Editor's Comment: March 2019

PUBLISHED: 12:28 14 February 2019 | UPDATED: 09:15 15 February 2019

"When you think about it, one of the most isolating factors of Cotswold life is the absence of public transport in rural areas."

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Never one to shy from a discussion, our editor Mike Lowe considers why we're stopping regular bus services in the Cotswolds when our elderly need to get from place to place and also, whether a plant-based diet is as healthy as everyone says it is. As usual, let us know your thoughts!

We are often told, particularly during cold snaps, to keep an eye on our elderly neighbours. Do they have food, do they have heating, is there anything we can do for them? All very worthy, but do we do enough to provide support the rest of the year? Probably not.

An article in the British Medical Journal (brought to my attention on Twitter by local Age UK boss Rob Fountain) raises the link between social isolation and poor health and suggests that loneliness may be the biggest health problem for elderly people rather than things like statin deficiency. “If you have only yourself to feed, is there really any incentive to cook a healthy meal? Where’s the motivation to go for a walk if you have no-one to visit?”

And when you think about it, one of the most isolating factors of Cotswold life is the absence of public transport in rural areas. In the village where I live there is a bus stop but the Number 129 bus has long since disappeared. That regular route ended when, presumably, a subsided service could no longer be afforded. (Next to the bus stop is a similarly defunct telephone box which now contains a defibrillator, which seems sensible until you consider how it might be useful. When the heart attack strikes, am I supposed to stagger the 100 yards or so to the phone box in the hope that someone might be passing by who could operate the infernal machine?)

But back to the bus stop. To paraphrase Helen Salisbury, the author of the article, the absence of a regular service means that the elderly of the village, or at least those who have given up driving for fear of becoming a Duke of Hazard, no longer congregate to chat while waiting. There is no catch-up conversation while the bus meanders from stop to stop, no comparison of bargains on the return trip from town... and no regular bus driver to ask why Elsie hasn’t been seen for a week.

“Social prescribing” is the medical profession’s buzzword at the moment. It’s a way of of getting people out and about and involved in things like volunteering, arts activities, dance groups, gardening, coffee mornings, singing groups, cookery and a range of sports. I have no idea how much all this costs, but I bet it’s a lot more than the subsidy required to keep the Number 129 bus running.

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You can’t throw a sausage down a supermarket aisle at the moment without hitting a foodstuff labelled as “plant-based”. Of course, this is just fashionable marketing bollocks. For some reason veganism is sexy at the moment and manufacturers are never slow to cash in on a trend. The food faddists have been further armed by a ludicrous report in the Lancet advocating a diet with portion sizes so minimal that a normal grown human would be fainting by four o’clock.

But just how healthy is a plant-based diet? Well, sugar, trans fats, starches and refined grains are all plant-based and not particularly good for you. On the other hand fish, poultry, eggs and cheese are all protein-packed and are perfectly good for you.

And what’s all this nonsense about vegans “saving the planet”? On the contrary, the cultivation of many of their favoured foods is decidedly destructive. As poor Meghan Markle found out courtesy of the Daily Mail after she made a blabbermouthed friend avocado on toast for breakfast, production of the fashionable fruit has increased ten-fold in recent years and is leading to deforestation and water shortages in Mexico while “drugs gang warlords” are muscling into the lucrative business. It’s a similar story when it comes to quinoa, traditionally grown on llama-fertilised soil in the Andes. With a forty-fold increase in quinoa production, there is no longer much room left for llamas and the soil is becoming increasingly degraded. No mention of drugs gang warlords though. Tofu, made from soya, actually takes up more arable space than the soya grown as animal feed. Growing lettuce uses more farmland than bacon production.

I could go on, pointing out that most of these trendy superfoods have to be imported, so racking up an embarrassing number of air miles, but as extreme vegans have now taken over from extreme cyclists as the most vicious gang on the street, and because they’ve already claimed the scalp of the editor of Waitrose magazine, don’t be surprised if this is the last you hear of me. Pip pip!

For more from Mike, follow him on Twitter! @cotslifeeditor

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