The Wild Beckons

I’ve been waking up at between 1am sometimes 3am to be greeted by the silhouette of a little skinny fox eating the nuts left out for the birds. On other nights we’d see a portly badger moving around our front garden, sometimes knocking over the bird table to get at the seed.

Tonight as I said good night to my little girl, I went into the kitchen and chopped up some apple and carrots, placed it on a little plate and left it on the front lawn. Carefully positioned to catch the street lights.

As I walk back into the house, a fleeting thought what it must be like to live like this, to be free?

I later fire up the Kindle and continue with my sample chapter.

Over the passed week my wife and I realise that we have both had the same aspiration. What would it be like to sell the house and travel the world, in a van.

How to cope with the children? Lack of space and downsizing? Leaving everything behind? How would we survive? There are countless doubts and logistical problems to overcome but I am comforted by a thought that continually reverberates through my mind these days “You have everything you need. You’ve ALWAYS had everything you need”.

I’ve just finished the sample chapter,  How To Live In a Van and Travel by Mike Hudson.  The prospect brings a surge of excitement. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

I will keep you posted.

Photo by Juan from Pexels

Going Vegan: Big Bang versus Stealth

Do you see the world differently to everyone else? Do you see the people around you clueless or unsympathetic to the cruelty inflicted upon animals? If you do, then it’s time to make that change.

For the longest time an idea was taking shape in my mind. How can I reconcile my love for animals versus the food that I eat? It didn’t make sense.

Are you thinking the same?

There was only one answer for me: going vegan.

If you’re unsure about veganism, but don’t know where to start, let me help. I will try and keep this brief and to the point, but  if there’s anything else you need or have any questions please feel free to leave a comment and I will do my best to help.

In this post, I am recommending two approaches for switching to a vegan diet.

BIG BANG

Decide. Have you made your decision? Are you or is everyone in your household  fully on board? If everyone needs more convincing, you will have to lead the way.

Pick a date. A date in the not too distant future where you and/or your family decide that you will no longer eat meat of dairy. By setting a date, it will become real. It’s a very empowering feeling as you’re taking control and decisive action. Say the words, out loud. “On Monday, I shall become vegan” or why not make a pledge “On Monday, I embark upon my vegan journey. By doing so will do my bit to help end animal suffering, become healthier in the process, reduce climate change, etc.” Adapt to suit your reasons for becoming vegan.

Purge. Get rid of all meat and dairy products in your house. Give them away. Here’s where you’ll start publicising the fact that you’re going vegan. If this is new to the people around you, prepare for some interesting conversations, even resistance. To quote comedian Dave Chapelle, in these types of situations people tend to ask one question “What’s going to happen to me?” Maybe more on that in another post (the views of others, not the Dave Chappelle quote).

Re-new. Find vegan recipes. Find meat replacements if you need to, there’s lots of choice out there as veganism becomes more mainstream.

Go shopping.  Get the stuff you need for your first week at least from the recipes you have discovered.

Go Vegan. Start you vegan diet. Plan your week. Cook up some recipes and prepare meals / lunches in advance. Remember you’re taking an amazing step towards living a cruelty-free and empathetic life, be proud.

Find places to eat out. When you’re fed up cooking or just like eating out, prepare for the world of eating out vegan style. I have developed an appreciation for the simplicity and simple foods. If you like in a small town, eating out vegan might be a challenge, however I’ve discovered in cities like Bristol, England there’s so much choice.

Try an app like HappyCow to find vegan places to eat near you. If there are none, call places anyway, they might have vegan options, but not advertised. It might be something that the pub or restaurant has been wanting to look into offering but not had the opportunity, your call could be that prompt.

Stop buying animal products. This is not something you won’t achieve overnight, but start slowly, don’t get overwhelmed and deem it all too hard.

Depending upon on your current lifestyle, this transition may or may not be easy. I was lucky, I had huge support from my wife as she became vegan at the same time.

STEALTH MODE

Here’s where you will operate under your families radar if not everyone is rushing to embrace this. Okay, it’s a bit sneaky.

Replace butter, margarine and soft cheeses. I recommend this first as these are easy items to replace and won’t impact the taste of meals too much.

Replace sweet yogurts. Alpro are creating some delicious dairy alternatives, however their plain yogurt is still a bit too sweet for my liking. This is easily done and you won’t notice the difference.

Find meat replacements. Sausages, hot dogs, burgers are turkey can all be easily replaced by looking out meat alternatives in various supermarkets. Here in the UK, Sainsbury’s have just introduced some amazing new products, checkout the Shroomdogs, THE best sausage alternatives we’ve found.

Replace minced beef with with Quorn or similar soya-based products. If you have a soya allergy replace minced meat dishes with brown lentils. Try making a mushroom and ale pie, you will be surprised. Recipes we have tried are on their way.

Try different milks. We started with rice milk and then progressed onto try every other type of milk in between out there to finally settle on Alpro Oat Milk. I’ve witnessed happy non-vegans, surprised at the great taste of this in tea, which has always been our litmus test.

Replace cheeses. This comes last as I used to love strong, mature cheddar and I haven’t found a good alternative, yet. The best one we’ve found is Violife’s Mediterranean Style Block. Fry this up and you get a strong cheese taste. Another trick is to put Marmite / Yeast Extract into your vegan cheese sandwiches and you can re-create the taste of strong cheese.

I’m working on a meal plan that will take the effort out of planning your first week of switching to becoming vegan.

TIPS:

The biggest fear I think we all might suffer is the fear or missing out so it’s nice to make each special in any way you can.

Chop up some strawberries  and serve with dairy free ice-cream, maybe drizzle with some mango and passion fruit coulis.

Make fresh salads. We found great ones in the BOSH recipe book. Check out the South West Bowl salad. Anything you can do to make yourself and your family feel spoiled, do it as it will really help with the transition.

So I tried to keep this brief, as I could say so much more about each area, but I’ll save that for later posts.

Thanks for reading. I hope this helps.

 

 

Sunrise at Southwark Country Park, Wiltshire

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

You possess skills, ideas, talent and energy. You have the means, the opportunities and the intelligence. You can write, analyse and debate. You hold strong beliefs, different views but you still have love in your heart.

There are others just like you. They are walking around with the missing piece of your puzzle and you are their missing piece, BE their missing piece.

Find out what you can do to help them. To give them back their missing piece and they will do the same for you. Find out what you do the best. That thing or those skills combined that are going to help someone. Listen to your heart, not your mind.

You will know you’re on the right path because your heart doesn’t lie.

There are simple tasks that you do everyday that give you inspiration. These are mundane tasks, like brushing you teeth, making your bed that calm your mind just long enough for you to receive ideas. Then you will have your answer. You will have meaning, purpose and fulfillment.

You possess the skills, ideas, talent, and energy. You have the means, the opportunities and the intelligence.

You have everything you need. You are, enough.

Thank you.

Being Vegan – The First 18 months Of Eating Out

WARNING. Some ranting here.

Catering for vegans, you would think with all the options nowadays that it wouldn’t be painful. Here’s a list of the good, the bad and the downright shameful eating out experiences that we’ve enjoyed/endured for your reading pleasure.

There are some chefs and restaurants that think that taking away the meat and the dairy makes the dish vegan. Yes okay, technically it does, but we long for the day for some thought and imagination.

  • We called ahead, but all we got were cold vegetarian sausages in a bap at The Lock Inn, Bradford-on-Avon.
  • Nandos in Trowbridge was a pretty shameful experience. A mushroom in a bun topped off with the world’s worst service thank you very much.

Maybe this was it, the best it was ever going to be? The pinnacle of our vegan eating out experience? The best was yet to come.

  • Creamed Tea at the Mecure Hotel in Bristol for a company event. Being the only vegan I guess they thought they would offer, biscuits, strawberries and a nutty bar. That day, I had volunteered to take photographs for the event so I was pre-occuppied by getting some nice images… of everyone else enjoying scones, jam and cream. Well, I guess I asked for all this did’t I?

There is a sense that if we upset the vegans enough, that they’ll just give in and start eating meat and dairy again. Or we just don’t know what being vegan means, and we don’t have the means to find out.

  • December 2017 and we are at a Christmas Do organised by Wiltshire Council. I felt bad about complaining about this, especially since it was a free event but something was really nagging at me. In the interest of fairness and equality I finally thought, I had to point out there ARE vegetable spreads available in shops so you don’t just have to slap some cabbage and leaves into white bread and call it a vegan sandwich!
  • The Carpenters Arms, Lacock, different place, same sandwich concept.

Let’s restore some much needed balance to the Force. Here’s a list of the best places we’ve found to eat vegan here in the South West. There is hope.

Be warned, its not a very long list (because we just can’t handle the disappointment and heartbreak).

  • The Cafe Italiano in Trowbridge is an authentic Italian restaurant and never disappoints. They have been gracious enough to allow us to bring in our own vegan cheese to melt onto their pizza. Or get an extra topping instead of cheese.
  • The Lamb On the Strand in Semington provided the most imaginative and generous buffet ideas to date, we were blown away with their hospitality.
  • Valeroso Lounge in Trowbridge has a dedicated Vegan menu. I’m sure you can feel the delight emanating from this screen.
  • The Codfather, Trowbridge – Chips and THE best curry sauce.

And that’s it.

You can imagine how ridiculously stressful eating out becomes, when it should be the opposite. Over the next 18 months I promise to venture further out and try new places.

Enjoy it while it lasts.

Coming Soon. Take-aways.

3 Easy Ways To Raise Your Mood

“I want you to get out of your seat, stick your head out of the window and shout I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

Can you relate to this? Where you find yourself in a state of mind where you just can’t break free from negative thinking? And this low feeling just zaps your focus and energy?

When someone text me recently with these feelings, rather than giving some advice I thought to myself, what do I generally do?

After a bit of thought, I came up with these three simple things that I do to improve my state of mind.

Listen to music. Research studies have shown you can become happier by listening to upbeat music. So, find your favourite playlist (if you haven’t got one, time to create one). Do it on YouTube or Spotify, it’s easier now than ever. Find your guilty pleasures, you’re all time faves, or the forgotten classics, whatever it is, plug in your headphones and let the music work it’s magic. I struggle with focus after lunchtime for some reason. I learned that listening to music always gets me energised and through this period.

Write it down. A few years back I had a falling out with my next door neighbour. I felt terrible for days afterwards. I wasn’t sure how to proceed or even how to feel, my mind filled so many emotions. One evening, I just started writing down what happened and expressing how I felt. It wasn’t something I did much of back then, but I just found myself typing. All of a sudden I felt clarity and objectivity about the situation, my thoughts weren’t jumbled up emotions any more and I knew how to proceed.

Years later we shook hands and we lived in relative normality, but looking back if I realise that if hadn’t have written this down, then I would have kept these feelings of anger and pain all locked up inside and let it bring me down. Getting it down on paper, in a notebook, how you feel and what you want to happen brings clarity and objectivity. I found some interesting points regarding the health benefits of journaling at this article over at Psych Central.

Get out of the house. For me, sometimes just stepping out of the boundaries of my house in the evening can all of sudden raise my spirits. When I was tired from a long day, travelling and training the last thing I wanted to do was leave the house. I just wanted to go to sit in front of the television and not do anything. But I had things to do. I am lucky, I had a dog that needed walking and he would put his face very close to mine when he wanted a walk (which he still does). After the walk, I would come back surprised as to how refreshed I felt, returning with a renewed sense of purpose and direction, even after feeling tired and lethargic. I’m not making this up, this is actually how I felt.

So those are three very simple things that I do, and we can all do to raise our mood and lift our spirits. I’m sure there are lots of other ideas out there, e.g. gratitude. Next, how do we keep these feelings of positivity and hope?

I hope this helps and thanks for reading.

Have a great day.

A Message from Morpheus.

Welcome back.

There’s an idea stirring in your soul. You have given serious thought to what life would be like without the drink? Then you might also be aware of a theory that asserts that there is a version of you out there in the Matrix living the choice you didn’t make.

What is that person experiencing right now? What has happened in their life since the decision? Is that version of you happy or are they miserable with the decision?

Well, I can tell you what happens when you stop.

In my younger years, I wanted to quit this insidious habit altogether, but I never had the courage to go through with it. I guess like everyone, I enjoyed it too much, it was my release, relaxation, crutch and I needed it.

I’ve been looking for a simple way of summarising what this period of life was like for you, as it has been a challenging journey. Maybe by the end of this I’ll have a conclusion, but until then here’s what happened.

Here’s that conclusion to save time: Cutting out alcohol isn’t for everybody, nor is this message. If you feel you need drink in your life, then go ahead, take the blue pill and carry on in blissful ignorance and illusion.

Otherwise, here’s what a version of you can experience.

Clear mind, clear thinking. There was a clarity of thought with what I can only describe as the purest of intentions. It’s difficult to put into words what this felt like, but since you’re not reaching for that support, it’s just you, the authentic you. When you come across hardships, you have to endure and experience that moment with whatever feelings the situation brings. And I think that takes courage and belief in yourself to stick to this path.

You’re not addicted, you’re in control. You’re no longer being controlled by the urge to drink, by the system in place and the pressure to fit in. Alcohol ruled my life. When I was drinking I found that I started planning my day, weekend, my week even around drink. It was something to look forward to. But when I stopped, I was the one in control and I did what I wanted. It felt good.

Other people. Every body will want to know ‘why?’, ‘why did you have quit?’ and they will marvel at your choice and your bravery. Some people in your circle may not like it. They may not like you striking out on your own. They will try to reign you back into where they are comfortable with you. Hopefully, one day they will respect your decision. There will however be other people who have the opposite reaction. They will be inspired by the fact that you are putting your health and happiness first. We are all connected and so the ripples of your decision will start a chain-reaction.

Discipline. You’re doing something difficult. If you are disciplined in other area of your life then this is just another area you’ve decided to be conscious of. When you do this, you will naturally start to think about other areas of your life that you could change, for the better. Visualise what it will look and feel like, the new you.

Energy. Say goodbye to hangovers, tiredness and overeating. Think about the money saved. You will have energy oozing out of you. You won’t be able to sit still. You’ll become an energetic match for good things. Raising your vibrations to where good stuff happens. What other areas of your life have your overlooked? I encourage you to think about how extra hard you have to train to work of those dead calories from booze.

Remembering everything. You may have been out on nights out where you’ve stayed until the bitter end. It is amazing how people can change. You might feel stupid and uncomfortable at the time but the following day you’ll feeling like a superhero just because you can remember everything and how it all went down.

CHALLENGES

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” Theodore Roosevelt

Remembering everything. This is both a blessing and a curse. When you’ve witnessed the night unfold from the nervous excitement and energy settling down at the start to the emotional arguments, history repeating itself you may wish you’d never been born. As a friend once put it “you’re watching everybody slowly turn into an asshole”. Not quite everyone.

You might become more serious and down, depressed. You might feel that you’ve lost the essence of fun, the spark that made you YOU and you’re wondering why “there’s just no more fun in your life”. This is just a phase. I suggest that you take a long hard look at your life and realise the stupidity of this statement. If you need drink to be YOU, then YOU definitely need to stop drinking and get a new life.

Feeling weird in social situations. Yes for a great many social situations you are going to have the face the fact that you won’t be drinking. You won’t be drinking that golden, sparkling tall flute of bubbly they hand you as you walk in, you won’t be tasting the first cool beer on a hot summer evening and you will be toasting at celebrations with soft drink. Get used to it, this will become the norm and you will completely fine with it.

So Neo, you’ve been very quiet. Thank you for listening. I’m not trying to sell you anything, I just want you to realise the freedom available to you. As I said, this message isn’t for everyone, but it could be if you open yourself up to the possibility that this could be your reality.

Thank you.

fearful man hiding his face on the phone

The Inauthentic Life

It was payday and he had to get to a machine before it was all gone.

This late evening, he returned home in desperate need for food, sanctuary and comfort. Struck with immediate fear and dread, he spotted the pile of letters on his front door mat. The vision of the radiant magnolia had been replaced by city traffic.

Slapping down his keys, he raced back and grabbed them off the floor. The man opened each letter carefully, with a tinge of foolish hope for good news. But why would there be?

The bank statement was lurking in the pile. He would get to it eventually. Scanning through the transactions, he immediately broke a sweat at the sight.

He was picturing them now, all sat in an office laughing, congratulating and toasting the amounts being creamed off people’s accounts. He recalled a conversation to live within his means, he recalled the lines of glass bottles chinking down at the checkout conveyor and how everyone stopped at that precise moment to judge.

The little red warning signals sent by the universe had been routinely ignored.

After the first page, the entire statement was a list of unpaid accounts and a sizeable fine for the privilege. “This is not happening”, he thought. It was payday, and now there was nothing left.

It felt like the beginning of the end and he had become blind to any notion of escape. He would forever be in debt. An unpaid parking penalty had escalated into a monstrous fine, the loan repayments, the credit cards had completely taken over his conscious mind. But at least he still had a job, and soon no means purchasing fuel.

The reality gripped like a constricting snake. He had to fight back. He needed to sink his teeth deep into its flesh for it to loosen its grip. Where was the courage? He went on in a daze for a while, continuing to buy food, drink and smoke until he handed over his last coin.

There was a moment of clarity. The wisdom from his brother rang clear and true. It was time to tear down the facade and face the things he feared the most.