Saturday, October 29, 2005

Does that look like spinich to you?

My new found status as an almost-vegetarian was placed in jeopardy last night, when I may have accidentally consumed a small amount of something that in many ways resembled beef.

Who would have thought that the contents of a pastry slice labelled Spinich and Ricotta would in fact be a brown beefy sludge? It sure wasn't cheese and there was nothing green about it. Someone at Sainsbury's having a laugh?

If I didn't so hate the litigious nature of modern society, I might put something here about suing the supermarket, but I do so I won't. It reminds me of the time I bought donuts from Tesco, and the custard ones were filled with apple and the apple ones were filled with custard. I didn't sleep for a week, I can tell you. If you can't rely on the contents of your donut, what can you trust?

Back to the plot, I have decided to be less of a hypocrite and make the next pair of shoes I buy cow friendly. Vegetarian Shoes seem to be well made, stylish and generally free of dead animals, which is pretty much all I can ask for.

Random Billy Bragg quote (don't sue me Billy):

I dreamed I saw a tree full of angels, up on Primrose Hill
And I flew with them over the Great Wen till I had seen my fill
Of such poverty and misery sure to tear my soul apart
I've got a socialism of the heart

And, goodnight.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Doing something more than nothing

I'm trying to cut down on internet use. No more evenings spent aimlessly surfing, no more reading the bbc pages exhaustively without actually gaining in knowledge because after five hours I'm kind of bleary eyed.

Blogging is allowed, because this is productive. I actually have to have my brain in gear to do this, even if it doesn't seem like it sometimes. Sometimes it's hard work to get the words down; sometimes the amount of time and effort that goes into writing and rewriting a post seems entirely under represented by the number of words that end up getting published. Sometimes I can spend half an hour staring at a blank screen and then give up. But at least I'm thinking.

Doing nothing makes me tired, and I won't do it any more.

This evening I read a bit of Nineteen eighty-four, listened to Vin Garbutt and Billy Bragg (I'm loving Billy Bragg at the moment. £7.99 for a double cd? Bargain.), and thought a lot about doing yoga. All of those things require a degree of intellectual effort. I might have felt better if I'd actually done the yoga, but baby steps, baby baby steps.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Child of the eighties

You know those quizzes, those You know you're a child of the eighties when... quizzes?

They invariably list a number of popular (children's) culture icons from the said era, such as My little ponies (#My little pony... skinny and bony...#), He-man and Transformers. If you ever owned these, played with these, or fantasised about playing with these even though your parents were too stingy to actually buy you any, then you surely are a child of the eighties. I had fake Transformers and My little ponies from the charity shop, but I'm not complaining.

And He-man did have the power.

I've always known, thanks to these quizzes, that I am a child of the eighties. Well, thanks to the quizzes and the indisputable knowledge that I was born in 1979.

My status as such a privileged child was reinforced finally and indisputably today. There can be no doubt, if there ever was any, that I grew up in the decade of Button moon and Cabbage patch kids.

Today, I correctly identified the song Suddenly wafting through the drafty corridors as being the song that was played at Scott and Charlene's wedding in 1987. #Suddenly, every part of me...#

If you don't know who Scott and Charlene are, then you're clearly not a child of the eighties, or else you live in a part of the world which is culturally barren. What sort of people have never seen that great Australian soap Neighbours? Making tea time interesting for the last twenty years.

If you do hail from such a poor deprived place, then you might be interested to know that tomboy Charlene was played by none other than Kylie Minogue. The show also launched the career of Russell Crowe, although nobody actually remembers him being in it.

Not even me, and I'm a child of the eighties.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Three day weekend

There are reasons why two days is not long enough for the weekend, and these are they.

There's two. The first is that Saturday is next to Friday, and the second is that Sunday is next to Monday. The whole weekend is contaminated by contact with the not-weekend.

Anybody remember Dinosaurs? Not the momma! Ahem. Where was I?

Ah yes, a three day weekend, that would be perfect. All that's needed is one day in the middle and two days to act as a buffer zone on either side. One pure, pure day of nothing except relaxation and wine.

Now, I'm not necessarily asking for a four day working week here. I've no problem with working five days in a row. What I'm suggesting is that we get this extra day off by making the week eight days long, which is surely the perfect solution.

What's that you're saying about science and moon cycles and the solar system and stuff? I don't understand. Or maybe I just can't hear you.

Saturday, October 15, 2005


This morning I was walking down an alleyway I've never walked down before, a long, winding medieval back passage with steep side walls and smooth worn cobbles, when I rounded a corner and a saw the most amazing sight.

There, sprawling across a wall in this grey, lonely alley, was a bright, autumnal mass of red, orange, yellow leaves, a beautiful fiery work of art hidden from all but the few of us who decide to seek out new places and walk a different way sometimes.

The picture is just the teaser; if you want to see the rest then go for a walk. Who knows what you might find.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Meat Loaf looks like who?

Has anyone else ever noticed that Sam Allardyce looks an awful lot like Meat Loaf?

More importantly, does anybody care?

This post has no rhyme or reason except Bat out of hell was just on the radio. After my epic post last night I'm clearly suffering from inspiration draining blogger lethargy that has left me incapable of posting anything of meaning.

How many of you know who Sam Allardyce is anyway? How many of you even read this far? Truely, there are times when I oughtn't be allowed near my blog. Don't worry, things'll get better tomorrow. #The sun'll come out.. tomorrow.. tomorrow...#

Annie? I'm singing Annie?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

How to be a bad vegetarian (or hypocrisy for beginners)

So, I don't eat meat any more. No more dead animals for me. Except fish, because I'm clearly a hypocrite.

I feel, looking back, like my whole culinary life has been a gradual journey to this point. I've never been a big meat eater, although until a few weeks ago I was happily enjoying KFC with the best of them. Still, there's been no single event that made me make this decision; it just... happened. There was no sudden revelation, no dodgy burger, no pet lamb cooked for Sunday dinner. But there are reasons for this if I think too hard.

This is where I have to explain myself.

First and foremost, I don't like meat much. Chicken's never been a problem. Or a nice crunchy bit of back bacon. But real meat, a thick chewable steak or hunk of baby sheep, has never done it for me. It has an awful texture, it's hard to digest and it's surely very similar to eating a dead person. (Interesting aside: Bill Bryson once said that he'd never eat a doner kebab because he didn't want to consume anything that looked so remarkably like it was "calved from a dead man's leg." Still hungry?) So, red meat was the first to go a couple of months ago. Although by red meat I clearly don't mean bacon, because I'm a hypocrite.

Of course, so far I've only excluded the meat I don't much like, and chicken's still on the menu. But at the back of my mind there's always been the niggling knowledge that this is wrong. Always. It can't be right to cause suffering to another thinking, feeling, sentient being for no good reason whatsoever. And before you say it, it isn't a good reason. Very few people on this earth have no alternative to eating meat. You can argue all you like about food chains and the order of things, but the fact remains that we can all live quite happily and (even more) healthily without dead flesh in our guts.

Do you know how they killed the pigs that made your ham sandwich? They stunned them with an electric stunner, and hung them upside down by their legs. Then they slit their throats so they bled to death. Now, pigs are very intelligent creatures, at least as intelligent, if not more intelligent, as your pet dog. Would you do that to Lassie? Personally, I wouldn't do that to a chicken.

Which leads me to my next reason. How many times have you heard people say, in the face of squeamishness, that if you eat something then you should be able to kill it? It works both ways: if you wouldn't kill it, don't eat it. Stick most people in front of a cow and tell them to slaughter it, get blood on their hands, and they'd be horrified at the thought - but meat comes in such sanitised supermarket packages these days that it's easy to forget it ever had a face.

To me, the thought of strangling a chicken, taking it's neck in my hands and squeezing the life out of it, watching it die helplessly, is no less awful than the thought of strangling a cat, or a monkey. I just couldn't do it. So, yes, if you would take the knife in your hand and slit its throat yourself, then by all means eat that dead pig. But if you wouldn't, then you shouldn't. Come help me dig up some potatoes? No problem. Going scrumping? Sounds like fun. Fancy coming down the abbatoir and slaughtering a few cows? No? Well then.

The final nail in the meat eating coffin came a few weeks ago, in a bookshop. Aren't books great? I picked up In defence of animals: the second wave by Peter Singer, and started reading. I didn't get very far, but the bit I did read was brilliant. The basis gist of it was that the drawing of a line, a don't eat it because it's morally wrong line, at the level of species is quite arbitrary. Why not at genus, or even higher? Other species have the same levels of cognition, sentience and ability to feel pain as small children, but because of this arbitrary line most people would eat one and not the other. In the other direction, why don't we draw the line at whatever subgroups of human we might belong to? Perhaps, as a woman, I ought to start eating men. They may think, feel, cry and hurt like me, but they don't belong to the same exclusive biological group as me. Therefore it's ok to kill them for food, isn't it?

So, no more meat for me. Ish. Sorry for preaching, because I really have no right to. My shoes are made of leather and I eat fish. It's a gradual journey, as I said, and we all know I'm a hypocrite.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Procrastination is the thief of my soul

After days of unproductiveness, self-induced lethargy and a general leanings towards laziness, I actually had quite a productive evening this evening.

I spent two hours sliding pieces of paper into plastic wallets and putting them in files. On occassion, just for variety, I took documents out of one file and put them into another. I also introduced some brightly coloured file dividers to my folders, which will surely be the thing that clinches my status as a fully-fledged chartered librarian.

Tomorrow, I may make lists.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The only way I know how to make a difference

Donate to the British Red Cross' Asian earthquake appeal here.

Or any of their other appeals while you're at it. In fact, set up a direct debit, because there are always people who need help.

Makes me wish I had more to offer than money.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Ignorance is never bliss

Yesterday in my lunch hour I was bombarded with horrendous tv images of yet another natural disaster. Hundreds of people in Central America were dying, helpless and vulnerable in the face of the power of nature.

That was then that the conversation started. It began with the words, "Oh no, not again."

You might be thinking that that is exactly the sort of despairing thought that people all over the globe are currently expressing, seeing once more the mass suffering of others. You might be thinking it marks the start of an outpouring of sympathy. In that case you've misunderstood the sentiment. Easily done, given the levels of empathy most human beings expect from others. A little concern for the rest of mankind is surely part of what makes us human. Isn't it?

But as the conversation bloomed into full scale exasperation and hand waving at the tv screen, it became clear that "Oh no, not again" didn't mean, Oh no, isn't it awful that more people are dying.

It meant, Oh no, do they really have to show us this again? I'm not interested. It's not like it affects me. They're acting as though it's our problem.

Whatever the old platitude might say, I'm a firm believer that charity doesn't begin at home. It begins with the people that need it most. Without wanting to sound like a cliche, we're all citizens of the world. The global villiage. The shrinking earth. Some of you reading this might be thousands of miles away, and that's a good thing, because communication is knowledge, and everything begins with knowledge.

When I see people in despair on the other side of the world, I don't think, Why do I need to know this? I think, Isn't it brilliant that we live in a world where information travels so fast and easily that those of us who are better off are in a position to help? We should be aspiring to make things better for the whole of humankind, not just those people who happen to live the right side of arbitrary national boundaries.

Knowledge is a wonderful thing that can acheive much. I never want to be ignorant of the rest of the world.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

What is important?

I think I rambled last night. I rambled about Scrabble. Just what kind of drunken librarian am I?

I think somewhere in there, though, I did manage to make a fine philosophical point about the subjectivity of value. What's important to you may not be important to anyone else, and what's important to me may make you think I'm a loon.

But are there some things that are universally valuable? What about life, love and freedom? If only.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


I can't think of a better game than Scrabble. Words words words words words. Letters. Words. All good.

Turns out there's now a Welsh version of the game. Lots of double "L"s and the like. In English a double "L" is pretty much useless, but in Welsh, it's kinda cool. It's what makes Llanelli (that's a place) sound like Clanethlee.

Apparently in the Polish version of Scrabble the letter "Z", the cherished jewel of many an English speaking player, is only worth one point. Like "E". Or "A". A rare consonant with the numerical value of a vowel? How can I cope with that?

It makes me worry, I won't lie. How can something so valuable to one group of people be so worthless to the next?

I don't know where I'm going with this, but it's a point worth bearing in mind. I may have more coherent thoughts on the matter when my mind isn't clouded by a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. What, more wine?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Broad biscuits

Are you a librarian? Do you find Informationspeak intruding in your everyday thought processes? Did you walk past Ben's Cookies today and muse over the status of "cookie" as a subdivision of "biscuit"?

You see, on this side of the Atlantic that hard baked and (usually) round thing is a biscuit. Not a cookie. Stick a few chocolate bits in it and it becomes a chocolate chip cookie, but it's still a biscuit, in the same way that Ciabatta is still bread. So Bluenettle's thesaurus of sweet snacks has "cookie" as a narrower term under the broad heading "biscuit", along with "custard cream", "rich tea" and "chocolate hobnob", among many others.

But then Ben's Cookies made me think. Bake it so that it's still soft and yummy and oozing delightfully messy chocolate and it's most definitely a cookie. But is it still a biscuit? Shouldn't a biscuit have some crunch?

And just where do we put the Garibaldi's???

Monday, October 03, 2005

Signing Captain Corelli

Yesterday I bought a signed copy of Captain Corelli's Mandolin in the hope that at some point in the dim and distant future it may be worth more than the £7.99 I just paid for it. It's a future modern classic, you know.

There was a little smidgen (did I just make that word up?) of disappointment when I learned that Louis De Bernieres has a fairly lifeless signature. Given the levels imagination and creativity oozing out of his novels, I expected something a little more... literary. Great floral swirls and diving swoops of ink next time, please, Louis. Those book collectors of the future will want something impressive for their money.

Who am I to talk? My straight forward signature is as dull as it comes. First name and last name neatly (or not so neatly, depending on how the mood takes me) written in my normal, every day handwriting. For some people signing their name is like scrawling a (very short) symphony; for me it's like... writing. My name. No, I'll never be a doctor. Or famous. No celebrity flourishes for me.

Incidental aside: Corelli only has one "R". Just thought you'd like to know.

Back to the plot, Salman Rushie will be available to sign a book for me in a couple of weeks, should I feel so inclined to go and visit him in the great shrine of bookness known as Borders. I'll have to check my diary; I may be too busy practising writing my name.