Modern palm reading

I am frustrated by my other-worldliness in not using Facebook very much. That aside, I’ve been using Gephi to analyse my Facebook social network (which I downloaded using this GetNet tool – hat tip Lada Adamic). I ran a simple analysis to display who of my friends are connected to whom. The three big clusters are left wing politics, my former workplace and my older friends. The nodes between these are interesting – these people can carry news and culture between strongly-connected networks. Matt (my other half) has the most connections – and given that this is my social network we’re looking at, this indicates that our social lives have a lot in common. I knew that.

What does yours look like?


World Vegan Month #11 (poor form)

Another installment of my self-imposed blogging regime – consumption, animals in the news, and animal encounters. I noticed I had two #7s so I’m skipping #10.


Oh dear, looking back it’s a strange day again. Please rest assured that not all vegans browse like me. Many keep regular mealtimes and have an unremarkable amount of carbohydrates.

  • Breakfast: it’s the weekend so I have a little holiday from Sainsbury’s Fruit & Fibre which in any case is at work in its humungous box. Instead I made bread in the bread maker overnight and ate one slice with Meridian Peanut Butter and another slice with Matt’s posh aged Marmite. And Suma spread. And Co-op filter coffee. We have stopped bothering with the filter because it sinks to the bottom of the cup fine.
  • Midday – a cup of Pukka Love tea, out in Gants Hill.
  • Lunch – 2 Co-op custard doughnuts (yes, vegan). They aren’t very big.
  • Second lunch – by 3.30pm I had sorted out the front garden, helped somebody rehearse something, got groceries, and washed up. I made a clear soup of finely chopped leek, potato and carrot with Kallo stock and herbs I grew (bay, oregano, sage), with a splash of cider vinegar and a splash of Sainsbury’s Vermouth, also vegan.
  • Strange non-meal – undisclosed number Cypressa breadsticks with houmous.
  • More food – a pear, a satsuma, a plum.

Animals in the news

  • Over on Meatinfo I learn that the first UK Halal abattoir has been certified. I couldn’t help noticing that the commenters were overwrought about this, considering that non-Halal abattoirs are known for terror and cruelty. It’s not actually about the animals, is it chaps.
  • Meatinfo seem to be saying that we can expect horsemeat until 2016.
  • The Wildlife Trusts have a badger vaccination programme you could consider supporting. Contrast this with the government-funded slaughter of badgers so that people can continue to leech off the lactating mother of another species.


  • Black fly on the potted black mint I have in the kitchen. I killed these with soapy water. Does anybody have anything to say about this?
  • Different flies in the compost heap, where the apple waste from cider making is, along with a woollen jumper of Matt’s – and latterly the clothes moths – and even more latterly, the worms..
  • Woodlice under the ox-eye daisies I pulled from the cracks in the concrete of our front path.
  • A beautiful yellow and dark brown snail, of a kind I haven’t seen round here.
  • More cat shit in the garden – thank you neighbours.
  • The usual post-bin-day meat-related rubbish round the garden. Whiskas tin this time. Usually it’s pedigree chum. Once again, thanks neighbours.



World Vegan Month #7

Struggling this week to fulfil my self-imposed commitment. I swype this from my phone.

In the news
Would have had to go out of my way but I didn’t.
Except they’ve experimented on mice again – this time to stimulate hair regrowth where there has been hair loss.

Fell apart this week. Not a great advert for a vegan diet. Please ignore.

Breakfast – nothing, just work.
Lunch – packed leftover sweetcorn, potato, salad.
Then nuts from M&S. Then  jellybeans.
Left over fruit platter at work.
Dinner – half a courgette, 1 carrot, some kale, steamed.  5 Redwood ham sandwich slices, fried. 4 rice cakes, 2 with marmite and 2 with blackberry jam.

I asked if either of the two vegetarian burgers at the Ed’s Diner near work were vegan. The answer is no.

While at work searching the creative commons database Photopin for keyword ‘sticky’ I came across a cat whose entire head had been encased in a hollowed out pineapple with a visor cut into it. What a horrible thing to do.

What death really says is THINK

So says Leon Wieseltier, author of Kaddish. Today another friend died and tomorrow the funeral will take place in Manchester. Kaddish, the Jewish mourners’ prayer will be said, as it was said today at the bat mitzvah I attended in North West London. Among the observant, Jewish funerals are arranged very quickly, which is why I may be the only member of my very small family to attend. Our friend was a good friend of my dad’s. At my own dad’s funeral I was busy and dry-eyed, so I am wondering what grief will feel like at this one.

Kaddish is not a prayer of comfort but an insistent drumbeat to sideline death and daunt you with your own insignificance. Allen Ginsberg, estranged from Jewishness, wrote this poem, Kaddish, between 1957 and 59 after the death of his mother Naomi. From it,

Nameless, One Faced, Forever beyond me, beginningless, endless, Father in death. Tho I am not there for this Prophecy, I am unmarried, I’m hymnless, I’m Heavenless, headless in blisshood I would still adore

Thee, Heaven, after Death, only One blessed in Nothingness, not light or darkness, Dayless Eternity—

Take this, this Psalm, from me, burst from my hand in a day, some of my Time, now given to Nothing—to praise Thee—But Death

This is the end, the redemption from Wilderness, way for the Wonderer, House sought for All, black handkerchief washed clean by weeping—page beyond Psalm—Last change of mine and Naomi—to God’s perfect Darkness—Death, stay thy phantoms!


World vegan month #4

I am on the train without my stylus so this daily post is necessarily short.

At The Royal Albert, Deptford way, I had Tap East Tonic on draught which according to Barnivore is vegan. I researched this in advance to avoid embarrassment at the bar.

I ate fruit and fibre, last night’s dinner for lunch, two M&S salads for dinner and some Divine Orange and Ginger chocolate for snack.

In Cornwall are blue sharks. They don’t tell you why they have come: hunger.

This is my stop.

Update: p40 of The Standard, goats climb Argan trees in Morocco to eat their olive-like fruits.

Goodbye Shaun Downey

by Shaun Downey

To quote the man himself – though he didn’t have the chance to warn us this time – “hiatus”. “Termination”.

Terrible news – Shaun Downey died a young man of 50.  I didn’t know him well but he was clearly a very fine person. I thought I’d say so here because I couldn’t get a comment up on his blog and because I can’t attend the gathering of bloggers who will raise a toast to him later this month.

Spring is the wrong time for death. Buds and sun rays insult bereavement horribly – I wish his family well. Recently Sean was photographing spring flowers. Just look at these.  And the cats, ayayay – I only sometimes overcame my disapproval of his contributions to this internet epidemic. And it was Sean who first alerted me to the extreme sedentary nature of British sport, which I then went on about for most of the Olympics. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if we shared politics, other times I was. Ultimately so what – you can tell from his blog that he was a man of humour and love.

Here’s a proper obit, inside another.


Also from Simply Jews, from Khanya – Shaun’s Poor Mouth can still speak, and Knatolee whose hen haiku contest Sean won. A lot of people Shaun hardly or never met felt a connection with him, a gift that until now I assumed was unique to celebrities. Roland Dodds found him somehow, and liked his style.

Lost in space, but I don’t know where he is

This one’s for Neil and about him – Monochrome, by The Sundays, the final song from their final album Static and Silence.

It’s four in the morning July in ’69
Me and my sister
We crept down like shadows
They’re bringing the moon right down to our sitting room
Static and silence and a monochrome vision

They’re dancing around
Slow puppets silver ground
And the world is watching with joy
We hear a voice from above and it’s history
And we stayed awake all night

And something is said and the whole room laughs aloud
Me and my sister
Looking on like shadows
The end of an age as we watched them walk in a glow
Lost in space, but I don’t know where it is

They’re dancing around
Slow puppets silver ground
And the stars and stripes in the sand
We hear a voice from above and it’s history
And we stayed awake all night

They’re dancing around
It sends a shiver down my spine
And I run to look in the sky and
I half expect to hear them asking to come down
Oh will they fly or will they fall
To be excited by a long late night

Better out than in

When you are with a parent who is prematurely close to the end of their life, many things might happen for the first time. And all over the world, people are experiencing these things. I had never – as an adult – spent the night in my dad’s room. Never fed my dad before, or wiped his face, or collected his vomit in a bowl. Never checked for excrement. Never put my finger in his mouth to try to clean it. Never touched a stiff dehydrated tongue before. Never scrutinised anybody’s body language for signs of pain before. Never held my parents’ friends while they sobbed before. Never seen my grown-up brother cry. Never seen a person die before, or realised that there could be so many last breaths followed by a hanging silence before the next one, or that even a death immobilised by morphine would be a sudden and noisy spasm. Never heard my own keening as if it were somebody else’s voice before. Hadn’t realised that missing dad would grow rather than fade the longer I don’t see him, or that the memories of his illness would crowd out the other memories until it became hard to think of him at all. I often feel the urge to tweet my dad, which is ridiculous. The last thing he said to me was “Thank you love” and when he tried to touch my cheek I had to lift his hand. But the last thing I heard him say, days later, was a shout of pain. I hadn’t realised that he could still say anything, or that for him dying might not only have been an ordeal but also horribly boring. He was very particular – he like to have things just so. He was also a tremendous stoic all his life, not least at the end. I hadn’t realised that when people – especially older people who know about this – seem cavalier about life’s frustrations it may be because they understand that time will eventually catch up with them too, and that moment gets nearer with every heartbeat. To think that these things have been for all of us, all through time, and I’d never given them a moment’s thought, even though I’ve always known that all flesh is grass.

Pinging world

Still here.

My dad died, his cancer sped up, it was terrible, still is. We were also lucky to get him off the NHS ward where they were lovely but overworked, including by a confused and lecherous patient who wouldn’t stay in his bed, and to a hospice where we could stay. Sue Ryder, which is a charity and so depends on charitable donations. I think we got the pain control as good as it could be, and that is the be all and end all and what hospices specialise in. It’s been 6 weeks since I made it through a day without feeling stricken that I won’t see or touch him again, but thankfully my grief is very well-behaved and discreet. I find my dad in the garden and so I’m gardening very devotedly. The other thing that reminds me of him are my finger nails, which I stopped biting in the hospital since you spread germs that way. A side effect was that I could tickle his feet, which he used to like a lot. Now I can tickle my other half’s. Other than that,they’re almost more trouble than they’re worth, stained from soil and chlorophyll so I end up painting them to hide it.

Was invited to a seder – first seder in maybe 20 years, it was fun. I liked the stuffed courgettes and the little children (couldn’t eat a whole one) very much. I’m a bit worried that the wine brought out the worst in me during a game of squares, where I recall murmuring to my young opponent “None of this adult-lets-kid-win stuff – I’m playing for real” followed by exaggerated jubilation as I cleaned up shouting “Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine! &tc”. The magnanimous angel child suffered all this with unbelievable dignity – he probably felt sorry for me.

Saw my brother a couple of days later. We ate vegan Eritrean at Adulis in Oval before striking out broadly north on foot, following our nose. We didn’t meant to go to the Imperial War Museum, and once there didn’t mean to visit the Holocaust Exhibition (I was exposed to Holocaust history way too young and began to avoid it as soon as I could) but we kept climbing the stairs and soon there was nothing else except that, and given it was Pesach it didn’t seem right to turn our backs. I liked that in each room you could watch and listen to survivors – the same faces all along – telling their experiences of that particular aspect – from life before the Nazis, the atrocities they witnessed, the liberation of their camp, to how their experiences affected them in their lives that followed. The other thing I liked was that at each stage the curators restored what I think in this matter is rightful emphasis to individuals rather than social forces. Names of the architects and perpetrators of the genocide and mass murders were named, and faces were faced. At the same time, at every stage the exhibition escaped the utterly counterproductive view of the hated, friendless Jew by describing the efforts of those who opposed the Nazis, from the Danish government to the White Rose. I appreciated the scale model of Auschwitz-Birkenau for getting the picture of how industrialised and peculiarly 20th Century it was. This is a well-documented set-back for the waxing Holocaust revisionism of those who hate Jews as a project – and their allies – unwittingly or wittingly – in this enterprise, those who hate Israel.

Went to a hustings in advance of the May 3rd GLA elections. The Chair allowed people to waste questions on things that the GLA has no control over. The Conservative incumbent is the most knowledgeable and articulate but I cannot vote for a party which has attacked British society as the Conservatives had. The Labour candidate was thin. The Lib Dem candidate comported himself as if he were some kind of umpire rather than a candidate. The Green candidate was good at criticism but flimsy on plans and examples – unconvincing.  That said, I thank them all for making it a contest. Notwithstanding dislike, disdain and mistrust for both Green and Labour mayoral candidates, I can’t imagine voting any other way. It’s down to the least worst choice.

Not voting is holding the door open for the far right, who thrive on a low turnout.

My ideal candidate would be a place-based – definitely not religious – communitarian emphasising the importance of individual actions in regeneration. They would support a London Living Wage and campaign on the side against wage inequality. They would meet calls for more police on the streets with initiatives to give young people a thrill and opportunities to gain kudos. Transport would be cheap and cheaper before 7.30am and after 8pm. There would be electric vehicle charging points and car share schemes. Bike lanes would be expanded. And now I need to call my mother.