Thursday, 24 November 2011


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, 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.