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Book Review: The Man in the High Castle Philip K Dick

I love Philip K Dick. This novel did not disappoint. The future is dystopian. The Nazis and the Japanese won the Second World War and have carved up the world between them. The characters are adrift, trying to make sense of their lives in this cruel, barbaric world. The details are chilling. Everyone is obsessed with using the I Ching to help them make decisions. They are also all reading The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, a novel which describes an alternate reality in which the Allies won the War rather than the Axis powers. It becomes increasingly unclear which is the true reality. I loved reading about the alternative history and the details were convincing though horrifying. The ending was somehow unsatisfying and I was left wanting to know more. Most sci fi leaves me cold but Philip K Dick gets me every time.

Day out at High Lodge, Thetford Forest

I live quite close to Thetford Forest and have walked in it many times. However, I hadn’t been to High Lodge before. I set out with my dog in the car. I turned off at the sign and after some distance there was a barrier where you had to take a ticket. I had never seen one of these at the Forestry Commission before. I took my ticket and parked. I was pretty horrified to discover that the parking was 2.20 an hour or 11.20 for the whole day. I didn’t have enough money with me so I had to telephone my husband to bring some. Otherwise I would not have been able to get out through the barrier. I know this was my own stupid fault for not checking beforehand but I really wasn’t expecting it.

The centre had lots of facilities for families but I didn’t use any of them as I wanted to walk. The walking trails were pretty short so I set out on the Poacher’s trail which was really a cycle route. I enjoyed the walk mostly through fir plantation with some heathland. The trail was well marked but I still managed to get lost and doubled back on myself. It was ten miles I think. I saw rabbits and heard lots of birdsong. The day was sunny so glorious weather for February. The trail was fairly quiet with just a few cyclists. The dog thoroughly enjoyed himself.

When I got back to the car park I had 11.00 to pay in parking fees. This is steep for one person. In future I would just park in some obscure layby in the forest and avoid the cost.

Book Review The Moor William Atkins

I enjoyed this book. It is non-fiction which I don’t read often so it was a refreshing change for me. The author travels around England to various moorlands interviewing characters he meets, exploring and laying out the history of the area. The book is sprinkled liberally with allusions to literary figures such as Ted Hughes, Emily Bronte and WH Auden with interesting stories I hadn’t heard before. I particularly enjoyed the section on the North York Moors as I knew this area well as a child. He describes a grouse shoot in all its barbarity and delves into the differing local views on the subject. In the past the moors were often referred to as a dead space like a desert but I must say I have never found them so. They are full of life: hawks, heather, cotton grass, sphagnum moss… I have always felt drawn to them. As a child you could ride across them for hours hardly seeing a soul save a tweed clad farmer who would tell you your riding lessons were too expensive and use thee and tha to address you like an Elizabethan poet. It made me feel very nostalgic for the Yorkshire moorlands even in the viciousness of their winters which are well described by Atkins. There is something glorious and other worldly about them. You can find God there.

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.