Thursday, 29 December 2011

Christmas Past, Present & Future

The whirlwind that was Christmas has passed. Time stood still for a solitary day. Imprisoned at home some might say. Torn wrapping paper and boxes swept away. Remnants used, stashed or thrown in the trash. Decorated Christmas trees and twinkling lights the only reminder left. All the build up, the stress, the exhaustion to celebrate a limited feast. A blink of an eye and it's gone. The slowness to midday, then the day quickening up, turning suddenly to dusk. The slump. Drifting... Remembering Christmas times past...

The gathering of relatives on Boxing Day. Grandparents, Aunt, Uncle and cousins. A second attempt at Christmas Day. A large table, party hats and games. Too many helpings of food and drink. The rippling of voices and laughter. A loud family rejoicing together. A walk on the beach. Extremities wrapped up in hats, scarves, and gloves. Even earmuffs. The fresh gusts of air. The sea's roar and the screech of gulls overhead. Returning to a warm welcoming house, tea or hot chocolate, and cake. The confectionery fights. Everyone had their favourite choc. Stealing the Cadbury's Milk Tray box to ensure I got the orange cremes. Battling others for the ones filled with praline. The goodbyes. The bear hugs. The long drive home in the dark. Slumber, my head lolling forwards and backwards, in intermittent doze.

Awakening from this dream to the present scene. A quiet Christmas. People now missing from these festivities. These times past, gone forever, like the childhood I yearn to have back at Christmas. The present celebrated differently. A house of three adults, restless and bickering. Our normal routines disrupted. Daily combat for command of the TV remote. Who gets to use the bathroom first. A visitor, in a house where I used to live, trying to fit in with the timetable. Needing to be a help, not a bother. Unwilling to give up my independence even if it's only for an hour. I can wash up, make a cup of tea for myself. I'm not a child any longer. Where will future Christmasses place me I wonder. A spinster alone in a flat surrounded by stray dogs and cats. The ghost of Christmas future beckons to me. Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol, a possible reality. No, that will never be me!!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Cheat!

CHEAT underlined in bold at the top of this year's Christmas menu. A three course meal: starter, main, and pud. Each served with elaborate words. Exaggerate the detail. Deciding in advance this chef would go on strike. A flick of the oven switch, set the temperature and timer. My kitchen work complete. Sit back, relax. Unwrap presents, watch the dog chasing screwed up balls of paper. New toys moist with dribble on my lap. The muted sound of the telly in the background. Table laid with the best cutlery and china. Christmas with my parents goes like clockwork. Slow, fast, slow, fast, fast, slow, slow, slow... Presents, nibbles, lunch etc, etc. The day progresses like an antique clock following its own rhythm. Has it always been like this?

This year I'm stirring it up. I'm cheating my way through Christmas. For 51 weeks I've cooked from scratch. Peeled, chopped, and boiled. Pureed soups and sauces. Made breakfast, lunches, snacks and dinners. The 25th is my day off. Being the only veggie guest in the house is tough enough, without argy-bargy in the kitchen. Tempers frayed, elbowing each other out of the way. Arguing over which way is best to prepare the veg. Mum always peels the new potatoes, boils carrots to a pulp. Faces flushed, scowls exchanged. Voices raised with “Get out of my way!” Steam expressed, fogging up the windows. Sharing a kitchen is not fun on Christmas day, but it is the room we gather. Squashed into its tiny space with the oven's warmth, pots and pans on simmer.

Christmas is like a deck of playing cards. Cards dealt out, what will I choose: a game of snap or patience? Neither. This year I select to use the Joker. Bluff my hand. Enter ready-prepared. Cut corners where I have to. Well-stocked supermarket giants coming to my rescue. A shop-brought veggie feast. A vegan quiche, a medley of med veg, followed by vegan sheese and crackers. Uncomplicated. No prep, little cooking required. Minimal fuss. I'm not ashamed to admit I'm going to cheat on Christmas Day. Packaging brazenly laid on the kitchen worktop. No, I confess I didn't make this earlier. I'm not doing a “Blue Peter”.

I'm throwing tradition out with the turkey. Goodbye nut roasts! I'm crossing another style of cuisine off my Christmas dinner list. Oven cooked Mediterranean. Christmas Eve, I'm doing a stir fry, jazzing it up with shredded brussel sprouts. Christmas culinary rules begging to be broken. Elements from the festive dish in a new creation. A fusion. Even cheating takes imagination. So eat, drink and be merry, but hands off, this meal's mine!

Happy Cheatin' Christmas!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Wrapped Up

A roll, a push, the material unravels across the table. Swirls of colour shimmer in the light. The scissors leap up to snip. Begin to perform their steps. Blades executed sharp and swift. An Argentine Tango slicing a design made to fit. Pattern laid out and cloaked around the object. Snugly secured with a nip, a tuck and a fold. A pat, a smooth down. A finishing touch. A ribbon tied into a bow. All wrapped up, nowhere to go. It sits with others, waiting to be picked by a benefactor. Impatient for a corner to be ripped. Its attire torn off or tantalisingly peeled. The gift concealed, eager to be revealed by the lucky receiver.

Have you guessed? I'm talking gifts. Presents, tokens, stocking fillers. Those handed out by Santa's helpers. Christmas, a magical time of year. The season of giving, goodwill and cheer. Each person growing up with their own traditions. Father Christmas, Saint Nick or Santa. Stockings or pillowcases hung up. A treat left out for Santa and his reindeer. The anticipation. The sleepless night. A vivid imagination. Did you hear heavy footsteps in the middle of the night? A crash from the open chimney? Wide awake, you tip-toe downstairs and see the mince pie crumbs on the plate. The sherry glass standing empty. Stocking full, about to burst. A stuffed leg of presents. “Santa's been!!” you cry.

This is the scene that will play out in most streets on Christmas Day. Adults, being taken back to the child within. Memories of how it was for them. The thrill of tearing paper. Unwrapping a box containing a new toy to play with. Christmas food, hats, and crackers. Top Of The Pops and family entertainment. The excitement too much. The descent into tiredness and tempers. Christmas terminated.

The 25th is fast approaching. The button marked “play” anxious to be pressed. Begin this home movie over. Generosity, the spirit that prevails each and every year. For the English, it's a good excuse to show their appreciation. A thought. A phone call. A card. Gifts wrapped up to present to the gifts in your life. A piece of advice for receivers: Be careful how you unwrap. A lot can be gleaned from your opening behaviour.

Monty sniffs out which gift is his.



Thursday, 8 December 2011

A Sensitive Date

December 10th is a sensitive date. The 344th day of the year. Its significance marked in the calendar. A protest day. Political unrest. Voices put to the test. Speaking out to claim equal rights to life, liberation and peace. The Universal Declaration for Human Rights was signed on this date 1948 in France. An historic day for humanity. The 10th stands out for its conquests. Its debating prowess. An international forum forced to sit up and listen to public opinion. Peaceful events held on this date don't always bring harmony. A good example of this is The Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. Those opposed to who the award is presented to. Eyebrows raised at the shake of the hand, the honour received. The 10th sparks controversy. What date in your life does the same?

We all have such dates in our diary don't we? Anniversaries, birthdays, even Christmas. But is there one particular date in the year you loathe? A day you'd just like to stay in bed, pull the covers over your head. Disappear. The 17th of this month, is a delicate time of year. My date of birth. 'Tis a week before Christmas and a bear with a sore head has appeared. Bolt the doors, I'm staying here. I grumble it's cold and too mad out there. I just want an ordinary day. Instead I amble along, make it through this “special” day. I exclaim in the right spot and hope my facial muscles match my response. Try not to get my expressions confused. A bad actor. My lines read as if prompted by a stage director. Hollow, false, and insufficient. People's eyes alight my face. Their anticipation, their expectations of this ritual. It's what I call birthday stage fright.

If no date was attached, I would perform differently. My responses would sound genuine. No guesswork in how I should feel. A gesture. A kind thought. A smile. Put on the spot, but unexpectedly so. There is a dark side too. Every year my birthday arrives I feel cheated. December consumed by Christmas. My “special” day clouded with panic. Overshadowed by preparations for the big day. Combined presents and cards. Office parties and food. Christmas clashing expensively with my birthday. Is there a way you can legally re-register your birth date? Move it to April or May? Celebrate an unofficial birthday.

The 17th, a personal matter, whereas the 10th is a global affair. Annually it also marks IARD. International Animal Rights Day. A date sensitively reserved to recognise the right to a life free from pain. Campaign for compassion to be shown to all fellow beings on this day.



Thursday, 1 December 2011

Gulp!

I know an old lady who swallowed a fly.” Do you? I might reply. “ I don't know why she swallowed the fly.” No, seems a bit strange, I say. “Perhaps she'll die.” A fair comment I think, but make no reply. What a bizarre conversation! You' d be right, but this classic nursery song has been my constant companion all week. Bugging my every thought, bursting out in random hum wherever I buzz. Home or work. An irritant that drones on forever. Its pitch only audible to me. I hold my breath, count to ten, but still it continues. It can't possibly bee all in my head I think. Oops, even my speech refers to insects. There must be a reason for this. An angle. A point to explain. Gulp! Am I about to experience life as a fly?

I dash to the mirror to check. No wing growth, furry hands or feet. A little bug-eyed perhaps. Phew, what a relief! I address the reflection staring back, “Just what would it be like to be a insect? Is it possible to perceive life from a bug's perspective?” I scrunch up my eyes in an attempt to imagine it. A tiny speck happily going about my business, then SMACK! Immobilised by a large hand, foot, or spray. Giant predators always in my way. What's it to be - instant death or dinner? Imagine being trapped in a house. The frantic beating of wings and loud zzzzzz to get out. An invisible web made of glass, where large creatures shriek and dance. Faced with daily threats. A life of escape or death.

Is that a buzzing I hear? Pause, I listen... Why is it emitting from me!? I scrabble around, patting down my person. Oh, it's my phone. I laugh. Daydream rudely interrupted, I mull over the facts: a bug's life is to be eaten, squashed, or swatted. Hmmm, that doesn't seem fair. To be considered the lowest of the low, even though they have other important jobs to do. Jobs to support our eco-system. The foundation level of the structure. What is it about them that's so monstrous? That causes fear amongst us? For me, it's their unpredictable movements. The flapping around my head, or crawling towards me as if to attack. They have too many legs. Where are their mouth and eyes? Brightness encourages moths so I sit in the dark. The TV, the only light in the room. Moths can stay where they belong: on the outside.

Despite my resistance, I'm left with this question: should veggies care about insects? It has to be a yes doesn't it? There is a place for them in the world. They have incredible skills. A spider weaves its intricate web, a bee pollinates our plants, the hungry caterpillar turns into a butterfly. Eating bugs for charity is a challenge I'd refused. An accidental gulp, well we've all done that, but this is for entertainment. A cruel sport for audience enjoyment. Listen closely and you'll hear tiny voices screaming: “Get me out of here!”

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Thoroughbred

Sagittarius, my star sign. Otherwise known as the Archer, the Centaur. Illustrated as half-man, half-beast. A half-human figure. Is this why I identify with the majestic beast – the horse? Is it coincidence that I've always lived near a racecourse? That I would be held spellbound by stories of that mythical creature, the Unicorn? The flash of white, their horn an omen for good luck. The clip-clop of hooves on ground is a magical sound, which a motorcar, or the banging of coconut shells just can't reproduce.

How I wish I had lived in times when we relied on the horse as transport. Riders conveying urgent messages to country households. A carriage to a ball. Horse and cart delivering essentials before the van and bicycle. I remember my first horse bought for me by my Uncle. A hobby horse – a horse on wheels. A furry head, a broomstick for a body. A female Robin Hood riding through the glen. After this I progressed to lessons on a Shetland pony. Lucy was housed in stables near my primary school. I'd be led up and down, practice taking the reins and balancing. Down on the coast, Marcus was my dappled white steed. Strong, courageous, and gentle. Together we held no fear. How I loved him. My parents still have his horseshoe nailed to the mantle piece.

Horses are associated with noble gentry. These horses were never owned by me. I was just lucky enough to have the opportunity to clamber up, take lessons and pretend. Horses have done a lot for us. Man supported by this beast. In daily life, work and warfare. Proverbs and descriptive terms reminiscence of these times. As strong as a horse. You may lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink. In other words, people like horses will only do what they have a mind to do. Even women have been described as thoroughbreds. Coming from a pedigree line. Marriage material. Good breeding guaranteed.

If horses are seen as regal, saddled to nostalgia and romance, why are they subjected to abuse? To slaughter? Every year around 80,000 horses are packed into trucks and transported across Europe to be slaughtered. This figure doesn't even take into account the other forms of neglect. If I were a witch, I'd make a wish, as one 18th century author said, "that every person who strikes or otherwise hurts a horse unnecessarily shall feel the pain intended - and the horse not feel it!" Horses, like people have laboured for us. To expect to be fed, watered and sheltered is equitable. Thoroughbred care which every being is entitled.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Brawn

Brawn, what does it mean? Solid, well defined pecs or guns, or describe Formula One. Engines that grunt with muscular strength and power. In actual fact, it could be all of the above, as well as a term used for flesh boiled or pickled. Put simply, the word signifies meat and muscle.

A great word if used to described ripped muscles. A human physique built up and developed. Used to identify meat in its animal form, this word is considered grotesque. Tearing into edible flesh is a ritual dating back to our earliest ancestors. This enjoyable act, (we are assured by TV chefs), continues to be popular. Do the public fully understand its origins? That the meat we eat shares the same basic anatomy? Acceptable to consume muscle and tissue, the same as us, when it's from a non-human being. Is any of this given a thought when it comes to eating?

Meat-eating has become a thrice-daily event for many people. A Western plus. An expectation. Meal deals and offers have made it so cheap, we no longer think it a luxury. Whereas before, we used to give thanks, now we take it for granted. Saying grace was part of the act. Gathered round a table, with heads bowed and holding hands, people would murmur in unison: For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful. I can't say I've personally done this many times in my life due to lack of patience. I normally cannot wait to tuck in. Agonizing to pause with a meal in front of you. Staring with intent, hands twitching to pick up the fork. My thanks for the food given instead by a full-bellied growl of satisfaction. I may not give thanks in the most appropriate way, but I echo this sentiment throughout the day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Blessing food is undergoing a revival. A minute's silence to remove the taint that meat was once living. Is this enough or is it just a cover-up? A cover-up for guilt. Giving thanks is a brawn affirmation. A statement which reminds me of Sebastian, the crab, from The Little Mermaid. A character who flexes his skills with authority. Blessing meat may not be enough, but it's a muscle carnivores should strengthen and use.


Thursday, 10 November 2011

Say Cheese

To celebrate Vegan Month, say cheese. This statement in bold, underlined in my diary. A code, for it has nothing to do with a lens, a grin, and a pose. A relief that for once it's not a captured image of me. A moment caught and freezed. My love-hate relationship with cameras well known. An unwilling subject, yet life's stages recorded on film. From babe in arms, to teen, and adult. Photography, an art I admire and despise. There's no avoiding the fact: a picture may say a thousand words, but the camera can and does lie.

Flaws airbrushed out, colour enhanced, and background scenes added or improved. The finished image so distorted it fails to even closely resemble the truth. Due to this, I began an affair with cheese. I associate it with comfort and memories. The different types, textures and tastes. Strong, medium or mild. Crumbly, creamy, or smooth. Used grated, melted, in thin silvers, thick slices, or chunks. It has holes and mould, similar to pictures held at the back of the mind.

My cravings for cheese were remarkable. Lunch, main meal or snack. Smothered on bread or layered on crackers. Grated or sliced, the need to ensure the cheddar block looked even. Not allowed back in the fridge until it was. I'd inherited a maternal habit for straightness. Socks pulled up had to be the same height, and school cardigan cuffs equal. At night, I fantasized the moon was made of cheese like Wallace and Gromit believe. How could I get a piece? Like a thief I plotted to steal it. Cheese topping the list as the most stolen food in the world.

My own love affair came to a stop when I realised this craving wasn't delightful. It wasn't doing me any good. I was advised to switch to goat's cheese, which I've grown to enjoy, but doesn't evoke the same passions. Going without, I was surprised to survive without cheese. An addict. It wasn't a need. Even suppressed, an indelible mark has been left, so I've turned to cheesy alternatives. The trial has commenced with Cheezly and Tofutti. Impressed with their texture and quality, but in the words of Wallace, “I don't know... it's like no cheese I've ever tasted.” Not a critique, for both are uniquely moreish. The experiment to be concluded, but think I'll continue to mock, turn to the camera and say cheese.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

What A Waste!

 

Rubbish, re-use, recycle, rubbish, re-use, recycle...” I rhythmically drone in my head, whilst sorting through discarded waste. Cardboard, tinned cans, and paper in distinct piles at my feet. By doing this, I'm contributing less to the environment I think, but am I? A small voice begins an internal debate. How can I be sure I'm not adding more to landfill? What if my efforts to separate get dumped with the rest of the trash?

This is what could be happening in your local authority CH4 Dispatches: Britain's Rubbish claimed. The programme lifted the lid on household bins, recycling, and the Government's latest policy review. The government wants to get tough and enforce a zero waste rule. I disagree. Zero waste will never be an attainable goal. Even if it was, it's too soon to implement this scheme. If local authorities and big business can't get recycling right, shouldn't householders have the right to complain? Instead, it's us who take the blame for not doing enough, and get in a tizz over what can be recycled and where. Councils follow their own individual guidelines: “Plastics go here, tinned cans and newspapers there, 'fraid we no longer accept cardboard...” Those three R's – reduce, re-use, recycle, read aloud seem simple enough, but the meaning has grown unclear. What should be relatively easy has fast become a grumbling task.

We could probably all do a little bit more and would if the message came across better. If manufacturers held up their hands. Shouldered more of the responsibility. Do more to reduce product packaging, use biodegradable alternatives, or offer refills. Local authorities need to clean up their act and improve access to recycling. What's the point if our personal efforts are lost due to council inefficiency? The government needs to think about our growing population. Flat-dwellers are often left out of recycling initiatives. A large majority of us would like to do more, but can only do the bare minimum. We have limited resources. We're not supplied with food compost bins, nor can we attempt to grow our own, devoid of balconies, windowsills, or green space. No, more robust measures have to be put in place if the government wants to use us as a shining example.

So what can you do? Continue to reduce, re-use and recycle. Raise your voice whilst taking these actions. Say what you like, what you don't like, and what will work in your borough. Adopt Sesame Street's Oscar The Grouch as your mascot, and sing his “I Love Trash” signature song. Recycling can be fun. Only buy what you need for the week. Re-use tea bags, and plastic food containers to freeze leftovers for quick meals. Make use of local facilities and recycle what you can. Speak up, tidy up and be proud of where you live. Be like Oscar, without turning into a grouch, and develop a passion for refuse.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Black & White

October, the month for badgers. The 3rd marked down as National Badger Day. The 5th however holds more personal sway. This, the birth date of the first family pet I met. A black and white Staffordshire bull terrier named Badger. White marks worn like a badge on his nose, forehead and chest. 5 years my senior, but growing up together. To me, he will always be my furry brother. It's on his behalf, I am adding my voice to the ongoing plight of his clan. Taking my place in this black and white debate – the cull.

Why is it we always seek to destroy when we have to resolve a problem? To shoot, maim or kill, the only conceivable solution. Problem removed, we dance around the carcass. Glorify the act, give ourselves a large pat on the back. Duck the issue when it comes back to haunt us. The proposed cull and the war on terror, are to me, no different. Intervening, it's maintained improves the welfare of the nation – human or animal population. Where's the proof? The evidence to back up this democratic statement. Lazy options forced through by falsified theories and facts, despite recommendations or public declarations.

In July, the badger cull was thwarted. Proceedings only temporarily halted. Talks have resumed and lumber on. Government ministers and some farmers are still pushing for the cull. A pilot for next Spring may yet get the go ahead. Marksmen drafted in. A little nighttime shooting here, a little shooting there, as the badgers roam. A controlled success, this could then be rolled out, enforced by 2013. Supporters argue it will remove the fatally sick, the weak and those considered carriers of bovine TB. To me, it suggests dictatorship. Genocide to protect farming interests and profits.

Bovine TB, an airborne respiratory disease on its own is a debatable topic. Can we be sure it's transferred from badgers to cattle? I don't believe bovine TB has one and only route. A Gloucestershire farmer attributed it to diet. In selenium deficient cattle, immunity will be low. Supporters too quick to dismiss the multitude of factors at play. A fallacy to presume a cull will prevent TB. There's no valid reason to subscribe to this barbaric shortsighted goal. Mr. Badger, described as a gentlemanly character, would frankly have more common sense!

Protect black and white, and all shades inbetween. Save badgers from man's killing machine!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

A Piece Of Cake

A cup of tea and a slice of cake. Sounds good doesn't it? An English tradition. A winning combination to make you feel good or better. A 5 minute break to take the weight off your feet and natter. Our tea guzzling and cake chomping habits have been around for what seems like forever. A part of our national I.D., like a Victoria Sponge recipe. The jam and cream of our culture. A sweet creamy layer holding the halves together. In celebration of this, we've reclaimed that vital component: the craftsmanship in cakes. The bake and technical skill just as important as the taste. Amateur baking, a hobby increased. A trend for homemade sweet and savoury treats. Cupcakes, biscuits and pies. Aprons on, home cooks take it in their stride.

For weeks I gasped, drooled, and judged watching The Great British Bake Off. The contestants perfecting their craft. Their baking skills put to the test. Recipes tweaked here and there, and elaborate designs delivered. All showed finesse in set tasks. Thanks to this, sales of baking equipment has risen. The kitchen, the hub of the home again. Baking, an activity that can be shared. The making and the eating. No age limits, gender or race discrimination. Done on your own, you can de-stress and get a brilliant upper arm workout. Get children involved. They love a creative mess. Licking the spoon is compulsory. The end result - the eating is always a success. Still slightly warm, that first bite is the best.

Baking was an informative part of my childhood. My maternal Nan was a dab hand with pastry, cakes and desserts. Making jam tarts, a fond memory. Rolling, cutting out the pastry case, and sieving jam through tights. Simple ingredients conjuring up happy memories... The weekly trip to buy a French stick. Unable to wait to munch on the crust and pull out its springy centre. The smell of freshly baked bread hard to resist until home.

National Baking Week is here, encouraging us to bake and share. Concern Worldwide getting into the act with its Bake A Difference appeal. Why not get baking and whip up a batch? For amateur bakers, it's a piece of cake to raise some dough!




Thursday, 13 October 2011

Happy Feet

Have you ever given a thought to what makes feet happy? Maybe it's a foot rub or new shoes. Mine like being used. To walk, run and dance. Get me from A-B, other foot traffic dodged, dived and passed on the way. They're pleased to bear this physical load each and every day. Don't sit, when you can stand on your desk job, my ten toes tap in protest. Use me! they deplore. This pair have purpose. Idleness their reward when tired, not before. Where am I going with this? It's rare to discuss this mode of transport unless it concerns what they're clad in. Footwear, the fashionable accessory to buy and collect. Make your feet look good. Gain an inch or two. Has anyone ever enquired if feet really care about shoes?

This couple prefer to go bare indoors. These soles liking texture, the feel and resistance of carpet and floor. Outdoors, they don't care what they cased in provided its comfy and supportive. Toes free to wiggle about. A spring in my step. A light bounce to my gait. This duo not designed to make a grand entrance. To topple and teether in high heels. They don't want to balance at wrong angles. Who cares if her pins look longer? It's not glamorous to have my toes crushed together, or peeking out uncovered they think. The glass slipper effect, no thank you! You're not cutting off our toes to make these shoes fit. Why make us suffer when there's no need?

Yes, I know my feet rather well. They hate trying on shoes and would rather wear socks or slippers all day. Freedom to move and play. Growing up, skipping, jumping and stamping was more important. To run on wet sand, squelch in mud and splash in puddles. My red welly boots just right for the job. Refusing to take them off, I slept in them. A carefree time when someone else had the task of shoe cleaning. I watched the greats perform song and dance routines. Classic black and white, and colour reruns. Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire and Judy Garland. Tap dancing fascinated me. My feet wanted to move like that. Nan's kitchen, the perfect dance floor for practice. I had little respect for rooms. Later on when I fell in love with Xanadu, I'd pretend to be Olivia Newton-John and rollerboot up and down our carpeted lounge. No room was out of bounds to these boots.

As a child I learned these feet enjoy movement. Their stubborn personality on display. They will do what they want. They need no self-improvement. No shine, or razzle-dazzle of shoes. Happy when toes point and flex, point and flex, like breaking into a grin. Revealing this has pampered my soles, but do you know your own happy feet?

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Go Slow

A snail's life can't be much fun. Plodding along, getting nowhere fast. Scrutinized closely a snail doesn't appear in any rush. Just taking its time to the next stop, on the road to somewhere. The snail, a symbol of slow and a re-emerging movement. Despite its growing popularity, a snail's pace is seen as derogatory. Used as a joke if you choose to opt out of this 24/7 society. Why go slow when you can go fast and multi-task? The opening lines from William Henry Davies poem is the question I'd like to address: “What is this life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?”

No time to stop and stare is our chief complaint. No time to jump off the merry-go-round, pull out of the rat race. Speed and busyness perceived as necessary and good. The pressure to cram everything in – work, leisure, family and friends, whilst keeping up with 24hr news, reviews and gossip. “All must have access to the worldwide web, email address, and Facebook” should become a public declaration. Isn't this pressure to do, a pressure we put on ourselves? There's a German term for it: Freizeitstress. We haven't a clue what to do with our spare time and fear it. Anxious or guilty if it's empty and stressed if it's overbooked.

Living in a perpetual rush is like being aboard a runaway train. Exciting to begin with, always somewhere to be, people to see and things to do. Running to a tight schedule. Pace of life quickened up. Any free time must be filled. Failing however to apply the brakes leads to crash and burn. Hitting the buffer is never fun, I'm sure most commuters would agree. This emergency stop forces you to assess, even change track and career. Flexi-work, a sought after employment, yet despised by those holding a season ticket. In a tone of insult, these full-time passengers provoke by calling this workforce “part-timers”.

Down shifting is a tough choice. The initial hard graft to balance all life's components, but the quality of life you receive in return is worth it. Why wait for steam to billow out to adopt a slower tempo? Going slow is not reserved for the rich or senior citizens. It's about making time to take stock. Our current pace destroys this chance to be contemplative. Slowing down encourages us to look at the way we live and consider what's important. I'm not suggesting turning into a snail is liberating. A snail's life can be inefficient and frustrating, but taking a break helps you to connect to your appropriate pace.

The closing lines of William Henry Davies' poem thus concludes the argument: “A poor life this, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.”

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Clutter

Clutter, stuff, things, jumble and general disorder. We all have a room, drawers or cupboards where clutter accumulates don't we? You know what I'm talking about, the things you believe you can't bear to part from or that might have a future use. Open the door and it all falls out much to your shame and embarrassment. The spot that's conveniently hidden away and fails to offer your prize when you seek it.

September-October are apparently the months to declutter. A new academic year and a time for getting our affairs in order. I've never had a problem throwing stuff out. In fact I'm ruthless about it. Enjoying ripping up, shredding old papers, and donating clothes to charity. The problem I have is replacing the old with new. I get rid of the old, well used and worn out, and neglect to replace it. Frankly, if I continue to clear I'll be left with only the clothes on my back, standing in a very bare flat. No evidence suggesting I live there. Yes, it's great to dejunk and find possessions a new home, but I've taken this feel-good to an extreme.

Then there's other extreme of course. The hoarders. Never throwing anything out. Every living space consumed with clutter. Akin to a disease of the mind. Hoarders possessed by their own possessions. The inbetweeners, halfway between clutter – no clutter. Clearing out a loathsome chore, far easier to accumulate more, stuffing the rest in the loft, garage or shed. My parents fall into the latter. Old clothes, china, books never read, and general paraphernalia. Drawers and cupboards stuffed with inherited loot that one day I'll have to go through. I keep telling them, “Make a start. At least tackle the garden shed!” My plea hasn't galvanized them into action. Clutter is sneaky. What you can't see you forget.

How do you decide what to hold on to? I have rules for myself. If I haven't used, worn, or read in over a year and frankly don't intend to, it's out. If there's no longer a reason to hang onto for sentimental value, it goes. I only replace if there's a genuine need, which explains my present predicament. I like getting rid, but hate to shop. How many women do you know that say that? The items I always keep are journals and photo albums. Stepping into the past, reliving captured moments of time is my idea of a legacy.

Create space, allow new doors to open. Welcome new opportunities in. Save something for the future, but don't accumulate so much stuff you're bogged down

Thursday, 22 September 2011

USP

Have you got a USP? No, I'm not talking sci-fi, aliens, spaceships and physic phenomenon. That's ESP, like ET and his “ET phone home” glowing finger. USP is your Unique Selling Point. Everybody has to have one or invent several. USPs are being drummed in as the way to get ahead, beat off stiff competition, go forward. The term used to only apply to marketing products, but in recent years it has spread to recruitment. The wow that makes you stand out from the crowd. Make employers sit up and take notice. People packaged up like commodities.

I hate being judged on this basis. The typical response: “It's a dog-eat-dog world. Everyone is out for themselves.” Competition is good, but is this attitude healthy? I have to trample on everyone else to get to the top. Show others exactly what I'm made of. It makes me wince when I think what people do to put themselves out there. You know the show stopping stuff. The kind of stuff that gets posted on youtube or The Apprentice contestants CVs. This blog is me being brave, but I draw the line in how far I'd go to promote it. I don't even like having a personal profile. A basic description of me. How do you sum up in so many words what you're like? Words fail to provide an accurate representation. I like being an enigma.

In going for jobs we're told your cover letter and CV is the platform to the main arena. The job interview stage, or the lion's den as I call it. Dragons too tame for this process. The unflinching stare of the panel, pouncing on you with question after question. “What are your strengths and weakness?”, “Give an example of a challenging situation you've dealt with”, “Where do you want to be in 5 years time?” the interviewers roar. Confidence evaporating, answers getting meeker. Every nervous pause and tic duly noted. How do you reply? Reel out the attributes you know they want to hear. Organised, reliable, motivated, team player etc. How do you make sure you have the edge over your competitors? Do you keep it quirky? Tell them you can revive dead plants like ET. You can use a stapler. Inform them of the skills you've perfected with experience. Exaggerate your qualifications and become an overnight high achiever.

Decoy tactics sum up the interview process. The hustle to be what others expect or how we'd like to be perceived. What happened to genuineness? No false claims or stating the obvious, unlike some product packaging today. Shouldn't being you be enough? The ultimate USP.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Calcium Enriched

Have you ever felt sick after milk? Lactose intolerance is increasingly talked about, but little is heard about reactions to calcium fortified products. I'm not making this up. It's true. What do you do if you're lactose intolerant? You switch to more digestible milks, such as goat's milk or lactose-free. Problem solved right? What if you decide to give dairy a miss? The alternative options are plentiful – rice, oat, hemp, coconut, soya, even pea, but some of these will be fortified. A standard practice. Just don't be surprised if you feel nauseous. Most will assume it's a one-off, or if this symptom occurs frequently, blame the product. I can't tolerate soya milk people will say. What if the main ingredient is not the cause, but its fortification?

This is what happened to me. No person is immune to developing an allergy or intolerance, nor does it just have to be to common foodstuffs, e.g. dairy, wheat, gluten etc. All types of foods, additives and chemicals can act as a trigger. Calcium fortification is different however. I've found reactions can be much more widespread, and it's still not treated as suspect. The form of calcium used to supplement is an under-acknowledged culprit. It's not a bio-available form. In other words it's not recognised or easily absorbed by the body. Often described as chalk. There are natural forms which could be better assimilated, such as seaweed, but as its present form is not seen as a risk, there seems little point in making that substitution. Ironic when you consider the fact that supplementation as it currently stands is virtually useless.

Our uptake of calcium is variable, dependent on a host of factors from what we eat, to how we digest, and emotional stress. This being said, I question whether it's wise for all of us to supplement our diet? Particularly if it's of little benefit and causes nauseousness. Many of us, (veggies, vegans, and Joe Public) rely on enriched milk products to boost our calcium quota, but perhaps we don't need to. Far better to obtain this from natural sources, such as tahini, green leafy veg, tofu, grains, cooked dried beans, nuts and seeds. Supplement with a bio-available form if need be. Dairy-consuming, non-veggies may snigger, and think glad it's you not me, but you don't get off scott free. Some over-the-counter supplement brands and prescribed medications also contain this chalk. On the alternative white stuff and felt sick? Switch to the unfortified versions and see if the symptom persists.

Fortification is a market leader. Products with extra nutritional benefits considered superior. Too early to state otherwise. This fortified trend may not be a benefit in all cases. Calcium enriched supposedly a big plus, but could it be at the expense of our health?

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Peel Here

I'm standing in the deli section of a well-known supermarket store. “Something for lunch, something for lunch...” I murmur. Once again I wanted something for Friday's lunch. Something that was possibly reduced and appealing. What can I eat in half an hour? I scan the shelves, my eyes falling on a reduced cous cous salad. That'll do. I'll just check the ingredients. I check all sides of the transparent container searching for the list. “It must be underneath”, I mutter. Holding it up, I spot a label. Peel Here it says.

Have you ever tried peeling here when you're holding the item above you? It's infuriatingly impossible. What is this? A dexterous challenge to buying food? It makes you look very unhinged, furiously clawing at the packaging. Usually I give up and fling the product back, to continue the hunt elsewhere. Suitable for veggies it said, so this time I chose to believe it. Short of cash, the reduced sticker was too big a plus to miss out on. In this case, my instinct paid off, but even out of the shop peeling the label was a good ten minute job.

So how did I do it you're wondering... The container now positioned upside down, I tried to prise open the label. Even with my slender fingers and thumb it wouldn't budge, so I carefully peeled the whole label off the packaging. It was only once I stuck it to a sheet of plain paper, I could achieve the needed manoeuvre. With a pincher-like grip I successfully peeled and read the ingredients. I breathed a sigh of relief. It was fine. Friday's lunch officially sorted.

Yes, I confess I'm one of those shoppers. I want to know the contents and nutritional info. Being veggie has very little to do with it. This is an act of personal responsibility for my health. I won't put blind faith in the manufacturers. Take their description at face value. Do they purposely make it difficult to assess this in-store? Believing our senses will be so tantalized with appearance we'll just throw it in the basket. Is that what the majority do?

Packaging size and the amount of info required by law is often the excuse. This to me is not good enough. Peel here labels suggests a very long list of ingredients, with too much sugar, salt and fat. This isn't always the case, but if the manufacturers want to lose out so be it. If it's nutritionally dubious, improve it. Why sell something that's as nutritious as sawdust or packs in way too many calories, additives and E numbers?

The public is bored and annoyed with this branded secrecy. Manufacturers, be upfront with consumers. All we want is clear product labels, which can be easily read without any faffing about.

 

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Finger In Too Many Pies


What makes you squeamish? Blood and guts, pus, vomit, the dentist's chair, drills and needles, or the overpowering smell of decay. Maybe it's bugs, even ones so microscopic you can't see them. Me? A single letter of the alphabet sums it up. The letter my name is shortened to. The capitol letter H. Hands and Hygiene. H-classified areas guaranteed to make me say “Yuck!” or feel faint. Before I pass out I'll delve deeper...

We all have our own yuck-meter. A personal measure of “It freaks me out!” Bothered by or unable to observe some things more than others. What governs this I wonder... Blood or needles are typical “I feel faint” culprits, but these have never fazed me. Poor hygiene is my bugbear. I hate feeling grubby. Clean hands, my number one rule if you want to come anywhere near me. Everyone washes their hands don't they? Hmmm, depends what you mean by wash. A quick splash, no soap the majority. Believe me, I've seen this plenty.

The thought of where hands might have been often puts me off tinned or cook-chilled food. In my mind's eye, all I see are factory floors with big vats of ingredients. Soups, stews, and sauces bubbling away. Workers clothed in white and hairnets, focused on their roles. Peeling, chopping, sorting, overseeing the production line... A seamless operation of quality control. Why for me does this rate high on my yuck conveyor belt? I think it's the number of hands food goes through, even with gloves and machinery. The menacing image of Sweeney Todd overshadowing the positive. Do we really know what we might be eating?

I understand the need for manufacturing, especially today. Many hands make light work as they say. We all benefit from this process in some way. A packaged sandwich, sausage roll, or tinned spaghetti hoops. All churned out quick, and it's this that makes me nauseous. Have we gone a step too far in what we manufacture? More convenient to grab and buy, than make your own at home. Are we giving manufacturers too much trust in the hygiene and safety stakes? HACCP is by no means a guarantee. There's too many fingers in too many pies for my liking.

Is there a way to avoid this? No, afraid not. It's impossible. You could not eat out, cook only from scratch, and boycott all processed goods. If the thought of this is making you giddy, then take my advice: keep it simple. Wash your hands, don't think, and for God's sake don't watch Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Crunch Time


Crrrunch! Why are ginger biscuits so hard? Incoming thoughts paused to savour this gingery treat. Hmmm, nom-nom.... My brain chooses to rudely interrupt my tea break. Biscuits, the perfect introduction to this piece. I wipe the crumbs off my chin and top. Mucky pup I think, and with a swig of tea begin to type...

The Vegetarian Society member's discount list reminds me a lot of biscuits. A variety of veggie-friendly businesses in the UK and beyond offering a discount on a product or service. A selection of food stores, restaurants, holidays, activities and cosmetic goods. A bonus to being a member, or is it? How many of us actually use it? My card is always on me, tucked away in my purse gathering dust. It's not that I haven't attempted or don't want to use it, I do. Who doesn't like a few pence knocked off? Getting a bargain gives you a high.

I can count on one hand the number of times I've benefited. Two places in a nearby town I can rely on to give me my due, and they're not ashamed to promote it. My recent attempts to use in a large chain have however been thwarted. I won't hold back – I'll name them... The repeated offender award goes to Holland & Barrett, the health store giant. I wasn't aware they offered a Veg Soc discount until recently. Thrice I've asked in my local store, shown my card, and been knocked-back. Staff have stated their reasons. You can't use your card if there are discounts in-store. Fair enough, but isn't that most of the time? What if my card gives me a better discount? On each failed attempt I've muttered these words, “That really takes the biscuit!”

Perhaps I'm just unlucky. Shopping in sync with promotions. To ask every time seems pointless. A queue of shuffling feet and coughs forming behind me. I remain pleasant, but pay for my goods and get out. An embarrassment I can forgo. The experience personal to me. Nit picking you might think, but I made a chief observation in my three defeats. I don't want to have to quietly ask at the counter each time. To have the rebuke overheard. Do other Veg Soc members feel the same?

The discount list is a great scheme, but businesses should pledge to be upfront about it. Why the reluctance to making this clear on the premises? I generalise, but couldn't more businesses display a public sign? Veg Soc discount offered or something. If I was an owner I'd be proud to exhibit such a sign. This membership entitlement has reached a crunch time. Don't veggie-friendly establishments want to entice new customers? This critical component left out of the mix is like a ginger biscuit without the fiery hit. The anticipation dies, and disappointment arises instead.

Shopkeepers, take note: Honour and promote your participation in this scheme. Be bold and Veg Soc members will return with repeated custom and free PR!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

F.E.A.R


As the dust settles down from the riots, my mind has remained determinedly fixed on three letters: WHY? My interest may appear feigned, but it's not. I want to understand the people that participated in this. What lies beneath this shallow surface of crime? Is there any thought involved in their actions? The grounds given: the death of Mark Duggan, a lack of respect, and boredom. The youth of today not listened to. In other words “the mob rules ok”. Get used to it. What infantile reasons for gangs to loot towns, city centres and high streets! Copycat groups causing unnecessary destruction and violence. Is being caught up in the moment a motive? It's hard to believe this could be true but it might be...

In the pictures broadcast on news reports, the actions appeared purposeless. Smashing shop fronts, thieving, and terrorising residents is not the method I'd employ to endear myself to a community. A command for that much touted word: RESPECT. Human behaviour descending fast to the stone age. Verbal communication obviously too much of an effort these days. Language replaced with fists. That lack of words and voice is their downfall, but isn't it ours too? We've birthed a generation unable to grasp that respect has to be earned before it is given. It's not an automatic human right. Where's the big society in all this? Personal responsibility has declined over the last ten years, if not more. No blame or shame, society will take care of your ills.

Thus the cycle began. How can we blame a generation for being irresponsible if they don't know what being responsible is? There is a spoon-fed majority. Class or inequality not the social divider, but False Expectations About Reality. There are many definitions for the acronym FEAR, but this one seems apt for the circumstances. I believe everyone should have goals to aspire to, but only you can build that dream. Brick by brick, not take, take, take. Society owes you nothing. An image has been created that would suggest otherwise. Consumerism and the media has escalated this ideal persona, projecting it onto the world as standard. “Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is”, a German proverb says. The wolf in this case opportunistic greed.

What should the big society do? Stop finding excuses and reasons for this ill-thought out behaviour. Come together to face everything and recover. Act sensibly, start over and be the big parent. Oh, and if there is a next time, for God's sake use rubber bullets! War, the only word this generation has 
grown up to understand.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

An Immaculate Patch Of Green


Interior home design has had its day, home owners now want to focus more on the exterior. At least that's the message I got flicking through the freebie Waitrose paper one day. I'd been reading a brief piece on gardening, although to describe it as such is a joke. Now I'm not particularly green-fingered, but even I think replacing natural grass with artificial turf is a trend too far. Am I the only one that thinks this is bizarre?

This is ridiculous!” I grumbled to myself as I read the story. “Who would choose to live in a synthetic world?” The answer I got was plenty. The perfect lawn is all the rage. It has the look and feel of natural grass, complete with natural imperfections for a really authentic appearance. Pardon? Is this a late April Fools joke? Wrong again. This is low-maintenance gardening. Well, it certainly can't get any lower. What's the point? I'll let one satisfied customer explain, “...it was constantly covered in leaves, acorns and twigs – now it's like a floor and I can just sweep them off.... We also have a dog, so now there are no more muddy paws in the house on wet days.” “Wow, that's amazing!” I gush after reading this endorsing comment. Sorry I'm lying through my teeth. I still don't get it.

The array of styles on offer do little to appease me. City terraces to suburban surroundings can all own an immaculate patch of green. I thought the big idea was to conserve, not to roll out a perfect “plastic” landscape. Are we going to have fake plants, trees, and birdsong too? Individual plots of green treated like indoor property. The outside now has to be spick and span just like hoovered carpet. An assault on the environment in exchange for an eternally spotless life.

I'm perpetually bothered by our desire to blot out imperfections. All flaws rubbed out, covered up, or more drastically removed. We can choose to mutilate our own bodies to obtain perfection, but subjecting green spaces to a similar fate is akin to physical rape. Our drive for flawlessness ungoverned. If this trend is a success what's left for us to manicure? Do we start over and make further improvements? When is enough, enough?

The one question I unfalteringly return to is this: The natural world will never be perfect, but isn't that its beauty?

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Trouble Of Mind

Have you ever noticed how a walnut resembles the skull? The best part contained in a hard shell, taking many knocks to prise open. There the similarities stop for the workings of the mind are more delicate. One thought arises, which leads to another, and so on, until a fine, but often tangled web has been spun. I love to dive into a pool of thoughts, mine or someone else's. This inner tuning not a shade of grey, but a complex matter. Cogs ceaselessly whirring away, the subject commands my attention. From the power of thought to psychological interventions, and memoirs of mental illness. I have however become concerned with this fascination. Is my interest in mental health actually healthy?

Mental health awareness is hot property in our current climate. Reactive and creative thoughts govern our lives every single day. Irrational and rational thoughts lobbed to the left or right side in cognitive tennis play. What turns the ordinary mental state into a classified illness? Are certain individuals predisposed to depression or madness? I view mental health like the flick of a switch. A bio-energetic current that trips the brain's circuit and causes an emotional impulse. It's my belief that this could affect anyone, that we all have the potential to act out of character. Diet, addictions, medication, hormones, and life events etc., conjoin to influence the person we project. Is in fact anyone sane? Perhaps we all have quirks and can be a little deranged if pushed.

If this is so, why are mental disturbances still considered a weakness? Understanding the mind takes great effort and courage, and can result in relapses. This shouldn't be perceived as a negative. The mind needs time out too. A respite from the daily grind or to digest info, gather strength and begin anew. The stigma attached to mental illness annoys me for nobody is exempt from a mental glitch. Some of us even benefit from scrambled brain technology. It can help us reassess who, what and where we are, and even unleash creativity. It's long been said there's a touch of mad in the genius. Moods integral to an artist's work despite the gloom or euphoria. These mind bugs are seen as bothersome, but is it possible we're deadening them too quick and failing to comprehend the full story?

I personally believe this is so. I'd rather be a little eccentric and ride out my highs and lows, than disallow painful or impulsive thoughts from happening. It's what makes me ME, although I understand the need to assess on a case-by-case basis. Our awareness and preconception of mental health however needs to be amended. A troubled mind is a beautiful mind also.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Taking The Test

The genetic phenomenon has always been rife in healthcare, but a relatively new process known as taking the test is fast becoming a standard procedure. It's not just any old test either. No paper, pens, or mental prowess are required, just a swab of cells on a cotton bud or a drop of blood. It's available online and via the NHS if you're interested. Hypochondriacs may think this a blessing, (and I count myself as one), but it's not a test to undergo lightly, nor a contest that can be won. Testing your genes is incredible you may think, look how far science has come. Why wouldn't you not want to know your genetical risks? Primarily because the results may not be to your liking. The question that's causing a stir is not should I test my genes?, but is knowing better than not knowing?

The Beeb recently highlighted this screening service in two thought provoking documentaries. They followed individuals weighing it up and undergoing the full process. Trained health professionals provided pre and post test support. Despite these docs well put togetherness, I found myself directing angry outbursts at the TV. Annoyed at the anguish people put themselves through deciding whether or not to take the test, and then facing the inevitable after-affects. The science equivalent to Mystic Meg, predict your genetic fate so you can take precautions. This is serious pioneering stuff isn't it? What I think it boils down to is this: we're basically a bunch of control freaks. Our genetic constitution is just a new area to conquer and control.

Am I being too pragmatic? Yes, but rightly so. I question the benefits of taking the test. Does it really reduce the risk of disease? It's what we're led to believe. There's no doubt it increases mental insanity. Test positive for a genetic spelling mistake and your quality of life is in jeopardy. Do you take drastic action or try to live with the knowledge? Many women with the BRAC gene have selected the former. The female sex is prepared or forced to mutilate itself at any cost, or at least that's how it comes across. Having the gene is a risk, but it's not a guarantee. Nor does removing the breasts and ovaries necessarily lessen the probability. Genes are complex cells which do not always express as they are decreed. There is no single cause to disease. It's more like a traffic jam, with cars blocking the lane and the signal out of sync with the traffic. A combination of factors are ultimately to blame.

If offered would you take the test? I think I'd politely decline. Knowledge we have come to assume is power, but it can also cause unnecessary pain.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Use Your Loaf

For the past few weeks I've been following Waitrose's Love Life campaign with interest. Unable to make up my mind whether to champion or boycott it. A marmite affair, but unfortunately not so clear-cut. I watched the ad, read what's been said in the press, (some of it admittedly biased), and mulled over the facts. Using my loaf was not substantial enough to convert the info to nutrients. The marmite debate still proved easier, until I hit on a great idea – I needed to sample the goods!

According to Waitrose's website, this brand new range is based on a simple philosophy: Nutritious food can taste great and should be enjoyed. Developed with the expertise of in-house nutritionists and award-winning chefs Love Life aims to use wholefood ingredients and cut down on saturated fats, salt and sugar. I can't dispute that, except to say that perhaps they're missing the point. Our problem today is that we're enjoying our food far too much! My experiment was short-lived. I got cross with the expense, despite the 25% off, as well as the limited availability in some stores to meet my needs. I also couldn't survive on the ready-made portion supplied. Slender I might be, but I don't eat averagely, nor do I snack in-between meals. Super sizing the serving an option I weighed up. A full tank and fat hole in my wallet then guaranteed, however I didn't feel it was healthy to proceed. Ironically the food I did try was good. The quality that you come to expect from Waitrose. I enjoyed the fruits, nuts and seeds on my cereal, and the oriental coleslaw I mistakenly bought assuming it was vegetarian. It was reduced and the label covered up the ingredients. The lime-chilli dressing it turned out contained fish, but luckily as it was in a separate pot I was saved from pinching a colleague's ryvita. The vegetable paella cooked well and was tasty, but it was a light bite that wasn't enough to satisfy the growling wolf in my belly.

Nutritionally balanced food to fall in love with they say. That might be so, but are we in danger of giving too much personal responsibility away? Losing our loaf figuratively. The message too mixed for me. Indulge in this food, it's healthy or learn how to cook with our free recipes. Waitrose, which one is it to be? Love Life is a brand marketed cleverly. Why can't food education be key? Do we really need another range of goods to exhort this? Use your own loaf, but Love Life wants the best of both it seems to me.