Julie Rosenfield

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Archive for the category “ARTICLES”

10 TOP TIPS FOR A RELAXING CHRISTMAS? NO STRESS!

Be honest! With so few days to go till 25th December, does the thought of Christmas drive you crackers? Would you rather that the festive season was more mistletoe and less whine?

Here are ten top tips for a cracking, stress-free Christmas…

1. Christmas is bound to be a hectic time for all concerned. So a key feature is to get enough sleep and rest as possible in the weeks leading up to the big event. And if you’re not getting enough sleep, make a point of listening to a CD of relaxing music before bed. Sleeping well is key to make sure you’re relaxed and energised for the busy weeks ahead.

2. When it comes to Christmas plans, an important ingredient for success is just that: plan, plan, plan. Never underestimate how long it will take to buy little Johnny’s special limited edition train set, or how long it will take to choose your father-in-law something more original than socks! Buy early and save stress on the present front later.

For all of the tasks, whether it’s buying Christmas trees and presents or making the Christmas pud, get the family involved. Make a colourful chart and stick it to the fridge, and work out together who will do what chore. Breaking the whole task into manageable chunks will make Christmas plans go that much easier. Remember, many hands make Christmas light work.

3. Christmas can be an expensive time for all concerned. So now’s a good time to be looking for discounts from online companies such as Groupon and Living Socials. Buying in bulk is the key to keep expenses down and do remember to budget. After all, there’s nothing worse than ending Christmas broke and in debt.

Another way to keep costs down is by making home-made gifts. From home-made chocolates and jam to hand-knitted jumpers, personalised gifts can be of high value to the recipient while keeping costs low.

4. Christmas is a time for celebration, not for stress. If you’re finding the thought of Christmas stressful, now is a great time to learn some relaxation techniques. Learn to take seven long, slow, deep breaths first thing every morning and any time throughout the day when you feel you need to. It has also been shown that regular deep breathing actually causes beneficial changes in the brain, and makes it much easier for you to deal with stress. So now, when it comes to thinking about Christmas, you can breathe easy.

5. Everyone has Great Expectations for Christmas but it can be precisely those high expectations that can cause people to become stressed. Take a few minutes out of your day, to sit down, close your eyes and visualise how, ideally, you would like the day to go. Picture the smiling faces of your family, see the Christmas dinner turning out perfectly, see everyone happy with their presents and, most of all, see yourself feeling relaxed and happy. Do this every day, and soon you’ll be merrily singing A Christmas Carol or two to yourself as you go.

6. They say there are more divorces and relationship break-ups after Christmas than at any other time of the year. Let’s face it, family ties can be pushed to the limit, spending so much time together under one roof. Whether it’s your nearest or dearest, in-laws or far-flung relations, pressing your buttons, you need to be prepared to keep everyone full of Christmas cheer.

It’s important that people can be as involved as they want to be or opt out if necessary. After all, maybe Grandpa doesn’t want the kids riding on his back as part of the after-dinner entertainment but is too polite to say so. Maybe Auntie Jean only feels useful when she’s criticising your Brussels sprouts and showing you how she would make them. Don’t let these comments knock the Christmas stuffing out of you. Be polite, be firm and soon you’ll be laughing all the way.

Always have some distractions at the ready. If the kids are starting to get tetchy – extra little games or more Xmas crackers are always helpful. And let well-meaning relatives help you in the kitchen. You are not Superman/Woman and you don’t have to prove otherwise.

Some affirmations you might want to practise out loud in the weeks before Christmas are “My home is a happy home for all who enter in it” and “I am good enough,” and, above all, always bear in mind the true message of Christmas. It’s not about the presents and getting frazzled in the kitchen, it’s about the message of peace and love and that starts with you.

7. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, be sure to make your home a happy and calm place. A few drops of lavender oil are perfect for creating a relaxing atmosphere: whether as a room spray, or put on the pillow or in the bath, the scent of lavender will really soothe yourself and your family. Another calming treat is a cup of chamomile tea before bed. Just the thing to help you drop off for a relaxing, silent night.

Keeping your home clean, tidy and clutter-free will really help your home look an inviting, relaxing place. So now’s a great opportunity to start de-cluttering. Also putting and keeping things in the right place will really pay dividends so you’re not rushing round looking for scissors and string to wrap presents at the last moment.

8. You’re going to want everything to run smoothly on the big day. So now’s the time to get your boiler serviced and to make sure that all electrical items are running well. Nothing worse than finding you’ve no hot water or your oven’s not working on Christmas Day. Other tips are to make sure you have enough batteries for toys to avoid any disappointments on the big day.

9. Of course, not everyone will be spending time with family at Christmas. Many people will be on their own at Christmas. If you’re on your own, think of volunteering to help an organisation like Crisis who will be looking for volunteers to help the homeless enjoy Christmas. Or maybe you’d like to invite an elderly person to spend Christmas with you who would otherwise be on their own. Spread the season of good will to those in your community and you will surely spread happiness and be a Christmas Star!

10. Enjoy yourself, it’s Christmas! Take lots of photos to remember this special day. After all, if you have enough food to eat, a roof above your head and you’re spending time with loved ones, then what could be better? Count your blessings, enjoy the day and, let someone else do the washing up, while you put your feet up. After all, you’ve earned it! Merry Christmas!

MATHS IS BEAUTIFUL!

It happened in the pub last night. I’ve recently started doing a maths course and I was dishing out to my friends a mathematical puzzle which asks that if, on a train, 70% of the passengers ate beans for breakfast, 75% ate eggs, 80% ate sausages and 85% ate toast, then how many of them definitely ate a full English breakfast?*

“But why are you studying maths?” groaned one of my pals. “Maths is boring. I did maths ‘O’ level at school and vowed that when I left, I would never touch maths ever again.”
And, until recently, I would have agreed with her. I’ve written before about my struggles with maths at school but, this time, I’d like to write from a new perspective.

Because is maths boring? Or is maths, as I’m slowly starting to understand, not boring but actually rather beautiful?

Oh, but how can that be? Many people would say that art is beautiful, music is beautiful, people are beautiful but maths? Surely, many people would say, maths with its wretched equations, algebra, geometry, pi, and 7x + 2y is nothing more than incomprehensible gibberish. And always in maths, the same questions are fired over and over again: “how much?” and “how many?”
But perhaps it is exactly because maths is incomprehensible to many people that it is actually beautiful.

After all, try standing outside on a cloudless night and gazing up at the stars. I did that once in the south of Turkey on a night where the overhead canvas of twinkling milky-white stars just spread out forever. Faced with that all-encompassing carpet of infinite, bright points of light, questions like how much and how many just disappear.

And then when you consider that there are more stars in the sky then there are grains of sand on the earth, then you can’t help but wonder at the numbers. The question of how many just dissolves into awe and reverence.

And yes, it’s true that art and music are beautiful. But what makes that so? Because if we peel back the paint a little, or take a closer look at the musical score, we will see that once again maths is at work here. It has been suggested that something called The Golden Mean – or the Golden Ratio – a special mathematical formula resulting in a number approximately equal to 1.618 and characterised by the Greek letter phi, means that we can find beauty and perfect symmetry in everything from Van Gogh’s sunflowers to the enigmatic face of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

And if you want to find out whether some of your favourite film stars add up in the beauty stakes, you might think of taking a tape measure and checking out the ratio on some pictures of their faces. If that’s the case, then the Golden Mean must be an essential piece of mathematical calculation for cosmetic surgeons everywhere!

But, of course, true beauty comes from within and, as yet, there is no tape measure nor any mathematical formula which will tell you if a person has that undefinable something: that special glow, that magic from inside, twinkling eyes or a smile that makes your day.

And music? Well, yes, Beethoven, Mozart and co did write beautiful music, it’s true. But again, to understand how many beats to a bar, rhythm, intervals, like it or not, it’s still maths acting as the frame that holds it all together. This is perhaps why one friend of mine who is a brilliant government mathematician and statistician is also a huge classical music buff and a jolly useful person to have as a team member in a pub quiz!

As human beings, like it or not, we are mathematical creatures. The strands of hair on our heads can be counted (eventually!), our days are numbered, we can count on our fingers. Count on in both senses – to assign a number to each and, in most cases, add up to ten or to count on as to rely on, to depend on. And, equally, as mathematical beings not only do we count 1,2,3 but we also count in the world – our ideas count, our opinions count. No wonder market researchers are always busy!

Imagine if we had mistakenly been found guilty of transgressing some serious law and before maximum penalty could be meted out, we were offered one last supper of our choice.
Instead of opting for a meal of the finest 5 star cuisine, we could instead ask just to be allowed to stand before the judge and recite all the digits of the mathematical constant Pi.

Having the mathematical knowledge and memory and being allowed the time we needed to recite all the digits of Pi with its infinite, non-recurring, non-repeating sequence of numbers we could, like Scheherazade with her nightly telling of tales in the Arabian Nights, ultimately ensure our survival as we would never run out of numbers and so could never be punished. Either that or the judge would eventually fall asleep. Proof then that maths is not only beautiful but it could save your life!

Of course, all this talk of maths being beautiful, may still seem to some people like a bit of a stretch of the imagination or even pi in the sky. But as one of the most famous mathematicians, Einstein, once said:

“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

So there we are, maths is complex and mysterious and beautiful.

And, as for those train passengers at the beginning of this article, just how many of them did eat a Full English breakfast? Who knows, but it was probably all the ones who were really, really hungry!


To find out the answer to ‘Breakfast’ and many other mathematical puzzles, please visit Dara O’Briain’s School of Hard Sums at http://uktv.co.uk/dave/homepage/sid/9132

Showcasing Vegan Food: Natural and Organic Foods Show, Olympia, London April 2013

It’s not every day you have the chance to peek into a crystal ball and find out what vegan foods you’re going to be eating in the future.

But yesterday, at the Natural and Organic Foods Show at Olympia in London, I was able to do just that and have a taste of  just what lovely new vegan foods are due to be coming onto the market and which  I’m certainly hoping to be enjoying in the not-too-distant future.

I began the day by watching an exquisite vegan cookery demonstration run by Jay Morjaria  of the vegan/vegetarian cookery school, Sutra Kitchen, which opened in central London eight months ago.

Jay effortlessly whipped up some delightful vegan dishes: including a beetroot and carrot salad with edible flowers, butternut squash patties, cauliflower puree and mushroom gremolata  – all cooked to restaurant  standards but which were, Jay assured us, surprisingly easy to prepare. It  certainly whetted my appetite for signing up to one of the Sutra Kitchen’s hands-on, practical, vegan cookery courses in the future. http://sutrakitchen.co.uk/

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Vegan cookery class from the Sutra Kitchen? It’s all in hand!

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Carrot and beetroot salad. Say it with flowers!

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Butternut squash patties, cauliflower puree, mushroom gremolata. Feast your eyes!

Next, it was time to take a whistle-stop tour of the special Vegan Pavilion to check out some of the amazing vegan products on display.

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Step this way to vegan heaven!

The first stop was to sample the Violife vegan cheeses from Greek company, Viotros. Their vegan cheese slices come in  flavours including Original and  Tomato and Basil flavours as well as a vegan pizza cheese. http://www.viotros.gr/

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Vegans can still enjoy a pizza the action with Violife vegan cheese!

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Violife Tomato and Basil vegan cheese slices. Just say “cheese!”

Then it was on to the Vegan Society stall who were proudly promoting a huge selection of products, all bearing the Vegan Society trademark logo.

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“When it comes to veganism, it’s in the bag!”

And what a range it is! Everything from Japanese Clearspring Tofu to home-made vegan cakes from Lujuria Vegana in Barcelona. http://www.lujuriavegana.com/

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Vegan cakes from Barcelona? That takes the biscuit!

Of course, it’s always good to see old friends at these exhibitions so here is a handful of some of our favourite vegan companies.

Redwoods are a perennial favourite and it was great to have a chance, at last, to sample their new vegan, fish-free, Smoked Salmon Style Slices: http://www.redwoodfoods.co.uk

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There’s nothing fishy going on with these Smoked Salmon-Style Slices. They’re just smokin’!

Another  favourite company  is popular,vegan chocolate manufacture, Plamil, who had an awesome display of vegan chocolate goodies for every day as well as for special occasions,  ranging from dairy-free Easter bunnies to vegan chocolate Xmas Santas.

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Chocs away – it’s Plamil!

It was then time to cross over to the States to sample some tasty vegan food, USA-style!

I actually nearly walked past the stall  from the Original Field Roast Grain Meat Co,  as I wrongly thought they were selling meat! Closer inspection happily revealed that their products are actually 100% vegan, artisan products, all the way from Seattle in Washington. I’m so glad I stopped by else  I would have missed the chance of tasting some of their amazing vegan Deli Slices in Wild Mushroom, Sundried Tomato and Lentil Sage flavours as well as their stunning Hazelnut CranberryRoast En Croute. http://www.fieldroast.com

Rumour has it that the Vx shop in King’s Cross, London will soon be stocking these products, so do keep a look out. http://www.vegancross.com/

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Take a closer look. Yes, they really are vegan!

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Deli-cious Deli Slices!

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This vegan  dinner deserves a roasting!

Also from the States were the Food For Life company with their delightfully-named vegan Moophrey burgers and Cluckphrey patties, as well as their huge range of delightful and wholesome Ezekiel sprouted breads and muffins. http://www.foodforlife.com

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Moove along and take a cluck at Food For Life’s Vegan burgers and patties!

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Food For Life’s Ezekiel bread is worth sprouting about!

Looking ahead to summer, if it ever comes, Wheaty were on hand to offer all manner of vegan BBQ items, schnitzels and sausages. http://www.wheaty.de/en/

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Join the Q for a vegan BBQ!

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Lining up for a non-meaty Wheaty vegan feast!

 After all that sampling, there was just time to try some of my favourite Nakd Wholefoods Trek bars as well as to take a bite of their brand new Crunch Bars. In strawberry, banana, apple and chocolate flavours, these latest bars contain soya protein crunchies, and are crunchy and delicious! http://www.naturalbalancefoods.co.uk

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The Nakd truth! Nakd bars are definitely worth the Trek!

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When it comes to the crunch,  Nakd Bars new crunch bars are something to chew on!

So, after a busy visit to the Natural and Organic Foods show, I’m happy to report, the future’s bright, the future’s vegan and do look out for some great vegan foods in the near future!

* * *

Sutra Kitchen, vegan and vegetarian cooking school, central London  http://sutrakitchen.co.uk/

Viotros, manufacturers of vegan Violife cheese slices http://www.viotros.gr/

Lujuria Vegana, Spanish vegan cakes and desserts http://www.lujuriavegana.com/

Redwood Foods, vegan food products http://www.redwoodfoods.co.uk

Plamil chocolate, vegan chocolate, http://www.plamilfoods.co.uk

Wheaty vegan burgers, sausages, BBQ products http://www.wheaty.de/en/

Vx shop, vegan shop, King’s Cross http://www.vegancross.com/

Field Roast, vegan roasts and deli slices http://www.fieldroast.com

Food For Life, Ezekiel breads and muffins, Moophrey burgers and Cluckphrey patties

Natural Balance Foods, makers of Trek and Nakd bars http://www.naturalbalancefoods.co.uk

For more information on veganism, please visit the Vegan Society http://www.vegansociety.com

THE VEGAN PLEDGE: FEELING GOOD!

It happened a few weeks ago. I was walking into my local supermarket when a board outside attracted my eye. “The Boy and the Lamb,” read the sign.

It sounded heart-warming. I prepared myself for a tale of a young boy who had, perhaps, found an orphaned young lamb, adrift in the unseasonal British snowy Easter, and who was now raising and caring it for it. A tale to warm the heart, I thought with a smile.

But, alas, my smile, like the snow, soon froze over on closer inspection of the poster. The Boy and the Lamb was not the charming story conjured up by my imagination, but rather to me, the more stomach-churning account of a well-known chef who, as a young boy, travelled to Provence and learned how to cook lamb using garlic, rosemary and anchovies and who is now grown-up and doing it for a living.

And, just to ram the point home, instead of the photo of the sweet little lamb I had been hoping to see, I was instead assailed by a picture of a huge leg of roast lamb. As if this was supposed to make my mouth water and make me want to run into the supermarket and raid the contents of their meat counter. I think not, rather it had the effect of making me wanted to run out and head for my local greengrocer – which I would have done, if there was still a local greengrocer left that hadn’t been swallowed up by supermarkets. But that’s another story.

But a greengrocer? Some people ask me on hearing that I’m a vegan: “Don’t carrots have feelings?” There’s an old chestnut if ever there was one. Honestly, if I had a carrot for every time someone asked me that question, why, all my jewellery would be 24 carrot by now!

I can honestly say that I don’t know if carrots have feelings. They may have vibrations and they are certainly living when they are in the earth. But do I know how they feel when they are pulled out of the earth? Grinded to a pulp in a food processor? No, I don’t know, I guess you’d have to ask the carrot.

But I do know that animals have feelings. I’ve no doubt about that. I’ve held audiences with cows in a field when they’ve approached me and stood around me in a friendly and interested manner; I’ve had a flock of sheep run down the hillside and bleat at me, I’ve had a mother pig proudly approach me accompanied by nine delightful, muddy piglets and it’s been a wonderful, wonderful feeling. And isn’t that what it’s all about at the end of the day? Feelings.

From a young age, it never felt right to be eating meat. “This is meat and we eat it?” I questioned myself and my shepherd’s pie at the age of six. It didn’t feel right to be eating an animal when I loved animals but I was told by my elders that I had to eat meat “to grow up big and strong.”

It was only later on that I realised, despite having been forced to eat meat during my childhood, when finally grown to my full height of 5ft 1½, that I hadn’t grown up big and strong after all!

Well, although I may have had to toe the line when living at home, as soon as I left, I set upon the path of becoming vegetarian. When I left home and moved to London, one of the proudest moments of my life was to write in the dietary request book in the hostel I was staying in was “No meat, no fish please”. There then followed three months of cheese salad from the unimaginative hostel caterers before I could finally move out and start catering for myself.

Of course, it wasn’t quite cheese salad all the time. During that time, I went on a date with a guy who I really liked but who took me out to dinner and insisted on ordering veal for himself while I tucked into a dish of ratatouille. “But veal?” I protested to him. “Don’t you know where veal comes from? Don’t you know what happens to the little baby calf?” Needless to say, he didn’t stick around for very long!

And, of course, the other perennial question we are always asked is: “Where do you get your protein from?” Well, after over 20 years as a vegan, I’m still here so I must have been getting the protein somewhere: from nuts and seeds and lentils and beans and pulses and tofu and ….

So, if you too feel that actually you don’t want to be eating animals and you like this idea of becoming vegan but aren’t too sure how to go about it, then where do you start?

Well, one excellent way is to join the Vegan Pledge. If you live in London, this is an wonderful initiative run every year by the Vegan Campaigns group http://www.vegancampaigns.org.uk/ Participants pledge to go vegan for a month and are invited to two free days of weekend workshops, to be held this year in central London on Sunday 12th May and Sunday 9th June 2013. The workshops include talks about health and nutrition, cookery demonstrations where you’ll learn how to make simple, delicious vegan recipes, free recipe leaflets, films about what happens to the animals in the meat industry, a free delicious lunch and an ongoing support system from a vegan buddy who will support you through the whole process. You can find out more details about this year’s Vegan Pledge in London at http://www.vegancampaigns.org.uk/pledge

Of course, there are also Vegan Pledges taking place around the world. In the US, for instance, the Peace Advocacy Network (PAN) runs a 30 days vegan pledge in a number of cities. Details at http://www.panveganpledge.org/signup.html. Or if you’re in Australia, check out Animals Australia’s Veg Pledge at http://www.animalsaustralia.org/features/veg-week/pledge.php

And even if you can’t get to a vegan pledge event in person, you can still join in with an online pledge, to start at anytime, with the Vegan Society at http://www.vegansociety.com/veganpledge.aspx

And, if you want to meet fellow vegans who share your feelings, if you’re in London, you can join us for regular events involving vegan food, drinks, pot-lucks and a whole lot more at the London Vegan Meetup http://www.londonveganmeetup.co.uk/ or check out the Meetup website for details of vegan events near you. http://www.meetup.com

Well, I’m off for a carrot juice now. I still don’t know if they have feelings, but I have good feelings about it and I know that, on a vegan diet, like the song, “I’m feeling good ….”

For more details about the Vegan Pledge and veganism, please visit:

Vegan Campaigns, London  http://www.vegancampaigns.org.uk/

Vegan Campaigns Pledge, London: http://www.vegancampaigns.org.uk/pledge

Vegan Society UK http://www.vegansociety.com/

Vegan Society UK online pledge http://www.vegansociety.com/veganpledge.aspx

London Vegan Meetup for vegan social events in London http://www.londonveganmeetup.co.uk/

Vegan Pledge in the US: http://www.panveganpledge.org/signup.html.

American Vegan Society http://www.americanvegan.org/

Animals Australia Veg Pledge

http://www.animalsaustralia.org/features/veg-week/pledge.php

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HARD-CORE VEGAN SWALLOWS APPLE TREE!

32 year old vegan, Pilar Diaz, from  the tiny village of Lofos in Colombia,  got more than she bargained for on a recent trip to the dentist.

Pilar, who’s been a vegan for 15 years, explained what happened:

“I happened to mention to the dentist that I had something stuck between my back teeth. I’d been flossing for a few days as hard as I could but could not get rid of it.”

Her dentist, Dr Alfonso Folo, decided to investigate and pulled on what he thought looked like a tiny green thread in the back of Pilar’s mouth.

Dr Folo takes up the story:

“I saw that Pilar had a small green thread – perhaps some leftover spinach – stuck between her teeth. So I used one of my usual dental instruments to try to dislodge it. I started pulling on it and eventually it started to loosen but I quickly saw there was more to the thread than I realised.

“I kept pulling on it for about five minutes, trying to reach the end of the thread. Imagine my surprise when what finally emerged from Pilar’s mouth was a 12 inch high apple tree sapling. And not just any apple tree but a very rare variety called the Lirpa apple tree, which only grows in very pure and clean conditions, and which normally only flowers once a year.”

It turned out that Pilar, who follows a wholefood vegan diet, had been routinely swallowing the whole of her apples:  core, pips and all.

“And I think that because Pilar has such a healthy vegan diet, her stomach provided the ideal conditions for growing the Lirpa tree,” concluded Dr Folo.

But Pilar might yet have the last laugh.

“I have planted the tree in my backyard and will soon be growing apples for the whole community to share. But I think, in future, I won’t be swallowing the pips,” she said with a grin.

All of which shows that a vegan diet is very healthy and that an apple a day might keep the doctor away but not the dentist.

Translated from an article in La Broma: the Latin-American online magazine – April 2013.

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FIVE VEGAN MEETUPS IN LONDON IN SEVEN DAYS: 16-23 FEBRUARY 2013

“You’re never alone,” an old cigarette ad used to say,” With a Strand.”

These days, as a vegan in London, I’d say you’re never alone with a Meetup* event, and more specifically, the London Vegan Meetup group  http://www.londonveganmeetup.co.uk/

To test this theory, last week I challenged myself to see how many vegan meet-ups in London in one week I could possibly fit in. It turned out that it was five – and what a wonderful and varied week it was.

Like the 5-a-day campaign that encourages people to eat more fruit and veg, when it comes to vegan meet-ups in London, I found that 5-a-week is an optimum number and so I was delighted to take five!

Here then is my round-up of the five vegan meet-up events I enjoyed in London last week.


SATURDAY 16TH FEBRUARY 2013 – MEET-UP 1 – CAMDEN TOWN

LOVING HUT, CAMDEN

A mini-meet-up! One of our regular London Vegan meet-up attendees has reported an exciting development in the world of vegan cuisine: vegan battered sausages! We hot-foot it to the Loving Hut in Camden to investigate these rumours which, happily, prove to be true. Some of our party are soon witnessed tucking into a hearty, tasty lunch of vegan battered sausages, baked beans, chips and salad.

Those of who mutter excuses about watching our waistline opt instead to stuff ourselves at the Loving Hut’s delicious  all-you-can-eat for £5.95 vegan buffet and enjoy all manner of pumpkin, curry, vegetable and noodle dishes.

Thanks, Loving Hut, we’re loving you and your battered sausages!

http://camden.lovinghut.co.uk/

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COOKIES AND SCREAM

Then, for those of us with a crumb of spare capacity, or a separate dessert stomach, it’s off to fabulous Camden  vegan bakery, Cookies and Scream, where some of us manage to wolf down a warmed-up slice of raspberry and coconut cake or delight in a peanut butter cookie. Others of us, who lovingly over-indulged at Loving Hut, can only look on and sigh.  http://cookiesandscream.com/

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 INSPIRAL VEGAN CAFE

Then, as early evening approaches, we set off with nearby vegan café Inspiral in our sights, where we, alas, like the victims of the recent horsemeat scandal, fall at the first hurdle. Inspiral, with their renowned selection of wonderful raw cakes and hot tasty buffet items are, like us, just a bit too full and can’t accommodate a party of eight. Next time, people!

http://www.inspiralled.net/

THE BLACK HEART PUB

With pub after pub  in Camden understandably full on a Saturday night, we head down a nearby side street for edgy music pub, The Black Heart.

Once settled in a corner table with a range of drinks, we peruse the menu and are delighted to see on the menu a vegan burger, made with arancini mushrooms and spicy Kimchee. Alas, still full from lunch, there is not mushroom in my stomach so with a fond farewell, I slink off into the night.

http://www.ourblackheart.com/

It’s been a great day out for vegans in Camden with lots of interesting topics under discussion:

1)      Should a heavy week at work, always be followed by a Saturday session with a vegan battered sausage? We agree that it probably should.

2)       Should we have a vegan trip to New York and meet-up with our vegan meetup counterparts across the pond? Tempting, very, very tempting, and actually, maybe even possible.

3)      We exchange news and views. The coming Vegfests in Brighton (March), Bristol (May) and the brand-new one in London Olympia (October) all excite particular attention.  http://www.vegfest.co.uk/

Well done, Camden. It will be hard to better a battered sausage! Let’s see what the rest of the week has to offer …..

 

SUNDAY 17TH FEBRUARY 2013 – MEET UP 2 – KENTISH TOWN

VEGAN HIGH TEA, THIRD ESTATE, KENTISH TOWN

These days, in London, you never know where the next pop-up vegan café or restaurant is going to pop up, so it’s a good idea to pop into the London Vegan meetup site regularly to check out what’s going on.  http://www.londonveganmeetup.co.uk/

So, as soon as I received details of  a very special, new, pop-up event: a Vegan High Tea, to be organised by one of our favourite vegan guys, Fat Gay Vegan http://fatgayvegan.com/ and  hosted at ethical clothes and shoe store, The Third Estate in Kentish Town, I put my name down as quick as I could. Just as well as, with only 20 places available, the event sold out like hot vegan cakes.

And what a delightful afternoon it was, courtesy of a wonderful spread laid on by vegan baker Dumisani, whose Vegan Tart stall is a particular high point for those of us who enjoy a regular trip to Brixton with the London Vegan Meetup  group on the first Saturday of the month.

For the Vegan High Tea, we were able to indulge in a wonderful, tasty spread.  To start, we enjoyed rounds of dainty cucumber sandwiches  and vegan cheese and tomato sandwiches, followed by a flavoursome broccoli tart. Afterwards, fabulous scones with vegan cream and jam magically appeared. And to round it all off, a huge thick slice of sumptuous aromatic Lavender cake, washed down with as much tea – delicious Raspberry Leaf tea, in my case – as we could drink.

It is hoped that Vegan High Tea will be a regular feature so do look out for it on the London Vegan Meetup group. As I say, The Vegan High Tea is a popular event, so if you do see it, best book up quick before it’s scone!

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TUESDAY 19TH FEBRUARY 2013 – MEET UP 3 – CLAPHAM

ALKARMEL CAFÉ AND ROUTE TO HAPPINESS MUSICAL, LANDOR THEATRE, CLAPHAM

Members of the London Vegan Meetup group are a talented bunch so we were delighted to hear that one of our esteemed members, Alexander Bermange, a musical composer and songwriter, had a new show in town called The Route to Happiness.

With this in mind, we quickly booked tickets and arranged for a vegan meetup in Clapham. We began the evening delightfully with a pre-theatre supper at the nearby Alkarmel Vegetarian Café in Landor Road, Clapham. On hearing of our proposed visit, the owners immediately pulled out all the stops to include a selection of delightful home-made vegan dishes. So, it was with real relish that I sat down to a delicious plate of Lentil Shepherd’s Pie topped with Sweet Potato mash. For those of our group who were adventurous or who had big appetites, they also offer a large plate containing a huge variety of savoury and salad items.  Awesome and very good value.

Afterwards, much fortified by some jolly good grub, we then went on to satisfy our appetite for musical theatre. The show, The Route to Happiness at the Landor Theatre, is a musical journey through through the lives of three characters each seeking love, money or fame.

In the musical, some of our members were particularly tickled by a reference made by one of the female characters to a date she had had with a vegan guy who only ate tofu, peas and corn. If only he’d known, he could have popped down to the Alkarmel and had a much more varied diet!

The Route to Happiness was a fantastic piece of musical theatre with brilliantly clever music and amusing and touching lyrics, with outstanding performance by three very talented performers: Cassidy Janson, Neill Sheehy and Shona White.

And in writing about this musical pursuit of love, money and fame, all we can say is that the members of the London Vegan Meetup group  loved  the show, thought it was well worth the money and hope that  it brings Alexander Bermange lots of fame.

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WEDNESDAY 20TH FEBRUARY 2013 – MEET UP 4 – QUEEN’S PARK

NAMA ARTISAN RAW RESTAURANT, QUEEN’S PARK

Well, after three meet-ups featuring hearty vegan cooked food, I was ready to eat more lightly and more healthily. So when news came in of a neighbouring meet-up group, the Raw Foods Community Meetup group, holding an event in a brand new raw restaurant Nama in Queens Park,  you can bet I was there quick-celery-sticks. http://www.facebook.com/Nama.Artisan.Raw.Foods

The restaurant, which inhabits half of a cake shop called CC’s, has only been open for a month and is run by two very charming people: Rich and Irene.

It’s a tiny place where you sit at a counter and Rich and Irene actually make the food in front of you: just like being in a friend’s kitchen at home.

The food is indeed outstanding with its colourful visual presentation, exquisite taste and superb raw food nutrition. We began with some excellent samples of raw chocolate brownies and raspberry truffles, washed down with a refreshing green smoothie.

Then it was onto the real raw business of the day. We happily chomped through sensational starters: on offer were raw versions of falafel, sushi, and beetroot ravioli; followed by a choice of delightful main dishes all with a raw twist: lasagne, vegetable terrine,  pizza and quiche and then to end, some truly blissful desserts – indeed some of us insisted on sampling two for quality control purposes – from a choice of raw blueberry cake, raw chocolate ganache cake and raw mocha chocolate cake.

We felt privileged to have Nama open specially for us for the evening. Normally, they are open during the day from 9 to 6 every day except Monday, but say they may look into opening on a Thursday evening once a week.

It was raw-tastic  evening, if the appreciative ‘raw ‘of the crowd was anything to go by and made for  a raw-some fourth meetup of the week.

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THURSDAY 21ST FEBRUARY 2013 – MEET UP 5 – CENTRAL LONDON

TIBITS, HEDDON STREET, W1

Well, after a hearty week of Vegan Meetups, as always, I’ve saved the best till last. The monthly London Vegan Drinks event, organised by Fat Gay Vegan and held on the third Thursday of every month, is always the highlight of the social calendar for vegans in London.

Since it began, over a year ago, it has been held in the basement of Swiss vegetarian buffet restaurant Tibits http://www.tibits.co.uk , and now, like the monthly London Vegan Potluck held  in Holborn on the first Wednesday of the month, regularly attracts up to 100 people.

There is nowhere else in London that boasts such a huge crowd of wonderful vegans and aspiring vegans  and where old and new members are always so warmly and eagerly welcomed.

The Tibits buffet  is always augmented with extra vegan main courses and desserts for the night of the London Vegan Drinks. I am as ever addicted to their falafel and last week’s ever changing selection of hot dishes also included  a delightful Vegetable Jambalaya, a fragrant Thai curry and a filling Rosti potato dish. Vegan desserts on offer include classic favourites of Sticky Toffee Pudding and Victoria Sponge Cake.

With our ever-increasing number of members, there are rumours that the London Vegan Drinks may be moving to a new venue soon. As ever, do keep a regular check on the London Vegan Meetup website to check on the details and ensure your place at this very, very special and popular event.

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And, so ended a very busy week on the vegan scene in London. It was  a pleasure  to spend the week sampling five diverse, but equally enjoyable, vegan meetups in seven days.

It was a great week and I’m exhausted but exhilarated! Well done to everyone involved and I can’t wait to see what next week has to offer.

So, if you’re a vegan living in and visiting London, don’t be stranded – come along and join us. Let’s meet up and eat up, vegan-style, very soon! http://www.londonveganmeetup.co.uk/

*A Meetup is an event organised through the website www.meetup.com where people in cities all around the world gather for common interests.

For details of all London Vegan Meetup events: restaurant trips, pub visits, monthly potluck and monthly drinks, visit http://www.londonveganmeetup.co.uk/

Loving Hut, Camden; vegan buffet/restaurant  http://camden.lovinghut.co.uk/

Cookies and Scream, Camden: Vegan cakes and cookie stall http://cookiesandscream.com/

Inspiral vegan and raw food café http://www.inspiralled.net/

Black Heart pub – vegan burger http://www.ourblackheart.com/

Fat Gay Vegan blog http://fatgayvegan.com/

Third Estate – Ethical Clothes and Shoes http://www.facebook.com/thirdestatelondon

The Vegan Tart – vegan baker  http://www.thevegantart.co.uk

Alkarmel Café, 95 Landor Road, Clapham, SW9 9PH

Landor Theatre http://www.landortheatre.co.uk/

The Route to Happiness musical http://home.btconnect.com/bermange/trth.html

Nama artisan raw restaurant   https://www.facebook.com/Nama.Artisan.Raw.Foods

The Raw Foods Community meetup group http://www.meetup.com/The-Raw-Foods-Community/

Tibits vegetarian restaurant http://www.tibits.co.uk/

YEAR OF THE BLOG (ARTICLE)

So here it is: Chinese New Year. Kung Hei Fat Choi everyone!

Today,  people around the world will be celebrating the Chinese Year of the Snake: a time traditionally associated with taking risks and adventures.

Not long ago, I took a risk myself and embarked on an adventure closer to home and started a blog.

It all began when my friend Sally said:

“Why don’t you start a blog?”

“Me, a blog?”
“Yes, you could put up all your poems and stories on there and ….”

But really? A blog.  I’d often thought about it but it sounded like a lot of hard work and…

Then, my careers advisor, on hearing that I liked writing, suggested, “Why don’t you start a blog?”

Now, I’m a person who believes in the Power of Three. If three different people you like and respect each suggest to you separately that you see a movie, read a book, do a sponsored parachute jump (OK, maybe not that last one), then, quite usually, I will be up for it.

But in this case, only two people had suggested it and time was marching on. So what should I do?

“I’m thinking of starting a blog,” I said to my friend, Sarah-Jane.

“Oh yes, you should.”

OK, so that’s slightly cheating and I did have to “fish” for it, but hey, to me that made three people, so I got on board, logged onto WordPress and took the challenge.

“I’ll do it for my New Year’s resolution!” I announced, and immediately posted my decision on Facebook so that there would be no going back. Goodness, doing that these days, in front of all those witnesses,  practically makes it legally bindng anyway.

And, just to be even more sure, I started it on 29th December 2012 so that when New Year’s Day came around it would already be up and running.

So, 46 posts and over 1000 views later, how has it been my Year, or rather Month-and-a-Half, of the Blog?

Well, I have to say that so far it has been a huge and enjoyable challenge. I set myself the task of writing a blog post a day and have only just found out that Word Press already run a Post-of-the-Day 2013 challenge, so had I known that I could have climbed aboard earlier.

I usually start my blog as soon as I get up, with all the ideas, hopefully, buzzing around my head.

On slow days, I’ve trawled through my own back catalogue, courtesy of a two-year creative writing course with the Open University, which, thankfully , has yielded a huge resource of poems and short stories. A story that I wrote in Spanish eight years ago for another course, has only just resurfaced, to my surprise and delight: I had absolutely no memory of writing it whatsoever!

One of my earliest posts, a humorous account of a visit to a local DIY store, provided me with my first milestone: my very first follower: a fellow blogger who boasts a collection of 7000 ladders for sale.

Ladders! How appropriate for the Year of the Snake. Blogging is certainly like a game of snakes and ladders: the ups when you get lots of views and the downs when you wonder if anyone is even logged on.

My biggest hits have been for my recent topical articles promoting veganism.  Every day, Word Press furnishes me with all manner of statistics on where and when the my lovely readers  have come from. So, I was thrilled to see statistics that two of my posts against the use of meat: Horse Burgers: It’s No Joke and Thin End of the Veg recently scored their first century with 100 readers each.

So, thanks to links from Facebook and Twitter,  my posts were seen around the world from the UK & Ireland to France, Austria, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Spain, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Turkey, UAE, Russia, Malaysia, Brazil, Uruguay, Canada, US and Australia! Such a thrill and a real boost for a novice blogger.

So, what lies ahead? Well, I may be pulling back a bit on the blog front for now, as I have my first  novel to finish which is in the final stages of editing. And blogging, as enjoyable and addictive as it is, can be quite time-consuming.

But, I still have lots of ideas for exciting blog posts to come and will try my best to weave them in and out of novel writing.

In any case, I hope to use some of the posts already published on the blog, such as my poems, to produce a poetry book next year. Through the discipline of regular blogging, I am already building up a suitable collection.

So, guys, those of you out there who are thinking of taking up a new adventure in the Year of the Snake, go do it: start your own blog. And if you don’t have three people to tell you to do it, then I’ll just say it three times to you from me. Do it, do it, do it!

Of course, if anyone asks, you can always say you were tempted by a snake! Happy Chinese New Year everyone!

THIN END OF THE VEG (ARTICLE)

Words, words, words. I have to admit it: I do like words. Even small words with only a few letters.

Here are some good words. Cake, that’s a very good word. Or how about a longer word: chocolate? Another very good word, indeed.

Some of my favourite words can even be built into charming little phrases like “vegan cake,” or, better still, “free vegan cake.”

So, it may not be too surprising to learn that two of my favourite phrases are “all-you-can-eat” and “vegan buffet.” Put these two together and they instantly become one of my very favourite phrases in the whole of the English language.

So why then, do I now find myself wanting to have words with the owners of the all-you-can-eat vegan buffet places in London?

Some years ago, a new chain of establishments, specialising in Chinese and Thai vegan cuisine, started popping up all over the London. These places, which normally had names with three letters: eg Tao, Veg and Joy, though small in name, offered a huge selection of vegan buffet delights.

Such buffets would host a mixture of hot and cold delicacies. Some, such as the much-missed Joy buffet in Percy Street, offered such a huge selection of salad items in their buffet that raw-food eaters could happily go in and chow down alongside their vegan cooked food-eating companions.

For the cooked food cabinet boasted all manner of hot vegan savouries: from spring rolls, sesame toast and vegetable dumplings, through to hearty tofu and wheat-based main dishes in a variety of flavoursome sauces.

And, even though such dishes were labelled “fish in black bean sauce” and “sweet and sour chicken,” vegan and vegetarian diners could happily eat in there, knowing that the nearest that the “fish” ever got to the sea was the small ribbon of seaweed which surrounded its wheat-filled interior and that the “sweet and sour chicken” was nothing more than a tasty amalgamation of soya pieces served in a delicious, pineapple sauce.

Once, in a rare moment of rebellion, I even ordered at one such veggie restaurant a dish with the somewhat unappetising name of “Pork Belly”. Not the ideal choice for a vegan normally, but happy in the knowledge that I was going to be pigging out on nothing more harmful than a large piece of wheat gluten and vegetables, I was more than happy to make a pig of myself.

Now, many people are divided as to whether or not vegans and vegetarians should even be eating mock meat in the first place. Give up eating meat for mock meat:  isn’t that just a mockery? But, I, for one, find such places are good venues to take meat-eating friends;  those who are transitioning from meat-eating to vegetarianism/veganism and those who say “But I could never give up eating meat,” as well as being a tasty place for vegans and vegetarians to eat anyway. Surely, if there is a delicious, acceptable substitute out there, then people will have to agree that, yes, they can give up eating meat, be healthy and save many animals’ lives in the process.

I have to admit, though, that even I had to draw the line at some of the too-realistic looking prawns on offer at some of the vegan buffets. It was in vain that the owners assured me that they were made of nothing other than wheat, seaweed, spices and colouring. But still, some associations are just a bit too strong. Shellfish of me, perhaps, but still ….

In any case, the beauty of the Chinese vegan buffets was that they offered such a huge variety that even if people really didn’t want to eat mock meats, they could still more than amply compensate by tucking into a whole range of vegetable dishes such as fried aubergine slices, spicy curries, broccoli dishes, assorted salads and of course, oodles of noodles.

So then, imagine my disappointment on learning that some of these esteemed vegan buffet places have now started to introduce meat into their buffets.

Real meat and not just pieces of soya dressed up and labelled for the occasion.

Meat made from real animals. It just doesn’t bear thinking about. As if there weren’t enough buffet places offering meat all over London anyway.

And, of all the vegan buffets which have started to adopt this unfortunate practice, it was with particular sadness that I learned that the Thai buffet in Golders Green, have now also decided to go down the “Let them eat meat” route.

The Thai buffet has been located in Golders Green, with its large Jewish population, for many years and, until now, has been a safe eating venue where Jews, vegetarians and vegans alike could happily eat, safe in the knowledge that all the food on offer was pure, vegan and wholesome and compliant with any dietary and religious restrictions.

So, imagine the confusion of diners now going in there, thinking they are choosing a fake meat option and then finding out that the “sweet and sour chicken” they have chosen is actually sweet and sour chicken. Made from a real chicken.

Yes, they have put up a label saying Meat section, and say they are keeping the meat dishes well away from the dishes in the Vegetarian section but, still, if you’re in a rush, and are used to the old ways, well, you can imagine the unfortunate results that could ensue.

Certainly, the thought of meat being served in a vegan buffet just makes me lose my appetite and the owners the future custom of myself and many other like-minded people.

And then, there’s the whole issue of possible cross-contamination in the kitchen, and the fact that going in there means supporting and paying for an establishment that uses meat. Why, it all rather leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.

Guys, this is the thin end of the veg. Meat is creeping in where it shouldn’t be doing so and I, for one, am not happy about it at all.

In the meantime, though, if you would like to visit some  places  in London which offer a fully vegan buffet (as well as a la carte), then I would recommend the chain of Loving Hut* restaurants, which are located in London in Mornington Crescent, Archway and Edgware and also in Brighton and Norwich. This chain is always vegan and is also international. I myself have been fortunate enough to dine out at some of their branches in Malaga, Spain; Malaysia and Florida in the US. The food is always excellent, has a huge variety and meat is never, ever on the menu.

Other Chinese vegan buffet places In London which are still 100% vegan at the time of writing include the Qing* in Camden Town and Jai* in  Old Compton Street.

And, if Chinese and Thai buffet places are  not quite to your taste, then may I recommend the delicious healthy buffets on offer at two particular favourite vegan restaurants of mine:

222* Vegetarian Vegan restaurant in West Kensington offers a wonderful selection of dishes in their lunch-time buffet such as carrot tart and aubergine moussaka.

http://www.222veggievegan.com

Vitao* in Wardour Street serves a tasty and mainly organic vegan buffet as well as many raw options http://www.vitao.co.uk

So, as I say, I do like words. So I will be having words with the owners of the Thai buffet place in Golders Green, very polite words indeed.

For it is my belief that if we act now, we can persuade them to change back to being 100% vegan. I do hope so, otherwise I’ll just have to eat my words.

*For places offering a vegan buffet in London.

Loving Hut: Morning Crescent, Brighton, Norwich:  http://www.lovinghut.co.uk

Loving Hut: Archway: http://archway.lovinghut.co.uk

Loving Hut: Edgware: http://edgware.lovinghut.co.uk/

Qing 6 Kentish Town Road, Camden London NW1 9NX

Jai, 33 Old Compton Street, Soho, London W1D 5JU.

Vitao Restaurant, 74 Wardour St  London, Greater London W1F 0TE
020 0207 734 8986 http://www.vitao.co.uk

222 Veggie Vegan Restaurant
222 North End Road, West Kensington
London W14 9NU
020 7381 2322

Lunch buffet 12:00 – 15:30

http://www.222veggievegan.com/

For more vegan and vegetarian places to eat in London, visit Vegan London at  www.veganlondon.co.uk

For the book ,Vegetarian London – new edition coming out soon – and other books featuring vegan and vegetarian restaurants in the UK and abroad, please visit Vegetarian Guides at: http://www.vegetarianguides.co.uk

For more information on veganism, visit the Vegan Society at :www.vegansociety.com

CAT MONOPOLY (ARTICLE)

News was released this week that an online vote in 185 countries, conducted by games manufacturer Hasbro, has led to a  reshuffle of the playing pieces in the classic Monopoly board game. Later this year, the old iron token will be dropped, having run out of steam, and a new token – that of a cat – will be  introduced.

And, with the cat leading the poll with 31% of the vote, I wondered if it wasn’t perhaps time to refresh the game completely. After all, why should humans have the Monopoly? Surely cats and cat-lovers the world over might like to sharpen their claws on a new London-based version of the game which could be called Moggyopoly.

This would be a great fun game, fully revised to take all feline tastes into account. Starting off at the Old Cat Road, you could move through the cat flap and across the board, by way of Mewston Road,  Paw-l Mall,  Tra-fur-lgar Square and Moggy-le-Bone Station before finally winning, by a whisker, at Miaow-Fair. En route, you could land on suitably customised squares such as Get Your Tail Out of the Way Free and Free Paw-king while picking up appropriate Chance cards such as You have Won First Prize in the Cat Show, collect £10.

Of course, board games and cat-fancying are not limited to one country. So, no doubt, this new feline version of Monopoly could well prove to be a great international success from all places from Catalonia to Katmandu.

And why stop the feline connections there? After all, many of London’s tube and rail  stations are currently undergoing renovation so perhaps now would be a good time to give them a change of name too. It certainly gives us paws for thought. So how about travelling on the tube to Al-purr-ton, Fur-lop or Great Paw-tland Street or on the overground trains from Claw-pham Junction to the station which already has the purr-fect name in place: Catford?

And, while we’re on the subject, perhaps news of the new cat piece could actually act as a cat-alyst to revive and reinvigorate other classic games. Cluedo, for instance, could become Claw-do, with players hot on the trail of a missing Persian. It could really cat-ch on!

And, of course, why restrict this innovation just to cats? After all, the Scottie Dog was voted the most popular Monopoly token of all time. Dogs could also take  a lead role in specially-themed, canine, trivia board games with questions on popular composers such as Bark and Offenbark or on more modern music by Bone-o? And how about new canine versions of favourite TV programmes? After all, Coronation Street already has the Rover’s Return …

So folks, we really should thank Hasbro, the makers of Monopoly. After all, it’s great to stay inside playing games when outside it’s raining cats and dogs. And as for Moggyopoly, I do think it’s a winner. I certainly have good felines about about it.  So why not join me? After all, I’m game…

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RE-BRANDING: 269 CAMPAIGN

These days when some certain sections of society talk about branding, they’re often referring to designer labels eg that little Gucci dress, Jimmy Choo shoes etc.

Or you’ll hear long, heartfelt pleas from parents unable to afford the latest Nike branded trainers for their children and who fear their offspring may encounter bullying at school if they sport inferior brands.

Other times, you may be surprised to discover that the superior brand of baked beans you buy in the store is nothing more than a souped-up version of the identical, supermarket own-label, baked beans but with a nice new label and a charming hike in the price thrown in for good measure.

Guys, it’s a jungle out there!

So, it was quite a surprise when news reached me of a brand new initiative in the Vegan world. What could this possibly be? Was vegan celebrity, Russell Brand, going to have his portrait featured on one of Ms Cupcake’s delicious, hand-made vegan cupcakes? Was racing track Brands Hatch going to be given over to a day of organic vegetable box car racing? Were Sainsbury’s giving away free bottles of vegan brandy?

No, it was explained patiently to me.

“We’re talking about human branding.”

“Human branding?”

“Yes, you know how cows get branded ….”

Visions of red-hot branding irons appear in front of my eyes, followed by the awful, sizzling sound of the scalding of the flesh of a poor, innocent animal…

“Yes, but when you say human branding, you don’t mean people are actually going to line up and …?”

I must say at this point that I hold the current titles for Miss Squeamish and Miss Zero Pain Tolerance. To me, you’re a hero if you get your ears – or for that matter any part on your body – pierced or tattooed. Even having acupuncture gave me the needle.

“So, run this by me again,” I asked uncomfortably.

“There’s a video,” it was explained. Through nervous gaps in my fingers I watched a video of activists in Israel being branded with red-hot irons for their new 269 campaign. http://www.269life.com  Not easy for me to watch or for them to endure but it’s something that cattle collectively and unwillingly have to go through every day.

The 269 campaign first came about, I learned, when some animal rights activists in Israel were moved by the sight of a little calf on a dairy farm, branded with the number 269. This doomed little calf made an impression on the guys as deep and indelible as the mark of the branding iron on the calf’s flesh. As a sign of solidarity with farm animals and to highlight the cruelty of the dairy industry, the activists started the 269 campaign. They subsequently took the brave but painful move of having the number 269 branded on their own skin, using a red-hot branding iron, in Israel on 2nd October 2012.

The point of the 269 campaign is to highlight the cruelty of the dairy industry: an industry where male calves are unwanted by-products because they don’t produce milk. The calves are then either shot shortly after birth or sold to the veal industry. It could make you weep even more than being at the end of a branding iron just thinking about it. At least, the physical pain of the branding will heal eventually. The pain of dairy animals just goes on and on…

Of course, a more painless and equally long-lasting way to show your feelings against the dairy industry is simply to go vegan, and that really is what the campaign is all about.

The red-hot irony is, of course, that humans don’t even need to drink milk from cows at all. Cow’s milk is designed for baby cows. It makes them big and strong and turns them into grown-up cows. It was never meant for humans – being full of saturated fat and growth hormones – any more than giraffe milk, gorilla milk or tiger milk would be. Hardly surprising then, that a huge majority of people on the planet are actually lactose intolerant.

And, of course, there are many kinds of delicious, plant-based alternatives to milk available such as soya milk, rice milk, oat milk, almond milk and hazelnut milk. Also there are vegan cheeses from companies such as Vegusto, Redwood and Bute Island; vegan yoghurts from Alpro and much, much more.

The Vegan Society have lots of information about all the different kinds of dairy-free products out there and about how to go vegan. www.vegansociety.com.

The 269 campaign is now coming to different cities in the UK later this year, with volunteers who feel strongly about cruelty to dairy animals already lining up to take part. In London, two women and one man are already planning to have themselves branded on 21st March 2013.

I’ve no doubt that the people volunteering to do it have already had enough lectures about how painful it will be. As one concerned lady on a BBC radio phone-in said yesterday, when asked about one volunteer who is planning to have himself branded: “Oh no, he shouldn’t do that, he’ll feel so poorly after it.” This was a lady, who although compassionate enough about animals herself to abstain from eating cows and sheep, sorrowfully admitted that she did “eat the poor pig”.

Of course, some people will even claim that the whole 269 branding exercise is nothing more than a publicity event. One which the press will run with one day and run away from the next, in search of something even more eye-catching and eye-watering. No doubt, some critics will ask if the same effect couldn’t have been achieved by the participants dyeing their hair red, wearing yet another armband, or having a nice, sensible, washable tattoo of the number 269 instead?

Maybe, but then haven’t people always done desperate things to highlight injustice? It’s only a century ago that women were chaining themselves to railings, enduring force-feeding and throwing themselves under horses to earn voting rights for women. Some people may argue that that wasn’t the reason that women were finally given the vote, it was for their invaluable work during the war. But, once the seeds of an idea are planted, who knows where they might lead?

So I, for one, am not going to debate the rights and wrongs about whether people should volunteer themselves for this human branding exercise. The guys are adults, they’re over 18, it’s their bodies, and it’s their right to protest against a wrong and cruel industry.

At the end of the day, you’ve got to admire those guys. After all, they have got bottle and, happily, not one single drop of it comes from a dairy cow.

For more information about the 269 campaign, please visit

 http://www.269life.com

 http://thethinkingvegan.com/interviews/269-the-interview/

 For information about going vegan, visit the Vegan Society www.vegansociety.com

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