So, you want to save the planet? Try eating more Quorn

Hello lovely people!

Something I’ve talked about here and there over on my Instagram, but not as often on my blog, is that over the last 6 months or so I’ve been transitioning to vegetarianism. I’m now proud to say that since the 25th of July this year I haven’t eaten meat, and I don’t really intend to do so ever again. It’s something that I think is really important when it comes to climate change and animal rights, so I thought I’d outline some of my reasons for becoming a vegetarian and how I did it, in the hopes that someone will be inspired to limit their meat consumption.

Why?

1. It’s just cheaper.

This is the main reason why I reduced my meat consumption during my first year of university, and whilst it seems a bit selfish I think it’s a really important point to be made for students especially. Meat is expensive. I can buy a bag of meat free mince for about £1.50, whereas the animal-based alternative can be up to £5, which is a huge saving. I’ve also found that most of my diet is made up of either beans or vegetables now, which when shopping at somewhere like Aldi are absolutely dirt cheap. When you’ve got a limited student budget picking plant-based alternatives is just a no brainer.

2. It’s better for the environment.

A 2011 study done by the Environmental Working Group found that beef produces 13 times more emissions than vegetable protein (source). 13 times! Similar statistics are shown in the documentary Cowspiracy (check it out on Netflix), and more recent studies have argued that in western countries beef consumption needs to fall by 90% and be replaced by 5x more beans and pulses in order to avoid dangerous levels of climate change (source). When you consider that a recent UN study found that unless we make dramatic changes our planet will be warming up by a further 1.5 degrees before 2040, resulting in major risks to human life (source), this advice to follow a vegetarian diet becomes all the more important. For me it’s the least I can do to ensure that us humans don’t literally cause our own self-destruction,

3. Animals are cute, maybe let’s not let them suffer?

This one is a little more abstract and up for debate than the environmental impact of meat production. Personally I think that the abuse of animals through factory farming purely for the sake of production, efficiency and ultimately profit is morally wrong. Perhaps if there were more farms where animals were treated humanely throughout their lives I would have a slightly different perspective on this one, but considering that the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals found that over 95% of farm animals in the US are raised on factory farms, this doesn’t seem likely anytime soon (source). For me, just because I happen to be a human and a rabbit happens to be a rabbit, it doesn’t mean that I have more of a right to life. It’s that simple.

How?

I actually found the transition to a vegetarian diet very simple, as I had essentially been a flexitarian for about a year beforehand. I rarely ate meat when I was at university, and when I went on holiday with two of my vegetarian friends we made an effort to scope out all of the cool vegan/veggie cafes we could. What I’m saying is that it’s important to do this in stages. If you suddenly go from meat in all your meals to cutting it out completely your body probably isn’t going to like it very much, and it’s unlikely that you will either.

 

To help ease the transition it’s a good idea to start trying out meat substitutes. For example I really love this sausage casserole recipe, so I picked up a packet of Quorn sausages and tried it with them, and it was still really nice. Iceland now has a fully vegan range too, and I find that Tesco have a lot of different frozen vegetarian choices.

You also need to get excited about vegetarian food. Find new recipes and try them all out, I mostly do this by reading food blogs, BBC Good Food, and just googling “vegetarian recipes”. Instagram is also full of inspiration, VeganRicha is a favourite account of mine. Vegetarian food tends to have a base in fresh veggies, and for me nothing tastes better. If you want me to do a full post on my favourite plant-based meals, please let me know!

 

As with any big life change, making yourself accountable can be helpful. For example when I was first thinking about going vegetarian I told all my colleagues at work I was vegetarian, so I wouldn’t be tempted to take any meat-based leftovers whilst on shift. I can see why this would be unhelpful at the same time because you could feel pressured, but if it’s a decision you definitely want to make you will find it very useful.

Conclusions

At the risk of sounding too preachy, GO VEGETARIAN! Or, perhaps more importantly, cut your meat consumption. I don’t try and convert everyone I know, because we all have different ideologies and outlooks on the world. However at the same time when there is so much evidence to say that meat consumption has drastically negative effects on our environment, I find it mad that people aren’t willing to just have a veggie burger every once in a while to stop us all from LITERALLY DYING. I’ve linked to all the sources I used to write this post below, as well as some extra articles and videos that helped me when I was deciding to go vegetarian. I hope this was a useful read!

-Megan, writing on shift in my college library (I should definitely be studying instead)

Sources/Further Reading

‘How Meat and Dairy are Hiking Your Carbon Footprint’ – Time Magazine: Science – http://science.time.com/2011/07/26/how-meat-and-dairy-are-hiking-your-carbon-footprint/
‘Huge Reduction in Meat-Eating ‘Essential’ to Avoid Climate Breakdown’ – The Guardian – https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/10/huge-reduction-in-meat-eating-essential-to-avoid-climate-breakdown?CMP=twt_gu
‘Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040’ – The New York Times – https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/07/climate/ipcc-climate-report-2040.html
’10 Ways Vegetarianism Can Help Save the Planet’ – The Guardian – https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/jul/18/vegetarianism-save-planet-environment
‘Farm Animal Welfare’ – ASPCA – https://www.aspca.org/animal-cruelty/farm-animal-welfare
‘The Undercover Investigators Exposing Animal Abuse in Factory Farms’ – The Independent – https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/animal-abuse-factory-farms-undercover-investigators-pigs-chickens-cows-turkeys-mercy-for-animals-a7501816.html
Why I Went Vegan – UnJadedJade – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRF41taqVUI
Why I Went Vegan Story Time – Holly Gabrielle – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDBNSPmbpq0
Two Years Vegan! What I’ve Learned and How I’ve Changed – tiffanyferg – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFnkCLfMSJI
A Vegan vs a Vegetarian – Elena Fender – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HI2nl3-DaY&t=265s

 

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On Being The Only Gay in the Village

Hello lovely people!

In my coming out story I shared what it was like to come out as a bisexual human at the age of 17. However, something I didn’t talk much about was what it was like to exist as an LGBT+ person in the place in which I grew up, mainly because I’ve only recently realised that it was a very unique experience in how isolating it was. In the last few weeks of university I’ve thrown myself into LGBT+ events, and even now as someone who’s been pretty solid in her identity for a lot of years I suddenly feel very empowered by my sexuality. Here’s why.

gayyyy

I was born and raised in rural Cumbria, right in the very North of England. It is far from a diverse area; my town only had a handful of BAME families, most people are Christian, it’s been a Tory constituency since it was created and what’s more relevant here is there really aren’t many LGBT+ people. I’d never met anyone who identified as transgender until I came to university for example, and there were only a handful of gay kids in my school.

As a result representation was something I just didn’t have in my social environment. Considering that bisexuality was almost entirely invisible in most forms of media until very recently, I couldn’t even turn to films and television to explain how I felt or find other people like me. Looking back this was incredibly isolating for a number of reasons.

Firstly it meant that whilst I was going through that classic babygay confusion I didn’t  have anyone to talk to about it. I think it took me about 5 years to finally become comfortable with the idea of being bisexual, after playing around with just about every label under the sun in private. Secondly when I started getting to the age where people were going out and partying I was placed in an environment where bisexuality was seen as illegitimate. Straight girls always kissed girls when they were drunk and this was seen as cute and quirky, whereas wanting to date them was very different.

Perhaps the most important thing is that I just didn’t have the chance to express my sexuality. I didn’t have friends to relate to on LGBT+ issues, go to nightclubs where boys were allowed to kiss boys or chat about gay culture over coffee. As I got older I gained a few friends who were part of the community sure, but because we were all stuck in this social isolation we never really had an environment where we could be unapologetically ourselves.

This is exactly the reason why I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with love for the LGBT+ community recently. In my first year at uni I didn’t feel like I wanted to get involved with any LGBT+ groups, because I didn’t think it was right to be that outspoken about my sexuality. Yup, rural Cumbria affected me even up to the age of 18. However, everything has changed going into my second year. I want to experience everything I missed out on growing up, and I definitely have in the last few weeks. I’ve been going to our little college LGBT+ events and met some amazing people I’d now consider friends, adopted some first year students to mentor through the LGBT+ association and been on my first association social and night out (and I’m absolutely knackered from it but anything for a drag queen DJ playing ABBA all night). It still astounds me that I can walk into a room and be proud to part of a community I once felt so distanced from, a community that is full of genuinely lovely and accepting people.

I never want to have to hide my sexuality again, and to be honest I don’t really feel like I have to anymore. Having an LGBT+ support network is so so so important, and you should never feel like your sexuality isn’t worth celebrating if it’s safe to do so. I’m just really bloody gay at the minute (even though I still like boys hahah I’m not about bi-erasure).

 

-Megan, listening to Citizen and getting very hype for their supporting slot at The Story So Far this week

My Top 10 Albums Of All Time

Hello lovely people!

Now that I’ve discussed how broad my music taste is I thought I’d go a little deeper. As much as I love the personal approach to creating my own playlists I also love getting in artists’ heads. As a result I’m big on albums; I love seeing thematic progression, concept albums and development over the years. So I thought I’d choose my top 10 albums of all time, which may have been some of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made.

top 10 albums

1. Courteeners – St. Jude (2008)
What a debut. From the moment I heard it this album was on repeat, as it’s filled with quick and catchy songs that I can’t help but adore. The references to places in Manchester and Liam Fray’s unashamedly Northern vocals also mean the album feels homely for me, as it always brings me back to my North Western roots. More than anything I love this album because it reminds me of my friends, feels somewhat coming of age, and has big Truck Festival memories.

Top lyric – “Can you play the guitar my boy? Can you fuck” 

2. All Time Low – So Wrong, It’s Right (2008)
I am still bitter that I didn’t see this live when they played it in full last year, because this album truly means everything to me. It’s been in the background of every heartbreak, party, breakdown and celebration for the last 8 years, and for that I had to include it. Every song is the epitome of classic pop punk and I love that. Also, I have lyrics from Dear Maria, Count Me In inked on my arm forever (a song about a stripper, aka my favourite way to introduce my tattoo), so I guess it makes sense that I love it.

Top lyric – “Take a breath and let the rest come easy”

3. Enter Shikari – A Flash Flood of Colour (2012)
This had to be included for its lyrical content alone. From my own understanding the underlying theme of this album is that our society is being destroyed by the systems which govern it and it’s up to us to stand up to that. The mix of metal vocals and drum & bass is the perfect way to convey this – Shikari are angry and it’s very obvious. This album always fires me up and reminds me what I believe in.

Top lyric – “Fuck all borders and fuck all boundaries, fuck all flags and fuck nationalities” & “Money is made when bombs are dropping in Afghanistan, when white phosphorus falls in Palestine” (I just had to pick two)

4. Moose Blood – I’ll Keep You in Mind From Time to Time (2014)
Oh boy, here we go. I’ve touched on this before, but I’m going to be honest here. This album was what kept me alive in 2015, which sounds very dramatic, but it’s true. I went through a very dark time with my mental health and this album was on repeat throughout the whole thing, to the point where I really struggled to listen to it until this year. It has a very different meaning to me now, as I’ve recently bonded with a lot of people over the band and their music, but my initial connection still stands.

Top lyric – “Let me hold your hand, we can talk about our favourite bands and how nevermind still blows me away”

5. Twin Atlantic – The Great Divide (2015)
In the words of my friend Callum “every song is a banger”. This album has been a constant favourite for the last year especially, culminating in seeing the band live the day after I finished my exams. It’s a good old fashioned perfect rock album, with Twin’s personal Scottish twist.

Top lyric – “Music is my therapy, I could listen to it all night long”

6. We Are Scientists – With Love and Squalor (2005)
This is an album I first listened to in order to impress my ex-boyfriend, no shame. I’m so glad I did listen though, because I love every single track on this album. I think the songs perfectly represent the band’s fun (drunk) approach to life, and I love the heavier undertones that has been a little lost in their more recent albums. There’s some real crowd pleasers in there too, I don’t think I’ll ever tire of these songs live. I also associate a lot of them with the happier memories of that past relationship, which is always nice.

Top lyric – “I would really love to kiss you, but I guess I’m in no condition to”

7. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours (1977)
3 words: Ultimate Breakup Album. It conveys perfectly every different side of falling in and out of love, along with some top quality musical style at the same time. Obviously you’ve got some really iconic songs on there too, that have been and will continue to be covered for many years to come. Also it reminds me of my college wife Oana so there’s the soppy meaning (ain’t never gonna stop loving you… biiiiiitch).

Top lyric – “Open your eyes and look at the day, you’ll see things in a different way”

8. Rent Original Broadway Cast Recording (1996)
I’ll admit that this doesn’t really count as a stand alone album, being that it’s essentially just the musical in CD form, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love it. For the last year I’ve been absolutely obsessed with Rent, because I love everything from the characters to the way it portrays AIDS and it’s diversity. At the time of it’s release it was one of the first rock musicals, so the fact that Jonathan Larson took my favourite genre and incorporated it into broadway is probably the main reason I’m so into it.

Top lyric – “To faggots, lezzies, dykes, crossdressers too”

9. Alter Bridge – Fortress (2013)
Alter Bridge are arguably one of the most underrated bands in rock at the moment, and Fortress has to be my favourite of their pretty extensive back catalogue. It’s one of their heavier albums, and contains some of my favourite riffs of all time from the guitar God that is Mark Tremonti (Cry of Achilles, what an opener). I also love that we got vocals from Tremonti for the first time on Waters Rising, as he’s definitely shown through his solo stuff that he’s got a real talent there too.

Top lyric – “There’ll come a time you’ll look back and regret when it’s gone,
you’ll look back and regret when it’s gone”

10. My Chemical Romance – Welcome to the Black Parade (2006)
Absolute guilty pleasure and I’m not even afraid to admit it. Once you get past it being a complete emo classic, this is genuinely a very good concept album. That whole era of the band was really well designed and sustained, and of course you’ve got some classic songs to go along with it. And of course, it reminds me beautifully of being 14 and it “not being a phase” (I mean, it clearly wasn’t considering I’m still sat here 5 years later).

Top lyric – “And though you’re dead and gone, believe me your memory will carry on”

Now, I’m going to have to do an “honourable mentions” list too, because narrowing it down to just 10 was far too difficult. Most of these albums are oldies but goodies, stuff that doesn’t mean as much to me now but for a lot of my life really did.
AC/DC – The Razor’s Edge
Metallica – Ride The Lightning

Whitesnake – 1987
The Wombats – Proudly Present… A Guide to Love, Loss and Deperation
Stromae – Racine Caree
Guns n Roses – Appetite for Destruction
Halestorm – Halestorm
Panic! At The Disco – Death of a Bachelor 

This may have been the hardest post to write so far, but has sparked quite the debate in my house, so that’s made us not die of boredom today. I’m tempted to get the housemates in on a post soon, so let me know if you’ve got any ideas for that!

Obviously my comment question of the day is what’s your favourite album?

-Megan, listening to Larkin Poe (who aren’t even on this list, but they’re a sick Southern rock duo)

 

 

 

 

Travelling Alone For the First Time: Frightening or Exhilarating?

Hello lovely people,

After making the decision to travel alone to Milan I had a mixed response from my family and friends. Some thought I was insane for undertaking a week of loneliness and danger, others thought it was a great choice to explore a new place exactly how I would want to. Regardless of what people thought though it felt like the right decision. I’m a pretty seasoned traveller at this point, and I don’t want to restrict myself from seeing new places just because I don’t have anyone to travel with at that point in time. So, here’s how I feel after my first trip alone.

travelling alone

My journey to Milan was, quite frankly, a bit of a trek. I had to take a 2.5 hour train to Manchester Airport, go through the airport experience on my own for the first time, fly to Bergamo, take a 1 hour bus to Milano Centrale, and take the metro to my hostel. It was time-consuming, but I can’t say I found anything too difficult. It’s really not that different to being in a group, you’ve just got to have more awareness of your surroundings. My main tip for this part is to account for the possibility of things going wrong, because when there’s only one brain working solving problems can be more difficult. My train to the airport was cancelled whilst I was on it (love our fully functional privatised rail network), but I was able to get on another one and still had time for a drink in the airport because I’d accounted to have spare time.

I opted to stay in an 8 bed mixed dorm at Meininger Milano Lambrate for a number of reasons pertaining to being a solo female traveller. I know and trust the brand, so I had the peace of mind of going to somewhere I knew would be safe. This particular hostel was located across the road from a train station too, so it meant I never had to walk too far at night. Staying a dorm was a new and interesting experience. I didn’t feel unsafe or uncomfortable at all, as most of the other people in my room were young solo travellers too. I even got chatting to a few of them, shoutout to the linguists from Oxford who quizzed me on my degree a bit too much for it to be normal. I obviously kept my belongings padlocked away at all times to make sure nothing was stolen or lost.

Being able to do exactly what you want whenever you want is such a liberating way to travel. I’ve travelled in a big group before, and whilst it’s obviously so much fun to hang out with your friends, it’s also enjoyable to be completely on your own agenda. I was able to go to museums that my friends perhaps wouldn’t have enjoyed, and didn’t feel like I was ever letting anyone down by things like getting up earlier or later on a certain day. I was also a big fan of sitting on benches or in cafes and watching the world go by for far too long, something I doubt other people would tolerate!

Eating and drinking surprised me as being one of the hardest things. I didn’t eat out very much as I felt the social stigma of being in a restaurant alone and I have a bit of anxiety surrounding ordering food (sounds ridiculous because it is). I also didn’t like that I couldn’t drink as much as I usually would on trips, because I definitely didn’t want to be even slightly drunk whilst alone. I did save money as a result of this though, so it wasn’t all a loss.

Now for the important bit – safety. I don’t think I once felt at risk. Obviously Italy is a very safe country, but it’s still dangerous to be alone anywhere at certain times of day or in certain places. I was catcalled a little bit here and there, but the sad fact is that I almost expect that now when I’m in a big city, regardless of if I’m alone or with female friends; #whyimafeminist. To stay safe I just took the normal precautions you would expect – not being out late at night, not having valuables on show, not walking around with earphones in and not giving away personal information. It can be more dangerous to travel as a woman alone inevitably, but I think as long as you take suitable measures to protect yourself you shouldn’t let it stop you.

I actually thought I would be a lot more lonely than I ended up being, as in the end I really enjoyed my own company. I was still in contact with friends and family back home as well which helped, but I was mostly distracted by all the culture and exploring so I never really got lonely. I also chatted to a lot of people in my hostel. I spent most of my evenings chilling in the communal areas, and got chatting to travellers about where they’d been and where they were headed – my favourite kinds of conversations. If I had spoken Italian I’d probably have spoken to more people when I was in the city, so perhaps socialising would’ve been more likely if I had been somewhere I spoke the language.

img_20180919_110636917
Look at me with all my pigeon friends

So if I were to sum it up – travelling alone was the best thing I’ve ever done. I learned a lot about myself and how I cope with things, as well as growing in confidence even after such a short length of time away. It really was the best bit of relaxation before university and spending almost all my time with other people. Have you ever travelled alone? Would you, or would it worry you too much?

-Megan, listening to Brave New World by Iron Maiden (I rediscovered this album today and remembered how much I love it)

Milano, Italy; The Ultimate Travel Guide

Hello lovely people,

Milano is considered the fashion capital of Europe to many, but I think it’s Italy’s best kept secret when it comes to backpacking. Situated in the Northern Lombardy region it is a vibrant and thriving city, with everything from urban neighbourhoods to Italy’s largest church. Whether it’s relaxing with an aperativo or taking a ride to the nearby Lake Como, Milano has something for everyone.

Quick Facts
Currency: Euro
Language: Italian (very few people speak English, which is great to see!)
Airports: 3 – Bergamo, Linate & Malpensa
Public Transport: Metro, buses & tram (€4.50/day)
Safety: 4/5, I travelled here alone and never felt at risk, except a few catcalls

Visit Duomo Cathedral
Duomo is far from underrated. The building is quite the feat to behold, with some beautiful white architecture. You can enter the cathedral and attached museum for €3.50, but I chose not to because whenever I looked the queues were always pretty long. I still loved sitting in the square and just taking in the architecture instead (because we all know I love a nice building).

Walk around Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Now, you can probably tell by the way I dress myself that I know virtually nothing about fashion, so it might seem unusual for me to reccomend the main high fashion shopping mall. However, to bang on about architecture again, it’s a stunning building. I adored the glass roof and intricate wall design, so just walking around was definitely worthwhile. I’d also reccomend going to the nearby streets for cheaper shopping, you’ll find the awesome European brands Bershka, Pimkie and Pull & Bear.

Explore Santa Maria Delle Grazie
I love me a good church, always necessary to pray the gay away (too spicy?). This one is much smaller than Duomo (obviously), so I was able to visit the quieter interior and grounds easily. Inside there were lots of different Catholic shrines and art, which I actually found really interesting.

 

Eat & walk in Semipone Park
This is a fantastic place to eat a picnic lunch and watch as people cycle through the park (why do Europeans cycle so much?). After eating my lunch I wandered a little and it was really lovely to be back in a green space after the bustle of Duomo.

Discover Isola’s street art & the Bosque Verticale
Isola was one of my favourite districts. It’s a working class area with a huge community feel that has progressively been gentrified with the introduction of industry. The Bosque Verticale is a pair of residential towers that appear to have trees growing out of them, and it’s so cool to see nature in the middle of an area dominated by skyscrapers. However, the real gem of Isola is the street art. There’s some truly stunning pieces that are best discovered by wandering, but if you’re short on time head to Porta Garibaldi station and see the way artists have made it their own.

Eat gelato at Artico Gelateria Tradizionale
Could you really go to Italy and not try out the ice-cream? Located in the heart of the Isola district, this gelateria is family-run and classically Italian. There’s lots of choice and the gelato is so tasty!

 

Visit Lake Como
Como is around an hour away by train, and definitely worth a day out. I want to write a full post on this truly stunning location, but for now I’ll just say DO IT.

Drink aperativo (tbh I’d go just for this)
The Italians have got this one right. At around 6pm bars and pubs begin to fill with people going for a post-work cocktail, but there’s an amazing catch. Buying a drink means that you’re entitled to a pre-dinner buffet! I don’t understand how this only happens in Northern Italy, because it’s fabulous. I paid anywhere from €2.50 – €6 for my aperativo depending on what drink I ordered and where I was. You cannot miss this one.

 

Head to the Navigli district to see the canals
Fair warning, this area has become a little overrun with tourist traps, but the canals were so worth it. I visited at sunset and loved seeing the sunlight reflect on the river, truly stunning. There are also a lot of small artists’ studios alongside the river to watch out for. This is considered a “good” location for aperativo, but I found that the prices were ridiculously inflated in comparison to less touristy areas, so I’d say it’s one to avoid when you’re drinking.

Learn something new at the Museo Nazionale de Ciencia e Tecnologia
This was a really interesting museum, and absolutely huge. I specifically loved their exhibits on nutrition, the history of CERN and television. As a pansy humanities student science is usually quite foreign to me, but this place was very accessible for those of us who aren’t scientifically minded. Furthermore it was housed in a great building, and I loved the way the exhibits were laid out. Definitely one to remember your student card for, as the entrance fee goes from €10 to €7.50 when you present one.

 

So it’s safe to say that I absolutely loved my trip to Milano. It was the perfect balance of relaxing and adventure before university begins again, and I would really reccomend it. Aperativo has absolutely ruined me though, when is the UK going to wake up to that one?

Have you ever visited Milano or Italy? Where should I go next?

-Megan, listening to Radio X and writing with my housemate BECAUSE I HAVE HOUSEMATES NOW AND IT’S EXCITING