published by:

The Palestine Chronicle and Desicritics

Will the Israeli/Palestinian conflict ever end was also published by:

Information Clearing House

The Palestine Chronicle

Garowe online (Somalia) and Desicritics

Some of the articles above were also published by OhmyNews International who have published 18 world affairs op-ed and analysis articles of mine on the front page. All of which can be read –among other things-- from my article list.

I am most proud of:

Somalia: UN Resolution Is a Mistake

Gaza: Shock and Awe 2006

Is Attacking Iran A Viable Option?

And

Are We Losing the War on Terror?

My articles on the conflict in Somalia have also been published by:

Garowe Online (Somalia)

AMIN

and Two by Desicritics.

Two other articles published by OhmyNews and Desicritics are: Infant Feeding: Breast is Best And

The Day I Heard about John Lennon's Death

My OhmyNews article: Islamic Terror Rife in UK, was also published by Asian News Network: Naver.

The Washington Post’s Post Global blog editor has just made me part of the team as an advanced blogger. The first question I responded to was: If U.S dominance is over in the Middle East as some analysts say, what will replace it?

My response, the article: U.S: End of Middle East Domination-What Domination? was published on Global Post and has also been published by:

Garowe Online

AMIN and Desicritics

Previously I had six features on ethical and sustainable issues and a monthly news round-up accepted for publication by Lifescape Magazine

You can read my published Lifescape features and other ethically orientated articles including the above mentioned UNICEF piece at Better World

I also write fiction:

After my first year I had my first poem published followed by another 11 and three short stories since. Including my last Short-Story which I wrote on the request of Sageof Consciousness to appear as the featured Short Story Writer.

Currently necessity dictates that I work full time in a supermarket, but my heart is in my writing. You can commission articles. One off cover-letters for employers, which I am excellent at. Sales pitch for company brochures or a personalised poem for advertising campaigns or greeting cards. Anything you need written, I will write it well.

Samples can be provided on request. You can contact me by e-mail.