Stray Dogs and Other Animals

Friday 11/3/2005

Back to noshblog site (click here)

Diary and Notes

Today was one of those grand TV charity days in Britain. Officially known as Comic Relief or more informally Red Nose Day, this is a throw back to the days when the fool was a king for a day, only this time it's all for charity. I am not, before anyone thinks I am, a nasty old cynic who's going to have a go at this event in any way. Irrespective of how much money they raise (about 210 million pounds so far) they raise the profile of the dispossesed around the world and often manage to have a sneer at the authorities at the same time, so all power to them. I am however, enough of an old cynic not to get involved in sitting in baths full of cold beans or tying a red bow around my todger for a day and try to avoid anybody trying to rope me into their enforced jollity.

The city where I live on the other hand, Exeter, being a provincial sort of place, goes mad for this sort of stuff. The whole town can be seen cavorting around, men dressed in women's clothes, women dressed as schoolgirls, schoolgirls dressed as tarts and tarts giving half their takings to the needy. Walking through the town is like running a gauntlet of dangerous looking freaks from the midway, rattling cans and telling me to "Smile, today is supposed to be fun."

Ok so I am a nasty old git in some ways.

I have to confess I do not come from a long line of charitable givers. Certain members of my family are self confessed racists who would never give money to anything that might go to help people outside of our own country. "Charity begins at home" was a motto I often heard as a young child, especially during appeals for the starving of Biafra which was on the news at the time. They would argue that there are enough people in need over here without sending money over there, but I doubt any of them ever gave to help anyone in Britain either and the words were just some vile excuse for their own meanness and lack of compassion. As a small five year old I thought they had completely misunderstood the phrase 'Charity begins at home' which, even to one as young as I, obviously meant that you should be charitable in yourself and try to help people whenever you get the chance or the need presents itself - not that you should be discerning about who or what you help.

And so I come to my motivation for today's sermon: I recieved a letter under my door from the university accommodation department which owns the flats where I live. I shall change the name of the person mentioned but quote it in full:

Dear Residents,

The cleaner has found a lot of opened rubbish bags in the bin room. After speaking to Molly in the staff flat, she has been made aware that the bin room has not been locked properly and a stray dog was sleeping in there and going through the bags looking for food.

Could you please remember when taking rubbish out to make sure the bin room is locked.

Yours etc...

"So what" you might say?

But I feel sorry for this stray dog. Stray dogs are a product of our society. Poor creatures thrown out by ungrateful owners and left to fend for themselves in a world far too dangerous and complicated for them to make a good life of it. I was saddened that instead of trying to help the animal in some way, (a simple call to the council or the RSPCA for instance) the best that could be done was to lock it out and take away its only source of food. The bin room isn't exactly a doggy palace either. It's a cold shed, full of old bags of rubbish and nothing else - and how hungry must a dog be, to have to root through bins in order to find some food? I have enough food (more than enough really) and would have happily shared my food with a dog if I'd found it. Surely there is enough left over food to be able to give a poor stray something to stave off the winter cold? This is 'charity begins at home'. It doesn't matter how many times you stick a red nose on your face and pretend to be a nice person for a few hours, if, when it comes to the small details of life, you are too mean or cold hearted to be able to help a defenceless animal or are too lazy to find a real solution to the problem that benefits the poor dog at the same time.

This isn't some "We are all God's creatures." diatribe, nor am I giving some Buddhist "All life is sacred " lecture - I just think that if you can take the effort to write a letter and post it by hand through 50 letterboxes, you could have easily made a phone call to somebody who might give a damn and actually try to sort the problem out in a way that doesn't deprive something of it's only source of nutrition and warmth.

It doesn't even matter if you like dogs (I do) or think they are a scourge to be destroyed - helping the thing is to everyone's benefit. The person who wrote the letter doesn't live in our flats and by acting the way that she did, she might find the dog has moved on and taken up residence in her street and starts rooting through her rubbish.

Small acts of common sense (not even kindness) such as actually trying to sort the problem out instead of sweeping it under the carpet are what charity is about. There is no need for grand gestures on the Comic Relief scale if every person in the world actually makes an effort to look after even the weakest and most helpless of the Earth's creatures. Grand visions and plans never achieve the desired goal, small acts however, on an individual basis, performed by all, will change the world overnight.

Oh, and the letter never actually mentioned a stray dog, it actually said 'homeless person' - but it's probably all the same to the letter's author. I bet she bought a comedy red nose and wore a silly dress to work though - all in the name of charity of course.


On the subject of today's dinner (which seems all a bit irrelavent after my rant above), dopiaza means 'two onions' (I checked this on an Urdu/English Dictionary and it came up with do pyaaz which seems close enough to me) and if it doesn't have onions at the start and at the end it isn't a dopiaza.

Cake Blog

Chocolate flake cake: Tired of my nearest crap baker Warrens I have cast my net further afield to Shaughs. They had chocolate flake cakes which earns them a point over Warrens already.


  • Beef Dopiaza
  • Spinach Bhaji (frozen and left over from last week)
  • Pilau Rice
  • Coconut Naan
  • Lime Pickle


  • Dopiaza: Beef (I had topside), onions, ghee, garlic, chilli, ginger, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, cardamon pods, cinnamon powder, dried fenugreek leaves, tomato ketchup, garam masala, salt, pepper, fresh coriander.
  • Rice: Basmati rice, ghee, cinnamon stick, black pepper, turmeric, green cardamon pods, bay leaf.
  • Naan: Chapatti flour, yeast, sugar, salt, desiccated coconut, ghee.


  • Chop the beef into cubes. Heat a pan (dry) and toast the cumin, fenugreek seeds and coriander seeds for a few minutes then grind to a powder. Sprinkle over the beef. Heat a little ghee in the pan and fry 1/2 the chopped onions with some ginger, minced garlic, green chilli, cardamon pods and a pinch or two of cinnamon. When the onions are soft add the beef and brown. pour over some water to cover the beef, a squirt of tomato ketchupo to give it that authentic chrry house flavour (this really works), a spoon or two of dried fenugreek leaves, salt and pepper and leave to bubble gently until the beef is really tender and the sauce has become a thick gravy. Fry the rest of the chopped onions in ghee until brown and stir in. Add the garam masal and loads of chopped coriander and serve with a smile.
  • Pilau Rice: Pre cook some basmati rice, rinse and drain. Heat a little ghee in a pan and fry the spices (on a low heat so as not to burn) for about 5 mins. Fry the rice in the flavoured oil.
  • Coconut Naan: Put the desiccated coconut in a jug and pour over boiling water. Leave to soften for 1/2 an hour then drain. Make the naan bread but add the coconut to the yeast mix at the beginning.