Category Archives: money

Tallow Tales

I don’t really know why, but unlike many vegetarians and vegans I can’t really get too worked up about the tallow in the new fiver.  The first time I got one of these was in the village of Grosmont at the local shop (a local shop for local people) – in fact the place seemed to be awash with them; but it wasn’t until I got back to civilisation that I heard about the tallow.  If I’m honest, my reaction was a shrug of the shoulders.  What’s the big deal?  There are bigger things to worry about, in my opinion.  After all, I’m veggie not vegan; I wear leather and suede and use things with animal products in.  I don’t mind handling meat on the odd occasion (though I guess it depends what type of meat and what I’m doing with it) and to me, vegetarianism is about what I put in my body not what I hold in my hand.

I first embraced vegetarianism when I was living in a yoga ashram.  The plant-based diet was considered to be a peaceful one; first, because it didn’t involve the slaughter of other living things, and second, because the consumption of meat was thought to raise levels of aggression-inducing hormones.  There are also of course health reasons for not eating meat: it’s better for your digestion and the diet tends to be lower in fat and cholesterol.

That was twenty-five years ago, and I’ve never looked back.  Though initially I missed things like corned beef and tuna, the very thought of what I’m actually eating is enough to put me off should I get the urge to order, say, a bacon sandwich (bacon is one of the hardest things to give up).  Not everyone was supportive at first; my family didn’t understand it and when I said I had a craving for bacon, urged me to ‘just have some!’  Not helpful.  But I’ve never regretted it.  My digestion functions much better and I think I probably am less aggressive, though it’s hard to say as other life-changes went along with a change of diet.

Yet I can’t bring myself to care about tallow in five pound notes.  Maybe I should – maybe I would if I gave it more thought, but I don’t.  And I get a little pissed off when people say there’s no point in being just vegetarian: that you might as well go the whole hog and become vegan.  I don’t want to be vegan.  Vegan is too extreme for me.  There are many reasons for being vegetarian and they should all be respected.

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts…

Kirk out


Filed under culcha, friends and family, money

Caveat Vendor

I hate haggling.  I really, really do.  What I like is to walk into a shop and look at the price of something and then buy it.  If I don’t like the price I can walk out.  But I’m uneasy if the prices aren’t displayed, because then I’ll have to ask someone and if it’s too expensive I’ll have to invent a reason why I’m not going to buy the thing.  I simply cannot bring myself to say ‘that’s too much’ or ‘I can get it cheaper elsewhere.’  And let’s face it, a lot of shopkeepers take offence at that sort of talk: I had one shout at me once because I said no thanks after he’d told me the price of something (I think it was fruit).  ‘You can get a load of crap for a pound at the market!’ he yelled at my retreating back.  Oh, the shame…

The thing is, I’m just too embarrassed.  I don’t mind asking the price of things if I’m just browsing, but if I’ve come into the shop wanting just that one thing and I consider that the price they’re asking is just extortionate, I have to invent some reason for not buying it.  ‘Oh, I’ll just have to go to the cash point,’ I say lamely, or ‘I’ll be back in a moment,’ or ‘oh, thanks, I was just asking for a friend.’  It’s ridiculous.

But when it comes to haggling you have a whole nother layer of embarrassment.  Now, surprisingly, when I went to Morocco and then to India, I got quite good at it – though I still considered haggling to be an unwarranted intrusion into what would otherwise be a perfectly straightforward transaction.  And I didn’t feel awkward at all, because everyone was doing it.  But what really does my head in is when you have a private sale, when the buyer comes round and you talk face-to-face.  For instance; I just sold an old bike of mine on Facebook.  I wanted to get rid, plus it had a puncture, so I was only asking £20.  A woman came to buy it, having agreed the price, but then when she couldn’t get any air into the tyre (I had told her there was a puncture) she tried to haggle me down to £15.  I was completely thrown.  I felt as if some unwritten rule had been challenged.  I felt at once both very awkward and slightly miffed.  The buyer was from the States, which I think makes a difference: Americans seem able to be your best mate whilst simultaneously haggling you down to rock bottom.  It wasn’t as though it was terribly unfair; nor did I end up losing much money once I’d haggled her up again – but what stuck with me was the sheer awkwardness I felt in doing it in the first place.

Why is this?  Do other readers feel like this?  If so, why?

I think we should be told…

Kirk out


Filed under friends and family, money

Blimey blimey blimey

I have never seen anything like it.  We have never seen anything like it.  Leicester has never seen anything like it either.  From the city centre to the stadium, from Town Hall Square to Vicky Park, from the Cathedral to the station, everywhere was a sea of blue.  People were chanting, smiling, jumping, waving, flagging, hooting, tooting, fruiting (not looting), hanging out and enjoying the sunshine and just, gosh-darn-it, jolly-well celebrating.  As well they might.  Only trouble is, it’s just started chucking it down and the match is due to kick off in an hour.  Oh well, I guess it’s not tennis.  They laugh in the face of thunderstorms at the King Power Stadium.

I’ve been talking to a number of people who, like me, are not footie fans but who have been caught up in the celebrations.  And we were trying to decide why it is that not only fans but people like us as well as the world’s media – and supporters of other teams – who have engaged with this.  Basically we’ve come up with three reasons:

  1.  It’s an against-the-odds story, a 5,000 – 1 chance which came off
  2. It shows you can do it without buying your way to victory, purchasing the top players, and so on
  3. Leicester is a small, unregarded yellow sun – I mean a small, unregarded blue city – which has hitherto been overshadowed by Nottingham to the north and Birmingham to the West, but which against all odds has in the past two years found a buried king and won the Premier League – and those two events coming so close together have made an irresistible story.  As the Guardian reporter who interviewed me said, ‘Leicester is really on the map now.’  And so it is.

So I, and non-footie fans like me, will continue to enjoy the celebrations and to feel vindicated in so doing – because it’s great to feel a part of something so big.

Kirk out

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It Takes a Month to Walk a Mile

Before you judge someone they say you should walk a mile in their shoes, right?  So I thought, OK – before I judge the billionaire banker I should walk a mile in his shoes.  (Or hers – except it’s much more likely to be a him.)  Shouldn’t take long, I thought – since I walk a mile or two every day and six on Saturdays.

It took a month.  This guy never walks anywhere!  He takes a few steps from his car to the lift; then, since the lift opens right into his office, he walks from the lift to his desk.  He never has to fetch coffee or walk to the photocopier so the furthest he goes in any day is from his desk to the private toilet in the corner of the room.  If he has meetings elsewhere he gets back in the lift, up to the helipad and away to another building where a similar lift takes him into the conference room: that’s if the whole thing isn’t done on skype in the first place.  Then in the evening a car takes him to a restaurant and on to a club before returning him to the penthouse suite and practically throwing him into bed.  That adds up to about a hundred yards a day!

Now, I know what you’re thinking – someone with that sort of lifestyle will visit the gym once in a while.  And so he does; but he does weights!  No paltry little weights for this guy, either: he doesn’t get out of bed for less than a thousand pounds.  A hundred bicep curls and already his wallet is rock-hard and bulging.

So there you have it – a month to walk a mile.

Kirk out


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Yes, But is it a Catholic Miracle or a Protestant Miracle?

So, let us consider more about miracles.  Yesterday I defined a miracle as something that, according to the laws of nature or society, ought not to be possible.  I also think that a miracle is something which comes just when you need it.

Now, I’m not going to give away any confidences (in fact I couldn’t if I wanted to) but recently we have been in dire need of some money – and then it came, largely in the form of anonymous donations.  It came at precisely the moment when we needed it and as much as we needed.  That is definitely a personal miracle.

As regards miracles in general, I differ from many Catholics: I’m not one for weeping statues or bleeding icons.  I don’t really see what they achieve: we know there is – or used to be – fraud in the production of relics and miracles, but even supposing a statue could genuinely ‘weep’ at certain times (probably a phenomenon due to seeping water or a leak in the roof) – what is the point of it?  The point seems to be to increase the faith of believers, or else to make money for the church.  Give me a practical miracle any day.  Something that actually helps, something that changes lives.  Jesus didn’t go in for weeping statues, he did practical stuff.  Healed people.  Saved them from stoning.  Told them stories and helped them not to worry.  That’s a real faith – living from day to day and believing that things will work out.  And you don’t have to be a Christian – or even to believe specifically in God – to practise it.

Kirk out




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Filed under friends and family, God-bothering, money, philosophy


I have decided the time may be right to return to teaching ESOL.

A bit of background here: I started my Adult Ed career in ESOL, then known much more logically as ESL but because no organisation can survive more than a decade (or a week) without changing its acronym, they decided that English as a Second Language was somehow wrong and it should be called English for Speakers of Other Languages.  Presumably it would be offensive to these SOL’s to imply that English was somehow secondary – or that – oh, hell: I don’t know what they were thinking.  Just as I don’t know what the people at Embrace Arts were thinking when they changed it from the perfectly good appellation of The Richard Attenborough Centre to Embrace Arts and then back again following the death of its eponymous founder.  I wonder how many people it took to decide that; not to mention the cost of changing letterheads, websites and publicity?

It’s very annoying when they change the names of things for no good reason other than marketing or hyper-sensitivity.  But I digress.

Anyhoo, following the recent announcement of more funding for classes for Asian women, I thought ‘Aha!  They’re going to be doing lots of that in Leicester, which means they’re going to need more teachers.’  So I phoned the number, detailed my qualifications and experience and was told I could apply.  So apply I jolly well did.

Actually the news item was mixed: it’s good to have more money for women who might otherwise be isolated and unable to communicate outside their community.  What’s not so good is that Cameron singled out Muslim women and indicated that a lack of English might lead to ‘extremism’.  He got criticised by a member of his own government for this: Baroness Warsi called it ‘lazy politics’ and quite right too.

For myself, I have mixed feelings too: I enjoyed teaching ESOL as I get satisfaction from helping students and seeing them progress.  I am also greatly interested in other cultures so I learned as much from them as they did from me.  However, I am concerned about the amount of bureaucratic bullshit I may have to endure and I am worried about how much these procedures will interfere with the creative processes necessary to write.

But I must make money somehow.

So we shall see.

Kirk ou


Filed under council and other tax, money, politics

On Being in Trouble

There is a tendency for people to ‘big-up’ their lives when posting on social media: I recently watched a BBC programme on loneliness which was terribly sad, and in which a young student talked about how hard it is to post the truth about your life, when your life is not going well.

Loneliness is a hard thing to admit to – it seems tantamount to an admission of some sort of failure as a human being.  Yet as I can testify from my own experience, it is not necessarily anything to do with you as a person.  Sometimes you can just find yourself in a situation where it’s really hard to meet people.  When I was living in London I found it extremely hard to make friends; you couldn’t so much as strike up a conversation at a bus stop without others thinking you were a loony, and even when you did meet someone they were quite likely to live miles away.  There is little or no context for friendship – when I left London I had some friends who lived round the corner – but only for a while before they were scattered to the winds: I had one friend in Hounslow, one in Ealing, one in Twickenham, and so on.  You just didn’t bump into people.  whereas in Leicester we know hundreds of people and there is a context to those relationships – church or work or Quaker meeting or CND – within which those people know each other.  You are part of a social framework.  Just the other day we met the owners of a house we were looking at and it turned out we had several friends in common and that they lived next door to Holly’s erstwhile best friend.

Another problem which can make you feel a failure is lack of money.  If you fail to earn enough for your needs, you can feel like a totally inadequate human being.  You can feel as if you haven’t quite grown up.  Like loneliness it can disbar you from taking part fully in society; you can end up feeling marginalised and excluded.  Of the two, I much prefer being poor and having lots of friends (not to mention a family) but neither is very comfortable.

Kirk out

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