Bench Views #23 – Museum Gardens, York

That’s not an ambulance, it’s an ice-cream van. The garden’s not empty, I had to wait ages for most of the people to move somewhere else before taking this shot. Squirrels are watching from the trees, I have a bar of birthday chocolate and I’m listening to the, goalless so far, final of the women’s Euro finals: England vs Germany at Wembley. Could this day get any better? Let’s see who scores first. 🐸

The Opportunistic Vegan

He only became a vegan because other people said it might be a good idea; which was different from him becoming a vegetarian. Because when he stopped eating meat he did that off his own bat for his own reasons. And that’s why he’s not really committed to the vegan cause as well as he might be.

He wears a belt that’s been holding up his Levis since he was about nineteen. He can’t see it harming anyone if he keeps wearing it. I mean, it’s not as if any more cows are going to die on its account at this stage now is it. Not at this late point in the battle.

When he was at the Vegan Fair (minus his belt; just for the day) he, tongue in cheek, mentioned to someone that plants are improving the air quality and so perhaps it’s best not to eat them, whereas cows are damaging to the climate and so perhaps it’s best to eat them instead. Someone laughed. He thought that perhaps his point was not taken seriously. Perhaps it wasn’t meant to be (but perhaps it was).

He thinks that, in the end, we’ll probably end up only eating cabbages that have been certified to have died a natural death.

He’ll carry on being a vegan so long as it doesn’t interfere with his love of chocolate.

That said: we are what we eat.


Cow Face. Photo by Miriam Alonso on


If you (like me) have done just something energy-sapping (like eaten a big bar of chocolate) then this is for you (and me): recognise your reluctance and ride!

I didn’t want to wash the dishes after lunch, but I did them anyway and the bubbles made me (almost) giggle. I really don’t feel like getting back to work, but I will (straight after I’ve written this). I have a huge amount of resistance to … well, to be honest, finishing this sentence. But, as you see, I did it anyway. And I feel great after having done it!

So, yeah; I know it’s hard to do stuff when you don’t feel like doing it, but be assured (and reassured) that the reluctance doesn’t last the whole way through. Often you just need to start, and the momentum of the movement will take you through. At other times, you’ll feel like stopping before that crucial last act, but if you complete it, then you will feel good. I promise.

But, if all else fails, and you don’t manage to finish what you set out to do (or even start in the first place) then that’s okay too. I still love you, and you should t

Being a Better Person

In my quest to become a better person I have taken feedback from those nearest and dearest to me and have, on the basis of that, found a path to become a better person. I’m going to share these learnings with you now so that you can be better too. Well, that is, you could if you had the same problems as me. Which you don’t. So you can just read about me instead. If you want.

So, here’s the thing: I like to eat chocolate, but it makes me into a person who is not myself (feedback #01: you’re not yourself). Because I wasn’t myself I just blamed the person giving the feedback and we parted acrimoniously to separate rooms in the house (she to the kitchen to get water and me to the couch to write something on Goodreads) and then subtly cold-shouldered each other for the rest of the evening in a way that made us seem ultra-polite but without warmth.

This morning, I felt more like myself and so I asked what I was like when I wasn’t myself. Here’s feedback #02:

  • You were rough,
  • You were loud,
  • You were non-responsive and
  • You were not listening.

I made a mental note and then asked ‘so, am I myself today?’ to which I received the reply ‘yes, you’re a pookielala’ (feedback #03). I know that I was being just as loud this morning (but in a jolly way), but I was probably a lot more responsive and less rough. I also demonstrated that I was listening (because if I wasn’t, then how could I have remembered enough to type this?) and so all was well this morning.

But here’s what’s going to happen next: I’m going to eat chocolate and endeavour to remain pookielalaish. I have all the information I need. I just need to be smooth (not rough), quiet (but not too quiet), responsive and I need to listen. This can totally work, but, all the same, wish me luck (just in case).

By the way, here’s what pookielala means (according to Google):

Go figure!

Chocolate Side-Effect (Maybe)

Just discovered one more side-effect of chocolate: aches and pains in my neck, shoulders and forearms. Well, it’s not really an ache (or a pain) actually, it’s more like a tingling. In my forearms, it feels like I’ve been using a mouse too much; a bit like that carpal-tunnel thing. In my shoulders, it feels like I’ve pulled a muscle on the top of my back. In my neck, it just feels like my muscles are tight.

Of course, it might not be the chocolate at all. It could be that I’ve been reading whilst walking too much recently. I mean, I have been walking a bit more than usual lately. I’ve gotten back into my 10,000 steps (85 heart points) per day routine and most of that is spent holding a book.

Or, as I said, it could be the chocolate. I’ve been eating a bit too much of that this week (one big bar (150g) per day).

I’ve decided to stop the chocolate to see if the tension in my body eases. If it doesn’t then I’ll resume the chocolate and cut down on the reading whilst walking (means: I’ll still walk, but I’ll probably try audiobooks at the same time). So, yeah, let’s see how that goes.

Oh, and yeah, before you ask – I’ve tried stretching. It works for my neck, but not for anything else (yet).


Is this a godless world? It seems so. I haven’t found god yet. Everywhere I look there are things but nothing that resembles god. I have been told that he is everywhere. I have also been told that he has no images. That means that he can’t be in anything that has an image. Logic leads me to think that he must be hidden inside something.

God isn’t hidden inside me. I’ve looked. And anyway, when you think about it, why would he be inside me? Surely I’m not a good place for god to be. I have an image. I am limited. God wouldn’t be in a place such as this. Besides, like I say, I’ve looked.

What’s the difference between what’s inside me and what’s outside me. I always thought that everything was inside me but it’s been pointed out to me recently that this isn’t the case. Marcia said that she definitely isn’t inside me. I don’t know her thoughts (true) and she doesn’t know mine (also true) and so we can’t be comingled in that way. I thought that maybe her body might be inside my mind because everything that is sense-based (coming in through the five senses) has to come through my mind in order for me to perceive it. But when you think about it, just because I perceive it with my mind doesn’t mean that it originates in my mind. So god is outside of me, despite being perceived by some kind of sense that I have within me.

I’m pretty sure that god is not perceived by the five senses. I can’t taste god and nor can I interact with him using the other senses. That must mean that god is outside of me. But where?

Some say that they know god. I don’t know whether they are telling the truth because I have no access to their thoughts. Some even say that they have seen god (in a vision). I haven’t. God hasn’t appeared in my thoughts, feelings, visions or dreams.

They say that god is love (alongside a whole host of other good qualities). How do I perceive love? I can perceive the love of other people through their actions and words. At least, I think that I do. As I say, I have no access to their thoughts and so no way of knowing if their thoughts are in harmony with their words and actions. But say that they were telling the truth, then this could be one route to god: through his actions and words.

What are the actions of god? Well, there’s a tricky one. Opinion seems to be divided on this issue. Every religion seems to have one set of actions that they believe god to have performed. The Christians believe that he sent his one and only son, spoke through a burning bush and created the world (among other things). Hindus believe that god is omnipotent, omnipresent and another omni that escapes me for the moment. Muslims believe that god … erm, actually, I don’t really know what the Muslims believe about god. That he hasn’t got an image? That he, in some way or other, dictated the koran through a prophet called Muhammad (although I understand that an angel was involved here). The buddhists don’t seem to believe in god. Judaism is a little obscure (for me) on the matter of god (does he exist only in the old testament times?). So, yeah, no kind of consensus on the acts (and much less the words) of god.

If I saw a tsunami-style wave coming towards me from the sea and I was on the fourth floor of a building across the road from the shore, what would I do?

My first thought is to shut the curtains so that if the glass was broken then it would not get into the room. Then my thought was to leave the room. Then I wondered if it might be best to have boots on, but they are next to the door on the ground floor. I think that the building is strong enough to survive the first hit of the wave, but I’m not sure what I’d do next. Would I have to swim or would I be better staying put to wait for the water to go down. In the first instance, boots would be an encumbrance and in the second they would be very helpful.

Point of telling you all this is that I would expect to live through the experience. It’s not a situation where I would seem to need god. I wouldn’t be praying, I would be doing something practical to survive. I see much of life in the same vein. I don’t really need god to do anything in particular for me. Even when I’m upset, I don’t ask for god to take away my upset, I either wait for it to reside, or I do something to change how I feel. Seems to me that I’ll only really need god right at the end of life.

Now, I’m not going to seek out an end to life. I’m not going to look for that for myself and I’m not going to be looking for it in the experience of others. And besides, even if I did do the latter then there’s no way to know the thoughts and experiences of others as they were dying in order to find god there. But my own death will come at some point (not this week, thanks very much – I have other plans). So should I expect to find god waiting for me after this point?

Obviously, I have no idea whatsoever. I mean, sure, I can speculate. But I can also do that whilst I’m alive too. Not, of course, that it’s done me a blind bit of good to do so over the past few minutes. I’ve been speculating away to my heart’s content and god hasn’t tapped me on the shoulder and said anything to me. I mean, sure, perhaps he’s been guiding my thought and words in some ineffable, invisible way, but what good does that do me?

But wait. Here’s a thought. There is a lot of good and love in my life. People themselves seem determined to spread love and light into my life. Maybe, just maybe, they are god’s instruments. Hey, wait a minute. I get a lot of happiness from other things in my life too. Perhaps they are ways that god is spreading his good qualities into my life. And in that case, chocolate is definitely a gift from god!

Well, in that case, I’m going to see if M&S is open and get myself a dose of god.

Yeah, that’s how trite I am.



I need an antidote. I took four pieces of something that feels like poison to me. It’s left me all jittery and with a mouth that feels like it wants to turn down (into a frown). I don’t want to feel like this. I want to be light and gambol about in the sunshine rather than sit at this table in the night futilely tapping away.

They never warned you, did they! The parents from back when I was a child probably didn’t even know how corrosive it was to eat what we ate. We were given it as part of our packed-up lunch and, as a special treat, we got it after dinner as well. Of course, we never called it dinner. It was tea back then.

Habits formed young stick with you when you’re old and when you’re older still they seem to be stuck with you forever. I go cold turkey for six months and then that sick feeling rises up in me again and I think ‘why not. I’m strong enough now. I can do it and not be dragged down by it. But I always am.

How many paragraphs do I have to wander through before you get what I’m talking about? How many clues do you need before you guess what’s ailing me and what’s always done me in? I’m under the influence and underwater again. Who will save me from this curse? Who can take this craving away?

Oh, sod this, I’m going to bed. Figure it out will yah!

My Complicated Relationship with Chocolate

So, I only have one addiction. It’s not alcohol or drugs or tobacco or anything destructive like that. It’s just chocolate.

I don’t really understand why I’m addicted.

It doesn’t give me a high or make me feel anything extraordinary. I don’t get visions or the urge to dance ecstatically. It doesn’t enhance my hearing or sight or taste or feelings or anything like that.

It makes me slightly more productive when it comes to creative endeavours. It speeds me up a very little and increases the volume of my voice. It gives me a bit more physical energy. It noticeably sharpens my voice and makes me more prone to be critical. It makes me feel nice to eat it, but not in a way that I can easily define.

I eat a lot when I eat chocolate. I binge. Left to myself I would sit (or stand or walk or crouch or lay – it’s all he same to me) and eat big bars of chocolate one after the other. I would not stop until I feel sick. But it takes a lot.

I don’t get fat. Since becoming a vegan (and yes, chocolate is not vegan – well spotted) I don’t put on weight. I eat and eat but my weight stays the same. Some say it lessens, but I don’t believe that.

I get taciturn after a few days of eating lots of chocolate and not getting fat. It feels normal to me but those around me notice that I’m not joining in. That I’m not making jokes. That I’m not smiling so much. On the inside I feel the same as always. It feels like a meditation to me. I go inside and I stay there. And I don’t like it when they try to pull me out. Out of within.

I don’t think that I’m allergic to chocolate, but I might be. I might have a heat rash when I eat it, but I haven’t figured that out yet. I might get more pimples, but there are other factors relating to that. No other physical effects.

I just looked up signs of addiction and came across this list at Bustle:

  1. You Keep Doing It Even Though There Are Clear Negative Consequences
  2. You Pass Up Social Situations Where You Can’t Partake
  3. You Suffer Withdrawal If You Attempt To Stop
  4. You Attempt To Keep Your Use Secret
  5. Your Tolerance Is Increasing
  6. You Can’t Seem To Stop Yourself
  7. You Take Risks And Make Disproportionate Sacrifices For It
  8. You Make Excuses When Other People Act Concerned
  9. You Feel You Need It To Deal With Your Problems.

Hmm, let’s see:

  1. Yep
  2. Nope
  3. Nope
  4. Yep
  5. Nope
  6. Yep and nope (I can go months without bothering)
  7. Nope
  8. Yep
  9. Nope.

Three and a half out of nine. Does that make me a chocolate addict? I don’t know. It’s complicated. What do you reckon?

A Mother Suddenly Appears

Did you hear the one about the comedienne who was paranoid that everyone was laughing at her? No, seriously! She got in such a state that she couldn’t get up on stage anymore.

She’d start off by saying ‘hello, Birmingham’ (or wherever she was) and her eyes would widen when everyone started to laugh. By time she’d finished saying telling them her name amidst peals of raucous laughter, her nerves were shot and she had difficulty finishing her set.

Each joke had them roaring louder and louder – some of them even weeping with the funniness of it. You think that, as a comedienne, she’d be happy, but inside, all she could think of was getting off the stage, running outside, getting into her car and driving until there was no more road to drive on.

In the end, she couldn’t even get on stage. It had gotten so bad that her pre-stage fright had her chewing her nails until her fingers bled. And after that, she was just a health-hazard with little trails of blood following her around as she tried to avoid the spotlight.

And the worse thing was that she wouldn’t – couldn’t talk to anyone about it. She used to have a friend. His name was Bill and he had these lovely eyes the colour of the original Fairy Liquid. But he’d gotten into the habit of abusing her by feeding her chocolate. So she’d left him. There’s only so much chocolate a type one diabetic can take.

Since she’d left Bill, she only had her mother – an overbearing woman who had the habit of cruely mocking her only daughter.

Oh wait – do you think that maybe this was the problem?