An apple a day…

President Trump’s executive order, barring nationals from seven countries perceived as a threat to the US from entering the country – whilst continuing to allow in those from countries whose track record on the terror front leaves a lot to be desired – continues to excite all manner of debate on and offline. As you might expect.

It reminded me of my own run-in with US immigration, on a trip to New York, seven years before the twin towers fell. And all because of an apple.

As we now know, around the turn of this millennium, 19 men affiliated with al-Qaeda, from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon, were regularly crossing the borders, to and from their training camps, and living amongst the American people. Unrecognised as those who would topple the West, murdering 2,763 innocent men and women, and happily sacrificing themselves in the process. Whereas me and my apple?

It’s hard enough making your way through US immigration control as it is. Queues stretch from every customs desk. Gun-toting immigrations officers hold the lines and long haulers shuffle forward, crumpled and bleary-eyed, hand baggage at their feet, shuffling along with them. 

‘Oh look!’ I giggled, as a bleach-haired female (the spitting image of Cyndi Lauper), teetered towards us, arm stretched out ahead of her. On the other end of which was a lead.

Attached to which was a very eager Beagle.

‘They’ve got a dog! Wonder what they’re looking for? Drugs?’

Admittedly not my sharpest moment but I was tired, okay? Fog between the ears. And probably hungry.

Seconds later, Eager Beagle and Lookalike Lauper stopped in their tracks. Right in front of me.

‘Can you open your bag, Ma’m?’

‘Me? But… er…’ 

‘Yes, Ma’m. Open the bag please.’

I bent down to unzip the offending bag and in dove Eager Beagle.

‘You have fruit in the bag, Ma’m.’

‘Er… yes… it’s an apple…’ says I, a little weakly, life flashing before my very eyes.

‘Can you hand it over please Ma’m,’ came the response, entirely without upward inflexion.

‘I could eat it now,’ I offered, clearly set on a spell in Gauntanemo.

‘No, Ma’m, you need to hand it over now. Step away from the apple!’ Actually, I don’t think she said this last bit but I so wish she had!

Anyway, I did indeed hand over the apple. The one I’d forgotten to eat on the flight but – altogether innocently – had earmarked for the taxi drive to our hotel.

The next time I travelled across the pond, six years ago, it was to Boston. I took care to eat my apple whilst still in the air but – would you believe it? – not a fruit dog in sight! I couldn’t help thinking I was still on some fruit-based watch list though.

So, the moral of the story is this: there are, it would seem, far worse things than plotting the overthrow of the West. You could be a Granny Smith smuggler. Imagine anyone being THAT stupid!

Tomatoes? No problem Sir. Go right on through

Reading out my Applegate tale to the Gremlin, as I tend to do before publishing, turns out he too has smuggled goods through US customs. Unchallenged and completely inadvertently, of course, Mr Trump (should you too be having this read out to you).

In the Gremlin’s case, it was tomatoes. Don’t ask.

(And, note to White House staffer fulfilling this particular reading task: that’s to-mar-toes not to-may-toes. You’re welcome).

Mud on the road

Closer to home, just to keep you in the loop regarding Strawberry How – despite one of the many conditions attached to the dubiously-granted planning permission being a requirement that the wheels of vehicles departing the site be washed down before exiting – Strawberry How Road is now a mud bath.

The solution to this, on the part of the builder, is to place a road sign at either end of the development bearing the legend ‘MUD ON ROAD’. Thank you, Mr Story’s people, for this statement of the bleedin’ obvious.

Two of our campaign group have – quite separately – written to the relevant planning compliance officer, the beleaguered Kerry McCartney.

‘I have contacted the developer regarding this matter as there are agreed procedures in place to avoid this happening. If you have any further issues please do not hesitate to contact me,’ writes Ms McCartney.

Which, as usual, dodges the point. We’re perfectly aware that ‘agreed procedures’ are in place. The point is, as we’ve seen so many times over the last twelve months, they’re NOT BEING FOLLOWED! Arghh!!

Hold onto your hats!

I amuse myself every morning – whilst cranking the spine back into life with the daily regime of twisting, stretching and strength-building – by gazing idly out of the window at the houses springing up across the way. (You will recall how beneficial gazing out of the window can be).

Anyway, they’re on with the roof tiles now, and thankfully wearing hard hats. There was one occasion, however, three weeks ago, when at least two of their workers appeared to be hatless, rafters swinging above them from a visiting crane, at least one hard hat perched atop a nearby scaffolding pole. Which I presume is not standard health and safety practice? Sadly, I didn’t have the camera to hand.

My neighbour also happened to be gazing idly from her window at the time. I know this because we had a conversation about it over the phone, each peering from our respective windows, as the situation played out before us.

Needless to say, the incident was reported but we’re already well aware how much notice anyone pays to our observations – even when we have photographic evidence – preferring instead to infer we are imagining things. Let’s hope we were.

Fit to burstin’

Talking of the daily regime, the torture chamber grows apace. Fresh from our sojourn on the piste, thanks to a detour through duty free, and a Gremlin in post-Christmas and post-bulging disc get-the-wife-back-to-fitness mode, I am now the proud owner of a Fitbit Charge 2 with a fetching jade strap and black face.

So now I have a watch on each wrist. One, the trusty – if a tad conventional – Tag. The other a constant digital reminder of every single breath I take, every move I make. Even as I sleep. The greatest revelation is just how many times I have to get up from this desk and move about during a working day, to achieve the suggested 10,000 steps. And we wonder why our backs seize up.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’m just off for another lap of the house.

Postscript

I know. You thought I’d finished. Me too. But two things caught my eye this morning.

The first, Jenni Russell’s piece in The Times urging us all to stay fit and active before we’re 65, to better protect our bodies from injury in later life. (Apologies if you’re reading this beyond the two-week period for free sharing but it’s behind a paywall). I think – hope – I’ve done as much as I could to give myself a fighting chance in old age. But sitting at a drawing board or desk for extended periods throughout my career has clearly cancelled out a great deal of that activity. And so many of my friends and colleagues will be the same.

The key, I’m now learning, is not just to move when you remember to – usually long after the muscles in your back have begun screaming for mercy. It’s too late then. And even the all-seeing Clever Clogs strapped to my wrist only reminds me to get up and do 250 steps, ten minutes before the top of every hour. It’s not enough.

The best thing, I’ve discovered, is the kitchen timer, now living alongside my keyboard. Every twenty minutes I take that lap of the house, make a brew, powder my nose, catch up on the shenanigans over the road, whatever, then back to the desk and click to restart. And it’s frightening how quickly those twenty minutes pass.

Secondly, Dr Hilary Jones on this morning’s Lorraine, tells us that seeing the same GP – continuity of care – is ‘a key line of defence against rising hospital admissions’ for older patients and has a significant impact on care. There we are with that ‘older’ thing again! (The BMJ study looked at 62 to 82-year-olds). As he said himself: Duh!

Time was when you visited the same doctor, had a chat about life, sometimes even chatted about theirs. Your knew them, they knew you. More importantly, you had a doctor. Your doctor. In recent years, you just had a practice. Often, a not very accessible one at that.

Until this morning, I had been unaware that, from April last year, GPs were required to allocate a named GP for every patient. Let’s hope Dr Hilary’s ‘duh!’ continues to resound around the medical profession and things improve. After all, none of us is getting any younger.

Green apples © Boarding1now. Dreamstime.com

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