Sausage*, bean, and potato casserole

I say sausage casserole because that’s what I usually have it with, but really this is just the base of it so you can chuck in whatever you fancy!

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Preheat your oven to 200C

  • 1/2 – 1 whole tin of chopped pork and ham (spam) cut into cubes, or a packet of bacon chopped up into bits
  • 1 large or two mid-sized onions, cut into chunks
  • 3 cloves of garlic, diced (or equivalent in garlic granules)
  • 3-4 reasonably sized potatoes, sliced
  • 1 tin of kidney beans, drained
  • 1-2 pints vegetable or chicken stock (I prefer oxo for this)

Layer the potatoes on the bottom of an oven safe pot and spread the kidney beans over the top of them.

Fry the onion, garlic, and cubed pork/chopped bacon in a bit of butter or oil on a medium heat until it’s browned and your kitchen is smelling amazing.

Layer the onion, garlic, and pork/bacon on top of the kidney beans and potatoes, spreading it about a bit for even coverage

If you’re having this with sausages or beef or something, then fry that up a little and chuck it in the pot too.

Pour the stock into the casserole pot until it’s just about level with the stuff on top, cover it and shove it in the oven at 200C for 1 hour.

It’ll serve 4-6 people, and you can add tomatoes and a beef stock to shake it up a bit if it’s left over and you fancy a change, or add other veggies, beans, meats, etc

With peppered chicken and spinach

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Predictable campaigns of misinformation: Musings on recent events

Blind justice

I’ve been having some thoughts on the recent announcement by David Cameron that he wants us to be able to ignore the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) when we feel it’s not quite British to listen to them. Replacing the Human Rights Act (our incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights) with something more British, because Britain.

I think I was a bit better prepared for this to all start coming up than most. The reshuffle gave away their intentions (lots of anti-European Union and in particular anti-ECHR people moved into more prominent positions within the government) and I’ve been waiting for them to begin crowing. They’ve kindly begun to oblige. While not verbatim, here is a summary: “Europe! Brussels! Rights of criminals! British law for British people!” and of course “Last Labour government! ” because who could forget that one?

It’s a predictable stance on which to run in the election, especially given the media have done a good job of stirring up a frenzy on that very issue for the past decade. This is a government who have amassed a remarkable amount of public ire for the damage they have done this past few years so it would take an incredibly emotive and skewed issue to stand a chance at the next election. What a stroke of luck that there happened to be one already, saving the messy business of fabricating one like in 2010.

I was, and still am now, very worried at how the media is going to handle it They have an incredible history of skewing what the European Court of Human Rights actually is and the benefit that it gives to us all. They wield enormous power over public opinion and have done nothing to show that they’ll be the slightest bit responsible with it, after all, why start now? They’ve already done a great deal to try and convince people that it’s not just rare cases that we should to, but that the entire system is poisoned and an affront to our way of life. When that kind of line of rhetoric is used for an election campaign, they’re going to go into overdrive.

The papers will be absolutely saturated with factually incorrect, highly biased, anti-ECHR stories the likes we’ve never seen! We only have to look at how they’ve influenced discussion on welfare, unemployment, low income families, disability, and other things by using the ‘scrounger’ stories to see how utterly horrifying it has the potential to be. Since the last general election, when the Tories used the ‘scrounger’, ‘fairness’, and other bullshit in their election campaign, we’ve been drowned in stories which paint disabled people as fakers, people on incomes so low they can barely afford to eat (if they even can) as lazy, the unemployed as unmotivated and selfish, people relying on foodbanks to eat as thieves and scammers.

By and large those reading it have been convinced. Disability hate crime is on the rise, people are supporting scrapping support to those who need it most, people believe it’s fair that people in social housing are being evicted. They’ve succeeded in pitting those on the low end and middle of the economic scale against each other in order to support their ideology of a smaller state at the behest of the public well being.

In the face of that kind of media saturation, how will Labour respond as pressure over the ECHR increases? If it stays in the headlines post-election (which I feel is going to be inevitable) how heavily is it going to influence things in government? It’s going to be enormously prevalent in discussion during the next 6 months and beyond, and a lot of my fears lie with how they’ll react to that media pressure. Public opinion will be at least somewhat swayed. Labour haven’t exactly shown themselves to be bastions of  integrity in recent years, changing their strategy to appease those sympathetic to Tory and UKIP anti-immigration ideas and policies, as well as the Tory anti-welfare ones. Some of their welfare ideas this past year have left myself and many others quite angry, showing they’d been influenced quite heavily by the lines of propaganda mentioned above. I would speculate as to how the Liberal Democrats will respond to all of this, but quite frankly I don’t feel there’s any guarantee that the promises of their leadership would be tangible enough to wipe my backside with.

With all the abuses we’ve seen in recent years.. From workfare, the treatment of disabled people, the unfair levies pitted against those in social housing, over half a million people being put in a position where they have to rely on foodbanks, to the holding in contempt of journalists who refuse to give up contacts, I dread to think how far things would have had the potential to go if we didn’t have the ECHR there. If the landscape can be so horrifically changed for so many already struggling people in this country with the ECHR, how bad could it be without?

I’m very scared for the future, and not just if this does end up leading to the Conservatives gaining power again, but also the impact all of this forced discourse is going to have on public opinion if it doesn’t.

If you flood the public arena with a message that something is bad and damaging our way of life for long enough with little counter, it doesn’t matter how factually skewed it may be, we don’t stand a chance.

 

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Lemon and ginger tea (concentrated jelly)

I’ve seen a few variations of this in recent months, from no-cook, to fresh-but-doesn’t-keep-long, to liquid, and none of the ones I’ve seen seemed to match my own little version that I started making a number of years ago, so here’s my take on it!

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You’ll only need about a teaspoon to make a nice, strong cuppa. I personally love it with a bit of cinnamon and a chamomile teabag thrown in, though I’m told it’s really nice with black or green tea as well.
I’ve been asked why I use a jelly rather than a syrup and it’s simple: it’s less messy. I find that syrups require twisting of spoons, frequent wiping of the jar and any sides or surfaces it happens to touch, and somehow I’ll still end up making a mess. By adding a jelling agent, the chances of making such a mess get reduced significantly. I make it into a very firm jelly, but obviously go with whatever you prefer!
  • 4-6″ root ginger, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 3-4 lemons, cut into slices
  • 150-200ml lemon juice concentrate
  • 2-3 heaped tablespoons dark muscovado sugar
  • 1 jar honey (I usually use 250g, but just go with whatever you happen to have)
  • Setting agent (gelatin, or there’s vegan alternatives like agar)

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Have one or a few containers ready, large enough to contain however much you’re making (my last batch I added an extra two lemons and made up a 1 litre jar). Don’t worry about using enormously precise quantities or timings, most of what I’ve written here, as with most of my recipes, is just a rough guide and frankly you just can just wing it. I know I do.

Place the ginger cubes, lemon juice concentrate, dark muscovado sugar, and 1/4 of the honey into a saucepan and bring it to the boil, mixing frequently.
Once boiling, fold in the lemon slices and turn down to a medium-low heat. Keep them simmering for ~15 minutes.

Take the pan off the heat and thoroughly mix in the remaining 3/4 jar of honey. Follow the instructions for whichever setting agent it is you’re using and add that to the mixture. Pour the mixture into your prepared jars and leave to cool down before sticking it in the fridge.

It can be kept in the fridge for 2-3 months. When you want to use it, just take a teaspoon of jelly and mix it with hot water, herbal tea, or how ever else you fancy it.15233301196_f8ebf01090_h

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Cooling banana & peanut butter dog treats

As the temperature is once again rising, and I’ve already covered banana and peanut butter milkshakes for the humans, I figure it’s only right I share a similar cooling treat for the dogs!

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  • 1 bunch of bananas (you can sometimes get them reduced to clear, which are then super cheap and would be fine for this!)
  • 200ml water
  • 1 pot of peanut butter (I use a pot of tesco value as it’s super cheap and the dogs seem to love it all the same)

Get a tray suitable for freezing that’s roughly 6″ x 8″ (and obviously ensure you have the space in thefreezer for it!), line the base of the tray with greaseproof paper.

Take the bananas and, along with the 200ml water, either mash up them up with a fork/potato masher or place them in a blender/food processor. Depending on what you feel like, you can leave it a little lumpy or carry on until it’s completely smooth. It doesn’t make a difference which.

Pour the squished up banana into the prepared tray and place it in the freezer, leaving it there until completely frozen through. Once the banana is frozen, and still leaving it in the freezer for the moment, it’s time to move on to the peanut butter layer.

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Empty the jar of peanut butter into a heat-safe bowl and place it into a larger bowl or a saucepan filled with hot water. Once the peanut butter has warmed up a good amount, melting into a consistency that would be ideal for spreading, take the banana layer out of the freezer.

Have a spoon in your hand ready, as the peanut butter will only stay spreadable for a short time!

Pour it over the banana layer and immediately spread it out using the back of the spoon. Once it’s been spread out, place it back in the freezer to cool the peanut butter layer, and refreeze the banana one.

When it’s frozen through you can remove it and, using a hot knife, scour lines into the top which will make it easier to snap pieces off. If you’d prefer (and this is what I do), cut it into cubes and put back in the freezer in a storage container. This way they’re fumble free and ready to use whenever!

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……………………………………………

Fishy ice cubes
Method one:

Another that my dogs, as well as rats, absolutely love is ice cubes with a hint of fish. If you use tinned tuna chunks or steaks, be sure to get them in spring water (it costs about the same in most brands). Drain off the water from the tin into a jug and also mix in 1 small forkful of the tuna itself. Top the jug up with water to whatever level you think you might want (it only needs a little hint of fish, so you can get up to as much as 1 1/2 litres). Pour the tuna/water mix into ice tube trays and pop them in the freezer. Once they’re frozen, just take them out whenever you want to give your dog, cat, or rat a little treat to cool them off.

Method two:

At most supermarkets you can get some really cheap, frozen ‘white fish’ steaks (usually pollock). When you want to make up some cubes, simmer one of the steaks in water on the hob for a short while, before mushing it up with a fork or placing it in a blender. Top the water up to the amount you want to use, and just like with the tuna cubes, pour into ice cube trays and freeze.

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Cheese, spinach and chilli omelette

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 Serves 2.

  • 4 large eggs
  • 200ml milk
  • 2 handfuls of spinach
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 1 sliced tomato, or a few halved baby tomatoes
  • 4-5 slices of bell pepper
  • 1 hot chilli, sliced
  • 1 carrot, sliced and boiled for 5 minutes
  • broken up slices of red leicester
  • 1/2 tin kidney beans

14980966167_21a92627dc_kUsing a blender, mix the eggs, milk and spinach together. Heat some oil in a pan and pour in the mixture into it, turn the heat down low
and lay the other ingredients into the egg mix, leaving the cheese and tomatoes until last.

After 10 minutes remove the pan from the hob and place it under the grill, on a medium heat, for a further 4-6 minutes to cook the top side. Make sure to keep an eye on it as it may not take so long, the times are based on my perpetually useless cooker and the omelette being about an inch thick.

 

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Brown sugar tart

Brown Sugar Tart
1 pastry case (either you can make your own with shortcrust pastry or buy 2 of the sweet ones from the supermarket, which work out cheaper)
1 large (400g) tin of evaporated milk
350g of dark muscovado sugar

Mix the evaporated milk and the sugar together until it’s all well blended. Pour the mixture into the pastry case(s) and put it in the oven for 10 minutes at 220C. Leave it to cool and put it in the fridge.

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#GazaUnderAttack: It’s not just our policies, everything about this conflict is morally indefensible.

It’s very rare that I agree with Sayeeda Warsi. A lot of her stances are against what I believe in, my politics being quite apart from that of every Conservative I’ve ever encountered. It’s no secret that there’s been many times I’ve sat yelling at the TV over her views, either shared on rolling news, in publications or on Question Time. One thing I can absolutely respect, however, is her resignation over the Government policy on Gaza, which she announced on Twitter on the 5th August.

What is very interesting is her use of words. By bringing in her moral position and principles, she’s all but stated that the government policy is anything but, and that implication may very well place more pressure to review policy and in particular how we frame the conflict in the media. The sheer number of people coming forward to offer their support will only strengthen that. Someone of her stature in Government protesting policy in such a way, particularly in the midst of a conflict, is going to grab a huge amount of attention in the media, and that’s before you throw in the context surrounding her departure. I’m hopeful that it will bring up further discussion which actually looks at the crimes clearly and without obvious allegiance.
I agree with Warsi when she says our position on Gaza and Israel is indefensible. How can we possibly defend our position in this when we are firmly placed on the side of the aggressor, who is killing civilians with impunity? We are supplying the munitions being used against a vulnerable population in an occupied territory Our policies are egregious and desperately need to be re-examined, and I believe that to be the same across much of the West. Some areas are completely apart from our position, with Latin America cutting ties with Israel; pulling diplomats out of the region and issuing strong statements against their actions. Meanwhile the US is being careful in speaking about it, giving blanket statements about the stability of the region and working towards peace.
In the press the tide is beginning to turn. It’s not that they really have much of a choice on the matter, though. Social media is giving us more access to both sides of the conflict and to portray Israel as an innocent victim in this shows an incredible amount of cognitive dissonance. Israel have created a humanitarian crisis in an area they are occupying. A crisis which is worsening day by day, in an area they are supposed to be responsible for given their occupancy, and places the future of Gaza at serious risk.

As Noura Erakat states in her essay ‘Five Israeli Talking Points on Gaza — Debunked':

As the occupying power of the Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian Territories more broadly, Israel has an obligation and a duty to protect the civilians under its occupation. It governs by military and law enforcement authority to maintain order, protect itself and protect the civilian population under its occupation. It cannot simultaneously occupy the territory, thus usurping the self-governing powers that would otherwise belong to Palestinians, and declare war upon them. These contradictory policies (occupying a land and then declaring war on it) make the Palestinian population doubly vulnerable.

The precarious and unstable conditions in the Gaza Strip from which Palestinians suffer are Israel’s responsibility. Israel argues that it can invoke the right to self-defense under international law as defined in Article 51 of the UN Charter. The International Court of Justice, however, rejected this faulty legal interpretation in its 2004 Advisory Opinion. The ICJ explained that an armed attack that would trigger Article 51 must be attributable to a sovereign state, but the armed attacks by Palestinians emerge from within Israel’s jurisdictional control. Israel does have the right to defend itself against rocket attacks, but it must do so in accordance with occupation law and not other laws of war. Occupation law ensures greater protection for the civilian population. The other laws of war balance military advantage and civilian suffering. The statement that “no country would tolerate rocket fire from a neighbouring country” is therefore both a diversion and baseless.

Israel denies Palestinians the right to govern and protect themselves, while simultaneously invoking the right to self-defense. This is a conundrum and a violation of international law, one that Israel deliberately created to evade accountability.

A UN report recently stated that Gaza will be unlivable by 2020, and it’s looking as though that may have been a cautious estimate. Their power plant has been flattened, hospitals, refugee camps and schools have been targeted, already limited supplies of clean water is becoming even more scarce.

On July 27th this video was uploaded to youtube. It shows an entire neighbourhood being wiped off the map within the space of an hour.

Nowhere is safe. People are being told to evacuate certain areas as there will be air strikes, and then finding that the areas they’ve fled to are also being bombed [a word you will not find the media using, of course] with impunity.

It’s been reported by doctors working in Gaza that Israel have been using Dense Inert Metal Explosive missiles. These detonate before hitting the ground, showering the area with shrapnel, maiming anyone nearby so horrendously that it’s proving difficult to treat the casualties. Such weapons are banned under the Geneva Convention. This is not the first time they’ve used illegal weapons, having previously used White Phosphorous.

While searching through the devastation, people have found evidence of what can only be described as massacres. In one case the bodies of almost an entire family were found dead in one room, bullet holes dotted the blood spattered wall in a line which suggests automatic gunfire. Human Rights Watch reports that IDF soldiers shot and killed fleeing civilians.
Israel so often throws the blame at Hamas for ‘using women and children as human shields’, as if placing themselves on some moral high ground with the implication that they would never do such a thing. What they don’t state – but is obvious – is that human shields are no deterrent to Israel’s onslaughts. They have absolutely no problem with collateral loss of life and will fire away regardless. Again, a UN school, hospitals, a refugee camp! And given how obvious their disregard for human life is, I highly doubt Hamas are going believe it will keep them safe. And let’s not forget that many, many IDF soldiers have used Palestinian women and children as human shields and decoys themselves.
It’s not uncommon for Israel to attempt to shift the blame from themselves to Hamas. The Israel Project released a ‘Global Language Dictionary‘ in 2009 which shows how exactly the rhetoric is shaped, how people should attempt to lead the conversation and shed their blame, pointed instead to Gaza and Hamas.

Gaza is not a sovereign state attacking it’s neighbour with any military might behind it. It is an occupied territory, a prison for 1.8m people who have done nothing but exist. It’s a people walled in and trying to survive as basic amenities disappear and everything around them falls apart in the face of Israel’s enormous military capabilities. Their homes destroyed, their families deceased. Gaza was stripped of it’s elected government, Hamas. While I do not agree with them politically, that was their chosen party, voted in. Almost immediately they were branded ‘terrorists’, Israel refuses to accept them as being officials in any capacity, and took any legitimacy they may have had in the eyes of the world.Gaza doesn’t stand a chance. It has no defences, no army, no airforce, nowhere for it’s people to escape to. The mostly crude missiles Hamas and militants have mostly stand little to no chance against the Iron Dome defence system. But if you’re in a position where you and your family are living in a horribly oppressed region, would you not want to fight back? Would you not feel angry and trapped?

I recall watching BBC news as they won. It took no time at all for the entire tone of the broadcasts to change. It went from talk of elections to militia, violence, and the threat to Israel. This is a recurring theme. In 2006 I was watching as a report aired on a ‘government building’ being destroyed in a strategic attack. Within a few minutes it changed from a ‘government building’ and instead it was declared a hideout of ‘Hamas militants’, the base of a terror cell.

The same was the case for the 2009 offensive. I sat watching the news with my husband as the conflict broke. The newsreaders spoke of ‘officials’, of people dying, and on the invasion in general. It was sympathetic with Palestine. I turned to him and told him to wait a few minutes, that they would change it to terrorists and militants. Lo and behold, that was exactly what happened. Not knowing much of the tensions between the two nations, he was amazed at just how drastically the tone of reporting changed.

Lastly, I’d like to end this on some food for thought for anyone who is taking a centrist, ‘they’re both to blame’ position on this and past conflicts in the region. pax-arabica giving a short summary on one of the problems with such a statement:

People who go “both countries are at fault”
What they think they sound like:“I’m so rational. The truth is somewhere in the middle, they’re both wrong. I’m so nuanced and enlightened with my views.”
What they actually sound like:“History and context are things that do not exist to me. In whatever dimension I exist in, I believe that there is an equivalence between an advanced occupying army that is notorious for war crimes, and an occupied brutalized population.”

To all those affected by this conflict, both in Gaza and around the world, you are in my thoughts. ♥
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Campaigns and consent. [CN: Sexual violence, victim blaming, alcohol]

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Content note: Sexual violence, victim blaming, alcohol

Recently this poster by the Home Office and NHS has been doing the rounds online

It’s part of the government’s ‘Know Your Limits‘ campaign, aimed at making people think about the quantities of alcohol they are consuming. As this campaign appears to be aimed at women, giving the illustration, that is what I’ll be focusing on here.
Such campaigns have been known to be controversial and hard hitting in the past, and it’s not uncommon for campaigns surrounding rape to shift responsibility from the perpetrators to the victim. No matter how well meaning these campaigns, any shifting of blame from those committing the crimes is abhorrent and does little to address the epidemic of sexual violence and rape which between 1 in 3 and 1 in 5 women will be subjected to in their lifetime.

Women are already aware of the risks they face in daily life. Arranging to call someone to say they’re home safely, walking with keys between their fingers, being nice when men try to engage in case they react poorly to rejection, keeping 999 on their phone screen as they walk home, keeping their head down in the hope it will stop anyone from attempting to speak to them, even not trying to cause a scene when sexually assaulted in case it makes things even worse. They’re also aware that blame is likely to be shifted onto them if something were to happen, and that they may be seen as ‘over dramatic’ if they call out for help.

An enormous percentage of rape cases actually reported don’t even make it to court. Many women won’t even report a rape as, not only do so many know the chances of a conviction are low, but the entire process will be a horrifying ordeal in itself. It often bring a woman’s choices in to imply that she was at least partly responsible for the horrible experience she has been forced to endure and will have to cope with for the rest of her life. Her choice in dress, her past sexual history, if she was nice to her attacker, if she flirted, accepted drinks, or otherwise ‘provoked’ the attack. And here we have yet another campaign which does the same. Had a drink? Had a little too much? Well obviously you are putting yourself in harms way, you’re to blame if something bad happens to you.

Imagine if this kind of onus was put on the victim of so many other crimes? Here comedian Nadia Kamil looks at what it would be like if victims of drink drivers were treated like those of sexual crimes:

Would it seem ridiculous if we treated drink driving victims that way? Of course it would be!

If the advice you were given to avoid being mugged were:

  • Avoid wearing jewellery in public
  • Avoid walking in areas with few people around
  • Avoid wearing branded or smart clothing as someone may assume you have money or expensive items on you
  • Avoid carrying any cash
  • Avoid carrying a handbag, someone may take a chance that you are carrying things of worth in it
  • Avoid carrying a mobile phone, laptop, tablet, or other tech device as they can be worth money, thus leaving you open to be mugged
  • Never walk anywhere at night
  • Never walk anywhere alone
  • Never allow anyone to see you paying for something
  • Never allow anyone to know you have a laptop, mobile phone, tablet, or other device
When you report the offence, imagine if you were suddenly questioned about what you were doing to provoke it.
  • Have you ever carried money?
  • Have you ever carried a mobile phone, laptop, tablet, or other device?
  • Have you ever been seen using such a device?
  • Have you ever walked alone anywhere?
  • Have you ever dressed smartly?
  • Have you ever worn jewellery in public?
  • Have you ever been seen paying for items while out and about, showing that you have money?
If every part of the rhetoric around mugging involved you having to defend yourself, your past actions, your clothing choice, your chosen route, your monetary worth, with the implication that you have somehow invited someone to steal from you, and therefore it wasn’t really theft, how fucking furious would you be? What if there were signs up all over the place which stated “One in three reported muggings happens when the victim has been smartly dressed”, and you were indeed mugged while wearing a suit? I have no doubt that many would feel guilt and perhaps not pursue legal avenues, knowing that blame will be somewhat shifted.
Rape and sexual assault victims are treated like this all the time. Continuing to put advertising campaigns out that imply some blame is on the victims only continues to absolve the perpetrators of responsibility for their actions, while ensuring that at least some of those who have been put through a horrifying ordeal will not come forward.
Instead of this culture of blame against survivors, we need to put more focus on the nature of consent. There have been some staggering surveys performed in nations all over the world which show many men feel entitled to sex in a certain context such as having paid for a date, bought a woman drinks, or given her a gift. And it’s not just a feeling of entitlement, but if you avoid using the word “rape”, a fucking terrifying amount of men will admit to not only believing rape is okay under certain circumstances, but will actually admit to having attempted to rape someone, or having actually committed rape.
There have been some poster campaigns which hit the same subject as the Know Your Limits one above, but without putting the onus onto the survivors. Below is a poster from Scotland’s ‘We Can Stop It‘ campaign.
I personally don’t believe the language is strong enough; they refer to it as ‘sex’ rather than what it really is, rape. But it is a step in the right direction. The onus of the campaign is on those who would be committing the assaults rather than those they’re committed against.
This isn’t the first time that Scotland have got it somewhat right while England and Wales are woefully off the mark. Previous campaigns by various police forces, as well as the Home Office, have come under strong condemnation from rape advocacy groups and campaigners. Given how strong that condemnation is, and how widely it’s been reported, you would have thought that those who are in charge of these campaigns would have learned by now. Sadly it seems that the NHS are not even in the slightest bit apologetic about their stance, feeling there is nothing to apologise for.
A final note on this subject that I would like to make incredibly clear, in case I haven’t made it obvious enough: There is only one thing that causes rape, and that is rapists.
If you are yourself a survivor of rape or sexual assault, know that it is not your fault.
I believe you. ♥
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Paraplegia, questions and sex: A tale of squirrels.

Since becoming paraplegic I’ve become very used to being asked questions about my health; friends asking how I’m getting on and if I’m in pain, strangers gently prying and trying to find out what’s wrong and how it happened. Nosey but innocuous questions that I generally don’t mind answering, providing that it’s not done insultingly and they understand I won’t answer if a line is crossed. I’ve been quite endeared over the years by the sensitivity that people have approached the subject with.

Well, most of the time.

There is one subject where it appears that all boundaries and sensitivity go out of the window in a heartbeat. Be it friend or stranger, it’s a subject which arouses such curiosity that no answer is simply not good enough, and there really is no way to tread carefully. Sex.

Can I still have sex? How does it work? Can I still have orgasms? Can I feel it? Can I enjoy it? Is it different to before? From people I have known for years to people I have known for 5 minutes in the pub, as soon as the word ‘paraplegia’ comes up you can almost see the cogs turning as they desperately try not to ask but simply can’t help themselves.

One day last year I’d had quite enough of people expecting to know about my sex life and why I didn’t want to answer. I decided I’d finally explain the difficulties that come with arousal and let alone sex.

It is impossible for me to have sex.

You see, with paraplegia comes a secondary issue surrounding arousal itself. It’s problematic, to say the least, and proves a challenging barrier in sexual relationships which I have yet to find a way around. My poor husband and I have yet to even consummate our marriage as a result of this horrendous symptom of spinal cord damage. I can’t even tell you whether I can feel it, enjoy it, or climax, because there is a vicious and furry problem… Squirrels. That’s right, squirrels.

As soon as the vaginal juices start to flow angry squirrels start flying out of my vagina. Normally grey squirrels, but at certain times of the months, well.. I’m sure you can figure that out.

They don’t just calmly crawl their way out, oh no, they fling themselves. Ricocheting off my thighs and attacking the nearest thing they see. Scratching and biting, looking for the nearest place to nest or some nuts to nibble on. We’ve tried setting a side a plate of food for the, hoping they’d be distracted, but they wouldn’t exactly be the first set of nuts their beady little eyes would see were we to take a leap into the relatively unknown.

Would you really want to go prodding at an infinite nest of angry squirrels with your most precious of appendages? Nope, didn’t think so.

There you have it, one of life’s questions answered for you. Next time you consider prying into the sex life of a disabled person, please remember that no matter how deep your curiosity, no matter how desperate you are to know how another person’s body works, they could well have a devastating affliction involving wildlife. To constantly be reminded of this is deeply upsetting. Please, remember the squirrels.

Alternatively don’t be a cocktrumpet who goes around asking people, unprompted, about their sex life.

Painting by my friend Saria, http://www.prettyshittyart.com/

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