Trying not to be part of the problem.

Propagating Bolted Cabbages (If that's even the right word) - An Experiment


Today I thought I'd do something about the state of my indoor cabbages.


These are all taken from previously used cabbages, the ends of which I'd kept in water for some time before planting in soil, similar to how I have retained my leeks and on which I may blog in more detail later.


They've done better than I expected on the shelf space I'm planning to use for a much more substantial and productive vertical growing space in the future.  Here they're receiving some direct sunlight (this picture was taken quite early this morning, on an overcast day, hence the shadiness) but I fear they've reached the limit of what they can do under such conditions.

Leafy enough in parts, and they've added a little extra green to a few meals the past week or so, but they're starting to behave quite eccentrically.  Some of them didn't look very well at all:

Another Walk in Another Park

Tonight I'm off to my best friend's to drink wine and have great conversation.  Nothing else is on the agenda before then, so I decided to spend as much time as I possibly could around plants.  To this end, I took myself off to Fletcher Moss, Didsbury.

Didsbury isn't really in Manchester.  Well, it is, but it doesn't feel like it is.  If you know Manchester at all, you know what I'm talking about.  Let's just leave it at that.

Contemporary Worm Management Solutions

Back in January I posted about my home wormery, so if you read that post, perhaps you'd be interested in an update on how things are going with the little wrigglers.  There's no way to make posts about vermiculture sexy, so I'm not going to try.  You have to plunge your hands into the smelly, sticky earth to reap the benefits of worm composting, and that's just all there is to it.  Either you're into that, or not.  But plenty of people are.  So anyway, here's a quick video I just made:


Oh, and for the purposes of this post, I made some tweaks to my YouTube channel, such as it is, and linked it back to this blog.  Might start posting more actually useful videos there in the future, if anyone's interested?

How to Re-Grow Leeks

Leeks are a dense and tasty vegetable that are well suited to European climates, and have been used in Britain probably since Roman times.  (Google "history of leeks".  Go on.  Aren't you even curious?)  I feel they're a very underused vegetable.  Leek and potato soup?  That's about it.  In fact they're something you can add to any soup, stew, casserole or other concoction, with or without potatoes.  I've even tried them grilled a few times, sliced vertically and with a bit of olive oil and salt, and never regretted it.

Consider the Toilet

No Buy April is drawing to a close, and one thing I can be certain I will have saved on is laundry expenses. I can't think of any way round having to wear clean clothes at least some of the time, and so a big box of washing powder was one of my 'essential purchases' at the start of the month. Five days left, and there's still plenty of washes to be had out of the 2.6kg box of Daz I helped myself to for a respectable £5.00. One trip to the launderette every 10-14 days was previously costing me £4.00 a pop (more if I used the dryers) so there's an obvious saving of at least £3.00 for the month. Little things, my friends. Little things.

One lesson that stuck in my mind after my trip to Brighton Earthship last summer was how much water is wasted in modern housing, to the benefit of nobody.  While water is of course an essential element of life, the use of totally clean water is essential only for certain purposes, and yet in modern architecture, all incoming water comes from a single source, whether it's used for drinking, washing, cooking or sewage.  Earthships incorporate the recycling of water into their design, so that rainwater is collected, used for drinking and cooking when it's fresh, recycled and filtered to be used as 'grey water' for plants and in plumbing, and finally recycled again as 'black water' for sewage.  It then returns to the earth, and re-enters the water cycle naturally, causing little if any pollution or waste.  Obvious when you think about it, but hardly anyone ever does.

The Game of Evil

What I want and what I aspire to become are two different things.  Obviously, since one is the present and the other concerns the future: peace of mind, perhaps, belongs to those for whom the present and the future are the same.

Probably not the next Prime Minister
I was chatting to my friend Nicola the other day about this blog, the upcoming General Election, and the overall shittiness of the political landscape, among other things, and she suggested the idea of me becoming a "lifestyle blogger", living off the ad revenue generated by clicks from my millions of loyal subscribers.  Now there are a lot of words that make me cringe - and that's probably something I need to work on (too much cringing is not good for the soul) - and "lifestyle" is most certainly one of them.  I've had a kind of motto rattling around in my head for I don't know how long that goes, you can have a lifestyle, or you can have a life, but you can't have both.  It's just a thought, one that can lead you down various psychic rabbit holes, and not one I'd say I actually believe (or don't believe) but one that bubbled up in the course of our conversation anyway.  The commodification and fetishisation of the mundane is something I utterly detest.  Nobody talks about it much (Guy Debord killed himself - nobody talks about that much, either) and one reason for that, I think, is its ubiquity.  You can't see your own eyes.  

Probably the next Prime Minister.
Same as the old Prime Minister.
What could be more symptomatic of late stage capitalism than to mine the drudgery of the everyday in search the last, untouched corners of reality to turn into money?  Here's a video of someone giving you a "tour" of her kitchen and, specifically, of her fridge.  It was 5.7 million views.  She has 8.2 million subscribers.  She has published a cookbook, which was a New York Times bestseller in the 'Advice, How-To and Miscellaneous' category in November 2015.  There is of course nothing wrong with this.  I'm just pointing out that it is something that it is actually happening in real life.  Online "content creators" (here comes the cringe again) seem to be doing very well for themselves.  YouTube's recent tweaks to its advertising policy led to a decline in revenue for other many creators and, of course, helped to generate thousands of hours of exciting new content.  Sometimes at night I lie awake and wonder if the government counts YouTubers when it's calculating unemployment figures.  No really.  I do that.

Anyway I'm getting on a bit now, so all of this probably appears stranger to me than it actually is.  (I still don't really understand what 'Gamergate' is (or was?)  Also apparently there's a fourth wave of feminism, and I'm only vaguely aware of just how much Oxford's conflation of with students not making eye contact with racism, is going to generate lots and lots more angry content.  Apparently this targets autistic people, too, which I can imagine the internet is not going to like at all).  Here's me.  I started a blog in 2016.  That's what you kids do nowadays isn't it?

And it takes me five paragraphs before I can even get to the point.  My knees hurt.  My thumbs hurt.  What time is it?  I don't know, and I don't know how to think about the fact that I thought I'd give advertising on my blog a shot.  It feels a bit like pissing in the face of the spirit in which I started this blog in the first place.  Maybe it is.  So for now I'm just telling myself it's an "experiment".  Or a game.  To see if I actually generate any money from hosting advertising on my blog, now that I'm gaining a moderately respectable amount of "traffic" (cringe no. 3)  I've been tweaking my adsense settings so that (hopefully) I don't host anything unconscionable: ads in the "property", "finance" and "beauty and personal care categories" (cringes no. 4, 5 and 6) have all been blocked.  How effective this is remains to be seen.  Nicola very kindly clicked on some ads right as we were chatting, generating me approximately 35 pence, which isn't exactly enough to live on, but it's a start.  I don't think asking you to click on ads is allowed, so I'm not asking you do that.  Please don't click on any ads.  Or do, if you want me to help my generate lots of exciting new content.

All ads are evil, but some are more evil than others.


Don't forget to like, share, subscribe and scream desperately into the void.

The Open Air

Sunday was a good day.  Maybe it was the spontaneous, unorthodox breakfast I russelled myself up.  Admittedly, it wasn't all that filling, but I'm a firm believer in having vegetables for breakfast.  Why don't we do that?  For whatever reason, some foods are 'breakfast foods', and some are not.  Bollocks to that.  Try having vegetables for breakfast tomorrow.  See how it feels.

Anyway, with all that green goodness inside of me, I decided to spend the morning on the move.  The plan was to go over to my friends' Sarah and Jon, who recently moved to Farnworth, about 6 miles away from me, in the afternoon and spend some time in the garden, seeing what we could do with it.  It's hit me recently just how much I enjoy being around plants - a thought so simple I'm having trouble processing it - so just the idea of being given the chance to be part of shaping someone else's garden (lacking any outdoor space of my own) is one that brings me real joy.  But I'm getting ahead of myself...

A Walk in the Park

Never overlook the joy that might be found right on your front doorstep.  I popped out just now to old school spam some local letter boxes with OLIO leaflets (sorry?) and found myself wandering down a street adjacent to the side of Clarence Park, only to discover said park is quite considerably larger than I realised.  Hey, it's only been seven months since I moved here.

So I had myself a wander.

Home Grown Green Breakfast Stir Fry

This morning I woke up hungry, as I sometimes do, and decided to try a little experiment: to construct a breakfast using only ingredients I have grown at home.  This limited my options somewhat, but here's what I russelled up:
As part of a balanced diet
 Behold, a nutritious green breakfast stir fry!  Ingredients: leeks, cabbage, spring onions, sage and chives.  Here it is a few moments later, in a bowl:

It's all in the presentation

First Pea Pod!

I'm happy this morning because I spotted the first pea pod growing. It's the simple things.

Reading list, and other tweaks

If you'd care to glance over to the left hand side bar of this blog (if you're using mobile or reading elsewhere than on blogger, please go to the main page and you'll see what I'm on about) you'll see I've started to gather a 'Reading List' together. This is really just a linkdump, for longer articles, books and papers, may or may not have always read myself, but which have captured my attention and relate in some way or other to the things I ponder on this blog. I invite you to explore.
I also set up a new Twitter account on which to gather my thoughts relating to the themes of my book, which you can follow at @veganimp. This is just a place to gather my thoughts in a slightly more organised way, using the 140 character limit to keep the thoughts concise. I'll also post links to things I'm reading there too, when I feel like it.
@jonnyopinion by the way, is just where I piss about. See right sidebar for details.
Also, if there's any readers I haven't given access to my 'library', which is where I throw every epub or pdf I can get hands on, please get in touch with your email address and I'll send you a link to view. There's so much to read, and so much time to read it in.
Cheers.

Also available on Medium.

This blog is now mirrored on Medium, if you like that sort of thing. Please follow me there, or here, or just as you wish.

Imagining No Possessions (Part Two)

Now what?

Last week the story that Lord Simon Wolfson, the chief exec of 'Next', had been moaning about "millennial shoppers" and their diminishing enthusiasm for spending money on material things (Next clothing in particular, we can safely assume) in favour of spending instead on "experiences", fell across my radar.  As you would expect from such a person, he expressed the "problem" entirely in terms of numbers.  According to "the latest figures from Barclaycard" (standard bedtime reading for a chief executive, probably) "expenditure in restaurants shot up in the last three months of 2016 compared with the previous year" with similar rises in spending on "entertainment, such as going to the cinema".  All this apparently leaves our multimillionaire hero "'extremely cautious' about the outlook for the rest of 2017".  Not "extremely cautious" in a parents-of-the-3-million-plus-children-in-the-UK-who-live-in-poverty kind of a way, I assume, but extremely cautious nonetheless.  More a perhaps-he'll-decide-not-to-use-his-bonus-to-plug-the-pay-gap-between-him-and-his-employees-this-year kind of a way.  Which, of course, he has every right to do, doesn't he?  Or not to do.

Now there's no need for me to go down that road to make the point I want to make here.  Some people are multimillionaire chief executives of successful businesses.  Personally I don't begrudge them that (much) and I've never much cared for the neo-socialist vitriol spewed at "The 1%" (TM) as if the inequality that exists between them and the rest of us were always, by definition, their fault.  I'm more interested in the assumptions underneath this type of thinking - assumptions expressed in Lord Wolfson's comments, on the right (he's a Tory peer, believe it or not) as well as in the standard criticisms of "wealth inequality" that we hear repeated ad nauseum, and without much reflection, on the left.  Crudely put, those assumptions boil down to this: some people have too much money, while the rest of us have too little, and if the have-too-muches would only share with the have-too-littles (voluntarily or otherwise), everything would be much better for everyone.  There'd be no more multimillionaires (boo hoo) but no more children in poverty either.  Utopia achieved.  Hooray.

Whether or not this is true does not concern me in the least.  I have lost all taste for the bitter back-and-forth between left and right on such matters as 'entitlement', 'equality', and 'wealth'. As if all that politics was really about was who gets how much money, when, and why.  As if all that really mattered was not whether or not we are spending money at all, but only what we spend it on.  (Note the fetishisation of capital-E 'Experience' is just as prominent in consumer culture as the fetishisation of stuff, and that we are all just as susceptible to it).  I'm trying to imagine a world beyond money, a world where value - real value - is contained in something much more, well, real than the means of exchange. More real, even, than the things themselves being exchanged.

And it's a terrible irony that in our slouching towards Utopia we came to value anything else. But that's what happened, and here we are, in the empty pursuit of objects, and of the means by which to acquire more objects. Even our experiences become objects, memories to accumulate and 'share' with 'friends' - people with whom the only thing we really share is envy.  We can do better than this. We haven't quite worked out how yet, but we will. We have to.

Today I reached a kind of milestone. I got rid of the last of my excess stuff.

Stuff, bags thereof.

There's a very handy little app called 'Gone for Good' here in the UK, that allows you to quickly find local charities that will collect your clutter for free. Posting the picture above alerted the local British Heart Foundation man + van, who arrived this morning to take about ten bags of clothes, books, kitchen items and other miscellaneous junk off my hands and into the hands of people who can hopefully do some good with it. It was a great feeling - not just the unavoidable, self-congratulatory warmth that comes with giving to charity - but the feeling of going back inside to a flat that no contains virtually nothing useless. No doubt there's more pairing down to be done (it becomes an obsession) but I feel like I crossed another bridge to wherever I'm going next.

No Buy April

It's been just over a year now since I began my journey, my "new life" (the inverted commas mean something). A good time to take stock, and reflect on what I have learned so far.  To sum up: