It’s Not Real!

So weird when I woke up this morning.

I had a dream, or at least I think I had a dream, that somehow involved work. I can’t remember what it was about, all I know is I woke up at 7am, with work in my head, very very angry.

Internally I was raging about something – couldn’t tell you what, some imagined slight or problem – and I actually had to stop and remind myself that it wasn’t real, to let it go, that there’s nothing to be angry about. Even so it took me a few seconds to focus and get it out of my system. Like I say, very weird indeed.

But that’s the same with so called ‘real life’ as well isn’t it? Imagine, you get cut up in traffic on your way somewhere. You get angry, but then you’re still angry by the time you reach your destination some 20 minutes later or so. Why?

The incident is over. It was over 20 minutes ago. Chances are the other driver didn’t even realise what he’d done. So now it only exists in your head. And for it to continue to exist, for it to stay alive, you need to concentrate on it, you need to feed it, you need to make it real.

And that’s what a lot of us do all the time, we go through life angry. I know, I’ve done it, and I know plenty of people who still do it. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, it’s just a habit we’ve gotten into, and to get out of it we need to learn a new habit; and it starts with letting go. Simple? Yes. Easy? No.

But like any habit it comes with practice. That’s what meditation is really, learning not to get caught up in the thoughts and emotions that arise in our heads. Learning to observe them, to watch them peak and die out, and to realise that they are impermanent and ultimately not real. That’s why I like it, because it helps me deal with the stuff going on in my head, and to not be a slave to it like I have been in the past.

Well, that’s not what I expected to write when I sat down. Hope that wasn’t too weird for you? I’m still getting my head around a lot of the ideas I’ve come across recently myself. To end on a different note, here’s an interesting pic of some purple basil I’m growing in my garden at the moment. Hope you like it.

purple basil

It’s a whole other world down there, isn’t it.

Very Excited…

Got an e-mail today from the Buddhafield Cafe. They’ve accepted my application to volunteer for them at the Greenman Festival in August.

For those that don’t know (and why would you?) the Buddhafield Cafe visits UK festivals year round serving vegan eats and treats to the festival goers. It’s run by a Buddhist group who also organise their own festival each year, and it’s all about promoting Buddhist ideals, veganism, and having a good time.

I applied just coz I want to get out and meet more like minded people, as well as learning how something like that is run, and the mechanics of feeding the general public vegan yum-yums for a whole weekend. I went for the Greenman Festival coz of all the cool folk acts that will be playing. Check this out for a list of who I’m gonna see (for free).

Iron and Wine
Fleet Foxes
Laura Marling
Alessi’s Ark
Noah and The Whale

to name but a few. I can’t wait! 🙂

Stone Cold Sober

May seems to be an auspicious month for me for giving things up. I don’t know why, but all of my many abstentions seem to have begun in or around the month of May.

Maybe it’s something to do with spring, the return of the sun, an eagerness to move on to new things, but the major changes I’ve made and stuck with all seem to have taken root at the same time of year.

At midnight on the 23rd of May 2005 I made a solemn vow to give up tobacco.

In 2007, after dancing around it for nearly a year, I committed to going fully vegan.

In 2008 I realised I wasn’t going to be messing about with any highs, legal or otherwise, anymore.

And in 2010 I finally swore off alcohol.

Been totally sober, animal product, and stimulant free since then, and I like it. It’s better for your body, better for your head, just better all round really. I never have a stinking hangover, never get into fights with my friends on a night out, don’t have to worry about paranoia attacks, food scares, or anything like that. I just go about my day, doing my thing, and it’s all good.

If you’re thinking about giving something negative up, do. You could make a solemn vow, like I did with tobacco; or you could take a week off, then two, then three, then a month, etc., like I did with alcohol. It isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth the effort. No attempt at positive change is a waste of time.

And don’t wait until some special set of circumstances kicks in, like New Year’s Eve. This is your starting point, right here, right now. Don’t put it in the future, because that is where it’ll stay. Make it something you do today, and eventually you’ll do it forever.

Internet Treasures

One of the best things about t’internet is the trove of treasures it can offer up to you. No longer are we limited to what we find geographically, or even what someone else has deemed worthy of distribution, anyone can take anything they create and make it available to the world in a host of different ways.

And I love it! Rather than buying some generic piece of tat that will languish on a shelf for years to come, you can buy some lovingly crafted work of art that just happens to be a CD, a cookbook, or a simple set of postcards.

In my ever growing collection I have a lovely little hand-made ‘Snickety-Snack’ Cookbook from Kamutflake Girl, an album of retro inspired dance tunes called 3 Flavours of 8 Bit by Dainumo, Jeesh & P SUS, some prints I won from the very talented Rakkadeer, and now the latest addition to my collection, a beautiful book of poetry, a CD of music, and a collection of postcards on the theme of The Perpetual Picnic by the gorgeous Samantha Lamb.

internet treasures

I was so excited to get this in the post. Been a fan of Sam Lamb’s work for ages. Her simple style of work belies a cunning eye for the beautiful and serene. And her attention to the details of a happy life give her pictures and poetry an optimistic nostalgia.

Sorry, I know that’s a bizarre mish-mash of adjectives, but like I say I’m quite charmed by the stuff she does. And Sam really walks the walk when it comes to living a lifestyle too. On her farm in Oklahoma she starts every day with a picnic, taking the time each morning to really appreciate the day. And she always has a camera to hand to document her adventures, so that she can post them on her blog and share them with the world. It’s the kind of thing that inspires me to pursue the life I want for myself, and to do it the way I think it should be done, as that certainly seems the path to true happiness.

It’s not about being ‘professional’, or doing ‘the right thing’, but rather about doing what you enjoy, and making something you love. And if that means life (and what you make) ends up a little rough around the edges, well all the better! Sometimes the crusty bits are the ones with the most flavour. 😉

The Brighton Report

So, I had a wee trip to Brighton yesterday.

I say wee, but it took ages to get there. Mostly coz I had to swing by Crystal Palace to pick up my friend Sabera, and the south circular was not the most uncongested road yesterday. But still we got down there by about 3pm, and I set off at noon, so it could’ve been worse.

The initial reason for the trip was to scope out the place as a possible locale for living and/or starting a business, which was going to be a vegan bakery but was now more a yoga centre/shop/cafe type thing. And we were also going down there to shoot pictures of some of my cakes and cookies for the recipe cards I’m in the process of making.

But I was also excited to visit check out the vegan scene in Brighton, especially Vegetarian Shoes.

vegetarian shoes

Found it fairly easily thank god (my sense of direction has been terrible these past weeks!). A great place with a good selection of shoes, boots and even ‘leather’ jackets. Everything in there is vegan, and unlike other vegan shoes you see, they’re not all style-less lumps of plastic you wouldn’t be seen dead in.

I opted for a nice pair or brown trainers, very Camper-ish in style. I was very taken with the cork decal on the side. £69.95, which is about the going rate for a good pair of trainers these days.

my brand new vegan shoes

The guy serving was very friendly and helpful – he was playing an Adam and Joe podcast playing when I walked in, which confused me no end as they haven’t done anything together for ages – and all in all it was a really nice experience well worth the effort.

After that we strolled about checking out the shops. I bought some chili jam, which wasn’t as feisty as you’d think, we scoped out a number of different bakeries, which were nice enough but not along the lines I was thinking, then we went down the beach to get the photos done before we ate.

You get a lot of funny looks as you carefully dress a picnic in order to take photos of some shortbread. And it’s not as easy as you’d think. Getting the right height for the right shot, the right scenery in the background, took us a while. And there was more than one distraction.

As well as the odd “Are you a food stylist then?” comment, and some drunk bloke who decided to whip himself out and relieve himself onto the beach just a few yards away from us, we got ‘accosted’ by a news crew doing a piece on Brighton’s beaches losing their blue flag status (whatever that means). For those of you that want a good laugh you can see the report here (UK only I’m afraid). I’m the second one along, with the shades and the pithy soundbites. 😉

We eventually got the shots we wanted – three down, three more to go – then it was off to eat!

food for friends

I’d read about Food For Friends online and it sounded like a good place to try, so we went there. Not exclusively vegan it still had a good selection to choose from. We both went for the noodles with tofu and miso soup as it sounded so good, with some garlic greens on the side.

The food was ok, not huge portions but not too tiny either. The pak choi (or bok choi, whatever…) was a little tough, which made it hard to eat from the bowl it was in. No flat surface to cut it on so you just had to chew bits off it. And I was surprised not to be offered chopsticks. Also the green side dish didn’t have much or any garlic in, which was disappointing. Still, they were fresh and tasty enough, even if it was basically just steamed broccoli.

All told, two mains, a side and two drinks cost me £36. Worth it? Maybe. I guess I’ve just eaten better for less, that’s all I can say about that. At least the staff were friendly enough, even if they did seat us next to the stairs when there was a better table off to the side we could have had.

So, what’s the conclusion? Well, as you’ve probably picked up I wasn’t absolutely enamoured with Brighton. A lovely place, and fun to visit, but maybe not the right place for me. We both agreed that Hove a bit down the road might be a better place to live, as you could access Brighton but day to day it’d be a little less touristy. But if I’m honest I’m not a beach kind of guy. Never have been really. I like the view of the sea, but put me on a coast and I don’t know what to do with myself.

For me it’s hills and forests all the way. Maybe it’s a consequence of growing up in the Lake District, but I can find woodland (proper woodland, not just a wee copse but a real expanse of trees) an endless source of fascination. There’s things to do, things to see, and stuff to play with. Unless you’re really into water and sand what do you do on a beach?

So there you have it, some real food for thought for me. I got some new trainers and took half the photos for my Cakes & Cookies Recipe Cards. All told a positive experience and a real advance towards this Brand New Life I keep going on about. Now I just have to figure out what’s next? Stay tuned. 🙂