A Weekend Away…to Meet Neil Gaiman!

So it’s Wednesday and already my working week is at an end! I’ve got the next couple of days of as I’m travelling back to my university town of Bath to see some old friends and…deep breath…meet my favourite author in the whole world!

I’m going to a book signing by Neil Gaiman, the best fantasy author ever (in my opinion!). He wrote my favourite book as a teen – Coraline. He also wrote my favourite book as an adult – American Gods/Neverwhere. I know that’s two books, but I can’t decide between the two! He’s been my writing idol for a very long time and as he lives in the US and isn’t keen on book signings I assumed I’d never get to meet him. I’m so so happy that I get to see him talk about his new book , The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I’m hoping to shake his hand and let him know how he’s inspired me as a writer and just as a person in general.

Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman’s wife, Amanda Palmer is also one of my favourite people in her own right. She is the one I think about when I’m scared of something; when my confidence wanes and I begin to have self doubt. I think ‘what would Amanda Palmer do?’ and that usually solves my issue. She’s so unapologetically herself – she’s a strong, amazing female role model and I owe her influence more than I would probably admit to. She’s playing in London next month but sadly I’m not able to go and see her play ūüė¶ I don’t feel that it’s my last chance though, so I’m not too sad about that. I hope she’ll make a miracle appearance at the book signing, but I’m not going to count on it!

AFP

 

These few days off feel well deserved – I’ve worked really hard recently and today I got the good news that I’ve been taken off probation at work AND they’ve given me a pay rise. Taking a couple of days to enjoy Bath and see friends and meet my hero will be a lovely celebration of that.

Good times!

Coral xxx

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Find A Penny…Pick It Up

As I was walking home today a man who was walking in front of me dropped a handful of coins. He carried on walking, obviously oblivious to the fact that he’d just sent a few 1 pence and 2 pence pieces scattering over the pavement. He was trying to get something out of one of his shopping bags at the time – his hands were pretty full.

penny

I picked up the coins and jogged to catch him up.

‘Excuse me, you dropped these,’ I said. I handed to coins out to him.

‘I know,’ he replied.

‘Oh. Don’t you want them back?’

‘No, I dropped them on purpose – worthless crap.’ And with that he was off. He crossed the road and was gone.

I was left holding the 7p he’d thrown away as ‘worthless crap’. Fine, I thought, I’ll keep it then. When I got home I put the coins into my money box. ¬†I save copper coins and 5p, 10p and 20p pieces in my money box. Every so often (usually a couple of times a year) I empty the money out and count it. It usually pays out around ¬£15. Worthless crap?

coin jar

This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered people who throw away low denomination coinage. When I was younger we used to play near to a tower block not far from our house. In the flowerbeds that surrounded it you could find handfuls of coppers half buried in the mud – someone who lived in the block would regularly throw handfuls of change out of the window. Worthless crap? No – we used to go home, soak the coins in vinegar to get the worst of the rust off and buy sweets with them. That kind of thing was enough to keep me happy for days.

In university, my boyfriend lived with a guy who used to throw his copper coins into the bin! ¬†He deemed them to be worthless too. They ‘clogged up his pockets’ or ‘made his wallet too fat’. Once we found out he had been doing this, we asked him to give us his change instead. It paid ended up paying for quite a few meals in times of student hardship. Worthless? No.

Throwing away pennies because they’re ‘worthless’ is like a billionaire throwing away ¬£10 notes. Keep your change – it’s what your money is made from.

Coral xxx

Keeping Fit For Free

Being a frugal person, and considering my partner and I don’t earn a lot, keeping fit simply can’t involve a gym membership. Thankfully, the fact that we can’t afford to run a car or take the bus means that we’re already halfway there. Both of us walk to work every day and if we have to go anywhere at the weekend (such as to the supermarket) we walk there too.

In fact, we love walking so much that we do it for fun. Two weeks ago we walked a local trail which is 26 miles from start to finish. That’s the furthest we’ve ever walked in one day. Last May we completed the Cotswold Way in 6 days – that took us a total of 102 miles! We’ve got something similar planned for this September when we’ve both got a week off work, and in two weeks we plan to walk the Wherryman’s Way in one day, which is a whole 33 miles. The photo below is the BF on the Cotswold Way (we slept in a tent which we carried with us) – the views were much better than you’d get in a gym!

BF Cotswolds

 

The great thing about walking is that it’s low impact, it’s free (you really only need to take some lunch with you) and if you need to go somewhere, you can just incorporate that into your ‘work out’. It makes more sense to me than walking on the spot on a treadmill, whilst paying a lot of money for the privilege. When you walk you meet people, you see things, you learn. Getting out there in all weathers can benefit you more than any exercise or therapy class. It’s awesome for mind and body.

Plus, y’know, it’s emission free!

Me Cotswolds

Keeping fit requires more than walking 15 miles a week though, so we also run and work out at home. I’ve got some excellent work-out DVDs which I use. They’re not the latest versions but they still work, so that’s good enough for me! I use the Davina McCall Super Body Workout DVD (the Super Sculpt workout is toning me up a treat) and will occasionally do a Yogalates DVD if I need to give my muscles a bit of a stretch and a rest.

On Tuesday and Thursday evenings and on Saturday mornings I go for a 5k run. I’m very new to running (I’ve only been running for 6 weeks) but I’m already noticing a huge difference in stamina and general fitness. Saturday mornings are my favourite – we go to our local Parkrun, which is what got me into running in the first place. It’s basically a 5k run, every Saturday at 9am, for all ages and abilities. You register in advance and print off your unique barcode. At the end of the run you get your code scanned and every week to can see your run times updated on an online profile. It’ll let you know your performance percentage for your age group and if you’ve got a PB (personal best) that week or not. Around 300-400 people turn up to our one every week and it’s a great atmosphere. My boyfriend and I are really getting into it – it’s a great way to keep fit and monitor your progress.

Parkrun

The great thing about Parkrun is that there are regular, free events held all over the world. If you live near one then I’d definitely recommend giving it a go. You don’t have to be any good or have all the posh running equipment, you just need legs and trainers.

So there’s no such thing as not being able to keep fit just because you can’t afford the gym. Get out there and just get active any way you can. Play frisbee in the park with your mates, get an exercise DVD or use YouTube tutorials to build up to getting out there if you like – just do something. It’ll benefit your body and your mind.

Coral xxx

How The Cornish Cope in Big Cities

I never thought I’d end up living in the middle of a city. I never thought I’d end up living in the middle of a city and enjoy it. Life takes funny turns sometimes.

I’m a self-confessed country bumpkin. I am fiercely in love with my ‘home’; Cornwall. I don’t live there at the moment and to be honest sometimes that kills me a little, but on the whole I’m happy appreciating it from afar for now. The thought of living out of Cornwall 5 years ago would have horrified me. The thought of living in a city would have freaked me out, and if I knew I’d be a 10 hour train journey away from my home-town I’d probably have cried.

Cudden Point

And yet here I am, happily going about my life in Norwich, a whole 10 hours away. I live here with my partner, which makes it easier to handle. He’s from here and so we have his friends and family nearby. I am yet to make many of my own friends in this particular city, although I am getting there. Tonight was a step in the right direction. It felt good to hang out with someone ‘new’ and have a good gossip. It felt comfortable.

We went for a walk around the city. It was such a nice evening and as we were walking, rather than running the usual route, I took in so much more scenery. ¬†I was always frightened of living in a city because I thought they were ugly and sure, there are some icky parts, but I’ve also been surprised at the beauty of it too. We walked along the river and through the cathedral grounds – we could have been anywhere.

Train Station

 

There’s still beauty here, except it comes in the form of architecture, rather than natural scenery.

Cathedral

 

We’ve got peregrine falcons nesting at the top of the cathedral. The fastest animal on the planet is breeding right on my doorstep!

River

 

There are willow trees here, and plenty of them. They’re my favourite tree in the whole world. I love that I get to see them every day here.

I think, for as long as I’m able to see the beauty in where I am, I could live anywhere.

Coral xxx

The Anti-Meat Train Rumbles On

Although yesterday’s post was mostly about my general despair at the state of the world (or more specifically, the misinformation children are given regarding food), today’s post is much more hopeful.

Since posting the video of little Luiz and his opinions about eating animals, I’ve seen it everywhere. Even my meat-eating friends have been sharing it around. It would seem that a cute kid putting things really simply is what’s needed to get through to people. It’s nice to see the debate opened up by someone so innocent and without motive. People listen to kids sometimes. I think meat-eaters are so afraid to have the facts told to them sometimes; maybe we just need to package the message differently, in a ‘non-threatening’ way.

veggies

Meat-eater’s view on vegetarianism and veganism is often an extreme one. They think that we don’t like eating animals because they’re cute and fluffy (partly true), or because we’re squeamish about eating something with eyes (also a little bit true). In fact, if they’d stick around long enough, or hold back from jumping down our throats (‘but plants have feelings too/if we didn’t eat cows they’d be overpopulated and take over the world/where would you get your protein from?’) long enough, they’d learn that abstaining from eating animal products is usually done for many, many reasons. Not least of these reasons is the fact that meat production needs way more land, resources and water per lb of food than it takes to grow a crop, such as wheat.

People don’t seem to get that the Western world is using crops grown in third world countries to feed the livestock, which exacerbates hunger and poverty issues for human beings. If we could utilise the land currently used for livestock rearing, we could eradicate world hunger. As the world population grows, we’re going to need this space. The human race is going to have to learn to eat less or no meat. That’s inevitable.

no spam

Thankfully, a report has been released today which actually says this.

“People in Britain should eat¬†meatless often, in order to help ease the¬†food¬†crises in the developing world, an influential committee of MPs has urged.

It could also help to mitigate the rampant food price inflation that has seen the cost of staple foods in the UK rise by close to one-third in the last five years.

The massive increase in meat consumption in rich countries in recent decades has led to spikes in the price of grain, used for animal feed, as well as leading to widespread deforestation and pressure on agricultural land, and has contributed to the obesity epidemic. By avoiding meat even for a day or two each week, people could help to ease some of these pressures.”

Now, it’s not perfect, obviously, but it’s a step in the right direction. It’s getting people to see past the stereotyped reasons behind eating less meat and helping them to see that meat actually impacts people, the planet and our future. Hopefully this will be listened to.

Of course, the comments at the bottom of the news article were initially dominated by the usual ignoramuses, terrified that the increasingly omnipotent vegan movement might descend upon them to confiscate their steaks. Some decided it was all about punishing the ‘lower classes’ and freaked out quite a lot. Take a look at my favourite ones for comedy value:

“Mind control methods- low protein diet, which makes people more malleable and physically weaker, lack of sleep (through worry etc) makes people more suggestible.”

“Does any of this apply to grass fed Lamb?”

“vegetarians go against the whole evolution of the species and are handing out health advice that is bad for humans.”

“mps cant tell us what to eat there not doctors”

Coral xxx

Cheese Comes From Plants And Pasta Is Meat!

No, I haven’t gone batsh*t crazy – I know exactly where my food comes from, which is more than can be said of the children of the UK.

I was dismayed to read on the BBC News website about a recent study of 27,500 school kids (5-16 years old) which dealt with how they perceive food.

Let’s look at the highlights shall we?

  • Almost 33% of primary school children think cheese is made from plants.
  • 10% of secondary school pupils (11-16 years) think tomatoes grow underground.
  • 25% of primary school kids think fish fingers are made from either chicken or pigs.
  • 33% of 5-8 year olds think that pasta and bread are made from meat.
  • 10% of 5-8 year olds think that potatoes grow on bushes or trees.

This kind of thing makes me so angry. These children (and in some cases, teenagers!) don’t understand the basic concept of where their food comes from. They are presented with meals at home, at school and in restaurants, yet they have no clue about the origin of the animal they’re eating, or even whether it’s an animal at all.

Cow Burger

How can we deal with the obesity epidemic affecting young people in this country, as well as promote a healthy, sustainable and nutritious diet if they don’t even get that something had to die in order for them to eat cheese? (Yes, people, cheese DOES produce casualties. Plenty of them).

The parents of these children may be equally misinformed, or perhaps they simply don’t care enough to educate their children about what food actually is. My worry is that these kids are fed freezer meals and take-away food, without ever seeing how the raw ingredients get prepared and cooked to make the finished product. Cooking food from scratch is the cheapest and most nutritious way of making meals – why isn’t the knowledge and the skills needed to be able to do this taught properly? I’m looking at you both; schools and parents.

This article bothered me today. I thought about it on my way home. How can the next generation make informed decisions about their diets unless they understand them on a basic level? While misinformation reigns, change is never going to happen. It took me years to finally understand where my eggs and dairy was coming from, but as soon as I did, I turned vegan (I was already a vegetarian).

Vegan

I popped into the supermarket on the way home to pick up some pan scourers. At the till I was sandwiched between two families, both with young children in tow. The child in front of me must have been about 9 years old. He was drinking an energy drink and eating a chocolate bar. What child of 9 needs an energy drink? What the hell?

The child behind me was prodding a shrink-wrapped tray of pork ribs that her father had just plonked onto the belt.
‘What’s this, Daddy?’
‘They’re bear ribs! Big, juicy bear ribs.’
‘Bear? Why are we eating bear?’
Daddy didn’t answer. Daddy got distracted by Mummy and Baby because Baby dropped his dummy and it rolled into the crisp aisle.

Facepalm

 

I despair. ¬†Obviously ‘Daddy’ was having a joke, but he didn’t follow up on it, so little girl was left pondering the fact that she was probably going to eat bear tonight.

Thankfully, this little guy has renewed my faith in kids and what they think about food:

I like that they stay standing up too, Luiz.

Coral xxx

Does Being Vegan Fight Off Illness?

So I’ve already broken my promise to post every day, but I’ve had a very abnormal weekend. On Friday my boyfriend text me at work to say that he wasn’t very well and his Mum had picked him up from work and was taking him home. This worried me as A: my boyfriend never gets ill and B: if he ever is under the weather, he usually just deals with it. The fact that he’d asked for a lift home (only 20mins walk) meant that he wasn’t dealing with it very well.

Veg Heart

I left work half an hour early so I could get back and look after him. When I got in he was lying in bed and I swear I have never seen anyone look so bad. In the morning he was a healthy, happy guy and by 6pm he’s shivering in bed, groaning and looking so pale he’s practically blue. It turns out he caught this Norovirus that’s been going around. He got it from his 7month old nephew (who incidentally also gave it to his own father and his grandmother).

Long story short, we ended up at hospital on Friday night. We needed to get him some medication that would allow him to sleep as without proper rest his epilepsy could become an issue. (He was diagnosed in his teens and it’s very well managed – he hasn’t had a seizure in nearly three years now). We saw the doctor at around 11pm and got the medicine. Thankfully he was able to sleep enough on Friday night. By Saturday afternoon he was keeping down food and we even went for a little walk. Today (Sunday) he’s pretty much 100% recovered.

We missed our weekly 5k run on Saturday morning and spent the whole day in bed watching Friends and Disney films (Tarzan and The Incredibles!). Although it wasn’t the active Saturday that we’re used to, it was nice to wind down for a change, even though it was for icky reasons. As I spent the whole time with him and got pretty stuck in there cleaning up after him I was convinced I’d become ill with the virus too, but it’s Sunday evening now and I’m still feeling really good…I’m wary about jinxing it but I think I’ve got away with it.

The fact that I haven’t contracted this illness is a big plus. The fact that BF has recovered so quickly is also a nice surprise. I know that others haven’t been so lucky. But is it luck? Or is it something else? I’m convinced that being on a vegan diet helps us to stave off illness much more successfully than we used to. I have had one cold in the 2.5 years that I’ve been vegan. Before I was vegan I’d have a cold once every 3 months or so. I’m sure our diet has played a part in the fact that we’re both fit and healthy enough to go to work tomorrow. It could have been a very different story…

It reminds me of this quote:

“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine, or the slowest form of poison.” Anne Wigmore

Eat well.

Coral xxx

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