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.”