A quarter of a century later…

I have been very busy this week after having had a great weekend celebrating my 25th Birthday. On Friday night, my Dad came over and Emily cooked us all an amazing tofu curry. Having never had tofu, my dad was curious, but really enjoyed it!

I got a load of cheeky presents from my parents, including a children’s music CD with 8 songs about how to get dressed, going to the park and going to bed, all where the singer sings my name in all of them! Classic mum :)

Emily got me an awesome travel cover for my ukulele, a really interesting book about the history of design on the London Underground (she knows I’m a massive geek) and a new rubix cube to play with that’s taken me a while to wrap my head around!

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Still takes me about 10 minutes to solve, but I’m getting there!

Then on Saturday, we went wakeboarding, my second attempt. And it was a great success! I managed to not only wakeboard, but get all the way to the first corner without stacking it! Next time I’ll try to actually make it round the corner!

ready to wake some boards!

In the evening, 23 of my friends and I went for a curry, then headed to a roller disco. Everyone got the hang of skates really quickly, and I enjoyed skating around together with so many people I knew. The last few years I’ve been restricted on numbers for my birthday party, because of the size of my house, so going out and having so many people show up was a great way to celebrate. Needless to say that after roller disco we got a few drinks in, the less said about that part of the evening the more accurate my account of it will be.

I’ve now been writing this blog for six years! And I hope you’ve enjoyed reading as much as I have enjoyed writing here. Who knows what the next six years will bring, but if one thing is certain, it’s that I should expect the unexpected.


Charles x 

25 is just around the corner…

On Saturday I will be celebrating my 25th Birthday by eating curry and roller-skating. By way of gearing my self up for my next quarter of a century alive, I’ve taken a look back at 25 things I’ve done in the last 12 months that have been absolutely amazing. See, I’m not getting old…

1. What a better place to start than literally a year ago when I rented out the church narthex for a special birthday celebration.
11/10 : PGS Pub Crawl a HUGE SUCCESS with over 150 people. Wates, Roots, Pews, Spoons, Legion
2. I’ve already spoken about my year as Postgraduate Society president, and this really was when it dawned on me that we had achieved something many other people thought impossible… getting postgrads to PARTY! 150 of them!
16/10 : Dinner at Tiff's with ALL THE DESSERT and Catfish, Roofay
3. In stark contrast, the next moment is spending a quiet evening in with Tiff and Roofay, eating our way through ALL THE DESSERT and being introduced to the wonderfully addictive show that is Catfish. I went on to watch all the episodes… and the movie.
19/10 : London for Zombie Apocalypse! with Will, Will, Sam, Matt. New Blithe with Will, Will, Matt
4. Being chased down by zombies in central London… standard Saturday night.
20/10 : Columbia Road Flower Market, Brick Lane, Breakfast Club, Mayor of Scardey Cat Town, Hyde Park, Covent Garden, Gordons Wine Bar, Wasabi, Balcony of Royal Festival Hall
5. Having an amazing day visiting the Columbia Road flower market the following day
25/10 : Cocktails in Covent Gdn with Julia, Natalie, Lynn, Cherry, Will, Sean, Kirsty. Then Chinatown, HENRY'S COCKTAILS!
6. Cocktails in Covent Garden. Not had a night out in London like this in a long time, and there need to be more!
09/11 : PGS Hogs Back Brewery Tour
7. Another Postgrad event, this time the brewery tour. Learnt so much, got to meet a great group of people, and learnt to love ale!

8. I don’t have a picture for the next one, but filling an entire row in the cinema to watch The Hobbit 2 with all my mates!

16/12 : ALL THE CHRISTMAS MARKETS! Currywurst, Feldshclossen, jazz club, Rosies nightclub, pool, dancing, kebab
9. Going to Germany for actual German Christmas Markets after years of just going to winter wonderland in Hyde Park
31/12 : Party time!
10. New Years Party Time! By far the best one ever. Everyone just had a great laugh. This is what good parties should be like.
11/01 : Bristol piss up, Scrumpy, Cascada, Apple, night club, broken phone
11. This was the year of the new tradition: Going to Bristol, meeting friends and drinking cider. This was a particularly notable time because I broke my phone dancing down the street to Cascada.
25/01 : Barcelona!
12. Going to Barcelona was just awesome! Never been to mainland Spain before and I absolutely loved it. The architecture, food and sangria are all to die for.

13. Another Postgrad event was the pub quiz! I wrote an impossibly difficult connections round where the answers to all the questions were linked. I hope I get to write more pub quiz rounds in the coming year.

15/02 : London Aquarium for Liz's birthday, Meza Curry, MKB
14. A great day out in London visiting the aquarium and lots of laughs
23/02 : Cardiff!
15. Visiting Jake in Cardiff is always a highlight of the year!
06/03 : Bastille Gig
16. Seeing Bastille at Alexandra Palace. Biggest gig I’ve ever been to. Great atmosphere with 10,000 people jumping around!
08/03 : Plymouth w/ Richard, Beth, Emma, Parents
17. Getting the cousins together in Plymouth. First time there, love the waterfront. Have to go back.
02/05 : MONACO! packed lunch, avoiding rain, casino
18. Childhood dream of visiting Monaco! Just a few weeks before the grand prix too so all the barriers were coming out. Might have made a few car noises as I ran around the chicane. Maybe.
22/05 : Student Awards! Won Society of the Year, SRS Society and Most Improved!
19. Winning three student awards for the Postgrad Society was just incredible and a huge result for the whole committee who worked so hard all year. No pressure this year guys!
25/05 : South Coast Roll!
20. Roller skating a whole marathon in six hours. So much fun. Same again next year!
07/06 : Aldwych Station Tour and TfL museum with Dad
21. I still want to write a blog post about the day Dad and I visited a disused underground station. Very geeky, but so cool!
14/06 : HANNOVER! Start Red Thread, following exactly, up new town hall, Romeo + Juliet in garden, rain, pizza, Football, weird Irish pub
22. Oh my Hannover! What a wonderful few days! Sophie Jones will never fail to make me laugh until I pass out!
28/06 : Bristol. Bagels, cabbot tower, clifton bridge LONG walk, cider, Mike arrives, lots of drinking and food
23. More Bristol. Finally seeing the Clifton Suspension Bridge after a minor detour through the moors.
05/07 : Canterbury. Full English Breakfast, beach, swim in the sea, walk around cathedral, Taco Locos!
24. Another first, Canterbury! Actually swimming in the sea without being frozen, touring the cathedral, and spending time with Katherine and Neil.
08/08 : BOAT TRIP
25. Finally, the Boat Trip! A week of relaxing and having lots of fun. As always, I didn’t want to leave.

May the next 12 months have just as many happy memories.

Charles x

30 Days of being vegan

Today is the last day of my VIVA! 30 day vegan challenge. For the last 30 days I’ve eaten no animal products: meat, fish, milk, eggs or dairy. Why on earth would I do that? Well, for two reasons. First, I want to see if I can feel healthier eating a vegan diet – since I don’t need to lose any weight, this means feeling more energetic and focused during the day, and sleeping better at night. And secondly, I want to try new foods – something other than fish and chips, spaghetti bolognese and curry.

I decided to give this ago after I learnt that a few celebrities who cross my radar are vegan or vegetarian. John Bishop’s recent BBC documentary where he visits Australia shows him going to a crocodile ‘conservation centre’ where they kill the animals they are conserving to make purses and shoes and call it ‘conservation through commerce’. This made me think – do I want to be supporting that kind of business? He then later visits a ranch where the owner thinks less of him because he doesn’t eat beef. Why is it considered ‘not manly’ to be vegetarian?

Russell Brand talked about the horrible state of the food industry, summed up by the horse meat scandal last year. Do I know what is in my food, and is it an industry I can trust?

Jason Mraz has been another huge motivator for me. He has his own avocado ranch for heavens sake! He only eats raw plant-based foods and he seems to be doing all right.

The simple fact is that I was curious about a vegan diet and wanted a free ticket to vegfest so I didn’t have to pay £6 to go with my girlfriend. So I did it. And in true Instagram-style, here’s a selection of things I ate:

salad sandwich and home-made garlic bread
baked potato with baked beans and chips
avocado cake courtesy of @pippatollow!
amazing salad with croutons
@emilyreacts made cupcakes. Om nom nom!
One thing I didn’t know is that a lot of breweries use isinglass, which is basically fish bladders, to gather up the yeast and make it sink to the bottom of the cask quicker. This means a lot of beers are not vegan by default. Scrumpy, however, is! Good times!
grilled peppers, tomato and cucumber roll
sweet potato filled with 5 bean chilli and home-made guacamole
tomato pasta and salad made by @zanmatoer
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falafel wrap (my new favourite food!) with couscous loving made by @emilyreacts – candidate for best meal of the 30 days
yasai itame in Wagamamas with @sophiedean90
another amazing salad
potato curry and some fancy bread that I can’t remember the name of
yup… it’s vegan.
first time trying polenta, like potato but softer, with vegan burgers and fake cheese
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vegan scones! @emilyreacts is a culinary wizard!
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chickpeas, mayo and pasta. @emilyreacts calls it ‘tuna pasta’, and it’s just as good if not better
fake bacon sandwiches. Not as good as the real thing, but certainly tasty. I have to say I’m not a massive fan of this fake meat stuff, I think I’d rather just stick to using plant stuff instead. Especially if you want to use the mantra about knowing what’s in your food… I mean, what is in it?!
cous cous and sweet potato
tofu curry from Young’s Kitchen on campus

So what have I learnt? Well, I’ve learnt that most of the time other people seem to cook for me!

But seriously, I don’t see the point in cooking a meal for one, so I love to cook with other people, and when that happens I usually end up doing the washing up and letting them get on with the cooking. But, over the last month I have made some very successful potato curries and lunch wraps/sandwiches (I hope Emily would agree). I’ve also learnt how to make guacamole recently, a skill that I use as much as possible because avocados are amazing!

So now it’s the end of the challenge I need to decide if I’m going to return to my meaty past or not. And the conclusion I’ve come to is that I will continue not to buy meat or dairy products for my home cooking, but still occasionally eat meat at restaurants if I’m out with friends. I’ve never been a big fan of milk, and soy milk in tea, on cereal and in mash is just as good as milk, cheaper and has a longer life.

Very few restaurants cater for vegans or vegetarians very well, despite the fact that there are thousands of things they could make with just minor changes to the ingredients they use in other dishes – use egg free mayo, soya butter, soy milk. Emily and I visited a vegan afternoon tea place in London and it was honestly better than a traditional afternoon tea. Simple changes to recipes make them vegan, it’s not hard.

In terms of beer and other alcohol, that is something I’ve found too difficult to follow. It’s too hard to know for sure if a drink is vegan or not that I won’t be sticking to that side of vegan-ism just yet. Even with the Barnivore app, local ales and ciders aren’t listed, and it’s an industry I want to support and continue to explore.

As for chocolate – bourbons are vegan, and so is dark chocolate; and now I have my free Vegfest ticket, I’m sure they’ll be some sweet stalls there just waiting for my taste-buds approval…

until next week,

Charles x