Ho, boy. It’s been a long time since I published something on this blog. Or maybe it hasn’t, and I just feel that way since there were so many things happening? Preparations for the holidays are always somewhat erratic, and I am finding myself more and more excited to go back to Norway in half a year.
I started writing more too. A tiny part-time job as a content writer is pushing me to write tiny articles every week. Even if this has nothing to do with my hopes as an aspiring writer, I am hoping it will still keep the writing muscles somewhat active. They felt a little dead after I finished My Friend Lucy this summer. I just didn’t know what to do next. Even better, this job is online and can be brought along wherever there is a computer and a wifi connection.
My partner and I threw romance ideas back and forth, but none of them really stuck. It wasn’t the type of story I wanted to write. But what did I want to write?
It’s been churning at the back of my head for at least a solid year in one form or another. It’s just that I’m afraid of messing the story up, so I’ve put off writing it just because I wanted to be a better writer by the time I tried to tackle this story, which felt important and promising in my head. My problem was trying to write other stories when the story I really wanted to write was right down there at the back of my head, poking me with sharp sticks and demanding attention.
I yielded. For the past week and a half, I have been thoroughly enjoying plotting, planning and pondering characters and plot points in my little narrow-lined moleskine(the regular wide lined writing books of most brands get no love from me) in between holiday get-togethers and cookies, nut roast and homemade caramels. I hope it will be good, and that I will be able to write it.
Just as I was grieving over how slowly I put words to page, with encouraging texts like “write 5k per hour!” and other major achievements, we got the gem of a book from prolific mastermind Neil Gaiman. The View from the Cheap Seats was a welcome tonic to all the encouragement of writing faster, better and more. His own anecdotes of “Just putting one word after another” was strangely encouraging, and as I sat there with the white page in front of me, I decided to do just that.
Oh, what a change it was! From banging my head at any brief pause in a writing session, I could sit down, relax and just write in a leisurely and thoroughly enjoyable pace. The small session in the cold basement of a Norwegian home suddenly became filled with joy of writing again, rather than being yet another chore I set myself to try to write out the stories I would tell myself in my head.
My new kindle tells me that I am not even 20 % of the way through Gaiman’s new tome of non-fiction, but it has already given me tons of encouragement. Plus, series of shorter writing is really practical when there are family members and friends wanting attention east and west, and you only manage to squirrel away for a handful of minutes to read most days.
Happy holidays, god jul, and here’s to looking forward to a whole new year!
So, last weekend while I had the flat to myself, I went and joined the Animal rights march in London. It had popped up in my facebook feel way back when and, being somewhat concerned about out environment and treatment of fellow planet inhabitants, I half-heartedly signed my interest and forgot all about it.
As random luck would have it, my partner went on a trip that weekend and I suddenly had both the time and the means to head over to Hyde Park and join the shenanigans. I donned my most political tshirt and went on my way.
Having little experience with these things, I never quite know what to expect. I joined the climate march last year as well and, well, going alone is just a bit… uninspiring. You spend a lot of time waiting around, and then you try to yell some chants while you walk down a road before you eventually end up in front of Westminister where there are a couple of speeches before you break up and head home again. I’m guessing going there with a group or just with one other person might have made a huge difference to my experience of these marches, but that is on me. It was still an interesting experience. I am glad I went. The energy was certainly palpable and more than half had made their own signs.
As always, I am reminded of how veganism is still mainly a thing for privileged, white people, varied though the demographic was in other way, I counted less than 20 people of colour throughout the march in which there were at least a thousand people (I think).
The only thing that made me downright uncomfortable about the whole thing was when the march passed a McDonald’s and almost every one started booing and chanting “Shame on you”. It was bad enough that our police escort stationed at least 3 police officers in front of their door.
I did not join in. That sort of negative behaviour is not a movement I want to be associated with. Shaming someone for their food choices does not make them likely to change, but giving them a positive alternative might. The behaviour displayed that day just goes to enforce the “angry vegan” stereotype. Quite counterproductive when I would much rather strive for inclusive and engaging behaviours which entice people to give recipes and restaurants a go without attacking them or trying to make them feel bad.
I suppose I’m a bad protester as well as a bad vegan. I did not leave the march feeling invigorated and energized, I just felt a bit fatigued and a little confused as to how it would help in the long run. That might just be my anti-social self talking though, who knows?
Being a child of my generation, at least I got a selfie to prove it actually happened.
Since we are currently living in London, there are many positive things to see and attend for a fledgling environmental activist. The vegan scene is bigger and way more varied than even a fraction of what you might find in the biggest city in Norway. Accessibility to a range of vegan alternatives in grocery shops and restaurants being only a couple of the perks.
This weekend, we ventured a trip to the London Vegfest, a much anticipated event that we had chosen to support by buying tickets weeks if not months in advance. If you know me at all though, you’ll know that I mostly go for the noms.
Sadly, I forgot my camera, but I can assure you there were noms. We gorged ourselves on wraps, hemp burgers, several different kinds of ice cream and lemonade, and that was not even the half of it! We could easily have spent the entire day eating, had the queues to the best stuff not been so long, and had we not become full so fast.
Still, we made sure to stock up on some cake before we went home, for leaner times, of course.
I love food.
I will admit so easily. I always have, and cooking have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I love to cook, and I love to eat. So when I go just about anywhere, you can be assured that food will be on my mind.
But I also like souvenirs. Preferably useful ones, and herein lies some of the crux. It took me a pretty long time to find anything that didn’t either scream of snarkasm, or a condescending attitude to those who are not yet vegan. I am not a fan of condescending attitudes anywhere, and clothing/apparel, even to make someone think or raise a question, is no exception.
This leads me to think about my own faulty attempts at veganism. After all, it was only this year that I was able to afford a new pair of vegan autumn boots, to replace my much beloved old non-vegan pair from before I went vegan. They are microfiber though, which is a cause of some concern for me, environmental studies and concerns and all that.
I also still wear wool. Most of this, as well, from before I went vegan. But there are also a lot of things from thrift shops and friends. I am sorry, but when a friend offers me several skeins of yarn from her own flock of a dozen well-loved sheep, I am not going to feel too bad about turning it into a snuggly sweater. Those sheep had a good life, and I am not going to throw good, useful things on the landfill in favour of “vegan” alternatives like polyester and fleece made from petroleum and contaminating the planet.
For me, the planet comes first. This creates some other issues as well. In the Arctic winter, most people rely on wool to keep warm. Some people with allergies use super underwear made of polyester instead, but I prefer natural fibres. If you have ever gotten sweaty or wet in below freezing, you will know that cotton just doesn’t cut it. If cotton gets wet, it steals body heat, wool does not.
What I am trying to say, albeit in a roundabout and difficult way, is that there needs to be more intersectionalism in veganism for it to be palpable to me. I am fully aware that I am not a proper vegan by the strict definition because I wear wool, but the definition given by The Vegan Society goes as follows:
A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.
I try to reduce my footprint, as much as I can. I bike, take public transit, and I shop second hand, organic when I can, and I repair my clothes. I seek to reduce suffering of all creatures by making sure I do not own a lot of useless junk, and I try to keep things off the landfill. Is this un-vegan?
Another issue that I see often online and in places like these is the argument against horse-riding. I have never been much of a horse girl myself, but there is one thing I think makes it sound very ableist to a lot of people. If a horse should be free and not work, what about the thousands of guide dogs, therapy dogs and other dogs and animals providing an essential service to less able people? Should they not work either? Or are dogs and horses different? Does veganism not promote the idea that all lives have value, simply by being alive? I would not dream of walking up to anyone with a working service dog and try to argue that their dog should be nothing but a companion and a pet. In most cases I have seen, the animal is unmistakeably both, and an exceptionally valuable companion to boot.
But if dogs can work, why not horses? Is it because horses do heavier labour? Do we feel more sorry for them?
Yet I would much rather live in a world where animals worked and were greatly appreciated, than the one we live in now, where they are slaughtered.
I must admit, I do not know. I believe wild animals should have value in and of themselves. Not for whatever service, aesthetics or feel-good the provide humans. But at the same time, I am unable to feel that it is inherently unethical to keep pets, or even working pets, when I see the amazing effect they can have on mental health and quality of life.
I am not even sure if I feel that it is inherently wrong to keep a couple of sheep or goats for their wool, if their right to life was valued as anyone else’s. I have been a member of viking reenactment groups for years, and their knowledge, skill, humour, enthusiasm and warmth is not something I easily let go of. Vegan or no, I believe their excitement and enthusiasm for culture, traditional crafts and living softly on the earth would be a great loss if it vanished. I’ll still avoid the fur though, and the leather. But they don’t mind, because that’s just how awesome they are.
All in all, I do not know.
Some times I wish that I could see the world as black and white. It seems so much easier that way.
I’ll probably be dead before I have a properly clear-cut answer to just about anything.
Edit: After thinking about it for some time, and seeing some other responses to the issue, I think that my stance on wool is not what I want it to be. I don’t believe we have a right to take something from another species like that, warm and snuggly though it might be.
I will continue to explore alternatives to wool in brushed, organic cotton and hemp, hoping that it will provide what it promises. Slowly but surely, my wardrobe will continue to change until even those weather worn, countless times mended woollen socks will be exchanged.
I don’t know when though. I do not like throwing away items I can still use, or buying things I don’t really need…
What to do about viking re-enactment and all their woollen garments, I still do not know.
In a small attempt at some peaceful vegan activism/nudging, I tried to send a letter to Sainsbury’s to urge them to include more vegan products in their Freefrom range. It’s only a tiny thing, but hopefully it could be a tiny drop in the right direction.
With their new vegan, coconut based cheese range launched this week, it would be awesome if they would extend their vegan range even further!
It was so exciting this summer when we came back to Great Britain only to find that you had expanded your Freefrom range to include a lot more cakes and snacks.
However, upon reading the ingredient list, it quickly became evident that almost all of the new products contained either eggs or milk, with the only exception we could find being raspberry flapjacks which contained neither.
I would have loved to try some of the new products, such as the chocolate covered cornflakes. It would be really awesome if you would consider developing some more products or recipes to exclude both eggs, milk and other animal products. This would make your new products even more accessible to people with multiple allergies and vegans!
I know that I could’ve written a much stronger and more punchy letter, but it is a start!
I talk a lot about the Dream House(tm) in this blog, so I thought I’d try to sort out my thoughts a little and give a few examples of what that means to me. It’s all still very vague in my head, but there are a few details I know for sure that I want, and some others that I am open to discussion on. But one thing is for sure, it has to be sustainable.
The above house was built in Wales by Simon Dale back for only £3 000 back in 2003, and it is a gorgeous construction oozing of love and personality. This made me start to search for other people doing similar things, and a year-long love affair was in the works. Sadly, this house had to be taken down due to moisture and mould, so care and knowledge needs to be administered, but it is still terribly quaint and charming.
Other societies, such as the famous Lammas Ecovillage gathers a whole community of sustainability-minded people in one place, sharing tools, knowledge and running workshops and courses.
One of the things I really like about these houses, is that they are all so personal. They have round edges, slightly skewed floors (unless you’re a perfectionist, which is also perfectly fine!), and are filled with things that make the house unique to its inhabitants.
I mean, just look at this gorgeous and completely personalised home from Simon Dale’s second home in the Lammas Ecovillage. Complete with a view straight into their greenhouse, giving them a fun, lush view in summer, but also reducing heat loss from such a massive window by having a second set of glass outside.
Here are some of the top ten things I really love about green houses, in no particular order:
They source mostly local materials where they can, making use of everything rather than creating a lot of waste and requiring a lot of transport.
They look gorgeous and personal, not mass-produced and square.
They breathe, contributing to a healthy indoor climate.
You get to design it according to your own needs.
They can be really cheap, depending on how you do it.
Thick straw and clay walls insulate really well, at or beyond the requirements of even the most stringent legislation.
They can be adapted to the climate in which they are built
If built well they are cheap to heat, requiring very little energy and being cheap/easy to maintain.
They help put us back in touch with nature, and they treat softly on the earth. I certainly plan on my house to be net carbon negative.
It makes me feel happy just looking at them, imagine what it’s like to live in one!
Another thing that always inspires and reminds me of what sort of life I want to live, are the Lord of The Rings and the Hobbit movies. Whenever I see Bilbo’s house, it just strikes me that I want a life of wood, earth, warmth and homemade, not plastic, single-use and mass-production. The colour palette is very attractive as well.
It just feels like you can breathe in a place like that, you know? Fill jars of preserve for the winter, hang your laundry to dry out in the breeze, plant beans and eat them before they’re entirely ripe, gorge lavishly on succulent berries, sit for a few hours in the workshop and throw some bowls on the wheel, burn pottery on cold autumn days.
I’m getting carried away here, can you tell?
But that’s my dream.
Not something big and cold with hard edges and smothered in stainless steel.
Just something warm, homey, flawed and self-made. Filled with memories and promises of days to come. A warm place that is utterly and completely home.
I still need a lot of knowledge and hope to attend courses and get to know other people who are into this. But one day, one day this will be real.
Oh, and fireplaces. Gorgeous, gorgeous fireplaces. Our house will have a baking oven for me too!
It’s a slow Sunday afternoon, and it has been a slow couple of weeks in general. Back in London in the small flat which somehow, I’m not sure why, seems to put a damper on creative work.
Of course, that is nothing but an excuses, and I should make myself work any way, but the feeling still lingers. And it’s over a week until we are two again.
I should take this rare opportunity to relish in all the alone time I rarely get. Draw, pain, sculpt.
Except the clay I ordered and had hoped would be my distraction this month has not arrived yet, and I am woefully unable to paint.
I have been drawing a little bit though. More than I have done in years in one go. True, they’re most of them based on references and pictures, but it is a nice feeling none the less.
Nice though it is, I miss working with my hands. To shape and create things with my own two hands that can be used and admired.
I hope clay will be the right thing. It was a bittersweet thing to realise that with all the card weaving finds being made out of wool and silk, I’d either have to be at odds with my ethics, be historically inaccurate, or find another venue to direct my creative energy. A bit frustrating after you’ve spent over five years becoming quite a respected figure in the tiny field of Viking age card weaving. Oh well.
I haven’t been in the best frame of mind lately to work after coming home from, well, work. Sometimes it feels like the reward it so woefully far away, and my creativity has taken a bit of a dive too. But I found this blog called Raptitude, which focuses a lot on economic freedom and getting more out of your life.
I can’t say I agree with everything he writes, I find the lack of environmental focus an issue, for instance. But never the less it was encouraging enough to remind me why we save and why we work in our spare time. At least we try to.
One day, we’ll have a eco friendly, green, sustainable and beautiful little house. If all goes according to plan, this house will be relatively cheap to build (because we will do a lot of the work ourselves and source local materials), and it should be very cheap to run, even if it ends up not being too cheap to build, what with getting all the right legislation and making sure everything is legal and getting carpenters and builders who see our side of the story and want to do things our way.
The beauty of this plan, in my mind, is that since we plan on making it very cheap to run (solar cells, wind turbines, compost heaps, etc), it will be a refuge and an oasis. If everything goes to plan. If my Love gets restless, which he will, he or we could travel for a while, because the house will have a very cheap upkeep once built and paid for. This will make our need for income a lot less, leaving us with more freedom to do the things we love, even if this does not make us as rich in wealth as traditional jobs. Still, we would be richer in living, and walk more softly on the planet.
To me, that is wealth beyond measure, and reminding myself of this dream and what it means to me is the best way of keeping my eye on the goal.
That, and occasionally singing my heart out after a nice, soothing cup of green tea from my perfectly imperfect green teacup.
Sitting on the airport on my way back to London seems as good a time as any to update my blog.
It’s been a strange week. More eventful than can be really called desirable, yet at the same time it has been nice. Warm, sunny most days with cotton candy clouds, and with a reasonably loose time table.
Now it’s back to the grey city with its dusty air and controlled parks.
But on the other side of things, I decided to run a free book campaign!
To increase publicity I’ve put My Friend Lucy up on Amazon (UK and US, for instance) for free for the next couple of days. I’m hoping for maybe a review or two, but just getting the story out there for others to read is both exciting and nerve-wrecking at the same time.
The offer ends on August 8th, so grab a copy while you can!