Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Sex Issue

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It’s three PM and I’m sitting in Cafe Jacqui’s with my Diet Pepsi and the sex issue of Diva trying to decide on what to write for this week’s blog. I feel a tiny bit awkward because I hadn’t actually realized that the May issue was the sex issue: I simply grabbed the magazine on a whim as I was rushing out of the house, thinking that reading one of the monthly columns might unlock some inspiration; but now I keep looking surreptitiously over my shoulder to see if the two octogenarian ladies at the table behind me have noticed on one of their many trips to the toilet that I am perusing a publication that is full of naked ladies.

Not that I’m particularly shy about my sexual orientation – my days of playing the pronoun game whilst trying to maintain a hetero charade are long and truly over, and there would quite possibly be a murder if Antonia ever heard me referring to her as ‘Toni’ – but similar to comedienne Susan Calman, I grew up in a household where sex was an untouchable subject (throats were cleared and channels were switched over whenever there was an ounce of nudity, or snogging scenes got a bit racy on the telly); and like she says in her latest article (‘It’s Getting Hot In here’), I also would ‘really rather we didn’t talk about it at all, thank you very much’.

And I know, that this might come as a surprise to some people – especially those writer friends of mine who’ve read the graphic lesbian sex scene in my girl-meets-girl novel ‘Vicky Romeo Plus Joolz’, not to mention the post-bath-time chapter early on where my young butch narrator gets on down with a hand-mirror to examine her vagina for the first time – but I really am quite shy when it comes to watching, reading about or discussing carnal topics; it’s all very well making my characters hot and horny and sexually liberated between the sheets of my manuscripts, but those people aren’t me – and if they were, I certainly wouldn’t be giving anyone a running commentary of what I get up to in the privacy of my bedroom!

To be on the safe side, I decide to quickly flick past the top five sex toy guide and the photographs of scantily-dressed couple Emily and Ali, and fix my gaze on Joanna Benecke’s queer grooming column. This month’s focus is on ethical make up and it includes the low down on Super Drug’s B range, a new-to-the-UK vegan brand called Pacifica Beauty, and a company called VF who specialise in cruelty-free face paint (veganfaces.co.uk); there is also an information box which goes into detail about
shark liver oil, boiled animal fat and other unappealing ingredients like cochineal beetles that are used in the production of non-vegan makeup, and I begin reading it with the best intentions, right before my gaze accidentally wanders to the opposite page where there’s a P!nk For Peta advert featuring the caption ‘I’d rather go naked than wear fur’ alongside an au naturale picture of pop star Alecia Moore…

I don’t stay to read the next page which is about masturbation (another theme which has popped up multiple times in my writing) because I realise it’s nearly closing time, and besides I’m starting to sweat inside my hoody and I’m not certain it’s the heat that’s causing that. Also, I’m not sure whether the owner (who just walked past) was coughing loudly because she wanted me to leave because she was anxious to clear up and go home, or whether she just wanted me and my cheeky magazine to leave, period. Alternatively, I suppose she may just have had a summer cold.

As soon as I go home I plan to have a cuppa and a Nakd bar whilst checking out the film and TV reviews on pages thirty-one to thirty-three, before Antonia comes hammering on my door for her dinner; because, really, that’s about as risqué as I get.

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Confection Perfection

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‘If a confection company produced the perfect candy bar, what would it contain?’

I posed this question to Antonia and her friend, Sarah, when we were sitting outside ‘The Cabin’ (http://cabininthepark.com/today whilst drinking our soya coffees. Sarah said she wished there was a vegan banoffee bar, whilst Antonia misunderstood what I’d said and began listing all the various chocolate bars she’d previously eaten before giving up dairy, right before we descended into a debate about whether or not there had ever existed such a thing as a ‘Peanut Boost’ and what exactly was in a ‘Star Bar’.

Personally, I’ve always preferred savoury to sweet things and crisps and nuts to chocolate and candy (although I did once make the mistake of trying chocolate-flavoured crisps during the early nineties, and in my opinion they were truly, truly vile); but back when I still consumed animal products, I was partial to the occasional ‘Cadbury’s Fruit ‘N’ Nut Bar’ – although to be honest, it was cartoon advert with the wee jingle that I liked best about it: it went something along the lines of ‘everyone’s a fruit and nut case’ and has been stuck in my head ever since; the other thing I remember trying around the same time period (summer of 1993) was a dairy milk block of chocolate that I’m sure had strawberry yoghurt in it and may have been called something like ‘Silk’ or ‘Satin’. Nowadays, I wouldn’t thank you for a rice milk alternative to either of these things; and with the exception of the legendary ‘Vego’ bar and ‘Go Max Go’s vegan version of a ‘Snicker’ aka ‘Jokerz’, I generally avoid sweeties that arent high in cocoa and low on sugar, whilst my super sweet-toothed girlfriend can mow through ‘Moo-Free’ snacks and ‘Mini Moos’ like they are going out of fashion.

I like Booja Booja’s products, for instance their ‘Hunky Punky’ chocolate icecream which contains simply water, agave syrup, cashew nuts and cocoa; and today I finished my second box of Booja Booja luxury truffles since Easter. I think it’s fair to say that if Booja Booja brought out a fist-sized cherry cognac truffle-bar then there’s a chance I’d be a little bit fat. However, being the fitness freak I am, my favourite candy bar would have to be something that contained some combination of superfoods and several different seeds as well as having a fruity middle and a rich dark-chocolatey topping to pique my taste buds. I’ve pretty much described the box of ‘9 Bar Indulges’ that I won a couple of months ago from ‘Vegan Life’ magazine, the same luxury cereal bars I devoured within days of opening and then couldn’t find anywhere in the shops.

I asked Antonia again what her perfect candy bar would be and the conversation went something like this:

Me: Ok, so you can have any kind of candy bar you like.

Antonia: Emmm… I don’t know… A vegan Lion Bar…

Me: Seriously… you could have anything in the world, any ingredient, and that’s what you choose?

Antonia: Uhh, well, I don’t know, a Toffee crisp then…

Me: (sighing) Use your imagination, hen, if you could invent your own sweetie what would it have in it?

Antonia: Oh, well, (she grins and I can almost see a wee lightbulb switching on above her head) I would have rice milk chocolate on a waifter (pause) no, wait, a caramel waifer… plus a layer of that squidgy chocolate stuff that’s in the Boost …obviously it would have to be vegan… and those wee chewy bits you get on the outside of a Toblerone… I think they might be nougat… I would like those on the top … and I want lots of them…

Me: So you don’t want much then.

Later, I googled ‘Peanut Boost’ and ‘Star Bar’ and discovered they were the same thing. Apparently, the Star Bar preceded the Peanut Boost but it was taken off the market and then rebranded, only to later be taken off the market and renamed Starbar once again. I can’t even remember what either of them look or taste like so they couldn’t have been that good.

Divergent

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Last night, Antonia and I went to the cinema in Braintree to see ‘Insurgent’, the second film in the ‘Divergent’ series, which is based on Veronica Roth’s trio of sci-fi novels aimed at young adults.

Set in the futuristic dystopian city of Chicago where society has been divided into five factions (Abnegation, Dauntless, Candor, Erudite and Amity) determined by personality type, the Divergent books follow the story of Tris Prior, an Abnegation-born sixteen-year-old who defects from her faction after discovering during an aptitude test that she possesses rogue ‘Divergent’ traits that make her an apparent threat to her closely-controlled civilisation.

I was very excited by the first ‘Divergent’ book. It was my favourite in the trilogy, although part one of the film adaptation was pretty nail-biting stuff and part two (in mine and Antonia’s joint opinion) was even better. Both book and film were fast-paced and slightly furious, and I identified heavily with the feelings of guilt and anxiety that Tris experienced when she was faced with the choice of leaving her family in order to find her true identity or stay with them out of a sense of misplaced loyalty and duty. I know it’s a rite of passage that most people go through during adolescence, but it was particularly poignant for me because even though I left my parents home nearly seven years ago, having a brain injury has meant having to do things much later in life and I only truly left their guardianship eight months ago. We thought Shailene Woodley was particularly brilliant as the somewhat volatile Tris Prior, and I thought Naomi Watts as the leader of the factionless was, well, rather hot… but I don’t want to say too much and spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen or read the first installment yet…

Antonia and I have been having a running joke recently about what would happen if we were suddenly transported into the pages of one of Roth’s books. Having read all of them (apart from ‘Four’ which is a recently released companion book of short stories) just weeks previous to our movie outing, we are both well-endowed with the knowledge of customs, beliefs and dietary restrictions of each faction. I personally fancied myself as an Erudite initiate – not because they are the most intelligent but purely so I could spend all my time reading, writing and learning about new things. I’m certainly not noble enough to join Abnegation who value self-sacrifice over any other quality; and as much as I value honesty, I could never deliberately ride roughshod over someone else’s toes just to tell my version of the truth, so Candor wouldn’t be suit me either; Dauntless is out too because their whole idea of jumping off moving trains and buildings just for fun seems like a scary prospect (Antonia said it’s also because I’m what the Dauntless-born call a ‘pansy-cake’). To me, Erudite seemed like the perfect place because I could just sit there and google things on the internet. However I realised that I probably wouldn’t pass the IQ test, and if I did I’d be laughed out of the place for being vegan because the Erudite aren’t particularly compassionate.

In the end, I decided the most appropriate faction for me would be Amity. Being the most peaceful, tolerant and friendly lot I’m sure they’d have no problem with my vegan ethics, and I could be perfectly happy living on their eco-farm ploughing the land and planting seeds… and reading my books. Antonia the bleeding heart said she’d go with Abnegation. This is typical coming from the person who once told me her mission in life was ‘to serve’. But she then went on to say that she thought she’d be a Divergent – of course, in my opinion that’s because she always has to be the best at bloody everything!

I’m looking forward to seeing the third film (‘Allegiant’) even though I wasn’t happy with the ending of the book. I’ve got at least another year before it is released though, so I suppose now I’ll have to go and read Roth’s short stories now – either that or start ‘The Hunger Games’.

London Vegan Adventurers

Today, Antonia and I went off on a vegan adventure in London. I suppose you could argue that all our adventures are vegan ones because we are vegans and have been for years, but in this instance we did specifically go in search of previously untried plant-based products and unconquered veggie establishments.

We ended up in Bethnal Green, a part of London I’d never visited. In a cheery wee charity-run coffee-shop called ‘The Gallery Café’ (http://www.stmargaretshouse.org.uk/thegallerycafe/). I was excited to find this place because it had been recommended to me by a chap I’d met last January in ‘Inspiral’ (a vegan café in Camden which overlooks the canal) who told me that it was his favourite food venue in London. And, after sampling the food and the atmosphere, it wasn’t hard to understand why. Between us we ordered a full English breakfast (which was comprised of veggie sausages, beans, mushrooms, toasted sourdough bread and a generous helping of scrambled tofu) and a cheesy, garlicky potato bake with salad. We did our usual eat-half-then-swap-plates, although I ate about three quarters of the food because it was so tasty, and because Antonia has been ill recently and it’s stunted her appetite.

Afterwards, Antonia went to an art exhibition in Whitechapel, and I waddled a few metres along the road to the Museum Of Childhood. I had a really good time looking at all the vintage kids’ games and toys, especially the He-Man figures and the Carebears and the old-fashioned super hero comics. However, I was mildly disturbed by the 1960s stuffed koala bear toy which was a dead-ringer for the koala my mum has had since childhood. According to the placard in the MOC, it was made from kangaroo skin – and I don’t know why this should offend me more than the leather seat of an 80s chopper bike or the many happy plastic farm animals on display, but for some reason it did; and I know I’ll never be able to run my fingers across the fur of mum’s koala toy ever again.

Later, we reconvened and went to Kensington on an egg hunt. I like Hotel Chocolat (because they’ve always catered well for vegans) and I’d heard they had some original Easter goodies. However, the only seasonal dairy-free delicacy I could find was a dark chocolate ‘egg sandwich’, and I couldn’t separate that in my mind from real egg-salad sandwiches. So we sampled a couple of their hot chocolates instead and went along the road to Wholefoods. And despite there being a much wider variety of cruelty-free eggs in this shop, I emerged from the chocolate aisle with a box of Rhubarb and vanilla Booja Booja truffles (and a packet of chicken soup flavoured ‘Ten Acre’ crisps) and Antonia picked a giant Vego bar, some jelly sweets and a bag of marshmallows for her Easter treat.

(We did get some normal foodstuff as well… fat green olives, dairy free almond-cheese spread, veggie haggis… thinking about it is making me salivate so I’ll say no more…)

On the car ride home, I began compiling a list of all the vegetarian and vegan places we’ve ever been to for my new up-and-coming blog page ‘Bean There’ (it was Antonia’s idea), along with a mental plan of where I’m going for my next London Vegan Adventure.