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


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, “ 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.