Tag: Me

New selfie

I think I just fell in love with Retrica! Excellent app for fun filters and retro looks.

Photo album September 2015

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Storytime ūüôā

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Newcastle on a Friday night

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Newcastle on a Friday night

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Well, I suppose technically this is a view of Gateshead from Newcastle. But who’s being picky?

Newcastle always gives me the feeling of being a vibrant city, full of life.

The Millennium Bridge here has a hen party crossing over, closely followed by what I suspect is a stag do. Probably with many ribald comments being exchanged between the two groups!

The Baltic, when we crossed the bridge and looked up, had some sort of posh do on, with an outdoor grill and a lady shivering in a flimsy red dress before scampering back indoors with her food.

The Tyne (looking up and away and not at the dirty water with of bits of litter in it that we could see beneath us) glinted in the few ragtag rays of sunshine that struggled to come out from behind a blanket of cloud. Looking to the right the bridges gave me that instant jolt of recognition and pride. I’m a Durham girl myself but the sight of the Newcastle bridges gives people from the region a feeling of belonging and identity.

If I were in a fantasy novel the North East would be a little kingdom dominated by the cities Durham and Newcastle. Durham would be the ancient capital, no longer the powerhouse but the seat of some displaced royal family, regal and proud, and the city of the lawmakers. Newcastle would be the new capital, with everyone in the kingdom drawn here at some point in their lives. The place where the village boy comes to seek his fortune, hearing of streets paved with gold. Watch out, GRR Martin.

But it’s not a fantasy novel. It’s an evening in one of my local cities and I can just enjoy being on the Quayside with the wind around my face and familiar landmarks making me happy.

Exercise and Depression

It’s the most obvious thing you get told when you have depression: try exercise, it will make you feel better. While it’s true it’s also one of the most difficult and hopeless things to even think of.

When you have depression getting out of bed feels like a marathon. On the worse days getting through the day is like wading through quicksand. So getting out of the house to the gym or for a walk seems like the advice-giver is having a particularly cruel joke at your expense.

I have struggled with depression for a few years now. I’ve also seen it from the side of a carer so I also know how painfully frustrating it can be to suggest even mild exercise, desperate to help but knowing that it will most likely feel very unhelpful to the listener. I also have a fairly rubbish history of exercise – I hated PE and our teacher’s comments which were repeatedly cruel and hurtful, and combined with the natural grace and coordination of a cabbage, that has left me with a lifelong hatred of anything that resembles physical activity. You can guess the result – I am chronically unfit,  overweight and suffer from lower body pains most of every day.

And I’m supposed to exercise to beat depression?  Uh-huh.

Except the only thing I can say is, actually,  yes.

I was referred to my local gp fitness scheme. I’ve been to the gym 3 times (yes! count ’em!) and there has been an impact already. I couldn’t have done my Memory Walk on Sunday before this. I have done gardening. I have even been able to say that I don’t feel depressed – I don’t remember the last time I could say that.

So, honestly, all I can say to anyone feeling depressed (and ready to throw the nearest heavy object at the next person to use the ‘E’ word) is: don’t give up.

If you want something more specific,  I’ll try. One of the least helpful things in depression is general,  vaguely-positive bits of advice. When you’re depressed you don’t want to know what you should do. I KNOW I should exercise,  I hear it all the **/@^*^/$* time. What I need to know is HOW.

1. Try,  in the good spells (you will have them, promise) to be open to suggestions of different kinds of activity. Activity isn’t necessarily going to the gym, it is anything that lifts your heart rate and gets you moving even a little bit. As far as I’m concerned, all of the following count:
Gardening
Wiggling your bum to spotify or radio or anything with a beat
Wii games – yes dance or wii fit but anything will do to start
An extra trip up the stairs
Any length walk if it’s longer than you might usually do – I mean just 5 minutes longer
Obviously, swimming, dance classes, tennis or any other vaguely sporty thing

2. If you ask me, the important thing is to do something that’s a tiny increase on your current level and congratulate yourself for it. You get the self-esteem boost and you get a little taste of the endorphins that everyone bangs on about. You might not do another thing for the next 3 months but that one little step will make it that bit easier next time, and the time after, and the time after that.

3. Be kind to yourself when you really, really can’t do it. I know you feel worthless but a) you will not always feel like that and b) when you do, it’s really not helpful to have another thing you can beat yourself up for. Activity is an amazing thing when you can do it but it’s not a crime when you can’t and any other attitude will beat you down every time you even think about being able to try something. “Oh what’s the point,  I never stick to anything, I’m too unfit,  some days I can’t even get off the couch so how do I expect to do exercise?” Yes, I know sweetie. Have a hug, have a lazy day (or two), then when you feel better (can’t say it enough, you WILL) have a go at something that takes your fancy. No pressure.

4. Make sure you rule out physical factors that get in the way. Yes I’m unfit and depressed but the levels of tired I felt a couple of months back were off the scale. Sometimes you know deep down the difference between the sludge of depression and just plain old bone-aching exhaustion. If so get it checked out. My thyroid levels needed checking as it turned out; you could also need to check iron levels, underlying infection, inflammation, diabetes. If there is something it is usually easily treated,  so why leave yourself with an unnecessary extra burden?

5. While you’re at the doctor’s, ask about talking therapies. CBT can help you tackle thoughts and feelings that are basically ruining your life and help you solve problems like how to build gentle activity into your routine. And tackling unhelpful thoughts about one thing can lift your mood a fraction, enough to make other things seem possible that just weren’t before.

6. Be patient. It might take years, medication, courses of therapy and a kick up the bum to get you into the place you need to be to make exercise an option.

For me it was chronic pain and health risks, and I might easily fall back into depression tomorrow for all I know. But hopefully, if and when that happens, I can build on what I feel are very real victories here and it will be that tiny bit quicker and less painful to help myself again.

Memory Walk

A few weeks ago on a whim I signed up for the Memory Walk at Chester-le-Street in aid of the Alzheimer’s Society. It is a fantastic cause and my grandma has dementia so it’s a personal cause too.

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My grandma with me and the kids

Now, it’s only 3 miles but it is worth bearing a few things in mind. First, I’m coming from a basic activity level of 0 and the fitness levels you might expect as a result. Second, I suffer from pains in my legs and lower joints so it’s going to be a bit of a push. Below I’ve written up the walk as it happened, only really cleaned up mobile-thumb-typing errors.

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Gathering at the start

10.35 Arrive at Chester Park. Loads of people already here mostly in small groups. Quite a few elderly in wheelchairs.
Go to the gazebo with AS on to see if I need to register or sign in but no, it’s all done online. I’m given a tag, though, to write about why I’m walking to hang on a memory tree during the walk.

10.50 A guy is leading warmups. You need to either have the honed body of an athlete or be in a group to pull this off and I’m on my tod so I watch, kind of wishing I was in one of those categories. Ideally both.

11am Someone from Beamish is leading a Geordie folk singalong with Blaydon Races, Cushy Butterfield and Keel Row. Great atmosphere! Local MP Kevan Jones cuts a banner and we leave.  The family in front of me are wearing the official t-shirts but have printed on a photo of the old lady they’re walking for. It’s a lovely, poignant touch.

11.20 Arrive at memory tree. A couple of people taking a moment. Most people taking photos. I’m fairly near the start so there’s not really many on yet.

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My tag on memory tree

Doubling back we can see the end of the walk. We’re pretty much back at the start now, I think that’s the 1 mile walk finished maybe.

Yes, a steward is directing us right to finish the 1 mile, and left to continue the 3 miles,  so that’s half an hour and a third of the distance gone.

11.35 Passed the amateur rowing club. I had no idea there was such a thing here. There’s a group all ready to go out on the water.

A volunteer is sitting on a bench with an old man, probably in his 80’s or early 90’s. He can’t walk any further, but rather than give up and get help back to the tent he’s waiting and will rejoin the walk on the way back.
It is surprisingly hard to type on the move! Plus I want to enjoy the experience. My ankles are giving me some pain but the rest of me is fine. It’s quite warm but there’s a lovely, very welcome, breeze.

12pm Left the wilderness of the riverside path behind and cut through a housing estate.  We are much more spread out now; only a group of 3 in front of me and none directly behind. Think I gave them a shock in the last wooded bit as the text alert on my phone sent the hunger games whistle out…

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12.10 Keeping a nice steady rhythm going. It doesn’t matter that I’m alone or that my ankles are hurting or that I’m really hot. I feel calm and happy.

We are doing a circle, not going back the same way. I hope someone’s told the old man who was having a rest…

12.15 Arrived at finish line!  I’m one of the early group back and met by smiling husband and kids.  Got a medal and a perfectly timed bottle of water!

I would totally do this again. Get my fitness levels up and go for a more ambitious one too perhaps! I didn’t raise that much but it was so worthwhile; I enjoyed it, and I put myself out for something. I’m proud of myself.
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Arbitrary Politics

So, here’s a random thought that’s been building up in my mind over the last couple of weeks. Ever since I completed the political philosophy unit of my OU degree actually, so it really is very random, with no pretensions to political, economic or any other kind of expertise.

BUT.

How are countries formed? They’d appear to be formed by processes of landgrabbing by various parties, usually begun centuries ago. So the country boundaries we end up with today are basically the arbitrary results of these long-long-term processes. In this way you get countries made up by the elite few in government which will contain various communities with their distinct identities, languages, cultures, and the borders are made to suit the particular political and economic needs of the governments concerned at the time. Sometimes the boundaries are set by outside governments who are remote from the countries that they’re playing around with – I’m looking at you, UK and USA.

This situation will come back to bite sooner or later. Look at the Middle East, Ukraine, Ireland, India. Those arbitrary political borders suit the top guns but cause divisions where there don’t need to be, and lump together different communities because they happen to be geographically close. And we don’t yet know what will happen in the future; there are probably many old sores caused by these types of policy. A Victorian attitude that lingers like a nasty smell was that Africa was made of savages who had tribes rather than countries; luckily for them, we went in and sorted that out and created nice civilised political boundaries (with nice, civilised armies and guns to maintain them) and rearranged the place to our hearts’ content. I think we could perhaps take another good, hard look at ourselves there, people.

It’s possible to get a better idea of actual communities by looking at the linguistic features of the landscape, as accents, dialogues and creoles etc don’t respect political borders. People who form a community influence each other’s, and their neighbouring communities’, linguistic features through natural contact; people either side of a border will share features such as dialect or cultural practices. Why shouldn’t these things be more important when the big boys are playing real-life Risk?

As an example close to home, the current campaigns for and against Scottish independence bring up interesting questions. If there is a yes vote, what happens to those border countries that share far more with Scotland than Westminster? What happens to Berwick, for example, which is de jure England but perhaps de facto Scotland? Obviously it would be impractical to have a Berwick referendum, so they are lumped, whatever the outcome of the vote, with the existing political borders. Further south, Northumbria is an area with a distinct heritage and identity, a distinct regional dialect (with its own subsidiary dialects and accents) that is often almost unintelligible to Standard English speakers, and ten times as far removed from London culturally as it is geographically. Maybe it should be independent too? From an economic and political point of view this is ludicrous of course, but I can’t help thinking that if we could get past these ancient, arbitrary ideas of country and just look at communities, it wouldn’t be quite so unthinkable.

And of course, independence (based on community) doesn’t mean that anyone is taking their toys home in a huff. I mean, surely people can co-operate? I realise this is incredibly naive and idealistic, but let’s face it, political and economic borders haven’t really done wonders for World Peace now, have they? If Scotland vote for independence, it does NOT automatically mean they want nothing to do with England, and it does NOT automatically have to mean that England snatch back everything that they cast a possessive eye over, such as the sterling or the BBC. I don’t think Scotland are rejecting The Great British Bake Off along with Cameron and his cohorts, and I don’t see how it would benefit the UK to have such a dog-in-the-manger attitude. Share and share alike, eh? And perhaps respecting the boundaries of community rather than politics might make people MORE inclined to co-operate with each other. I don’t know.

That’s my five minute rant for today anyway. I expect there’s a million reasons why this wouldn’t work, most of them involving ¬£, $ and ‚ā¨ and anyone is very welcome to comment with those reasons. As I said, I have no illusions about my inexpertise or naivety. But that doesn’t mean I can’t have an opinion, however unrealistic, now does it? After all, being out of touch with reality never yet stopped someone getting into Downing Street…

Dieting fast and other food oddities

I’ve been struggling with my weight for a while now. Managing to hold on to my rather apathetic (to say the least) attitude towards exercise whilst losing the metabolism I had when I was 19 means that I am *cough* stone *cough cough*, have an embarrassing BMI and am heading towards diabetes faster than you can shout “jam doughnut”. The problem is, I like food. I enjoy cooking – especially baking; I enjoy eating – especially cake; I like small social occasions – that involve cake. So any time I’ve tried, rather half-heartedly  I’ll be the first to admit, to diet, I’ve fallen off the carrot wagon rather spectacularly and without much regret. Until I come to try some outfit or other on or see myself in the mirror or a photo.

I thought I’d found a solution to this in the 5:2 way of eating. Y’know, where you eat normally 5 days a week and fast, restricting yourself to 500 calories or a quarter of your recommended calorie intake, for 2 days. You can mix it up, fasting for more days a week or cutting down to 1 day’s fast when you’ve reached your target weight or you’ve had a particularly hectic social life. It sounded ideal, only limiting myself  2 days a week? Cutting out worries about fat, calorie or other monstrosity except for a piddly 48 hours a week? Plus all the other health benefits which were very convincing – hell yeah, I’m up for that.

At first it went pretty well. It wasn’t as hard as I’d expected and I lost a few pounds pretty quickly. Then there  were problems – I had the start of a down time with depression, I had an exam to study for, I had mad things happening at home and basically I struggled to both fit in fast days and enjoy them when I did. And the usual problem of dieting then stopping – the weight went back on, with interest.

Today I thought I’d give it another go. And I was miserable. Not that I particularly wanted to binge on Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food (oh, but now you mention it…) but I was just getting so uptight about the calorie restriction and thinking of some actually very healthy food that I could have been eating instead. Such as the lovely sandwiches Beloved Husband and Emily had for lunch from the new village deli, or the nice granary toast Beloved Husband had for breakfast.

My next approach, ladies and gentlemen, is to try thinking rather more holistically. For a start, as I mentioned above, exercise and I haven’t exactly been soulmates over the last 33 years. I’m pretty sure it’s exercise’s fault, not mine, but I’m prepared to be magnanimous and give it another chance. Our actual diet is pretty healthy to be honest – I could REALLY do with cutting my portion sizes down a bit and being more truthful with myself about how much I snack, but our meals are fairly balanced, nutritious and varied and my repertoire is expanding all the time thanks to books like Jerusalem, Plenty and the River Cottage gang.

It’s funny though, how such an integral part of life, like eating, can be so emotive. You comfort eat (oh alright, I comfort eat), you swing from diet to diet. You turn something meant to be enjoyable into an engorgement where bigger is better (XL Big King, anyone? 32oz steak? triple chocolate fudge cake with whipped cream?) and you lose all sense of proportion. Or you become afraid of food and the horrors of carbs, fat, calories… Speaking of horrors, we turn into horrors ourselves, messing with the food chain to get those bigger burgers, cheeper chickens (boom boom. sorry.) or GM crops. You measure yourself constantly against everyone else – that sinking moment when someone says how horrified they are that they’re so big, and it’s a good 3 stone below your weight – when what you should really be doing is measuring yourself against yourself.

I am overweight, I am unfit and I need to change but not because I’m x size and the mums in the playground or on Facebook are y or z size. I need to change because I don’t want to be monitoring my blood after every meal or feeling too big to wear the clothes I want to wear or avoiding pictures with my babies. I want to graduate in a couple of years with my OU degree and wear a lovely dress under my graduation gown. But I think I need to readjust my attitude to my body fairly significantly; start treating myself with a little more respect and doing what I need to do.

Paraphernalia of one’s own

shutterstock_121678021I’m a carrier. I carry stuff around with me everywhere. If I get a new book (joy of joys) I carry it to bed, to each room that I go to, I have it sitting next to me. I have a box of things that I carry upstairs on a night and downstairs on a morning – this is actually part of my self-help, it’s a tip I picked up from I Had A Black Dog by Matthew Johnstone  and contains things to make me feel better, things that remind me of good stuff, of how to be myself.

All of this evidence leads inevitably to the question of handbags. I’m afraid I contribute to the stereotype of a woman obsessed with bags. I love them. I get a bag I like and I use it until it dies, or at least until I have to give it a little rest in the name of humanity. Bag-amity. Whatever. I could window shop for bags for hours as my long-suffering Beloved Husband knows. And I start with very good intentions, honestly I do. I try to limit what I put in my bag to the essentials – a wee bit of essential make-up, a notebook, purse, organiser and of course, my Kindle. It ends up becoming a receptacle for, well, pretty much everything.

But I feel slightly more justified in my hoardiness now, in my clinging to paraphernalia. Paraphernalia, I have learned, is derived from two Greek words, para -meaning beside – and pherne – meaning dowry (Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, p 989, 2009; also noted from Paraphernalia – The Curious Lives of Magical Things by Steven Connor, which looks like an excellent book). It refers to everything that a woman possesses besides her dowry, ie everything which is actually her own. This doesn’t have all that much meaning now but in a time when a woman’s possessions automatically became her husband’s upon marriage, this paraphernalia is actually very significant and, I imagine, quite precious.

It links very nicely with my recent reading of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s OwnShe famously said that a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write. I’m quite sure she meant it literally, money and your own personal space are both precious and necessary for producing good work. But they are also important for the autonomy and sense of self-distinction that they indicate. Having a space of your own, like having possessions of your own outside your dowry, give you a chance to see yourself as your own entity, entitled to occupy that pocket of space and time in your own right and not merely as ‘wife’ or ‘mother’ or ‘daughter’ however important those roles are. That distinction has been important to women through history, surely? To all humans – that they, themselves, are entitled to occupy that particular bit of space and time despite the prejudices of those around them?

My paraphernalia, then, is a chance to stand up for my rights I suppose! I’m in the lucky position that I’m the only one trying to suppress me, although I am pretty good at that. My paraphernalia is a chance to express who I am – by looking at my paraphernalia, could you tell what kind of person I am? I think so. I have a little bit of make-up – I like to look nice but it’s far from the biggest part of my paraphernalia. I have a notebook – I like to note things down, things that interest me or arouse my curiosity; I’m also a writer. I have a organiser – I’m not very organised and a flick through this would show a stranger all of the lists and appointments and reminders I need to function in the same reality as the rest of the world. It also shows how important my family are to me, in the front there’s a picture of my babies and throughout the pages are appointments like ‘Daniel’s swimming lesson’ or ‘Emily’s nursery’. I have a kindle – books are hugely important to me, and scanning the books I have on my kindle would give someone the impression of a butterfly with a wide range of interests; the books not yet finished (oh, that tell-tale progress bar!) show how my concentration can be distracted by the new pretty shiny thing.

I’d say that’s a pretty good picture of me. So my paraphernalia has truly become, in a sense, my room of my own and my own self and I shall continue to carry my paraphernalia around with me and take up that pocket of space with pride. Or at least, without guilt.

Flitting Around the Arts

It seems my whole creativity has been locked away somewhere, just out of reach. Like a particularly tormenting biscuit barrel that a child (oh no, Emily, whatever makes you think I was thinking of you?) can just see but is too high to touch. I keep saying, I will write, I will blog, I will draw, I will play but it’s never quite the right time for that. I’m beginning to reach it – picture a wobbly two year old stretching and balancing on tiptoes – and part of the reason for that is my recent plunge into the arts.

The Open University course I began in October – and somehow am nearly finished – is The Arts Past and Present and has been a breathtaking tour through history, poetry, art, classical studies, philosophy, religious studies, english literature, music history… have I missed anything? Probably. While the biggest gain from the course has been greasing my rusty old brain cells again, I’ve come away with a new appreciation of The Arts that I never had. I’m discovering the joy of wandering around an art gallery (including the stuff that doesn’t look like anything), reading new poetry (including the stuff that doesn’t rhyme), thinking new thoughts (including the stuff that doesn’t seem to make sense…yet).

Last weekend Beloved Husband and I went into the Laing art gallery in Newcastle. It’s the first time I’ve been to a traditional gallery and happily I had already covered and enjoyed the coursework on art history, giving me some basic skills to appreciate the paintings. I really did. It was awe-inspiring to be millimetres away from these wonderful paintings and to try to tease out what each one was making me feel. I’ll be back. Bwahaha.

And today I got a book of poetry by Carol Ann Duffy from the library in Durham. I’ve never really read her work, and I’m entirely new to poetry having blocked out GCSE English other than a few fragments of Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est. All I know about poetry is an introduction via Seamus Heaney and Thomas Hardy in my course assignment, and Stephen Fry’s rather wonderful book, The Ode Less Travelled. Oh, and I tried some Sylvia Plath but struggled a little, despite really wanting to ‘get’ her. So today I fancied being brave and trying a whole book of poetry by one author and I took home The Bees, Duffy’s first anthology since becoming Poet Laureate. I devoured it in pretty much one sitting and then started again. I loved the language, the emotions she wrought, and the pictures she made real.

So while my own creativity is locked away, I’m feeding on the creativity of others and at the minute, I’ve got a reading list as long as my arm. I don’t know how long it will take me to reach that part of myself again but I do know I’m getting there, and that along the way I’m finding new and wonderful arts to enrich my soul a thousand times more than it was before.

Eat Food.

A lot of different things over the last year or so have changed the way I react to the world. Last year I became more interested in cooking, for example. It was still just one of those things you have to do; I wasn’t particularly enjoying it (although more so than before) and I certainly wouldn’t have said it was one of my interests. It didn’t help that I had a tiny cooker with a bottom-burning oven (the flame was on the bottom of the oven. It didn’t burn¬†my bottom. I mean…oh, never mind.) and fairly basic equipment that hadn’t been updated much since I was a student a million years ago.

I also had the struggle with my faith and an increasing sense of social responsibility, which led me to Quakerism, which fostered my growing sense of social responsibility. And so on, in ever-spiralling ethical, fair trade, recyclable circles. I’ve also developed a fondness for bees, and quite like the idea of having a hive; ‘idea’ is as far as it’ll ever get as Beloved Husband is not that keen on the very expensive and laborious idea, so I’ll have to make do with a bee hotel. Yes, it’s a real thing.

We moved house, which gave me both a brand-new, squeaky-clean cooker (with a proper oven! Of a decent size! With a¬†second¬†oven on top!!) and a garden, with enough room to begin thinking about growing my own herbs and vegetables for the first time in my life. I also saw a doctor about my depression which gave me a sort of permission to start thinking of ways to help myself – including baking. Now that I have a proper oven, I threw myself into baking and found a) that baking and cooking are¬†really, really¬†therapeutic and b) that I can do it. I can make things that make people’s eyes glaze over and cause them to do that little hum of satisfaction. And baking led me to savoury, ‘proper’ cooking, and thinking about our diet as a whole, which has radically changed over the past couple of years, especially the last 5-6 months.

I will admit here that I am pretty badly overweight, but since I enjoy food it’s been a horrible struggle to motivate myself enough to diet. Paul McKenna’s book I Can Make You Thin¬†has been a huge help, with its emphasis on a few simple guidelines, more to do with the way you eat than what you actually eat, and I’ve gained a huge amount of control over what was previously mindless comfort eating. I really notice the flavour of food more now, and get more enjoyment from smaller but tastier portions. I listen to when my body tells me I’m hungry and try to stop when I’m full.

Daniel being a Superhero!Then, bearing in mind that I’m already picturing cabbages growing in my wee garden ¬†√† la¬†The Good Life,¬†we found ourselves in Cornwall on holiday, very near the Eden Project at St Austell.

Wow. I think, in a slowburning kind of way, it might have changed my life. I can’t recommend a visit enough. The range of plants they have growing there is incredible and they hammer home (HARD!) the fact that there is more to food than how it ends up on your plate or in the supermarket. Seeing rice growing, or coffee beans, or cocoa beans, or chilli peppers, makes you think a little bit more about what you’re eating, and appreciate it a little bit more too.

So we came home, and little bits of things are ticking away in my head. Discovering I can cook, along with Andrew’s preference for savoury things, and beginning to read cookery magazines with real pleasure, has led me recently to plan much more healthy and varied meals. We’re even trying vegetarian meals once a week; this is a major thing for us!

Thinking about the source of food, a disappointment over Morrisons’ decision to reintroduce eggs from caged hens into their stores make me look into food sourcing. I’ve bought free range eggs, fair trade coffee, tea, bananas and sugar for years; I’m going back to my brief pledge of a couple of years ago to eat (wherever possible) fairtrade chocolate; and we’ve started buying organic milk.

Then I read a sample (thank you, Kindle) of the wonderful Michael Pollan’s In Defence of Food, as well as his The Omnivore’s Dilemma¬† and I’ve just finished Food Michael PollanRules; yep, also his. These bits of writing have helped me bring together all the different influences on me over the past year or so and how I make changes for the better in our lives.

Basically, his rule is: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Genius!!

The key thing here is to realise that he’s talking about FOOD, not food-like, processed, substances. Richard Bertinet, the chef, has a similar attack on bread, calling shop-bought mass produced bread not bread but a bread-like substitute (yes, bread-making is on the agenda for the near future too). Michael Pollan extends this to all packaged and processed food, and it’s not until recently that I realised just how much of this I bought. He recommends buying fresh, whole foods and cooking yourself wherever possible. He tries to get us to evaluate the nature of our relationship with food, and by extension, with where food comes from ie Nature. It all comes back to our connection to our world and how we impact on it. And how awareness of Nature impacts on us.

Now, I’m not naive (ok, not THAT naive). I know that, particularly now, good whole food can be expensive, and we’re still in the position of having to watch where our money goes. We may well have to go back to eating cheap processed food. But I’m also discovering that with some planning, cooking proper food is actually, counter-intuitively, NOT working out as much more expensive. Seriously. Obviously, some things make a substantial difference such as organic veg, meat, etc. But on the whole, our food bills are little different to what they were 8 to 10 months ago and our diet is changed beyond recognition. I’m throwing out my rules on fats, nutrients and sugars; we’re having some treats, some meats and plenty of veg. I’m also looking at Mediterranean influences and flavours as that’s what suits us as a family.

I seriously recommend that people have a read of Michael Pollan’s work. I’m in no position to judge anyone’s cooking or lack of it or their approaches to food, but I know that I had very, very bad habits which are now changing.