Veganuary

I’ve signed up to Veganuary. If you’ve never heard of it, or even if you have, it’s a cousin of Dry January, Octsober, and so on. Something where you pledge yourself to do something dietary for a month. In this case, keep to a vegan diet. My diet is largely vegan, so I’m not anticipating big problems with that, but I am a bit taken aback by some of the vegan zealotry out there.

Today I got an email with a list of ingredients to avoid with a warning that veganuary will have you reading labels in supermarkets and shops. So much so normal. I’ve been vegetarian since I was twelve, Mother and Aunt had coeliac disease, and Mother’s Menière’s disease meant we scanned everything. When all three of us went to Sainsbury’s together we would look like keen readers in a library. So I looked at the list and didn’t expect to be surprised. I was wrong. Honey. The differences between vegetarianism and veganism are subtle and political.

Veganism is political. Read the definition of veganism from the Vegan Society website here. I go along with quite a lot of it, but my full conversion to veganism is a long way off, so long it may never happen. When January is over I shall be happy to eat eggs from hens kept as pets whose lives are not curtailed when they slow or cease laying. I number a couple or three beekeepers among my acquaintances, and their love for their bees and their concern for those bees’ wellbeing and welfare is notable.

My big problem is not with eating honey or eggs, but the farming industry; the way we as a society have enslaved animals, have seen them simply as a commodity and treat them as disposable and dispensable. It makes me ashamed and disgusted. If you have a hen and that hen lays eggs, to eat some of those eggs does not seem to me to damage the hen. To see the hen as an egg-laying machine, with no rights of reproduction, and a death sentence the moment laying slows down damages both the hen and me. The damage to the hen is obvious. The damage to me is because it brutalises me, it assumes I am compliant in the exploitation of the bird. So I have sympathies with veganism, but my hope would be to reform farming, so that those calves are not slaughtered so we can drink the milk that would have nourished them. That the cows are not constantly in calf so that they lactate. We don’t need to have milk all the time. If I kept a cow who had a calf, maybe she could spare some milk, and from that milk I might have butter or cheese. But it wouldn’t be a staple, it would be a treat. and industrial farming is not limited to animals. Vegetables and fruit are sprayed with pesticides so strong they damage the health of those workers who grow the crops; people who pick said fruit and vegetables are exploited, living in caravans in disgusting conditions, paid peanuts. I’m struggling to articulate what I think, but an analogy would be seasonal fruits and vegetables. We don’t expect to have runner beans in January in the UK. We can get them, they are flown in from other parts of the world. Personally, I don’t buy them. My father loved runner beans. We called him Bean Man. Every year he grew two rows, one to eat and one to freeze so he could eat his beans all winter. Continue reading

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Forty-Eight Hours

In forty-eight hours I shall be at Cousin’s. I’ve missed autumn, and now it’s the build up to Christmas and the shortest days of the year. I’m anticipating dark afternoons wearing a hi-viz jacket when walking Westie Boy, heat from the wood burning stove, and a cold bathroom.

What I hadn’t been anticipating until a text came this afternoon were cats. But I now know three cats have joined the household. What Westie Boy makes of them I am eager to see. Why three, what they look like and how they were acquired, I have no idea. I’m hoping they are able to come indoors. Cold evenings are the perfect time to have a warm cat on your knee.

The plan is to see Uncle Bill on Thursday, so that’ll mean a trip to Belfast. I hope there’ll be a second trip too, but a week goes by very quickly. I’d like to go to the Fintan O’Toole lecture at Heaney Homeplace, but that’s on Thursday too, and I don’t think it’d work. Anyway, who would I go with?

Pylons

Golden


On a long leash


Slieve Gullion

A year ago it’d have been Ann D, but she since died. I think this visit is where I will have to accept that death has happened, because from here I find it impossible to imagine Cousin’s without Ann’s presence and conversation. Maybe that’s where the cats will come in. Cats for comfort and distraction.
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Yesterday

I was reading when Older Nephew arrived and didn't hear his car. The crunch of gravel near at hand made me look up and there he was. Now the day was warm, though it had been chilly first thing when I had braved the Spartan conditions of the shower block to emerge briskly clean.

We had a brief discussion and decided to head out. Older Nephew had limited time, so it couldn't be a long trip. I made lunch as we travelled, and we kept our eyes on the skies watching the kestrels hovering. We also had to keep our eyes on the water. There was very little traffic but a lot of weed. MasterB had inspected it from the rear cabin window earlier at the marina.

There were a surprising number of cows with young calves, then this fine fellow lost in contemplation.

Another cow seemed to watching us.

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Windows

This week’s photo challenge is Windows. I am reposting two pictures of MasterB; one sitting on the sill outside the kitchen window, remarkably insouciant – we live in the second floor (make that the third if you are in a country that counts the ground floor as the first floor); the second is of him looking out at the night at das Boot.

Not a care in the world

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Petersfield Circular

You might think, having been unable to take photographs during the Three Generations Boat Ride as I had not checked that my camera battery was charged, that I might learn from my mistake. But no. Same error different day, different camera.

My cousin Russell and I had agreed to meet up on 25th August for a walk. Initially we were thinking of Dungeness, but it’s a pig to get to by public transport from London (though why I should bad mouth pigs I don’t know; I am pretty fond of them as farm animals as it goes) and equally awkward from where Russell lives in Hampshire.

Rather late in the day, i.e. just before bedtime 24th, we spoke, and R proposed a circular walk from Petersfield. The train journey suited and so it was agreed with R assuring me there was a pub for lunch en route.

Now back in my pre-teen days I did my first ever sponsored walk for Shelter, or possibly Oxfam, between Petersfield and Godalming. I stopped two miles short of the twenty mile goal with feet covered in blisters. I am not sure I have ever returned to Petersfield.

It’s very couth. When you leave the station the first building in front of you is a business catering for equine and country interests. There’s a book swap/exchange in the station. A station which consists of just two platforms but has toilets.

Russell was there to meet me, and the texts we had exchanged when I was on the train suggested he was less confident about the pub, so had double rations with him for our lunch. I had a bottle of water and a small bag of salted popcorn. In Petersfield I added a couple of bananas, three gorgeous apples and a peach to these, but the peach and one of the apples I had eaten before we even got to the starting point.

Starting Point, Petersfield.

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Precious and Blessed

Do I only post these days when I am away from home? It feels more and more like it. How have I become so time poor in my day to day life? That's something I'll perhaps think about, but it does make these escapes afloat and elsewhere particularly precious.

The plan for today was to head for the local Co-op and get my Saturday Guardian and a few bits and bobs I needed – celery, chilli flakes, brown rice – then come back and do some boat cleaning. However the weather had other ideas. Last night it rained and rained. MasterB and I cuddled together in the fore cabin and I watched Defence Of the Realm, a film I saw at the National Film Theatre on the South Bank in the mid 80s and which, along with the TV series Defence of the Realm with Ray Macanally informed much of my political prejudices and beliefs. I remember walking home feeling very unsettled. By today's standards it seemed quite tame, which made me wonder about how the world has changed in my lifetime, and how my expectations, despite the end of the Cold War, are bleaker. It was this film that introduced me to Paschabel's canon. In my memory this music played almost constantly. I was surprised how sparing it was actually. Incidental music to heighten tension seemed very dated and in fact probably reduced tension, seeming almost comic.

The rain continued today in sudden spiteful outbreaks of heavy showers, but it was the wind that deterred my cleaning plans. Having the water from the hose blown back in my face didn't appeal. Call me a wimp if you like. It'd not be far from the truth. But I did get my Guardian and groceries, plus flowers from the organic farm shop where I intend to go before I go home to buy fresh salad and kale. So I shelved the cleaning plans and read the paper with a fairly easy conscience, tried and failed to solve the problem of the airlock with the taps on board that just splutter and spit, listened to some more chapters of Phineas Redux by Anthony Trollope and went for a walk with my camera.

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In Praise and Recognition of Pets

Watching a fascinating programme about immigration and its history in the UK. I missed the beginning as the signal was poor, but now I have moved the aerial and balanced it on a box means I have a good picture.

One of the things I enjoy about television on das Boot is how in this small space I can watch it while washing up, cooking, stowing the stuff I have brought abroad.

While I ate (a spicy curry with brown rice since you ask) I watched the Supervet. One of the owners, whose active puppy Noel described as a box of frogs, spoke about how much she loved her puppy, Nala. How Nala was more than she had expected.

Oh how I understand. On the road, when MasterB made the occasional complaint, I examined why I bring him to das Boot, when he so obviously believes car travel is over rated. The fact is das Boot is so much nicer when he is with me. And not just das Boot. Home is so much nicer when he is there. Life is so much better when MasterB is there.

He is affectionate, a moderately good listener, beautiful, funny, playful. He improves my life beyond measure. All loved pets do. To non pet lovers, this may sound crazy, deluded, maybe even sad, proof of impoverished lives where humans fail to make significant relationships with other humans.

Except that it has proved over and over again that pet owners are happier and healthier, that we connect not only with our animals but with others of our own species.

It has been hot in London the last few days. Fortunately much cooler today. As is our wont, Octavia and I ate together on Sunday night. We enjoyed the warm evening and dined in her small courtyard garden. The Grey Ninja lay on the wall. Her paws lifted to the skies. The very picture of a cat on a hot brick wall. If only I had had my big camera with me (a lament I may repeat over the next few days at das Boot as I am already regretting only bringing my point and shoot).

Octavia called to her. I wish we had been filming this. Her hot cat spread the toes of one paw in response. Fabulous. My own hot cat, the Ginger Ninja, slept on his back with his front legs stretched out like skis. His appetite flagged; he cried to me to turn the heat down; he wanted to stay in the garden late at night when I wanted him in. Continue reading

After the Election

It’s two weeks tomorrow since the UK General Election which saw Theresa May’s hopes of domination crumble into dust. Today was a shorter than short State Opening of Parliament with the Queen in her Ascot gear, eschewing the robes and crown.

She delivered a speech shorn of some of the nastiest proposals by the Tory party, though Brexit dominated and although some people are making hopeful noises that it may not, in the end, happen, I’m not holding my breath.

It was the defeat of Mrs May’s dreams that my cousin Russell and I celebrated on 9th June, a day we had planned to spend far from news and celebrating Tory voters, hoping walking and nature would be a balm to our European, Green voting souls. i have already written of our gleeful grins, of our alcohol consumption that lunchtime during a scrumptious meal where we toasted the many, not the few, but I have not got around to posting pictures.

This first might give you an idea of our route.

Give me a sign

On the other hand, it may not. Continue reading

Coventry, City of Culture 2021

I went to Coventry again today. It was fab. I knew it would be. I went there for the first time in February. I fully intend to return before long and explore some more.

It’s going to be the City of Culture in 2021. It’s going to be brilliant.

It’s been twinned with more cities than I can remember, mainly I think because its mission to promote peace and reconciliation.

I think it should be twinned with the Elephant and Castle, SE1. The clue is in the coat of arms.

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