Random Stuff

I stumbled across my first real problematic chapter yesterday in the editing process. In the end, there was nothing for it but to print the damn thing and go over it by hand. I think I’ve cracked it though and will do the digital edit today. At least I am now past the half way mark so the end is in sight!

I did a little baking yesterday and made some peanut butter and chocolate flapjacks. They’re adapted from a recipe in the 15 Minute Vegan cookbook. They’re still vegan but I used Sweet Freedom Chocolate Syrup and agave nectar in place of Flapjacksgolden syrup. They came out beautifully; so much so that I may have to hide them from my boyfriend!

For anyone reading this blog who is into similar music to me (rock all the way!) I would like to mention a band by the name of My Soliloquy. This little known group have a new album coming out on the 14th September by the name of Engines of Gravity. As my aforementioned boyfriend is the creator of this band, I’ve had the privilege of hearing the completed album and can say that it is a stonker of a record. Proggers, metalhead and rockers are all catered for and I invite you to check out this band and their previous endeavours.

That’s all for now 🙂

My Soliloquy Band Page

Man of Much Metal – Engines of Gravity Review

Progressive Music Planet – Engines of Gravity Review

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!

The World’s Greatest Blogger…

Ok, so that’s a huge exaggeration as I contemplate my meagre offerings to the Bloggersphere over the last year or so.

But, it does spark a question. What makes anyone or anything, “The World’s Greatest…”?

Is it by being prolific, blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking etc. every day or does that just make you a pest and an attention seeker? Is it the quality of your content i.e. a message so profound that it has far-reaching appeal and gets people talking even though you might then disappear for a few months?

I often wonder about this when I read through my various social media feeds. I know for a fact that in the world of blogging, I am a small fish in a large ocean but that’s fine with me. I say what I have to say, I guage the reactions (if any) and I respond to comments because it’s the courteous thing to do and it’s right to show appreciation.

But, everything has a dark side and this is my problem with social media. On Facebook, users can be as open or as private as they like but it’s the one application where you are laid bare. Some people update their statuses at an alarming rate or have thousands of “friends” (not realistically possible) offering their tuppence-worth and if it’s someone you don’t know particularly well, that can lead to all sorts of problems. I’ve seen a simple reply or comment escalate into virtual war, people blocking each other and never speaking again because something has been taken so out of context or misconstrued.

Social media has removed people’s ability to interact with each other on a human level which is disturbing. It’s almost sociopathic.

So, I shall get back to my scruffy notebook and pen, lose myself in the world of Horizon Skies and it’s characters who don’t need mobiles, internet, social media etc. Because they inhabit a world where none of that exists and I consider that to be glorious.

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/

 

 

 

The Dream Is Over

If you haven’t heard the news, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are no more. Finito. Kaput. The End.

I think the inevitable demise of their relationship has come as no real surprise to those who have followed their story from meeting on the set of Mr & Mrs Smith to their eventual marriage and now, pending divorce. It’s really not a very noteworthy news story considering the tumultuous state of the world we presently live in.

It’s not very surprising, either, that suddenly, everyone wants to know, “What does Jennifer Aniston think?” followed by an explosion of GIFs and Memes on Twitter that have probably flooded every Twitter users timeline from here to eternity.

This is sad though. Somehow, the paparazzi, popular press, columnists etc have put out the word that the demise of Brad Pitt’s marriage has somehow led to visions of Jennifer Aniston rubbing her hands together in glee and cackling knowingly. That, due to his treatment of her 12 years ago, karma has caught up with him quite spectacularly in this life already.

Never mind the fact that Jennifer Aniston moved on with a quiet dignity after she was, quite frankly, humiliated by the one person whom she should have been able to rely on. After Brad Pitt, Jennifer dated a few guys before meeting Justin Theroux, she didn’t constantly lament her single status or complain about men being douches. She continued on with life and ended up meeting the man who became her new husband. (I refuse to say second because it indicates a possibility of a third etc and this isn’t Elizabeth Taylor territory).

So, why is it that, 12 years after they split, the subject of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston’s marriage is still speculated on? She got over it, why can’t everyone else? Are we really supposed to believe that Jennifer Aniston is so bitter after more than a decade? Come on, if that was the case, it would severely undermine her relationship with her husband so it’s an insult not only to her but him as well.

Of course, certain behaviours can’t be forgiven or forgotten. In this case, it would seem that Angelina Jolie was less than discrete when talking about how she and Brad got together. It was rather insensitive. After all, women are supposed to be united in sisterhood.

Which brings me to my point. Why, in a world where so many women are still treated as lesser beings, where the gender pay gap is still so wide, where girls are forced into early marriage, denied education and basic rights; why then do so many women undermine the basic fabric of sisterhood and solidarity? Sure, competition is healthy, but not when it comes at the expense of our fellow sisters.

Lots of men (not all) bandy the notion about that they’re biologically programmed to sow as many oats as they can and this has been used as an excuse for affairs for decades. It gets rather tiresome. Free will and free choice can overcome biological programming any day of the week so it’s a pretty poor excuse in my opinion. The man who chooses loyalty is a man to be trusted.

Women too, who in his day and age, have more sexual freedom than ever, can also choose not to screw over one of their own.

It’s all about choice but it’s also about showing consideration for a fellow human being. Angelina Jolie has shown what a great humanitarian she is through her work with Unicef and childrens’ charities so I hope that over the last 12 years or so she has perhaps looked back and at least felt some apology for her part in breaking up her soon to be ex-husband’s first marriage.

 

Integration, not Segregation!

So, on Twitter today, I was branded an anti-Semite, purely because I had a difference of opinion with a Jewish man. The difference of opinion wasn’t even about religion, it was about the nasty, hateful tweets people have been posting about Kadiza Sultana.

For anyone not familiar with the story, Kadiza was a British Muslim schoolgirl, who travelled to Syria with two other school friends, early last year, to join IS. At the time, there was a lot of vitriol directed towards the girls and their families; generally along a theme of “good riddance.”

At the time, I thought it was an absolute tragedy that these young, impressionable girls had not been fully protected from the effects of radicalisation. It’s easy for people to judge from behind their screens and keyboards; they lack empathy and as much as they believe the girls deserved what they got, they themselves have been exploited by the negative portrayal of Muslims in mainstream media. By dissociating themselves from the results of such a tragedy, they feel empowered to continue their rhetoric.

What is needed, now more than ever, is education. Education on how social media has become such a pervasive force in our lives that it also serves as a tool for the worst kinds of humanity. Better programmes need to be put in place to protect the young and vulnerable from those who would seek to exploit them, purely for their own ends.

These girls, like so many others, were lied to, manipulated and exploited. Like any other type of child abuser, the perpetrators worked steadily and methodically, invading their minds, twisting their beliefs and turning them against their families and those who could have protected them.

Why so many people think it’s ok to celebrate the death of a 15-year-old; who should have finished her GCSE’s and perhaps gone on to further education, baffles me. It’s a sad reflection of the divisiveness in our society that has turned people against each other.

For the record (not that I need to justify myself to anyone!) I am an atheist. I do not believe in any god. Being an atheist does not make me anti-Semite, anti-christian, anti-muslim etc etc. I reject religious teachings because I believe they are based on fables and fairy stories with no solid proof of the subject matter.

I believe in the Big Bang, Evolution, Science and Nature. I believe that every single living thing on this planet comes from star dust. We are all connected through billions of years of evolution. I don’t care what colour your skin is, what language you speak or where you  come from. I believe in equal rights and the right for people to be free from oppressive regimes.

What counts is living a good life, being kind in all things you do to people and animals. Treating others with courtesy and respect.

Above all, don’t vilify people for their choices unless you are willing to be judged on the things you do and say.

Kadiza Sultana is dead, she cannot stand up for herself anymore and she was failed by a system that should have protected her.

 

 

Thoughts on Feminism

I’ve felt compelled to write this latest blog post as a result of the #IAmAFeministBecause on Twitter.

Rather than join the hashtag itself and get subjected to the trolling and hate Twitter has become a useful platform for, I have decided to use my blog as a platform for my own thoughts on Feminism.

What surprises me, still, in this day and age is that a number of men are still so full of hatred towards women. They still see us as inferior, weak and not worthy. The every day misogyny and sexism that continues to prevail is something I have to fight against on an almost daily basis. In its most casual form, it is part of office banter, a good laugh with colleagues that can be forgotten about and doesn’t really mean anything. Or does it? Casual sexism and misogyny might be seen as a bit of harmless fun but it’s rooted deep in the origins of hatred towards women.

In its most severe, hateful and brutal form we have the violence perpetrated against women of all ages, races, colours and beliefs the world over. Young girls on the African Continent subjected to the horrific ritual of Female Genital Mutilation, in India, girls as young as 5 forced into arranged marriages, sometimes with boys/men more than three times their age, war torn countries where “soldiers” and guerrillas use rape as a weapon, in some cases, purposefully infecting the victim with HIV and “honour killings” in Pakistan where the girl has been perceived to bring shame upon her family. In the UK, particularly in run down, rough areas where gangs are rife, girls are passed around groups of boys as little more than a sexual play thing to be abused and disposed of on a whim. Many of these girls experience grooming, sexual abuse and rape at an alarming frequency from a young age.

I could go on, and as I said, these are the most severe examples.

So, bra burning and “I hate men” slogans aside I think it’s time that those men who are anti-feminist should better educate themselves on why the feminist movement exists in the first place. Why, in the 21st century, it is unacceptable for human beings to be treated in such a derogatory way purely on the basis of our gender. If women hadn’t been constantly subjugated, abused, oppressed and maligned throughout the centuries we wouldn’t need to campaign for equal rights. I agree that some feminists are perhaps too militant which doesn’t do much for the rest of us but it doesn’t mean that they don’t have a valid point and how about understanding what it is that drives their passion?

All of these mysogynistic men should remember one thing; they wouldn’t have been born were it not for the mother who carried them.Jimmy Carter

Liebster Award

Liebsteraward

Thank you for my first nomination for the Liebster Award from the fab blogger and writer A. J. Lundetræ. I hope I can do the questions justice!

Rules

  • Acknowledge the blog that nominated you and display the award.
  • Answer 11 question that the blog gives you.
  • Give 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 5-11 blogs you think are deserving of the award that have less than 200 followers
  • Let the blogs know you have nominated them.
  • Give them 11 questions to answer.

So, here goes!

A.J.’s questions:

  1. What was most awesome moment of your life as a writer till now?

Reaching the halfway point of my novel was a pretty great moment. I realised that, by putting my mind to it, the goal of actually completing the story was less daunting once I put the work in.

  1. Is there any particular destination you would love to travel to?

Egypt, but in the days before it fell to the Roman Empire. Failing that, Rome during the Roman Empire 🙂

  1. Which song makes you feel happy really fast?

That’s Me by ABBA, it’s light and fluffy but at the same time has quite empowering lyrics.

  1. What is the best advice you ever got?

Nothing that has ever stayed with me. I am good at giving advice though.

  1. What are the three most important items at your creative work space at home?

Notepad, laptop, thesaurus

  1. Do you prefer writing in a coffee shop or writing at home? Or somewhere else?

Definitely at home but as inspiration can strike anywhere I always make sure I have pen and paper handy to note down an idea that pops into my head, a snippet of conversation etc.

  1. What is your current read?

An Ember In The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

  1. If you were a colour, which one would you be?

Green.

  1. If you could have one magical power, what would it be?

Flight. It would make getting around so effortless!

  1. Do you have a favourite word(s)?

Yes, but I’m afraid it’s a swear word so I won’t repeat it here 🙂

  1. Which one of your hobbies / spare time activities is the most unusual one?

Nothing unusual I’m afraid. I’m quite pedestrian that way however, I love acting so take part in my local amateur dramatics which is a lot of fun!

11 Random Facts About Me

  1. I’m a huge Muse fan and so far have seen them live eight times with the ninth coming up in April.
  2. I’ve been part of the audience feature on the Graham Norton Show. It was a lot of fun to be on TV for all of about ten seconds.
  3. I was once in a short film that went by the dubious title of “Got Arm Bitten Off By Tiger”. It was by students at a local college. The story was about a female artist whose last great piece of work was staging her own murder. I played the estate agent selling her house.
  4. I believe in ghosts. Having once lived in a haunted house I would be hard pushed to deny their existence.
  5. Pixar make the best movies in the world. I absolutely love them.
  6. I love animals but cats are my favourite. I can’t get enough of the little furballs.
  7. Just after Christmas 2014, I became vegetarian. It’s a lot easier than people think. The hard part is some people’s attitudes towards it.
  8. Having braces when I was about 8 years old has left me with a lifelong lithp 🙂
  9. I love sunrises. They’re an amazing natural anti-depressant with their glorious pinks and oranges.
  10. I’m an atheist. I believe organised religion has been the germ for a lot of the world’s problems.
  11. I was bullied at school and hope that by making a success of my life I can be an example to others that it doesn’t have to drag you down.

Nominations

As this is a new experience for me I’m nominating those blogs I hope will enjoy this and get something out of it. I also apologise if you have been nominated before or don’t have the time to partake. I have tried to come up with some thought provoking questions and look forward to reading the answers 🙂

Lydia Thomas, Author

J. A. Allen

Art and Soul

BOWENDIARIES

Storyshucker

Questions

  1. Who would play you in a movie of your life?
  2. What’s your guilty pleasure?
  3. Have you ever met one of your heroes only to be left truly disappointed?
  4. Try anything once or comfort in familiarity?
  5. If you could learn any language, which would it be?
  6. What’s your idea of writing heaven?
  7. Do you consider books to be works of art?
  8. If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing instead?
  9. Home cooking or eating out?
  10. Place in a book you’d love to visit in reality.
  11. Cinema or Theatre?

Thanks everyone for reading this, have a fabulous weekend!

Grace x

20130525_192210

 

A deviation from the norm…

This is a departure from my usual posts about all things book related but I need to get this off my chest.

Why, oh why do we live in an age where absolute mediocrity is now a thing to be celebrated? Where someone who once slept with a famous footballer becomes a “celebrity” or makes a sex tape and is catapulted to fame? People with no actual, discernible talent except for prostituting themselves to the media and to a public who really have nothing better to do than to gobble up tedious gossip and fawn over someone who, if you passed them on the street wouldn’t get a second look?!

Where is the celebration of real, actual talent? Why are absolute nobodies given thousands of column inches and TV programs that net them millions in cash when they don’t contribute anything to the world we live in? They leach off the tax payer, the TV license payer and they are marketed in such a way that young kids and teenagers today are being taught that the best way to get ahead is not through a decent education and forging a career in something worthwhile. Instead, they would rather follow the examples of the Kardashians, Big Brother contestants, X-Factor and BGT wannabes. Make a quick buck to eventually sink into obscurity once the public loses interest for the public have a fickle heart.

It makes me despair when there are so many people in this world who do oodles of good and make a huge contribution to making lives better, improve the environment, work their way to the top through sheer guts and determination. Those are the people we should be celebrating.

From politicians seeking to make the world a better place (Aung San Suu Kyi) to film stars dedicating their lives to environmental causes (Leonardo DiCaprio) animal welfare activists (Ricky Gervais) – the list is endless.

Come on people, engage your brain. If trash reality TV and talent shows helps you switch off because it’s light entertainment, that’s all well and good but you can still choose something better to watch. A decent documentary, a well written comedy, a good book or a radio show.

I challenge you to nourish your souls with healthy choices.

PS and another thing; get your noses out of your Smartphones and tablets. You all look like the Walking Dead. The world does not revolve around your latest Facebook feed. Go for a walk, visit a friend, read a book – DO SOMETHING WORTHWHILE!

 

Zombies