Nuts — Teachers, lambs, slaughter, compassion for animals

16 February, 2010

Alex Renton writes in The Grauniardian

I remember noticing a story in the news a few months ago about a head teacher vilified and threatened for attempting to teach children that the lamb on their dinner plates comes from the cute wee woolly things in the fields surrounding their school. There was more to it than that, of course, but that seemed to me to be the gist of it.

This morning I received an email from Peelham Farm in Berwickshire drawing my attention to an article in last Friday’s Guardian, all about the issue.

Peelham Farm is dedicated to producing organic pigs, sheep and beef as compassionately/respectfully as possible. They attempt to reconcile our desire to eat animals with the right (my word) of farmed animals to be treated as well as possible while they survive, and our responsibility (my choice of word again) to provide that sort of treatment.

They started a scheme last year whereby up to 12 families/individuals at a time can own a Tamworth pig, which will eventually be slaughtered and turned into the yummy pork products of the owners’ choice. This scheme was drawn to my attention by the multi-talented and ever-vigilant Mango Terrier (who may also have had a paw in the creation of the Peelham website), and after some discussion it was agreed that Piglet, Piss-Piss and I could join in but on a slightly different basis. We now have a pig–Philomena–but she’s going to be a breeding sow rather than a bacon sandwich. I mentioned all this in a couple of postings some time last year.

Anyway, Peelham mentioned the article because they, in turn, were mentioned by the article’s author, journalist Alex Renton. He and his family had a pig from Peelham last year, and I think they may have another one there now. In the light of his experience he was interested in the case of the primary school head teacher, and so that’s what his article is about.

On all sorts of levels the way the teacher has been treated seems to me to be crazy. I wouldn’t mind betting that the parents so opposed to allowing their children to know that burgers come from live animals, and concerned at the harm that might be imparted by the sharing of that knowledge, would have a great deal in common with the other bunch of nutters parents who made special journeys to their children’s schools, during Jamie Oliver’s attempt to introduce some real food into school dinner menus a year or so ago, in order to pass them processed crud through the railings so that they didn’t have to come face-to-face with a vegetable.


Sainsbury’s this afternoon – Ugh!

1 February, 2010

I had to go into town, earlier, so as I was passing I dashed into Sainsbury’s to get a few bits and pieces. I have to be opportunistic about supermarket visits, since I can’t go in when I have Piglet with me, which is most of the time.

While I was there I noticed a smartly-dressed young man lurking at the head of an aisle, and wearing some sort of badge. As I was passing somebody asked him where the Marmite was, and he explained that he couldn’t help because he was only there in relation to some sort of in-store promotion.

When I passed again a couple of minutes later I saw him cross-examining a rather shabbily dressed elderly woman about what seemed to be her gas bill. She seemed to be trying to politely brush him off, but nonetheless she’d stopped. “Do you get a bill?” he was asking. She replied in some way, and he went on, “Well, how much do you pay?”

Well call me over-sensitive (it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been called that recently), but I think it’s really disgraceful that Sainsbury’s allow salespeople to stop and cross-examine vulnerable people in that way about utility bills, presumably in the hope of persuading them to swap providers. I don’t know whether it was a Sainsbury’s product that he was pushing, but if it was then ISTM to be even worse. A quick Google on ‘Sainsbury’s’ +’gas’ brought this page up. A coincidence? Maybe. Or maybe not.

I went to the Customer Services desk and complained. The woman there acknowledged my complaint and said she’d pass it on, but I’ve no idea whether anything was/will be done about it.

A number of years ago my own father swapped gas providers (NB: Sainsbury’s weren’t involved), but having done so he continued to receive bills from the old lot, and then demands, and then final demands and threatening phone-calls and eventually a Summons. He spent hours on the phone to the old provider trying to speak to a human being who would/could sort it out, but he got absolutely nowhere, and spent a lot of money in phone bills that he couldn’t afford. In the end I had to go to the local Magistrates’ Court on his behalf to have the case that the old provider had ludicrously brought against him dismissed.

It was clear when we got there that the provider was in chaos, and they threw in their hand. That was no compensation, though, for the trauma that Daddy had been through in worrying about the whole horrible, threatening mess, and heaven help the defenceless people who don’t have family members or friends who can go along and speak on their behalf. Daddy certainly couldn’t have done it for himself.

Treating potentially vulnerable people in this way is simply *wrong*, IMO. Allowing it to happen constitutes a smear on what’s meant to be our evolved and civilised society. After what happened to Daddy, I feel strongly that elderly people shouldn’t be exposed to ‘hard sell’ tactics by utilities providers, and certainly not when they’ve just nipped out to buy a jar of coffee and a loaf of bread (or whatever it was that the elderly woman was after, this afternoon).

I won’t be returning to Sainsbury’s. They’re probably not alone in this sort of thing, but thus far I’ve not observed it anywhere else.


21 January, 2010

Baby PW -- My last good night's sleep!

I have to get a new bed.

Now that Piglet, Piss-Piss and I share sty space, my existing bed is no longer large enough. Nor is it comfy enough. And the duvet is too small.

I keep waking up with Piglet lying right in the middle of the bed, hogging the covers, and having to try to drape my legs around her. As soon as I get comfy the cat comes to lie on my head on the pillow, and drools on my hair!

*rubs eyes*

I’ve been up since 3am. This has to stop!

I’m now thinking of buying an ultra-comfy bed to last me years and years and years. Once I have it I plan to get in and stay there. Quite possibly permanently, if I don’t catch up on sleep soon…

I’m thinking Vi-Spring. Any other recommendations, peeps?

This was quite a good one too

Real food–easy, cheap, delicious, healthy…

1 November, 2009


I get a bit fed up hearing/reading on the television/in the press the oft-repeated mantra that “Oh, I have to buy ready meals because I can’t afford to do otherwise,”.

I don’t buy ready meals because I love delicious food and enjoy cooking, and ISTM that ready meals would be likely to fail on both counts. Being curious, though, and liking to stare at food of almost any hue whenever given the opportunity, I sometimes take a scan through the things on offer when I’m at the supermarket, and I have to say that it all looks extremely expensive to me. Added to which, the portions definitely aren’t large enough…

This evening I wasn’t sure what to have for dinner, so I made a v. simple soup from a couple of carrots, an onion, a teaspoon full of a cunning soup base that I made a couple of months ago (recipe culled from the River Cottage Preserves book–see ‘Souper Mix’–delicious and lasts (literally) months in the fridge), some handfuls of orange lentils, green lentils and pearl barley and a handful of new potatoes that I found lurking in the bottom of the fridge. Oh, and a handful of toasted and ground cumin seeds, just to add interest.

It all came to a huge pan for hardly any money at all, and in fact it only takes an hour from having the idea to tucking in (though it’s possible to leave it to simmer for longer, if you want to get all the sticky loveliness out of the pearl barley). I ate it with a yummy wholemeal roll that I made earlier, at a fraction of the cost of what I’d have needed to pay in a shop.

I understand that some peeps don’t cook from fresh ingredients because they don’t have the time, or (in some cases) wrongly believe it takes longer than it does, or–basically–because they simply don’t enjoy cooking. All of those are perfectly fair enough. This crap about it being more expensive than buying tubs of additive-filled semi-toxic gunk at hugely inflated prices is just ridiculous, though!


It’s a conspiracy! :(

18 October, 2009


Bloody Hell!

I spent £30 yesterday on print cartridges (!) so that I could print out maps, and now the *&^£%A” printer has broken down! The red isn’t working: all red things are coming out in a dirty sort of mauve colour. It started happening just before I changed the cartridge, but changing it has made no difference.

A quick look on the web suggests that the problem is likely to be the printer (HP Deskjet F4280) rather than the cartridges. I bought it at Tesco a couple of months ago. Maybe this is why it was reduced. It seems to have a lot of unhappy users, though, who have too much red/too little red. Needless to say, I’ve not got the receipt any more.

It looks like I’m going to have to take the 4 x 1:25k OS maps after all.


Quo — Major Niggle

16 October, 2009


The more I use Quo, the more I like it.

However, there’s a major drawback, IMO, which is that–incredibly–it doesn’t come with a Help file. There’s a User Forum where it’s possible to read basic User Guides, and ask questions, and it’s also possible to ring the Helpline and ask for guidance, but naturally the Helpline isn’t available 24/7, they don’t know the answers to all the questions and it’s very annoying to have to wait for answers on the Forum, even though they tend to be good ones when they arrive.

It’s hard to believe that a product that purports to be a major competitor in the digital mapping field doesn’t come with a Help file. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever used *any* significant application, of any sort, that didn’t come with one before. I really hope they plan to bring one out, but it’s looking to me as though maybe they think they can get by without one 😦

Does backpacking comfort now come at too high a price?

19 September, 2009
Temporary Roclite 315 fix in Pyrenees

Temporary Roclite 315 fix in Pyrenees

Browsing around in Google Reader just now, I saw that my pal Andy Howell has posted some thoughts on the new Paramo Velez Adventure Trousers. He had the chance to fondle some at the Paramo Store in Covent Garden last week.

The new pants are apparently more tailored than Cascadas, and made from a combination of Paramo’s (i) standard and (ii) lightweight Nikwax Analogy fabrics. Andy says they feel considerably lighter than Cascadas, and certainly the ‘average weight’ figures produced by Paramo suggest that they should be, the blokes’ Cascadas weighing in at 572g whereas the Velez trousers apparently bound off the scales at a sprightly 398g.

All this sounded very interesting to me, and so I shot across to the Paramo site to check up on the pricing. When the price hoved into view, though, I made a bit of a strangled gasping sound and reached for my inhaler. £137.50 is the RRP for the Velez trousers, as opposed to £110 for the Cascadas.

I’m still wearing the Cascadas I bought in Braemar on the Chally in 2006, but even though I’ve not worn them loads (I didn’t do the Chally in 2007 or 2008, and naturally I didn’t take them to the Pyrenees or Corsica) they’ve already each developed a small hole near the bottom of the inside leg. I’ve never used them with crampons or knowingly caught them on anything, and I wash and proof them regularly. It seems to me that they’ve simply worn through, as a result of ordinary and inevitable rubbing as I walk. That may be partly due to the relatively baggy nature of the lower leg that Andy refers to in his post.

Wear holes in my Cascadas

Wear holes in my Cascadas

Before I bought those Cascadas in Braemar I bought a used pair on Ebay. They were made from the heavier materials that Paramo used to use, and I still have them somewhere in a drawer. Sadly, they soon split at the crotch… oops… but I put that down to operator error and happily bought the second pair in Braemar.

To be honest, I’ve been a bit fed up to see my second pair develop little holes so quickly. After all, Paramo purports to be fairly hard-wearing stuff, and it’s quite expensive. Until now I haven’t though of asking Paramo to repair them free of charge, though, probably because I’ve simply been too idle to contact them about it. Seeing this morning, though, that their new and considerably more expensive trousers are made from *even lighter* material I’ve been spurred into action.

Casting my mind back, since I bought them in 2006 I’ve worn the Cascadas (i) for the last 3 days of the 2006 Challenge, (ii) on the Coast to Coast in 2007 (12 days), (iii) on the Pennine Way in 2008 (I only did 10 days of it) and (iv) on the Dales Way a few weeks ago. I’ve also taken them on some weekend backpacks, and if it’s raining I wear them in the woods when I’m walking Piglet. All that doesn’t seem to me to add up to a great deal of use.

I’m going to email Paramo to ask them how durable their Cascadas and Velez Adventure trousers are meant to be. I need to send the Cascadas back for a repair in any event, because one of the side zips has broken (a problem that I also had on my Viento jacket), and I’m going to ask them to take a look at the wear holes at the same time.

The Lifetime Guarantee as it appears on the Paramo website is worded as follows.

I have a problem with my Páramo garment, what does my Lifetime Guarantee cover?

1. Any manufacturing defect such as stitching, poppers, zips, drawcords, Velcro cuffs – these will be rectified free of charge indefinitely.
2. Damage to the garment by accident or normal ‘wear and tear’ can be repaired by Páramo at reasonable cost.
3. The weather protection systems employed by Páramo, maintained correctly, will outperform membrane and coating based systems.

Clearly the wear holes constitute ‘normal wear and tear’, but should it be normal for Paramo Cascadas to develop holes in each leg after the equivalent of no more than 2 months’ continuous use? I don’t think so; and at the prospect of being invited to spend £137 replacing them with an even less robust pair of trousers I begin to feel that things are getting out of hand.

Did the old-style heavier Paramo materials begin to disintegrate quickly in this way? I can’t say, because I’ve only been using Paramo for a few years. I’d be surprised to learn that they did, though, because if they had then I can’t see how Paramo could ever have built up the reputation it currently enjoys for producing not only effective but also hard-wearing kit that has the potential to last a lifetime.

It’s not just some Paramo products that seem to me to be distressingly flimsy. I still use Inov8 Roclite 315s for much of the year, because ultimately the most important thing about a pair of shoes is that it has to fit, and the Inov8 Roclites do fit my rather weirdly shaped feet quite well. As many others have observed, though, the Inov8s are not as robust as some of the other trail shoes on the market.

I think I started using the Roclites for walking in 2005/6, and I’m now on my 4th (or is it my 5th?) pair. The sole began to peel off the pair pictured at the top of this post within days of my first starting to use them in the Pyrenees in 2006. That struck me as dangerous, considering the ground I was walking on. When I got home I sent them back, and eventually Inov8 replaced them. I was told that there had been a design flaw, and that it had been fixed, but although the new pair didn’t develop the same problem the brand new pair I bought for the GR20 in 2008 went exactly the same way. I intended to send them back for a replacement, but in the end I had too much other stuff going on when I got home, and so I didn’t get round to it.

I’m prepared to pay a bit of a premium for comfortable walking, and I certainly don’t expect trail shoes or waterproofs to last forever. It’s beginning to feel to me, though, as though we’re entering an era of almost semi-disposable kit at vastly inflated prices. I’m still regularly using some bits of kit that felt expensive when I bought them almost 20 years ago–a couple of Helly Hansen T shirts, some Sprayway fleece pants, a Lowe Alpine Mountain Cap and a Lowe Alpine Contour Runner day sack, to name just a few–but is it likely that I’m going to be using the things I’ve bought recently if I’m still walking in 20 years time? It doesn’t currently look that way to me.