Why I shop at Locavore

There’s a long wooden bench outside. It’s under the shelter of the awning running from the newsagents to the barbers and people, presumably, could take their chai or herbal tea out there, even in Scotland, in January, but I suspect that some passersby sit there too. Taking a restful moment off, from all the trundling about that’s so much part of modern life. It’s a nice touch. Human, simple, neat, good business sense. That’s Locavore.

Inside and…ah! The herbs and fresh fruit and veg and scented soaps and candles. I breathe it all in, immediately feeling better. I smile at the customer on her mobility scooter, coffee resting on the large wooden table in the cafe area, and head towards the free fruit and veg box.

I’m an inveterate recycler. I just can’t see things go to waste, so this is one of the many aspects of Locavore that I approve of. I start here because I’m thinking of what’s in the vegetable rack and fruit bowl at home. As a vegan who prefers whole to processed food, that’s where I start my meal preparation.

I always buy something too and recently decided to buy all my bread and pastries here. Everything’s organic. That sounds like a luxury until you think about the choice: with or without poison. Why do that to yourself and your housemates—then have to spend more on remedies for the harm those poisons cause?

The vegetables are interesting. Kohl rabbi and fennel as well as the usual cabbage, carrots and spuds. Paper bags or biodegradable plastic. There are huge containers of nuts and seeds and pulses at the back—I really need to investigate that end more—as well as refills for Ecover and other products that are natural and not tested on animals.

Okay it’s not entirely vegan, or even vegetarian, and I wish it was. But it’s shops like these where, looking along the shelves, someone who usually buys salami might see the vegan chorizo and decide to give it a try.

Let’s talk about cost. Yes, you’ll probably find an inferior version available for less in a supermarket but here’s the difference: this isn’t a shop where the emphasis is on sugar and starchy empty calories. This is good food and it’s good for you. So it terms of what you’re getting, pound for pound, this is better value.

Finally, the best thing about Locavore—apart from the unhurried time and space you have to pack your shopping—is the staff. People who know that their work makes a difference look different from other shop staff. Their eyes shine. When you chat about a recipe (3-ingredient vegan pancakes, for example) they’ve probably tried it or they want to and will tell you about it next time you shop. As they’re ringing your purchases up on the till, you’ll hear about the new baby, the new doggie, their visit to the Glasgow allotments where the produce is grown—and they’re interested in your news and views too.

I always come out of Locavore feeling better than when I went in. I’m a carer, going through considerable employment stress right now (and seeking legal remedies for it). My life at the moment is quite challenging. I shop at Locavore because it makes my life easier and reminds me of the consistent aim of philosophers down through the ages: the good life.

Colourful crammed Locavore veg box

Photo from https://locavore.scot/ (I’m not on commission, I just really like the shop!)

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Breathing Fire, Missing Scale

I’ve never watched an entire episode of Dragons’ Den. To me, when I eventually saw some footage, it smacked of the new, voyeuristic TV programmes like Big Brother, The Weakest Link or Britain’s Got Talent, that used the excuse of aspiration (a combination of Machiavellian strategy, a lust for fame, and greed) to showcase the grief and pain of failure. I found it cruel and the presenters callous, the suffering they caused the majority of the participants not incidental but rather the dirty little secret of these shows: Schadenfreude, as our Germanic cousins call it. Pleasure in the suffering of others.

The names of the presenters meant nothing to me until one of them started making waves in my small, close-knit, and (until then) generally friendly political party. I looked up this person and, coming from a long line of nurses, I immediately identified what my elderly Mum calls “a typical thyroid case”: nervous excitability; forceful, non-stop talking; mood swings; bulging eyes. It can especially hit menopausal women badly but a younger friend had it, was diagnosed with cancer—and the regime of drugs and surgery altered her body chemistry and she lost a baby. “No-one ever mentioned thyroid imbalance” her husband said to me, afterwards. I felt so guilty for not speaking up. My embarrassment about being accused of ‘mansplaining’ a female condition wasn’t an excuse. Especially when I was simply sharing the observations of wise women and my advice was no more controversial than: “maybe you should get this checked out”.

So I did, and was smacked down by the dragon lady for my trouble. My conscience is clear. I tried. I’m not a medical doctor and I don’t have proof that her psychological inability to listen to opposing points of view is at root physiological. Maybe it’s not. Perhaps she’s simply the type of rich middle aged woman from the English ‘Home Counties’ that can’t abide contrary opinions. A sort of Audrey fforbes-Hamilton, without the humour.

From the body to the body politic: my party will survive. She’s calling us all shills for throwing her out when we’d all had enough of her abusive publicity. What concerns me more, having informed myself now, is what she may do next. I’m a keen conservationist and, unfortunately, her sights are set on ‘developing’ one of the most beautiful areas of woodland and meadow in England.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for grow-your-own and organic vegetables. I don’t mind meditation, chanting doesn’t bother me at all and I can even put up with a certain amount of circle dancing. I’m not keen on drugs, I must say, and my objections to aged hippies congregating on unspoiled land in order to consume quantities of magic mushrooms is not only medical (just because I’m unqualified doesn’t mean I don’t care, and they can cause severe heart palpitations, apparently) but also because such gatherings are often marked by ecological irresponsibility. Take Glastonbury, post-festival, as an example.

A member of my party told me that, when this fire-breathing businesswomen (whose own company went into arbitration, it seems) stood for us last year, concerned villagers made the trip from the Peak District to warn us to have nothing to do with her, as they feared the destruction she was planning to wreak on their beloved acres of Merrie England. He confessed that he’d declined their invitation to visit their beautiful village, set in Cressbrook Dale, out of loyalty to our candidate. Surely, he may have considered, these people were exaggerating.

Unfortunately, it appears that they’re not. Human waste, stone chips strewn in a forest glade by people clearly more accustomed to facilitating access to a suburban double garage than contemplating and reverencing the intricacies of ecological networks (and only taking action in order to better support them), plastic tents pitched and looking abandoned over winter, publicised plans to uproot the highest category of protected land in a national park…in order to grow massive amounts of vegetables. While everyone’s on drugs? And their (non-hierarchical) muse is off round the country, or perhaps the planet, leading, somehow by the aid of a perfectly flat structure, the movement against…well, anything that stands in her way really. The wheel must be broken, and all that sort of thing.

The New Age often attracts the precise middle of the English class system. The “chattering classes”. Middle managers, chartered accountants, those who’ve clawed their way up HR, board members of quangos. Places like Findhorn are full of them. The superwomen of the 90s are among them. You can have it all, they were told. To give them their due, they really tried to. The yuppie revolution. Thatcher’s children. Keeping the faith in monetarism—until the emptiness set in. They may have tried creative writing, or pottery. Some women, desperate, even went to the extreme of bringing up their own kids. At least when they were back from boarding school.

Tragically, I think that’s why these people can’t listen. They share that characteristic with the Woke. To admit doubt is to allow the possibility of meaninglessness. To look in the mirror and see youthful charm (if ever possessed) fade. New seekers age. “Dreams have lost their grandeur, coming true.” That’s if there were any, in the first place. Very few people, JK Rowling perhaps an exception, can find magic in suburbia.

So I can’t blame these bland people for wanting more. England is famous, worldwide, for having lost its culture. Abstract the Celtic Twilight, cut off the Moorish dancing learned from the Crusades, omit everything that actually belongs to someone else and what’s left? Only one element remains, the liminal location of Shakespearean dreamland: the Greenwood.

This is why nothing else will do for the breaker of chains and her merry band. If they were truly ecological, they’d buy up brownfield sites and reclaim them. Now that would be magical. Instead, cut off from rural wisdom for generations, these self-indulgent townies, unable to limit the gratification of their desires, must have this virgin soil in order to despoil it in search of their souls.

The capacity of self-reflection of such people may be so limited that, once they’ve made a Glastonbury out of the Greenwood, with only themselves to blame, their final act—before being thrown off the ravaged land by court order—is likely to be an internal witch-hunt to identify the source of the karmic forces acting against them.

In the hell of their own creation, a hall of mirrors where fame reflects ever more monstrously the distorted features of their inability to contemplate the impact of their unchecked desires, they may forget the basic tenant of even the watered-down version of Buddhism which they claim to practice: responsibility.

Colourful Carnival Dragon Head

Thanks to Linnaea Mallette for releasing her image Dragon Carnival Head into the Public Domain.

Who’s Best for Chester MP?

Taking a break from studying Constitutional Law, I’ve done a hasty SWOT analysis of the first 4 candidates to put their profiles on Who Can I Vote For? the popular and informative (if sometimes tardy) website that does what it says on the tin. My reasoning is that this lot are at least organised – which is the minimum you want for a Westminster election. Integrity would be great too of course and the ability to do the job. Here’s my thoughts. Full disclosure – I’m a member of one of the featured parties. Can you tell which? I have tried to be fair.

CANDIDATESTRENGTHS – from WCIVF? Twitter/ LinkedIn/ Party profile
Chris Quartermaine:Freedom Alliance – Integrity, Society, EconomyBest surname; grandfatherly face; local with 42 yrs of customer service in health food retail; 11 yrs teaching computing especially to sheltered housing sector; Border biscuits!
Liz Wardlaw: Conservative and Unionist PartyExperience as city councillor in Cheshire; established party infrastructure available.  
Rob Herd: Liberal DemocratsExperience as parish councillor in Chester; forties, fit and handsome; teacher & governor; charity trustee; local; established party infrastructure available.   
Samantha Dixon: Labour PartyExperience as city councillor and council leader in Chester, elected by 2,182 votes; local; MBE; established party infrastructure available.  
CANDIDATEWEAKNESSES
Chris Quartermaine:Freedom Alliance – Integrity, Society, EconomyNew, small party with controversial policies
Liz Wardlaw: Conservative and Unionist PartyOnly gained 934 votes for post.
Rob Herd: Liberal Democrats 
Samantha Dixon: Labour Party 
CANDIDATEOPPORTUNITIES
Chris Quartermaine:Freedom Alliance – Integrity, Society, EconomyMay attract independent voters tired of older parties as well as women – as his party supports female safe space and robust child safeguarding – as well as older voters and their carers. Only candidate to post a biscuit preference – so may get the fun vote.
Liz Wardlaw: Conservative and Unionist PartyMay attract voters who want to vote for a woman, whatever her policies.
Rob Herd: Liberal Democrats 
Samantha Dixon: Labour PartyMay attract voters who want to vote for a woman, whatever her policies. Labour seems to be undergoing a resurgence due to chaos at Westminster.
CANDIDATETHREATS
Chris Quartermaine:Freedom Alliance – Integrity, Society, EconomyVoters may be put off by what Freedom Alliance is against and not know what it’s for. Dousing a bit of a wildcard: may put off fundamentalists (as would any liberal policy) but a touch of the Dumbledore may attract others, especially the holistic minded.  
Liz Wardlaw: Conservative and Unionist PartyConservative facing General Election, despite new PM appearing to be a steadier pair of hands that the last one. Women & male allies may not vote for a party that does not support female safe space and robust child safeguarding.
Rob Herd: Liberal DemocratsLGBT early education/ gender self-ID is the wildcard: divides voters like Marmite. Women & male allies may not vote for a party that does not support female safe space and robust child safeguarding.
Samantha Dixon: Labour PartyWomen & male allies may not vote for a party that does not support female safe space and robust child safeguarding.

Summing up – if voters just vote for their party then the experience and qualities of the candidate don’t matter. However, especially with a General Election looming, Chester voters may want to see someone who connects with their issues rather that whatever instructions they’re getting from HQ. In that case, Rob Herd’s flagging up the raw sewage issue may be a winner, although he’s the least experienced of the three legacy party candidates and a Green candidate could still try to corner the environmental market. Voters may be swayed by a local, in which case no-one can beat Chris Quartermaine’s 42 yrs in retail but Samantha Dixon did get a lot of support last May, unlike Liz Wardlaw.

In terms of identity politics, if having a female candidate matters to women then the Labour and Conservative candidates are ahead. However, these days, what may matter more is a party that supports female safe space, single sex sports and robust child safeguarding, in that case Freedom Alliance overtakes them both. Rob Herd also flies the LGBT flag (as well as the EU flag) on his Twitter bio which goes down well with younger voters – but it’s the older generation who actually get their votes in on the day. The tipping point, I feel, is to engage that generation. They tend to vote for legacy parties and for social conservatism.

If Chris Quartermaine can leverage his local connections and work with older people to persuade them to abandon their usual party and vote for Freedom Alliance, the only party wholeheartedly against the isolation they experienced over lockdown, then he may be the dark horse that wins the race. If not, then my money would be on Labour…or possibly Lib Dems because their candidate is just so good-looking!

Chimpanzee looking pensive in Chester Zoo

Thanks to Petr Kratochvil for releasing his photo Relaxing Monkey into the Public Domain.

God’s Green Earth

The potatoes I dug up for dinner last night aren’t perfect. They range in size from huge to tiny, a couple got a bit green and one or two had beasties inside them, happily munching. But they’re all homegrown, organic and—when washed in rainwater, peeled (their occupied territory consigned to the compost heap along with the occupants) and boiled—they were the fluffiest tatties I’ve ever tasted. Mum loved them.

The wee ones I wrapped in brown paper and dated—to plant next spring. This lot, as is traditional, I’d planted on Good Friday but some sprung up from tiny tubers I’d missed in the soil the year before. So it goes to show that what matters isn’t size: it’s potential.

As we face a winter of artificially inflated cost-of-living (which, as a friend in the Scots Libertarian party points out, is actually cost-of-government) we may feel demoralised by the scale of the gargantuan forces oppressing us. Yes, they are individually and collectively powerful—but we are many and they are few.

Many of us in the Freedom Alliance party have been warning of the current crisis for years. I started posting about it in March 2020, because my previous research into the lies of Big Pharma and its censorship of experts had already opened my eyes.

Gardening is a major strategy of defence in the resistance movement: we don’t need their frankenfoods if we’re growing our own. It’s also incredibly good for your physical and mental health. Out in the fresh air, maybe chatting across the fence to neighbours, getting some natural light (maybe even some sunlight where the chemtrails are less frequent) so our skin manufacturers vitamin D. Just touching soil calms us. We’re literally grounded. Watching the busy bees and beautiful butterflies as we work reminds us that there’s another order, natural, ancient, harmonious, productive and yes truly “sustainable”—rather than this poisonous bureaucracy of surveillance and anxiety.

So grow your own! It’s worth it—and it might just save your life and your sanity!

Black plastic tray on long green grass with about 20 potatoes ranging in size & colour—2 with small holes.

Watt Goes Up Mast Come Down!

(If you’re pushed for time, you can just skip to the foot of the page and send the email to your MP or councillors.)

If a huge 5G mast has been set up very near your house, place of work, place of worship, leisure centre, kid’s school or playground, then you may have valid concerns about 5 things:

  • Cancer
  • Highway safety
  • Ecological impact
  • House prices plummeting
  • Children’s growth and fertility

Yes, you may be tempted to dismiss all of these as “conspiracy theory” and try to ignore your niggling worries but local councils (and parish councils) all over the UK have been forced, legally, to consider such risks and many have found them unacceptable – and have removed the 5G masts already up and halted future installations.

What can you do?

  • Understand your legal rights as:
  1. a local resident – Freedom from Public Nuisance (electromagnetic pollution, unsightly structures) etc.
  2. a UK citizen – Equal rights under the Equality Act (2010) etc.
  3. a human being – Freedom of Expression, etc.

Some of these rights are “provided for” (given back to you) in law and some are already yours because they cannot be taken away (“inalienable rights”).

  • Ask your MP (by email or letter or in person) to “invoke the precautionary principle”.

Tonia Antoniazzi MP, Labour, Shadow Minister for Northern Ireland, explained in the House of Commons what this means for many people, in the long-term, HERE and described what some people with sensitivity to electromagnetic fields may suffer as soon as such masts go up:

Symptoms include headaches, fatigue, disturbed sleep, tingling, pains in limbs, head or face, stabbing pains, brain fog and impaired cognitive function, dizziness, tinnitus, nosebleeds and palpitations.

Electromagnetic Fields: Health Effects, Backbench Business, 25th June 2019

Carol Monaghan MP, Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Armed Forces and Veterans), supported this principle:

It is true that we are talking about lower frequencies than the ionising radiation that would be beyond the visible spectrum. However, it is not true to say that all low frequencies are not harmful. Looking at microwave radiation, for example, if we get a high enough intensity of non-ionising radiation we can still cause harm. I would not want to be in a microwave oven and I am sure the Minister would not either. So it is not just about frequency; it is about the intensity of the radiation.

Electromagnetic Fields: Health Effects, Backbench Business, 25th June 2019

David Drew (then Labour/ Co-operative MP for Stroud and Shadow Minister for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) spoke out for people suffering from EMS, mentioning scientific evidence:

I have met people who are incredibly affected by electromagnetic sensitivity—to the extent that, when they moved into their house, they had to have the smart meter taken out, and even asked their neighbour to take out theirs. Once that happened, their health dramatically improved. People say that electromagnetic sensitivity is all psychosomatic, but I have seen the evidence of people’s sensitivity to electromagnetic waves. If we ignore it, there will certainly be health and biological consequences, and there may be many more problems.

It is only fair to ask the Government to at least respond to the growing evidence from the International Electromagnetic Field Scientist Appeal, PHIRE— the Physicians’ Health Initiative for Radiation and Environment—and other reputed scientists in the field, as well as from communities. Brussels has now stopped the roll-out, and so have a number of cities in California. There is growing concern, and it needs to be recognised and answered.

Electromagnetic Fields: Health Effects, Backbench Business, 25th June 2019

Geraint Davies MP, Labour (Swansea West) commented on commercial interests behind the rollout of 5G in the same debate.

  • Here is a draft email that you can adapt, to send to your MP. You can find who that is, and how to contact him or her, HERE. You can also send this to your local councillors. You can find who they are, and how to contact them, HERE. In the email below, I have bracketed all the words that you need to change (unless you’re in my area objecting to the same masts – in which case you can just remove the brackets and send it as it is).

Dear [Stuart C. McDonald, MP],

I am [one of your constituents] and I am concerned about the health risks and impact on property prices caused by the erection of a huge 5G mast [a few feet from the children’s swingpark facing Merkland School, shops and residential housing, in Harestains, Kirkintilloch].

In view of the concerns raised on EM radiation, human health and the environment by [your colleagues] in Westminister Hall (Electromagentic Fields: Health Effects, Backbench Business, 4.35pm, 25th June 2019) I ask you to invoke the Precautionary Principle on this and all such unsightly and dangerous masts planned or already erected in this [constituency] and to cause a Cease and Desist notice to be served to all contractors involved in setting them up.

As [your colleague] Tonia Antoniazzi MP, Shadow Minister for Northern Ireland, explained in the same debate, her concerns finding cross-party support, a safer solution to connectivity is fibre broadband.

On a personal note, as [a carer for an elderly family member who has survived cancer] I find the failure of Duty of Care to the most vulnerable members of our community (children, expectant mothers and the elderly) in [East Dunbartonshire Council] not applying this Principle to be unacceptable.

I look forward to your reply and to swift action. The level of expressed concern in the local community, in person and online, is extremely high.

regards, [YOUR NAME, YOUR HOME OR WORK ADDRESS IN THE LOCAL AREA]

If you’re sending this to councillors, you can replace these brackets as follows:

  • [Stuart C. McDonald, MP] – [NAME(S) OF YOUR COUNCILLOR(S)]
  • [one of your constituents] – a local resident
  • [a few feet from the children’s swingpark facing Merkland School, shops and residential housing, in Harestains, Kirkintilloch] – [LOCATION OF MAIN MAST YOU’RE OBJECTING TO]
  • [your colleagues] – Members of Parliament
  • [constituency] – local council area
  • [your colleague] – the Hon. [or just leave blank]
  • [a carer for an elderly family member who has survived cancer] – a concerned citizen [or another caring or concerned identity, like “a mother of three small children”]
  • [East Dunbartonshire Council] – [NAME OF YOUR LOCAL AUTHORITY]
Busy highway in USA with telegraph wires and huge 5G tower beside restaurant and gas station

Thanks to Hana Chramostova who has released her image 5G Tower into the Public Domain.

The Real Greens

The trouble with the terms “greenwashing” and “pinkwashing” is that those using them may (perhaps) inadvertently do what they accuse others of doing: painting over structural issues that need to be addressed.

Pinkwashing is often used to denigrate the success of the LGBT community in Israel and there have been several aspects to this accusation:

  • Denying the issues faced by LGBT people in majority Muslim countries in general and in Palestine in particular.
  • Denying the freedoms won by the LGBT community in Israel.
  • Denying the possibility of a people under oppression to simultaneously oppress a community of their own.

Countering the first denial, Mark Segal of NY Daily News is quoted as stating:

If you have a need to prove your “wokeness” by assimilating with those who support the rape and death of LGBT people, you don’t know the meaning of LGBT liberation.

Countering the third denial, Al-Qaws, a group dedicated to gender and sexual diversity in Palestinian society, has a more nuanced statement:

Singling out incidents of homophobia in Palestinian society ignores the complexities of Israel’s colonisation and military occupation being a contributing factor to Palestinian LGBTQ oppression

My point is not to reduce the socio-political complexities to which the latter quote alludes to some kind of catchy soundbite but rather to emphasise that key word. Some issues aren’t simple—but that doesn’t mean they should be painted over in pink.

Or green. Cory Morningstar, on the blog Wrong Kind of Green, has written a detailed take-down of current media environmentalism entitled The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg. (For those who prefer listening to reading, there’s a beautifully-read podcast version.)

The reaction to greenwashing can also be rather simplistic and, similarly, has various aspects:

  • Denying the ecological issues of the planet
  • Denying the benevolent motivations of environmental protestors
  • Ignoring the possibility of both of the above co-existing with invented (or exaggerated) issues and with malevolent motivations

To stop communicating in double negatives, let me state clearly what I mean. While climatologists are divided on the question of there being a planetary temperature crisis caused by human (or animal) agency, no-one sane denies the obvious issues of air, land and water pollution by pesticides and other poisons and by plastics. Electromagnetic (high or low) frequency pollution is another source of concern.

Related issues are those of the cost-effectiveness of supposedly environmental alternative sources of energy and fuel—as well as the social impact of the market for conflict minerals (used in phones, laptops, solar panels and electric cars).

About all these issues my point is simple:

  • Unless supposedly progressive groups are prepared to grapple with the complexities of real intersectional oppression and liberation, they aren’t really progressive.

It’s not enough to pay attention to the wake-up calls of green celebrities; we also need to see beyond—to the marketisation of Africa and other repressive goals of the Great Reset.

It’s not enough to acknowledge the latter and ignore the very real problems of pollution.

It’s not enough to be aware of the dangers of Frankenfood and the sinister appropriation of the means of global food production by a very small group of plutocrats; we also need to acknowledge the unnatural and inhumane treatment of farmed animals—if not for their own sake then at least for the effect that their confinement, torture, forced assimilation of toxins and barbaric slaughter has on our own bodies and on our souls.

The so-called Green parties are allied with inhuman forces indifferent to the fate of most of the planet and its population—apart from some ecological pleasure parks strictly set aside for the elite. Let’s not pretend that meanwhile these plutocrats are all ethical vegans: they’re all guzzling meat pizza, fatty hamburgers and high sugar Coca-Cola.

In contrast, the resistance to global tyranny is full of people who eat healthily, exercise daily, participate voluntarily in various community projects and grow our own food.

We’re the real greens.

Cress growing out of soil held in a White male hand in front of the mesh cover of a plastic greenhouse.

Composting

Spring has sprung and there’s lots to do in the garden, with the main task being preparing the raised beds for planting. My last plant-related post was about pumpkins 🎃 and how they did unexpectedly well. The strips of carrot seed, unfortunately, yielded nothing and (as detailed in a previous post) although it was a good year for onions & garlic, tiny sweet strawberries, nasturtiums for salad and the bees, chilli peppers, chives, cleavers, basil, peppermint, thyme, sage and even some potatoes, planted or not, the Chinese cabbage and carrots weren’t a success.

Flowers, always important in and around a vegetable patch, also did well, with Calendula adorning the bottom bed and blue alliums in a corner beside the (failed) tomatoes. Two out of the four fruit bush saplings grew and honesty in a big pot was a lovely addition to the rather wild circular flower bed nearer the back door.

This year I’ve benefited from having written down a plan in a notebook in autumn and buying seeds to sow. So yesterday, having raised the other half of the side bed and reinforced the organic underlay of the big green box, I was pleased to discover, tucked into cloth pockets at the back of the cupboard under the stairs, packets of both broccoli and cabbage seed.

Raising a bed is hard work. First you have to dig out all the soil.

Top of side bed with soil dug out
Soil piled up beside the raised bed

Then lay twigs, small branches and leaves, to provide drainage.

Twigs and branches at the bottom of the raised bed
Old flower stems on top of the twigs & branches

Then fill it back in! Forking the soil in gets air into it and breaks up clumps. This soil is clay and otherwise tends to form endless airless mud only good for potatoes so, if you want more variety, you have to work for it.

Side bed with soil replaced

After all this I flung compost on top. The idea is to let it lie for a week or so – to give the birds a chance to eat up all the slugs. They’re useful in compost heaps and if I find any that’s where I put them but if the birds find then first – it’s the circle of life!

Meanwhile the bottom bed isn’t doing much apart from pushing up chives, some of which I plan to relocate to the big green box. The calendula has survived the winter and will need restaked.

Chives and calendula in the bottom bed

This was the first bed I raised and did well with Brussels and cabbage that year. Since then the wicker fence has been rather damaged by Ben 🐕 jumping over it so at some point I’ll need to spend an afternoon weaving more supple twigs into it.

The top bed is full of foxgloves, spring onions and garlic. I thought I’d lifted everything last year so the alliums are a nice surprise. It does complicate composting though.

Foxgloves, onions & garlic shoots in the top bed

I faced the same problem in the big green box and, though tempted to call it a day at this point, decided to take advantage of the rare sunshine and my good mood. First I potted all the saplings, about 60 of them, mostly apple trees from pips in the compost that had seeded due to the combination of temperate weather and good drainage.

6 pots of saplings surround a wooden box

I put the pots around the wooden box (held together with screws and a spare bike tyre) which had held the struggling rhubarb that eventually gave up. Last week I planted some irises inside and other flowering bulbs around the garden.

10 saplings in a pot

Now it was time to lift all the spring onions with their surrounding soil from the green box and temporarily put them in a tray in the greenhouse.

Onion sets planted in tray in the greenhouse

I also put the foxgloves in a trays.

Foxgloves in trays sitting on the trampoline

Then scooped the soil from one side of the green box into the lid of the compost bin in preparation to reinforce the woody organic layer below – some of which had got quite patchy. With soil falling through, the level had gone down and I also found some gladioli bulbs attempting to grow six inches under! I removed these as it struck me that they could possibly be mistaken for edible alliums.

Patchy soil covering of woody layer in green box

You’d have to be pretty stupid to confuse foxglove and cabbage leaves (which is why Miss Marple allocates that task to particularly muddled housemaids) and they are great for the bees so in the top bed those can grow together and here they and the nasturtiums should help keep the pests off the pumpkins.

Twigs and branches on one side of the green box with soil inside the compost bin lid

I replanted the foxgloves in the green box after adding more branches, twigs and leaves, replacing the soil then composting.

I’ll probably replace those central foxgloves with chives but they can stay there for now.

The rest of the compost from the plastic bin (the compost in the wooden box is less broken down) I removed from the bottom of the bin placed in the riddle set atop, in order to give it a good airing.

Compost airing on top of the plastic bin

Tomorrow I plan to compost the top and bottom beds and the greenhouse but that’s enough for today. Hands scratched from bending and breaking branches, muscles tired but mind relaxed, I took off my wellies and went indoors for tea.

(All photos copyright the author, may be reproduced, but not altered, with link to this post.)

Wrong Turning: Lab-Grown Meat

I tend to say “yes” to requests from handsome men. (It’s a character flaw, I know, and it often leads me into trouble.) So when animal activist Jon Hochschartner asked me for my thoughts on the moral problem of theodicy with reference to wild animal suffering, I published a reply and I liked what he did with it. Two days after Boxing Day isn’t the season for blogging about possible religious objections to lab-grown meat but I’m still no better than I should be, so here I am.

Ethical complexity was central to my doctoral work and whenever I get a gut reaction that I can’t immediately intellectually justify, I’m intrigued. I’ve been vegetarian for decades and vegan for years. I can’t even eat meat substitutes that taste too meaty. I hate the very idea of lab-grown meat. It appals me. Yet Jon argues otherwise and calls for massive state investment in R&D:

…cultivated meat is grown from animal cells, without slaughter. When this new protein is cheaper to produce and superior in taste to slaughtered meat, we will have achieved the conditions under which animal liberation starts to become possible.

CounterPunch 19th Nov. 2021

Put like that, bearing in mind the huge reduction in animal suffering from factory farming and slaughter, it seems like a no-brainer. So why am I instinctively against it? On reflection, I’ve identified seven reasons:

  1. Pragmatic: veganism is booming and there are already acceptable meat substitutes for those that crave them. It seems like the time to invest in changing the culture away from meat rather than towards a more ethical version.
  2. Nutritional: I’ve been lectured at, for decades, by fat people with bad skin and no stamina who frequent burger bars and wouldn’t know B12 from beetroot – and yes there are new vegans who do not eat a balanced diet – but nowadays few nutritionists would attempt to argue that a human diet heavy in animal products is healthier than one based on plants.
  3. Ideological: The push for lab-grown (and insect) meat has a global political context that even to mention this time last year earned an automatic penalty on social media – either jeers of “conspiracy theorist” or some form of shadowbanning. The Great Reset, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, leverages climate anxiety and White guilt in order to greenwash economic disruption – disproportionately impacting the most marginalised – and focusing on exploiting the bedrock of the 4th Industrial Revolution: the conflict minerals of Africa.
  4. Financial: Bill Gates (who finances: the media, government public health advisors, “fact-checkers”, the pharmaceutical industry, the World Health Organisation and both sides of the aisle in American politics, directly or indirectly) is now the biggest private owner of farmland in the USA. I say all this because his PR is so successful that any critique is immediately met, in the USA especially, with “oh you must be a [insert ideological other]”. His push for synthetic meat clearly doesn’t come from any concern for farmers – who went out of business during the lockdown his funded advisors imposed and sold their land to him (cheaply?) – or for animals – who were slaughtered early, often under even more barbaric conditions than usual.
  5. Sociological: with citizen journalism available to anyone with internet access, the mainstream media version of events falls in hegemonic power. As reports of vaccine injuries rise, along with those of the pharmaceutical industry’s attempts to cover them up, Gates may well become a toxic brand and any products he pushes unlikely to meet with consumer approval from his conservative opponents. Across the aisle, liberals are more likely to be open to veganism – so why try to sell them something less?
  6. Compassionate: Gates (while publicly expressing angst over eating cheeseburgers) does occasionally match donations for an animal sanctuary but with his money he could have bought all the animals as well as all the farmland and saved them from the gas chamber, drowning, shooting and electrocution – and hardly noticed. Why didn’t he? Because to Gates and his ilk, life on earth is the problem, not the solution.
  7. Religious: lab-grown meat does not solve any moral problems unsolved by veganism. Even for ritual purposes, there are acceptable vegan substitutes.

Done well, a religious process of pondering a moral problem is holistic, taking into account all the patterns of values concerned. While developing technology may be seen as participating in the creative energy of God, what is important is its impact: all its relations. The lines connecting lab-grown meat and human and animal life in all its fruitfulness form a spiderweb with a morally ambiguous opportunistic businessman, passing as a philanthropist, at the centre.

There was a moment, after the Second World War, when the conditions that had led to the wartime unbalanced monoculture production of carbohydrates (potatoes, wheat) that could be shipped and stored were no longer in existence. This followed centuries of disenfranchisement of the rural poor as they migrated to the cities, losing their connection to the land and their culinary, herbal and nutritional knowledge as they boarded in shacks with no kitchen and fed, almost solely, on wheat pies of meat and potatoes. As shell-shocked men returned home and deprived women of the jobs they had been doing capably for years, there could have been a reversal of the mechanisation of agriculture. Employment on labour-intensive small-holdings would have raised morale as well as levels of nutrition and avoided the turn towards factory farming that inevitably followed.

As, like it or not, we are presented with a similar moment in our history – except this time all over the world – we have the opportunity to make the right choice. Greater artificiality, centralisation of food supplies and association with industrial giants whose lack of prudence is infamous – all these things are not what is needed now. As we face the prospect of another industrial revolution, we need to turn from our former errors and not repeat them.

Thanks to Dawn Hudson for releasing her image Red Germ into the Public Domain.

Vive le Roi?

Amid all the speculation over an event that is inevitable, as “no-one can slow the passage of time”, perhaps a more fruitful (and respectful) enquiry might be into the role and qualities of the Head of State of the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Firstly, a comment on the speculation. Any household that has suffered a bereavement knows that divulging the news and dealing with the reaction of others is an exhausting task. People do not limit themselves to expressing sympathy but demand that you mourn with them, right here, right now. When perhaps you’ve already spent hours doing that and have just managed to pull yourself together sufficiently to phone, it’s simply selfish of them to try to pull you apart.

When the head of the household dies, there are also all the extra legalities. Now scale up that experience from a household to a state, remembering the public hysteria over Princess Diana, considering the past two years of restrictions on public assembly and the general mental health of the populations subject to this monarchy and you can begin to have some idea of the problem.

So let me state clearly, that if the public actions of the royals and dissemination of news about them seems scripted, I don’t blame them. Every family deserves privacy and there are reasons of state for news about this one to be carefully controlled.

Respectfully, therefore, let us as a second consideration acknowledge that the heir presumptive to these 4 thrones (which are not, technically, one, in the way that applies to the UK, Crown dependencies and British Overseas Territories) is the present Prince of Wales and ask: if Charles is to be king, what kind of king will he be?

Let’s get all the slurs out the way, otherwise they’ll hamper us. In order of barking madness (starting from guano and moving up to bovine manure) they are that Charles & co. are:

  • shape-shifting reptile aliens
  • baby blood-drinking vampires
  • Satanists
  • paedophiles
  • murderous eugenicists

I’m not going to waste energy on the first three, I don’t believe in guilt by association, I do believe in the rule of law and, as for the last, yes, Charles could certainly keep better company.

Why doesn’t he?

I could be wrong (I’ve never met or spoken to him) but Charles, in his own archaic, elitist and paternal way, appears to believe he’s doing the right thing. I don’t think that can be said for Klaus Schwab or any of the trillionaires funding Big Pharma or Big Data—including those under cover of Big Philanthropy.

What I do know about Charles, and this is from people who have witnessed his support and participation in local projects, is that he comes across as genuinely interested in the kind of thing that is generally nowadays named (by secularist mistranslation of Aristotle) as “human flourishing”.

So why is he supporting those who want to kill us off like weeds? I have 4 hypotheses:

  • 1. I’m wrong about that list.
  • 2. He’s being blackmailed because of his brother.
  • 3. He’s stupidly naive.
  • 4. He thinks he can harness rapacious commercial interests for the good of the planet while controlling their worst excesses.

At the moment, I’m prepared to believe a combination of the last two, because the evidence of just how much misinformation, wishful thinking, misguided policy and downright evil people can continue to deny is all around us.

Charles is a great believer in Public Private Partnership projects of cultural and environmental regeneration. From Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the Gaelic college on the Isle of Skye, (£??M) to the Eden Project, the eco-centre in Cornwall, (£134M) he has been specifically supportive of, or directly involved in, combining corporate and public money for creative projects. That do benefit the local community and do do what they set out to do.

So what’s the catch? Well, PPP is problematic because public spending is so wasteful and disorganised whereas corporate funding is so self-interested and predatory. Managed extremely well, it can work but the required skill set is basically that of an ambitious Renaissance magician conjuring demons and trying to control them.

Heard of Faust?

Many who are awake have highlighted in alarm the militarism and clear call for unelected global governance in a section of Charles’ speech at the opening of COP26 when he called for:

a war-like footing … a vast military-style campaign to marshal the strength of the global private sector, with trillions at its disposal—far beyond global G.D.P. and, with the greatest respect, beyond even the governments of the world’s leaders—it offers the only real prospect of achieving fundamental economic transition.

This is to tackle biodiversity loss and climate change. (Presumably he meant global warming which, presumably, is actually happening.) However, there is a later COP26 speech of his, to the chief negotiators, that I believe contains the key to Charles’ patrician mentality:

I remember going to the Amazon in 1992 and managing to create a gathering on the old Royal Britannia in the Amazon, with the then President of Brazil, just before the Rio summit, the first one.

“Managing” and “gathering” tell us all we need to know. This is someone with the power to persuade the president of a country of 127 million people (then) to come to an unofficial meeting organised by royal fiat, with no oversight or accountability, on a superyacht, in the middle of the Amazon.

Charles may genuinely wish to save this sick world but he doesn’t live in it, and his Boy Scout attitude to big business may mean that, under the unelected global military dictatorship he’s (perhaps) naively seeking to install, the disease is a hell of a lot less deadly than the cure.

Hand drawn woodcut style illustration of a royal crown.

Thanks to Dawn Hudson who has released her image Crown into the Public Domain.

White Mischief

There’s a lot of research being done on Ugandan fisherfolk and their “emerging understandings of Covid-19” right now. As well as copper, cobalt and gold, Uganda has a fairly high birth rate and one of the youngest populations of Africa and, as Neville Hodgkinson tirelessly points out, whenever the media want to portray Africans as clueless about a new deadly disease, they head off there or to Tanzania its southern neighbour (which also has uranium). Right now the medical media is leading the way, as we have Frontiers in Public Health declaring confidently that:

Africa is vulnerable to being overwhelmed by COVID-19. The World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, stated that the greatest concern was COVID-19 transmission in countries with weaker health systems than in developed nations.

As The Nation reports, WHO is now largely funded, and led, by the Gates Foundation:

…multilateral institutions like the World Health Organization have ceded leadership to a group of public-private partnerships where Gates provides key funding.

This medical media confidence is apparently based on 2 sources: firstly, an article purporting to be research that predicts a future for Africa that’s extremely lucrative for miraculously prescient investors in PPE, test kits and vaccines (Gates, Jan 2019!!!) by celebrating that the “long anticipated and inevitable and detection of the introduction of SARS-CoV-2 into Africa was announced on 14 February 2020” (a Valentine’s greeting for Gates?) and which uses as evidence a total of 7 “cases” in all Africa (pop. c. 1,341,000,000, then).

Coincidentally, all the researchers, while declaring no Conflict of Interest, are funded by Big Pharma:

Secondly, it’s based on an Al-Jazeera article (based on the perennially incorrect modelling from Imperial College, London). So the current obsession of White Europeans (and descendants and allies) to record and correct the “misconceptions” of Black Africans, that interfere with the profits of their funders, is not a coincidence. The UN is especially fond of this. Here’s a typical telling-off.

The Ugandan “research” isn’t focussing on Lake Victoria, as you might expect, but on Lake Albert and Lake Edward. Those, of course, aren’t their names in any of the many African languages spoken on their shores. Not that there isn’t anything going on in Lake Victoria, where fish are dying. Mysteriously. They’re blaming the rain “mixing the water”. (Maybe that’s why all those crustaceans are dying off the N.E. of England.) The same article does casually mention another explanation:

Industries, farms and settlements near Lake Victoria have also been blamed for polluting its waters.

Hmmm…the Lake Edward article explains why that might happen in lakeshore settlements:

The heavy rains and a very low water table means that several latrines in the community have since collapsed. In addition, the households cannot dig new latrines so they requested support in the form of eco-san latrines to help in the meantime. The health assistant based at the health centre concurs with this request.

Low water table means the soil can’t absorb the rain, causing flooding. The Lake Albert article details the impact of lack of clean water:

…the landing sites are known to have a high prevalence of water-related diseases, including bilharzia, cholera, malaria and diarrheal diseases.

Lakes Kivu and Tanganyika are also being targeted. Oh, and Lake Mwueru (showing exactly how the same panic narrative is recycled). They’re in Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and Zambia. So what have these 5 lakes under study got in common? The shores of the Democratic Republic of Congo. With its vast mineral wealth and, unsurprisingly, decades of conflict. Especially on the east. Which is where all these lakes are.

Part of that mineral wealth is lithium and another is coltan. “The Great Reset” (which everyone in the fake Green Who’s Who is currently promoting in Glasgow) can’t take place without vast amounts of these key minerals. Known as “conflict minerals”, their extraction is linked to child labour and recruitment into mercenary militias paid (through a spiderweb of shell companies) by multinationals in the Global North.

Two descriptions always come up when White people report on Black African problems: people on the move and population growth. African birth rates are not only a political football, skilfully played by Big Pharma, but also widely misreported. The constant displacement of people and crisis disruption of normal structures of community decision-making mean that it’s fairly easy for multinational companies to move in, grease some palms (“partnership deals overcoming the resistance of vested interests”) strategically, and clean up.

Big Pharma is throwing money at research that justifies their continued extremely lucrative marketing in Africa. Presenting their policy as humanitarian and data-led, when in fact it is exploitative and profitable narrative-led, they use the conclusions of their paid researchers to convince conniving officials to disrupt local economies and deprive already-struggling communities of basic hygiene and healthcare. No-one is throwing money at the three continual pleas of local communities:

  • Clean water
  • Hygienic latrines
  • To be left in peace to exercise their human rights to freedom of movement and dignified labour.

White mischief has not left Africa. If Black lives really matter to my fellow White people, why are we supporting useless research that does nothing but further the careers of the White researchers and destroy the lives of the Black communities it preys upon?

Rosy dawn reflected in lake with hilly shore in shadow.

Thanks to Lynn Greyling for releasing her image Rosy Dawn Over Lake Kivu into the Public Domain.