Category Archives: Information

Change of Address

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It’s time to leave this place behind, I’m afraid and move on to…well, somewhere else. In this case, here. That is, Throwaway Literature. At the moment it’s all the same stuff as here, but go, have a nosy, make yourself at home, add it to your feedreader, add me to your Twitter, all that jazz. BYE GUYS! It’s been real.

Amelia

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Irrational Anxiety; fun while it lasts

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Frequently I find myself sitting among friends, walking alone or reading in my room & I notice that my chest is tight, my muscles are tense & my thoughts are rushing all over the place, alighting briefly on each to-do, then on on onto the next one. I think that I’m seeking out solutions to what ails me, but I’m really fueling my nervous, paranoid anxiety, uselessly & meaninglessly.

What I realise what I’m doing to myself I have a few go-to methods for calming down.

Strip it all Back

Getting naked is a sure-fire cure for anxiety. Er, mentally naked that is. All these worries are ephemeral & usually something which nothing can be done about at the moment of worry. Often they’re beyond out control altogether. Instead of letting my mind trip over the piles of junk in my brain, I breathe deeply & focus on feeling the inhale & exhale inside my lungs & throat. It reminds me that I am alive & all I need to survive is air & everything on top of that is practically a bonus. I’ve written about breathing before.

Get into Nature

Have you ever been walking down a country path & realised that you can’t remember anything you just thought? You have a memory of the wind in the trees & on your cheek, the birds chattering & the way the edge of the clouds glow golden in the sunset but nothing beyond that. A walk in a forest or an afternoon on the beach or a hike up the nearest hill provide enough of interest to distract the brain but in a calming & refreshing manner. Green is also supposed to be the most calming colour!

gush

Fuck Shit Up

Do something! Anything! Go for a bike ride, fly a kite, have a tea party, hit the gym, bake, dye your hair blue, get a tattoo, hoover, do the weeding, skydive. Anything which absorbs you completely &/or gets the adrenaline pumping &/or leaves you feeling as though you’ve achieved something. I usually make cookies or go for a long walk. The concentration required to follow a recipe isn’t much but following a step-by-step guide keeps my mind of all my ‘problems’ from real life. Taking part in an activity which keeps your mind & body engaged leaves you no time to dwell on that which makes you anxious & the adrenaline & extra skills are a bonus!

Phone a Friend

Trust that your people know how to, and want to, cheer you up & distract you. A few of my most visited spots on these anxiety trips concern my friendships & trust/dependency, so I have to first convince myself that it is perfectly okay to phone my friends and freak out at them. So I have only managed to do this once, but we talked about self-appointed dictators & ruling the world, because that sort of thing makes I laff. Ahem. Each to their own.

Do What Scares You

What are you anxious about? Instead of putting it off & letting the tension build, get it done. Write that poem, apply for the job, kiss the girl/guy/porpoise, fashion fancies from fondant, start the petition, get on the plane, say ‘I love you’, say ‘It’s over’, throw away your television, email your idol, give that speech, dive in, jump out, roll over…It probably won’t be half as bad as you imagine & once it’s done, it’s over. You can learn from it & do it all over again, nervosity be damned.

This surely isn’t a full-blown analysis into anxiety & these tips are most useful when you know that your anxiety isn’t helpful at all. If you have serious issues which need addressing then don’t use avoidance techniques such as these (!) but talk to someone who can help & try to deal with the problem constructively. I often freak out irrationally because I don’t have seventeen hands and a time-turner so distracting myself from that which I cannot change is usually the best course of action.

How do you deal with being overwhelmed?

Amelia

Reading Round-Up

the art of the bookstore

This month I have been mostly travelling on trains and sitting in parks and hanging out in hostels and reading. I’ve read way more than I thought I would, including a couple before I left which I can’t remember the names of, so they’ll be added to March’s round-up. And so!

The Affinity Bridge – George Mann

This is touted as a steampunk mystery…which it is. It’s also not very good. The plot is all sorts of interesting; Victorian England is developing steam and clockwork power, there are road trains and automatons are the NEXT BIG THING, serving drinks at parties and being accused of murder. There is also a plague, brought from India, which turns people into cannibal zombies. Okay, okay, so it sounds kinda cool. I had been recommended this book by someone who’s opinion of literature I respected, so I was a little disappointed when it turned out to be a fairly mediocre romp with poor characterisation and laughable romantic tension. With the right expectations though, I probably would have enjoyed it more.

Scoop!– Evelyn Waugh

I hadn’t read any Evelyn Waugh before, and we’d been talking about Brideshead Revisited, so I bought Scoop! from The Shakespeare Bookshop for three measly pounds. Scopp! is pretty hilarious; a satirical account of journalists rushing off to a ‘thinly veiled Abyssinia’ and making up news about the ‘war’. According to Wikipedia all the characters are based on real people at the time. The protagonist is a chap called Boot, the countryside correspondent for The Daily Beast, who accidentally gets sent off to be war correspondent. He takes a canoe, has an affair with a German woman, writes a scoop(!), and goes home. It’s very, very funny. Anyone read Brideshead? I imagine it’s a lot different.

Devil May Care– Sebastian Faulks writing as Ian Fleming

Bond! Cars! Girls! Planes! Spy Cameras! Sebastian Faulks is one accomplished writer and he gives good Bond. So, our dear James has been given some time off from Queen & country to recuperate but gets roped back into action by Scarlett; action which sees him rush from Paris to Afghanistan then stumble through Russia via trains, planes and ekranoplans. Girls are used as bait and emotional blackmail, Bond faces tests of endurance and crazed torturers, double-00’s and double agents abound. Fun fun fun.

Bad Thoughts – Jamie Whyte

A funny & philosophical essay about woolly thinking and people who argue badly. This is very interesting when it comes to analysing political debate, or in fact, any discussion. From people who tell you to shut up! because you’re fat to inaccurate statistics, Whyte covers the basics of comebacks which either don’t have a lot to do with the actual facts and points raised or are just plain distractions. I liked this, mostly because I argue with people quite often and now I have new weapons in my arsenal, namely the ability to point out if they are arguing wrong. Mwahahaha.

Nightwatch – Sergei Lukyanenko

Russian Others wandering the streets of Moscow, the Nightwatch and the Daywatch engaged in a never-ending quest for domination, or…are they? The novel is split into three stories, all centered on Anton, a Light other and member of the Nightwatch, entrusted with various missions – finding Dark vampires, averting curses, arresting Dark Others & generally doing good. Or does he…? Despite the Dark/Light, Night/Day labels, it’s made very clear throughout the novel that the lines between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ aren’t so easy to draw. There is a place beyond…between…beneath…the world, called the Twilight, which Dark & Light others may enter, a place which both drains them and energises them; another of the many not-quite-contradictions of the novel. I’ve heard that the translation isn’t that good, which means that reading it in it’s original Russian would be AMAZING since the novel is very, very wonderful. If you’ve seen the film then the first story is a little bit similar to the plot – a Dark girl vampire learns the Call and draws a young boy to her, while at the same time the Nightwatch work to discover who cursed Svetlana and how to remove it. Throughout the stories Anton is told over and over how unimportant he is, and irrelevant to the grander scheme of things, while he is the pivot upon which the plots turn. The second couple of stories are more like the film DayWatch, with the Chalk of Destiny and Anton and Olga’s bodyswap. The novels comes in a trilogy too; DayWatch focuses on Alice the Dark Witch and her love for a Light Other, and Twilight Watch returns to Anton and his relationship with Svetlana. This is newly one of my very favourite novels.

The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy

Wow & wow again. I love Booker Prize winning books, they’re always so full of themes and clever language tricks, intense characters and lush settings. For the last few pages I was so tense, I couldn’t put the book down at all, my eyes were hungrily roaming the sentences as everything everything came together. The feeling at the end of a Booker Prize winner is just that, a rising feeling inside, tensions swelling as the characters act out their parts and the plot unwinds in ways alluded to throughout the novel, so you’re always vaguely aware of what might happen but never sure until it unfolds fully. I needed a sit-down after this one.
It followed the childhood of Estha and Rahel in Ayemenem, parts of Rahel’s adulthood in New York and their family’s secrets, desires, jealousies and fears. Estha and Rahel are twins from different eggs who share memories, their town is being swamped with Communists, their family is tight-knit but tense with the shadows of lost love and too much love, the smell of the river is another character covering the town. Smell is important in the novel; the river, the Paravans. Caste and Communism, workers and Workers, The Sound of Music & Shakespeare all play a part. It’s very, very good.

It’s possible I’ll finished another book before Sunday; I’ve started Hatred of Democracy by Ranciere which isn’t very long but pretty dense and political philosophical. We shall see.

Amelia

Chaos/Equality

Chaos is often used as a synonym for anarchy; which touchingly goes to show how much faith we have in our current world leaders. Anarchy, from the Greek, means ‘without ruler’ and the obvious result of a leaderless society would be crime, war, human rights violations and terrorism – a world apart from the one we inhabit today.

CHAOS

Everybody would be grasping after power and land, there would be no police to enforce the ‘correct’ way of living and nothing to stop people doing exactly as they wanted – and what everybody always wants is MORE with no thought to the cost of others, right?

EQUALITY

To be without a ruler assumes that each and every person in the world has the right to govern their own life.

It follows, therefore, that if you believe that, then you believe that everybody ELSE has the right to govern their own life, and that you have no right to enforce a mode of living onto other people. This also means that nothing you do can impinge on anybody else’s choice of living. So if you want twelve-hundred Mercedes, they are going to be made by people who are happy and fulfilled in making Mercedes, for a price which accurately reflects the time and effort which has gone into making each car.

I have a lot (a LOT) to say on this subject, but for now let’s consider;

There is no need for anybody to have any power. Each and every person in the world has the right to govern their own life.

What do you think?

Amelia

I Love Lush!

bathtime

For those of you who haven’t yet discovered Lush, then follow your noses to the scented end of the street because Lush is, well, lush! Selling smellies that anybody would be pleased to find in their stocking, they also go one further than many cosmetic companies; all their products are either vegetarian or vegan and they frequently fund projects which consider the environment (such as Gillingham’s Tipping Point eco-swap-shop) or run petitions about issues such as Fox Hunting. Many of their products don’t come packaged and if you take back five of the little black pots they use for facewash &c, you get a free facemask. They also recently introduced ‘knot-wrapping’, where your purchases come all tied up in a brightly coloured scarf! Oh right, and it all smells really, really good. After a couple of years perusing their goods and making use of the staff’s encyclopedic knowledge of the stock (as well as having an ex who use to work there!), I have hit upon my favourites:

# Karma Bar

As bought for me by the Ex, the relationship might have gone down the plughole, but I still frequently enjoy hit bubbly baths with the comforting scent of karma. It comes as a crumbly orange & pink swirly bar which you break off into runing water. I love the clean, fresh, warming smell so much I also have the karma bar shampoo so I can bury my face in my hair for instant relaxation.

#Karma Hard Shampoo Bar

A little round green block, the hard shampoos are touted as ‘lasting longer than most relationships’. I can’t vouch for that, but they do go on and on and on! The Karma shampoo has the added advantage, for me, of not containing any large bits of plants as some do, so there’s no bits to get stuck in my dreads. (Mmm. Nice thought.) If you buy two hard shampoos, you get a free tin, which is well worth it as they’re a bit of a bugger to store otherwise.

# Olive Branch Shower Gel

I seem to have quite a ‘peace’ themed bathroom, non? Moreso if my housemate’s hadn’t written ‘red rum’ by the shower….Anyhow, the Olive Branch is BRIGHT YELLOW and needs to be given a good shake before use to mix up the oils, so it really gets you going in the morning! Definitely best put on a pouffe (as pictured) so it goes a long long way, plus body scrubbage. All that, plus blasting ‘Wake Up’ and I’m ready to face the day at two in the afternoon.

# Dark Angels Face Wash

Possibly my favourite face wash ever (were I ever to get so bored as to hold a competition). It’s black! Made from charcoal, it’s very gritty and reminds me of my grandma’s coal cellar. I feel like a terrorist (uh, freedom fighter?) when my face is covered in grime that is not grime, although you can end up picking little bits of black out of your hairline all day afterwards. My skin does feel incredibly soft after a good charcoal and sugar scrub though, so I can live with a bit of ‘dandruff’. Dark Angel is also one of the best teevee shows in the world, so maybe it’s all in the name.

In conclusion? Lush = Best. They’re defenders of the environment, sponsors of charities, getter-behinders of activists and you can eat a good 80% of their goods, so that chocolate facemask which just looks down right edible? It is.

What are some of your favourites?

Amelia.

How to: Reduce Your Meat Consumption

What with agribusiness contributing between 17-33% to global carbon emissions, swathes of the Amazon being deforested to grow animal feed and factory farms being generally not very nice places (as well as causing an awful lot of water pollution) then reducing your meat consumption is definitely one of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint and environmental impact on the planet. I had a go at this last Summer (and ended up a vociferous vegan!) so here’s a few tips I discovered as I went along:

lia & her fish

# Eat Meat

Oh, wait…was that not…Huh. But seriously, eating good quality, locally farmed, organic meat is better all round than any ‘two pork chops for a pound’ deal at Tesco. It might be more expensive, but that leads to buying it less often. Also, one of the first hurdles to reducing anything can be the feeling of deprivation or restriction – by still allowing yourself to eat meat you hopefully won’t be tempted, after a meat-free week, to blow it all on a four-meat kebab. Followed by a meat-feast pizza, topped with beef jerky and crackling…(Sounds like a challenge though, eh?) After I went vegan, I had a hog roast sandwich and rabbit pasta at a local music festival. I knew the meat was locally bred and butchered, and also I originally only planned on being vegan for a week! The hog roast sandwich was to be my ‘Welcome Back’ to the world of seldom-meat eaters. Maybe I’ll have another one this year.

# Cook at Home

At least once a week, make a vegetarian meal at home. Recipes are easily found online, and I highly recommend The PPK for some of the most delicious food you will ever taste, especially the cupcakes. There is very little in the world that is more satisfying than putting effort into something which you then get to eat! Especially if it’s cupcakes. Invite friends around and make a dinner party out of it. (Or a cupcake extravaganza…) Bonus points if you make enough for lunch the next day. I usually knock up a phat stew or soup to last me a couple of days – sweet potato and lentils, it’s all about the cumin.

#Eat Out

There are some amazing vegan and vegetarian places out there, which do unbelievable things with food. From the Rootmaster in East London to Bolhoed in Amsterdam, I have never been disappointed by a vegan restaurant! It’s almost as if they have to work twice as hard to overcome general prejudices against vegan food and thus come up with meals which are four times as good as any steak & chips & peas the local pub does. Go! Be inspired. Hit up Happy Cow for veggie restaurants in your area.

# Read more

There is an absolute wealth of vegetarian, vegan and environmental literature on the ‘net. Add Vegan.com to your blog reader or check out RAN, the Rainforest Action Network, for reminders as to why you’re striding past MacDonalds. It’s a sad fact that even locally farmed animals are being fed on soy crops grown in the devastated Amazon region. Having these facts at the tip of your brain also makes it easier in conversations when someone wonders why you’re passing on the Sunday roast.

# Think For Yourself

Is giving up meat really something you can do? Bearing in mind that changing one’s habits is usually a long process then there is little point in beating yourself up over every bacon sandwich. However, if it’s been three months and you’re still eating roughly the same amount then perhaps your energies would be better spent focused on some other area concerning environmental destruction. Getting involved with local activist groups, such as Climate Camp, writing to your MP or going WWOOFing might be more your cup of (organic, fairtrade) tea. As with anything, it’s about what you can and will do.

Too Vegan To Function is comprised of several great articles about inter-acting with others concerning veganism, which is useful to anyone at any ‘level’ of giving up meat.

Let me know how it goes!

Amelia

Reading Round-Up

reading on the night train

Anyone who read my enourminous ‘Things To Do This Year (Aside From Take Pictures of my Friend’s Crotches)’ list knows that one of my aims this year is to read 100 books. That pretty much equals two books per week, or eight per month. However, it’s more a guideline than a goal; something I would love to achieve and will therefore put more time and effort into, but not something I will freak out over getting done. That said, here are the books I got through in January:

The ImmoralistAndre Gide.

Because, of course a French writer is going to write about decadence. Quite a slow-moving character study of one gentleman who goes a little off the rails. Some interesting philosophical discussion, but don’t expect anything too extravagant!

Unseen Academicals – Terry Pratchett

Pratchett’s latest doesn’t match up to the Discworld standard. The theme’s are football and celebrity culture, oh, and orcs, but I felt the jokes fall a little flat. Pratchett was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease last year but is still dedicated to bringing out a book a year. If you want to know more about him and the disease, The Alzheimer’s Society has the information you’re after.

F**k ItJohn. C Parkin

The F**k It philosophy is to, well, fuck it. Relax about life, and it will pretty much go on as it was doing before, but you’ll be a lot less stressed – is the essence of the book, and every good philosophy. I regularly practice the meditation techniques from the back; sit down comfortably, breathe into your stomach. Reading this was like chatting to a really down-to-earth, sorted out friend over a glass of wine. Or something. Definitely recommended. Follow him on Twitter for daily fuck its.

The Island of the Day Before – Umberto Eco

Oh, we know I like a bit of Eco. This tells the tale of the historical quest for the comprehension of longitude and all the crazy theories and methods different countries used. Full of history and philosophy, it follows Roberto, who becomes caught up in court intrigues and ends up somewhere near Fiji, alone, trying to read the Island of the Day Before. Quite brilliant.

Hegemony and Survival – Noam Chomsky

After reading this I ranted for about three days straight about how America is the largest terrorist organisation in the world. Shit can make you paranoid, yo. Of course, I then went and looked into all the military presence in Haiti and wondered if maybe there isn’t something to all this…It considers the USA’s foreign policy, and just what they stand to gain from it. A very, very important read if you live in this world.

The Last Ghost– Helen Stringer

Kid’s book! Well, teenage. So, Belladonna can see ghosts, and it annoys her. What if people think she’s crazy when she talks to them? Then, they start disappearing, which is not so good, since she still lives with her dead parents. With the help of Elsie, the last ghost, Steve and her drive to get her parents back, Belladonna adventures in the after-life to find out what’s happened to all the ghosts…Very well-written, I found myself quite absorbed by it. Could have been more macabre…

The Hidden Oasis – Paul Sussman

One of those historical conspiracy romps, this time through Egypt. There’s a hidden oasis (shock!), a dead sister (was it suicide?), a bad guy with a germ phobia, a fat American agent, an Egyptologist, a ludicrously talented climber…and a whole load of car chases, explosions, daring jumps and dazzling escapes. There’s also a lot, a lot of actual historical information. Sometimes the plot feels like a vehicle for all the fact, but that sat fine with me since the characterisation isn’t stellar and the plot is fairly clunky (hello good/bad guy!). I really love crappy historical romps; they’re not challenging and you can sift out the actual fact/research but I found myself taking a pen to this one’s pages to correct the technique so it’s more poorly written than most. Shame!

That’s my literary explorations for January. In February I’m off to Spain for a month, so I’m not sure how many books I’ll be able to get into my bag and I can’t afford an e-reader at the moment. Hopefully there’ll be some traveller book swaps in hostels. Fingers crossed!

Amelia