Here's a thing. The growling sound isn't made by your stomach, and it doesn't happen because you're hungry - or at least, that part is a coincidence. Also known as "borborygmus", the noise if actually made in the upper section of the small intestine - the part of the digestive tract below the stomach.
As your intestinal muscles go to work shunting food and liquid downwards, gas is squeezed out of the food. It then rises through the liquid, making a burbling noise. When your stomach is empty, it acts as a big, resonant cavity to amplify the sound.
There are plenty of things that most people agree taste vile - like, say, earwax. It's just nature's way of telling you that you're not supposed to eat them. Disliking cabbage, however, is an example of a taste preference. It's all about how the taste buds on your tongue react to the chemicals in a foodstuff. Like our preferences for music, movies and art, it's a very individual thing. The tongue is able to detect five distinct kinds of flavours - sweet, sour, bitter, salty and the savoury flavour known as umami (such as soy sauce).
It does this using taste buds - specialised sensory organs that are able to interact with molecules in the food we eat, then send a signal to the brain, where our perception of taste is formed. With cabbage, and other green vegetables, the 'haters' seem to be better able to detect certain bitter compounds in the leaves. Such aversions do not necessarily stay with us for life, though - the classic example is olives, which many people only warm to as grown-ups.
The human body is basically a biological machine, and if it gets broken badly enough - by disease or physical injury - then sometimes it can't be repaired. And that's when we die.
Even if you're lucky enough to avoid serious illness or injury during your life, age will get you eventually. The cells in your body are frequently replaced during the course of your life; ageing occurs because of a process called 'senescence', in which the cells lose their ability to divide and make healthy new copies of themselves. It happens because of gradual damage to your DNA that accumulates throughout life.
DNA is the blueprint from which new cells are made, so as this masterplan is degraded, the quality of your cells also slips into decline. One leading theory puts the cause of the DNA damage down to chemicals called 'free radicals'. There are atoms and molecules that react strongly with other chemicals - and it's this reactivity that's eating away at your DNA.
The body has evolved defences, in the form of enzymes that repair the damage, but only 99.9% of broken DNA gets patched up this way. The tiny fraction that isn't stacks up over the course of your life, causing your body gradually to deteriorate: a process that leads to ageing and ultimately death. For a long and healthy life, perhaps the best tip is to limit your intake of free radicals - which means cutting out processed foods, cigarettes and excessive alcohol consumption. Boosting your intake of antioxidants (chemicals that block the action of free radicals) can also help - these are found in fresh fruit and vegetables, and green tea.
Dominated by theatre actors, Turn Up London wasn’t all showtunes, and that’s okay – after all, variety is the spice of life. The concert is part of a response to the Black Lives Matter movement, seeking to raise awareness and some money for a number of organisations that support the black community. I make no apology for turning to them first, before saying anything more about any of the performances. The Bail Project, as its website sets out, is “a critical tool to prevent incarceration and combat racial economic disparities in the bail system”. Its fundraising efforts are used to pay bail for a black person who couldn’t otherwise afford it, and that money returns to the fund at the end of a client’s case, at which point that same bail money is used to free someone else. The Okra Project provides free meals and other resources to black trans people who would otherwise go hungry. The okra plant has a Wikipedia page for anyone who is interested in further particulars. Even the BBC has recipes on its Good Food website.
The Black Curriculum describes itself as a “social enterprise” set up by “young people to address the lack of Black British history in the UK Curriculum”. Despite Black History Month being a mainstay in British schools for some years now, there isn’t much in examination board specifications that tests pupils’ knowledge of black history… because there isn’t much black history in the curriculum in the first place. So, The Black Curriculum have come up with what they call “an accessible educational Black British history curriculum that raises attainment for young people”. UK Black Pride is open to “LGBTQ people of African, Asian, Caribbean, Middle Eastern and Latin American descent”. They have their own large annual celebration (totally unaffiliated to the Mayor of London-sponsored ‘Pride in London’) and other events throughout the year.
Turn Up London features songs like ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’, first released by Nina Simone in 1964, and ‘Ball of Confusion’, first released by The Temptations in 1970, and it is something of a damning indictment on life in 2020 that such tunes are still highly relevant in a supposedly more enlightened world. There were also a number of spoken word pieces sprinkled throughout the proceedings, performed by (amongst others) Clive Rowe MBE and Kwame Kwei-Armah OBE. Maya Angelou’s works featured heavily – her ‘Phenomenal Woman’, performed by Noma Dumezweni, was particularly poignant for me. I also liked the thoughts asserted in an extract written by Vernon Jordan, and performed here by Arun Blair-Mangat: we cannot get to where we want to be on our own, but must stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us, and we may take and live temporarily, or otherwise live ‘forever’ through what we ourselves give.
God cannot be kept out of (the white dominated) Les Misérables, let alone something like Turn Up London – most of the largest churches in the London area are described by sociologists as ‘black majority’ – and so audiences were treated to the Sister Act rendering of ‘Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee’ by recent actor graduates. Brittney Johnson and Alexia Khadime’s version of ‘For Good’ almost immediately sparked debate on social media – there haven’t been many black principals to have played either Elphaba or Glinda in the West End in the time Wicked has been at the Apollo Victoria Theatre (the Broadway production appears to have done slightly better). Khadime is the only (ex) London Elphaba that comes to my mind.
Then there are the crowd-pleasers, such as ‘I’m Every Woman’ from The Bodyguard, sung by Natalia Kassanga, Kelly Agbowu and Nicole Raquel Dennis, and ‘No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)’ sung beautifully by Claudia Kariuki and Danielle Steers. The show closed on a high in more ways than one, with Marcus Collins, Rachel Adedeji and Layton Williams raising the roof with their version of ‘Ain’t No Mountain’. Most impressive of all, perhaps, were the donations made by some more well-off people, such that the producers were able to grant free access to people who could not afford to see the show. Inclusivity indeed.
A spot, zit or pimple is formed when a gland in the skin, which normally secrets natural oils, becomes infected and, as a result, fills up with pus. In teenagers, the most common cause is the increased hormonal activity during puberty. This enlarges the glands, making them produce more oil, which makes blockages and infection more likely. Male 'androgen' hormones are the big offenders, which is why boys tend to get it worse. Thorough washing helps to prevent zits, though beware of scrubbing existing blemishes, as this can irritate the skin and make them worse. Antibacterial medications such as benzoyl peroxide, available over the counter, are much more effective. They work by killing the bacteria that infect the glands.
We do it to keep our eyes moist and to wash away irritants such as dust and dirt. Each blink brings liquid secreted by the tear glands into contact with the surface of the eyeball. An adult blinks roughly once every five seconds, but tests have shown that we blink less when undertaking tasks that demand our attention, such as reading. Very young children also seem to blink less - just once or twice per minute.
Farts are made up mainly of hydrogen, methane, nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide. It's not methane that is responsible for the smell, though, but a minor ingredient called hydrogen sulphide. This is given off when sulphur-rich foods - such as cabbage, eggs and meat - makes it past your small intestine and into the large intestine, where bacteria devour them, emitting the smelly gas as a waste product.
A typical emission might be laced with anywhere between 0.001 and 1 part per million (ppm) of hydrogen sulphide. But that's all that is needed to make noses curl. The gas becomes toxic (causing eye irritation) at 4ppm - while any concentration above 300ppm is deadly: the sulphur in the gas irritates the lungs, causing fluid build-up that prevents breathing, literally drowning the victim in their own secretions - a condition known as pulmonary edema.
Levels this high can accumulate in sewer gas (generated by rotting organic matter), for example in drainage systems that are not sufficiently ventilated. So deadly is it at high doses that hydrogen sulphide was used as a chemical weapon by the British army during the First World War.
While we're on the subject, baked beans actually have a relatively low sulphur content, and so - while they tend to boost the fart count - the gas produced isn't especially smelly. Beans are rich in a kind of sugar that humans are incapable of digesting, but which large-intestine bacteria lap up, causing them to pump out all those gases that cause wind.
You know when you have friends and want to spend lots of time with them? That means you like them - but you like lots of different friends. When you meet one special person who you want to spend all your time with, instead of being with other people, and you get a lovely warm, fuzzy feeling every time you see them, it means you're in love with them.
Limit time children spend with computer games and TV
Equip youngsters with wellies and a raincoat
Let them roam further from home by themselves or with friends – such as going to school, a local shop or a park
Lead by example and show them it is okay to get dirty
Make the most of what you’ve got around you – put up bird feeders, create vegetable plots, grow windowsill boxes, go on bug hunts in the garden, build a den, make mud pies, play outdoor games
Emphasise that outdoor play doesn’t need to be structured to be beneficial
Give them more free time
Go on excursions to the beach, countryside, reservoirs, woods and parks
Take big family picnics
Share wildlife films and books
Use interests such as music, art, photography or sport to get children outdoors
Take it in turns with other parents to take children and their friends outdoors
If you come across someone who is unconscious and not breathing:
Check breathing by tilting their head backwards and looking and feeling for breaths.
Call 999 as soon as possible, or get someone else to.
Push firmly downwards in the middle of the chest and then release.
Push at a regular rate until help arrives.
London lad, loving life and all that it has to offer.