A slight change of plan…

I sit here in a bit of a haze.

Right now I should be sat drinking a beer on Copacabana beach. Instead I am sat in my living room with no idea what to do with myself. Long story short I booked a holiday to see my favourite band, Pearl Jam, performing a concert in Rio De Janeiro tomorrow. Sadly bad weather and even worse luck brought my bucket list holiday grinding to an abrupt halt in Frankfurt.

I’m not the first person to have their holiday plans collapse and I am not writing this to complain about it. However, over the past couple of days I have had a lot of downtime to be stuck with only my own thoughts to occupy me. During that time it has became clear to me that I am somebody who thrives on keeping himself permanently distracted and as such my mind is a badly disorganised place in need of a serious tidy up. I’m also not saying that my thoughts are in any way unique or interesting to be worthy of publishing online and sharing with the world. My hope is that by writing things down in a manner that I am happy to present publicly it will help me to collate and clarify my own thought processes. In making this blog readable to all I am forcing myself to ensure I maintain a certain level of readability and hopefully can avoid descending into confusing rants as I am prone to do when I write anonymously and by hosting on a paid subscription site it will hopefully encourage me to continue to post updates (I tried something like this many years ago with different objectives but hosting on a free site I quickly lost interest in the project as other things drew my attention). It would also be great if this occasionally triggers some lively discussions, I am open to criticism and opposing opinions but lets try and keep things respectful, yeah?

I am under no illusions, I don’t foresee this becoming a widely read blog, chances are if you have found this page you are one of my small-ish circle of friends who have me on Facebook. I have no aspirations to become a writer and I am not trying to change lives here. But, I do take some comfort in the idea of potentially leaving something permanent online that if I should be struck by a bus in 6 months will leave something of me for people to read beyond the frankly inane crap I share on Facebook. If anything I write on here should cause somebody to discover a band they fall in love with or even just raise the occasional smile from anybody that happens across something I write then all the better.

If you have already read this far then thank you. If you should decide to come back in the future then let me give you an idea of some of the kind of content I hope to populate this page with:

  • Live Music – I mentioned earlier that I like to keep myself distracted and going to gigs is my primary way of doing that. Some of the best people I know I have met whilst following my favourite bands. I will attempt to post something (however brief) about every live gig I attend but please don’t expect proper reviews, I am a fan not a critic.
  • Fandom – When I find a TV show, film, book that I like I attempt to absorb everything about it. I can quote entire Simpsons episodes word-for-word, I can pick out the tiniest cannon plot holes in every Star Trek series and film and reel of obscure references from all kinds of media. I don’t say this to boast, I know its not impressive but it doesn’t mean its not fun! I sometimes worry that my persona is just a series of pop-culture references cobbled together.
  • Academia – I am currently in the process of writing a masters dissertation about the UKs live music venues and will be posting content relevant to that in order to experiment with ideas and hopefully develop a few new ones from any discussion that arises. One of my hopes for this blog is that it will make writing feel like less of a chore when I have to do it for academic purposes and that it will help me to further develop my writing style
  • The world – It is a ridiculous place and more and more I find myself feeling like I am living in The Place That Sends You Mad from “The Twelve Tasks of Asterix”. I am not planning on writing detailed analysis of world politics or current events (although I cannot promise they won’t occasionally be mentioned) but will occasionally talk about the things that confuse me about the world in an attempt to make some sense of them.

    Finally a few disclaimers:

  • I am a 30yr old white male and I admit to the privilege that I was born with. I consider myself to be liberal minded but sadly can only write from the perspective I have. I do not seek to offend anybody but if anything I say should appear insensitive please know it is simply a lack of understanding on my part and I welcome the chance to be enlightened (but please do it respectfully, its hard to sympathise with somebody else when they are calling you a dick no matter how right them may be)
  • I do not consider myself a skilled writer. I can spell and my grammar is generally ok (with a few bad habits) but I am an average typist, terrible proof reader and not a fan of my own prose. I hope that working on this blog will help me improve my writing skills.
  • I do ramble. As you can probably guess if you are still reading this. Anyone who has ever got into a text conversation with me will know that conciseness is not one of my strong points. Again this is something I hope to improve on as I write this blog.
  • This is a personal blog. Please don’t see it as anything more than a personal diary that I am allowing others to read. I am a fan of looking back through my old online posts and photos in the same way one might look at a family photo album or scrap book. If and when my memory starts to fail me hopefully this blog will allow me to revisit my not-so-glorious glory days
  • I welcome any comments or discussion but keep it civil. If I think you are trolling of just being a dick I might tell you so but chances are I will just delete your comments. I have neither the energy or the inclination to argue online. I welcome different opinions and its fine to tell me you disagree with me and why but let’s actually have a civil discussion about it.
  • If I am writing about people I know in real life I will attempt to keep it as anonymous as possible. I fully expect that anyone who reads my ramblings will have me on Facebook and as such will probably know some of the same people I do. I will try to respect everyones privacy and keep you all as anonymous as possible if I do mention you. First names or nicknames only or if its something a bit sensitive I will give you a pseudonym.
  • I don’t like the name of this blog. I wanted to call it “The Reeding Room” but it turns out that’s the name of a series of christian songs and audio books aimed at young children. I respect peoples faiths but consider myself an agnostic and would rather not have any confusion or crossover of interests there. If anyone can think of a better name I am open to suggestions.
  • I am still learning all the various tools and features of WordPress so probably safe to expect a few layout and style changes whilst I play around over the next few days and weeks.

Thank you for your patience thus far, hopefully you will find my forthcoming entries a bit more entertaining. For now if you didn’t get my Asterix reference earlier here is the scene I was referring to:



Why I am done with Metallica

Last year I impulsively booked a ticket to see Metallica performing in Paris. I justified it to myself by telling myself that it’s pretty rare I actually attend major stadium shows these days (Most of the gigs I go to are in small dark clubs or medium sized concert venues with a max capacity of around 2000) and it had been almost a decade since I last saw Metallica in their own headline show rather than at a festival. The inclusion of the excellent Ghost as a support act just sweetened the deal.

After the show I told anyone who would listen how good the show was, that Metallica were in top form right now. Honestly, my appreciation of them as a band was at probably the highest point it had been since I first saw them live at Download Festival 2006.

This morning I woke up to the headline that the band has been found out for conspiring with Live Nation to pass an allocation of tickets directly to the resale market. Honestly, I am not even slightly surprised.

I have come to begrudgingly accept that many of the bigger artists I like are more of a business than a band these days. Like most music fans I will usually try and defend (or at least overlook) all but the most heinous acts of betrayal from my favourite bands. If I only followed bands that were perfect examples of fairness and virtue, or whom perfectly aligned with my own morale compass, my range of music choices would be very limited. However, it’s pretty hard to excuse shit like this. The band may not have had direct involvement in such business decisions, but they are still the ones getting rich(er) from it. Even if they are totally unaware of practices like this going on in their camp, that just shows how disconnected they have become from the reality that their fans face when trying to get hold of tickets.

In the past I have defended certain aspects of the highly controversial resale market, as I honestly believe that, when used ethically, it provides a valuable service that allows honest fans to not lose out when they find themselves unable to attend a show (I don’t know a single regular concert attendee who hasn’t needed to offload a spare ticket at some point). However, it was bad enough when ticketmaster were found to be selling tickets directly to their own resale service but for a band to be actively participating in such a practice is a whole other level of wrong.

Metallica showed their environmentally responsible side by eliminating single use plastic beer cups from their recent stadium tour and replacing them with souvenir re-useables. It’s a shame that they don’t also consider “…And tickets for all” to be an important part of their business strategy.

I really enjoyed attending Metallica’s recent stadium tour, but afterwards I felt that, honestly, I probably don’t have many of these huge shows left in me, the high cost, the mad scramble to get tickets, the queuing up several hours early and still being miles from the stage.I skipped Metallica’s previous round of Arena shows for precisely those reasons and from the moment I bought the ticket (from a primary source) I had a feeling this could well be the last Metallica ticket I ever buy. I kind of just felt it could be my final farewell to the band. Now I know it was. For me this is a final nail in the Metallica coffin.

Fuck ‘Em All.

Getting it Right First Time – 10 Great Debut Album Opening Tracks

First month of the year, first post of the year, let’s kick things off with some other notable firsts (Yes it’s a totally unoriginal theme for a list but trust me there are some great tracks coming up).

Whilst it is often a great debut single that really kick-starts a bands career and launches them into the public spotlight, for many music fans looking for jumping on point for an established band often a greatest hits album, their latest album or simply their top played tracks on Spotify/Youtube provide that route into the wider back catalogue. However, hopefully as the following list will demonstrate, often the best thing to do is go right back to the start.

Guns N’ Roses – “Welcome to the Jungle” from Appetite for Destruction (1987)
Ranked as their third most popular track, I would argue that Welcome to the Jungle is Guns N’ Roses most iconic track. Instantly recognisable. As the opening track to one of the biggest selling albums of all time, that has shifted twice as many copies as any other GNR album, it may be argued that the band owe their entire careers to this track.

Frank Turner – “The Real Damage” from Sleep is for the Week (2007)
Probably the most personal entry on this list. This was actually the first Frank Turner track I ever heard albeit in a live context. In summer 2010 Frank supported Green Day at Old Trafford Cricket Ground. His opening lyric “I Woke up on a sofa in an unfamiliar house…” echoed my own experiences that very morning. The song went goes on to tell the tale of a young man leading a hedonistic lifestyle beginning to question whether the “best years” of his life are being squandered in his pursuit of meaningless fun. Like much of Frank’s earlier work the lyrics get straight to the point with little room for creative imagery or metaphor. The first time I heard this song I was 23 years old with no real career plans and my only worry in life was how I was paying my next bar bill and as such the lyrics resonated with me more than almost any other song had at that point.

Linkin Park – “Papercut” from Hybrid Theory (2000)
After the sad death of Chester Bennington in 2017 it seemed almost every music fan in their early 30s revisited Linkin Park’s “Hybrid Theory” album but beyond the usual collective mourning that often follows the death of a famous musician it became a nostalgia fest. For those of us in our early teens when Hyrbid Theory launched it sounded like nothing we had previously heard. For so many of us this was not just the album that got us into alternative music, it was the album that got us into music full stop. This track was provided the gateway to a whole world of music.

Foo Fighters – “This is a Call” from Foo Fighter (1995)
Dave Grohl’s* first musical output since Nirvana… so no pressure then! I am not actually a big fan of Foo Fighter’s debut album. Ultimately this was a Grohl solo project with him providing all the recorded instrumental and vocal work single handed with 10 of the 12 tracks being adapted from demos recorded during Grohl’s time in Nirvana. The two that were not were the opening two tracks “This is a Call” and “I’ll stick Around” which to my ears are the two strongest tracks on the album both in terms of recording quality and in establishing what would go on to become Foo Fighters signature musical style.
*SIDE NOTE: Today is Dave Grohl’s 50th birthday!

Pearl Jam – “Once” from Ten (1991)
I feel there is a very strong case for Pearl Jam’s debut album “Ten” being the greatest debut album of all time due in part to the immense strength of its opening 6 tracks, all of which are amongst PJ’s all time strongest tracks. If I am honest “Once” is not my favourite PJ track and in fact probably would probably fall just outside my top 10 PJ tracks (but that is a fanboy list for another day) it is however still a fantastic track that demonstrates the amazing way in which PJ can transition between raw aggression and beautifully mellow and back again.

Velvet Revolver – “Sucker Train Blues” from Contraband (2004)
Slash’s second entry on the list, the dude just seems to have a knack for kicking off debut albums with a bang (“Ghost” the opening track from his first solo album is also fantastic). VR’s entire contraband album is immense and one of the few albums that even after several years I can still listen to in full without skipping tracks or cherry picking certain tracks for compilation playlists. Quite often when members of other big name bands form “supergroups” the resulting output is somewhat disappointing (I am looking at you Roadrunner United), however in this case Velvet Revolved smashed it out of the park by setting the bar high from the start with this energetic slice of dirty rock n roll.

King’s of Leon – “Red Morning Light” from Youth and Young Manhood (2003)
Anyone reading this who knows me personally has probably had to do a double take at seeing me putting a KoL track in one of my top 10 lists. I am not a KoL fan, in my opinion “Sex on Fire” is easily one of the most overplayed and overrated songs of all time. I feel they are a band that throughout their first 4 albums got steadily worse with each release until I just gave up on them. However that decline starts at a very high point with their debut album “Youth and Young Manhood” which starts with the brilliantly fun “Red Morning Light” which provides a wondefully manic piece of musicianship which provides such a stark contrast to the dirge they were releasing just 5 years later. A couple of months ago a colleague of mine asked me to play some Kings of Leon on the office sound system, I went for this album and, with them only being familiar with the newer material, from the opening track they refused to believe it was the same band they had seen on the BBC headlining Reading Festival.

Stone Sour – “Get Inside” from Stone Sour (2002)
I know I am in a minority when I say I prefer Stone Sour to Slipknot. To many hardcore fans Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor’s “other band” Stone Sour seem to be seen Slipknots poppier little brother sounding too mainstream to be considered “truly metal” (which is a ridiculous debate for another time). However Stone Sours origins actually go back further with demo material being recorded two years before the formation of Slipknot. Whilst Stone Sour took longer to get their debut album released I feel it was more than worth the wait. Get Inside allows Taylor to display a far greater range of his vocal talents in a single track that he generally gets the freedom to do with Slipknot. Most importantly this track establishes what Stone Sour all all about – not just a Slipknot side project but a damned good band in their own right who provide a more accessible listening experience (for better or worse) and a greater sense of fun that allows Taylor to put a bit more of his own charisma into the record.

The Rammones – “Blitzkrieg Bop” from Ramones (1976)
Is there a more iconic Rammones song? With 14 studio albums of varying quality to their name there really cannot be any other starting point with the Rammones than Blitzkrieg bop. Any music crowd you find yourself in if you shout “Hey Ho!” the reply will be “Lets Go!”. Not just one of the most iconic Rammones songs but one of the most important punk songs and one of the most recognisable songs of all time.

Motorhead – “Motorhead” from Motorhead (1977)
It takes a lot of balls to open your debut album with a track named after your band on a self titled album with lyrics that state “Motorhead, remember me now Motorhead, alright”. But this is fucking Lemmy we are talking about here. When a band introduces themselves to the stage like this could there have been any doubt they would become a staple of the world of rock music for the next four decades. Never has a flag been so firmly planted in the world of music.

They were Motorhead. They played rock n roll.

Other honourable mentions:
Led Zeppelin – “Good Times Bad Times”
Neck Deep – “Kick it”
The Offspring – “Jennifer Lost the War”
Machine Head – “Davidian”
Faith No More – “We Care A Lot”
Eureka Machines – “Scream Eureka”
The Wildhearts – “Greetings from Shitsville”
R.E.M – “Radio Free Europe”
Manic Street Preachers – “Slash n Burn”
Queen – “Keep Yourself Alive”
Cheap Trick – “Hot Love” – (Although technically their self titled debut album had both a “Side A” and a “Side 1” so it may be argued this is not a true opening track, however subsequent re-releases have established it as track 1)

My top 10 gigs of 2018

Last night I attended my final gig of 2018 and as such it’s time for me to look back at the gigs I have been to this year and come up with a top 10. The quantity and quality of gigs I have attended this year has made it possibly the toughest year to date to select a top 10 but after much thought this is what I have come up with…

10) Boss Caine – York, The Crescent
When I first moved to York I quickly became aware of Boss Caine who often appeared as the local support the touring acts that passed through the city. I quickly became a fan of his work but for a long time only ever managed to see him performing as a solo artist. This gig however was a launch party for his album “Loved By Trouble, Troubled By Love” finally allowed me to see him perform with a full band and it was an absolute revelation.

9) Hollywood Vampires – London, Wembley Arena
A gig I had no plans to attend until a few hours beforehand. I was initially sceptical about the whole premise of Hollywood Vampires as, in my experience, supergroups rarely live up to their billing and this supergroup on the surface seemed incredibly gimmicky. Alice Cooper, Joe Perry and Johnny Depp playing cover versions of songs by deceased musicians. My main reasoning behind purchasing this ticket was for the support bands of The Damned and The Darkness and I genuinely feared that the Hollywood Vampires set would feel like a cringey cash-in and I am happy to admit I was very wrong. I did actually write a full review of this gig in an earlier post on this blog so please refer to that for full details but needless to say I had a fantastic time at this gig.

8) Volbeat – Manchester, The Ritz
One of my absolute favourite bands of the last decade. Last year I had the fortune to get to see them playing in mainland Europe where they have a far bigger following and perform with a huge stage production in massive arenas. In the UK they have not quite hit that same level but what their shows here lack in spectacle they make up for by allowing you to get up close and personal with a band which has really found its stride as a live act. Couple that with the super bouncy dancefloor or the Manchester Ritz and you have one of the most fun experiences you can have at a metal show.

7) Machine Head – Manchester, Academy 1
Probably the most important metal band of my teenage years and the band that really triggered my love of live music. Ove the years I drifted away from the band having seeing a few of their shows that didn’t really grab me the way they used to until eventually I started skipping their tours altogether. I wasn’t expecting much more than a nostalgia trip from this gig, seeing them at the same venue I did all those years ago with the same friend looking to re-live our youth. What I got was an absolute masterpiece of a metal show featuring the biggest mosh pits I had seen in years. It was announced not long after this gig that the band would be going their separate ways and if that was to be the last time I see Machine Head it was one hell of a way to bow out.

6) Manic Street Preachers – London, Royal Festival Hall
A gig I had not originally planned to attend as it clashed with the second of Pearl Jam’s two London gigs. However, the postponement of that show along with the incredible good fortune of getting the final three tickets for the Manics performing as part of Robert Smith’s Meltdown Festival series of gigs at the Southbank Centre. The band were on fantastic form with newer tracks sitting in the setlist feeling like they were old classics.

5) Eureka Machines – Leeds, Brudenell Social Club
This was a tough one to pick. This was the third night of a three show mini-tour of which I attended all three nights. The first two nights had stronger support bands but the third and final night was a the Brudenell Social Club which, as any Eureka’s fan will tell you, holds a symbolic place for us and seeing them perform there is always a special experience.

4) Pearl Jam – London, O2 Arena
I am specifically referring to the first of PJs two summer gigs in London. Whilst Eddie was struggling with a throat infection it allowed the band to do what they do best, taking a 20,000 strong crowd and making it feel as intimate as any small club gig. PJ crowds are usually good value for a sing-along but Eddies vocal struggles really allowed that to shine through on this night.

3) Ginger Wildheart’s Birthday Bash – London, Highbury Garage
An annual tradition that has held a permanent place in my annual top 10 gigs list for the past 8 years and has taken the top spot on all but two of those years. This year had probably the strongest set list of any year with several of my favourite lesser played tracks getting an outing and of course the now semi-customary appearance of one Mr Frank Turner. Any other year this gig would have taken the top spot and it is only down the immense strength of this years line-up of gigs that it has slipped down the rankings

2) Reel Big Fish/Less Than Jake – Manchester, The Ritz
A twin headline tour featuring two bands who I would happily go and see in their own individual tours (and have done many times) along with two great support bands in Suburban Legends and Zebrahead. Pure Ska-punk fun on that bouncy Ritz dancefloor again.

1) The Idol Dead – Leeds
Sadly due to a clash of gigs I was only able to attend the second night of the Idol Dead’s weekend long “Idol Decade” 10th anniversary celebrations. The first night being an intimate acoustic gig and the second the full-blown electric Idol Dead experience. Santiago’s in Leeds was probably the smallest venue I found myself in all year and it made for the perfect setting for the glorious chaos that ensued. A gig in which the audience and the band blended perfectly. It was at this gig I was celebrating passing my dissertation which focused on the communities that are born from live music and this gig encapsulated everything that my dissertation had been inspired by. On the off chance anybody involved in booking live music ever reads this list, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD BOOK THE IDOL DEAD. They are one of the finest live acts around at the moment and deserve to be seen by as many people as possible.

Still alive

Just a quick update to say that despite lack of updates on here recently I am still alive and hope to be back writing again soon.

I completed my masters dissertation in September and have been enjoying some time off but I do have some pieces in the works.

2018 – The summer football DID come home

It hasn’t rained in weeks.

The government is collapsing

…and then it happened…

Football came home.

Yes, that’s right. It. Came. Home.

The original song by Badiel, Skinner & The Lightning Seeds never meant the World Cup was coming home. (Why would it? It was written for Euro 96). It referred to a nation regaining pride in a national team that had so often disappointed it and a tournament being hosted in the country that invented the modern game of football.

Whilst England may not have won the 2018 world cup we made it further than we ever expected. Only two England managers before Gareth Southgate had ever made an World Cup semi-final. More importantly when faith in the England national team was at an all time low the 2018 World Cup squad made us believe again. I get not everyone likes football and its easy to list a whole load of negatives about our national sport, from overpaid prima-donna players to hooliganism, football does not always have the best reputation. Whilst some fans haven’t helped the image of football by taking their celebrations too far on the whole watching England at this world cup has been a positive experience for a country very much in need uniting behind a source of communal pride right now. Anything that can have strangers singing and hugging in the street and make people proud of their country for reasons other than nationalistic bullshit cannot be all bad right? The trophy may not be coming back to England but our love of football and our national team is very much back. Football has come home.

Not to be “that guy” the stereotypical armchair fan who always knows exactly what his teams manager should do, but this summer we have watched a team of English players play with pride and professionalism for the first time in two decades. Key word – “Team”. I can only hope Southgate keeps this team together as long as possible. Our so called “golden generation” never once looked like a team, they were simply best XI English players that were available for any given tournament. Yes there were some world class players in that team but they always looked like eleven strangers for whom playing for their national team was not even the highlight of their career. This new England squad has shown more camaraderie over the past 6 games than the golden generation did in nearly a decade. Please Mr Southgate keep faith in them, all that matters is their England form and they should be picked on that basis, when the team starts getting filled with the Premier League flavours of the month the squad loses its consistency. Give this team four years more international experience and they could become a real force. Look at the German squad of 2010 for inspiration. They took a young inexperienced squad to the World Cup and made it to the semi finals. Four years later that squad with the same core of players became World Champions.

Unlike previous tournament exits, last nights result was not met with the usual anger towards the players and management but with respect and optimism. I was proud to find myself surrounded by people watching on the big screen at Spark: York applauding the players and singing “there’s only one Gareth Southgate”. The world cup might be over for this year but I am not ready for this good feeling around the national team to end just yet.

2018 – Football came home

2022 – The trophy came home?



An invitation to assist with my dissertation…

Hi all,

Seeing as yesterdays blog post about my one week vegan adventure seems to have gained me several new followers – if they guy reading the last post from Kenya is also reading this post then a particular “hello” to you! When I started writing this blog I expected it would only be seen by myself and a couple of my facebook friends, I never expected it to be read in Kenya! (maybe I should tag all my posts with “vegan” regardless of what they are about)

So I figured I would take advantage in this brief surge in attention with a bit of shameless self promotion. For those of you newcomers who haven’t read back on the previous posts (Sorry to disappoint you but this is not actually a veganism blog), I am currently working on a dissertation for a masters degree in Cultural Heritage Management. The title of the project is “Scenes of Heritage” and it focuses on the cultural and communal value of live music venues with a view to protecting them from the increased risk of closure that they currently face.

A key part of my study is an online survey of fans of live music so if any of my new found vegan friends also happen to love live music I would very much appreciate it if you would follow the link below and spare a few minutes of your day to answer a few questions about your relationship with live music and the places that host it.


At the time of writing this I am six people away from the minimum number of participants I was hoping to attract with three weeks to go before the survey closes so it would be great if you guys could tip it over the top.

Thanks for reading and particular thanks for those of you who take part in my survey.


One week as a vegan

Nearly six months ago I went vegetarian. I didn’t do it for health or ethical reasons. It started as an experiment to see if I could I could last a month meat free. The month completed I decided to just keep going with it, partly because it was saving me nearly £50 a month on my food shopping but mainly because I was really enjoying it. I wasn’t eating healthier or losing weight (my bread and cheese intake went through the roof!) but I was loving trying new dishes and revisiting ones I had previously disliked. This was helped by having recently moved house and having an awesome new kitchen that was a huge upgrade on my previous one making the cooking process much more enjoyable.

I have fallen off the wagon twice. Once when drunk at a late-night takeaway with limited options 10 mins before my train was due to leave and once when I defrosted what I thought was a veggie lasagne only to bite into it and discover it was beef one I had frozen before going veggie (having already had a mouthful and having nothing else prepared to eat that evening I figured I may as well finish it). I have also told myself that I won’t expect any special treatment as a vegetarian, I won’t expect anyone cooking for me to change their recipe plans (no asking for a different dinner when I go home for Christmas) or be “that guy” who insists on going to a place with a full range of veggie options when part of a group deciding where to eat but I will also no longer buy or prepare meat for myself.

Last week I decided to attempt 1 week as a vegan. I began by placing an online shopping order with Tesco. I immediately noticed that the savings I had made by going vegetarian were wiped out by buying vegan speciality items (although the Wicked Kitchen vegan sourdough pizza is absolutely worth it!). Upon arrival I found several of the new items I had ordered had been replaced – particularly the frozen items. It seemed the go to “vegan replacement item” for Tesco online is Birdseye vegetable fingers of which I now have 4 boxes in my freezer as they were used to replace most of the unavailable things I ordered. Despite this setback I found the meals I was preparing were genuinely enjoyable and surprisingly filling. The fact we have been in the middle of a heatwave which usually puts me more in the mood for lighter more refreshing meals has probably helped too. Even items like soy milk and vegan cheese, whilst not as nice as their dairy counterparts were not that bad. One of the main benefits I noticed was how quick and easy to prepare vegan meals were. With raw fruit and veg needling little preparation making up a much larger portion of my diet I found myself with far more free time each evening, something I greatly appreciated whilst working full time and attempting to complete a 20,000-word dissertation.

As the week progressed things became a bit more challenging. It’s easy enough to plan meals from your own kitchen around a vegan diet but grabbing lunch or a snack on the go or just going for drinks with friends can be a bit more challenging, particularly when you are new to veganism. I found myself constantly reading the back of packets to check the ingredients list. Often with spectacularly vague results that offered no clue to whether the item in question was vegan friendly or not. I was regularly frustrated by the absolute lack of vegan lunch options available from major retailers like Tesco and Sainsburys. Even ordering a beer often required a quick “is <beer name> vegan” google search. Luckily, I was already a total beer hipster and as it turned out most of the beers I usually drink happened to be free of weird animal-based preservative and colourings. At one point a colleague offered me some Skittles which I accepted and ate before even considering that they might contain gelatin. Luckily a quick google of “are skittles vegan?” suggested I hadn’t fallen off the wagon.

Finally, tonight being the final night of the experiment I decided to treat myself to a takeaway. Since going vegetarian my go-to takeaway option has been mushroom pizza. Upon logging onto both Pizza Hut and Dominos websites I found that neither offer vegan cheese as a delivery option – Pizza Hut does actually stock vegan cheese, but it is only available as an eat-in option at their restaurants. I took a quick browse on the local restaurants available on Deliveroo – York has some great places to eat but not that many which deliver and even fewer with many attractive vegan options unless you are in the mood for a vegetable curry. Step forward Zizzi who it turns out provide an excellent range of vegan pizzas and were able to deliver a top-notch vegan zucca pizza. Although ordering through Deliveroo rather than them having their own dedicated delivery website like the pizza chains meant the degree which you can customise your pizza is limited (I am still not fully convinced butternut squash belongs on a pizza).

Whilst one week isn’t really long enough to truly judge any impact on my health my initial impressions are very positive. I have found I am sleeping much better and as such am feeling much less lethargic and clearer headed. My mood is mostly improved, and stress is decreased, this at least in part likely down to spending less time preparing meals giving me more time to go outside and enjoy this great weather we have been having.

Overall, I would say that going vegan has been a positive experience for me but not something I can see as a sustainable long-term lifestyle choice. I will continue with my vegetarianism and am considering either having a vegan week once a month or remaining vegan at home whilst allowing myself more flexibility when dining out or on the go – i.e. no more googling whether a new beer I want to sample is vegan friendly and just ordering the damned thing.