P&J Column 8.3.18

‘Beast From The East’ – The aftermath: An affa lot of carrots in an affa lot of gairdens.

Professor Hector Schlenk, Senior Research Fellow, Bogton Institute for Public Engagement with Science

As a scientist, people are forever asking me questions.  Questions like “Is there a correlation between depth of snow and likelihood of a subject not going into work? Does said correlation change if this subject has a 4 x 4 with power steering? And is that factor cancelled out if the same subject has central heating, a fridge full of beer and Netflix?

Of course, the biggest impact after 3 days of snow was the devastating effect on the fresh produce shelves of our shops and supermarkets. With some roads impassable, outlets across Scotland were left without essentials such as eggs, milk and bread while those supplies that did get through were quickly snapped up. I was amazed to watch Aberdonians so terrified by the situation that they were actually buying powdered egg, long life milk, and in the most extreme cases, brown bread. This was both sociologically fascinating and immensely irritating for those of us who like to start each day with eggy soldiers and a latté. However, as always, where extreme weather and human frailty have caused a problem, science will bring the solution. With no bread supplies, I simply decided to make my own.

To my advantage, I had perfect recall of the formula for the optimal ratio of each ingredient, but to my detriment I didn’t in fact have all the ingredients. But scientific progress, as in the discovery of penicillin, often results from serendipity, so I decided to proceed nonetheless, making a few judicious swaps. Alas! I now realise that garlic salt is not an adequate substitute for yeast. And, despite their similar constituencies whilst inert and uncooked, it is not scientifically sound to replace flour with Plaster of Paris. The resultant substance, which I have named ‘Unbread’ is entirely inedible, but possesses such density and adhesive qualities that it has provided invaluable insulation from the floodwaters now rising at my backie.

Davinia Smythe-Barratt, Ordinary Mum

I don’t know about all the other ordinary Mums out there, but I found this recent spate of cold weather more than a little stressful!  I mean, the weather was bad enough, but the behaviour of some people was just abhorrent.

Take the roads, for example.  All we ever heard about was cars getting stuck in snowdrifts, going off the road, unable to get up hills etc.  What’s wrong with people?  Why can’t they heed the very sensible advice and not travel unless the journey is essential? If you absolutely must take the roads, as I did on Friday for a vital Reiki session with my Aromatherapist – leave the MG at home and take the Disco.  Job done.

That’s where I was headed when I had an encounter with a snow-bound young driver who had managed to get his Fiesta stuck in the white stuff. The silly sausage waved me down as I eased past, and asked if I could tow him free. I did what I think we’d all have done in those circumstances – kept going.  Well, how will youngsters ever learn if people are always pulling them out of trouble? Anyway, when I come to sell the Disco (which, like any car, I’ll do as soon as I’ve had it for 2 years. That’s when the screenwash light comes on, which is a handy reminder) just think what having once attached a Fiesta to the tow bar towbar would do to the resale value! Some people are so selfish.

The biggest issue, of course, was all these idiots panic-buying groceries.  At the weekend I had Emmeline’s friends round for a birthday soiree, and the caterers were struggling to find breadcrumbs for the deep-fried langoustine and caviar bonbons.  So, with the nightmare scenario of Emmeline’s party being utterly ruined by a canapé related disaster very much on the cards, I set off to the shops to save the day.

When I got there – the shelves were virtually bare!  I couldn’t believe my eyes!  So of course, I bought every one of the 30 loaves they had left.  The shop manager asked if I would consider leaving some bread for other people, but I explained that our need was greater.

Funnily enough, while I was out the caterers had improvised a really marvellous tempura batter, and didn’t need the bread after all, so I threw it out for the birds. Honestly, you couldn’t make it up!