Posts filed under ‘Education’

Belfast, from the Sublime to the Flegs

I do this for a reason. I want you to donate to a children’s charity and write to me. Please see the About Lesley page or read the instructions at the end of this post…..

I promised I would write about my lovely Norn Iron and the ‘Flegs’ protests. You might say flags, you will find that most Norn Iron folks say flegs. To be honest, this is not a post that I will enjoy writing. This is my country and yet again we show ourselves, in your eyes, to be intolerant, divisive, even destroying ourselves from the inside again? Tempting as it is to type, ‘You might say that, I couldn’t possibly comment’, here I go.

The flag dispute has come about because Belfast City Council have voted to only fly the Union Flag on ‘designated’ days. This already happens most other places and to many wasn’t a huge deal. However, certain Unionist politicians took umbrage at this and decried the continuing erosion of Protestant culture and tradition. They shouted and roared, some of them stirred up their supporters talking of protests, ‘get out there and object, show your loyalty to the flag!’. This   has placed the whole country in a maelstrom of protest, riots and endless talking.

So, as I see it, the politicians yet again stir people up. That’s the thing about Norn Iron politics, any and every discussion always seems to start with the divisions across the religious and/or political divide. We have our own political news programmes and they bring together many opinions but, sure as eggs is eggs, the ‘debate’ doesn’t start with Education, health or employment, it starts with a pop at the other side. And they demand that we grow up? I listened to BBC Radio Ulster this morning and had to turn it off when the politicians started talking. I know this is wrong, I know I should be interested and involved in my country. I am aware, I listen and read but when I see so much childish tit-for-tat it makes me mad. I am sure citizens from most places feel like this in some way about the pettiness of politicians but I don’t see my country making real progress until our politicians grow up.

There is also a more insidious effect in all of this. In the 1960s and 1970s there was a strong manufacturing presence in Northern Ireland. For the working class, especially Belfast Protestants, you walked from the school gates through the doors of Harland and Wolff or Shorts, your life was mapped for you and you didn’t have to worry. That certainty had an impact, it reduced the need for ambition. Credit for this certainty was always claimed by the politicians, ‘look how we take care of you’. In the 21st Century that certainty is gone. A lack of prospects and an education system that creaks has left us with one, perhaps two, generations of people who don’t have hope. What does it matter to you when a restaurant or shop closes, further chipping away at the overall economy, when you couldn’t afford to go there anyway?

I have had a bit of a rant haven’t I? And you are perfectly entitled to ask me what I think the solution is.

Simple answer – politics about issues and not beliefs coupled with an integrated education system. While people are divided by words and upbringing they will always be divided. Those other people aren’t monsters, they are your mirror image. Until everyone in Northern Ireland lives this way there will always be that suspicion and separation. Sad, isn’t it? Feel free to tell me your thoughts….

Addition to original post – please don’t think I am an apologist for violence, those who do it are wrong and should be subject to the law.

I close, as always, with this:-

  • Please donate to a valid children’s charity of your choice.
  • Visit this blog and comment about your donation. Please also tell me what you wanted to be when you were 8. I still want to collect those tales and hope that some child will read about your words and deeds and want to do the same when they are older.

I will:-

  • Add your donation to the Totals page on this blog, totals are updated weekly.
  • I will also write some words about the current donations and the charity
  • Store all comments so that everyone can read them.

Thank you for reading,

Lesley

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January 15, 2013 at 10:06 pm 6 comments

M&Ms The Sequel. This Time it’s Personal!

Today I will be asking you to comment, not about a donation to charity as is my normal plea. Today I would like your opinion on the contents of this post. This is a follow-on from my previous post on M&Ms, link to the post here; I also include a brief summary below.

I wanted to follow up for one reason, the reply I received from Master Foods USA, the manufacturer. I quote the reply in full below:-

=================================================================================

“Dear Ms. Miller,

In response to your email regarding M&M’S CHOCOLATE CANDIES.

Thank you for your email.

We’re pleased to hear you enjoy our M&M’S CHOCOLATE CANDIES and appreciate your taking the time to tell us so. Your comments will be shared with our Marketing Associates.

Have a great day!

Your Friends at Mars Chocolate North America”

=================================================================================

Hmmmmmmmmm. I think they missed the point? Was I too reticent in my original post? I try to be balanced and perhaps that dilutes my message. In that case, let me be more clear….

Although there are no untruths in the packaging of a ‘Big Bag’ of Peanut M&Ms they are being sleekit. Definition – smooth in manner, plausible, sly, cunning – the perfect word in this case.

Summarising the sleekitness, the ‘Big Bag’ shows a portion of M&Ms to be 45g and 232 calories as per the front of the bag.

This is normal, calories and percentages clearly stated on the packet. HOWEVER, the packet was not one ‘portion’ of 45 g, it was 70 g. The second picture below shows the reverse of the packet:-

At no point is there a clear statement of the number of calories in the bag. If you had a quick look you assume there are 232 and not approx 360 calories in the bag. In my opinion this is deliberately done and that is wrong. We talk a lot nowadays about transparency, we talk about openness. We also talk about value for money during these lean times. We talk about understanding what we eat and teaching our children to eat healthily, balancing all food groups with the occasional treat.

I believe that this kind of labelling goes against all of this. It is not open or transparent, I think it is an attempt to sell more candies by letting people think they are consuming less calories than the bag contains. I wonder why food manufacturers do this? I know we live our lives in a rush, everything is grab and go so that we can get on to the next thing. Why would anyone want to take advantage of this?

I would ask all manufacturers and retailers to do the following:-

  • Label clearly. If you are going to have a calorie count on the front of the bag then make this the amount of calories in the bag. If it is a family-sized bag then by all means state calories per portion but state clearly how many portions are in the bag and/or the number of sweets in a portion
  • Stop trying to hide price rises by making the product smaller and charging the same price. Prices are going up, this is not palatable for any of us. However, I feel more cheated when I know a manufacturer has reduced the packet size and charges the same price, when I know my crisps or chocolate bar has got smaller. Why not provide both? You are investing in different packing and this has a cost; why not have both and let the consumer make their own choice.
  • Stop trying to play games with your customers. Do not have a display showing ‘Big value pack – Four Tins for £2.20’ when you have single tins for £0.52 just underneath
  • If you are going to have a BOGOF (buy one get one free) then ensure that if it is fresh foods than it can either be frozen or has a long sellby date. Let the BOGOF be good value, not an excuse to get the shelves cleared
  • Stop rearranging the shelves to disrupt customers’ routines. You say it allows people to see foods they wouldn’t normally notice, I say you are trying to get more product shifted through impulse buys.
  • Remove the sweets from the checkout – this one has been irking parents and the weak-willed like myself for decades.
  • When a customer takes some of their time to provide feedback do not take the compliments and ignore anything that could be perceived as criticism. I was quite gobsmacked at the reply from Mars. Yes, I said how much I loved M&Ms but surely my use of the phrase ‘sleight of hand’ could have been at least acknowledged? Sending my feedback to the Marketing Associates does not make me feel that my comments will be given any consideration, let alone serious consideration.
So, today I ask you to comment on this blog to tell me how you feel food manufacturers and retailers get up your nose. Do you agree with me? If so please let me know, if not then please let me know. If there are other bug-bears that I have missed please let me know. I want to have comments attached to this post so that I can send this on to the Mars Company and see if they have any further comment to make….

Thank you for reading.

Lesley

May 22, 2012 at 10:40 am 6 comments

I’m not picking on M&Ms, I still love them but……

I do this for a reason. I want you to donate to a children’s charity and write to me. Please see the About Lesley page or read the instructions at the end of this post…..

My family know my love of Peanut M&Ms, they buy them for me now and then knowing that will make me smile. Yesterday, I was handed a ‘Big Bag’, immediately ripped open the packet and snaffled them. Scrummy 🙂

I then looked at the box showing the number of calories. I never look before eating, that would start the guilt too early and I hate spoiling the M&M experience. It said, I quote, ‘Per portion (45 g) kcal 232 12%, the latter being the percentage of ‘normal’ daily intake. The picture below shows it quite well:-

This is all as normal, calories and percentages clearly stated on the packet. HOWEVER, the packet was not one ‘portion’ of 45 g, it was 70 g. The second picture below shows the reverse of the packet:-

Mmmmmmmmmm, no pun intended. I will be honest and say when it comes to a peanut M&M I can happily ignore the calories but will check how many calories I will consume in half a tin of beans. However, I read. I read everything, including the back of a packet of sweets. The packet of M&Ms was not lying to me, there are 232 calories in a 45 g portion and I ate a 70 g ‘big bag’. To work out the calories I actually consumed you divide 232 by 45 and multiply the result by 70 – approximately 360 calories. I am able to do sums as well as read….

I say again, there are no lies on the packet. However, there is what I would term a sleight of hand. If you just look at the front of the bag you could easily assume you are consuming 232 calories. We talk a lot about educating children about the food they eat, we encourage them to balance their proteins, carbohydrates and 5 portions a day with occasional treats. I hope children are also being educated to look closely at the small print on the bags of their daily treat when sweet manufacturers are displaying this kind of information. I would have been happier if the bag was 90 g, you could say it was two portions?

Added to this I googled M&Ms before I started this post. When you go on the official site you get the following message – ‘As a responsible manufacturer, we need to check your age to ensure that we adhere to our commitment to market our brands responsibly’. You are then invited to enter your MM DD YYYY date of birth. I nearly choked when I read this.

As it says on the title of this post I do not want to pick on M&Ms. I will continue to snaffle them frequently and not worry about the calories until much later. I could start on the supermarkets where you can buy one tin of Product A for 50 pence whilst above that (at eye level of course) there is a four-pack of Product A with a big sign saying ‘Great Value, Four for £2.20’. That also irks me.

I just want to remind everyone to read. Read the packets. Encourage your children to read the packet. Let them see what the real world of treats and sweeties is about. Let them enjoy a treat but let them see the calories consumed…….

I close, as always, with this:-

  • Please donate to a valid children’s charity of your choice.
  • Visit this blog and comment about your donation. Please also tell me what you wanted to be when you were 8. I still want to collect those tales and hope that some child will read about your words and deeds and want to do the same when they are older.

I will:-

  • Add your donation to the Totals page on this blog, totals are updated weekly.
  • I will also write some words about the current donations and the charity
  • Store all comments so that everyone can read them.

Thank you for reading.

Lesley

PS – I contacted the manufacturer and sent them a copy of this post too….

May 13, 2012 at 11:34 am Leave a comment


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