Sunday, 9 April 2017

Embarrassed Zebra’s, Red Lips and Wheelbarrows

Do you remember that old Christmas cracker joke – ‘what’s black and white and red all over?’ Apparently these days the answer is ‘an embarrassed Zebra’, in my day the answer was ‘a newspaper’! And I have to say like the answer, I thought newspapers as we once knew them, were on the way out – killed off by the rise of on-line versions. Indeed, I've not bought a newspaper for many a year. Thankfully, one of my neighbours does and periodically, he very generously donates a pile of old newspapers so I have something to light my log fire with.

However, in a research report published in February this year, Neil Thurman (from City University) revealed that 89% of newspaper reading still uses the real thing, with just 7% on mobile devices and 4% on computers. His research showed that people who read print versions spent on average 40 mins reading the news per day, but for those reading on-line versions, just some 30 seconds a day! On-line versions have sometimes doubled or even tripled the overall readership of newspapers. The Mail remains the most popular newspaper in the UK, with some 30% share of the total market.

One of the papers I read last week was the Sunday Times, the South African version that is. I came across an article written by Mlambo-Ngcuka, who was South Africa's first female deputy president. Since 2013 she has headed the UN body charged with promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. As well as discussing pay in-equality, she said that violence was the biggest challenge facing many women today. Across the world, 50% of female murder victims are killed by partners of family members. 1 in 3 women suffer physical or sexual violence during their lifetime and around 120 million girls worldwide (which is about 1 in 10) have experienced forced intercourse or other sexual acts.  

The article also reported on the global campaign aimed at stopping violence against women and in particular, sexual violence. The #RedMyLips campaign invites people to wear the brightest red lipstick (or ‘rock your red’) during the month of April (international sexual assault awareness month) both as a sign of solidarity and to raise awareness of the issues. You can find out more about the campaign here – and the campaign welcomes both men and women to take part, joining together in speaking out and making a difference. Whilst the majority of rapes (90-98%) are committed by men, men and boys can also be victims of sexual assault, abuse and rape. 1 in 6 boys experience sexual abuse before the age of 18 and 1 in 33 men will experience rape or attempted rape in their lifetime.  

And last week I took time to read the European Medial Journal – whose March cover was Black, White and Red – this is a journal that both publishes curated material alongside original papers. They would not be afraid to publish hard hitting articles. However last week they were one of the many on-line news sites who picked up on the Marmite story. You either read it or you didn’t – loving Marmite is a black and white issue. Me, I am in the ‘loving it’ contingent and try and have Marmite every day.

It appears that eating Marmite is good for you. In a recent study one group were given Marmite every day the other group peanut butter (I have both together on toast – sometimes with cucumber too). The study showed that the group who ate Marmite had healthier brains than those who only ate peanut butter. The science behind this is that Marmite appears to boost levels of the neurotransmitter gamma-amino-butyric acid. Importantly this acts to reduce anxiety. Marmite has 116 times more vitamin B12 and 3 times vitamin B6 as peanut butter. While Marmite maybe a quintessential British food, it has always been associated with a ‘love it or hate it’ debate.

As I have already said I love Marmite – equally I love the famous 1923 Red wheelbarrow and white chickens poem written by William Carlos Williams, the first line of which seems poignantly important in the context of the #RedMyLips campaign:

So much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

gazed with rain
water

beside the white 
chickens