Mad or not, Howard Hughes had a point…

As regular readers might know, I’ve been plagued by stomach bugs the past few months. Initially, I suspected that my fridge-freezer was playing up, causing food to go off, but I’ve invested in a couple of catering-grade monitors for both (the sensor goes inside on the end of a fine wire that passes out through the door seal, the monitor itself attaches to the side by magnets).

The result confirms that the fridge is a minimum of 0.4C and a max of 3.4, at which point the cooler kicks in again, and the freezer is between minus 22C and minus 19.7 – the freezer sensor is in the door, the least cold part – in the drawers it’ll be a degree or two colder. Both, then, are more than safe (a fridge needs to be 5C or lower, a freezer at least minus 18C).

However, a run-in with the almost unavoidable Norovirus since Christmas has convinced me that my bugs are being delivered – viral infections by proxy.** After all, I haven’t been anywhere for months to catch anything, so that’s the logical conclusion.

**This overrules previous theories – except for the dodgy Birds Eye pasties, I’m sticking to what I said about those – extensive online research confirms as surely as possible without lab tests, that I’m yet another Norovirus victim. One morning the skin on my arms and hands was massively wrinkled – as if I’d aged 30 years overnight – the NHS website says that this is typical of Norovirus (due to dramatic dehydration, presumably). Back to normal, now, as my recovery continues.

A couple of years ago, during the pandemic that never was, I wrote about how just one sick shelf-filler in a major supermarket could contaminate stock – viruses are tenacious, and can survive for many hours on non-porous surfaces like cans and plastic packaging** – and  infect thousands of people, who would go on to infect thousands more. One infected person could devastate a small town.

**The Hong Kong avian flu outbreak a few years ago was traced to the path of one infected hotel guest as he passed through the building from top to bottom. He contaminated elevator buttons, door handle and push-plates – every hard surface he touched he left a residue of infected snot or sputum, from coughing/sneezing into his hands, presumably.

On a smaller scale, I think that’s what’s been happening to me, with either my mail or supermarket deliveries, or both, carrying their own freight of bugs.

And I haven’t the faintest idea what I can do about it.

One possibility is putting every item of junk mail straight into the rubbish, and handling the legitimate stuff with gloves. A little Howard Hughes, but this really can’t go on. I mean that seriously. Since I’ve been housebound I’ve had at least four separate bouts of gastric grief, not counting the current one, and it simply can’t go on, my system can’t take the constant abuse.

So to a degree, I’m doing the Howard Hughes thing – protecting myself as well as I possibly can – and I can see, already, how this might well have driven him mad.

Another possibility is reducing the amount of stuff that comes into my flat by getting just frozen meals delivered – the desiccating environment of a freezer should see off any bugs – and I’m trying that at the moment. The first batch has been delivered and stashed in the bedroom freezer – which totally wiped me out. Didn’t realise I was so goddamned weak.** I mean, I carried about 5lb of food from the door to the freezer – all of 8 feet away – and stashed it. Then I couldn’t stop coughing, or breathe properly, for over half an hour, despite three large doses of codeine linctus and ALL my sodding inhalers.

**I should have realised. A good indicator of how sick I am is how much I read (a lot, normally, but when I’m ill I either just blank out or watch TV – no real difference!), but I’ve barely looked at my Kindle for a week, and have read exactly 15 pages.

Anyway, first impressions are that portions are pretty small, and feel very light – must weigh them (the weights are declared on the website). There should be a couple of extra-large meals, but when I was putting them in the freezer, they all looked and felt exactly the same. One good thing, though – even if they aren’t a success, I can keep the containers to put up my own ready meals (I just wish I could buy the things**). Like cooking other stuff for the freezer, making six ready meals, with a little organisation, will entail little more effort than making just one – boiling 6 portions of spuds, for example, takes no more effort than one portion.

**They seem only available to the trade. I could use foil trays, as I do now (one for the protein component with sauce/gravy, one for veg and one for spuds), but they’re not as convenient and will take up a huge amount of space per meal. And can’t be microwaved, of course.

However, one thing I discovered, from a trade publication, is that the UK market for ready-meals is 5 times bigger than that in the US – which I find extremely hard to accept given that a) the US pretty much invented ready meals, and b) the much bigger US population makes it unlikely.

Tomorrow, I want to make a sausage casserole with red peppers and fresh tomatoes – served with butter beans and Pink Fir Apple potatoes, this would be great for a ready meal (should have been made today, but not a prayer), if I only had the containers (two compartments, one for the casserole, the other for the veggies, maybe with a little olive oil or butter).

There’s an alternative possibility. I could put the veg – spuds and whatever – at one end of a foil tray, and in the other the protein and sauce/gravy component in a plastic bag at the other end (I’d coat the veg in melted butter or olive oil to prevent freezer burn). That way they’d take up normal freezer space, and can be defrosted, plated, clingfilmed and microwaved for use. Not as convenient as microwaving straight from the freezer, but a workable compromise.

I’ll let you know if/how that works out.

Out of curiosity, I had the above text analysed online, and it has a Flesch Kincaid Grade level, for readability, of 11.05. This indicates that it’s comprehensible to a 17 year old in the US (it uses the US schools’ grade system). Seems about right.


Flesch Kincaid Grade level :






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6 thoughts on “Mad or not, Howard Hughes had a point…

  1. I know how you feel about the bugs – they have to be coming in from mail and deliveries. Hubby and I have become slaves to hand sanitizers and gloves now. The thought of getting bad virus’ and bugs to an already weak immune system is frightening and trying to protect yourself from this is impossible! We have so many people out there who don’t give a damn about washing hands and those who really don’t think! We have just bought a large bottle of hand sanitize to go into hospital with – and the John will carry one with him every time he comes to the hospital. Hospitals are the worst places to carry and spread bugs – and I want to know why porters don’t have to sanitize their hands!!!!
    But going back to your ways of dealing with it – I don’t know what more you can do. You dispose of junk mail right away (we do that even though they ignore the 4 notices that say “No junk mail etc”), we wear plastic gloves A LOT (good job that they are as cheap as chips!) and we use our sanitizers regularly! But still the bugs get to us – we would have to become Howard Hughes to stop anything getting to us. That poor man when you think of him now – he could have got so much help nowadays 😦
    Oh, cheap, throwaway aprons are great too, especially when opening larger parcels.

    • When I was in hospital in 2011, the first thing they did on the ward was swab for MRSA. Fair enough – no bugger swabbed the visitors though!

      Parcels should be kept to a minimum in future, as I can’t think of anything else I need. I’ve spent the last couple of years replacing major items, in case they mess with my DLA. If my (new) computer dies, I’ve got a laptop, and if that dies I’ve got enough bits to build a new computer. I almost never buy print books now, either.

      The Mail Preference Service will get rid of junk mail. The only stuff I get is stuff I’ve signed up for – still useless most of the time though.

      There’s no way to isolate yourself from potential infection totally, but with care most of the risks can be greatly reduced. Staying off buses was probably the best thing I did – they’re massively infections, especially this time of year.

      I must start wearing disposable gloves around the building again. I used to, but got out of the habit. When I go to the laundry, there’s 4 doors, a light switch, and the buttons on the machine, and loads of people touching them and coughing and sneezing on them. I got flu a few years ago, and pneumonia in 2011, and I suspect I picked up both in the building. The diagnosis was “community-acquired pneumonia” – says it all.

      • well.. on a normal size dinner plate it looks a bit lost but is too much for a tea plate so something in between would make it look not to yes, there was actual stewed steak in that pie.and the pastry was more like home cooked than that from WFF.look forward to hearing your verdict tho with WFF i am sure the better meals are reserved for the dearer ones. the cheap ones get worse. tho cant say for curries as i dont eat them.

        • Cheapest I got was Lamb Casserole, at £2.95, which is about average, but in the pic looks a tad small.

          At the moment I’m frying some rather nice Waitrose cod – I ordered pollack but they had none, so they sent cod at the same price. Their fish is brilliant – and not a bone anywhere.

  2. i had the first of the oak house ready meals today. one of the mini meals and im sure as much on my plate as with normal size ones from Wiltshire farm foods though could be wrong about that. mini steak pie chips and peas. and i actually quite enjoyed it. wasnt to bad. had to make up some instant gravy though otherwise would have been a bit too dry.

    • The WFF meals look damn small, and I couldn’t tell the extra-large from the normal ones by feel. Oak House look pretty good, and at least you got a proper pie, not a puddle of stew with a pastry lid! That annoys the hell out of me. It does look dry though.

      Some of the Oak House mini meals look pretty decent – of course, there’s no telling how small the plates are.

      Anyway, I’ll have the WFF next week, and try Oak House the following week.

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