My latest binge watching adventure has been How To Get Away With Murder (ABC).

On first glance it wouldn’t be something that I would normally watch. I am not a fan of procedurals. I like my drama slightly more supernatural, with plot lines and stuff. I watch Bones, because David Boreanaz, and I have fallen in love with the characters. In fact, I love the show BECAUSE the characters and their stories take more of a centre stage than the “monster of the week”, in this case, dead-guy’s-remains-found-in-icky-circumstances of the week. I enjoy Castle, because Nathan Fillion, but it doesn’t draw me the way that Bones does and can be quite hit and miss. The ensemble cast are horrendously neglected in favour of focus on the two main protagonists. Those two shows right there, are plenty enough procedural for me. Comments about this show had peaked my interest though and, at a loose end, I decided to give it a go, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Firstly, Charlie Weber, as in Ben is Glory? I confess I would not have recognised him with his full beard if I hadn’t seen his name in the opening credits. Other recognisable (to me) faces are Matt McGorry from Orange is the New Black and Alfred Enoch, most famously from the Harry Potter series of films, but I had happened to have JUST seen him in a Broadchurch binge watch I had just completed.

The story revolves around a defence lawyer who is also a university professor, and five handpicked students who compete to come up with defence solutions for her live ongoing court cases. These cases are the “monster of the week”, with a different case to be solved each episode. This alone would make for a dull show for me. None of the characters are particularly appealing to me, although they are varied and defined, albeit Viola Davis gives a spectacular performance as defence lawyer, Annaliese Keating. Alongside the monster of the week, runs the story of a murder, committed and being covered up by the students, and told in “flash-forward” scenes that are smattered throughout each episode, not necessarily in order of occurrence, and sometimes repeated with only a snippet of new information included.

It doesn’t stop there, there is another running plotline, that of a murdered missing girl, Lilah, a friend of one of the students neigbours, Rebecca who is also one of the main suspects for the murder, and becomes a client of Annaliese (and, therefore, the group).

These two stories roll along nicely alongside the monster of the week plot gradually coming together until episode 9, where they all meet in a pretty impressive episode with an awesome reveal at the end.

It takes something to keep me interested in a show where I don’t really relate to, or fall for any of the characters. Doesn’t have to be the main character, I have watched whole series where I have really disliked or not cared for the main character of a show, just because I am in love with the sidekick. Characters are what draw me to a TV show, a good story is basically just a bonus, and usually great characters come with great storylines. I am certainly glad I stuck with this without having any character favourites to draw me in. I can’t wait to continue watching.

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Last week I lived on nothing but fresh vegetable and fruit juices, for four weeks prior to that I was eating mainly raw foods and cut out coffee, dairy and gluten and processed foods.

The reception I have got has been mixed, shock and horror from my work colleagues (one of them even suggested I should be careful I was getting all the nutrients I needed, oh the irony), love and support from my more savvy twitterati. Many people have asked why, and also wondered why I went off grid for a while, so here’s a really lengthy blog post about it.

I have always believed in the power of the things that go in your mouth to either help you or harm you. The food you eat is your fuel and the gateway to your health or lack of it, and whilst I have not always lived according to these beliefs, I have tried my best.  Ten years ago, I took a good long look at my alcohol fueled self and decided to change my habits. I quit drinking, spent more time at the gym and ensured that a good majority of my food intake was made up of raw or lightly steamed veg. Although I hadn’t particularly felt ill before, I soon felt like a new me.

Unfortunately I then became ill and was diagnosed with ME/CFS.  To cut an extremely boring and painful story short, in the face of incredible fatigue my eating habits dwindled to what would take the least amount of energy to cook and give me the quickest energy fix. So basically lots of processed frozen ready meals and chocolate.

During my desperate-to-do-anything-to-get-well time I learned about juicing and the incredible benefits of getting raw, easily digestible, nutrient packed food down your gullet.  I tried it out and had about enough energy a day to make one juice, the rest of the time still living on the ready meals and chocolate, but even that made a vast difference to my health and my energy levels improved significantly.  I went back to work and soon found that all my expendable energy was taken up by work and the juicing fell by the wayside. Catch 22 situation.

Thankfully, I did find a cure, and with new found health and vitality, extended work hours, and excessive playtime, I continued with my bad eating habits . Until recently. In February I got a flu. Yes an actual real flu, not just a cold, an honest to god, pretty much confined to my bed for a week flu.  By April I still hadn’t really fully recovered and I began to fear the worst, that the ME was back. Desperate for that not to happen I made the drastic changes to my diet I mentioned at the beginning of this post.

Before things got better, things got a little worse. Withdrawing from the caffeine, the sugars, the refined carbs and all the other rubbish I had been eating sent me into week of severe headaches and fatigue. I was convinced I was relapsing, spiralled into a depression and withdrew from the world. Fortunately, I had seriously jumped the gun (or possibly saved myself just in time), and after a week I came out the other side feeling 100 times better than I had before the flu, and with a determination to make what had originally been something of a detox into a lifestyle again.

This lead to me wanting to complete a juice only week, to give my body a proper clear out of any remaining gunk cluttering up my insides, and I have to say it left me feeling amazing.

My philosophy is, if it’s not natural, and/or you have to cook it to make it taste good, we probably aren’t meant to eat it. Our bodies are not meant to consume the vast amounts of meat we westerners seem to think it is imperative to shove down our throats every meal – it can take up to 72 hours for red meat to be digested, and even longer if eaten with other hard to digest foods like wheat and other man-made carbs. That’s 72 hours of it sitting rotting in the stomach. Mmm delicious.  We are certainly not meant to consume dairy after weaning age, and definitely not that of another species, a species with four stomachs at that!

Vegetables, fruits and nuts contain all the nutrients that our bodies need to survive and thrive in abundance, some, like the Avocado, even contain ALL essential nutrients in one go, and they are easy to digest. It takes just 20 minutes for our bodies to digest and, therefore, get the nutrients from, fruit, and about 30 for vegetables (even quicker when juiced).  It seems logical to me that these are things that are meant to be the mainstay of our diet. I am aware that juicing is not exactly the natural way to consume these things, but in our hectic daily lives, it is the easiest and quickest way to get raw foods into your system and it doesn’t kill most of the nutrients like cooking does.

I am not saying that we aren’t meant to eat any meat at all, clearly we have the teeth to chew it, although not the teeth, claws or speed which are typical of a carnivorous species, I am saying it’s not meant to be the main ingredient of every meal, as it is in the west.  Check out eastern cultures who eat very differently to us, especially the Japanese, who have much longer lives, lower rates of obesity and heart disease and eat very little meat and no dairy.

There are great benefits to eating fish and lean white meats, but none that you can’t get from other sources. Personally, I don’t eat meat for ethical reasons, which is a whole other blog.

So there is my philosophy, you don’t have to agree with it, I just wanted to get it out there and discussion is always fun.  Am I going to live on nothing but raw fruit and veg for the rest of my days?  Clearly not.  Am I never going to have an alcoholic drink, a piece of chocolate cake, a takeaway? Hey, I’m not a frackin’ saint here! I have finished my juice only week, the health benefits have been great and I intend to repeat this three or four times a year just to ensure my body is always performing at it’s best.  I have (slowly) introduced solid foods back into my diet and now enjoy two juices a day and one solid meal, with healthy snacks as I want them.  Our bodies are incredibly adaptable and can cope with a lot, as long as they are in good condition in the first place, so I live to what I call an 80% rule.  If I stick to my rules for at least 80% of the time (no meat, dairy, man-made carbs, gluten, sugars, processed foods), my body can cope with the occasional glitch (for glitch read drunk).  It can be incredibly hard to follow this regime when you eat out, are on holiday or are standing in line for a gig for 10 hours.

Some people may think this is an incredibly boring way to live, but I don’t find avoiding preventable diseases such as heart-disease, diabetes, many cancers, obesity Alzheimer’s, and ensuring as much as I can that I lead a long, healthy, energetic life, boring, but most importantly, this is my life, not yours, I will live it the way I want, you do the same and leave me to it.

See ya all at the barrier!

ETA: One of the amazing benefits I have gained from this way of eating is getting rid of the ridiculously awful wombrage I used to suffer with for 10 days to two weeks every month.  Last month my period came as a complete surprise to me, this hasn’t happened for years.

ETA: My inspiration and education came from Jason Vale, self titled  Juice Master, he’s the guy that’s actually done the research and all the sciencey stuff.  For the seven day juice detox, I followed his 7lbs in 7 days programme, and am now following on with his 14 day Turbo Charge Your Life Programme.  If you are considering juicing for the first time it is important that you do some research  for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there is an art to juicing and if you do it wrong you’re going to get horrible tasting juices, throw them away and buy a takeaway in disgust. Having said that, it’s not a hard art to grasp, just a few simple rules to follow. Secondly, the 71bs in 7 days programme ensures that you are getting the right mix of fruit and vegetables every day to so that you get all the nutrician your body needs, there’s also lots of hints, tips and encouragement to keep you going.

Here’s some trailers:

Forks over Knives

Hungry For Change

As some of you know, I work for the Police in a Divisional Control Room. My job is to monitor incidents reported by members of the public, prioritise and dispatch officers to them when required. I am also the first line of contact for police officers over the radio when they require assistance or information. But that’s enough of my job description, I’m not trying to write a CV here.

Yesterday, I got the opportunity to see things from the other side and go out on patrol with one of the officers I am usually bouncing around the place from one job to the next. Although I have worked for the police for almost 12 years and my husband is a police officer, it was still kind of thrilling to go out on a ride-along.

I started my day by going to the briefing, here’s where officers are given their duties for the day and learn of any significant incidents that occurred overnight they may need to be aware of, wanted persons, things to be on the look out for. As our particular area is a little spread out, we have a video link to two other police stations so the officers at our two other stations can join in.

Next job is to get that all important tea-break, no doughnuts I’m afraid, while the officers check their workload to see if there is anything that needs doing with their ongoing cases. Just as my driver for the day sat down with his steaming hot drink, we got turned out to an emergency call, a personal attack alarm that had gone off at a surgery.

We jumped in the car and sped off on a hairy ride to the surgery, to find that it all appeared to be locked up, not surprisingly as it was a Sunday. Checking around the back we found an open gateway and eventually managed to attract someone’s attention. The place had been undergoing some renovation and they had been moving furniture around and hit the button accidentally, unaware that the panic alarm was still linked up to the police. The were very impressed with our swift attendance and apologised profusely for wasting our time.

Back to the station then to see if that coffee was still warm and make sure we had all the gear we needed for the day. I had to collect my nice flourescent jacket with “observer” written on the back (I wanted one that said “Writer”, damnit), to show I wasn’t actually a police officer, and sign a disclaimer to say I didn’t mind being killed, maimed or seriously injured. What now? Aww, what the hell, it’s all in the name of a little team bonding.

Soon we were ready to start the day for real and headed out on a tour of the area while we waited for the jobs to roll in.

The next job was a report of a damage, nothing very exciting, but it took us a while to sort out as we could not find the caller she wasn’t where the log said she would be and she wasn’t at home, despite the large hole in the window, neither would she answer her phone. We left her a message and, having done all we could, we continued on our travels.

Calling into one of the smaller police stations to access a computer we checked the call and noticed that she had rung back with a location. So back we went to speak with her, then back to the station to do some research on the alleged suspect, whom we only had very brief details of, and generate a crime number. This whole incident probably took us about 3 hours to deal with, and that was without being able to find a suspect. It was an eye opener to see just how long it takes to input such a simple crime onto our computer system.

Back out on the streets and our next call was to a report of a young “disheveled” looking girl on her own at the train station looking in the bins and vending machines. Some of the travelling community had moved into the area and we thought it might be one of them, however we arrived to find a youngl, very clean and tidy girl, waiting patiently on the platform. While she only looked about 9 or 10 she was in fact 13 and waiting for her train home with a ticket and everything. There was nothing untoward at all but we hung around to make sure she got on her train home safely and then headed off to a call about some youths causing a disturbance at a street nearby.

We arrived at a narrow dark street with only a few houses on it and found five kids at the end of it, one of whom was throwing up in the arms of what I initially thought was her boyfriend who was kindly holding her hair back. Other than being a little worse for drink and a bit loud and boisterous, the kids, who were all around 14/15 years old, weren’t really doing any thing wrong, however we could understand why the elderly residents would be concerned at that time of night and down this dark and lonely street.

We checked them all out to ensure none of them had been reported missing and I found I knew every one of their names with the exception of the thrower-upper. I had a little laugh and a joke with the kids, who were confused about how I knew who they were even though I clearly work for the police and they clearly knew all the procedures and had been dealt with many times). It became obvious that only one of the group was male, and that one was not the hair-holding-back “boyfriend”. The other four were very out, very openly gay females. Whether they were at experimentation stage, following a fad, or had known they were gay from an early age, it certainly did me good to see the kids so confident and open about their sexuality at such a young age. Maybe we are actually moving on.

We gave them some advice, made sure they left the area and took the very drunk one home to ensure her safety, with lots of warnings about NOT throwing up in the police car. She wasn’t happy about coming with us, but became very chatty in the car.

Then it was time for meal break as the night shift were coming on and we had to hand the car over to them. These mid shifts, which cross over and fill the gap between the early shift and the night shift are really the only time when the whole team have a chance to meal together and sometimes even get their full meal break without getting turned out.

With the night shift taking over main response duties, the mid shift get tasked with more mundane jobs after their meal. We were given a van and tasked with looking for a suspect for a domestic incident and then patrolling the “borders”. This involves patrolling the more affluent areas of the division which are targets for burglaries and vehicle crime and floating around the borders of our division on the look out for criminals coming across from another area to commit crimes in our area, or going back there having committed the crimes.

First up our arrest, we had a couple of address to check, the first one was negative and the second one we found our prey. The chap was quite reasonable given the circumstances and came willingly. This big tough man who had allegedly done horrible things to his girlfriend, her children and even more heinous, the dog, became a shivering wreck, protesting he was the victim, once we had him in cuffs in the back of the van. But we were not there to judge, as much as we may wish to, just to collect him and deposit him in the cells.

The rest of the shift was spent patrolling round the border areas and all the little rat runs that our friendly local criminals like to use. There was nothing much to see and we got back to the station in time to go off duty.

Nothing is a typical day in policing, but that was my day, playing out with the big boys. Personally, I am very happy sitting behind my four monitors and controlling from the office, but I found this trip out to be very insightful. It is so easy for me to judge from my monitors when we get the same people calling again and again with what seem to me to minor things I wouldn’t really bother the police with. It is different when you see people face to face, and whatever issues they may be dealing with, and in some cases, using the police to sort out the lives they can’t sort out for themselves, they are real people with real troubles.

I very much admire the patience and professionalism with which the police deal with these people on a daily basis, and now have a greater understanding of how long it takes to deal with what may seem on the surface to be a minor incident.

It has been very useful to me both professionally and personally to see what goes on on the other side, and if you have bothered to read this, I hope you found it as interesting as I did.

The other day I contacted the charity I will be raising money for on my Leeds/Liverpool canal walk. I mentioned in my email that I was recovered from ME. Amongst the extremely useful information I gained from them was one little line full of concern that my efforts may cause me a relapse.

Whilst, I am aware this is well-intentioned concern, I find this a little irksome. Since recovering from ME I have often come across this negativity from those who are still lumbered with this illness. Not everyone by a long shot, and certainly not from anyone who is a close personal friend.

This attitude bemuses me. I understand that in part it is self-preservation. Living with ME/CFS is a myriad of crushed hopes and dreams and sometimes it is just better not to hope in order to avoid disappointment. So the reaction of “be careful you’ll have a relapse” is easier to deal with than another hope or dream that could be dashed, but sometimes, hope is all you have, and if one person can recover, then so can you.

I have never seen this reaction to people who have made miraculous recoveries from other illnesses. A friend of mine has recently had the all clear on his five year scan after recovering from cancer, which is amazing news and no one could be more pleased than I. Except maybe him. There’s no one pissing on his bonfire telling him the likelihood of the cancer returning. Even though cancer quite often does that.

It took me a long time to admit to myself that it’s really, really gone, that it’s not just some blip; longer to actually say those words out loud.
I am painfully aware that this illness may one day hit me again. Yeah. Well. You might get hit by a car, I don’t warn you not to cross the road every day do I?

I really do believe in finding the good that can rise from the ashes of disaster. Not that things happen for a reason, but that you can use the bad to learn, to improve, to make life better. I’ve been struggling to find the good that came from my five years of ill health. The good is this:

I appreciate my health a whole lot more, I refuse to let one more minute of my life slip away unnoticed, I will live what is left of my life to it’s fullest, and your negativity is not going to get in my way. Do me a favour, quit pissing on my bonfire and look both ways before you step out on to the road.

Unlike the weather, I have embarked on a dry spell and haven’t had a drop to drink since the wee hours of 1st Jan. It’s not a New Year’s resolution, it just happens that the 1st Jan is a good time to start to giving up the booze. I have particular goals, reasons or rhymes and I have set myself no timescales. I’m mainly doing it to give my body a break and to prove to myself that I can. It’s a thing I do every now and again.

It’s a funny thing about quitting something. It’s suddenly jumping up at me everywhere I go. Tasty, delicious, warming, refreshing alcohol. I wants it, I wants it, my precious. So far I have resisted temptation. I know, I know. It’s only been four days, but it’s looking at me, I can feel the eyes of those half full bottles of lovely thick liqueurs sitting on the kitchen table, taunting me with their warming lusciousness. My will power is mighty though, and I will endure.

It’s a far cry from the first dry spell I put myself through some 9 years ago now. At that time I probably hadn’t gone a week without getting blathered since I was about 15. It was a ritual I grew up with and continued into my 20s and early 30s. Work hard, party hard. I couldn’t actually imagine having fun without a drink in my hand. I rejoiced with alcohol and I drowned my sorrows in it. Then something happened that made me see things differently and I quit. Just like that.

I’m not saying it was easy, it took a lot of will power, determination and most of all wanting to do it. I couldn’t have alcohol in the house or go into a pub for quite some time, but the longer I went without a drink, the longer I wanted to go. I think it was 6 months in the end. I was never going to be completely teetotal, I enjoy drinking and being drunk far too much for that! It changed my life, it’s amazing what you can achieve when you’re not drunk or hungover! If I’m brutally honest, it probably saved my life too, I dread to think where I would be now, if I had continued to drink the way I was.

So every now and then, I give myself a break from it. It’s hard work for the first couple of weeks, but after that, I don’t even notice its absence. So farewell lovely, luscious, thick warming liqueurs, so long sparkly, refrshing cider. I’ll come back to you, when I’m ready, but for now, you have no power over me.

Music. I grew up with it. Memories cling to it. I surround myself with it. If I am not at work, or watching TV, I am probably listening to music. I physically can’t leave the house without my iPod and headphones. It is both the background and the foreground to my life. It was my first obsession and it will probably be my last. But what is it actually worth?

A friend fired this topic at me and I replied, “I don’t think you can put a price on the music you love, however, I think it should be cheap to buy.” When I looked back at what I had written it didn’t seem to tally somehow. How can music be both priceless and cheap at the same time? Music means the absolute world to me, it would have to be a life or death situation before I would even consider selling my vinyl or CD collections, and even then there would be certain albums I could never part with, despite the fact that I have them all uploaded to a hard drive and never use physical copies anymore. Everyone should be able to have that experience, music should be readily, easily and cheaply available to anyone that wants it (and forced upon those who think they don’t), whether that be to buy in the neatly packaged form of a CD or download, or just to have access to a radio or a musical instrument.

Then came the topic of file sharing. Personally, I would never illegally download music, but I say this as a reasonably well paid member of society with funds spare each month to spend on the things I love. Music companies like to bandy about terms like “Piracy is killing music.” To them I say, get an internet connection. I say that piracy, and I’m not talking the mass production of fake CDs and DVDs, I’m talking Joe Bloggs who sits at his computer and helps himself to a little free music from a download site, then in turn shares that with his friends, can actually help music.

Firstly, the artists themselves make very little money from selling their product in the form of a CD or download. The money from the sale of a CD is shared between a whole host of people and you can bet your life the biggest chunk is going to the record companies that are so busy scaremongering about the imminent death of music. Artists get their money from touring and all the lovely lucrative bonuses that come along with it.

Why do you think record companies are pushing for stronger controls on music piracy but no one gives two hoots about the touts ripping off fans by selling fake and/or exorbitantly priced gig tickets and the dodgy geezers selling fake merchandise that’s spelled incorrectly and falls apart after two washes? Yep, cos the record companies aren’t making any money off that stuff. Touring is the artists bread and butter.

Of course, artists need the record companies to produce their music in the first place, but it is becoming easier and easier to self produce and cut out those annoying middlemen, which would probably also be accused of killing music if the record companies were actually aware enough to realise it was happening.

Secondly, the majority of music played by commercial radio stations at the moment comes straight off the back of reality shows like X-Factor and American Idol (during the daytime when most people listen to the radio at least), and to be perfectly honest I don’t think either Simon Cowell or Louis Walsh needs any more money. Sometimes the only access people have to new, original music is discovering it through file sharing. Take the Arctic Monkeys for example, one of the biggest UK bands of the last few years. They got their start through the very thing record companies insist is killing music. File sharing. The band gave out free CDs at early gigs and fans shared them online and clamoured for more. Their first album, “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not” (released in 2006) still holds the record the fastest selling debut album in the UK.

Thirdly, and finally, it is at least in part because of piracy and efforts to counter it, that music has become much more widely available and cheap to legally downland and that we have wonderful places like Spotify, where you can listen to music all day long for free, while the copyright holders still get their pound of flesh. I am, at this very moment, discovering some incredible Drum and Bass which I will more than likely pay good money for at a later date.

I put it to you that in actual fact, piracy is keeping music alive, it’s Simon Cowell that is killing music.

I never make New Year’s Resolutions, not since that time when I was 13 and decided to become Vegan, then casually ate a chocolate someone passed me at around 00:15 on the 1st January.

1st January is, however, also a good time to start one of my “dry” periods after the excess of the Christmas period, so as of yesterday I am off the booze for… well for a while. Only time will tell how long and I never make myself promises I can’t keep.

2012 looks set to be a good year though and I have many plans for it.

Firstly, I will be starting on Open University course in March. It’s just one of their Openings courses intended for those, like me, who haven’t studied in a long long time. I say “just” this is actually a HUGE deal for me and something I have scared myself away from doing for an awful long time. If all goes to plan and I don’t suck at this whole learning game it will count towards an English Literature degree which I will be starting later in the year, which in turn will count towards me getting that Teaching English as a Foreign Language job, which in turn will count towards me getting the fuck out of dodge.

Secondly, I am walking from Leeds to Liverpool along the aptly named Leeds/Liverpool canal for charity in September so lots of planning and training to do for that. For more info on and updates on my progress please check out Skyewalk on Blog, Twitter, Facebook and y’know sponsor me and stuff.

In the meantime, I have Inva2ion to look forward to, my first convention for a year, my old love Ultravox will be releasing a new album and touring, and my current obsession, The Killers will also be releasing a new album and hopefully treat us to a couple of dates in the summer before the real touring starts. Brandon Flowers says 2012 is going to be The Year of The Killers, and I believe ANYTHING that comes out of such a pretty mouth. My non-music obsession, Joss Whedon, has three films coming out next year, Much Ado About Nothing, Cabin in The Woods and The Avengers, two of which star the lovely, lovely Chris Hemsworth in.

So all in all, a fun-packed year, what could possibly go wrong?