I hate February

Don’t get me wrong, it has been a llooonnnnggggg January and I am glad February is here but it’s my least favourite month. Let me explain.

The good things about February are the following;

  1. We FINALLY get some money after what feels like 3 months since the last pay day.
  2. No council tax to pay! (Yayy!!).
  3. Valentine’s day and carnival (IF you are lucky enough to live in a country which celebrates it).
  4. Longer days and shorter nights (just).
  5. Imbolc (half way point between winter solstice and summer solstice).
  6. We begin to see a bit of sun.
  7. It’s short.

Now let me use the counter arguments…

  1. Oh yes we get paid. Then we have to pay back all the money we over spent on Christmas and we are back to being skint again!
  2. Do we even notice not paying council tax? No didn’t think so. What we do notice is April when £100+ suddenly starts going OUT of our account! WTF?
  3. Who actually celebrates Valentine’s day? Me and the husband do our best but it’s quite forced, over priced and over too quickly!
  4. I love longer days when it means I can get out in the garden or down the allotment. I even like the short days when you can light candles, switch on fairy lights and get all snuggly because it’s dark outside. It just doesn’t feel the same however when it’s light but grey and cold outside. Too dark to go out and too light to get properly snuggly!
  5. Imbolc should be a proper celebration here but I am one of only a few I know who celebrate. As I said some abroad get to dress up for carnival or Mardi Gras and eat gorgeous food. What do we get here in Britain? Shrove Tuesday or pancake day! Instead of exotic costumes we get soggy bloody pancakes and a bit of ash on our foreheads!!
  6. But this next point is my biggest bug bear. February is like a naughty glimpse at the unobtainable fruits of spring. “Yes” I say. “It’s so sunny!” I say “I will go out without my coat”. 5 minute later as I strut down the street in my cardigan and sunglasses I realise just how fricking freezing it is and then it rains or snows! You have more chance of snow in February in England then you ever will at Christmas. And the seeding… Oh the seeding… As a gardener I am desperate to start my seedlings but if you start too soon and it’s a rubbish spring then all your hard work can be for nothing if the seedlings don’t prosper and/or are too long and stringy. And that’s a disappointment I can’t take
  7. Lastly it is short. I can’t argue with that! Thank God for that. But soon it will be March and then the summer and finally it’s December and we think “where did that year go?”

I do hate February. To hit a serious note I lost my dad in the month of February and it seems to me that as I have lost quite a few friends and family in this horrid month so maybe just maybe I bare a grudge against it.

Here I am living in February 2018 when others aren’t. Then I remind myself of Mark Twains saying –

“Do not complain about growing old it is a privilege denied to many”.

I think this is how I have to look at my February and force myself to enjoy it for those who can’t any more.

So let me grab my sunglasses and cardigan and get planting those chilli seeds!


Gerald Thomas Huskisson 16/04/38 – 07/02/11


(Gerry stood with his brother Harry)

A famous writer once said “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give” If that is true, then Gerry made a great life. He was the most likeable of persons.

Gerry was born Gerald Thomas Huskisson on 16th April 1938 in the Liverpool Maternity Hospital. Oxford Street. His parents Harry and Eileen had four sons,
Gerry was the eldest, then Harry who sadly died, and Philip and Stephen.
They lived in Norris Green in Liverpool from 1938. Gerry grew up during the war and as a young child didn’t see much of his father, who was away on service. When Gerry was four he answered the door one day, and shouted to his mum that there was a strange man at the door, it was his dad

On passing his 11+ Gerry went to Evered High. At 16 Gerald began an
apprenticeship as a TV engineer with Stuart & Dorfman on Liverpool. This gave him an insight into electronics which held him in good stead for his later career. With his dear friends Robert Lambert and Mike Mullen they set out to become close friends with the entire female population of Liverpool an exercise of monumental failure! They holidayed in Spain, Scotland and the isle of man, they partied they
danced and had what they still regard as a truly wonderful teenage life together.


(Gerry third from left with his friends)

The summer of 1959 saw Gerry called up for national service in the army to
the royal signals. He was soon promoted to Lance Corporal, serving in Hong Kong and Oman. Mike served in the Royal Artillery and although on different continents they still maintained contact through letters and phone calls.

Gerry had played Badminton in his youth with his lifelong friends Mike, June, Jimmy, Barbara, Frank and Lesley. The Royal Dragoon Guards found out that he was a badminton champion in the making, and he was transferred.
This enabled him to miss guard duty, He was the ringer in the team and all the rest were officers. Gerry was not a great lover of national service but he learned new skills. On leaving the army these skills were put to use in his new career as a cameraman for Granada TV in Manchester. He worked on many shows, Coronation Street and Top of the Pops to name just a few.

Gerry worked for a while on Channel TV in Jersey and along with his friend Peter Kane Opened a television rental shop in St Helier, which they later sold to Rediffusion TV.

Gerry emigrated to Canada where he was employed to carry out seismic surveys. This involved travelling in old Dakotas and helicopters, which he loved. He spent a lot of time based in America, a country he grew to love. He travelled the world, working in far-flung places such as the Gabbon, Alaska, Egypt, and Thailand. He even bought a farm in Rhodesia.


(Gerry sat on an airplane wing on one of his many adventures)

Working in Pakistan presented Gerry with his biggest challenge to date – No Alcohol!!.
Now as you know Gerry liked a drink and he decided homebrew was the answer. The kits had to be well hidden in the luggage, however as it was illegal to bring it into the country. This homebrewed beer had an acquired taste but after a week of
drinking, it was like a fine wine.

When Gerry was not working abroad he had various other jobs, including owning a sweet shop in Longridge and the more credible delivery man for the famous ‘Lancashire Laminates’ company. He even had his own shirts with his name printed on it.


(Gerry centre with his brothers Phil and Steve)

Gerry met Kait at the Moulin Rouge hotspot in Southport in 1970. He chatted her up with the immortal lines “I’m not going to dance with you – but I will buy you a drink!”.
Kait turned her nose up at the Brandy and Babycham, but he rectified the situation by buying her a straight Gin. He offered to run her home that night – but all his car tyres had been let down – “Son of a gun”.

They became what Kait considered pen pals (he was working in Saudi Arabia at the time) and married almost 2 years later. Lou can remember when Gerry left the house to call Chorley hospital from the local phone box and returned to announce “you have a baby Sister!”

Gerry stayed working as a TV engineer until Sara was 7. He doted on her and helped Louise in her new role as big Sister. He loved them both very much and was a great role model. Gerry and Kait had a very special relationship – they both supported each other in their individual ambitions as well as their joint ones. They were best friends and wanted only the others happiness. Sometimes this involved time apart – Gerry with
his surveying career and Kait with her girlie holidays. They never selfishly held each other back – there were no regrets.


(Gerry and Kait)

As a family – the Huskies still travelled together. On Gerry’s half day off every Wednesday afternoon, come rain or shine to Freshfileds – in the Toyota Celica or the D.E.R Van. Happy family holidays were spent in Scotland, Ireland and France.
Kait and Gerry really enjoyed their holidays together. They visited most of Europe, Turkey being a particular favourite and they travelled all over U.S.A.

Gerry was proud of Louise and the life that she made for herself in london, he tried to see most of her plays, performances and street theatre. He loved musicals and was particularly fond of Brigadoon! He enjoyed spending time with Lou in london and in particularly visiting restaurants where he could sample cuisine from all over the world.

Gerry fully supported Sara’s time in Italy. He and Kait would visit her often and even took up Italian lessons at night school. Although he rarely spoke Italian in front of them While on holiday he always managed to wander off on his own and come back with wine, beer, cigarettes and even new friends.

In 1997 Gerry travelled around south and central Turkey with Kait, Lou, Cousin Cath and French friend Lore. He loved the looks on people’s faces as they tried to figure out the relationship between one man and four women! Whilst holidaying in Turkey he was even asked by a man for a dance! Gerry of course obliged!

Gerry enjoyed a very good relationship with Massimo and Andre whom he was even known to buy rounds for! He was fantastic as the proud father of the bride at Sara and Massimo’s wedding. Looking dappa in his top hat and tails.

In his role as Grandfather (or Gran Gran!) Gerry excelled, he loved Emilia, Luca and Sofia to bits and was always affectionate, playful and encouraging with them. This earned him the nick name ‘mannie’ (short for male nanny) with Sara Jane’s friends.
He even changed nappies (not often) and could be found dancing round the living room to the Telly Tubbies. The kids adored him.


(Gerry and Kait with their grandchildren)

Gerry loved pottering – usually with a list of jobs that Kait had given him. He enjoyed escaping to his greenhouse and pricking out! His tomatoes were the talk of 47 Balcarres Road and the flowers in his heli-pad often took second place over his bird bath. Gerry loved his feathered friends and Lou and Sara-Jane often joked that he spoiled the birds more than the two of them.

Gerry was at his happiest surrounded by family and friends in his dining room.
Gerry was a very sociable person, not loud but generous with his home, food and masses of alcohol as long as Frank Sinatra and Count Basie were blasting from the music system. Although he would joke that everyone was free-loading.
Gerry had a wicked sense of humour – quite literally! and enjoyed nothing more than saying a few mischievous words before leaving the room with a twinkle in his eyes!

He and Kate enjoyed hosting many new Years Eve parties which were world-famous.
And come the end of the night Gerry would tell everyone to go home and then make sure the house was locked up and his girls were safe.


(Gerry, Sara Jane, Kait and Louise)

Gerry’s social life was generally based around sport. We often joked that he would watch tidily winks live from Scunthorpe if it was on the TV.
Fox Lane cricket club was his Mecca. With his great pals Terry and Doreen, Jack and Jean, Eileen and John Pallot and Don he would sit and drink and talk usually with the lounge bar to themselves.
As a special treat Kait, Lou and Sara-Jane were sometimes allowed to visit.

Gerry loved playing badminton and had recently taken up crown green bowling, taking great pleasure from his very occasional wins.
But Gerry’s big passion was football and Liverpool FC, whose games he avidly followed on Ceefax. It was often joked that Gerry and his brothers Phil and Steve knew the line up of the team before the manager did! The night before he died Kait, Lou and Sara all spoke excitedly to Gerry on the phone. It was his 39th wedding anniversary and Liverpool had beaten Chelsea. Gerry and his girls told each other how much they loved each other.

We know for certain that he was very happy that night and that match of the day was enjoyed with a bottle of red. In his father of the bride speech Gerry had said in Italian (he was always full of surprises!) that his family were the lights of his life and he was certainly the light of theirs.

There are no regrets, Gerry’s was a life filled with love, Laughter and always a tale. Don’t remember Gerry with sadness, he wouldn’t want that, instead remember him with a smile and a raised glass!

Got to have your carrots dangling!

Being a parent is bloody hard work, actually being an adult is. There are so many demands and constraints and it can all get too much. Now I should mention that this is not a gardening nor an allotment blog. Not really, but read on…

I love carrots and we have had hit a hit and miss success with them. With a large pet rabbit and a shy guinea pig carrots are in high demand in our garden. But what I actually want to talk about is the figurative carrot. The carrot at the end of a stick with a donkey chasing it…. for now let’s forget about the stick!

The carrot encourages the donkey to continue running, that there is a reward at the end.

This is my key advice on life! You are the donkey and you need to have your carrot dangling! You need your reward for dealing with all the shit life throws at you, just ahead, in front of you, encouraging you to carry on.

Now your reward (your carrot) could be something big like a holiday or something small like a coffee with a friend. We are not all rich enough to afford brand new cars for example but we can all take an hour out to watch a favourite programme or do whatever floats your boat!

For me this idea came about when the kids were very little, I had three under 4 and it was a whirl wind of nappies, bottles, boobs and cold cups of tea. Finally after my youngest was about 6 months I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel, or several lights, several carrots/rewards.

We booked a cheap get a way to Devon and that was a huge thing to look forward to. My mum who lives 300 miles away booked to come down more often, more rewards and my eldest was due to start reception and my middle child nursery. FINALLY I could perhaps have a bit of time to myself. My carrot! As she was my third I was happy to leave her sleeping while I had a hot (uninterrupted) shower! another carrot! Suddenly the first thought in my head when I woke up was not how would I cope with the monotony of my blessed day but more what ‘rewards’ I could fit in or was working towards.

Of course it goes without saying that children are a huge reward but I doubt there is a parent alive who would not agree that you need your other ‘rewards’ too!

Now as they are 11, 10 and 7 it is ‘slightly’ less labour intensive although still the idea of a hot mug of tea, unitterupted in my own home is still a big reward I can tell you.

This idea of rewards also obviously applies to allotments. For example we know as gardeners that the beds which can be such hardwork to dig will become the perfect growing areas for our plants and that in spring the seeds we sew will (Quite litrally in the case of carrots) become the vegetables we will enjoy in Summer. Not to mention the well deserved flask of coffee or glass of wine after a productive day on the plot.

When you think of it we use the analogy with kids. Eat your food then you can have desert. Do your homework then you can play etc and yet we are so crap at doing it with ourselves. Its almost like we don’t feel like we deserve it! Like as adults life itself is enough of a reward and it is but it is also bloody hard work and we deserve our carrots.

My own carrots might be a cup of tea and ten minutes on pintrest after writing this, a new hair do, a new camping accessory, a night out with the girls or simply an extra 10 minutes in bed!

Obviously everyone’s carrots are different but I honestly believe that you have to have your next reward to keep you going through the stresses and strains. Like the seasons themselves we know that after a long hard winter the spring will arrive and after that the summer and hopefully an actual bed of carrots!

Farm Terrace Allotments now (and then)

(‘Now’ photos credit Marcus Dove)

Mayor Dorothy Thornhill and her Lib Dem council have finally bulldozed Farm Terrace allotments in Watford. All that remains are a couple of stubborn sheds (left to give the last few animals some refuge) and piles of rubble.
Of course we knew that this would happen and we know that in their embarrassment to wipe out any connection to an allotment site the area will change beyond recognition. That is why it is so important for us to record it now.

Farm Terrace allotments date back to 1896. They were at least three times the size they were at the end and reached out to behind the hospital and towards what is now Laurence Haines school. They can clearly be seen here behind Vicarage road stadium.


Many people ask me what exactly Watford Borough council will do with the land and the truth is that we honestly don’t know. When the judge at the Royal courts of justice finally ruled in favour of them destroying the allotments she did so unconditionally.
Originally Watford borough council said it would all be used for a new hospital and then they said it would be for part hospital ‘buildings’ and partly for housing on the development known as the Health Campus. the irony was not lost on us and within a few years they could no longer claim any health benefit and the name has now been changed to the Riverwell development. Here is the latest photo that I could find of that and you can see the allotments listed as part of the Northern development zone, you can just about still make it out.


In 2009 when we first got a plot on Farm terrace There were roughly 120 plots and around 90% occupancy. Typical of that of any allotment. We had neighbours all around and there was a waiting list for the vacant plots.

The first thing Watford Council did was to close the waiting list, they then asked for voluntary relocations. Some people who had already fought development took this. There then, as is well documented a huge public legal battle. We were fighting not just for our own site but for the protection off ALL allotments. In spite of our best efforts and after a bitter 6 year battle we lost. During this time, and make no mistake, in order to make the allotments look derelict, unused and unloved the council started picking off the remaining plot holders. We were offered, new plots, shiny new sheds and up to £1000,00 in compensation to vacate. In the end just 24 plot holders remained. I estimate that around 10 years ago there were probably about 90.

We won the first legal challenge and even after that, we continued to offer a compromise to the council. They could take most of the vacated site, but they were not interested. They wanted it all and I do believe the mayor Dorothy Thornhill wanted a win.
As per legal requirements we were offered replacement plots but there was nowhere near enough to take us all and the site offered was more than two miles away. In the end around 10 of us relocated to 4 or 5 different sites but the move was too difficult for most.

My own personal difficulty lies in the fact that for the local community of Farm Terrace (of which I am part) there are no local allotments now. Slowly over a period of time they have been cut back and cut back until now like Farm terrace there remains absolutely nothing!

We will still have our memories but soon all that will be left of Farm Terrace will be these blogs and the well documented press coverage of our case.

Starting over again.

It has been one full year since we received the keys to our new allotment. It was bittersweet. After being evicted from Farm terrace, part of the legal requirement was to offer us a new plot on a new site. “Like for Like” that phrase will stick with me forever. In the end six of us took plots on the second nearest site of Hollywell allotments. It is about a 20 minute walk from our house whereas Farm Terrace was a 5 minute walk and was an old sewage farm so the quality and indeed general appeal was not ‘like for like’. However for the purpose of this blog I am not going to focus on the negative but instead the positive. I have had too many years of negative.

We went to look around the new site on a cold winter’s morning. It was not inspirational but then hardly any allotments are at that time of year! We talked about it and decided that we would take over an area of wasteland, thick with brambles and overgrown weeds so that we would be able to be together. The council would have to rotovate the ground and replace everything we had as part of the ‘relocation’ so at least we knew that we wouldn’t have to clear the plots. This did not make us popular with other plot holders as usually when you take on a plot it is your responsibility to get rid of anything unwanted.

This work was done and the plots were measured out. Those who had (and still wanted) 10 poles or 20 got them. We had 5 and we are happy with 5. The highlight for me was a brand new shed! At Farm terrace we had an enchanting home-made shed which had been left by the previous tenant. But for all its charm it was rat infested and falling apart! The shed the council had to give us is brand new (another big faux pas for other allotment folk) and big enough for the whole family to shelter from the rain in!

Because the quality of the soil at Farm terrace had been so good they also had to give us a lot of fertilizer. However this was dumped at the end of the allotment site and we had to organise ourselves to transport it to the new plots before anyone else could help themselves. This was done by wheel barrow load for load and took days.

I felt completely apathetic to the whole move. I can only liken it to having to have a pet dog put to sleep only to be given a new pup. Yes, it’s lovely and yes you are so ‘lucky’ but you don’t want the new puppy you want your old beloved dog. I felt hurt and completely unappreciative however for the sake of my family and friends I got on with it.

Now starting a new plot all over again is bloody hard work even with the ‘help’ we had but in our favour we had years of gardening experience and most importantly we had each other and that made it easier. We got to work quickly as a united group helping each other. Our first job was to put in the (now dilapidated) raised beds we brought with us from farm Terrace. I was also able to create a flower bed which I had always meant to get round
With the help of our friends we put in a patio in front of the shed and created space to sit and have a chat and a drink! We also made some temporary beds and began putting in plants and seedlings. My husband and I both work and could only spare weekends and the occasional morning or evening but I am proud of what we achieved.

Other ex Farm terrace plot holders were similar to us and worked about 50% of their plots others managed to work almost all of theirs again helped by the fact we were all in the same position and we could help each other. Thanks to Roger who is next to us I got my first ever harvest of peas!

The kids found it difficult at first. whereas before they had basically had the run of Farm terrace and knew it like the back of their hand they too had to start afresh and unfortunately they got shouted at a couple of times by other plot holders who understandably did not appreciate them on their plots!

Even I have found making new friends on the new site difficult. I had no enthusiasm left in me and was not in the mood to be happy and positive. Like most allotments our new one does not have an association and despite the desperate need it is often difficult to convince people. Allotments need an association because without one you cannot legally fight any threat of a land grab and, as we found out, an association brings people together even if the leg work can be difficult to begin with. Organising this is on my list of jobs for this next year.

The best thing about the new plot was that for the first time in 5 years we can plan and make arrangements for the future, It was never worth investing neither time or money in Farm terrace as we never knew if and when we could lose it. The luxury of being able to build something knowing it can be improved and bettered in the future is priceless.

In the middle of the summer we organised and held our first Allotment gathering and we invited past Farm terrace plot holders and supporters of our fight. It was a lovely day.

We have all named our plots Farm terrace Corner so that the name Farm terrace will never be forgotten. We regularly meet up there and have started a Wednesday coffee morning and have been able to encourage friends and neighbours to take plots on the site.

Now a year on I do feel positive about the new plot and have grown to love it as I did our last plot. We are lucky to have it and each other and gradually I have reduced the amount of times that I compare it (unfavourably) to Farm terrace. The kids feel like its home now and the added bonus of new children to play with is a luxury Farm terrace could not offer them.

I will never forgive Dorothy Thornhill and her Lib Dem Council for orchestrating and overseeing the destruction and abandonment of Farm Terrace Allotments. The people in that, my, local area who either live in small terraced houses or flats will never be able to grow food there. It will be a car park.
But now it is time to think about myself and to think about the future. That said I am aware that we are not safe from land grabbers. That no allotment site is. But prevention is the best medicine and if we can build a community here, create an association and make sure all the plots are worked it will be much harder to lose this plot.

Not a natural mum

I became a mum at 12.50pm on Tuesday the 27th September 2006.

It had not been an easy pregnancy and the birth was one of those that went on for days and ended in an emergency caesarean. My daughter was born with her eyes wide open and she looked at me to say “Is that it? I get you?” But the love and let’s be honest relief I felt was instantaneous and very very scary.

However I found those first few months very difficult. This is something I can only admit now. I honestly thought that I would be a natural, that being a good mum would come instantly. I carried on believing that like my milk, it would come in soon. It didn’t.

My daughter was so beautiful and we bonded straight away. Perhaps too much. It was like winning the lottery and being given a tiny puppy to luck after but I had absolutely no idea what to do. She cried ALL the time, I found breast feeding uncomfortable and she didn’t sleep for longer than 10 minutes at a time during the day and woke every hour and a half at night. She wouldn’t even take a dummy when I finally ‘gave in’ and tried that. I felt like a complete failure but I was too exhausted and too in love to care.

She was (and continues to be) the most wanted baby. After a scary ectopic pregnancy and a reduced fertility rate we couldn’t believe our luck when we fell pregnant with her. She was also the first grandchild on both sides and although I am obviously biased she was so beautiful.


I do think some women find it easy, maybe some babies are easier. I think my difficulties lay in the fact that I wasn’t used to babies. Some of my closest friends had had them but apart from going round for the occasional hold and perhaps a walk round the park I had had absolutely no experience. For everything else in my life I had been able to research, study and practice. I felt like I had no qualifications for this and I was overwhelmed.

I have thought about it a lot and I think that perhaps if we still lived in large family groups and communes it would be easier for a lot of parents. I can talk! I moved away from the North and my family and moved to the South. Perhaps if we lived in constant connection to pregnant women, nursing mothers, babies and toddlers it would become natural. We would learn from our elders and practice by helping with child care and child rearing from a young age. But I had moved away and was living amongst young, single professionals and I didn’t have a clue what I was doing!

We had just moved to Watford and I didn’t really know anyone. Although our families tried it had obviously been a long time since they had been in charge of a baby and they didn’t want to step on my toes. My husband did his best but he was even more scared than I was! Luckily my friends came to the rescue.

I remember it like it was yesterday. My daughter was 10 days old my best friends travelled down from the north to come to my aid. They came armed with baby bouncers, bottle sterilisers and bags of baby clothes. Two of them already had babies who were a couple of years old and the other was a Nursery manager. They did the hugs and the cuddles and the “oohs” and “ahhs” and then they got down to business. They swaddled her tightly in a muslin cloth put her in the baby bouncer laid back and placed the dummy in her mouth. They then gently rocked her to sleep, transferred her to the pram and took me and her out to the pub! She slept for 3 hours!! I could have cried if I hadn’t been to exhausted! They came back and showed me how to bath her correctly, to not be so afraid of hurting her and how to use bottled milk to top her up, insisting that my husband did the 11.00pm feed that way so that they both got some time together and I could sleep.

They left like the three fairies in Cinderella but what they left behind was much more than material gifts.

Another friend, my only friend at the time in Watford,then came to my rescue. Taking us to toddler groups, coming round for play dates with her two boys and generally supporting me by just being there with tea, sympathy and cake!

I was so scared of having another baby that I decided the only way was to do it straight away while I was still submerged in the world of nappies and prams. 18 months after my daughter was born I gave birth to my son and two years after that another daughter.

I doubt when people see me with my 3 children (and often their friends!) they think I found it difficult and that I wasn’t ‘a natural’ but I never forget and I never presume a new mum is finding it easy just because her baby is wearing clean clothes and she has her hair done and her lipstick on. In fact quite the opposite. I worry more about those mums!

But the truth is that it’s not over for me yet and It wont be for a long time! She will always be my eldest and therefore we have a lot more ‘firsts’ to go through. She goes to High school this year and I know that will be difficult for both of us. I doubt I will be a ‘natural’ mother of teenagers but at least I now have a huge network of friends here to learn from and to share a bottle with when things get tough!

And I will always have my special fairies to guide me. Thank you ladies. I owe you more than you can ever know!

Happy Mother’s Day!

An unlikely vegetarian

People usually laugh out loud when I tell them that I am a vegetarian! As a loud, pint drinking northerner I never did look like a stereotypical vegetarian but then who does?

Last month- January 2018 was known as ‘veganary’ as many people tried a Vegan diet. Possibly because of that vegetarianism seems to have cropped up (pun intended) in many recent conversations.

Years ago at a Weight Watchers meeting in Wigan my mum was told that in order to make a certain dish for vegetarians she just had to add chicken instead of red meat. Funny as it sounds there is still a lot of confusion around the terminology.

Basically. Vegetarians don’t eat any meat products including chicken, fish and sea food. But we do eat dairy and eggs. The technical term is Lacto-ovo- vegetarian. Vegans don’t eat any meat products as above but they also dont eat cheese, milk, butter, yoghurts or any dairy produce nor eggs .

Now inbetween these two definitions you have a lot of personal choice. You can eat eggs but not dairy and vice versa. Some people don’t eat red meat like steak but will have white meat like chicken. Some people won’t wear leather clothes and will check ingredients for animal by products like gelatine and rennit. The level people take this to is very personal and varied.

Thinking about writing this blog I wondered just how many people in the UK were vegetarian. I guessed about 10% but was shocked that the total was much less at just 2%

I became Vegetarian in February 1984 I was 12 years old and my friend Anne who was two years older and way cooler told me that she had become one and explained what it was.

My mum didn’t seem to mind when so announced my life change in fact I think she was relieved as I had never really liked meat. As I was only 12 she did take me to the doctor who was really positive and gave me some great advice 1) take a multi vitamin with Iron 2) watch your bowel movements (to check they were ok) 3) Eat a varied vegetarian diet. Plenty of Vegetables, a few portions of fruit and eggs, cheese and beans.

The problem was that as a typical 12 year old I actually didn’t like much fruit or veg! So my diet mainly consisted of cheese and bread in different forms! My mum told me that I would have to prepare my own food as she rightly, was not going to make a separate meal to everyone else. However as this was 1984 in Lancashire there weren’t exactly a lot of vegetarian options in the supermarket! There was however ‘sosmix’ and ‘burgermix’

However from the age of 14 I visited Italy regularly and found the variety and quality of meals I could eat was much wider only of course they didn’t call it ‘Vegetarian’ it was just ‘food’. In fact for many years I had to explain to many older Italians what a Vegetarian was. But the range and taste of the vegetables and fruit was amazing. There I tasted so many different pasta and vegetable dishes and living without meat was easy. Although there were a few problems particularly when I would ask many times if a dish contained meat, always to be told no but then I would sometimes find a chunk of meat in the dish and would be told not to eat it. It was only there to add flavour!

It was a huge problem to my husband when we first met. As a Sicilian, fish is a big part of his diet. He could understand me not eating red meat but no clams, mussels or white fish? Was I mad?

I have never been tempted to eat meat or fish and you may be surprised that even the smell of bacon doesn’t tempt me. You see to me it is about not wanting to eat flesh. I find eating animal parts as disgusting as someone cutting off their thumb and saying “this is gorgeous try this”!

Of course when I was young I was quite militant about my vegetarianism carrying around folders with ‘Meat is Murder’ on them but of course these fell on deaf ears. My friend’s were supportive although one friend’s mum used to give me ‘tomato sausages’ – I chose to believe her that they were vegetarian although they smelled tasted and looked like pork ones!

I am lucky that even through three pregnancies I have never been anaemic and have never needed Iron injections. I also dont ‘present’ as a stereotypical vegetarian . ‘Waif like’ would never be used to describe my physique!

Our children have never shown any interest in becoming vegetarian. I remember them chewing on a leg of chicken and asking me if this was once a real chicken. When I told them that it was and that it was just like one of own back yard chickens they shrugged their shoulders and carried on chewing. I have no problem cooking meat for my family but I wouldn’t like to carve a chicken or fillet a fish! I’m honest with the children about why I am a Vegetarian and I think that hopefully it will in the future help them to think carefully about the food they eat.

Cheese and bread still feature too high in my diet but I do try to eat as many vegetables and legumes as possible. I have to admit to being rubbish at eating fruit though. Well fruit here in England. With the exception of fruit grown on the allotment, most fruit I get here looks beautiful but tastes of nothing. I find it an expensive waste of time.

Having an allotment means we do eat a lot of Vegetables and they are organic, fresh and so tasty but no I don’t think that the plants scream in pain when I pick them!

I always get asked that if it was kill an animal or starve what would I do? Of course it’s a ridiculous question so the honest answer is that I don’t know.

Most of the meals I make are Italian. Indeed this is where I learned to cook. None of my immediate family is vegetarian so meals have to be flexible so that meat or fish can be added. I am very proud of the meals I make and so I will be sharing them on my blog and I hope you like them and try them yourselves! Please let me know what you think. I will be trying to use seasonal food where possible. I’m sure you don’t necessarily want to become a Vegetarian but I think the health benefits from eating some vegetarian or vegan meals regulary can not be ignored.

Here is a link to the vegetarian society website which has lots of information and some amazing recipes.