Dreams & Desires

As a young girl, I harboured dreams of becoming a famous actress. I would fantasise constantly of walking down the road and being “discovered” by Steven Spielberg, whisked off to Hollywood to live a life of Oscar parties, signing autographs and starring in movies with my favourite leading actors and actresses.

My reality, however, was quite different. I took up drama at school, hoping to achieve a qualification and continue on to college and maybe even join the ranks of RADA or LAMDA. My burning desire to become an actress still aflame, I joined the class at school only to soon discover that some of my bullies were in the same class.

The experience was soul-destroying. I couldn’t face two years of working at close quarters with some of the girls who had been making my life hell during my secondary years. The school failed me as they did so many other victims of bullying, my parents didn’t really comprehend what was going on, I had no support from anyone.

I gave up the class, swapped it for needlework (REALLY hated that!) and eventually ended up doing Physical Education which was a bit more manageable. Friday afternoons were double period so we’d go out ten-pin bowling or trying archery (which I loved).

I dampened down the flame of desire, went to work at 16, tried dabbling in Amdram when I was about 20, dipped in and out of writing and eventually decided to try for my A-Level in Drama & Theatre studies at a local college. I achieved a C-grade which, at the age of 27 and not having been in formal education for 11 years was quite an achievement. Buoyed by the experience, I did another two years (part-time I might add) at another local college, eventually achieving a Silver and Gold Medal for Solo Acting from the prestigious London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

Afterwards, I joined a local Amdram group very well-known in Southampton who put their productions on at the famous Nuffield Theatre. The play being performed was George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion and I won the role of Eliza Doolittle. To say I was ecstatic is something of an understatement. I felt vindicated that my dreams and desires weren’t just the fanciful escapist musings of an unhappy child but a real ambition. I could finally see myself as an actress and be taken seriously.

Fate’s cruel hand, intervened again though. A week before dress rehearsals, I was struck with flu and the group sacked me from the production. Another cast member had secretly been understudying me and stepped in to save the day as it were.

I can’t describe the feelings of humiliation and hurt I felt, especially as the director at the time did not have the decency to tell me face to face. I cut all ties with them and that was the year I moved away to London.

Fast forward ten years.

In my new home town in beautiful Lincolnshire where I have now been for almost four years I am now part of an amazing community of theatre lovers. I’ve been in three productions and achieved my dream of performing on stage. There is nothing like the feeling of being on stage. When I step out from behind the tabs, I feel like I’ve come home.

One of the nicest things about it is when people compliment me on my ability. The most recent production I was in was “Goodnight Mister Tom” by Michelle Magorian which the writer herself has adapted into a musical. It was hard work but a lot of fun and after the matinée performance, a lady came up to me and said, “Well done, I really liked you. You were my favourite.” To hear that was music to my ears, especially when the standard set by the rest of the cast was so high.

So, the point of this entry is this: Do not ever give up on your dreams. No matter what anyone says or does. There will be set backs, there will be discouragement. Ignore all the negativity and go for it. If I had been just that little bit stronger or had more belief in myself, I might have gone on to achieve my dream in a much bigger way.

PS – the header image is me as Detective Inspector Lestrade in Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Stolen Suspender. My first show back in 2015. Nerve racking but a lot of fun!

What Price A Life?

Every day, as I drive to work, I see at least one dead animal lying on the side of the road. Some look like they’re sleeping; others, well…

Whenever I see one of these unfortunate creatures, I always say “rest in peace” as I drive past. Unable to stop and move them to a better spot and every time, I just feel so heartbroken and sad.

I’m sure there are plenty of people who feel terrible when they hit an animal with their vehicle but equally, there are those who simply don’t give a damn and it’s this attitude that I find so depressing.

When did it happen that humans were able to decide that the life of a creature that is NOT human became so disposable? Just because animals don’t communicate the way we do, that they live as nature dictates, they follow their instincts. When were those traits deemed inferior to ours?

Take away the shell and what do you have? The soul of the creature within or an empty space? Are human beings really so arrogant as to believe that we are the only inhabitants of this planet capable of fear, pain, joy and love?

To kill an animal by accident is one thing but what of animals NOT killed by accident? The foxes, deers, badgers, hen harriers etc. “hunted” by humans in the name of sport or country tradition? The principle is the same, it’s the taking of a life by whatever means available and it’s that attitude again that these animals are fair game or pests to be controlled somehow.

Animals in research laboratories, treated with such cruelty and contempt in their short, miserable lives. Intense factory farming, chickens, by the thousands, kept in horrific, cramped conditions, the dead and dying beneath their diseased feet.

Race horses, greyhounds, seen as so disposable that they are usually euthanised when they have outlived their usefulness.

Elephants, rhinos, tigers, lions al under threat of extinction due to the selfish nature of human greed and corporate gluttony.

It goes from one extreme to the other.

I’m no angel and I don’t profess to be. I didn’t become vegetarian until Christmas 2014 and I’m only transitioning to veganism this year. What I am though is compassionate and I do my research. As painful as it is to see videos of animal abuse or the conditions some animals are forced to endure, I watch because I want to ensure I am making an informed choice and not just turning a blind, ignorant eye to the truth.

Animals were here before us, they’ll go on after us (provided we haven’t murdered them all into extinction). As the self-styled apex predators of this world (we most definitely are not), we have an obligation to care for and nuture, not just this beautiful world we live on, but the other animals that also live here. It is their planet too, they were not put here for us to consume and treat as commodities with no feelings.

We’re intelligent creatures, yes but we are also selfish, perpetuated through millenia and has made us feel so entitled to do what we want with the treasures of this world. If humans had chosen the path of living in equilibrium with the world it would be a vastly different place to what we inhabit now.

 

 

 

I Am A Suffragette!

100 years ago today, a momentous event took place in British history.

8 million women were given the right to vote.

The year was 1918. It was the 20th Century.

Today, we celebrate that turning point but, even after 100 years, women the world over are STILL fighting. For their voices to be heard. For equal pay in the workplace. For freedom from sexual harassment. To live in a society that treats us as equals, where we can walk the streets at night, confident in our safety from predators. To not hear demeaning and degrading comments from colleagues or the ordinary Joe on the street.

I am lucky in many respects. Being British, I have grown up in a country where child marriage is outlawed, girls have the same access to education as the boys, where women can dress how they want, go to work (or not) raise a family, get married, stay single, have a career, teach, read, write. The list is endless. But, we still have many industries and sections of society in the UK that continue to view women as second-rate citizens. Nothing more than tits on legs, there for fun or ridicule.

I still cannot fathom some of these outdated attitudes.

Are the men perpetrating these ideas of women’s lesser place really so afraid of us that the only way to battle that fear is to behave in the most cowardly way possible? Through bullying and repression?

Fear breeds hate; those who hate create a far more dangerous world than those who embrace change and see us as equals. Let’s be thankful for the men who HAVE stood by us, supported us and championed us!

There are so many countries where girls and women are subjugated and oppressed their entire lives. From cradle to grave. Child marriage. Honour killing. Rape as punishment. FGM. Sexual trafficking. Prevention of education. The list is not exhaustive.

In Hollywood, the #MeToo movement has empowered hundreds of women to come forward, and shed light on the predatory practises of heavy weights in the multi-billion dollar movie industry. Women who are at the top of their game and who should be celebrated for their achievements routinely humiliated and abused behind closed doors. But, time is almost up for this most ferocious behemoth.

So, the fight goes on. A lot has changed in 100 years but there is a long way to go. For millions of women the world over, the fight goes on.

https://plan-international.org/because-i-am-a-girl/issues-affecting-girls

#MeToo

#TimesUp

P.S. Anyone who says that the Suffragettes fought for us to also have the right to abstain from voting, sorry, you are wrong. Those women fought, bled and died for you to have a voice so bloody well use it.

 

New Year’s Resolutions…..yeah, right..

Sorry, I just don’t believe in making promises to myself for a New Year that I will probably fail within the first few weeks. I believe that you should maintain your goals for as long as it takes to achieve them, whether that be five months or five years.

Horizon Skies took me five years to complete. That was because I had to fit it in around my very busy day job, three house moves, amdram and the day-to-day business of life. If I had stuck to every New Year’s Resolution in that five years I might have finished the book sooner and got it out quicker but I don’t currently have the luxury of being able to call writing my day job. That is something I am steadily working towards and each year does bring me a little closer.

My boyfriend is now reading my completed manuscript, he’s only two chapters in but has already said that it comes across as a compelling story so the hook has worked; the prologue and the first chapter have got him interested in reading more and that is only a good thing.

I have already plotted the sequel and another standalone book which I have made a start on so 2018 should represent exciting times for me.

There are other goals though that I do think deserve better attention than I’ve been inclined to provide in the past.

Eat healthy, exercise more and less alcohol are achievable. I have massively indulged myself over the last couple of weeks and one thing I have noticed as I head to my mid-40s is that aches and pains are a little more frequent, the body a little stiffer in the mornings. Not good.

I still feel very young in my mind and spirit but if I don’t take care of the vessel that contains my very being I will end up a withered old lady. So, it’s back to the Yoga and the Walk At Home programme which I really enjoyed.

I am quite lazy by nature, it takes a lot for me to get motivated and earlier in 2017 I was experiencing a weird heart condition which was diagnosed as an ectopic heartbeat. My doctor said it was a wake up call to manage my stress better and not to overdo the exercise (I was working out every single day) so I went the other way and stopped altogether. My heart is doing better, I don’t feel the skipped beat anymore but I do still experience palpitations, these go back to the stress I was under at my previous job and they haven’t gone away. It’s another reason why I want to get out of the rat race and make a living as a writer. Work under my own steam, doing something I truly love and enjoy.

Completing Horizon Skies was all the motivation I needed to write more. When I wrote the final words, I knew then that I could do it, write a book, see it through to the end and if I can write one book then, I can surely write another.

The over indulgence of Christmas and New Year has left my body feeling tender and quite battered. The alcohol has given me some very weird and vivid dreams, the rich food made me sluggish and heavy. That’s the motivation I need to take better care of myself (my heart being the most important aspect). So, I’m looking forward to going on a nice little walk, getting some fresh air into my lungs (as fresh as it can be living near the A1!) and just getting myself moving.

So, whatever it is that motivates you, make that your goal, not a resolution. Most people fail at their resolutions before the end of January (new diet, stopping smoking etc.) so just keep your goal in mind and whether you achieve it this or next year doesn’t matter. The journey matters more than the destination.

 

Sticks and Stones

Last week was anti-bullying week. I have written about my experiences of bullying in previous posts but every time the campaign resurfaces, my old bullying demons decide to rear their very ugly heads.

Having gone through years of being bullied at every single school I attended, I went out into the workplace at the tender age of 16 thinking I had left all that behind, only to discover that not only was workplace bullying a common occurrence but that I was to be granted no reprieve and became a victim once more on several occasions.

I am yet to reconcile my feelings of anger over what happened to me. I still boil with resentment when I think back to how so many different people treated me. In my experience, girls are the worst. They can be vicious, vindictive and downright evil when belittling someone they consider to be beneath them. During my latter school years, they almost drove me to suicide. In one work place, a particular tormentor managed to turn all my colleagues against me.

No one helped.

My friends could only do so much. I was lucky to not be totally alone as some victims of bullying are. My home life wasn’t a happy one so I kept a lot from my parents and retreated into my books and music, squirreling myself away in my room to be alone with thoughts of worthlessness whirling around my head.

Bullying is one of the most psychologically damaging experiences a person can go through. At a young age, those seeds of discord are sown so deep that the roots will remain long after the experiences have been consigned to the past.

I am no longer a victim of bullying, I am a survivor but it still hurts.

My heart breaks every time I read in the news that a child has killed him or herself as a direct result of being bullied. Why aren’t the bullies being arrested and charged with murder? Why aren’t their friends or parents being arrested as accessories to the crime? Because that is what it is. Driving someone to take their own life is murder.

I understand that a lot of bullies become the way they are as a result of their own unhappiness, they lash out and pick someone who they perceive as being too weak to fight back. Then again, there are some who bully simply because they get a kick out of it, in my opinion, this makes them a sociopath.

Whatever the reasons behind their actions (reasons or compulsions?) I will always loathe those who seek to destroy the essence of a person, make them feel worthless, that life isn’t worth living, that no one loves or cares for them. I know this to be untrue. Victims of bullying tend to be those with the greatest potential. We’re the geeks, nerds, the wordy kids, the kids who are bit different. Ultimately, we are better than those who belittle us.

To all the bullies out there who may read this, just remember, karma has a very long memory and she is more vicious than you can ever be.

Ruby Redfort, Sticks and Stones

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can also hurt me.
Stones and sticks break only skin, while words are ghosts that haunt me.
Slant and curved the word-swords fall, it pierces and sticks inside me.
Bats and bricks may ache through bones, but words can mortify me.
Pain from words has left its’ scar, on mind and heart that’s tender.
Cuts and bruises have not healed, it’s words that I remember.

Tell Me No Lies

I appeal to anyone with a modicum of sense to stop taking as gospel, the continuing smear campaign perpetrated against Jeremy Corbyn by the right-wing media. It’s time these people woke up and smelt the coffee.

Let’s start with the “news” papers shall we? It’s in their interests to keep the Tories in power so their owners can continue their lavish lifestyles and demonise anyone who doesn’t toe the line of Tory rhetoric.

So, if you read The Sun, The Daily Mail, The Telegraph, The Times or any of their subsidiary publications you are being manipulated by their unfair and completely biased reporting. It’s also scary that you would allow yourself to take what they spoon feed you as absolute gospel. Why would you allow this instead of getting the facts for yourself?

Which brings me onto my next point. Corbyn being painted as a full on supporter of the IRA and terrorist sympathiser. This is simply not true and again, why are people believing what is being spouted to them by the gutter press? Why not go and investigate the facts for yourself? Corbyn has condemned violence on all sides of the struggle and supports the fight for peace when it is conducted in a civilised non-violent manner. I could be photographed in a room full of Tory supporters (gods forbid) but it doesn’t make me a Conservative (hell no!) Corbyn believes in round the table discussions and diplomacy, he doesn’t believe in violence. When it came to Hamas and Hezbollah, Corbyn is being vilified for the use of the term “our friends.” You know what? It’s a colloquialism, not a reference to them being best buddies. He was hardly going to invite two opposing factions for a discussion and refer to them as “our enemies” was he? That wouldn’t have been very diplomatic would it?

People forget that back in the 80’s, Margaret Thatcher was friends with General Pinochet and Robert Mugabe. Ruthless dictators responsible for the torture, imprisonment, murder and displacement of untold thousands.

Now, I don’t pretend to be the most politically savvy person to walk the earth but I’m savvy enough to know when facts are manipulated and fiction is presented as truth. These are the reasons why I don’t read the newspapers.

So, where do I get my information from if not the “free press”? Well, I’m connected to a lot more politically savvy people on Twitter than myself, I research and read independent publications and blogs and I’m so bloody minded that I will always stand by my views.

I also have the benefit of experience. Of growing up in a poor family of Tory controlled Britain in the 1980’s, seeing first hand what the Tories were capable of even then. Having a parent be one of the 3 million unemployed because cuts made to British manufacturing meant no job came without the threat of future redundancy. My parents suffered massively in those days and as a young child, I didn’t fully understand what we were going through. I grew up on a council estate, on benefits, free school dinners and hand me down clothes whilst my parents worked hard, scrimped and struggled to achieve a better life for our family.  Every single penny mattered to us, where it came from and what it was spent on. I would never wish that kind of existence onto another family but it’s still happening today and when I hear people being told to “work hard”, I just think, “some have to hold down two or three jobs to get by, if that’s not hard work then what is?”

For the NHS Jeremy Hunt wants a U.S. style system where it’s all done through insurance but a glimpse at a medical bill in the U.S. is heart stopping and those bills come in the second a patient sees a doctor or gets into an ambulance. Imagine having to deal with that if someone you love had just died in a terrible accident or you were on life support and returned home to thousands of pounds worth of debt? What if you couldn’t even afford the insurance? What then?

I’ve heard people say, “don’t have kids if you can’t afford to pay for them”. I think that’s such a crass, sweeping statement that generalises and demonises poor families into one category: “scroungers”. This makes my blood boil. Family situations can change at any time; you could be ticking over nicely until the company you work for decides to close its doors and relocate to the Far East in favour of cheap labour and manufacturing costs. Mass redundancies  in one area has a huge impact on unemployment figures and social funding. Thousands of people in one town or city aren’t suddenly going to get snapped up for the same jobs elsewhere. So what, there are people who do scrounge (I believe they’re called bankers, hedge fund managers, billionaire non dom tax exiles etc) but if you’re thinking of those who pop out a couple of kids to get a council house, remember this – they are the minority and do not represent the majority of those in need but it’s just too damn easy to bully the less fortunate isn’t it?

If you’re voting Tory because of Brexit then I have to ask you, what makes the NHS, public services, emergency services, schools, the disabled and mentally ill (all of whom have suffered extreme financial cuts) far less important than whether or not we belong in the EU? Where has that magical £350 million a week for the NHS disappeared to? (It was on a big red bus if you remember).

What about the environment and the terrible damage caused by fracking when it’s clear that renewable energy is the way forward? What about animal welfare? 80% of the British public opposes fox-hunting but we’re being ignored. The Tories have even dropped their pledge to ban the ivory trade condemning elephants ever closer to extinction.

Does any of this matter to you?

If it does, give it some thought. You might change your mind, you might not. The decision is yours but don’t let the media and the press make it for you.

National Vegetarian Week

From the 15th to the 21st May, vegetarianism is being properly celebrated. I’m ignoring the narrow minded Twitter trolls who love to bully us veggies because they’re the ones making the choice to live in ignorance.

Anyway, I thought I’d share this lovely recipe I threw together at the weekend. Feel free to adapt to your own tastes. Even meat eaters can adapt this for their “needs”.

 

Risotto recipe

Apologies for lack of pictorial evidence but thedish went down rather well and was polished off before the opportunity arose!

Love & Hate

Today, I came across the news of the brutal and shocking murder of transwoman Dandara dos Santos in Brazil. The filming of her murder, which has gone viral, has led to the arrest of some, but not all, of the perpetrators. The crime, shocking in its ferocity and of taking place in plain sight of residents of the area is sadly, one of hundreds being committed against the global #LGBTQ community every single day.

Whilst I struggle to get my head round the facts of what she was put through, how she begged for her life and the utter fear she must have felt in her last moments, it saddens me further that despite living at a time when people of the rainbow can express themselves freely, come to terms with their sexuality, their gender type and being “different” that there are still those who seek to persecute, harm, humiliate and ultimately kill them.

I ask, what have these people ever done to you? What has caused you to have so much hate in your heart for someone who was born in the wrong body? Boys who grew up and realised they liked other boys instead of girls and vice versa?

I put out a Tweet today that simply says:

If someone is not educated on a subject of which they know little they are ignorant of that subject. Ignorance breeds fear for, if you are ignorant of something, how can you understand it? If you don’t understand it, you begin to fear it, hate grows from that fear. What do people do when they hate something? They attack with no rhyme or reason.

So many perpetrators of these crimes claim to be Christians or of some other religious persuasion and they feel justified because to be #LGBTQ goes against those teachings. Well, hang on a minute, isn’t “God” supposed to be all merciful and forgiving? In Christianity, aren’t we all “God’s Creatures”? If so, shouldn’t we ALL then be treated equally? The hypocrisy of religion and it being used as an excuse to persecute minority, gender or ethnic groups is enough to make my blood boil.

The expression, “that’s so gay” has become a buzzword to be used in a derogatory and insulting way when having a bit of banter. I hear it a lot in my office environment, on social media etc. even in Shaun of the Dead (ok, the script is fiction but, even so). How has a word for sexual orientation become an insult in a day and age when society really should be past all that crap?

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Education is the key. If our schools adopted a broader approach to sex education, including sexuality, gender identity etc. then surely, kids will grow up with a better attitude towards it and it just becomes part of society’s fabric. If religious people could look past their zealotry and realise that fear and hate just make things worse in society then surely they could live their lives by the better teachings and look past the hypocrisy.

In countries where society is still lagging far behind, I can only hope that the rest of us can set a better example. We need stronger laws to protect the rights of the #LGBTQ community and people need to learn that just because someone is gay, transgender etc., it doesn’t make them a danger to others (why is that such a common misconception?) It smacks of a kind of arrogance when straight men are afraid of gay men. What, do you really think all gay men are dying to get into your y-fronts? I think not.

Take the blinkers off, broaden your mind and educate yourself. If you are one of the lucky ones in this world who doesn’t suffer abuse and persecution then how about lending a helping hand to those who are suffering? You don’t have to go on a Pride March in your best Spandex but allow those people who do to live their lives with as much rights and freedom as you have.

Dedicated to Dandara dos Santos x

 

 

London is a Paradox

A place that evokes romantic visions of a glittering city built on the famous River Thames, home to millions from all walks of life. For many, it’s the centre of the universe. However, it’s also home to extreme poverty, rampant homelessness, high crime rates and the place where, quite literally, manners have gone to die.

I fell under London’s spell back when I was a young Brownie on a day trip to the Natural History Museum. The big, busy streets, grand buildings and black cabs were like another world to the one I’d grown up in. As I got older, day trips to London were still immensely thrilling; seeing the London Eye glide past as my train pulled into Waterloo Station would give me a frisson of excitement and I could not wait to be out, mixing with the swell of commuters and tourists like I was one of them, like I belonged there.

Moving there in February 2005 marked a major change in my life and a huge step forward to achieving something I’d always wanted.

The first six years there were brilliant. The first place I lived was in a flat on the Isle of Dogs, my favourite part of the city. For the first couple of days though, I felt a bit nervous of going out and just stayed at home which was really silly as I was finally in the place I’d always wanted to be, I soon realised I should just embrace it! My first proper venture out was straight to Oxford Street and after that, it was just a question of familiarising myself with the area and my commute.

From the Isle of Dogs, I eventually moved to New Cross in South (or Sarf) London which was an interesting place to live, to say the least. Living there taught me to be streetwise, it was a completely different vibe and feel to the East End (which I loved) and I got to know places like Peckham, Lewisham and Deptford.

Back to the Isle of Dogs I eventually went, a nice house share with some nice people, back in my comfort zone. A house sale forced another move and I ended up in Muswell Hill in North (or Norf) London. As different to New Cross and the Isle of Dogs as day and night. As lovely as Muswell Hill is, it does have a every elitist element with its posh shops, quirky restaurants and the sort of yummy mummy element parodied on social media. It didn’t suit me and I only lived there for ten months before high-tailing it back to the Isle of Dogs.

Alas, the dream had to end and end it did. With the advent of the Olympics in Stratford, rents and house prices in East London began to sky rocket. People were being turfed out of their homes so greedy landlords could rent them out for three or four times the normal rent just for the few weeks of the event. I moved further out to an area of South London where I ended up staying for three years.

I’d never liked the general attitude of people in the city. Rudeness and selfishness go hand in glove there. Manners are a thing of the past. Getting on and off busy tube lines is like a rugby scrum, some people think nothing of elbowing, kicking, pulling or pushing someone out of the way just to get on a train. Ridiculous really, when the next service is usually only a couple of minutes behind. The cost of living is beyond what most people can afford, travel is very expensive, it’s overcrowded, dirty, smelly and not very safe.

I remember being on the District Line one morning, travelling to work as usual and a thought popped into my head; “Why am I doing this?” I had a real moment of clarity and knew that the time had come, I was ready to leave.

How fortunate it was, that I changed jobs in 2014 and discovered that my new employers, being a very large company, had offices outside London. Less than a year after starting my new job I had relocated lock, stock and barrel to a beautiful market town in the country. I have gorgeous countryside all around, a car instead of an awful train journey, a 3-bed house cheaper than my 1-bed flat, a nice office to work in and my stress levels have massively reduced.

So, whilst this post isn’t written to put anyone reading it off the idea of ever going to London I would just like to invite people to think about why they might covet the idea of going to live and work there. As I discovered, London is not the centre of the universe; there are so many other cities and towns in the UK with thriving prospects, vibrant life and better opportunities. Ok, the wages may be a bit lower but this is offset by lower cost of living, lower house prices etc.; it’s all relative.

I do have very fond memories of my ten years there and I enjoyed my life. I had a lot of fun, met loads of interesting people and made some lovely friends so don’t think for a moment that I regret it because, I don’t. I guess I’m just older and wiser now 🙂

The Despairing Veggie

It was probably only a matter of time before I got onto this subject.

Two questions I am asked most frequently are: “How long have you been vegetarian?” and “Why are you a vegetarian?”

Ok, the first question is simple enough to answer; I’ve been vegetarian since Christmas 2014 which is when I had my last meat based meal.

The second question, for me, is also easy to answer. I became veggie because I no longer, could, in all good conscience, continue to eat meat in the knowledge of the suffering that goes hand in hand with the modern meat industry.

But why are people so bothered about me being a vegetarian? That baffles me.

I came late to the veggie party but better late than never, as the saying goes. I’ve been aware for some time now, that the modern-day methods of factory farming are not conducive to treating animals in a fair, ethical, moral and humane way. I chose to educate myself on where my food was coming from. The more I found out, the more I became eager to make changes to my diet.

I moved in with my boyfriend in 2012, he has been vegetarian since he was 18 and I adopted a veggie diet at home simply because it was easier and more economical than having to cook and prepare two different types of meals. Eating out socially would be my “time off” from being veggie.

As someone who is always keen to learn about things and educate herself however, I made the choice to learn more about modern-day factory farming. The things I have learned, are not for the faint of heart.

“But, humans have eaten meat for thousands of years!” I hear you cry.

True, but, thousands of years ago, factory farming did not exist. Our cave dwelling ancestors killed only what they needed to survive, they lived in equilibrium with the land and what it offered them. They also relied on what they could grow.

In my opinion, it is simply not right, that animals are crammed into tiny cages and crates with no room to move. That they are kept in warehouses on concrete floors with no sunlight, no grass under their feet, no freedom to roam. This is prison of the worst kind.

My boyfriend is going down the more vegan route. I admit, I find this more of a challenge but there are some changes I have made to my diet which have been very easy.

Milk – humans are the only animals on the planet that consume milk from another animal. We don’t need cows’ milk, it’s meant for cows, not humans. I made the change to soya a couple of years ago and have since moved onto oat milk which is lovely. The flavour is soft and nowhere near as strong as cows’ milk.

Cheese – a bit harder this one, cheese is really quite delicious and the vegan versions are a long way behind replicating that but, to be honest, I only ever have cheese when eating Italian food and apparently, the vegan parmesans are very good so I guess I will get used to not having my usual cheddar.

Eggs – I used to eat a lot of these, poached is my favourite way to do eggs and in baking, they are a binding ingredient. However, the dairy industry is incredibly cruel so I’ve simply stopped buying them. My diet includes Quorn products though and egg is used in a lot of their food so I’m not quite there yet.

I no longer wear animal skins. My old leather shoes and boots are from a time when I was less informed about the choices I was making so now, I make do with the fake versions (I have always been anti-fur). I haven’t worn wool or silk for years.

You could call me a hypocrite and perhaps you’re right. I grew up on the traditional diet of meat, potatoes and veg. I never really gave much thought to where my food came from until I was much older and it still took me some time to make the changes I wanted to make. Make them I did, however and I feel within myself, much better for doing so.

Aside from the health benefits of going to a plant based diet there are benefits for the planet and our environment, something which every single one of us should be concerned with.

On a simpler level however, vegetarianism challenges me to create and cook meals that are varied, healthy and full of flavour. I don’t go hungry and I don’t get bored either. I have a shelf full of veggie cookbooks and I’m always keen to try something different.

I am not telling you to go veggie, I am not telling you to change your lifestyle overnight. What I am doing is asking you to perhaps have a little more thought about where your food comes from. You might want to continue eating meat, if so, perhaps go to your local butcher instead of the supermarket, buy direct from source where there is a chain of traceability. Support your local community instead. Still want to eat eggs? Buy organic, better yet, get yourself a couple of hens and have fresh eggs every day. Lots of people have their own hens, what better way to have ethically produced eggs?

I love animals. They are sentient creatures, just like humans. They have brains, nervous systems, they breathe oxygen, they feel fear, pain and joy. We keep cats, dogs, rabbits etc as family pets but think nothing of eating a cow, lamb or pig – why are they any different to the rest?

Hopefully, I have given you food for thought (pun intended) with this post and if even one person reading this blog decides to make changes or educate themselves further on the meat and dairy industries or replaces a couple of meals a week with a veggie option then my efforts will have not been in vain.

http://www.quorn.co.uk/

http://www.oatly.com

https://www.vegansociety.com/

https://www.vegsoc.org/