Our allotment two months later

Our allotment two months later

I spent several hours at the allotment this morning. Our plot still needs a lot of work but when I compare the now photo with the before photo I realise we have come a long way. Here’s how it looked in April:


Here’s how it looks today:


Now I just need to turn it into food. Right now I’m mostly feeding the resident slug population. My kale has been decimated:


I have a three-pronged strategy in my war against the slugs. Firstly, I bought some nematodes which are microorganisms that infect slugs and kill them. I watered that into the soil today so hopefully I’ll see some improvements in the coming weeks. Secondly, I put out some beer traps which will attract the snails and drown them. Thirdly, I put down some strulch. Strulch is a straw mulch that repels slugs and snails. I put it on the garden at home. It reduces the number of weeds and helps retain soil moisture. It also smells lovely. Poisonous slug pellets are best avoided. I’ve heard they can be eaten by small animals and then the small animals are eaten by larger animals causing the poison to travel up the food chain getting more and more concentrated. The poisons have also been found in streams and rivers.

Here is one of the beer traps:


It’s fair to say our allotment is the worst one there except for this one but it doesn’t look like anyone is tending to this one so it doesn’t really count.


Tell lions not to eat dogs

This post is for my vegan friends who I’m sure will enjoy this Facebook article that appeared in my feed this week. I had a good laugh because every single one of those points has been said to me in the 15 years that I have been vegan. If you click the “See More” link you can see the full post without having to visit Facebook.

I particularly like this one “Before you tell the people of Bali not to eat dogs you better go to Africa & tell a lion not to eat a dog.” I posted about this recently on my own blog in Animals eat each other so why shouldn’t we eat them? and a couple of weeks later someone used the same argument with me again. I confess I was a little curt with them in my response. How can people be so stupid? I should be more understanding and compassionate but this is what happens when you hear the same stupid arguments for 15 years. I will endeavour to be more understanding going forward. No-one ever became vegan because they were made to feel stupid.

Arguing in a bike, swishing, and pollution

Arguing in a bike, swishing, and pollution

I cycled into town with the kids this evening and they had a huge fight in the bike. The fight was because Daniel said he can click his fingers and Elizabeth says he can’t. This is the downside to having kids in a bike. When you’re in a car members of the public can’t hear your kids arguing in the back and so parents are spared the embarrassment. But in the bike every pedestrian we cycled past heard it. Thankfully they very rarely fight and had made up by the time we cycled home which was just after this next photo was taken.


One of Ben’s old PhD students from New Zealand is visiting. He lives in China now and complained about the pollution there. Walking along Union St in Aberdeen he commented on how great it was to breathe the fresh air. Union St is one of the most polluted Streets in Scotland. Thank goodness we don’t live in China. I would not like it at all. Aberdeen is a great place to live. While the rest of the UK has been complaining about the heat we have been lovely and cool with temperatures no higher than 20C this past week.

A couple of days ago I went to a swishing night which is an event where you take a heap of clothes you no longer want and swap them for clothes other people no longer want. As one mum put it: it’s like shopping without spending any money. It was fantastic and I got the dress I’m wearing in the photo at swishing. I would definitely do it again.

I planted a couple of sweet peas in a small patch of dirt on our footpath. They started flowering a couple of weeks ago and look lovely.


Bichon Burgers

Bichon Burgers

I humbly suggest for consideration that the tens of thousands of dogs that are killed each year in Britain be offered for sale to feed the hungry and growing population. A German Shepherd could feed as many as 50 people while a chihuahua could feed a family of four. People in Britain are familiar and comfortable with the idea of dogs as pets, so there will be good brand recognition.  Surely it is only a small step to take from owning a dog to eating one?

Dogs are currently eaten and enjoyed as a nourishing food source in China, South Korea, and Vietnam. An estimated 13-16 million dogs are eaten by humans every year in Asia. Traditional uses of dog meat are roasted dog, dog soup, and dog-meat sausages. Most dogs can be eaten from around 1 year of age and the fur could be used in gloves, coats, and other garments by the fashion industry.

By eating dogs we will solve two problems: the desire to eat meat by a growing human population and also the problem of abandoned, stray, and unwanted dogs. The factory farming of animals is creating lots of environmental problems like climate change, waste pollution, and antibiotic resistance. Stray dogs don’t contribute to any of these problems and are killed anyway. The human population is expected to grow from 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050 and humans have an insatiable appetite for meat.

Eating dogs also provides us with economic opportunities. Dog catchers can earn a living by rounding up and collecting dogs while the sale of the meat will provide business opportunities for butchers and restaurants. The great variety of breeds lends itself to clever marketing and recipe ideas like spaghetti spaniel, peppered pug, and terrier tagine. Enterprising chefs can capitalise on novel dishes involving different breeds and body parts like dog tails and paws.


Here’s a recipe idea: Bichon Burgers

225g cooked meat from a bichon frise
1 small onion
40g fresh bread crumbs
2 tblsp chopped parsley
1 clove garlic
1 small egg, beaten
a couple of chopped spring onions

Mix all ingredients in a food processor then divide into small burger-sized portions and fry in oil. Serve between two slices of break with ketchup and eat.

Some pics

Some pics

Ben took this photo of me and Elizabeth at the Handmade Burger Company on Sunday night. I love the new WordPress t-shirt I’m wearing which I got in Paris.


My colleague, Kathryn, took the next two photos of us at the Jetpack booth in Paris. They’re really great.


This last photo is one I took of the view each day on the walk from the hotel to the venue. People think Paris is glamorous and maybe it is but every city has a dark side and Paris is no exception.

Queues, parties, anxiety, and dad-friendly swimsuits

The party last night was a bit of a disaster. Everyone was told not to eat first because there would be food there but the food was a small pop-up stall selling hamburgers and hot dogs with a long and mostly stationary queue of about 100 people. To get drinks you had to purchase tokens but the queue for tokens was similarly long. Meanwhile a DJ was blasting techno music onto an empty dance floor. There is something almost comical about seeing two huge and non-moving queues of people at a party. Aliens must think we are nuts. Is it always necessary to have a DJ blasting techno music at a party? What’s wrong with a string quartet or am I just too old for this now?

Apparently in Eastern Europe in the old days you had to queue three times to buy things: once to place your order, again to pay for your order, and then a third time to collect it. There was a huge queue at Charles De Gaulle airport this morning and even, inexplicably, a queue in Aberdeen. Aberdeen airport never has queues but apparently it’s graduation this week and so there are lots of families of students flying in to attend. I don’t want to see another queue again for at least a month.

A small group of us left the party to search for food and we ended up at a delightful Indian vegetarian restaurant and so I still had a nice time. However the restaurant was so far away from the party and the party so far away from our hotel that we made the decision just to go back to the hotel. This meant that I didn’t get to see as many people as I would have liked. I will have to wait until next year for WordCamp EU 2018 which will be in Belgrade.

It’s nice to be back with the family. I’m not a keep calm and carry-on person; I’m panic and freak out. Before I left for Paris I was anxious – about everything. Would Elizabeth drown at the swimming birthday party she was invited to? Would the kids be kidnapped? Would my plane crash? Would British border control refuse to let me back in again? The swimming party invitation caused me a lot of grief. Elizabeth can swim but she’s not great and 30 seven-year-olds at a pool party sounds like a bad idea, especially in this country where kids are much less confident in the water.

To add to this there was the problem of her swimsuit. Do you know how hard it is to find dad-friendly swimsuits? Her last swimsuit had a clip behind the neck which neither she nor Ben could undo so I replaced it with a suit without clips. However the replacement had cross-over straps at the back which was equally challenging for dad and the 7-year-old. I thought I could teach Elizabeth how to do it and she seemed to get the knack but on one trip to the bathroom, where she had to take it off and put it on again, she reappeared wearing the suit back-to-front and inside-out. After this I decided to get a third swimsuit and this time chose a two-piece which, thankfully, she can manage herself.

Ben had to take the kids to school on Friday and apparently he slept in. He was awoken by Elizabeth at 8:10am saying, “Daniel says you need to get up”. The kids have to be at school at 8:45am. I’m so proud of Daniel. Not only was he keeping an eye on the time and aware that Daddy needed to wake up, but he also delegated the task of waking him to his younger sister.

French Wapuu

French Wapuu

I’m having a wonderful time at WCEU 2017. The venue is enormous and works well for the 2,500 people who are here. People come to WordCamps for so many different reasons. Some come to learn about WordPress and attend as many talks as possible; some come to see old friends and make new ones; some come for the swag; while others come to get a photograph with a French Wapuu.


If you retweet my Tweet then you’ll increase my chances of taking Wapuu back home with me. Thank you in advance 🙂

I got these two little dudes for my kids.




A group of us went for dinner last night and we got this amazing selection of tapas to share.


I have another long day ahead of me today so I’d better get ready.

Look where I am

Look where I am


I’m in Paris for WordCamp EU 2017. In case you’re wondering what on earth I’m talking about it’s a two-day tech conference about everything WordPress. Last year it was in Vienna and attracted over 2,000 people. This year is even bigger. It’s a community-led event organised by a team of volunteers. There are WordCamps all over the world and chances are there’s one near you.

The WordPress community is very special. WordPress software is open-source which means anyone can download the software for free and anyone can contribute to its development. WordPress drives just over 28% of all web sites and the number rises with each year. It’s a privilege to be a part of this and wonderful to see and connect with all the people who attend.




My kids addressed the city council petitions committee

My kids addressed the city council petitions committee

It has been an eventful day. Sometimes I wish my life was dull and uneventful because right now I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. Today, Daniel, Elizabeth, and I presented a petition to the petitions committee at the city council. The petition is asking for cycle paths that children can use to cycle to and from school in safety. We were given 10 minutes during which we could argue our case and then answer questions. Both the kids spoke and they delivered their messages beautifully. The only blunder was my own when I accidentally turned off Daniel’s microphone. The microphones were such that when you turned yours on it disabled everyone else’s. Coming from a family where everyone talks over one another I think these microphones are a wonderful idea.



What did we talk about in 10 minutes? We gave an example of what we want using this photo of Dutch children cycling to school in the city of Groningen.


I also made the point that the Netherlands has not always been this way. In the 1970s it was just like most British cities are today with cars ruling the roads. I shared some then and now photos which I got from the blog, A View From the Cycle Path. Here is a then and now photo from Assen in the Netherlands. It’s exactly the same street in both photos.


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I wanted to make the point that the Netherlands was at the same point back then that we are now. This means it’s something we can do here too; all that’s required is the political will to do it.

Elizabeth spoke about the cost benefit ratio of spending on cycling infrastructure. For every £1 we spend on cycling infrastructure we get £5.50 back in benefits. This is according to data from the UK government.

Ben took this photo of the three of us outside. I deliberately wore this old-fashioned dress because I wanted to make the statement that I’m not a cyclist. I’m just a mum who uses a bicycle to get around and I frequently ride my bike in dresses and long skirts. I’m not an athlete or a superwoman, I just want to make the world a better place for my children.


Criticising our leaders and faith-based leadership

We live in a free society where we can criticise our leaders without fearing for our lives and I value that immensely. We ought to be challenging Theresa May on the appropriateness of a deal with the DUP. For the same reason, Labour’s Diane Abbott can’t now claim unfair treatment for the criticism that was directed at her during the campaign. She said some silly things and in a democratic society we ought to challenge what people say. But perhaps all those who want to defend Theresa May and DUP will be more likely to listen to John Major who voiced his concerns about it on BBC news yesterday.

The Good Friday agreement says this:

…the power of the sovereign government with jurisdiction there shall be exercised with rigorous impartiality…

If the British government form a deal with just one Northern Ireland party they are not exercising rigorous impartiality.

I saw this on Twitter this morning:

Obviously I would rather see more seats for Green MPs than DUP MPs and so I might be biased, however electoral reform would also benefit parties like UKIP, and I would never vote for UKIP. In the 2015 election UKIP won over 3 million votes but only got 1 MP. There’s something wrong with the system when we end up with leadership that is not representative of the diversity of views in the population.

I also want to say something about faith-based leadership which has no place in modern politics. We should all demand that our leaders base policy decisions on evidence and reason rather than religious faith and here’s why. When a government legislates for something like, for instance, putting warning notices on cigarette packets, they can and should provide sound evidence to support the decision. If instead their decision is based on their faith all they can offer is “God said so” which does not speak to the people in the population who follow a different faith or who have no faith at all.

William Clifford, a nineteenth-century English mathematician, speaks more about this in his essay, The Ethics of Belief. He starts with a story about a ship-owner who is about to send his ship full of emigrants out to sea. The ship is old and not very well built and he doubts that it is seaworthy. Rather than putting the ship through expensive refitting he decides to trust in God that all the unhappy families will be cared for and he casts his doubts aside. The ship sinks killing everyone on board. Clifford says the ship-owner had no right to believe in the soundness of his ship because there was no evidence to suggest it was seaworthy.

He had acquired his belief not by honestly earning it in patient investigation, but by stifling his doubts.

Take me to your leader

It’s hard not to feel a bit of schadenfreude about the situation Theresa May has created for herself. When she first became prime minister about one year ago I was cautiously hopeful. I didn’t know anything about her and it was a relief just to have someone in charge because for a short period we had no leader at all. I particularly enjoyed this cartoon that appeared in Private Eye at that time:


When we eventually had a Prime Minister again everyone heaved a sigh of relief. Theresa May then gave a speech about creating a Britain that “works for everyone”.

Fast-forward one year and she called an election promoting policies that favour fox hunters and antique dealers which is not exactly a Britain that works for everyone. When a nurse who had not received a pay rise in 8 years confronted her on live tv her response was that there’s “no magic money tree” which is heartless and condescending to say the least. She also claimed to offer stable and strong leadership through Brexit negotiations but has yet to reveal what these Brexit plans are. If they’re as poor as her election manifesto, which was, to quote George Osborne, “one of the worst in history“, then we’re in trouble. I’m not surprised she lost her majority; I’m surprised that anyone voted for her at all.

Jeremy Corbyn, on the other hand, is offering policies that do work for everyone. I am 100% supportive of renationalising the railways. I saw what happened in New Zealand when the national rail network was sold off to an Australian company. They sucked it dry and ran it into the ground. Now there’s practically no rail network in New Zealand at all. Many countries have nationalised rail networks like Germany, France, and Italy. It’s really not very extreme.

It’s outrageous that nurses have not had a pay rise since 2009. We all need nurses. And then there’s the 20,000 fewer police officers on our streets thanks to cuts by the Conservatives.

What’s next? Some say there’ll be another election. I would vote every day for the next 6 months if it meant getting rid of Theresa May. Maybe she’ll resign? What has become crystal clear is that she’s the worst possible person to negotiate a Brexit deal with Europe. Theresa May lacks self-awareness, critical thinking ability, and seems to think the best negotiating strategy is to piss the other side off as much as possible. I rather like Victor Venema‘s advice to the British government which is to approach negotiations from a friendly and communicative position and Jeremy Corbyn is much better suited to this role.

Here are some of my favourite Tweets from the past week:



Strong and stable my arse

Theresa May’s snap election that wasn’t meant to happen turned out to be a bit of a disaster for her. She was handed a majority on a silver platter and somehow managed to squander it all on horse manure.  Now she’s carrying on as though nothing happened. It’s a bit like that Monty Python sketch where the fellow loses each arm and then each leg but continues fighting as though nothing happened.


While I’m pleased Jeremy Corbyn did so well given the depth of the hole he had to climb out of, I’m not particularly pleased with the result. Which is worse: a majority government with Theresa May at the helm or a non-majority with, to quote Craig Murray, “The nastiest people in politics.” In order to form a government she has jumped into bed with the only party that agreed to join her: The Democratic Unionist Party.

Craig Murray’s article about the alliance is pretty scary reading.

The loyalist terrorists murdered 1,016 people in the period 1969-2001. They shot someone dead in a supermarket car park in an internecine dispute actually during the election campaign. In all the media attacks on Corbyn about the IRA, there was no acknowledgement that Loyalist terrorism even existed. I think we can be pretty certain that the media are not going to start digging into the terrorist links of the Tories’ allies now. But social media is going to discredit them.

Full story here:

It’s hard to see how DUP supporters will like this alliance given their election campaign posters:



There’s only one thing left for me to do and that’s to get one of these “Strong and stable my arse posters” for our front window.


I voted

I voted today.

I am a British taxpayer and I’m happy for my tax to go towards a world-class education system, pay rises for nurses, a strong national health service, more police officers, and effective policies that protect the environment for my children and their children.

I did not vote for policies that only benefit dealers in antiques and people who get pleasure from hunting small furry animals.

I voted Labour.