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Billy King


Nonviolence News


Billy King

Issue 142: September2006

[Return to related issue of Nonviolent News]

Well, woe is me, ochone, ochone, the summer is ended and autumn schedules are back with a vengeance. Mind you, August's weather made it feel like September, particularly after a glorious July, and in some ways it felt as busy as September too. So all those little projects I had promised myself to do over the summer went by the usual. This is not my favourite time of year, as I have opined before [you do a lot of o-pining - Ed] [I'd prefer to opine than be opinionated or pining - Billy] Anyway, on with the show.

What's on the menu this evening?
I am of the vegetarian persuasion, which is not as much a statement as it once was of way-outness. I do eat eggs and dairy produce but for many reasons, including that cows produce 19% of the world's methane and about 4% of global warming gases (or so I've read - I haven't done my own survey, thankfully), I think a vegan or near vegan diet is even wiser - apart from anything it means the whole world could be more easily fed. Now obviously a lot of those cattle are reared for meat but still a fair percentage must be dairy cattle, which entails the killing of male calves and frequent pregnancy for the cows. Quite a few of the meals I cook, upwards of half, would be vegan or very close, beans, pulses, tofu and seeds and nuts providing a great range of possibility for cooking.

It's a lot easier to be vegematarian than it was. With wholefood stores common and the availability of Chinese, Indian and other foods, many of us are spoiled for choice. There were the days when an omelette was what was automatically offered when out eating. Now most restaurants and cafes have at least one main course which is specifically vegetarian - though vegans must find it much tougher. The odd restaurant resists having any vegetarian main course, or fails to advertise the fact that they do, and must suffer - vegetarians have omnivorous friends (well, mostly I would guess) and if vegetarianism is taken into account in choosing an eatery, they are losing omnivorous custom as well.

But I would still have gripes. I don't eat out that often but still, many of us have our favourite eateries, either locally or when we head out a bit further or are away. How often they change their menus I'm not sure. What I am sure is that the 'vegetarian option', sometimes unhelpfully described as 'vegetarian dish of the day' rarely changes. And using that term tells you absolutely nothing about what is on offer - they would never just say 'meat/fish dishes of the day' so why do it for veggies? While the omnivore has a choice of perhaps five or six main courses, and can return to the same place five or six times therefore without eating the same dish, vegetarians are going to tire very quickly of the same dish. And, no, don't make it packet tortellini which you just add a sauce to; you can buy that in Lidl if you want and is poor value eating out, especially when it comes in a huge plateful with nothing accompanying it (your stomach is going to feel heavy until the next day).

These restaurants and cafes could greatly expend their vegetarian main course choice by one simple expedient. Any vegetarian starter should also be offered in a souped up (so to speak) version as a main course. Now a few restaurants do this, and many more will do it if you ask, but even us hedgematarians don't always think of asking. So if there is falafel, mezze, a Greek salad, or even deep-fried brie, whatever, as a starter, restaurants should put a price on it as a main course. Even a soup could be souped up with additions (croutons, a side salad) to a main dish. And there should be a clear indication of what is available for vegans. And watch some more veggies roll in.

There is one other gripe I will offer. Vegetarian food should be fully nutritious and combine everything you need for a healthy diet. This includes protein and it is easy to achieve at home. Simply having vegetables with your vegetables (even done in a nice sauce and differently), however, is not fully nutritious; there needs to be something specific - tofu, nuts, pulses, beans - which will provide that protein. Some restaurants and eateries have not seemingly learned this yet.

I don't get a huge crop but I do grow asparagus. Now there is an advert for vegetarianism (though if it's flown in from far away it's not a great idea for the world) though now only a memory from early in the summer. Anyway, bon appétit! Which is an interesting phrase for a veggie to use seeing France is not the greatest place in the world to be having renounced eating dead animals.....

If there's going to be a revolution.....
It nearly stopped me in my tracks. A blue poster in Belfast on a wall usually adorned with Sinn Féin muriels or other visual material. It wasn't very big so I had to examine it close up to be sure I wasn't imagining things. I must say it made me laugh all the way home - talk about trying to be all things to all people. "If there is to be a revolution, there must be a revolutionary party" it said in the largest typeface. Then various visages in the middle. And underneath was "Join the revolution, join Sinn Féin" along with the e-mail address and phone number (a mobile). The visages, fair enough, included martyrs for the cause Bobby Sands, Máire Drumm, and Mairead Farrell. Other well known (!) Sinn Féin/Irish republican figures featured included Fidel Castro, James Connolly (OK, he was a fellow traveller/martyr and he did live and die in Ireland, and was a highly significant figure, though born in Scotland of Irish parents), and Nelson Mandela. Fidel and Nelson were successful revolutionaries though very different in their later approaches. But my main question is would this be the same revolutionary Sinn Féin that is a prospective government coalition partner in the Republic with Fianna Fáil, that other well known revolutionary party, or would it be the Sinn Féin that has refused to come out against Raytheon in Derry? We look forward to more evidence of the non-violent revolutionary nature of the party in question, now that the armed wing is safely mothballed.

A bit of a holiday red
Why is it that my summer holidays are endlessly fascinating and yours just of average interest? I mean, if we each go somewhere different each year, why, on the law of averages you would expect 'your' holidays to sometimes be more interesting than mine? But, not a bit of it, mine are consistently more interesting than yours. I could easily talk about mine for half an hour [or more - Ed] but my tolerance for listening to your holiday stories, well, please don't exceed one minute, two minutes if I ask a polite question to show I've been half listening. I guess I just happen to visit more interesting places and have a more interesting time than you, as well of course as being a better raconteur....

But, out of a desire not to gloat on my magnificent holiday escapades (dodging nearly extinct tigers, climbing active volcanoes, swimming with sharks, and working on my all over tan in a clearing in the primeval jungle, or something vaguely like that) I will draw a veil over them. Except to say that, as I was travelling light this year I picked up reading material as I went, English language books being relatively easy to acquire second-hand in many countries. One acquisition at €1 [ha, ha, you were within the Euro zone, don't know of any wild tigers or many vicious sharks there - Ed] [well, as the African proverb goes, "the sharks on land are worse than the sharks in the sea" - Billy] was a book by Doris Lessing, "The Good Terrorist". I knew of Doris Lessing though I had never read her work and respected what I knew of her as a competent author and commentator.

I was rather shocked by this book, published in 1986. The reviews on the back cover intrigued me; I immediately felt it was rather suspect but was so intrigued I decided to read it to see. While some aspects of the ten or so primary characters are well drawn, overall they are right-wing caricatures written by someone imagining what left-wing and incompetent revolutionary squat-dwellers would look like. Virtually all are deficient as people. The main character, despite an epiphany where she decides her Englishness outweighs her revolutionaryness [no such word - Ed] [just invented it, didn't I - Billy] has never got over the break-up of her birth family and is constantly trying to recreate a sense of family and belonging, even by cheating her parents and friends. Two of these ten characters are suicidal and dead before the end of the book. The squat votes on whether to work actively in support of the IRA, and when such overtures are spurned they then make an offer to the Soviet Union! Two of the shadowy 'baddies' are seemingly both of Irish-Russian parentage. I could go on. Some of the characterisation is fine but politically - it's rubbish, absolute stereotypical rubbish. It just doesn't ring true - except of course to the right-wing British press of the time who praised its 'realism', like they knew what violent-revolutionary squat-dwellers might be like. That book was published twenty years ago.

If politics is the art of the possible, then art would be wise to steer clear of impossible politics.

- - - - -

Well, that's me for now, when I write again the cool of October will be hitting. I like the warmth of summer but, paradoxically or not, I also like cool mornings when you warm up as you get going, me on my cycycle, heading up the road. And so the seasons turn, and soon the leaves. At which point I will 'leave' you before you get 'browned off' 'out of your tree', see you soon, Billy [there's been enough tree-sonable talk from you anyway - Ed].

Who is Billy King?
A long, long time ago, in a more innocent age (just talking about myself you understand), there were magazines called 'Dawn' and 'Dawn Train' and I had a back page column in these. Now the Headitor has asked me to come out from under the carpet to write a Cyberspace Column 'something people won't be able to put down' (I hope you're not carrying your monitor around with you).

Watch this. Cast a cold eye on life, on death, horseman pass by (because there'll almost certainly be very little about horses even if someone with a similar name is found astride them on gable ends around certain parts of Norn Iron).

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