About Food

Wagon Wheels used to be huge. That’s why they were called Wagon Wheels, because they were almost the size of a wagon wheel. Everyone who sees a modern one will tell you that they’ve shrunk, though Burton’s, the company who make them, deny it and say it’s just that you were smaller as a child. I disagree… They were definitely bigger and everyone knows it. I don’t think it’s my imagination but it looks like they aren’t the only thing that is smaller. Not since I was a child either but in the last few years.

Wagon Wheels are the obvious example. That’s the one everyone knows about because they used to be so freaking big. Now you hardly even get three mouthfuls out of them. You hardly get three mouthfuls out of anything. I had a packet of digestive biscuits this week, opened them up, and they were tiny. There was hardly anything on them. They weren’t supposed to be mini ones either, they were regular sized ones. There wasn’t even two bites on them. It was the same with a creamy meringue thing I bought a few weeks ago… It was so tiny and hardly even worth eating. It didn’t fill me up at all. I’ve noticed this phenomena going on with Jam- You used to get loads of jam in a jar, now you barely get three or four spoonfuls. yogurt is the same. No more than two portions per pot. I’m only one person but imagine if I was a family of four and we each wanted yogurt for breakfast. Just for one day we’d need two pots, minimum. For a week, fourteen. That is, I am sure you will agree, absurd. multipack pots barely have a mouthful in them.

Everything now comes in packs of five as well. They used to be a good wholesome six. Cadbury’s Mini Rolls, for example, used to be in packs of six. Now they’re in packs of five, like almost every other biscuit multipack out there, for the same price. Why? Well the food industry will probably tell you that five fits better into the working week. You can have one in your lunchbox every day and not have any left over. What if I want one Saturday though? They don’t think about that. And with six you get your money’s worth, five and it feels like I’m being short changed. With the smaller sizes it feels like daylight robbery.

Meanwhile healthy food is both ridiculously expensive and either suffers the same problem (fruits especially) or goes to the other extreme and has so much in there that it either goes bad before you can eat it all or you have to spend a week eating nothing but sweetcorn. Don’t get me wrong, I like sweetcorn, but I don’t want to spend a week eating it.

The problem here is that I feel like quantities are being dictated to us by the supermarket and the food industry. For a start not everybody is going to want the same amount of something. Take the yogurt, my two portions could be someone else’s one or four. Why, if I go out and buy some yoghurt, can I not have it in the portion I want? Why can’t I say ‘I want this much’ and have it dispensed into an adequate sized jar? That wouldn’t be practical for biscuits but for fruits, vegetables, jams etc. it would be perfect. Heck, that’s the way it used to be back in the days of the friendly old high street grocer, before supermarkets drove them all out of business.
It’s been a long held belief of mine that the food industry is rotten. It is a mess driven by pirates seeking to make as much money as possible out of one of the most basic needs in the natural world, food. They have western civilisation by the balls. This is just one example out of many that also include extortionate pricing, lies, unnecessary additives, excessive waste and trying to pretend that it’s more convenient to buy foods packaged that are actually really simple to make. With this example, by not selling enough of something they’re pushing people to buy more, thus more money in their pockets. Where they sell too much for one person to reasonably eat it’s a similar sort of thing. You’re giving them more money for more than what you want or need. So what is to be done?

There is only one thing that can be done. They have to be cut down, avoided wherever possible. This is something I’ve been trying for the last few years, ever since I noticed all the ridiculous amount of sugars on the ingredients list of a pizza packet. I ditched ready meals for a start and started making things like pizza for myself, from scratch wherever possible. I made a lovely tomato soup yesterday, for instance. All from scratch! Processed meat went down the tube (apart from the occasional savaloy or black pudding) and so too have pre-prepared drinks. No more Lipton’s Iced Tea for me. If I want something like that I do it myself, from a fruit tea bag. I grow what food I can grow and have room to grow and whatever else I need I try and buy loose where I can, though this is being made harder by the supermarkets who keep dropping the loose vegetables in favour of the packaged stuff. I try not to waste anything. I eat almost everything I buy, even if that means a week of sweetcorn every once in a blue moon. I’ve even started making my own yogurt and I get a lot more out of it than I would ever get in a commercially available pot. One pint of milk makes enough yogurt to last me a week, and the milk is cheaper than the pots so I am also better off.

The other thing I’ve been trying is eating seasonally, which is more difficult than it should be. Fruits are especially hard to eat on a seasonal basis thanks to a dearth of varieties in certain supermarkets. I have to make some exceptions like with berries for example. Mostly though, with a bit of creativity and allowing myself some leeway here and there, I’ve gotten away with it. I haven’t had any mushrooms since February for example but with autumn just a few weeks away they’ll be back soon enough. There are some tomatoes coming through on the vines in the garden at the moment but once they’re gone that’s it till next year. I’ve found that by doing this I appreciate my food a lot more. I’m looking forwards to mushrooms again and potatoes, which before I was eating a few times a week, are more desirous than they were. I really don’t want the tomato season to end either. I’m forced to be more creative with my diet, forced to be more inventive, and that is an exceptionally good thing you should know.

What about those biscuits though? What about sweet treats and cakes? I bake every once in a while but I’m still reliant on the food industry in that regards. That has to change and that is the next step I need to take. I need to start routinely making my own biscuits and meringues (I’ve never made a meringue in my life) and things like that. I’ll get the size I want from them and there’ll be far more than five of them or two mouthfuls per biscuit. Eventually I’ll be able to ditch the store bought varieties entirely and though it will take up a bit more time, it will be worth it.

It means I’m going to need to learn how to bake, like properly bake. I’m going to need to go from somehow managing to turn chocolate chip cookies into scones into master baker. Now everybody goes on about this Great British Bake Off thing so maybe that’s where I should start… Maybe I’ll get some inspiration. Or it might just reinforce how terrible my baking skills really are. I’ll be documenting the process so keep your eyes peeled.

 

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1990: Year Zero | A History Of My Lifetime

I’ve been on this planet for twenty six and a half years now. Recent events have made me realise that in that quarter century (just over) a heck of a lot has happened. So why not write about it? Why not write about all the things that have happened? Why not write a history of my own lifetime? So this is the start, 1990, the year I was born. Eighties kids scoff and laugh saying it was better to be born before the nineties but I naturally disagree. 1990 was extraordinary. Everything was up in the air and the world was changing. As you will see, a new era was dawning…

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Washington D.C | Pride & Power

The world seems to be drawing my attention towards Washington D.C. I caught something on the television, as is often the case, about this fascinating place and I saw recently that a friend of mine was visiting. Of course, there is also the fact that American politics is currently at the head of the global news agenda as the race to be the next president heats up and the current front runner is Hilary Clinton. She’s tried for the White House before and she came awfully close to securing the nomination on her previous attempt. That was eight years ago and I was lucky enough to be there during that time. I had saved every penny I had of my EMA and in February of 2008 I secured myself a place on a college History & Politics trip to Washington… I am never going to forget it.

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Paperback Writer

I am a paperback writer! Officially! Five years in the job and finally one of my books, Max & Anna, is out in print. This was the one, since I finished it last year, I wanted to see as a physical book. Even though there was a period of a month or two when I thought it was just going to be eBook only we got there in the end. I really can call myself a proper author now.

The book is shipped worldwide from CreateSpace ($7.88 + shipping) and each copy ordered is printed especially for you. Each copy is uniquely yours to love and cherish or to drop into a charity shop/second hand bookstore if you don’t like it.

This is really for everyone who has followed my journey, in whole or in part, these last five years- From the first online serialisation of Dark Legend through to my first ventures into eBooking through to today and the first ever print edition. This is for sticking by me. We aren’t done yet though. This is only the end of the beginning. The next step is getting the support of an agent and a traditional publisher, getting into bookshops and finally getting home. But whatever comes our way, we’ll face it.

 

And here you are, the first ever JPC print book. Enjoy: https://www.createspace.com/6449330

 

Stone Circles- An Idea

Stone Circles… They’ve been claimed to be practically everything under the sun; temples, druidic sites, dimensional portals, rotating death ray machines… Stonehenge has even been claimed to be the Garden of Eden for heaven’s sake. You name it, it has probably been suggested to be the reason for these prehistoric monuments littering the landscape. We can never truly know their purpose for certain, only make educated guesses and assumptions or failing that come up with some bat-shit insane theory. Now this may fall into the latter category, depending on your point of view. I have no proof of it other than the tenuous connection I outline below, but it is a suggestion worth a small consideration.

I was writing another article and as part of it the World War II memorial in Washington D.C got a mention. The monument is comprised of a fountain, around which are fifty six pillars and two arches as well as a wall where there is a star for each one hundred American fatalities. The pillars are representative of the fifty US states, five US dependencies and the District of Columbia and they are supposed to commemorate the men of that state or territory who died during the war. The two arches represent the two main theatres of the war- The Atlantic/European Theatre and the Pacific theatre. The most striking thing about the memorial, for me, is the way in which it is arranged. It’s constructed as an ellipse. It is almost, but not quite, a stone circle.

Then I happened to think of the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. It isn’t quite the same thing but the main memorial is a circular structure on top of a mound surrounded by a ring of trees. But look at the picture below. Does it remind you of anything? To me it bears some incredibly striking similarities to aerial views of Stonehenge, or any other stone circle for that matter.

(Image from the National Memorial Arboretum website)

Ok, so these are modern thing and there’s not much chance of people six thousand years ago thinking along the same lines as people today but the similarities raise something which I think is at least worth pondering over for a minute.  Imagine if we didn’t know what the memorial in DC was. Imagine if instead of being a twenty first century monument it was Neolithic or that we are looking on it from six thousand years in the future. Ignoring the fact that it actually says on the monument what it is, what would we think of it? Perhaps we would see it along the same lines as the Ring of Brodgar on Orkney or Avebury or Stonehenge. It could be strange and mysterious to us, something enigmatic and baffling. We might suggest it was a ritual site or, god forbid, something to do with druids. Would we think of it as what it is, a memorial to people who died in conflict? I don’t think we would.

Throughout all of history men have erected monuments to honour the dead, the pyramids are the most famous example, and we already have evidence supporting that Neolithic peoples were no exception. We know that they honoured the dead with great tombs such as West Kennet Longbarrow and Maes Howe in Ireland so it isn’t too impossible an idea to say that they put up other kinds memorials to the dead as well, monuments to those who died miles from home and couldn’t be brought back to be laid to rest in the family vault for example. What if this is what stone circles were? Could they be war memorials?

It seems to me all too easy to imagine that, in a similar way to the WW2 memorial in DC, each stone of a circle could represent a particular household or village or settlement who lost men in battle. They could even be representative of individual soldiers. The stones of these memorials, if they were memorials, might not even represent men at all. They could be markers of individual battles in a conflict or even separate wars. You could come up with any number of ideas for what the stones could represent.

If it were true it would mean that, given the number of stone circles that exist, Neolithic Europe was a brutal and violent place, which I don’t think there is actually any other evidence for, though I could be wrong. The idea would suggest that the people living around Salisbury Plain were particularly bloodthirsty and the existence of Avebury, which is huge, would perhaps signify either a major military catastrophe or that the place was being run by the Neolithic equivalent of Tony Blair.

Admittedly this isn’t as mad a suggestion as the rotating death ray machine or the Garden of Eden, although there’s about as much proof for those suggestions as there is for this one. Like I said at the start, this is an idea based on a tenuous connection, that a pair of recent memorials just happen to be similar to some monuments built six thousand years ago. There’s no evidence to say that stone circles were war memorials. Truth is they are more likely to be general, every day ritual sites than they are to be war memorials. They could even be the opposite for all we know. They might be victory monuments! None of them will transpire to be portals to another dimension though. That much we can say for certain.

Anyway… It was only an idea. Don’t take it too seriously.

(Image from the BBC)