Being Vegetarian

Not that I usually talk about anything other than music or films or television, but this one will do. This is a current topic!

This whole vegetarian thing is quite popular isn’t it? And annoying. My situation is slightly different from the other herbivores as instead of choosing not to eat meat, I was brought up not eating it. As a result, most of it is completely alien and quite grim to me. I don’t even know how to cook most of it. The meat aisle in Sainsburys both fascinates and sickens me as I have no idea what the majority is. It’s all so frighteningly red.. Generally speaking, I’m mainly put off because I’m so very squeamish, but also because it makes me feel sick – physically that is – both during the consumption of it and for a few days after. I heard a great phrase for this – a “carnover”. Like a hangover, just for meat. I suspect you only experience this is you don’t generally go in for fleisch, but it’s still a good phrase. I’ve tried, I’ve really bloody tried because I feel like there’s a whole world out there that I’m missing out on. There are some things I refuse to eat – to even try – because they’re FAR too cute (bastard lamb-eating people!), but aside from the squeamish thing, the feeling sick and the cute factor, most of it just tastes horrid anyway. Still, I do wish I had the option.

The options are there in their plenty for the non-meat eater. You don’t even have to go in for the meat substitutes, and I think there are some vegetarians who would even deem this as cheating – because you’re not trying to find new food, it’s just food replacement. But who can resist the vegetarian sausage?! It’s one of the best inventions ever, it really is. Not the Quorn ones, but the Linda McCartney’s and the Cauldron ones – I think so. Quorn do win at fake chicken and mince though. It also depends on how “hardcore” you want to be – I currently live with two people (men, no less) who even check their beer ingredients to make sure there’s no animal involved – but then my mother (who instigated vegetarianism) (I mean for me, not the world, that would be severely impressive) eats Parmesan cheese and smokey bacon crisps. And fish actually. It all depends on why you’re being vegetarian. I hate it when people assume you’re doing it for moral reasons and then tell you you’re an idiot because it’s instinct to eat meat and we’re going against nature. That may be true but you surely shouldn’t judge so readily.

But similarly, the vegetarians shouldn’t assume it’ll be an easy ride. If you’ve chosen to limit your options, you’ve got to accept there will be less to eat. Someone I know is not only lactose intolerant but also gluten – this isn’t even her choice but it makes for a very expensive and awkward supermarket venture. I feel much worse for her than myself as it’s not like I’ll die if I eat animals (what an odd sentence). But there’s no one to blame in the previous situation – it’s much easier to get on board of you’ve made the choice yourself. Not that I entirely did but I’m choosing to avoid it as much as I can.

I’m always impressed at the lengths the people I know will go to to cater for me whenever they’re cooking. Benchlad’s mum always makes an extra dish for me, or makes everything vegetarian (which makes me feel guilty), or if she hasn’t had time she’ll apologise profusely. And my friend Ana did similar whenever she cooked. It makes me feel guilty because I know it’s more awkward for them, but they all seem fine doing it.. Nice but strange.

That said, it can be immensely frustrating whenever it gets to you. Whenever you go out to eat is usually the worse time. Glastonbury is not a problem, those hippie weirdos are usually vegetarian anyway, but restaurants can be quite depressing. We went to the Curry Festival in Leeds last weekend and I think there was only one all-vegetarian stall. Which was very nice of them, but we got samosas from another stand and I completely didn’t think about the contents, until some mushy, grey-looking meat substances was looking back at me after consuming the initial pastry. Such a shame as they were homemade and everything.

But really, it’s like any extreme. Don’t throw it in someone’s face and don’t expect everyone to get on board. It’s not that normal (although being quite common), but it can be immense if you do it right. Having sympathetic friends can help too.


Later with Jools Holland – 20th September 2011

Oh hello Bland City, it’s the Beige Train pulling through. What’s that? Enough dull culture already? You won’t mind some more then.

This week’s edition of Jools was pretty flat, it has to be said. Which is a great shame as I was anticipating the return of the series for a while.

To be fair, we started off with Snow Patrol. Does it get any more mundane than this? Maybe I just don’t “get” them or something, but why are they so successful? Is it because they represent, so very well, bland indie rock? I suppose they had reasonably catchy tunes, but it was nothing interesting. This must be music for people who just have it on in the background.  It’s hard to work out if they’re actually enjoying themselves. It is, I think, the most inoffensive, banal crap I’ve heard on this for a while (like the Michael McIntyre of the music world), but at least the middle-aged mums will love it. Sad days.

The Duke Spirit. I’ve been told to like this band for quite a while by my brother, but somehow it’s never really quite caught on. On the plus side, they had an awful lot more life than Snow Patrol. Not that I mean to compare (haha). They came across as a little arrogant I think, only seeming to care about their performance with little appreciation of the audience or their surroundings. As soon as their music started, they burst into life and their songs did have a reasonable amount of vivacity, but the lyrics were pretty dreadful and as a band they seemed pretty trite. They are neither Nirvana nor Hole, but seemed to very much want to be. The lead singer annoyed me way to much to focus on much else.

Little Dragon. This was my favourite thing so far, non-pretentious and pretty genuine. They looked like they actually wanted to play too, which is always nice. In any other context, you probably would hear it on the radio and think “oh, that’s a nice song”, but on Jools, it was a relief to have something that was both good and enjoyable. That said, their songs did sound pretty similar I think, but I would not object to hearing them again, unlike Snow Patrol.

Trombone Shorty – this was an awful lot of fun. Much more inspiring and far less bland than anything previous, and I’m a huge believer that brass ensemble (WHEN IT’S NOT FREE JAZZ, I SAID ENSEMBLE) is one of the best sounds in the world. It says, most of the time, “hello, dance to me”, which automatically makes the music more enjoyable. I wager Mr Shorty himself would be a little irksome to work with, and it probably only seemed really good as it was thrown into the mix of this beige episode, but I did actually enjoy this. Genuinely. *shock*

Emeli Sande – Erm.. Ok? I did not like her voice one bit. Reminded me far too much of all the singers that made music in the 90s. The sort that would be deemed “RNB” I think. The second song was better than the first, but I’m still very dubious about this bird. Technically speaking, she probably did have a good voice, but nothing about this was to my taste I don’t think. A shame.

Roy Harper – The “legend” for this week came in the form of a (very old) man and guitar, and it was better than anything in the episode so far. He was rather captivating for just having a guitar. He played the mildly controversially named ‘I Hate the White Man’, but then it could have been worse. The lyrics were much better than anything else, and I found his voice sounded like David Bowie’s, but in this case he could actually sing very well. Bowie can just about sing, and only because he has a very characteristic style. This was easily the best thing this week.

So a pretty low episode to start the series off, but I wait in hope of next week. Mostly hope that I’ll be pleasantly surprised as I already know the line-up. Get it together Jools.

Song Of The Day #36.

Metronomy – The Bay

Now despite not winning the Mercury and it in fact going to an artist who probably produces much better music, there is no denying this is a good song. It’s irritatingly catchy, mainly because I didn’t like the rest of the album much, but see what you think of this one. It can be listened to on repeat.

“Are you ready for some more Saturday night party songs?”

This question was posed to us by Mr Mogwai (of Mogwai fame) at their headliner slot on the night in question. End of the Road festival was immense, it literally did have it all. I was mildly dubious as the only other residential festival I’ve done is Glastonbury, so one could imagine it might be a little overshadowed. But it had the music, the food, the Woodland Library, PEACHICKS FOR FUCK’S SAKE (what kind of a festival even has the average peacock? The only disappointment here was the lack pf plumage display), PieMinister, a tea-bus, hot cider, quiet camping, showers, genuinely decent toilets (I’ve read comments that these were actually cleaner than a toilet owned by a festival-goer), space to pitch yo’ tent, a near-complete lack of idiots and, a very new experience, a sense of kinship with festival staff.

This is because we WERE festival staff. A completely new aspect of a festival was shown to us, we were mixing with the security guards, festival directors and everything. More on the shift later, but we did get designated camping, a stewards tent with tea urns and snacks, a free ticket for doing it, and showers. More on that later too. Would thoroughly recommend working a festival if you can!

So. I’m going to mainly review the bands and the food I think, with mild comments on the setting at the same time. I believe my cynical views on the bands are the most interesting thing I churn out and I don’t think people want to know about how we “found ourselves” or some hippy bollocks. We didn’t. It was just lots of fun. When we got there on the Thursday, things were still setting up, which confused us as they’d be in full swing by now if we were at Glastonbury. We were genuinely waiting for the Cider Bus to open. There were Rough Trade, vintage and book stalls to explore first, then PieMinister for supper. This Heidi pie was a nine out of ten for me. Tasty noms.

Choons started on Friday with Best Coast – although initially this was one of the bands I actually picked out to go and see (when you’re at a musical event with Benchlad, it’s a rare thing I make a suggestion he hasn’t already), I wasn’t quite as impressed as I’d hoped. The setting was perfect – a field in the middle of nowhere with some pretty epic sun, but the wind didn’t help the sound and the difference in songs from the album was even more stark when live. A shame, but still enjoyable.

Tune Yards – completely different from what I was expecting, and she is ridiculously eccentric. Some pretty good looping occurring, not quite Owen Pallett but still a very good stab at it, and I liked the way she built her band up as they were needed. The whole thing did sound like one song though, as opposed to individuals, and it didn’t capture me quite as much as the rest of the audience I don’t think.

Bo Ningen – couldn’t quite catch all the set due to seeing Ms Yards on the Garden Stage (definitely my favourite stage), but my god! So loud and so weird. Strangely very enjoyable. They all kind of look like witches with their ridiculous hair and dress sense, and given how tiny they are, their stamina is immense. They said, about ten minutes before their slot was due to end, that they were about to play their last song – twenty minutes later their set ended in a blaze of feedback, hair and stage-related antics, although no instrument was harmed. Which is nice isn’t it. It was pretty intense.

At this point we stopped for supper – this time I opted for the falafel, which would usually be a good staple. But didn’t quite cut it this time, although I feel if I’d gone for the platter instead of the pitta it might have been better. Not to worry, one must live and learn.

HEALTH were straight after Bo (our poor ears!), so back into the Big Top tent we went to be blasted away by the loudest set of the festival. I enjoyed them much more this time than when we saw them in Leeds (to be fair, that was my first exposure to them), and they played some excellent new stuff, but must the front man be so nonchalant to his audience? There is a good side to this, it means they just walk off at the end of their set and don’t piss around like Bo Ningen (and Gogol Bordello) would, but they are paying your way you tool. Good set though.

At this stage we went to have as much sleep as we could as we needed energy for later. It’s odd trying to sleep when you can hear Lykki Li just over the field. We were up for the last part of the Beirut set, then geared ourselves up for staying up all night to guard Gate B. This was our one stewarding shift – if you do all night here, you don’t have to do anything else. And you might as well as you’re not going to miss anything and if you can hack it it’s the best choice of slot. Gate B was the entrance to “production” so we had the directors, crew, backstage crew and band members going through, although no one particularly famous as they are probably sensible not to be up til 5am. We were able to go and get some tea at about 4am, and played 20 Questions, read ‘Cider with Rosie’ together, played Word Association and ate copious amounts of flapjack and sweets for energy. It was a very strange experience but nowhere near as bad as I was expecting. By the time the sun was up I was so tired I kept dancing around as I’d gone beyond normality.

Anyway, we finished about 8am then slept for as long as we could. Up at 12.30, then breakfast at Anni’s Shack, which I would give probably a six out of ten. Friday’s breakfast was an eight, from somewhere called The Story. We attempted our first ever festival shower after this too, which was bloody freezing. I did feel better afterwards though, but wished the sun was more out than it was. The festival was ours now too, after having done our work! Bob Log was viewed first, a strange but entertaining chap, then Phosphorescent, which was far more inert than the reactive name might suggest. We stayed on the Garden Stage (you could find Peachicks hanging around this stage, it was epic) to see the Unthanks who are very good at this harmony business. They had a string quartet I do believe, which seems to be a popular choice for this season, and then in contrast we went to see the last bit of the Wooden Shjips set. I wish I’d been able to see more of this now, as it was rather good, but schedules dictated otherwise. Supper was then taken – fish and chips – which, given the cold evening and the hunger was possibly an eight out of ten. This might be more like a seven, but either way it was very much enjoyed at the time.

The last band of the evening for us was Mogwai. This genuinely wasn’t loud enough for me. I was expecting to be blasted away by it, like I was at Invada Invasion, but possibly they were thinking of the wildlife surrounding the area. Either way, it wasn’t loud enough. But we did get San Pedro, and the crowd were loving it. It seemed like the whole festival crowd were there, but as it’s a small festival, no sardining occurred at all at any stage for any performance. This was a beautiful thing – the crowd usually ruin a performance for me, but the lack of being squished helped in the other fashion. Mogwai were good but not as good as the HEALTH/Bo Ningen back-to-back combination.

Sunday. We started off with breakfast from the same place as Friday, although this time I’d give it a solid seven out of ten. That didn’t matter though, as our first culture-related appointment of the day was with Mr Roy Wilkinson, journalist, author and previous BSP manager. Also, bird-watcher and older brother of Yan and Hamilton of said band. Reading from his new book ‘Do It For Your Mum’, there was also a Q&A session, some flute, some damson liquor and a book signing. All in the Woodland Library, which was a great setting given the nature of BSP. After, we had a general wander-round, catching snippets of bands, but the next big thing was Tinariwen, on the Woods stage. The audience seemed to respond very well to these chaps, and they were pretty enjoyable, although I suspect I enjoyed them more as background music to the situation. Not that that always matters.

Pieces of The Leisure Society and Kurt Vile and the Violators were caught after that, and then, my quiet highlight of the festival, Josh T Pearson. I was expecting, after listening to his music, to be bored stiff, quite simply because songs seem to flow rather easily into each one and, judging on his lyrics, he’s not the happiest of beings. But he’s hilarious! It seemed much more like a proper show, despite it just being him and a guitar, as he talked to us an awful lot and told a huge amount of hilarious jokes. It started raining but I don’t think I actually complained once, apart from when I was particularly chilly. That is how much I enjoyed it. Quite a miracle.

I think supper came after this, in the form of a French tartiflette white wine, potato mush – which was immense – and then onto to a smidge of Midlake which, from what we heard, were very good – and a lot more upbeat live – and then probably the biggest festival highlight – Brakes. They were outSTANDING, so much fun and I think, even though they only had a 75 minute slot, they played about 30 songs. It was just one giant party really, and I now have a new-found appreciation for them. Much better than having to watch Joanna Newsom warble on like a child in the freezing cold, singing about stuff I couldn’t give a toss about. We were going to catch the secret Brakes set after Midnight but couldn’t quite hack it – we were all festivaled-out by that point. A shame, but it couldn’t be as good as the earlier set. Could it?

Immense festival, would love to go back.