Friday, 27 May 2016

Mr Sun, Please Shine Down On Me

Goodness gracious! We had an amazing warm weather day last Sunday when the Carmarthen Vegans went for our first hike and picnic of the year. It had been warm weather and then we had had a cold, rainy snap again. We were concerned for the weather Sunday, but we needn't have worried. It was GLORIOUS. I dressed in black to keep heat in as I thought I would be cold, but I ended up shedding layers as the day progressed.

We went to Carew Castle which is about 40 minutes from here by car. Isn't it gorgeous? We ended up with 22 people and 6 dogs. Luckily, my allergies are better these days. I seem to be fine with dogs in the open air as long as we don't touch. I also don't hug people at the end of the day in case of doggie contamination. It has only happened once, but I would not like a repeat. Here is our favourite dog named Ruby. She comes on all the hikes. She is quite old and so has a travel bag for when she gets tired. I would like a travel bag like Ruby, but Spiderman says he is NOT carrying me around.

Ruby dog!

Here we are in the car park gearing up for the hike. You can see the back of at least one rescued greyhound. We had people of all ages and all ability levels on this walk.

I am in the middle with my black dress and green leafy apron

Here is the view of the millpond. Isn't it tranquil? We walked all the way around the millpond at a leisurely pace to accommodate everyone. 

There were many little friends about. A magpie, a spider and a snail (to name but a few)

the thieving magpie


it's a boy (clearly)

Slippery snail

While we were having our picnic one of the greyhounds thought it was a tiny lapdog and decided to sit on Liz's lap. Glad it wasn't me!

I think I will just sit right down on this comfortable lap

After lunch, those who wanted to, had a more brisk walk around the millpond. Then we went back to the picnic area, nibbled a few more snacks and took one last look at the ruined castle.

We left around 4pm and were all tired and hot. Despite wearing sun cream my nose was a wee bit pink the next day.

 It was a grand day out and a perfect start to the season of outings with the Carmarthen Vegans.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Dancing Queen

Last week my BFF and long lost younger sister Rosie Mai and I went to see ABBA Mania. This touring group who provided the ABBA experience came to Carmarthen and we could not wait to go. I had never been to a tribute act/band impersonator before. But I needn't have worried. It was FABULOUS!

I can't  find any photos of the actual people we saw—there are loads of ABBA looky-likey tribute bands—but none I found on google image look remotely like the actual ABBA. However, ours really did—especially Agnetha and Anni-Frid (Frida) . Boy did they look like them.

These are all pictures of the real ABBA.
 Frida and Agnetha

The men were just beardy blokes wearing 70's jumpsuits and silver platform boots. So I guess they looked a bit like Benny and Bjorn.
 Bjorn and Benny

They started off in the outfits they wore when they won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974. They fittingly sang Waterloo since that was their winning song.
How they did all that dancing in those platform boots I will never know

They moved on to other hits like Gimme, Gimme, Gimme(a man after midnight) , Knowing me, Knowing you, Mamma Mia, SOS, Does Your Mother Know, Take a Chance on Me, Voulez Vous, The Name of the Game, Super Trouper, and Money, Money Money.

They wore copies of this outfit too and I could see their knickers
All of those we were encouraged to get up and dance in front of our chairs. The crowd was a real mix of ages from young 20s like Rosie Mai, to middle agers like me to grey headed folks. Everyone was up dancing—no matter what their age. My step counter registered I had done 18,000 steps—that's almost 8 miles!
looking serious and pensive

They interspersed the dancing songs with slow numbers like The Winner Takes It All, Fernando, Thank You For the Music, and my favourite—Chiquitita.

artists who dress themselves
They ended with Dancing Queen which was the perfect one to end with. We were all dancing out the door of the theatre and onto the streets. For days I annoyed Spiderman by constantly humming Super Trouper and dancing.

It was a fantastic experience and one I would do again with other bands.

 You can dance,

You can jive,

Having the time of your life.

See that girl,

Watch that scene

Digging the Dancing Queen.

Monday, 16 May 2016

The Road To Hell

I had a nightmare the other  night.

A driving nightmare.

A driving at night, nightmare.

A driving at night on the road to hell, nightmare.

Where did this come from? Who knows. I haven't driven a car in over a decade. I have *never* driven a car in the UK.

I am not sure I even could drive here.

Everything is on the wrong side for me. They drive on the opposite (wrong!) side of the road.

Even the inside of the car is on the opposite (wrong again!) side for me.

I have always had issues with my left and right. When driving in the US I *always* wore a hair scrunchie on my left wrist so I could tell them apart quickly.

Imagine having to do that on the opposite side of everything? thanks. I am sure the people are Britain are breathing a huge sigh of relief.

Plus even when I used to drive in the US, I never enjoyed it. I am NOT a petrol head. The reasons are this are two fold.

1) Driving always killed my back. When you are a shortie with a broken coccyx sitting in a bucket seat designed for a tall person without a broken ain't pretty. I was in agony every time we had to drive long distances. And pretty durn uncomfortable driving short distances.

2) I have no sense of direction. At all. Zero. Zip. I am the person who literally could not find my way out of a paper bag with a map and a torch.

So being in agony, trying to tell my left from my right and trying to read signs and navigate made for a very stressed, very tense little Spider.

So anyway,  this was my dream.

I was driving a car at night down a multi lane motorway somewhere in England. I know it was England because the signs were not bilingual as they are in Wales.

It was night, visibility was very poor. It had been raining. That in itself is a REALISTIC situation a person might find themselves in.

Then it got weird.

The exit signs were all in RIDDLES. Seriously! Spiderman had to try to spot them from far away, we had to decode the riddle, I would then attempt to maneuver the car across several lanes of busy traffic and then exit. We kept wishing he had a telescope so he could see them from further away to give us more time to decode them as some of them were quite tricky.

The only riddle I can actually remember was this one:
Seven chickens turn thrice widdershins. What am I?

Seriously, they were all like that. And what's up with the use of the archaic word widdershins? I only knew it meant anti-clockwise from reading the book/watching the excellent miniseries Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Because that is how Richard Mayhew has to summon the Marquis De Carabas for the Lady Door.
the wonderful Patterson Joseph as the Marquis

So basically, I woke up in a cold sweat with my heart hammering away like an armed policeman.

Spiderman thought it was hysterical and said,
What do you get when you cross a spider with a fruitcake?
Answer: YOU

Later I was able to laugh about it. But more than anything, I am thankful to live in a nation, in a country, in a town that encourages and allows public transportation and walking.

Because if you have to stand on a street corner and surreptitiously check your left from your right or squint at buildings that may or may not be familiar to remember your way home then at least no wanker is beeping their horn at you or crashing into your tail end because you hesitated.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

The End Is Nigh


If you are a regular reader of this blog you will know how much we love Jonny and the Baptists.  Oh how we love their silly songs, their serious issues songs, their satirical look at the world songs, their trying to make the world a better place songs, their chemistry together with Paddy's brilliant guitar playing and Jonny's soulful voice.

They *are* comedy blues.

You can also imagine how we felt when we moved to Wales. There might be no more Jonny and the Baptists for us. We used to see them quite regularly when we went to Distraction Club in London on the first Tuesday of the month. They are fantastic musicians and because we have chatted a few times at these gigs and had some email correspondence  I can honestly say they are also all-round nice blokes as well.

Most things in Wales are brilliant, but there was a giant Jonny and the Baptists shaped hole in our lives.

But no more!

Yesterday we took the train to Cardiff which is two hours for us and then walked about 30 minutes in the rain (this is Wales after all) to get to the Chapter Arts Centre. We were all jiggly with excitement because we were gonna see us some Jonny and Paddy!!!!!!
We got there early and brought a bag load of food as we knew we were going be back later. Really late. Spectacularly late. Next day late. But we were wet and weirdly steamy (plastic waterproof coats and hot weather are not a good mix) and so we perused the menu at the Chapter Arts Centre and it was AMAZING. There was a vegan menu. There was a gluten free menu. With a bit of cross referencing on our parts to find stuff v/gf we managed to order a large plate of homemade kidney bean vegan sausages over mash with brown gravy and falafels with hummus. Plus they had that posh rose lemonade I love by Fentimans.

Soon we were dry and well fed and it was time for the fun to start.

There were about 90 people there and we were a very appreciative audience. We even laughed at the duck butler joke.

Jonny had grown a beard and Paddy occasionally let down his golden hair like Rapunzel. The show was called The End is Nigh and was all about Jonny and Paddy trying to stop climate change after Jonny frightened his favourite four year old niece Isabella by telling her the world was going to end because we were not doing enough to stop climate change.

He made her cry and this tour is out  to rectify that.

It was a mixture of serious and silly with lots of facts about climate change and saving the environment (there was a song about weeing in the shower because of how much water is used when you flush the loo) but also a striking indictment of those who walk the walk as opposed to those who talk the talk.

When the show was first written it featured a man named Mathew Hancock who was at that time the Minister of State for Energy which was a strange appointment as he was a bit of a climate change denier and was seen as slightly controversial after hiring a private jet to take him home from a climate conference. A climate conference!!!!

What a dick.

Which is where the next part of the show went. There was a toe tapping number called Willies about...well drawing willies on things. Spiderman spent a decade working at an all boys school. He is an expert on this. If there is a blank, available space--a boy will draw a willy on it. FACT. The song lamented a simpler time when all you had to do was draw willies on stuff (like when studying WW1 about the Germans and French you'd draw a little willy poking out of the trench) but now we need to take action and solve climate change and it is not as easy (or as much fun) as drawing willies on stuff.

Oh, and they also dressed a member of the audience up as Mathew Hancock and then drew a willy on him.

The show ended all too soon with a rousing chorus of the song We're All Going To Die and that had us giggling and singing it all the way back to the station (once again in the rain). We kept mouthing it to each other on the train--fearful of singing it too loud lest someone get the wrong idea. The happy vibe from the concert and all the humming and laughing made the two hour train journey back to Carmarthen pass quickly.

Before we left, we stopped to say hello to them and as always they are just genuinely lovely human beings. They used to sell CDs but now after looking at the environmental aspect of them have decided to go to the download version only. We spent a fiver for a photo of them on recycled paper which had the download code for getting the music online. They signed it with--what else--a drawing of a willy.

Jonny & the Baptists
If anyone out there would like to hear more about them (and you totally should) go to where you can download their music for a reasonable rate and watch their videos.

We love you guys! Thank you for coming to Wales!

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Into the wild wood and down by the waterfall

Recently a few of us from the Carmarthen Vegans went on a hike to Cenarth. It was a wild wood sort of place with narrow paths and uneven surfaces so it gave us a chance to wear our hiking boots that we got a Lidl for 15 quid. These boots are great and rival more expensive hiking boots we are told. I spotted them with my bargain queen eye and we all have a pair. 

We didn't get too many pictures because we were walking and trying not to fall in the river, but here are a few.

Here is the narrow trail just to give you an idea of where we were. it was rocky and narrow and uneven but it was a great workout as it really kept you on your toes.

Here we are pausing to have a group shot on a rock by the rapids. We had to take turns taking to the picture so one person is missing from each shot.

Don't we look happy?

It has been requested to makes some portable banners to carry with us on hikes so we can unfurl them for photos. I am making a big one for everybody hikes and a small one for the core members--Myself, Spiderman, Kathryn, Peter and Priya since we are the main organisers of stuff. Sometimes we go on hikes as a small group which doubles as a planning meeting.

When we take these small group adventures we travel under the name The Famous Five (like the gang of kids who solved crimes in those children's books by Enid Blyton which are a staple of British reading here) The Famous Five in the books have a dog named Timmy. Alas, we have no faithful dog, but we do have a duck named Timmy as our mascot. We seem to always go where water is and we always seem to see a duck so it just sort of became the group symbol.

After the narrow hike we found a place by the river to picnic. The food was good, the air was clean, the river was wild (and made us all have to go for a wee) and Peter and I were messing about singing together.

This is how the idea came about that we could sing for the Meet and Greet event. Normally we just sing together for fun but we discovered we could harmonise well on certain folk songs so we decided to have another practice and then give it a go.

I am so glad we did.

So basically, this is our life these days. I can't imagine it gets much better than this.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Be Veg, Go Green, Make Peace, save the Planet

Here is the song that I wrote for the recent Meet and Greet event. It is to the tune of Jolene by Dolly Parton if you want to sing along.

Be veg, go green, make peace, save the planet.
 A vegan diet is the kindest option.
Be veg, go green, make peace, save the planet.
The animals will thank you if you do.

Animals they are my friends and i don't want to eat to my friends.
Animals they feel pain just like you. 
Factory farming makes me cry; animals don't want to die.
Animals they have a mother, too. 


Eating plants is good for you, nuts and seeds and whole grains too,
fruit and veg and lots of beans of lentils.
Plant foods give you energy, a vegan diet's so healthy.
Eat the rainbow and you'll feel fantastic.


We worry about CO2, but methane is a problem, too.
Factory farming causes these emissions.
Meat production destroys life, pollutes the water, land and sky.
People starve while grain is fed to cattle.

Be veg, go green, make peace, save the planet.
 A vegan diet is the kindest option.
Be veg, go green, make peace, save the planet.
The animals will thank you if you do.

We had such fun practicing for this! Rosie-Mai brought her ukulele who is named after Frida from ABBA and i brought out Tallujah my uke and we had a right ole jam session.

Then Rosie-Mai fell and hurt her hand and it was in a sling! Oh no! it was a bit "Will we or won't we?" until the last minute. Squeaky bum time.

But in the end she was well enough to play! Huzzah!

We are already planning our next songs to perform so stay tuned!

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Singin' and Playin' and Eatin' and Chattin'

The Carmarthen Vegans have been busy!  We recently had our spring Meet and Greet event which was *hugely* successful. We had about 60 people come --about half of them new faces--and as usual we had a great time visiting with people and stuffing our faces.

Priya had me make some new decorations for this event. The theme was Be Vegan for World Peace and so the words Peace Begins On Our Plates seemed appropriate.

We still had some decorations from previous events like this one:

We also had an open mic and provided lots of entertainment ourselves.

We started off with a bit of fun-- Peter and I singing There's a Hole in the Bucket, dear Liza and then later Peter and I singing more serious songs with the anti-war/peace theme.

Here we are singing Where have all the flowers gone by Pete Seeger.

My BFF  Rosie-Mai and I played a few songs on our ukuleles and sang together. We did a song I wrote to the tune of Dolly Parton's Jolene all about the three reasons to be vegan--the animals, your health, the environment (lyrics coming soon!) and we also played The Lion Sleeps Tonight. 

Rosie-Mai is only 19 but we have so much in common--I swear we are really long lost sisters. When we first met at a vegan gathering we had so much in common--we both play the ukulele, both write short stories, both in education (Rosie-Mai is training to be a teacher), both have a background in amateur dramatics and later found out things like we both love Simon and Garfunkel.

Rosie-Mai also did a stunning solo of the incredibly heartbreaking The Green Fields of France  about a 19 year old soldier who died in WWI. Sadly, we didn't get a picture of her playing--probably because we were all crying.

Here is Priya playing the guitar and singing in Mandarin. I have no idea what she said, but it was very beautiful and poetic!

Here are just some of the people who were there--a really good mix of young and old. Oh! Speaking of young--my favourite munchkins H and M (the ones that I tutor) got up under the name Mega Cool Vegans (their choice--not mine!) and H read a beautiful passage from a book about not harming any living creature and then we sang a few vegan children's songs that we have made up to the tune of other songs such as this one to the tune of I'm a Little Teapot:

I'm a little vegan
kind and sweet
I don't drink milk and I don't eat meat.
I care for animals can't you see?
Making life better for you and me!

If you're happy to be vegan clap your hands (x2)
If you're happy to be vegan and you love the food you're eating
if you're happy to be vegan clap your hands. 

If you don't want to eat meat then stomp your feet (x2)
If you don't want to eat meat then have a vegan treat.
if you don't want to eat meat then stomp your feet.

If you care for animals too then shout hooray (x2)
If you care for animals too and I really think you do
 If you care for animals too then shout hooray.

What fun! The whole event was a blast. It is great to have so many like-minded people of all ages to spend time with. We are so happy we have moved to Wales!

The only hiccup in an otherwise perfect day was our oven decided to be contrary and stopped working just as i was trying to bake loads of brownies and egg free quiche for the event. Everyone looks forward to my brownies and quiche as they are vegan and yum but also gluten free for those of who need that sort of thing too. Oh No! We coped in the end by making several raw desserts that were v/gf using nuts and dates and i bought some smoked tofu and vegan cheese and put cubes of them on cocktail sticks.

For fun (and to help me get over being so cross about the oven) we made up a song to the tune of American Pie.
The day the oven died....
We were singing
Why, why won't my oven even try
to be heating stuff for eating
Now i think I might cry.
This couldn't have happened at a worse time for me
because now I can't bake some brownies.
Now there won't be any quiche. 

(The oven is mostly fixed now--so no need to worry) And despite the oven fiasco, i did not let it ruin my day.

It was still a brilliant day, with friends, food and music. What more do you need?