Tuesday, 29 December 2015

A Holiday Vegetarian Festive Dinner

Just because we are vegetarian and vegan doesn't mean we can't have some tasty treats.

I enjoyed playing with some new software called Skitch (download on App Store) that makes it easy to add fun text to photos. It was a snap I took of Sunday dinner last weekend, but we did have something similar on Christmas Day, with a different kind of nut roast.

Wood Fungus on Tree Stump, Nun's Moor

The weather conditions in Late December have been more like an early wet autumn, and the mushrooms are out in force, here are some I noticed growing on a tree stump near the footpath beside Nun's Moor (Moorside South end).

Monday, 28 December 2015

Leazes Park Lake responds to heavy rain

These male mallard ducks seem quite happy that there is a lot more water in the lake. It looks really clean, so perhaps that pleases them.

The Leazes Lake holds water which has run off the Castle Leazes Little Moor, possibly also Skinner Burn, Lort Burn and soggy Fenland (Fenham). I saw water bursting up through walls and telecoms plates in the ground on Barrack Road!
The lake does discharge and flow down into Tyne, marked by the special stones which have been placed to mark the path of the Lort Burn and it can be heard rushing down there very clearly at the moment. As far as I have observed the source of the Lort Burn is in a boggy part of Castle Leazes Little Moor, not, as some have claimed, in Leazes Park itself. This is probably due to a misunderstanding about the area of Castle Leazes Little Moor (marked on some maps as Leazes Park) and Leazes Park as most people in the local area use it as a Park.

Floods in our regions

What a strange winter we have been having so far!
In November I had a short stay of a few days at Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey. There was a very heavy snowfall overnight and the thick snow and freezing temperatures were very worrying for me as I needed to get home for a hospital appointment later that week!
Not long after I got home, having survived the brief snowfall, we went into the strange winter- not- winter which which has consisted of chilly days and mild nights, too much wind and severe gusts, which have been enough to keep me indoors.

In December we have been having many days in the mid to high teens, for example 17 celcius.
So when firstly Cumbria, (Storm Desmond) parts of Northumberland (Storm Eva) and the North West got flooded ad then Yorkshire, I was not surprised.
Global warming is destabilising the climate.
El Nino weather pattern is causing weird weather.
Many local man made problems such as intensively building over flood plains, squashing watercourses into concrete culverts and concrete riverbanks, allowing rivers to become blocked with all manner of detritus, unsustainable farming practices, overpopulation leading to greater demand for housing. More people want second homes nowadays and also to live in low density housing suburbs where they can have a detached house and space to park a car. In the past (between the time of the Industrial Revolution and later 20th Century) most people in the UK lived in city tenements or terraces, which were in some ways more environmentally sustainable, despite the serious pollution from cities in those times.

York looks almost unrecognisable

Also this area is not normally at all underwater.

So, at this time of year I have talked about our habit of overspending on Christmas, because most people want to please their family and friends by buying the perfect present, and having the perfect party, and the perfect Christmas dinner.

Meanwhile actual skips are provided by landlords to take the overspill from the "waste" generated from unwanted food and unwanted packaging and unwanted gifts. People do also throw away old items if they have received new ones.

So, it is the time of year when companies which produce consumer goods often "go into the black" which means they sell enough products to make a decent profit. But this is bad news for the environment, as mass production uses mass fossil fuels, mining, fracking, pollution,with mass raw materials, then requires mass goods transportation, to get to us, the customers, all this is heating up our planet and degrading the environment.
Say No to Mass Production, say No to Christmas Waste, take time out to Do Nothing, Take time out to Buy Nothing!

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Jesmond Dene

A few photos of Jesmond Dene and the Derelict Former Fisherman's Lodge, from our recent visit.

The Ouseburn in full spate

Some mosses on rock

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Fire Guts building in Newcastle City Centre

Last night I received a message that there was a huge fire in Newcastle City Centre (Cross Street, near the junction of Clayton Street and Westgate Road) which had been reported on the local news

I did hear a lot of emergency vehicles going past on the road outside last night and I was worried that the situation had escalated, but it now looks as if the situation is under control, possibly one person at risk, hopefully everyone involved will recover from this unfortunate event. It is thanks to those who raised the alarm early enough for the emergency services to be able to respond quickly, that more damage was not done. This area is more businesses and shops than housing, but lots of people do live nearby in Chinatown and various low rise housing schemes around the Inner West area and also many people do live
"above the shop" in Newcastle City Centre .
Latest news on the story
details here

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Segaki at Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey

Rosebay Willowherb seed heads. When Rosebay Willowherb is pink, we are in Summer. When Rosebay Willowherb sets its white cottony seeds, Summer has finished.

Baby ferns growing in the wall

A small mossy creature

I stayed at Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey for a couple of weeks recently. I was there for the Segaki retreat.
The pictures above of the view from the main entrance were from my visit at the same time last year, but last year I had not got round to posting them on here.
There were some very useful talks given by senior monks.
Listen or download them here

Recycling old spectacles

For anyone who wears spectacles you may have some old specs you don't wear anymore. Or perhaps you know another person in your social circle who has old specs lying around.
There is a charity called Vision Aid which collects spectacles of all kinds and takes them to countries where there is no state health care, national health service and people are living in difficult situations, some of them have never had an eye test and would never be able to afford to buy glasses. I remember when I was very young and I was taken to the optician and got my first pair of glasses. When I put them on I was completely amazed at what I could see. Before glasses, everything was blurred and I could not see anything in the distance. However, not knowing any different, I did not realise I was severely short sighted. Children usually believe their own experience is the same as other people's experience, whether that be their abilities or their living situation.
So Vision Aid collects these pre-used glasses, then sends them to areas where people are in need of eye care, and with their teams of optical professionals, matches the glasses to those who need them.
In Newcastle, SpecSavers in Eldon Square have a collection box for these glasses. I went there yesterday and gave them to one of the staff to put in the box.
In the video it shows exactly what happened to me, through the story of a child in Sierra Leone.

Sunday, 11 October 2015


I was reading about the use of microbeads in toiletries.
These are microscopic plastic beads, used as ingredients.

Vegan and Vegetarian Toiletries and Cosmetics at Superdrug

Recently I wrote about the difficulty of finding widely available and inexpensive toiletries suitable for vegetarians ad vegans. I am happy to find that a lot can now be found in Superdrug. As well as being certified as not been tested on animals, it is easy to find Superdrug own brand products which contain no animal ingredients.

I have been using the Vitamin E night cream for some time now

It smells nice and has a pleasant consistency.

Since The Co-op stopped selling their own brand styling mousse I have been finding it impossible to buy a styling mousse suitable for vegans and vegetarians in local shops and have been buying one by mail order from Vegan Store. So I was very pleased to find one available at Superdrug.

Spiders' webs in Jesmond Dene

Jeff found these two spiders waiting at the centre of their webs, which were suspended from vegetation over the Ouseburn.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Jesmond Dene to Paddy Freeman's Park

Last week we were in Jesmond Dene, and managed to find our way up to Paddy Freeman's Park, which was convenient for an appointment at the Freeman Hospital which I needed to attend.
On the way we passed some abandoned derelict buildings which were not marked on any map, only the well known (if not notorious) derelict, well and truly closed Fisherman's Lodge Restaurant being found on the internet.
The abandoned derelict buildings appear to date from the same period as Fisherman's Lodge but I have not managed to find any information about them.

One of the popular iconic bridges over the little Ouseburn

Some blackberries and roseships on the overgrown banks of the Ouseburn

And here is some video footage of wildlife on the Ouseburn

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Is soap suitable for vegetarians?

Recently I read a question about why soap may not be suitable for vegetarians (and vegans).
There are 2 answers, one about the ingredients and the other about testing on animals.
Many soaps are made with sodium tallowate, a fat made from animal carcasses, a "cheap" ingredient which is a waste product in slaughterhouses. Obviously not vegetarian. If you wouldn't eat meat, why would you rub meat on your body?
Assume the soap's made with animal fat unless you have checked, as most of the big names are. Some are ok, such as Imperial Leather and Simple. Tesco do a few, such as Tesco Aloe Vera And Green Tea Soap 100G also their Everyday Value Soap 125G does not contain sodium tallowate.
There are many companies which specialise in vegetarian soaps, such as Suma, Lush, Faith in Nature, Oliva, however they do tend to be expensive and not widely available.
Vegetarian soaps are also appreciated by people who want to avoid animal fat for religious reasons for example observant Sikhs and Hindus who are strict vegetarians, and Jews and Muslims don't want non-kosher and non halal ingredients to be used.
The answer about testing on animals is complicated. Many companies do still test their products on animals even though testing of cosmetics and toiletries has been outlawed in many countries. This question is beyond my level of expertise.

The Limitless Sky, the Purifying Energy of Sun

Yesterday I happened to be looking up at the early evening sky and this is what I saw.
It was very strange to realise that what I was looking at was the earth's atmosphere. A bubble of gases around our wonderful planet, which is coloured this beautiful blue only because at this time of day, time of year, and position on the earth, the suns rays are colouring it that shade of blue.

Not just looking at the sky, but looking at the covering, the bubble, between us and outer space. Beyond the bubble, the infinite infinity.

The blue only appearing because the sun, that most powerful of all lamps, casting light not only on the sky, but on everything on this side of the earth.

The impression of light which we can see is only one of the sun's attributes. The other one is that plants can use it to grow by the process of getting energy via photosynthesis.
Animals eat plants, other animals eat them, also fish and ocean creatures do this, so all life is dependent on the sun.

The trees and the sun regulate the weather and the atmosphere.

The trees are growing because of the sun. Without the trees there would be no life either, because the trees regulate the weather and clean the air, also making oxygen!

The tree, an enlightened being, does this just because it exists. It doesn't want anything back for cleaning the air and making oxygen. When the wind blows, it bends and sways. In winter it rests.
When plastic bags or other rubbish arrives and gets tangled in its branches, it doesn't complain. It doesn't strive to get anything. It doesn't cling to anything. It just is, dwelling in nirvana.

Protect the trees, plant trees, protect the earth's atmosphere, protect all living things.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Autumn Leaves, Berries and Lichen

Lots to see at the moment at Big Waters Country Park, where we were earlier this week, in particular dragonflies and damselflies.
The berries on the hawthorn are looking very autumnal, and some lichen too.

Update to Market Street East

I've made it easier to comment on posts so if anyone has any info on the history of the boarded up building adjoining Broadacre House, it will now be easier to post your comment.
We are looking for history of the building which is joined on to Broadacre House, Market Street East, but is in a different (more 1950's) style. The name of the building would help.
The building housing the former police station and currently housing the Magistrates Court and some other court related offices, at the other end of Market Street East, is a listed building called Anderson House. I have also been told there is a possibility that the mystery building was also something connected with the DWP.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Newcastle Civic Centre and Tyne Beach

The Civic Centre divides local opinion, some people love it and some people hate it. One thing is certain, despite it being a Grade II listed public building, and access to its grounds is not restricted, not many people hang around or have their packed lunches or bait there, despite there being lots of seating areas...

Not many people know that Newcastle has its own beach, directly outside the Law Courts on the banks of the Tyne. You can sit and sunbathe or just chill out.

Thanks to Jeff for taking these photos, most of which were by request.

Leazes Park New Picnic area and wildflowers

There is a former bowling green in Leazes Park which people are being encouraged to use as a picnic area. Native wild flowers have been planted around the edges by the volunteer rangers.

Barrack Road Hedgerow Plants

I received a photo of the fruits in the mini-woodland or hedge beside the Barrack Road entrance to Leazes Park.
It looks like either a Whitebeam or an Alder.

There are also some perfectly ripe blackberries hidden away. Food for free if you don't mind your berries coated in exhaust fumes.

Berries like these provide winter food for thrushes and other songbirds over winter.

Eco wall garden at The Time Exchange

Gardeners at The Time Exchange have been busy with a demonstration vertical garden in the tiny front yard.
Terraces such as those in Stanton Street and Arthur's Hill have tiny front yards or no yards at all, however as long as there is no vandalism, flowers, vegetables and even fruit can still be grown. Strawberries work well in hanging baskets for example.
This vertical planter is attached to the brick wall and has water retaining fibre so the plants don't need much water.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Broadacre House and Market Street East

Looking at the entrance to Broadacre House from the other side of the road, early yesterday evening.

The building next door to Broadacre House appears to date from an earlier part of the twentieth century, and I do think it was also an institution of some sort, but I don't know what, a tax office maybe? If anyone worked there and knows what it was, please post a comment.

Later it has got dark and looking out of the window to the construction /demolition area on Carliol Street.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Nun's Moor Path

Just in case anyone doesn't know there is a public footpath across Nun's Moor, it has now been re signposted. You can walk from Arthur's Hill to Spital Tongues, Castle Leazes, or Newcastle town centre. Usually there are lots of birds like gulls and jackdaws foraging here.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Newcastle Serene Reflection Meditation Group move to Broadacre House

Our meditation group has moved meetings to Broadacre House since the start of September.
On first impression the new venue seems pleasant, nice and warm and dry, excellent access, and much more central.

Some history:
Broadacre House used to be (before the Government cuts) the home of the main Department of Work and Pensions offices for Newcastle, also housing JobCentre, Jobcentre Plus, New Deal (for the Unemployed) and various off shoots of that service.

At the other end of the block, (literally), which is Market Street East, was the imposing Market Street Police Station /Pilgrim Street Fire Station Look here for story and photos which closed recently.
I cannot really see this as a good move given the location, however it could be that it was difficult to get in and out of the station from Market Street in a vehicle during the day, and probably the building was expensive to maintain?
Another couple of public buildings which shut their doors recently in the centre of Newcastle were St James House, home of the now defunct Benefits agency and Welbar House read more
(government cuts to welfare budget again) also you can see some pictures or find out how to buy the site

Welbar House was demolished a few years ago, it was the home of sundry government bodies. Also ended. Surely a great many unemployed civil servants here now?

view from the sky showing Welbar House by Tyne and Wear archives

Barrack Road Pedestrian Crossing

A lot of people don't know that Barrack Road, being a built up area, is a 30 mile per hour speed limit zone (after the junction of Hunters Road by the BBC building, which comes off a 40 mile speed zone). The pictures show a consequence of a speeding car colliding with the safety rails at the pedestrian crossing near the junction of New Mills, a few weeks ago.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Some Changes on Newgate Street

Its actually the latest incarnation of the old Co-op building, (one of the Towers) which will soon be open as a Premier Inn!

Monday, 17 August 2015

Some Changes at Eldon Square

This photo was taken on the very busy Blackett Street near the Grey's Monument looking towards the entrance to Eldon Square, which has its front face taken off, exposing what seems to be blackened bricks underneath. This part of Eldon Square has been under renovations for quite a long time.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Documentary on Intelligent Crows

I watched this documentary about crows and how they are amazingly intelligent. Apparently they are more like humans than any other creature, more intelligent than chimpanzees for example. They are like humans in their social structures too.

Leazes Park Lily Pads

There are lots of lily pads on Leazes Park Lake at the moment, these ones were the easiest to get photos of.

I also like this image of Rebecca Adlington, looking very serene at the bottom of a pool! It does look like she's meditating.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Poppies and Ragwort, Grey Heron

Many thanks to Jeff for sending these photos of nature from around Tyneside last month.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

The Bees, a book by Laline Paull

Recently I had a break from reading crime fiction as it was affecting my psychological well being, and I accidentally discovered a book called "The Bees" by Laline Paull, in Newcastle Libraries eBooks collection. This is the most incredible, astonishing book I have read since I cannot remember when. It is coincidence that recently I have been taking photos of bees.

However, not knowing anything about the book before I read it probably did increase my appreciation, as I have noticed that most experiences benefit from having no expectations at the beginning.
Just obtain this book, read it, and be astounded!

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Newcastle Grainger Market

Recently the Public Toilets in the Grainger Market have been closed. I was wondering if they were ever going to open again as other council run toilets have been getting closed due to persistent vandalism and costs of maintaining them.
However I was pleased to see the toilets open once more, with big improvements as a non-slip flooring has been installed and the steps up into the cubicles have been removed, making the access much better.
I also got a big bag of cherries for £1.50 at one of the greengrocers.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

2 new recipes with peas and rice

At the weekend I made 2 easy meals, which I am recording here for future reference, as I didn't use a recipe. These are my own recipes, which both worked really well. Serves 2 people.

On Saturday it was Veggie Chikn with peas and sauce.

You will need:
1 pack Tesco Frozen Meat Free Chicken Style Pieces (or similar);
1 jar Lloyd Grossman Tomato and Basil sauce (350 g)
1 cup brown rice
1 pack oatly cream or similar non dairy cream
1 cup frozen peas or petit pois
1 onion
oil for frying

Chop the onion and fry it in a little oil until golden
Add the Chicken Style Pieces (Not vegan contain Egg White) and fry some more until they are also golden
Add the Lloyd Grossman Tomato and Basil sauce and a little water, leave to simmer for about 20 minutes,
Add a cupful of frozen peas and cook until peas are cooked through.
In the meantime get your rice ready.
About 10 minutes before serving, add a tablespoon or more (to taste) of the oatly cream

Serve with the rice.

Next we have the Faken Baken risotto, being a fake risotto as well as using fake bacon. You could adapt this to cook it like a proper risotto but this is an easy way.

You will need:
1 pack tesco meat free bacon style rashers (Not vegan... contain Egg White);
1 cup brown rice
1 pack oatly cream or similar non dairy cream
1 cup frozen peas or petit pois
1 onion
2 teaspoons of marigold boullion powder
oil for frying
2 and 1/4 cup water

Put the bacon style rashers under a grill and grill according to package instructions. Allow to cool.
In the meantime chop and fry the onion in a large pan and then add the peas.
Cook the rice in the water, with the marigold boullion powder
When rice cooked add to the onion and pea mixture, with a little of the cream.
Cut the bakon into small pieces and add to the pot, with a little more cream. Cook for a further 5 minutes.

Both of the Tesco Meat Free products do contain Egg white, however if you want to keep your ingredients totally vegan the
Frys company do vegan chicken pieces, and the Redwoods Company do a couple of types of vegan bacon as shown above, available at Holland and Barratt, or other natural food distributors such as Suma.

At the risk of cheating myself, claiming to be a vegan and writing a "vegan" blog", I have found it pretty difficult to keep up the standard and sometimes just have to be a bit more flexible if I don't always get what I aim towards.

Saturday, 18 July 2015


I noticed that there is a large research project looking at the effect of mindfulness meditation on teenagers read about it here

I was interested in what one person said in the news story above that watching thoughts could be compared to watching buses go past.

The other evening a large Chinook Helicopter landed on the Castle Leazes Town Moor (maybe to get some emergency patients to the RVI) and it was quite dramatic. Usually an air ambulance helicopter
like these or these would land on the helipad at the RVI but that probably can't accommodate a Chinook.
I thought later about the comparison of thoughts passing during meditation as cars passing on a road, not getting in the cars, just noticing them. But sometimes a thought may seem very strong or important, and its hard to let go of. It seems to demand our attention, or we get taken away by it before we notice. These thoughts are like that helicopter!
I did find, during my last meditation retreat,that I finally got the message that all thoughts, no matter how important they seem, can be let go of during meditation.

Leazes Park Flowerbed and bees

Some detail of the flowers, with bees on some.

One of the main flowerbeds in Leazes Park is full of bee friendly summer flowers at the moment, poppies in particular, and the bees are going in the flowers to get the pollen and nectar. It does seem as if they are very excited, or having fun, happy or in bee heaven. Some are rolling around inside the flowers, getting covered in what looks like raw honey.

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