A quick hello …

August 2, 2010

Today is the first time I’ve been able to get online for more than two minutes since getting to Yinchuan. So here’s a quick update. Since July 15th I’ve been back in Ningxia province as a facilitator on the first United World College summer school to happen in China. We’ve got 32 participants from about 20 countries, six facilitators (of which two are the teachers “in charge”) and four film makers. I’m one of the ordinary facilitators.

The participants are about 2/3 from developed countries, mostly West European, and 1/3 from other parts of the world. The programme is packed, with breakfast at 7.30 each morning and check-in at 10.45. The focus is on workshops about leadership skills, but also loads of discussions, intercultural communication, and getting to experience China.

So far the highlight was spending four days in Guyuan municipality in southern Ningxia. We stayed in a village in the mountains in Jingyuan county, which has been part of a government programme of diversification to stop deforestation. The new industries are growing saplings to sell, tourism, and exporting workers to the city. It was a slightly bizarre scenario since there have only been a couple of foreigners there before and never a crazy group of 40 like this, completely taking over the new section of the village and sending all the children crazy. It’s a Muslim village with several mosques which the Muslims in our group were able to attend: they were also the only ones allowed to help preparing food. We were supposed to be working in the fields with the villagers, but this was called off due to the weather (it’s the rainy season at the moment) and so instead the participants taught english to the kids and we had a question and answer session with the local teacher about the history of the village.

Back in Yinchuan now, and the workshops have revolved around topics such as communication, meeting management, public speaking, and project management. There have also been daily cultural seminars and chinese classes, sports, and other activities. For example yesterday Niko and I took a group of 18 to sing karaoke at lunch time – it was crazy fun! There have also been the usual delights of organizing things in China, with constant change of schedule (for example we were shipped off for two days to randomly teach middle school teachers on their summer training course), and a very brief encounter with the big brass when a vice education minister of the central gov’t visited Yinchuan this morning. I have the rest of the day off, then tomorrow we’ll take the participants to the desert, and on Wednesday we leave for Beijing. It ends on Sunday. Been a very busy but fascinating few weeks. More later!

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Esch-sur-Sûre

July 8, 2010

My dad bought me a camera as a leaving uni present. So we tested it out on a trip to the lake at Esch-sur-Sûre. Outdoor swimming is one of my favourite things. Best when the water is full of bubbles and streaky light.

I also liked the colours of this picture of mum and Doz leaning over the railings above the lake.

In the evening Viv ate a stack of macaroons. With help.

Good thing I own a camera now, since I’m going to China tomorrow. Stay tuned for the next update, beamed in from the other side of the world, where people walk upside down. At least that’s what they told me when I was 5.

It’s good to talk about death

July 8, 2010

Since finishing studying, I’ve thought about death a lot. More than usual, and also more acutely. It’s frustrating because you imagine it should be a time of endless freedom and happiness, not brooding about dark things. It began to hang over me heavier and heavier, like a dark smelly blanket, but I didn’t want to talk about it. Especially not with my family. Which is ironic because we talk about death all the time. But on a tangent. Dad goes to his second cousin’s funeral. Viv talks about another nasty medical case – she’s reading the blog of a woman who died of cystic fibrosis. A bird whaps into my sister’s window and dies slowly on the sill. But that’s their death. Not ours.

Yesterday I dug out a box of old photos from the attic, and found us as little children, and my parents in their thirties. Everyone looks so young. Mum and Dad are slim and smiley with soil-dark hair. Me and my sisters are tiny, cute, and simple. That time is gone and it’s not coming back. I sat down on the sofa in the evening, and began to cry. Silently at first, but soon tears were streaking down the side of my face, and I brushed them out of the way like an angry toddler, sinking into the sofa, wanting to vanish. The room shook, black and blurry. Everything seemed so unfair. Why do we have to die, and no-one tells us why, or what happens after. Why is there no certain light to scald away the worst fears. I cried and cried, and it felt like I was quite alone, and nobody could understand, and I could never talk about it with anybody.

Which is funny, because of course really you can talk about death with anyone. We all get it. We’ve all thought about it. We (almost) all know people who’ve died, people we cared for. We all fear our own death, and most of all the death of our loved ones. Or lie awake at night, feeling the pulsing abyss somewhere close by. It’s funny the words that that stay with you. Woody Allen can’t tell his children of his terror of the void. And I barely remember talking about death with my mother. Not properly, not in the “Mum I can’t stop thinking about death I don’t want us all to die” kind of way. Only as a child. Now I don’t want to bring it up. Which is silly.

Because like a bogeyman under the bed, death becomes less scary when you tackle it straight on. And this time sobbing on the sofa was like the storm which clears the air. I talked to my friend Emily for over an hour, and afterwards felt a lot better. The conversation wound back and forth across the full emotional spectrum, and by the end I was laughing. Now it was back to the old cliches. Death is but the next adventure. . Death is natural. Death should not break us down, but spur us on. It is the contrast against which our life gains its shine.

Of course, it’s hard to do this topic justice on an ordinary day like this. Not a day when a friend died, or someone got cancer, or I almost fell off a building. But then again, most days are ordinary days. They matter too.

Fizzing without fire

June 26, 2010

“When I was 16 they caught me and I was put in prison. I remained there for 23 years. We were starved, tortured, deprived of sleep, forced to do hard labour. The ones that survived, we depended on each other completely. If someone was sent an omelet by relatives they cut it into six pieces and shared. We turned the prison into our university. At the time I was basically illiterate, my parents were poor farmers and I didn’t go to school, but in prison I learned to read and I read and read and read. I began to write poems, and smuggle them out. One day in the post I received a package from Mexico. It contained a book of poetry, with 12 of my poems written inside it. I was amazed.”

The speaker was a wiry old man with a soft smile and a red fluffy v-necked jumper. He looked like a retired academic or a lawyer. Not someone who had spent his entire youth in one of Franco’s prisons. He was speaking to a class of Spanish teenagers, who sat silently and watched, eyes wide. And I sat in the darkness of the almost empty cinema, and felt a sudden sharp pang in my chest, like hot white light. I had been moping, today. Restless and prung by the vertigo of finishing university. Adult life suddenly looks a lot closer, and this near vision doesn’t do it many favours. The difficulty of career and success seems closer, the limits to time and ability and luck. And death, too, seems closer, over-shadowing everything like a great black hole sucking time and existence into into its jaws, chomping greedily backwards through my future. Threatening to part me from those I care for. No. I will not allow my life to be defined by death, or by limits. But that can be easier said than done. Our mind is so hard to control.

This is one of my greatest challenges. Perhaps it is for everyone? I don’t know. How do I keep my mind on track. How do I keep my energy and my enthusiasm and my love for life and my joy for my friends. How do I avoid darkness and laziness, or losing my way. I look into the eyes of the man on the screen, and see his love for knowledge, his tenacity, and his roaring moral fire. He knows what is right and good and brave. He knows what has dignity and meaning. He knows what matters. He knows like someone who has been forged in a fiery furnace, hammered like steel… yet has he left his imprint on the hammer, or merely been shaped by it? Is he a better man because of what he has been through? Or is he twisted and blinded by a fate brought about through luck? The credits roll, they bring no answer.

I walk home through the half-light. What is life without a purpose? But what is a purpose where it may be constantly doubted? How do you reconcile our statistical, predictable nature, with our conviction that we do have free will, and that our actions have meaning? And why do we ask ourselves these questions again, and again, and again? I pour myself a glass of harsh-fizzing water, wet my hands with it and rub it over my face. I fizz, and I smile.

.

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Note: the speaker in the film was the Spanish poet Marcos Ana. I think he’s brilliant.

Note the 2nd: It’s amazing how writing gets the feelings out of ones system! I feel like I’ve just extracted a feckload of venom from a wound and now my smile is on the inside too.

The quiet after the storm

May 18, 2010

I’d expected that finishing my last ever exam would be amazing. Instead I felt shell-shocked and slightly sick. Free, but still not really free. It’s out of my hands now, and I’m waiting for the piece of paper with my grades; the university’s assessment of what I’m worth, and how worthwhile my time of study has been. I know I won’t have done as well as I could have done, but as long as I do reasonably OK, I’ll have no regrets.

Still, when it comes to getting over the stress of finals, there’s no better place than where I am now. Me and 10 of my classmates from Chinese are spending a few days in a cottage on the west coast. It is beautiful. We’re on the North shore of West Loch Tarbert, having driven up Loch Lomond and down along Loch Fyne yesterday afternoon to get here. The house is big with huge windows onto the Loch: Here’s me by the window! (All photos in this post are from Kit)

Last night when we got here Will cooked a delicious dinner of lamb with ratatouille and fresh salad followed by homemade muffiny sponge cakes with orange syrup. Then we settled down for a drink and a relax in our little house. I went for a walk but it was pitchblack and I got terrified by the noises of animals so ran back to the house – I’ve become a proper city girl me! Here’s a photo of some of us after dinner:

OK it’s Wednesday now, the sun is in and the weather has settled with deeper blue-greys and light drizzle. The water is seaweedy with blobby purple-spotted jellyfish. I like the dull light that glows across from the south.

Yesterday we climbed up a dewooded hill to see the view. You can just see the edge of Jura in the distance. The estate is 1000 acres with just a few houses. There used to be 5 crofts, though all have been long abandoned and are being turned into holiday houses. Here is us climbing – I’m the one at the back scrambling up the next bit.

Then we rowed out into the Loch in a rowing boat. It was very choppy and we were pretty inept at rowing, so unlike the lads who took the canoe and zoomed across to the other side, we lulled about near to the shore, drank some whisky, and spotted a seal. The woods were beautiful too, with that perfect fresh green colour that is special to May.

In the evening we had delicious roast chicken with salad and a garlicy sauce full of mint and lime. Then we played mafia (like wink murder but you get to lynch people) and generally mucked about. I’m reading a book about evolutionary psychology and the genetic determinants of supernatural beliefs which is very interesting. Today has been very relaxed, with large quantities of food, reading, and lounging. The next plan is to drive to the fishmongers for some fresh salmon and mackrel. I’ll be leaving tomorrow bright and early to get the bus back to Edinburgh. After quite a refreshing three days.

Scorched Earth: A plea to labour and the left

May 10, 2010

There are worrying vibes going round the Labour camp. Twitter, the Guardian, mates at the pub; it’s everywhere. It’s the desire to undermine the Lib Dems, to make things as difficult for them as humanly possible, and even to hope they fail. Hundreds of comments about “Lib Dems scuttling to Labour” and “Con-Dem to be stopped at all costs”. Putting Nick Clegg up on ebay and other hilarious internet satire. It’s all very funny, and it’s important to be critical of his dealings, but I’m not sure how constructive it is. Indeed from some parts of the left, what I’m worried about is  the Tory-baiting temptation, and a return to scorched earth thinking which could harm us all.

The scorched earth strategy was pursued in South Yorkshire in the 90s. Thatcherism destroyed the local economy (based on coal mining and steel), but in some cases the Labour-run local authorities made things deliberately worse. Sheffield City Council is widely thought to have tried to bankrupt itself in order to force a government bail-out. City funds were piled into paintings for the town hall and building Sheffield Arena (where ironically Neil Kinnock delivered his death speech in ‘92). Local rates were increased to such high levels that the poor couldn’t pay and were forced to default. Nationally this was mirrored in the rate-capping rebellion. Now they try to deny it, but party members were quite aware of what was going on. The strategy was to create huge difficulties for the Tory government, while maximizing local rage.

I describe this as a parable for how a party whose very purpose is to protect the poor might play a game that harms the poor. Because right now we face some very dangerous decisions. The cuts proposed by the Tories would create massive social damage. There is no doubt that they intend to slash local services, especially provision of nursery places and support for the vulnerable. The much praised “free schools” scheme, modeled on a trial carried out in Sweden, has been roundly condemned by the Swedish authorities’ own research due to increasing educational inequality. There is no justification for a short-term debt reduction plan which is certain to cause long-term damage to social and human capital. Especially since it is entirely avoidable. But this is the Tory plan.

The worst case scenario then, is a conservative majority government. This must be avoided at all costs. And there are only two ways it can be avoided. Either 1) a “progressive coalition” of the left, or 2) a lib-con coalition of the centre, keeping the Tory rightwing in their box. But I am worried that there are elements in Labour who seem determined to avoid either scenario. Which leaves only outcome number 3), a government collapse followed by the inevitable election of a Tory majority. After all they were only 16,000 votes short this time, and are the only party with the cash to run another campaign.

Why would anyone in Labour let this happen? Due to the same sort of scorched earth thinking described above. We know the economy is in for a rough time in the next year, we know some cuts will be made. But they want the pain to fall upon the conservatives, to let Britain and the Tories burn together. A short period in the wilderness would allow the Labour party to make a clean break from its unpopular leadership and emerge fresh and renewed, with a soothing hand to wipe the tears suffered under recession and Tories. The worse the pain in between, the greater the likelihood of cruising back into government in an unreformed electoral system. We’d be begging them back all sins forgiven. But this would be deeply irresponsible. You can blame a rabid dog for savaging the electorate, but if you could have stopped it and chose not to, then you too are to blame.

This is why Labour must put country before party, and talk to the Lib Dems. Ideally they would cobble together a coalition of the left which offers swift electoral reform, and bring the deficit down gradually without regressive cuts. But if this can’t be done, they must allow a lib-con coalition without trying to sabotage it. I understand the temptation. The Lib Dems are treading on eggshells and risk a severe grassroots backlash. If they collapsed there would be a flood of refugees to Labour and possibly the greens. But this would be a TERRIBLE OUTCOME for the left. Labour might gain, but the Tories would gain much much more. A Lib-Dem collapse would rule out any coalition of the left, and it would prevent any co-operation with the right.

And Nick Clegg “selling out” to Cameron would be an absolute PICNIC next to leaving Tebbit, Letwin et al with a chainsaw in one hand and the keys to the country in the other. The Lib Dems need our support no matter what. Of course, we must use all our political pressure to ensure the best deal possible with the most concessions – especially anything we can get on electoral reform. But equally, we must refrain from pulling the rug out from under their feet. The sniping, bitching, ranting that has been going round and round, the blatant hope that the Lib Dems will be finished if they make any sort of deal: it is just not helpful. Because the Lib Dems have no choice, unless you make a better offer.

The ball is in Labour’s court. Labour activists, if you want the best deal for the country, you either 1) push for a fast and full attempt to build a progressive coalition based on compromise, or 2) sort yourselves out in private, and in public be constructive, on no account trying to undermine Clegg’s delicate work.

Whatever you do, don’t throw the Tories, the Lib Dems, and the whole of Britain into the furnace together.

I realize that directing this rant at “Labour activists” may not be the most pertinent. I’ve no doubt that the majority within the Labour party understand these things already and want the best for the country. And those eying a “Lib Dem fail” in gleeful expectation of savaging them afterwards are hardly confined to Labour, indeed those to the left of Labour may be even more guilty. Nevertheless, this is a crucial time, and we must all hold our politicians to account. Constantly, but most important, responsibly.

How I joined the greens

April 25, 2010

I joined the green party when I was 16. We had just invaded Iraq, and I knew nothing about politics but that I felt confused and horrified by what our country had done. The papers were full of blood and the streets were full of angry people. I read Michael Moore’s “Stupid White Men”, tied a white cloth around my arm and with my friend Jess, we hoisted a banner up the flagpole in the centre of Sheffield which said “No War”. The police left it up.

I’d never met a green before. My parents and almost everyone I knew were Labour – enraged Labour, but still Labour. The city greens had no councillors and seemed to have no members anywhere close in age to me. I came along to some meetings and was pounced on as a scarce “young activist”. But I’d only heard of climate change as a diagram in geography class marked “global warming”. To me “the environment” was an image from a kids book where the world’s endangered species fly away through a hole in the ozone layer never to return. So I began to read and the more I read about it, the more passionate I became. I tried to win my friends over to the green cause – to my surprise, they thought I was crazy.

This honeymoon with the green party lasted only a few months, until the spring council election when I campaigned for them and they once again failed to get a seat. A photo of the greens appeared in the local newspaper, looking scruffy and long-haired beside the smart-suited Labour and Lib Dem candidates. I felt they weren’t taking it seriously, and worse I began to suspect they cared more about closing down the local incinerator than fighting poverty. That autumn I moved to a small fjord in western Norway where the tentacles of British politics didn’t reach and the green party was left far behind. I battled my economics teacher because I thought I was a proper lefty and despised the market. Then I spent a year in one of the poorest parts of China, where it was clear how market reform was bringing millions of people out of destitution. When I started uni, I felt I was a gritty realist. I quit my politics course to study Economics and Chinese, and after a row about the greens’ stance on the Euro, I left the party.

At this time the greens were experiencing their brief magical high in Scotland, with 7 MSPs. Since I was involved in the activst group People and Planet (though always a bit of a malcontent) I knew lots of young greens as well as Mark Ballard the green MSP and uni rector. I agreed with them on many issues, and even helped campaign for them. But ultimately my attitude was that they weren’t quite right. They were too fluffy, with a noted tendency to get stuck in stereotype fixations.

But who else to choose? No other party was serious about the environment. No other party was as committed to peace. The greens were also strongest on transport and supporting developing countries. The biggest sticking point was the economy. The greens have radical views on sharply increasing government spending, and on pushing for a new, fair and progresssive economic model. It is bold and the aims are laudable, but to be frank, I wasn’t sold that it would work. The economy is immensely complicated, and the most important thing anyone can learn about it, is quite how ignorant we still are, and quite how easily we can screw it up. There are clearly serious problems to be fixed, but the treatment must not be worse than the disease itself.

Then came the 2007 Holyrood election, and the greens were slaughtered. As we downed our pints and cheered (in my case at least) for the SNP victory, the horror dawned that the greens were in for a massacre. Having seen first-hand the important role greens can play in shaping the national agenda with just a few seats, I was desperate for them to hang on. I turned to my friend Esmi and said that if they lost more than half their MSPs, I’d rejoin. They kept only two. I signed up again the next morning. But in retrospect, my decision was inevitable.

Because for many reasons, if you believe in even half of what the greens stand for, than you are better in than out. For there is no-one else but them. On the issues where the greens are weak, we already have the main parties, which totally dominate our politics anyway. The electoral system is unfair and the media is biased. There are many reasons why the greens do not have the vote or the support which they should have. Survey after survey shows that a far, far higher proportion of people agree with green policies than actually vote for them. This is because they think a green vote is a wasted vote, or because they didn’t know the policies until they did the survey. A small increase in the green vote matters. It makes their voice louder, and encourages creative debate on serious issues: it has shifted the main parties gradually in the direction of environmental sustainability. Proportionally, my energy supporting the greens is far more influential than it would be supporting a big party. And on many issues it is the most effective way to get heard and help bring change. Without bottling it on the biggest issues of all.

And as for the economics. Now is a fascinating time of debates across the economics profession. The neo-liberalism of the 80’s has taken a sound thrashing, though it is still strong. Research on environmental economics and happiness economics has exploded, and many of the world’s best thinkers are taking a new look at  the fundamental ideas about how the economy works. The greens are leading the way in spirit, but they lack resources. We need these resources. We need to work out how to organize our economy in the best possible way, only then can we see off the threats of climate change and oil running out, while ensuring that all people get the best possible opportunities in life. But these resources won’t come unless we fight for them. Therefore, imperfect as any party must be, for me the greens are the only alternative.

This wasn’t meant to be a plug for the election. I’ll be writing that soon 🙂 (Though check out this article on Caroline Lucas, the party leader and hopefully soon-to-be first green MP). Enough to say that this election really, really matters. We are the only major European country without a green rep in the national parliament, and for the first time, there is a very good chance of this changing in under a fortnight. History is being made. With this going on it might seem a bit self-important of little me to write a “my history of why I joined the green party”. But it’s not. I may not be prime minister, a paid politician, or even a candidate. But I am an individual with a heart and a brain, and I matter just as much. And so do you.

Not voting? Get over it.

April 13, 2010

This was a rant directed at my poor cousin who possibly hadn’t deserved it. But I’m sure you know people that do. Yes politicians have to engage people better. Our democracy can obviously be improved. But that’s a separate issue.

I have NO sympathy for people who choose to not vote out of principle. Having lived under the communist dictatorship in China for several years, and helped fight against the erosion of democracy in Hong Kong, it really boils my blood that people are willing to wash their hands of our own political system. Of course it’s got problems, of course all the party leaders are wankers, of course the policies are often obscure and populist. What do people expect this isn’t utopia. The reason a lot of political campaigning is stupid is because voters behave stupidly. If people choose to vote for grinning, lobotomized leaders that’s what we’ll get. However the fact that our country is still ticking over and for example, most people can get an education, make a living, and not get arrested and tortured without trial, shows the process is still working at least reasonably well.

If you sit around at home waiting for parties to come out and “engage you” then you’re wasting your time. Why should THEY have the responsibility to engage YOU? THEY are run by ordinary individuals like everyone else. Most people who canvass and campaign for parties are randoms with 9-5 jobs who support the party out of their own salary. Sure lots of them are wankers, but lots are nice too, just like most people. And there’s some paid a salary with public funding, but that’s still only one for thousands of people. Or do you expect there to be a party with a message that fits just what you want? Feks sake there are 6 parties and 60 million people in this country. Clearly they are going to have generalized policies. Plus they have to appeal to a cross-section of political IQ’s, since most people have no clue how economic or political affairs actually work, and can’t be arsed to find out.

If you don’t like any of the mainstream parties, vote for a small party. For example I support the greens. (Who most people ignore because they’re like, “oooh it’s just a bunch of middle class hippies who want to chat about organic celery and live in wind-powered cottages” without even bothering to read their economic or social policies). They may not be perfect, but imo they’d be better than the alternatives.

But the greens don’t get elected. Why not? Because they don’t have the resources to buy billboards or adverts, nor the voter base to get taken seriously in the media, nor the cash to buy off business leaders or tabloid papers. And will the greens come out and engage you? No, they won’t. Because they’re run on a shoe-string by a handful of crazily busy people. And they simply don’t have time to stand on the doorstep of every disaffected bugger who will use them as a punchbag to take out their anger about life, the system, and everything. Though they do try.

You’re right though, clearly everyone does have a right to complain. Many people seem to get off on sitting on their ass whining away about “the system”, and how “none of the parties are right for me”. Well the world doesn’t revolve around you sunshine. If you want that individual attention, set up your own party. Screaming lord sutch did, and it was fucking brilliant. In the mean time though, complaining isn’t that much fun. It’s quite repetitive, and people tend to ignore you after a while – yeah I’d say it’s a bit shite. So how about taking a few mins to let the computer tell you which party you apparently want to vote for, and then go and engage with them. Or at the very least, use your fekkin vote. 🙂

Apathy: I thought it was cool when I was 12 too.

Economists – we have blood on our hands

April 4, 2010

From Soviet planning disaster through to IMF forced liberalization policies.

It is painful but unavoidable. Doctors have blood on their hands too. Thousands of people have died of preventable diseases or been hastened to their graves at the hand of medical practitioners.

The difference is, how do economists face responsibility when they get it wrong?


As for the rich countries. Watch what they did, not what they say.

Ha-Joon Chang.

Edging in veg

November 18, 2009

I recently discovered that I quite like vegetables. This is a new development. It’s not that I ever refused to eat them, but they certainly never excited me before. I remember trying to turn down mushrooms as a kid, and my mum saying “if you won’t eat that, I’ll never be able to take you to Spain, they eat mushrooms all the time there”. It did the trick. But until I finished school and went off to China, my conception of what’s good to eat was squarely focused on anything with lots sugar or chili in it. Vegetables were dead gooey lumps to fill up the space around pie or chips or egg or toast. Salad barely acceptable.

China revolutionised my attitude to “bitter” veg in particular. By that I mean the likes of auberigine or courgette, which I’d always found a bit “adult tasting” like coffee or beer. (As opposed to the sweetness of peas or boiled carrot). I guess it’s a right of passage of every foreigner to fall tragically in love with north/west chinese red braised auberigine (红烧茄子). The tragedy being that you can only really get it in China. When fending for myself in our uni-flat in first-year, I’d try pathetically to recreate it ending up with almost slimy, chewy, massacred vegetable slush to be enjoyed with some cheese toasties and a can of baked beans. Just sad really. And during the occasional burst of 5-a-day consciousness, I’d wash some limp lettuce leaves which never quite dried and sortof sagged tastelessly with squidgy tomato, then in the disgust leave the rest of the lettuce to rot into its own brown corpse-fluid at the back of the fridge.

So I’m not quite sure where this new hunger came from. Though it seems to have just grown suddenly and naturally, like how old music which has washed over you for a lifetime in shops and buses can suddenly click and you realise it conencts somehow, and to your surprise you want more. Perhaps it was that I started cooking for others more this year, started taking the time not just to throw something together which was going to supply the required calories without sudden death, but that might be edible. Or perhaps its the one supersharp knife in our new kitchen, which sears through onion flesh like a ski through snow, giving a feeling of force and speed and control which is almost a wee bit epic. Or my flatmate’s hand-blender which with absolutely no effort turns an ugly-shaped mass of boiled stuff into light fluffy soup. Or the local veg box which means the dark bottom cupboard always has at least a few earthy, rooty, unidentifiable vegetable-like things. And it’s actually quite nice.

Perhaps it’s partly because there’s something intrinsically lazy about vegetables. There’s no need to faff with dough or mixtures or turning things on or off. But they’re also just really simple, quite beautiful in a way. It’s a weird ponder. I never thought of myself becoming some sort of a healthy-food person, it’s almost laughable really. But it did seemt that something had changed today. As I cycled back in the dark and wet, dreaming of a nice warming carrot and leek stew.