RachelSquirrel

* eats plants * loves science * scared of earthquakes * a bit opinionated *

Sometimes I think it would be handy to have two husbands. I don’t think my husband would like this idea very much and there’s also the small problem of its being illegal so I’ll just have to make do with one. But I’m probably as close as I’m going to get to having two husbands just now and it’s rather nice. We’re living in what locals call a “double upper”. It’s a terraced home spanning three levels. We have the upper two levels and someone – my “second husband” – has the bottom level. We share the backyard with him and the guy who lives there mows the lawn! How fabulous is that! Not that I’m saying husbands are only good for mowing the lawn, that’s not what I mean at all. They are good for lots of other things too :)
 

George Monbiot – he can be my second husband any time – wrote a good article in the Guardian yesterday called If you must eat meat, save it for Christmas. He makes the point that our ancestors did not eat as much meat as we do. Once upon a time meat was reserved for special feasts like Christmas and this made it a privilege and a gift. Now most people in the developed world eat meat everyday and more than once a day and not only is it making us fat and sick, it’s also harming our planet. It’s quite extraordinary to think that there are some 59 billion farm animals alive at any given moment just to satisfy our desire for meat.

 
He goes on to say that one of the biggest barriers to becoming vegan or vegetarian is that most people just want to fit in and there are so few of us in the developed world who eat only plants. This is so true. Perhaps rather than giving up meat completely, we should try to save meat for special occasions only and stick with plants the rest of the time just as our ancestors did.
 
I find it strange that people talk about the objectification of women and how it is a bad thing and then we call dead animals “meat” but no-one bats an eyelid. I don’t think you can find language more objectifying that this. Although notice that I have used this word myself. Perhaps I am just trying to fit in. Fabric with sexy women on it is not objectifying women but calling dead animals meat is objectifying animals in my humble opinion.
 

It turns out my second National Insurance Number is a temporary one. HM Revenue & Customs haven’t issued me with two after all. Instead they sent me a temporary number to tide me over for two whole days until the real one arrived, which it did, about two days after the temporary one and two months after I applied for it :)

Shortly after we arrived in the UK back in early October, I sent away for a National Insurance Number (NIN). I already have one as I worked here over 15 years ago but I couldn’t remember what it was so I had to fill in a “I’ve lost my NIN form” and send it away.

They took a very long time to get back to me – almost two months! I phoned them a couple of times to find out what the problem was and whether I could just get a new one. They were adamant that the NIN was for life and that everyone only ever gets one NIN. Ok, no worries, I’ll just wait.

Earlier this week my NIN finally arrived in the post – yay – so I emailed it to the HR department at my work. Then yesterday my NIN arrived again – but it’s different to the first one! Now I have two :)

Elizabeth said to me today, “I know what angels look like”. To which I replied, “How do you know what angels look like?”. Elizabeth: “Because Mr MacDonald (not his real name) put one up on the white screen”. Then I asked her what they look like and she said, “An orange clown”.

The kids have been talking quite a lot about Jesus. State schools here are supposedly secular but they include some kind of weekly religious program in the curriculum. This is not taught from an academic, objective point of view but rather by a minister or pastor or someone like that. Even though we’re atheist, I’m not particularly bothered. I remember having to sit through weekly religious education classes in primary school and it didn’t do me any harm. I’ve just told both of them that neither mummy nor daddy believes in God but that it’s up to them if they want to or not. I suppose Christianity is a part of our culture and tradition and so in this sense there is possibly some value in retaining it in schools on some level.

I accompanied Daniel’s class on an excursion to see Frozen today. It was really good with all the kids singing along to the songs and adding to the atmosphere. I got quite teary a number of times though and felt very stupid and pathetic. Kids’ movies always make me cry.

We finally got a Christmas tree and opted for something a little unusual this year. We got a wooden tree from Timba tree. They’re a little pricey but look and smell really nice and it’s something we’ll keep forever so it will pay for itself after about three years. It’s also made in Great Britain so you could say we’re contributing to the economy :) Elizabeth decorated it this afternoon.

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I’ve got so many clothes, way too many in fact, but most of them I’ve bought from charity shops. I love charity shops. There’s something quite exciting about finding treasures that someone else has thrown away. I had a favourite charity shop (or opshop as Antipodeans call them) in Auckland and an opshop buddy who was just as nuts about it as me. I miss you, Pascale! But I’m just discovering Aberdeen’s selection of opshops and this week I got this nice top for £4 (it’s got cashmere in it).

pic1A girl’s just gotta have a nice selection of clothes to choose from to suit the mood, the weather, or whatever she fancies and it’s nice to do this guilt-free by opshopping.

It’s a beautiful day in Aberdeen today. I had to run some errands in town this morning and I took these photos of the very gorgeous Marischal College. It’s the second largest granite building in the world, and is owned by the University of Aberdeen and leased to the city council.

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Apparently much of the UK has been hit with some bad weather but not here. It has been fine today and yesterday with no rain and a gentle sea breeze. Ben has been in York where he says the weather has been wild.

I dropped into a Pret a Manger at one point to relax and discovered they’ve got a wonderful almond shake which is suitable for vegans. I tried it and it was delicious. The ingredients are water, banana puree, almonds, cashew butter, coconut nectar, tahini, date puree, and vanilla powder. The cafe was packed with people including one woman breastfeeding her baby. No-one batted an eyelid or seemed remotely concerned with what she was doing, which is just as it should be. My faith in humanity has been restored.

It’s getting close to the shortest day of the year now and according to BBC weather, sunrise is at 8:36am and sunset at 3:26pm in Aberdeen. However it’s light at both of these times, I guess because we get the sunlight before the sun appears on the horizon and also after it disappears.

The temperature range is around 1-3C at the moment. Most mornings I have to scrape the ice off the seat of my bike before heading out to school each day. Last week there was a very heavy frost and the entire bike was covered in ice. The kids thought this was wonderful and so did I. I love the cold frosty mornings when everything is covered in ice.

The pavements have been sprinkled with salt so they’re not particularly slippery. I don’t really notice the ice when I’m on my bicycle. I think it feels more slippery underfoot. The other morning I got back from school drop-off and the minute I hopped off my bike outside our house I slipped and fell over. Fortunately no-one was around to hear me swear. I haven’t seen anyone else slip over; I’m the only clumsy one, it seems.

Sometimes it rains when I’m cycling to and from school and you might think this is unpleasant but it really isn’t. There’s something about being out in the elements on a bicycle and travelling under my own steam that makes me feel truly alive and I love it. George Monbiot published an article today called Civilisation is Boring. He thinks that by wiping out so many other species on our planet we have lost some of the enchantment we might have had if these animals were still a part of our world. I agree with him of course, but I also feel the same way when I sit inside a car – as though I’m not really living and enjoying the short time I have here. When I’m outside on a bicycle I get this enchantment back. This feeling that I’m a living thing in the world and at the mercy of the weather. It’s a nice feeling. I think I must have been born to cycle.

I’ve shared recipes before that contain cashews all ground up but this one is a little different because I am currently without my coffee grinder for grinding nuts. It is on a ship somewhere between New Zealand and Scotland. So I decided to buy some cashew butter instead which is just like peanut butter except with cashews. Why didn’t I ever think to do this before??? It’s wonderful and so easy.

Ingredients

1 red onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 carrot
2 stalks of celery
2-3 spring onions
a bunch of curly kale
a handful of pine nuts
half a jar of cashew butter (I used half of a 170g jar)
1 tblsp of cider vinegar
1 vegetable stock cube
1 can of chopped tomatoes
about half a cup of water

Method

Chop the onions and fry in olive oil until soft. Add the garlic and fry for about half a minute then add everything else. Cook for about 5 – 10 minutes and serve with pasta. Easy!

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I made the mistake  yesterday of following the #breastfeeding hashtag on Twitter. Most of it was good reading but there were a few comments from people who objected to breastfeeding. I have never met anyone personally who claims to be offended by breastfeeding so this was new for me and quite astonishing. These people think their personal sensitivities come before the basic survival needs of a young infant. I think this view is complete and utter bollocks. They have no right to prevent someone else from taking care of their young. They need to develop a bit of tolerance. Objecting to someone caring for their infant has got to be the height of absurdity. We live in a society where we’re constantly reading about parents abusing and neglecting their children. Let’s support the ones who want to do the right thing and supporting them does not mean it is right for you to prevent them from doing exactly that.

I used to breastfeed my babies in public spaces. It’s very difficult to avoid when babies are small as they feed every two hours and no-one wants to be house-bound. If someone had asked me to cover up I would have felt indecent,  humiliated, and mortified and probably would have lost a lot of confidence and stayed at home for a good while afterwards. Breastfeeding didn’t come naturally to me at first. Like most other new mothers I found it very difficult and quite painful but I stuck with it because I had a lot of support from people around me.  Being told that what I’m doing is indecent or shameful is the antithesis of supportive and *very* damaging for the mother and society as a whole.

Breasts are multifunction devices. They may provide sexual pleasure for both men and women but they also happen to provide nourishment for young infants. When they perform this latter role, they are not fulfilling their other role in any way. Breastfeeding is 100% nurturing. There’s nothing sexual about it. If people find it offensive to see someone nurture their infants then they need to ask themselves why? And they certainly shouldn’t force these warped views on other people who are simply trying to live their lives and do the right thing by their children. I wonder whether these same people are up in arms when they see women showing a bit of cleavage or tight-fitting clothing? And whether they’re being consistent and tweeting about the indecency of naked breasts in newspapers and women’s magazines?

I rather like what Barbara Ellen said in the Guardian about this -

Where public breastfeeding is concerned, it should be about other people resisting the urge to control nursing mothers and instead learning to control their own behaviour, in particular their need to gawp.

Claridge’s and Farage don’t seem to understand that breastfeeding is a woman’s own business; it remains an entirely private matter, even in a public space.

Happily, breastfeeders tend to be human-size – they don’t fill entire rooms or eclipse suns. Even in a crowded restaurant, it’s fairly easy not to look at a woman breastfeeding and to gaze elsewhere. Thus, if someone chooses to stare and becomes offended, isn’t that their own doing and their own fault?

People who drone: “It’s not about the breastfeeding, it’s the breast” need to resit their biology exams. This is how breastfeeding is done, there’s no other way. It’s unreasonable to expect the female sex to apologise for the plumbing nature gave them – for not being able to make the milk conveniently spurt out of, say, the end of their index finger.

I’ve written a bit recently about how sometimes I just want to tell someone to “get over it” when they claim to be offended by something. Breastfeeding is a great example of this.

Apparently a flashy London hotel has asked a breastfeeding mother to put a napkin over her baby’s head while breastfeeding.

This has sparked the usual outrage from other breastfeeding mothers and rightly so. About 40 of them gathered outside Claridge’s Hotel in London to protest. Full story at -

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/dec/06/mothers-breastfeed-claridges-cover-up-protest-hotel-nurse-in

What is so offensive about a woman breastfeeding her baby? It’s a beautiful sight. Are people offended by breasts? Well, in most cases you don’t see any breast and if you do, then maybe you should direct your gaze elsewhere. Are people offended by an infant drinking milk? How absurd is that?

I breast-fed my babies for five years in total, much longer than most other mothers. Daniel was breast-fed for just over two years and Elizabeth for three years. Both children would have gone on for longer had I not got sick of it. There are so many benefits that it seemed like a no-brainer to me to breastfeed for as long as possible.

Firstly, it’s free! I never once had to buy baby formula or milk. This meant that we could spend the money on other things. You can also stuff your face as much as you want without putting on weight. Another benefit was that for the first time in my life I had boobs. This was a bit of a novelty for me although I’m happy now to have my old flat chest back to what it was. Then there are the health benefits and although I’m mentioning these after the more superficial things like stuffing your face and big boobs, this does not mean they are less important.

One study found that breastfeeding for 18 months or more reduces a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer by a whopping 34%. Another study found that for every 12 months of breastfeeding, a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer is reduced by 4.3%. Why isn’t everyone doing it? This is like a free pass or a get-out-of-jail free card. What strange creatures we are to forgo all these things and more and instead waste our money on milk from another species altogether. But if we do choose to breastfeed – something humans have done for millions of years – others object and find it offensive??? Really? The absurdity makes me want to bash my head against a brick wall.

There are also wonderful environmental benefits to not having to rely on cows to feed the infants of our own species. We ought to be applauding women who manage to breastfeed their babies. We should encourage them to do so where ever they want to and make them feel supported and welcome. If you want to help a breastfeeding woman then don’t make her feel like she’s upsetting others by asking her to cover up. And give her some water. Breastfeeding makes you very thirsty. If someone at a hotel or restaurant is upset or offended by a woman breastfeeding, then that person should be asked to get over it or leave. They should not be welcome if they cannot tolerate a member of their own species feeding their child.

I have a confession to make. It was the school fair recently and we were asked to contribute some home baking to sell. I bought a lemon cake from Marks & Spencer, took it out of its packaging and then wrapped it up in cling film to make it look like I’d made it. Then I gave it to them to sell. 😱

The fair was wonderful. Both the kids had their faces painted. Can anyone guess who Daniel is?

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I’ve been trying to limit the sweets we have in our house but the world is against me. When Elizabeth’s kindy had the disco a few months ago, Elizabeth won a raffle prize which was a bag of sugar. At the school fair, Daniel was the kid to make the best guess of the number of sweets in the jar and the prize was the jar of sweets. He was very pleased with himself. How many sweets do you think there are in this jar?

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Ok, I’m not being serious with my title. I just want to make this clear that I’m exaggerating slightly here. Quite a bit actually. But I am pissed off with Natwest and so this is going to be a bit of a rant.

A little while ago I wrote about the problem I had trying to have my name added to my husband’s bank account at Natwest. I couldn’t provide the right documentation for them. I had a New Zealand passport, a New Zealand driver’s licence, and an official letter addressed to my home address in Aberdeen from BT. The letter from BT was insufficient because they specifically wanted a bill. I have signed up for paperless billing and so I don’t get any bills from them in the post.

What could I do? I wanted to give my employer my bank details so they can pay my salary into a bank account in the UK. Do I give them my husband’s bank account and then depend on him to give me cash? Bollocks to that. Instead I went and opened a bank account with the Bank of Scotland. It was all very easy at the Bank of Scotland and they were happy with an official letter from BT as proof of address. But it’s the first time Ben and I have had separate bank accounts since we were married. I have since added Ben to my bank account but we are still struggling with Natwest.

Three weeks ago I finally got a council tax bill in my name so I went back to Natwest with all the paperwork. They took photocopies of my passport and the bill but I still haven’t received my new account details so yesterday I rang them to find out why it’s taking so long. They said I had no application in the system at all and that Ben’s account is still a single person account. So I went back to the same branch and they’ve got copies of the identification they photocopied and a record that the forms were sent off. But apparently the forms have vanished. They were very apologetic about this. I may rant on my blog but I tend not to take my frustrations out on front-line staff so I nodded and walked out. I was also in a bit of a state of disbelief if anything. So now we have to fill in all the forms again and both of us have to sign them again and take them back to be posted off again. Why is it so hard, Natwest?

Meanwhile I’m earning a salary in the UK now. If I hadn’t lost my patience with NatWest a month ago and signed up with the Bank of Scotland instead, then I still wouldn’t have had anywhere for my employer to pay my salary.