Review of Veganuary and DryJanuary

So the day after New Year I rashly decided to join in with Veganuary and Dry January. I would go vegan for a month and also abstain from alcohol. This should have been relatively easy for me. I am already vegetarian and I had given up drinking last year only to start again during the Christmas festivities.

I loved all the food I had made at Christmas and the wine, champagne and port I had drunk. By New Year I felt bloated and unhealthy so it all seemed like a good idea.

The vegan part was incredibly easy. I went to the supermarket and bought lots of fruit and vegetables but also some luxury vegan foods like fake meats. My bill was quite high. I really enjoyed making all the dishes I had. I was having exotic fruit smoothies, nutty salads and home made vegan burgers and pasta dishes. I felt quite good. I didn’t lose any of my extra Christmas weight though.

In the second week I cut out the heavy carbs and just ate tons of fruit and veggies. My gut went into overdrive and I was going to the loo about six times a day. I did not feel good. So much for health. All that fibre must have been a shock to my system.

By the third week I was bored of virtue. I had a Chinese takeaway though it was still vegan and a couple of portions of chips. I started drinking wine again. I was still counting all my calories religiously and entering them into My Fitness Pal and according to the figures I should have been losing weight. I didn’t though.

In the fourth week I ate a healthy vegan diet with all the food groups and I did eat out once and had an aubergine curry. Still no weight loss.

I love the idea of veganism. I love the way it makes me feel I am not hurting animals and it makes me feel more spiritual and Buddhist. For dieting purposes something about it doesn’t seem to suit me. My body loves packing on the carbs as fat. I am really annoyed that I was so weak that I started drinking wine again. The stress of selling my house is probably something to do with it. I am aware that I lean on alcohol in times of stress and that this is not a good thing. I enjoy it at the time but the next day it makes me feel groggy and dehydrated.

In February I am concentrating on trying to lose weight. I think olive oil and bread might be the culprits. I have given up coffee. I have gone back to my flexitarian ways and shall be eating the occasional egg and some fish. Mabe I’ll give veganism another go when I am at my target weight. I am trying to give up alcohol again. It was quite sickening to hear about everybody else’s veganuary where they had lost lots of weight and been full of energy. I wish this could have happened to me.

Book Review: Nina George The Little Paris Bookshop

Sometimes books come along that you think were written for you and this one was definitely written for me. A middle aged man is a bookseller in Paris but not just any bookseller. He sells books from his barge on the Seine managing to choose the perfect book for each person to cure their particular malady – usually revolving around matters of love or the lack of it. After recently feeling revived from an encounter with a newly divorced new neighbour he sets off to the south of France in the barge to find his lost love who left him twenty years ago. He takes a blocked writer with him and on the way he picks up a lovelorn Italian who is also searching for someone.

This book is beautifully written, lyrical, magical, peopled with eccentric characters. Its theme is love, the loss of it, the resurfacing of the ability to love, France itself, food, landscape. It will make you fall in love with France all over again. If you are not careful it might make you fall in love with a person again. Watch out!

Book Review: The Fault in our Stars John Green

I enjoyed this book. It describes the love affair between two teen cancer patients who meet at a therapy group. Stated like this the book sounds horrendous but it is much more enjoyable than it sounds. It is funny, irreverent, not at all mushy while still dealing with the big questions about life and death that dying of cancer will throw up for you. The star crossed lovers head over to Amsterdam to meet the heroine’s favourite writer. He turns out to be a cynical alcoholic. Back in the US there is a plot twist which will make you cry and the author is almost redeemed. Young adult romance might sound icky but actually it was a good read and deep enough to keep my interest. Recommended.

Book Review: Hannah Kent Burial Rites

This is an excellent book.

Based on true events, Hannah Kent tells the tragic story of Agnes, a farm worker in Victorian Iceland. Accused and convicted of murder, Agnes is sent to live on a remote farm while she awaits execution by beheading. As the author delineates the detail of Agnes’ mundane days more is revealed about what really happened and the reader’s sympathy for Agnes grows.

The real joy of this book is the quality of the writing. The description of the vicious hardness of rural life in Iceland is beautiful. It reminded me in some ways of Wuthering Heights because of this. The weather and landscape are always central, indifferent to the goings on of humanity. The book is visceral, uncompromising, as cold as a shard of ice.

I loved it.


So let me set down some thoughts of 2015.

Looking outward it wasn’t a good year. There was global warming, the continued war in Syria, the rise of ISIS, the flooding of the north and the endless stream of wretched refugees into Europe. It is hard to think of the positives.

Looking inward, for me it was not really a good year. I dropped out of my CELTA course (teaching English as a foreign language) in February. The careful restoration of my health and self-esteem from the previous year was dealt a hard blow which I have spent the rest of the year trying to recover from. I have been bullied in the work place many times and here it was again. A morbidly obese talentless woman taking her own self-loathing out on me. It always happens like this. My depression rolled in again like a sea fog, spreading its tendrils into every corner of my life, deadening me, covering me with a too heavy blanket. My depression. I don’t have the sort of depression where I want to do myself in. I have the kind of depression that is physically debilitating. I have no energy, I feel heavy and hopeless. I went to the doctor and they gave me tests. There is nothing physically wrong with me. No further action they said. So another pathetic attempt by me to receive help for my affliction ends in failure. I have the wrong sort of depression. They don’t know what to do with me.

I set about curing myself. Part of it was getting my rescue dog Didi. He came from Romania, a hurt broken thing with a gammy leg that hangs uselessly and a fear of many things. I loved him and he loved me. We healed each other. We went on holiday to Cornwall. He was afraid of the sea but he loved the coastal paths. He was scared of the crowds in the villages. We spent the summer on long forest walks in Suffolk and sometimes at the coast. He has gained confidence. He is feisty, growls at strangers, barks a lot and bit one of my house guests. This is no matter. He has a heart bigger than any person and could just snuggle with me all day. He has helped me more than I have helped him.

Didi has taken a lot of my time up, demanding attention like a baby. The result is I have hardly written. I have still not finished my second novel. The year seemed to be full of unfulfilled dreams and unfinished projects. People have done their best to make me feel useless and of no worth. Maybe I am no good in the work place but I have nurtured and loved a dog and that’s worth something to me and to God if not to the scum of humanity that I keep meeting.

I attempted self care, started to eat healthily, exercise and gave up drinking for months. This all went to pot when a massive bout of flu laid me low. Another unfinished project – myself.

As I reflect on the year I know I have wasted a lot of time and I have dwelled on things, events and people who have no worth. I spent too much time on social media where I met more fake friends. People who will only follow you if you agree with every thought they have and flatter them endlessly are not worth knowing or worrying about. Ridiculous feminists who worry about problems that don’t exist, who try to demonise one half of humanity when the demon is within themselves,I have no time for you and your made up words and made up problems.  I have given up my volunteering work as I would rather spend time with my dog than people who do not deserve my labour.

Looking forward, I know I have finally said goodbye to teaching. I no longer have the personality or the will to do it if I ever did. I still haven’t found my purpose but I know it must be out there somewhere. I have learned that the world is sick and people have made it so. I have learned that there are a lot of people who are deeply unpleasant, who take pleasure in hurting others. I don’t feel anger any more. I feel sorry for them as they must be in pain in their godless, cruel Darwinian world.  I want to commit to writing again, to stop worrying about having a day job which has caused me nothing but trouble, to trust that things will work out in the way that they should, to develop my spirituality further. I will stop listening to the bad advice of stupid people. I will stop caring what people think of me. I will follow my own path. I would still like to travel but I will have to find a different way to do it. I will care for my dog and my cat. I will nurture and love. I will find a way to do my bit to heal the Earth to tread lightly, to do no harm. I will seek out people who appreciate me and not give a second thought  to those who don’t. I will look for love and goodness in people and avoid the evil doers.  I will surrender to God’s plan for me whatever it may be. I will fast and pray and meditate. I will eat healthily and I will exercise. I will do yoga. I will spend time in nature. I will fail and I will get up and try again. I have my house up for sale. I am going elsewhere. I am on my way to the future.

2016 will be a better year. Do not be afraid. Embrace it.






Review of the Koran

I read the Koran mainly for research for my novel but also because of my interest in spirituality. It seems kind of wrong to write a review of a holy book but I shall try to set down some thoughts.

I am really interested in spiritual writings. I think of myself as a faint hearted Christian crossed with a wannabe Buddhist. I am really bad at both of these paths but hey I am trying.

The Koran is considered by Muslims to be the word of God as told to Mohammed by the angel Gabriel in a cave in the seventh century. It is divided up into chapters or suras which vary in length. There is a lot of repetition so it sounds like it was originally an oral tradition. I am told that the writing is really beautiful in Arabic but I am afraid this did not come across at all in my English translation. It is a mixture of stories and exhortations on how to behave or live a good life. Many of the stories can be found in the Old Testament so there is a big cross over with Judaism and Christianity. There was a different feel to the Bible though. It felt much more rooted in Arab culture and tradition to me. It is repeated over and over that God is merciful and forgiving if you believe in Him. Unbelievers will be cast into hellfire. People who have led good lives will be rewarded with beautiful gardens with flowing streams, nectar to drink and beautiful maidens.

There is plenty of violence and warfare but no more than is found in the Bible. Some of the rules are different to Christianity, others very similar. Divorce seems much less of an issue in Islam and seems allowed as long as the women are provided for. The texts referring to women seem very rooted in the time and place in which the Koran was written so it was hard for me to relate it to the lives of modern women in Western society. There is discussion of being kind and forgiving to your wives but also rules on how you may beat them. There is an emphasis on daily prayer and recitation of the Koran and dietary rules.

Like all ancient texts the suras can be interpreted in a variety of ways. I saw little justification for the behaviour of extremist Muslim groups like ISIS. There are verses discussing Muslims living peacefully with other religions though also descriptions of wars with the pagans. Like many ancient texts the Koran can seem contradictory and confusing.

I finished with the impression that God is kind and merciful to those who believe in Him but cruel and vengeful towards those who don’t. There was plenty of information on how to live a good life which mostly concerned being honest and helping the poor. There was much spiritual wisdom here.

I didn’t feel moved or involved when I read the Koran in the way I sometimes do with parts of the Bible. It felt alien to me. I am aware this is to do with the cultural conditioning of the society in which I live. It was interesting to read but I don’t think it will make me convert to Islam. I shall continue to seek spiritually. I can see the appeal of the Koran to some and as a guide to life there is much good in it. I believe there are many ways to God and those who seek with honesty will find Him.