In three weeks’ time I would have banked with Halifax (a division of Bank of Scotland plc) for thirteen years.
Yesterday I ceased to be a customer.
I set up an alternative current account a year ago but due to interest accumulation and convenience it took until now to reorganise my banking portfolio.
I switched banks for one important reason; I want to bank with organisations that closely share my morals. I want to trust the money I invest is supporting good causes. I do not want my money to fund unethical activities and industries. I want to be proud of my banking choices.
I now have two bank accounts; a current account with the building society Nationwide and a savings account with Triodos Bank. According to Move Your Money and Ethical Consumer Magazine these two organisations score high ratings based on a range of ethical categories, including community contributions, conserving the environment and sustainable investments.
The other benefits of switching banks could include a reduction in the amount of accounts (and cards) held [which will aid management of personal finance and hopefully reduce the likelihood of debt], a reduction in the amount of paper and ink generated by taking the paper-free service most organisations now offer, and an array of financial rewards depending on the account.
Maybe it is impossible to invest in a Utopian banking organisation [the recent crisis of The Co-operative Bank shows although an ethical policy is difficult to follow it is still worth pursuing]. But today’s competitive market at least offers better options; ones that could dominate the future banking industry if supported by customers.
So remember, is your money preaching your ethics?
Last week [19-22 November] I performed in a revival of the 1965 play Oh, What A Lovely War at Witham Public Hall. It was my second adult acting role for the Witham Dramatic Club and despite some challenging moments I enjoyed each of the four show nights. The play reconstructs some of the historical events and songs of the first world war using satire [www.withamdramatic.co.uk/production.html].
The play was well received by impressive audiences; I estimate around four-hundred people attended, of which thirteen were family members or associated with my work (hopefully others came because of the many leaflets I handed out at work). I performed a total of twenty-one characters of different nationalities, including Johnny Jones, a juggler, stallholder, station announcer, various civilians, various soldiers (including a writer), a corporal, photographer, runner and a policeman. As a result I performed a number of accents, including Cockney English, German and French, and maintained a short hairstyle – which Kristina cut for me – as well as moustache.
Despite some very quick costume and scene changes I successfully delivered the lines and songs I learnt throughout the twenty-seven rehearsals I attended, which began early September. The authentic, rented costumes along with slides throughout highlighting the atrocities of the conflict reminded me of my anti-war feelings. As interesting as the 1969 film version was to watch I am proud to have worked with over twenty other club members in such an unconventional, yet reflective British production.
I also received several congratulatory cards during the week and after the final show’s party even took home some memorabilia, including three handmade props; a poppy, an umbrella (that I used as a rifle) and a pint of European beer.
Finally, I want to give a special thank you to my beautiful fiancée Kristina who supported me backstage throughout the week and continues to give me the confidence to pursue my creative ambitions.
On Sunday 19th October 2014 I completed my third marathon, the first held in the city of Chelmsford, Essex, in a chip time of 4 hours, 4 minutes and 49 seconds [page 12 on http://www.chiptiminguk.co.uk/ps/results/Chelmsford%20Marathon/35084. I ran on behalf of a local animal charity, the RSPCA Danaher Animal Home [www.rspcaessex.org.uk] in my Vibram FiveFinger barefoot shoes. Six members of my family accompanied me in support, who also joined to celebrate my fiancée’s birthday.
I reached the start line in Central Park with plenty of time for a light warm-up in the boggy conditions. I began as close to the front as possible when we started at 10:15 and completed my first mile in 8 minutes, 8 seconds. From there I kept my pace steady, never struggling to breathe. I let groups of runners constantly pass me as I concentrated on the placement of my feet, especially after treading on a hard object after two and half miles. I followed the multi-terrain route [www.chelmsfordmarathon.org.uk/course-map] through several parks towards the nearby village of Writtle before heading back to the start for the half way point, which I achieved in 1 hour, 55 minutes [a time I regularly gain in training runs].
During the mid-section of the marathon I gained renewed strength; I had a runner praise my blog I advertised on the back of my RSPCA vest, another who ran beside me for a little stretch who I gave water to and I ate two bananas on route for extra energy [another familiar training technique]. I also saw an old running partner and work colleague from my time at university, who gave me kind words of encouragement.
Although I was frustrated with some confusing signage and mileage [highlighted by a local newspaper on http://www.essexchronicle.co.uk/Chelmsford-Marathon-course-long-Organisers-admit/story-23293872-detail/story.html and my eventual tiredness by mile twenty-three I finished in the top 35% overall and top 43% in my age-gender category after a sprint finish. My time fell between my other two marathons, which reflected my limited training. Still the rain stayed away so my family could enjoy a lovely picnic and I raised £150 for charity thanks to very generous work colleagues and family.
Sadly my observation that many runners struggled was confirmed by reports that although over1,900 runners signed up for the event only 1,020 started and 961 finished. It reminded me of my first marathon, where the second half of the race consisted of painful walking-jogging. It proves running a marathon is more than a disciplined journey on the race course but a faith in confidence to undergo a rather unique experience.
After purchasing a large number of out-of-date peach and nectarine punnets cheap – either 9 or 15 pence each – from my workplace I choose to utilise them in a vegan dessert. Although the Belle Tardie peaches, and Alba Red and Sweet Lady nectarines – the first two grown in Spain, the last in Italy – had best before dates of 19 and 20 September they were only recently becoming soft. This meant they were ideal to use in a set of cobblers this morning.
As guidance I used a recipe from the Food Network website (see http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/nectarine-cobbler-recipe.html) and a host of resources (some of which I changed from the photograph to accommodate the large quantities of fruits).
My adapted method for the 28-peach dish was the following;
- Cut up peaches into small chunks [1500g] and add to a cooking pot with cold water poured in [600ml].
- Boil peaches on a high hob heat for 15-20 minutes.
- Drain a little water into a saucepan and pour the peaches and remaining water into oven dish.
- Repeat step 2 and 3 with any excess peaches [1770g] and water into another oven dish.
- To make the topping mix 500g of plain flour, 200g of vegan margarine and 400ml of soya milk into a bowl until smooth.
- Lay the topping evenly on the peaches.
- Place the dishes into a 170°C oven.
It took me an hour to prepare and an hour to cook.
The only changes from above for the 12-nectarine dish were the following;
- 1380g of chopped nectarines and using leftover peach water.
- 10-15 minutes in a smaller saucepan.
- No draining necessary.
- I used two small bread loaf tins instead of oven dishes.
- To make the topping mix 200g of plain flour, 90g of apple sauce and 100ml of cold water into a bowl until smooth. Then add a handful of ground cinnamon.
It took half an hour to prepare and an hour to cook.
Although the toppings were thin and the fruit moisture noticeable both were tasty; the former retained a bite, the latter retained a sweet syrupy taste. The peach cobbler was a little lighter than the chewier, tangier nectarine one. Both reminded me of canned fruit, only fresher. Dessert, hot or cold, is now sorted for the next week.
Over the past few weeks Kristina and I have tried to use some of the onions and chives* I grew successfully. We use the onions in salads and vegetable meals and add chives to any meal that needs herbs. We still have a lot more to use but thankfully they have kept well outside and in the refrigerator, despite maturity over a month ago.
The onions are strong in taste and feel, with a healthy skin that peels off easily. Although other onions tend to cause my eyes to water when I cut them, my produce do not. Plus I can expect to gain another thirty or so in the near future.
The chives are milder in flavour and texture, and look like tall, hollow grass. Still they have a distinctive onion smell when cut off with scissors. I tend to chop them finely just as I place them in the cooking mixture.
*I now know the WasteBuster seeds I planted were indeed chives and not salad mix.
I donated blood for the thirteenth occasion this afternoon, on my birthday. It was the fifth time I donated at Witham Public Hall and only took forty-five minutes [14:30-15:15]. My iron pre-donation test was quick – the part I worry most about – and actually waited longest in the new reclining chairs just prior to the injection of the needle. I made sure the pressure on the sphygmomanometer was comfortable – which I found is measured in millimeter of mercury (mmHg) – after issues in the past. I also followed the recommended exercises – clenching my buttocks and crossing my legs – despite feeling sore after recent runs and looking rather more eager than everyone else present. It did mean I donated my 570ml of blood in a personal best time of 6 minutes, 56 seconds. I rewarded myself with a large cup of orange squash, two cereal bars and a packet of crisps, courtesy of the NHS Blood Service.
Except for a some harmless extra bleeding when the needle was taken out of my vein the session went as smoothly as it ever has. I enjoyed donating on my birthday and look forward to my next occasion in December.
Last Monday (11 August) I re-examined my out-of-date tomato plants I planted around two and a half months ago. Despite some neglect, the Moneymaker tomatoes have survived well. Unfortunately the Marmande variety did not. These were subsequently placed back into the potato pots for future use.
So I spent most of that morning and early afternoon focusing on transplanting the Moneymaker tomatoes into new pots with more space to grow and fruit. It was a struggle not to damage the roots too much and find the right pots and positions together but I managed to save all twenty-five developed and two underdeveloped plants. I kept them inside on both the kitchen and downstairs bathroom window ledges to avoid the same problems as last year’s tomato attempts. I also placed saucers or tubs under each plant to avoid mess and water spillage. Although I expect there will be good drainage I have limited my watering to a quick activity once each day.
I am hopeful that as some of the plants are tall, strong and already flowering my yield will be a success. I am prepared though to move the plants, straighten them with small sticks and feed them tomato food wherever necessary before Kristina and I manage to eat them.