Category Archives: Lifestyle

And lo, the scales fell from my eyes.

“Money is the root of all evil.”

That is a phrase I have heard bandied about my entire life, but I am only now truly beginning to appreciate the actual depth of it. What has truly hit me hard recently are the things that I am still learning about the extent of the way animals are allowed to be treated within the food industry, purely for the purposes of turning a profit.

Vegetarianism on ethical grounds has been around so long now that everybody knows about it, and the basic moral question being asked; “Am I comfortable with the idea that something else was killed so that I could eat it?” We’re all grown-ups here, we all know what eating meat entails, but it’s such a normal part of life these days that most of us see that death as an acceptable side effect of being able to have bacon, and steak, and Sunday roast dinners. Besides, it really is more of a hypothetical question, when someone else has actually done the dirty work, and all we have to do is wander into a shop and pay for it.

There are, and always have been, people who have found at some point in their life that the answer to that question is actually no, and I became one of those people earlier this year. I wrote a blog explaining my reasoning here – for me, it had become a very simple choice between dead animals, and living animals.

What I was not prepared for was the horror story that has been unfolding in front of me ever since then.

Due to the fact that a) I am exceptionally lazy and b) I have frequently been very poor in the past, I haven’t really drunk milk since I was at college. I still cooked with it occasionally, because Yorkshire Puddings are the food of the Gods, but given the scarcity with which I used it, I began to think about cutting it out entirely. Reducing reliance on animals seemed like a good way forward, so I started looking more and more into Veganism… and that is when the layers of the seemingly harmless food industry onion really began to start peeling away, to reveal a far more unpleasant core than I was expecting.

Happy-Cow-800x600

We’ve been brought up with this idyllic country farm image, where Daisy the cow grazes in the fields in the glorious sunshine, and comes wandering in to be milked when the farmer calls. A peaceful, calm partnership in the dairy industry. Well, of course that’s what we’ve been presented with, because the truth of what actually drives milk production is fucking horrible.

Logically, I could have pieced the truth together myself if I’d thought about it, but it’s one of those things that you just accept without question because that’s the way it’s always been. Female mammals produce milk in order to feed their young, we all know that. In order to produce milk therefore, the female has to be pregnant, we all know that. What hadn’t really clicked with me is that to keep a cow constantly producing milk means subjecting the cow to repeated pregnancies, which in turn means regularly impregnating her, whether she likes it or not. Starts to get a little bit icky there for me, when you expand that as a concept.

Of course, as a logical outcome of being pregnant, the cow has a baby, we all know that. But hang on a minute, if the baby is drinking the milk, how are we supposed to get any?! Well, her baby gets taken away from her, normally within hours. The mother has the milk sucked out of her while she mourns for her absent calf. As for the babies – if they don’t get killed straight away – they don’t get to drink the milk their own mothers produce for them. No no, that’s for humans of course; the baby cows get to drink a substitute…

What the actual fuck? When did we buy into this? We know what repeatedly losing babies does to a woman, who was the first person to decide that it was OK to do that to cows? And that’s ignoring the fact that cow’s milk isn’t meant for us in the first place.

After milk, I started looking into the Vegan arguments about eggs. Not eating meat was easy for me, but eggs were a different matter – similar to milk, they were pretty key to the things I cooked. So again, I started looking into it, because chickens produce eggs without our intervention, so were does the harm come in?

Baby Chicks

Hens in battery farms and cages are bad, we all know that. Free range chickens, that’s a much better deal! Chickens can run around outside and have fun in the sun! Well actually, maybe not. Free-range just technically means ‘not in a cage’; they can still be stuffed in a barn with thousands of other chickens. They can still have their beaks cut off so they can’t peck their neighbours. And then there’s the fact that regardless of whether you choose free range eggs from an ethically managed brood, or settle for cheap eggs from caged hens, there are inevitably male chicks that are hatched during the breeding process. They are by their nature surplus to requirements since they don’t produce eggs, so they are separated off and killed. They are either minced up alive, or they are gassed.

...brilliant. No Child Born To Die and all that.

At every turn in the food industry, there is some hidden truth about the treatment of animals that is deeply, deeply unpleasant. But Veganism isn’t just about food, it’s about not using products or clothing that has been linked to animals either. Leather’s easy enough to understand; it’s skin that has been taken off of an animal that has probably been killed for food  – we all know that. But what’s wrong with wool? That grows out of sheep regardless, and if we didn’t give them haircuts, they’d end out like that nutter New Zealand sheep that was on the news! Right?

shrek-the-sheep

I was interested in the wool piece, because I do quite a bit of knitting. Turns out, that most wool comes from Merino sheep, which have been deliberately bred to a) produce more wool than they naturally would and b) have excess folds of skin, producing more wool per square sheepage. Trouble is, more skin folds = more chance of getting flies doing nasty things in there. So they have developed a practise called mulesing.  Mulesing is the removal of strips of skin – without anaesthetic – from the buttocks of sheep, leaving bare raw flesh exposed so that it turns into scar tissue and stops flystrike. Try Google image searching it. On top of that, the wool is sheared off whenever’s convenient for us, and not when would be critical from a temperature perspective for the sheep, plus there are all of the injuries suffered during the shearing process itself.

For fuck’s sake, seriously? Is nothing sacred? I even found out recently that some beer and wine producers use animal products as finings – gelatin and isinglass (fish swim bladders). IT’S BEER. How the fuck are we even shoe-horning the use of animal products into BEER?

As for using animal skins, we have largely accepted that the fur trade is a Bad Thing. You know, they hunt tigers, and club cute baby seals to death and everything. We all know that. However, there’s a 2005 film called Earthlings – which I don’t think I will ever be brave enough to watch – which uses hidden camera footage to show the real activities that happen within industries that use animals for profit. I am quite reliably informed that there is a piece of the film that shows foxes – kept for their fur – being electrocuted IN THE ARSE to preserve the quality of their coat.

What the fuck?? Take an already cruel practise, and then turn the barbarism up to 11?

We have taken what was once a reliance on animals for food and clothing, and turned it into industry. It’s been monetised, consumers demand ‘value for money’, and therefore animals are being wrung for every penny that can be squeezed out of them. It’s out and out exploitation, and animals are treated like commodities, things to use for our own ends in any way that is convenient and cost effective for us. Above and beyond this, when ANY beings are reduced to THINGS in peoples’ minds, that can often come with an inherent cruelty, and bullying behaviour.

Even just taking these few examples, if you substitute humans into the scenario in place of the animals, it would be the plot of an awful and gruesome horror movie. The milk one would be especially twisted… We are talking about Nazi-level evilness, or medieval torture. It would be completely unacceptable – but it’s allowed to happen, because it’s not happening to people, it’s happening to animals.

I am sure there are people who are not concerned about the mistreatment of animals, who perhaps are desensitised. I however am not cool with any of it. I don’t draw distinctions between species’.  As far as I am concerned, if it’s not acceptable for one group of living beings on this planet, it’s not acceptable for any.

There’s another element to all of this, beyond the actual animal cruelty. There’s a message about capitalism here, about the focus on making profits, about draining our resources to their limits for financial gains, and about blindly buying and consuming.

I am truly and profoundly sad that it took me this long to get here, and to actually open my eyes.

Hello, I am a grown woman, of sound mind, and I don’t want children.

I’ve generally taken a “Never Say Never” approach to children, because I am aware that there are hormones and psychology involved in this shit, and therefore there was always a possibility that I would reach a point in my life where I would change my mind.

Well, I’ve just turned 37, and I have not changed my mind. I have never wanted children in the past, and I still don’t now. I have an absence of desire for babies. I understand that to ensure survival of the species, animals have a drive to reproduce. Well, humans are not just animals anymore, and I do not have that drive. Most people seem to feel that there is a child-shaped hole in their lives at some stage, and look forward to having a mini version of themselves running around; I genuinely cannot think of anything I want less for my life.

Since we in general are no longer in the position of running our own little farmsteads and having to raise a swathe of children as a) unpaid labour and b) someone obliged to look after us when we’re old, we no longer need to have families. These days, there are hundreds of reasons not to have children, and only one reason why you should – Because You Want To.

And you know, that’s cool, if you do want to. It’s… like… science. I just really don’t. There are a plethora of reasons for that – many of which are aptly demonstrated by this instagram account – but the biggest ones are probably;

  1. I don’t like children. They are loud, demanding, unreasonable, emotional, unpredictable idiots. Incidentally, I dislike those same characteristics in adults too.
  2. I REALLY don’t like babies. Not only are they completely incompetent in a way that the young of most other species aren’t, but they do that funny thing with their mouths that turns my stomach. They move in weird ways, and when they cry, it makes me ANGRY. I know there is a biological imperative that makes us respond to children’s cries, but it physically makes me feel aggressive. Red mist stuff. I genuinely do not trust myself around crying infants.
  3. I find the idea of pregnancy and breastfeeding physically revolting. I feel about gestation, childbirth and nursing the same way other people feel about maggots and gone-off milk. I am actively repulsed. Your body is taken over by a foreign entity that grows and grows until it smashes its way out, in many cases leaving you physically scarred for life, and then sucks its nourishment out of that same body. I mean, come on; that’s just grim.
  4. I like my life how it is. It is quiet, and peaceful. I spend most of my free time alone, and I earn enough money to do what I want, when I want. I choose my activity according to what will make me happy. I plan on keeping things that way.

Now all of that said, I do love reading blogs and watching vlogs about families who are doing their best to do things right by their kids. I like to see children that are happy, but I approach it more like a research project, a curiosity, and certainly something that happens at a distance.

Interestingly, kids seem to like being around me (…probably because I act like a child a lot of the time…) and I have in fact experienced isolated moments of enjoying the company of children. Watching my friend’s 3 year old son rocking out quietly to Bat Out Of Hell in the kitchen was hilarious and cute. However, I have also heard the stories about the same child melting down over ridiculous things, and for me there is not enough ‘cute’ to outweigh the ‘demon-spawn’.

Also, in order to be supportive and encouraging of a child’s growing mind and sense of identity, there’s loads of Not Being Honest that comes into play. And I’m not very good at that. I may be largely ignorant when it comes to dealing with kids, but even I know that “I heard you the first time – I just don’t care” is an inappropriate response. I am filled with inappropriate responses and no real desire not to use them.

When I was a child myself, I always just assumed that I would end out being a single parent – like the family environment I was raised in. It was only when I passed the age that my mother was when she had me – 20 1/2 years old – that it was like my ears popped, and I suddenly understood that it wasn’t fate, it was actually my choice (…I like to think that I am a smart person, but there is honestly no accounting for the conclusions you come to when you are younger.)

I started taking contraception seriously at college because hello, COLLEGE. The Pill was never a realistic option for me because I have the worst short-term memory, so I ended out having 3-monthly Depo Provera injections. It felt GOOD, knowing that there was something permanently in my body that would stop babies happening.

When I was 23, I got married. Seriously bad decision making, and worthy of a dedicated blog for another time. My then-husband started talking about having children and I freaked the absolute fuck out. I was horrified that there was an expectation that I would have his babies. We had never talked about children; me, because it never occurs to me as A Thing, and him I guess because most people just assume everyone wants kids. I went to the doctor for my Depo shot just after that, and they told me that they had run out. Instead, they offered me an implant, which lasted either 1 or 3 years. I went for the 3 years, and told my husband I had gone with the 1 year one. Yay for honesty in relationships…

Anyway, I have never looked back. I am on my 4th 3-year implant and I would never dream of not having it. I honestly think that I would be scared if I had to have it removed, it has become such a safety blanket.

This is me. This is who I am. There is nothing wrong with me, and there is nothing wrong with any other man or woman who – for whatever reason – makes what is actually the only logical choice about having children, when you think about it.

For my money, it’s the people who do want kids that are the weirdos.

chestburster2

“Why do you love cursing?”

I commented on a Youtube video the other day, where the woman who was filming said that she was grateful that people put up with her swearing and looking a mess. I said that I loved the fact that she ‘cursed’ and ‘never put herself together’, she was a hero of mine for it. Someone replied to that comment;

Cursing

“Why do you love cursing?”

I drew a mental breath to reply…but then stopped. No-one had ever asked me that before, and in fact I have never actually given it any thought. I do love swearing, there’s no doubt about it; I do it a lot and I enjoy it when other people do it well. I feel an almost disproportionate joy over swearing; I wanted to examine that a bit and understand whether I was simply being confrontational and obnoxious. After careful consideration, these are my thoughts;

  1. It’s the adult equivalent of saying “smelly poo-poo bumhead”. Observe a small child cracking up laughing about farts; that’s the effect a well-used swear has on me.
  2. Swear words are power words. They are sharp, pointed words that concentrate the impact of what you are trying to say. Sometimes, “I’m really angry with you right now and I need you to go away” just simply doesn’t cut it.
  3. It’s frowned on more when women swear, and that is just a challenge as far as I am concerned. I don’t accept any circumstance in life where people are not supposed to do something based on whether they have a vagina or not.
  4. Well timed and inventive application of swear words shows a level of verbal creativity and connection to one’s emotions that indicates a healthy mindset.
  5. Societal objection to swearing seems to come from historical value judgements about proper conduct, which are based on the imposition of misguided character and class standards, with a good measure of piety – all of which immediately provokes a two-fingered salute from me.
  6. See point 1.

I find people who don’t swear at all really interesting. My sister is a great example; yes, she can be encouraged into a comedy “motherfuckeeeeerrrr…” every now and then, and has roadrage-triggered potty mouth the same as everyone else. Most of the time however, she doesn’t swear on principle. I cannot imagine the amount of bile and irritation that you have to internalise and suppress by knowing the perfect word to express your thoughts about someone or something, but choosing not to use it.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not completely socially inept; I still have the swearing filter that I was brought up with intact. Hence, I don’t call people motherfuckers in front of my Nan, nor do I tell customers or colleagues that they are dickheads when I am at work. Well, not the ones I don’t know very well, at least…

Being British, I also have a great love of well-crafted understatements. Personally,  I like to use a healthy mix of exaggerated restraint and explosive obscenity to mould and shape my communication – in the same way that artists use different shades of colour to add shadows, highlights and depth to their creations.

And let’s not forget that it’s downright hilarious when people apply a little creativity to swearing.  I found a new favourite when I took a How Sweary Are You? quiz, which introduced me to the phrase ‘bollockfaced shitnubbin‘.

I am a big fan of pairing swears with non-swears, for example ‘cockweasel’, ‘asshat’ and ‘assclown’, all of which I really enjoy. [Incidentally, I like ‘clownshoe’ too, and that’s not even a swear]. If you are so inclined, can thoroughly recommend this Swearing Generator which I have spent many a happy hour clicking on; it merrily combines words like canoe, waffle, wrangler, womble, and bungle with actual swears to provide a constant stream of childish entertainment.

titpilot

…as an example

I have a lot of lazy anger. It’s not the all-consuming, danger-to-your-mental-health kind of anger, and neither is it the productive kind that would drive me to change the world. I am consequently a big fan of anyone who can successfully use swearing and anger together as a vehicle for sharing comedy. Swearing is not essential to the process, but it is a perfect way to refine anger into a short sharp message, and I have a healthy admiration for people who use it effectively. Frankie Boyle is a particular master;

<3

Speaking of the C-Bomb, a few months ago at work, my laptop was really playing up and at one point I spat at it “…you little cunt!” One of my colleagues visibly shuddered, and I asked him if he was alright. He said “I just hate it when women use that word.”

…well now, that’s just an invitation, isn’t it? It’s become a point of fun between us, and I of course modified my language; now I apologise loudly and directly to him every time I refer to anything as a cunt.

Parsnips

Candidate for my favourite tweet of all time.

This Sunday evening can suck my dick

And before you ask – no, there is nothing I need to share with you, that was metaphorical.

I don’t like Sunday evenings at the best of times, but normally it just manifests in an inability to sleep properly. Today however it has aligned with another source of irritation, to produce a Go Fuck Yourself response to the end of the weekend of almost epic proportions.

I first noticed it in my teens, but when I spend too long stuck doing things I don’t really want to do, I can feel something inside me winding tighter and tighter, and getting frustrated, trapped. I get short tempered and snappy, and I stop even being able to enjoy the things I normally like. I reject everything. I need to travel, to simply be somewhere else, somewhere new.

I ran out of holiday allowance from work last November with my trip to Minneapolis, and the holiday year only reset on 1st April, so I have spent the last 6 months or so doing nothing much out of the ordinary. I went off throwing stuff and shooting things with my sister last weekend, and while it was great fun, it wasn’t enough of a departure to relieve the mental pressure.

Thankfully, it’s only a week and half until I head off to Norway again, and I am desperately looking forward to it. In the meantime, I decided yesterday to go back and revisit a place I used to go when I was a kid, the Rothschild Museum in Tring.

I guess it’s called the Natural History Museum these days. I love it there, and it really forms the backdrop to a large part of my mental landscape. Long story short, Lionel Walter Rothschild (the slightly mental son of an immensely wealthy family in late 1800’s Britain) fell in love with animals and decided that the best way to express that was to collect them. 19th Century Pokemon, I guess. He had a zebra drawn carriage and Galapagos turtles on the estate, and did all sorts of other things that you totally could not get away with now. His parents did what any loving family would do; bought him a museum to put them all in. It’s now part of the Natural History Museum family, although very little else has changed – at least in the 30 years I have been visiting.

Anyway, yesterday I was in the bird’s section and once again marvelling at the sheer size of some of them (…to be clear, they are all dead, stuffed and on display – which causes me more and more discomfort as I get older, but that’s a discussion for another time). I turned round at one point and burst out laughing when I clocked this dude looking at me. Enjoy.

Freaky Bird

A Boat Billed Heron, apparently.

I think I may be the untidiest adult that I know; Part 2.

This is where I live

This is where I live

Every now and then I have moments of clarity, and I actually SEE things. I just had one of those moments whilst looking at my computer desk. I decided to tidy it up, and share with you exactly what occupies my space with me on any given day:

  • Ketchup
  • Salt
  • Black nail varnish
  • Matte finish nail varnish topcoat
  • 2 x bobby pins
  • 2 x unsharpened pencils
  • 2 x Micro SD adapter
  • 2 x pencils, sharpened
  • Tube of Savlon
  • 2 x 1″ nails
  • 2 x Biro (1 black, 1 blue)
  • Old unused planner
  • Book; Mogworld – Yahtzee Croshaw
  • LED headlamp
  • 2 x CD markers (red and black)
  • Record cards
  • Packing note (liquid eyeliner)
  • 2 x scratchcard (losing)
  • Tesco receipt
  • Tape measure – DIY
  • String
  • Dart barrel (minus point and flight)
  • Shoe polish – black
  • Eggtimer
  • Cinema ticket stub Dumb & Dumber Too
  • Thimble
  • Barclays Bank PIN sentry device
  • Tape measure – sewing
  • Complementary airline earphones & adaptor
  • Wool sewing needle
  • Shot glass
  • Dried liquid eyeliner – copper
  • Clothes peg
  • Curved glass photo frame – empty
  • SD Card – storage unknown but maker “2005”
  • 4 x retractable ID badge holders
  • Entry wristband – 2014 tattoo convention
  • Android USB cable
  • 4 x CD; Evil Scarecrow, Strapping Young Lad, Marmozets, Blood Command
  • 2 x band patches; Inspiral Carpets, Blink 182
  • 2014 Diary
  • Packaging 1TB external hard drive
  • PC Games; Far Cry 3, Alice: Madness Returns
  • Sony Walkman circa. 1993
  • Pirate themed hole-punch
  • Loom band bracelet
  • Blank CDR discs
  • Keyring breathalyzer
  • Tube of Raw Sienna acrylic paint
  • Travel Connect Four
  • $20 USD
  • Digital camera case – empty
  • AA Membership card – expired
  • Cinema ticket – Alien & Aliens Double Bill
  • Samsung earphones
  • Bookmark from Greece
  • Holocaust exhibition pamphlet from Oslo
  • 5 x hairbands
  • Moomins sticker sheet
  • 12″ ruler
  • Ethernet cable
  • Various teddybears; giraffe, meercat, grizzly bear
  • JVC XX Earphone case – empty
  • Barclaycard Prepaid Gift card
  • Nectar card
  • Viking ‘tattoo’ stickers
  • Bookmark – ‘lucky’ Scottish heather
  • 5p in copper coins
  • Birthday cards – various years
  • Bottle caps
  • Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb Eau de Toilette
  • Battersea Dogs & Cats Home Supporters Pack
  • 2″ screw
  • SIM Card
  • Clear cased wristwatch
  • Band stickers – various
  • Foamy the Squirrel cult membership card
  • 2 x teaspoon
  • Corkscrew/bottle opener
  • Headphone jack
  • 32GB flash drive
  • Rennie Macintosh picture frame – empty
  • C90 cassette – The Cream of Eric Clapton
  • 2000AD playing cards
  • Spirited Away figures
  • Skull candle
  • Pirate wristwatch
  • Bag of various body piercing jewellery
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • 3 x AA batteries
  • 2 x AAA battery
  • 2 x bulldog clip
  • Button
  • Gas & electricity metre reading
  • 2 x pairs nailclippers
  • Magnet
  • 5 øre coin (1978)
  • Metal curtain tieback fixing
  • Oinking rubber pig toy
  • 2 x dice (4-sided and 10-sided)
  • Ultra Magnus
  • Pistachio shell with eyes
  • World of Warcraft blood elf rogue figure
  • EDF energy Zingy figure
  • Crowbar
...I give it a week.

…I give it a week.

Throwing Stuff And Shooting Things

My sister and I went on an ‘adventure day’ hosted by 3xtreme in East Grinstead, which is in the southeast of the UK. The theme was zombie apocalypse/hunger games, and was billed to include crossbows, axe throwing, shooting, spear throwing, archery, all sorts of wonderful stuff. I was way more excited by the axe throwing than I should have been; I’ve always liked holding hammers, and axes are my weapon of choice in a video game, if there’s any available. Maybe there’s something in my childhood that I need to look at…

East Grinstead

For reference, if you’re not familiar with UK geography.

It looked really good and sounded exciting, but as with anything like this that’s relatively unknown, there’s a bit of pot luck involved. Photos can’t be trusted as a realistic representation, so unless you actually know someone who’s been, you could be walking into anything. I was mentally prepared for it to be like one of those Winter Wonderland horror stories, where parents pay loads of money to take their kids to a promised Lapland in the heart of Wiltshire, only to find it’s just a cordoned off field with a few bales of hay, a couple of sheep in reindeer headbands and a drunken Santa who’s forgotten his trousers and shouts at the kids.

Also, the other thing to be aware of with events like this; they attract weirdos. Yes, I do appreciate the implications of that statement… but I am talking about the type of people that until you actually meet them, you’d think only existed as parody characters in comedy shows. They’re normally too short/unstable/boss-eyed to get into the military, but they are so determined that they’ve still put in the time to learn the jargon and get the kit, or at least a vague approximation of. They’ve learned everything they know from reading Bravo Two Zero, and listening to Keith with the gammy leg who works in the Army surplus store.

I made a new friend on the way

I am not the kind of weirdo I was talking about, by the way.

Imagine our delight then when we arrived and it was actually at a proper outdoor activity centre, and the only people there with any kit were actually instructors. Other people on the adventure day with us were a Dad with his two sons, a couple who just looked like any normal couple you might see in Tesco, and four young giggly teenage girls.

Joining us late was a group of 6 “young adults”, who were not only late, but then took their sweet time wandering off to the toilet, gathering their takeaway coffees and chatting amongst themselves. I got the impression that they weren’t used to having to listen to anyone else telling them what to do very often.

Whilst it had been warm and bright on the drive down, the weather forecast had said that it was going to rain for a bit in the early morning, before clearing up to be sunny for the rest of the day. I had therefore committed to shorts for the entirety of proceedings – not just because it was due to be warm, but because all of the trousers I own are actually longer than my legs, and therefore a REALLY bad idea if there is going to be any hint of mud. It did indeed start raining as soon as we arrived, and even though we were expecting it, it was still disappointing.

This totally qualifies as bright and sunny.

This WAS warm and bright. No, honestly.

We eventually went off in a convoy down to a field half a mile or so away from the main centre. We parked up and walked past a group of the tattiest, greenest caravans I have ever seen (which actually made my car look well maintained), down a muddy slope to the bottom of the field, where there was a tree-lined stream, and a camp set up in a little hollow. The shelter was a little lean to, with benches and a firepit, covered by camouflage tarpaulins.

Once there, we were divided into two groups; the other half were taken off to start with the archery in the next field along, and our group stayed where we were to begin with the air rifles. I was rather pleased about that turn of events because a) it was still drizzling, and the trees offered some shelter and b) the 6 pricks were away in the other field.

The instructor, Dave, talked to us about the guns we were going to be using, how to safely carry, load and fire them. He also explained about how to ensure the gun is braced into your shoulder properly and not get too close to the sights on the top, in order to avoid cracking yourself in the face when the gun kicks back. I mentioned that I had in fact done exactly that to myself when I was younger, and given myself a black eye, ha ha ha, don’t do THAT kids…the funny thing being that while doing a sunburn reccy later on, I noticed that I had a sodding great lump above my eyebrow which looks very much like I had done exactly the same thing again. Well done, me.

With any luck, it won't bruise this time...

With any luck, it won’t bruise this time…

Anyway, we split into pairs to work our way through 10 different targets along the side of the stream. The targets themselves were perched in the branches of the trees bordering the water – metal animal shapes, with little yellow ‘kill zone’ dots painted on them. If you hit the target, you got a point. If you hit the kill zone, the metal animal fell over and you scored two points. The group that scored most points got to dictate which of the two teams did the final activity of the day first, and therefore got to leave earlier.

My sister and I worked our way around the different targets, leapfrogging one of the pairs of girls who were giggling and squealing about not being able to pull the trigger because it was too hard. I generously thought at the time that they had simply forgotten to take the safety off, but based on later events, it’s entirely possible that they just couldn’t do it. My sister was consistently good at hitting the targets and didn’t miss much, but for me it was another example of my complete inability to moderate anything; I either hit the kill-zone or missed entirely. As it happened, I achieved the joint top individual score with the Dad, which I think says more about how everyone else’s day was going than it did about mine.

Dave had a started a fire in our absence, and we steamed the rain out of our clothes whilst enjoying some toasted marshmallows and waiting for everyone else to get back.

20150411_100613

Yes, I am aware marshmallows have gelatin in. Now. Never occurred to me at the time.

Once everyone was finished and scores collected, Dave talked to us a bit about trapping in a survival situation, and then we moved on around to the archery where the other guys were – unsurprisingly – taking their time.

Recurve Bow

We’ll just stand here in the rain waiting guys, don’t worry about it.

Here we were using ‘recurve’ bows and the instructor, Mark, talked us again through safety and how to shoot the bow properly. Once more, I was completely inconsistent, and once more, I managed to injure myself – although this time it was more immediately apparent. Every time I released an arrow, the bowstring snapped me inside my left forearm on the way through. I don’t mind admitting, it fucking hurt. Mark had a forearm strap that he gave me to wear, which really helped and also offered me some reassurance; I can’t be THAT much of a spaz if someone has already designed a bit of kit for it. [It’s shaping up to be a cracking bruise, by the way]

We had a few rounds of shooting, with the gradual introduction of balloons in the centre of the targets (I have to be honest, I only managed to hit mine because the wind blew it to one side and into the path of the arrow I just fired), and then lastly a rubber skull with an apple on its head, which the youngest of the two brothers absolutely nailed.

We then went back to Dave, who introduced us to the crossbows, and a movie reality-check about the difficulties of actually using them in a combat scenario. He had three different weapons, which ranged in price from £100 to £500, and ranged in ease of ability to cock from “Hmm, that was harder than I expected” to “Help me; I think I just herniated a disc in my spine”. I’ve used a stock picture because I was too busy paying attention to take a photo of my own, but you need to use a special rope tool just to cock these crossbows, before you can even get in a position to use them.

Crossbow

You need to brace your foot in the bit at the bottom, and pull until you burst something.

We all had a go at firing each of the three weapons at a couple of dummies on the other side of the field, and the speed they fire at is surprising and impressive. While the end result is pretty devastating, these crossbows were time consuming and labour intensive to cock and fire. I imagine they would be good for hunting, but more of a liability in any combat situation.

20150411_114207

I won’t deny that it was a lot of fun, if over a bit quickly… say no more.

Now, while I will happily take the piss out of people who are behaving like idiots or arseholes, I generally try not to be negative about people who are trying their best… Unfortunately, at this point in the day, two of the young girls were so totally incapable that it actually felt dangerous having them around.

One in particular (who had looked from the start of the day like her boots were too heavy for her to walk around in) would definitely have struggled to even open a packet a crisps. She couldn’t cock the bow with the lightest draw weight, and ended out catapulting the heaviest one at the Dad who was trying to help her. I hope he’s OK actually…

After we had all surveyed the damage wrought upon the two ‘zombies’, we moved on to my favourite bit of the whole day; spear, knife and axe throwing with Mark. As before, the previous group were still arsing about by the time that we got there.

Throwing Crop

In your own time, darlings.

There were a series of wooden stands, with sodding greats slices of tree nailed to them, with a knife and an axe for each one. Next to those targets was that hay that I had been expecting, but it was there for hurling the spears into. We each stood in front of one station, had two throws of each pair of weapons, and then moved along one space ensuring that everyone got a go on the spears.

Turns out, throwing lumps of metal is surprisingly difficult, and I could not have failed harder unless I had thrown the knife and the axe down behind me and just run face-first into the target.

20150411_122833

Frankly, I’m surprised I didn’t stab myself in the back of the head.

To my utter relief, it wasn’t just me. It was like we were all hopeless peasant villagers from a medieval action movie, where a heroic warrior steps in to train The People how to fight against whoever it is that is oppressing them. In the first scenes of the training montage, the hero sits on horseback, watching in awed disbelief at the sheer incompetence unfolding around him, as the scruffy villagers utterly miss the archery targets, trip over their swords and accidentally set fire to their own shoes. I thought that was all hammed up for the sake of the films – nope, that’s precisely how it would have happened. Every time Mark shouted for everyone to throw, there was a spray of weapons quickly followed by synchronised clattering and thuds as everything simply bounced off, landed handle first, or just whistled off into the distance. I’m not sure about anyone else, but I thought it was hilarious, and I don’t think that I could have scripted it better.

Clatter

I have marked each comedy rebounding axe with an yellow arrow.

The spears were OK and felt fairly familiar, but the axes/knives were a different matter. It’s an unusual throwing action, completely different to any sport I have ever been forced to participate in, or any action I have needed to use in any line of work. Imagine, if you will, the first time a toddler throws a ball, and then just ends out hurling it enthusiastically onto the floor in front of them. That is EXACTLY what it felt like I was doing on the first two axe stations. I also felt like I was rolling my shoulder out of joint. I was clearly Doing It Wrong.

Now, while I like to think that I am smart, and quick to pick up facts and processes and numbers, physically speaking I am an absolute fucking doofus. It takes me an inordinate length of time to learn new physical abilities. I flail at stuff like an angry child with absolutely no success, until eventually something clicks and I can just do it. Normally, I get so frustrated that I give up ages before the ‘click’ moment, and rarely end out doing most of the things I’d like to be able to.

As a result, I am deeply envious of people who can pick new physical activities up instinctively, and we had one of those people in our group – the oldest of the two boys. I couldn’t say how old he actually was, just that he was old enough that he didn’t look like he was made from parts of other, taller boys any more, while being too young to buy a round of drinks yet. He got good really quickly, and was the only person to land the two handed axe at the end, although his Dad gave it a good go.

20150411_124136

Well, it looked cool, if failing miserably at being effective.

To be fair to myself, by the time I reached the third station, I was actually landing the axe on 50% of my throws, and on one occasion I managed to land the knife too. (Granted, the knife was flat edge of the blade into the wood, and the axe was hanging on by the tip, but I am taking that as a Win.) It was nothing short of haphazard, but it was progress, and I would have liked to have spent loads more time there.

Sadly, it was the end of the session and we had to break for lunch. One thing I can say for sure; I do not want that to be the last axe I ever throw. Despite not exactly being the axe-wielding maniac I had hoped for, I really enjoyed myself and will definitely be doing more – watch this space.

After lunch, and after sitting around again waiting for the other group, we got to use some air pistols, but any gangsta fantasies were very quickly destroyed. We gathered inside a darkened hut, with scrim netting across the ceiling and a tin can range at the far end. We were all given the opportunity to practise opening, loading and closing a few different types of handguns… which proved to be a lot slower and less slick than I think a few people had hoped for. There was quite a bit of grumbling and struggling, followed by slightly disappointing little crack noise when the gun was fired. Boyz n the Shed; it’s the British version.

Aight.

“Aight.”

When the girls got up to have a go, Dave dialled the difficulty back a bit and gave them an easier gun to load – I can’t remember what it was called but it looked liked something out of an Indiana Jones movie. All you had to do was break the barrel down, pop a pellet in, and close it again. Those girls were hopeless – seriously, one of them couldn’t break a fucking Kit-Kat. If it really WAS a zombie apocalypse, I know who’d be going for bait first.

Anyway, we all had a go with a few different handguns, and I can state categorically that I did not hit a damn thing. That is not in any way an exaggeration. I thought I was lining the sights up properly, but absolutely nothing hit. The pellets all disappeared into bales of hay at the back, so I couldn’t see where they were landing, and had no idea what I was doing wrong in order to correct it.

My sister on the other hand did really well, which was great, because shooting was the thing she was really interested in. The older lad from earlier also shone, as did the fourth of the girls who ended up with us… I just stuck with looking more badass than everyone else.

20150411_142920

Don’t disabuse me of the notion.

11 Things You Should Probably Know Before Hanging Out With Me.

1) I am remarkably untidy. It’s not deliberate, but simply the result of a combination of not really giving a toss, and having an almost unbelievably bad short term memory when it comes to completing tasks like Putting Shit Away. If mess makes you uncomfortable, you should probably avoid coming to my house. However, as untidy as I am, I know where everything is. It might look like abject chaos to YOU, but move my shit, or mess with the order that you cannot perceive, and I will get a bit grumpy.

2) If you are a man – unless we are talking about an activity that requires pure physical strength that is beyond my ability – there is a good chance I will out-man you in a lot of tasks. Please don’t worry about it; I’ve simply made it a point of focus and pride in my life to be able to do those things. By all means OFFER to take a look at my car when it’s broken if you like, but don’t be offended when I say no and sort it out myself.

3) I drink. A lot. Most of the time. Not especially heavily, but consistently enough to cause alarm in some people. Am I aware that it is not the healthiest of life choices? Yes. Do I need you to bring it to my attention? With pursed lips and raised eyebrows? No.

4) I don’t enjoy shopping, or shoes, or handbags, or accessories, or babies, or haircuts. Any attempt to engage me in conversation about any of these things will probably meet with a blank stare, especially if you talk with a conspiratorial tone like I should know what you’re on about because I have a vagina.

5) I don’t like fighting. Or arguing. Or even mildly disagreeing. If you have properly fucked me off, I will go away somewhere until I have calmed down sufficiently to be able to present my concerns to you with as pleasant and reasonable a face as I can. If you have just annoyed me, I will more than likely sit in the corner and chew on my knuckles until I simply don’t feel the need to say anything any more. Do not expect me to engage in a “heated debate” in the pub. Or anywhere else for that matter.

6) I like my own company. In fact, most of the time I prefer my own company to that of even people that I REALLY like. I travel alone, I go to gigs and festivals alone, 99% of my interaction with the world is through a PC screen that I can switch off. If you act like a dick, I will have no second thoughts at all about wandering off and leaving you to act like a dick on your own, regardless of where we might be.

7) I will only make a statement if I am 100% confident that I am correct. If I am not sure that I know something, I will either shut up entirely, or will preface whatever I am saying with “I don’t know but I THINK…”. I automatically assume this is how everyone operates, so if you are talking about something I don’t understand – unless instructed otherwise – I will conclude that you know what you are talking about, and will ask you an inordinate amount of questions until I have satisfied my own curiosity. This isn’t a challenge, and I don’t intend to put you on the spot, but this is KNOWLEDGE people. Must have. Also, if I know you are wrong then I’ll be nice about it, but I will tell you why.

8) I am horribly honest – but only when pressed. I will avoid an awkward situation if there is any way to sidestep it, but if you ask me a direct question, then I will answer it truthfully. If you don’t want to hear what I actually think, I would recommend that you don’t ask in the first place.

9) You might not hear from me for weeks – or months – on end. Don’t be offended, I still like you, I’m probably just knitting. Or reading a new series of books. Or on holiday in Norway. Other people are really not my first thought. There is never any upset intended, but I am normally so involved in the immediacy of whatever I am doing, you will probably need to remind me that you exist.

10) I don’t lose my temper often, but when I do, it’s biblical. I frequently have short snappy rants – which are mostly for comedy purposes, if I am honest – but I only genuinely lose my temper about once every 4 years or so. It’s normally because I am properly hacked off with someone being an unreasonable prick, but I am too drunk to make a sensible choice and walk away from a fight. It gets all kinds of unpleasant, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. However, if you happen to incite this level of fury and violence, you have been warned in advance by points 5 and 10, and I therefore claim no responsibility.

11) I will judge you, based on your actions and choices. I mostly won’t treat you any differently, because I am completely aware that my standards are based on my own life experiences and are maybe not even fair – and therefore not applicable to anyone other than myself…but I am Judgey McJudgeypants of the Clan Judge, and if you don’t recycle because you “can’t be bothered”, I will quietly be calling you a dick in my head for ever more.