How to Choose Better Sheet Maps (Maps Part 2)

Something nobody ever talks about is buying a map. For city-hoppers, who fly from Phnom Penh to Beijing via Ho Chi Min and Tokyo, there’s probably little need for the various types of maps I’m going to talk about. If you’re driving from A to B, however, you need a map so you don’t end up at the wrong sea.

The two types of maps you need:
1. A big road atlas.
2. Smaller destination maps – this might be an A-Z city map book or a few Ordnance Survey sheets for the wilderness.

This article is going to talk about how to choose a smaller destination maps. In case you missed it, I discussed how to choose the big road atlas last Travel Tuesday.

The humble sheet map is more often overlooked except by people who want to do some walking out of their car. In the UK, we have Harvey’s and Ordnance Survey maps, and (with the exception of OS’s 2007-onwards touring maps) they’re so good, that you would be forgiven for expecting them to cover the whole world. It’s a bit of a shock to the system to discover that our gleaming institution of the OS map is actually only a thing in the UK. Beyond, you’re at the mercy of whatever lame-ass cartographic monstrosity they’ve scribbled on a napkin to sell to tourists.

So what do you do? Where can you go to for excellent, accurate mapping information that comes in a variety of scales with familiar symbols? While Google Maps is clearly the Gold Standard in worldwide mapping, since it uses the actual satellite images to map features that are really where they say they are, the big drawback is you need an internet connection and some sort of charge to use them (unless you want to spend hours printing them out at a multitude of scales).

What’s this scale nonsense, anyway?
Basically, it’s a ratio of how much a geographical area has been scaled down to fit on a page. For example, 1:1 would mean the map would be exactly the same size as the area it covered. 1:4 would mean it was a quarter of the size of the area it covered. The best scale you can get on Ordnance Survey maps is 1:25,000 (you can see every individual house on the map at this scale) but their 1:50,000 is usually good enough for most things unless you’re really bad at reading a map. Road maps are usually between 1:200,000 and 1:500,000. Anything above 1:800,000 is not very useful in areas of dense population, e.g. western Europe, but would probably be fine in places like Kazakhstan, Russia or Sudan where there’s not a lot of stuff to fit on a page. Anything above 1:3,000,000 is useless even for Russia. At bigger scales, the width of the road is not done to scale because otherwise it would be a tiny thin line that you wouldn’t be able to see, so they make the roads wider than they should be. This confuses a lot of people but if they didn’t do it, most maps would be unreadable.

Why does scale matter?
Surely if you buy the biggest scale available, you’ll be able to cover more countries on less paper? Yes, but the problem is, as cartographers increase the scale, they reduce the amount of visible detail. First thing you’ll notice is some minor roads not appearing where they should. Then some villages will vanish. Then eventually there will just be the main roads and big cities… you get the picture. Likewise, if the scale is too small, you will quickly fill your car with paper maps, cost yourself a fortune and spend hours looking for the right page or sheet. That’s clearly no good either. Where does the balance lie between these two extremes? Only you can answer that.

Here’s a list of brands and countries that produce printed paper maps, along with the individual scales by continent and country, for those places that are hard to find maps for (and some that aren’t) If you use the “find on page function” from your internet browser menu (top right in Chrome), you can find all of the maps for any given country in this list:

Carte De Randonnees (Institut Geographique National): Sheet maps for France (choice of scales: 1:25,000 or 1:50,000) including places of interest etc. Not quite the same level of detail as OS maps and I didn’t see any contours but I might have been looking at a sheet map that covered a flat area. They retail for between £8 and £13 and you can get them in the UK in Go Outdoors, although they are 100% in French so they might be of no use to you if you’re no good at grasping foreign languages (I’m extremely lucky that I have the ability to learn many languages but I know that a lot of people struggle with this, and I can see those people having major issues with these maps).

maps2

Cartographia: Africa: Libya (scale 1:2,000,000), Egypt (1:1,000,000),
Europe: Moscow (in Russia) (1:50,000),

Comfort! Map: Europe: Ukraine (scale 1:1,350,000),

Editorial Alpina Mapa Guia Excursionista Map & Hiking Guide: Sheet maps of Spain and Andorra (scale 1:25,000). I couldn’t open them at Go Outdoors (these maps are wrapped in cellophane) to see whether they were in English but there was a Union Flag on the front next to the Spanish and Andorran flags, which strongly implies there were English words inside.

spanish maps3

Freytag and Berndt: Africa: Egypt (scale 1:800,000),
Europe: Romania and Moldova (scale 1:500,000), Ukraine and Moldova (scale 1:1,000,000 so get the Romania one if you’re specifically going to Moldova), Russia (scale 1:8,000,000 and 1:2,000,000 on same map)

Gizi Map: Asis: Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan all in one map (scale 1: 3,000,000).

Hema: New Zealand North Island (scale unknown but it’s good) and New Zealand South Island (again, scale unknown but it’s got great detail and both have city plans).

International Travel Maps: Europe: Ukraine (scale 1:1,000,000), Russia (scale 1:6,000,000), The Russian Kamchatka Peninsula (scale 1:800,000 and 1:1,200,000 on same map), St Petersburg (in Russia) (1:14,000), Kazakhstan (scale 1:2,300,000), Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan on same map (scale 1:3,000,000 and 1: 1,580,000),

Michelin: Africa. Relatively few options exist for Africa, even Morocco, so the Michelin maps aren’t the best scale or detail, but they’re cheapest option weighing in at £5.99 on Amazon. The Michelin maps cover: Morocco (scale 1:1,000,000), Tunisia (scale 1:800,000)
Asia: Turkey (scale 1:1,000,000), Thailand (1:1,370,000)
Europe: Romania (scale 1:750,000),
North America: Eastern US and Eastern Canada (one map) (1:2,400,000),

Nelles Maps: Africa: Tunisia (scale 1:750,000), Egypt (scale 1:750,000 and 1:2,500,000 – both stated on same map),

Marco Polo: Often a better scale than Michelin, particularly for larger countries. Africa: Tunisia (scale 1:800,000), Morocco (scale 1:800,000), Egypt (1:1,000,000),
Asia: Turkey (1: 800,000),
Europe: Romania (1: 800,000), Russia-Ukraine-Belarus (3 in 1) (1:2,000,000 and 1:10,000,000 – both on same map), St Petersburg (in Russia) (1:15,000),
Asia: China (1:4,000,000), Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia (all in one) (1:2,000,000),
Oceania: New Zealand (1:2,000,000),

National Geographic Adventure Map: Morocco/Western Sahara, Egypt, Turkey (scale unknown),

Rand McNally; Road Map of US, Canada and Mexico (one map book) (scale undisclosed but according to Amazon reviewers it’s small).

Reise: Africa: Jordan (1,400,000),
Europe: Russia (Lake Baikal to Vladivostock – the far east third of Russia) (1:2,000,000),
Asia: Kazakhstan (1:2,000,000)

WorldMap: Egypt (1:1,000,000),

Insight Flexi Map: Egypt (1:930,000), Moscow (in Russia) (1:130,000),
Asia: Thailand (1, 1,400,000),
N. America: Canada (1:4,000,000),
Oceania: New Zealand (1:800,000)

Problem countries:
Morocco: For no good reason, nobody seems to produce a map worth a damn for Morocco. For the size of the country, the scales on offer are ridiculous.

Russia: It’s a really big country. Huge, in fact. So it won’t all fit on one sheet or in one map book. There are sections for sale from Reise but if you’re crossing all of Russia you’ll need quite a few sheets. Maps of St Petersburg and Moscow seem plentiful and scales look good for these, however.

Conclusion:
As you can see, once you get past France and Spain, it appears that there’s nothing that comes close to good old Ordnance Survey or Harvey, which makes me realise how lucky we are in the UK to have two fantastic printed mapping resources as well as Google Maps. It’s very unfortunate that GPS has taken off so well that cartographers don’t produce as many printed maps any more, so if you lose your way in an area that doesn’t get a GPS signal, like Siberia, then you’re going to struggle to get un-lost. My personal recommendation? Get a decent GPS device with world maps pre-loaded at a good scale, and always have paper maps as a back up, because none of these maps will help you while you’re crossing the Carpathian Alps or the Atlas Mountains, or kayaking the River Vltva. Being on a serious budget myself, I will probably not take my own advice any time soon, and am going with the best scale available for both Morocco and Romania when I overland there.

Do you know of any good sheet maps for other countries that I could add to this article? Let me know in the comments! I’ll reply/approve (if needed) when I get back from the Highlands of Scotland on Friday/Saturday.

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Meat Free Monday: Pasta Scossese

I am away in the Scottish Highlands until Friday evening. I will not be able to reply to or approve comments until I get back. My posts are all pre-set to go live Mon-Wed, I will not be posting Thursday/Friday this week.

As it’s fitting with where I am when you’ll be reading this, I’ve decided today’s food will be Pasta Scossese (that’s Italian for Scottish Pasta). It’s another easy vegan pasta dish. Make it gluten free by substituting GF Pasta or broccoli for regular pasta.

OBT means Optional But Tasty.

Pasta Scossese:
Ingredients:
1 cup per person: Your favourite pasta (depending on density), gluten free or otherwise,
1 cup per person: Curly kale (scotch kale in the US),
1/2 cup per person: Tinned carrots (or 1 chopped fresh carrot per person, but will need boiling for longer to soften),
2 medium sprigs (those little mini-trees) of broccoli per person.
An onion,
Half a cup of Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) mince, or other vegan mince of your choice,
1 carton of tomato passata,
1 tbsp of your cooking oil of choice (I prefer coconut oil),
OBT: A small sprig of rosemary and a larger sprig of thyme (or a little sprinkle of each dried herb), a sprinkle of basil, and a generous dash of garlic and oregano.

This meal is 2-3 of your 5 a day (depending on portion size), and serves 2.

Method:
1. Put the TVP/vegan mince into a bowl and add a little water and Vegemite (yeast extract), mix in and leave for 5-10 minutes to absorb the liquid.
2. Cook the pasta for 10-13 minutes and drain. Put it aside. While the pasta is cooking, boil the carrots, broccoli and kale until tender. The broccoli needs longest so could also be cooked with the pasta if you prefer.
3. Chop the onion in half, then chop it into thin strips, then cut each thin strip into 3 to make little rectangles.
4. Using the same pan or a fresh one, heat the oil and add the onion.
5. When the onion is sizzling, drain your broccoli (if it’s been cooked with the other vegetables), carrots and kale, and add them to the onion.
6. Pour the tomato passata over the vegetables in the pan and add the optional herbs if you wish. Stir it all together well, to ensure no onions are stuck to the bottom of the pan, then simmer on a low heat for 4-6 minutes.
7. Mix in the pasta (and broccoli, if it was cooked with the pasta), until everything is evenly distributed throughout the pan, then serve in a bowl.

Should you get a bunny for Easter?

So there’s obviously a lot of topical debate at the moment about whether anyone should get a rabbit at all over Easter. I wrote a cautionary tale about impulse buying a rabbit and believing that a child has the maturity to care for one over a long period of time. I’ve also written about getting a rabbit and of things you need to know about bunnies before you get one. I’ve also written a long catalogue of posts on rabbit care which you can find here. My main reason for writing this article is because some people might get a rabbit at Easter and be the best bunny parents ever.  They are not the majority. There is a huge increase in rabbit sales at Easter and pet shops generally don’t give a damn who buys their animals (except my local Pets at Home store, whose staff are actually amazing and I’ve seen them refuse sales a few times due to ethics), so it’s down to you as a responsible human being to be sure you’re not just getting caught up in the moment, and that you’re going to love your bunny and meet their needs forever.  If you’re even reading this, statistics show you’re probably a responsible bunny parent because you’re doing your research.

BUNNY is for LIFE not just for EASTER

Here are some things you need to really think about before you get a live rabbit, and the preparations you need to make:

1. They look so cute, but have you held one?
Have you any past experiences and have you ever actually met and handled a rabbit? Any reputable pet shop will let you handle a bunny and take your time over choosing the right one.  Would you be better getting a cuddly toy or a bunny calendar?

2. My child wants one, but can she look after it?
For some reason, parents often believe that their child is different, and that their child will have the sustained interest in a living being to be able to care for it. They can’t. That’s why we don’t let kids babysit each other, and why people get all concerned about underage pregnancy. All living things have the same set of needs to be met, and children are still learning how to meet their own needs independently, let alone another animal. Any pets brought into the house MUST be brought under the understanding that they are a FAMILY pet, and therefore that it is EVERYBODY’s responsibility to look after them. If you know your 6 year old forgot to feed Nibbles, or that Nibbles isn’t getting enough outdoor playtime, it’s your job as your 6 year old’s parent to pick up the slack.

Think about it from a management point of view. If you’re a supervisor and one of your employees doesn’t do the job right, you don’t leave the job undone, you either get someone else to pick up the slack or you do it yourself, making sure that the employee knows this wasn’t cool. If they consistently fail to do the job, you give their job to someone else on a permanent basis either in-house or elsewhere. For example, if your 6 year old isn’t doing the job, give it to someone else in the house, or do it yourself. You can’t let the job suffer because the employee isn’t doing it right. As a parent, you are a manager of your own house.

3. Before you get a rabbit, plan for about a week. Choose what sort of hutch they’ll have, and make sure it’s arrived before you bring Nibbles home. Bunnyproof your house, even if they’re outdoor bunnies, you need to nominate one room of the house to be a care room for if they have to recover from any vet care. Nominate a cupboard to store hay, dry food, water bottles, bowls, sawdust and newspaper and spare litter trays and toys. Buy all that stuff and check it fits, then choose another place for all the overflow that doesn’t fit! Make sure you know what food to get and why. Rabbits need lots of hay to eat, and a bit of nuggets every day.

4. Make an outdoor play space for your bunny so they can get their daily amount of natural daylight and fresh grass. If you don’t have anywhere, you’ll need a rabbit leash and to commit to taking Nibbles to the park each day (and you will need to protect him from dogs). Otherwise, a rabbit pen is a good choice for the garden, but cover the top so Nibbles doesn’t get eaten by Felix down-the-street when he comes over the fence on his daily walk.

5. Do you have enough money for a vet bill? What will you do if, a week after you bring Nibbles home, he breaks his leg or back? What if the neighbour’s cat attacks him and he needs $400 of reconstructive surgery? Will you be able to afford vet care? Consider a pet insurance plan (although read the fine print, I haven’t seen one that actually covers all of my rabbits due to age, and what they do cover is stuff I can pay myself without blinking, so I just pay all vet bills upfront for my 5 bunnies). Consider putting £10 (or $10) aside each week as an emergency fund for your rabbits. Don’t rely on charitable organizations like the PDSA, they’re not there to be taken advantage of, they’re there for genuine emergencies for low income animals, not for you to irresponsibly take on a pet you can’t afford to care for.  You will need vaccinations every year and each rabbit will need neutering.

6. Invest in a pet vacuum.
You might also need Cage and Hutch Flea Spray cleaning products, grooming brushes, and a dustpan and brush. I recommend getting some carpet cleaner if you’re going to have houserabbits for when you’re litter training. You’ll also need an open litter tray (or three) and to find out about litter training.

7. Now you’re ready for a rabbit. Go and get one or possibly two (but beware- when hormones kick in at 4-6 months, they may not be as snuggly, even after they’re neutered, so I recommend getting one then introducing them until they find a good companion, to avoid ending up with loads of single lonely angry bunnies) get them from an adoption centre by first preference, and remember that this is the start of a beautiful friendship, that can span two decades if you look after them well and are lucky.

8. If you do need to give up your rabbit for whatever reason, here’s your options, and what not to do. Don’t abuse a rabbit when you could have found them a new forever home instead.

And remember, folks, a rabbit is for life – their life – not just for Easter. Happy rabbiting.*

*Rabbiting: the act of looking for a rabbit.  Let’s re-define what happens to them afterwards through our own actions!

Hair: What do I use between the silver shampoos?

What do I use between the silver?

To maintain my silver hair, I have to take good care of it by making sure it stays nourished and conditioned.  This article is about how I do that.

silver hair care

I’ve got a range of products that I use, some expensive, some cheap, for the “rest days” when I am not using a silver shampoo to avoid build-up and maintain healthy hair:

Claudia Schiffer Omega Complex: It’s drugstore available, the shampoo has got sulphates and yet somehow, this Omega Repair Mask makes my hair feel softer, smoother and fresher than anything else. It goes against modern hair advice, due to being less than $10 a bottle and the shampoo being all sulphatey, but maybe my hair needs that sometimes. This is my most frequently used pair of non-silver products.

Pure:Ology Shampoo: I was put onto this by this Grazia article I read, where 3 fashion editors explained how they cared for their long blonde hair. It was really informative and full of product recommendations, although not all of the products are as readily available as of 2015 as I would like. The shampoo is gentle, and smells nice and doesn’t leave deposits or take weeks to wash out.

Article here

Gliss Liquid Silk Conditioner: Another cheapo fave, this one is something I’ve been occasionally using since 2005, when my older cousin told me about it when I was in high school. It leaves my hair soft, shiny, moisturised and each strand really sparkles almost like I’ve used one of those shine sprays on it. It’s called Gliss Kur in the US.

Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Reconstructor: Does what it says on the bottle. Bung it on your hair, leave for a few minutes, and your hair will be softer than a Sheila’s jumper. This stuff really makes my hair look and feel great, I use it once a week and it vastly improves my detangling as well.

Moroccan Oil Shampoo: I was using this for a very long time (the Moroccan Oil brand), it actually used to be my favourite before I transitioned to extra-super light blonde. Now I can’t use it, which is a shame because I generally found that when I used this, I needed no conditioner. Like, literally, I had the whole set, but the shampoo would always run out three times before I’d need another conditioner, which I only put on my ends. If you’re a warmer blonde, or any other hair colour apart from platinum, silver or white, this stuff is the best shampoo you can get. Sadly, it orangeifies your hair as it’s infused with argan oil and through experience (over time it actually made my hair 2 shades darker!) it’s just not compatible for me if I want to have icy light hair. Also it’s like serious cash per bottle.

So that’s a run through of the products I use to wash my hair between silver shampoo sessions. There’s also the stuff like coconut oil that I use between washes, but the other stuff I use between washes is highly variable and I don’t feel like I’ve got a regular, dependable and results-focussed set of products going on in that category yet, so it’d basically just be an article on coconut oil, only I don’t use it as often as I might, so it’d be a really short article on coconut oil. My main point, however, is you don’t need to spend serious cash to maintain your silver hair, if you choose your products wisely.

The Easter Bunny

Trigger Warning: This story may trigger feelings that you need to help animals in some way, shape or form.

katie eating 1
This is what part of a rabbit’s ideal environment looks like.  RIP Katie bunny.  Katie was dumped in a box outside my vets and I adopted her.  She would still be alive today if someone hadn’t mistreated her when she was young.

My earliest memories are of my mother, my brothers and sisters. We had shared a womb. So comfortable and soft, I felt perfectly safe and happy with them. Sometimes we would push each other out of the way to get milk, but we loved each other really.

After a few weeks, tiny, scared and helpless, we were all lifted up and put into a metal box. It hurt our paws. We looked to our mother to protect us, but she just stayed where she always did, unresisting, submissive, she had seen this all before.

We were put into a lorry.  A yawning metal monster.  There was darkness, and noises. Terrifying noises. Squawks, squeaks, squeals. As we stayed in the lorry, I realised they weren’t predators, they were the sounds of frightened animals. More creatures, taken away from their home too soon, left in this dark place which lurched and tipped sideways, leaving us struggling to balance. One of my brothers hurt his foot in that dark place, when the lurching stopped abruptly, and the monster we were inside let off an ear rending honk for what seemed like ages. My brother lost his balance and got his foot trapped in the bars in front of us. He struggled, and got free, but his foot looked very swollen and painful.

At long last we stopped. Light came in as the back came off. We were moved out of the lorry. They picked me up and turned me upside down, I thought my spine might break then I felt sleepy, but I was so afraid that I tried to fight it. They told me I was a girl and put me in a new box. When they came to my brother with the hurt foot, they poked at his foot and called him damaged goods, unsellable stock, and they held him high in the air. They let go. Later they told this important looking inspector that they had dropped him while he was wriggling. It was classed as an understandable accident. My brother, dead on the concrete floor.

My brothers and sisters knew what had happened, and were all very scared. They were treated as I had been, and either put in the same box as me, or put in a separate box. Then we were all put out in a bright place with lots of tidy shelves. We didn’t go on the shelves though. We were left in a small enclosure with glass windows. There was no roof. The lights were bright but it was warm and there was lots of golden sawdust on the floor, some toys for us to play with, a food bowl and a weird metal tube. We huddled together for hours, all the girls, and in the next pen, I could see that the boys did the same. We didn’t know where we were, what was going to happen to us. When someone opened the front we all stomped and cowered even further away from the glass windows. They poured some brown stuff into our bowl. Put some yellow stuff down on the sawdust. Closed the front again and left us.

One of my sisters sniffed the yellow stuff. She indicated that it was supposed to be grass, by chewing it. The rest of us were very surprised. Surely there was some mistake. Grass was green. We had seen it. The light was strange here, too. We were all very hungry, so gradually we unhuddled to try this yellow grass. It was dry and flavourless. We ate it anyway. Soon we were very thirsty, so we drank from the metal tube. It was much bigger than the one we’d had before, and we all struggled to drink from it, but there was no choice.

Later, different people came in. Small people who shouted and banged on the glass a lot, they were terrifying. One of my sisters got picked up by one. The small person hit her because she tried to struggle away from the uncomfortable grip. The person who fed us was not looking. My sister was taken away in a cardboard box by that small person. She was terrified. We never saw her again.

There were also tall people, who towered down over the open top of our enclosure. We were afraid that they might eat us. Sometimes there were dogs, walking on their leads. They paralysed us with terror, especially when they tried to get at us and started barking. We were trapped. If they jumped in here, we would all be dead. We felt so vulnerable.

Dark time was worst. It was cold, and we all jumped at every noise, terrified of the murky shadows we could see beyond our enclosure. Above us, some rodents would dig and chew and run on their wheel at night. We found ourselves relieved in the morning when the light came back.

That second day, someone took me and my sister away in a box. We were scared, and we stayed close to each other for safety. We didn’t really see where we went, although we were bumped and tilted a lot so we guessed it was like that terrifying lorry monster again. We wondered if we had been bad, if this was our punishment. Maybe we hadn’t groomed each other enough. Or eaten too much food.

The top of the box was opened at long last. We were face to face with a face. It was bigger than either of us. An enormous hand reached in and picked up my sister, then, empty, it came back for me. I fought it with my feet to try and escape, but it squeezed me so hard that I couldn’t breathe. It put me down in a small wooden box. There was a very low ceiling, and the back of it was also made of wood. They closed the front – a wire mesh door – and clipped a small water bottle to the front. There was food and hay and sawdust, but there were no toys or other bunnies. Just me and my sister. We chewed at the wooden walls. Then we went to sleep. We waited for something interesting to happen.

Two days later, someone came out to see us. It was a small person, but not as small as some of the other ones we had seen. We were squealed about. Then the mesh door was opened, and a hand reached in. It pulled me out and ensconced me in a squash. There was a second hand, which stroked my back. I liked that. I wiggled my nose and clicked my teeth together and enjoyed the attention, even though I disliked being picked up. Then I was put back in the hutch and it was my sister’s turn. She was stroked then returned to the hutch.

The mesh door was closed again. Was that it? We were bored. Really bored. We had nothing to do. We groomed each other until our coats shone. We slept until we were the most beautiful bunnies. We scratched at the floor and chewed at the wood. We were still really bored. We both wanted to explore, to forage, to run really fast, to chase each other, to flop on the solid ground and all we could do was chew our hutch.

The one who had stroked us… she was coming back, wasn’t she? She seemed happy about us. She did come back out that evening, and gave us lots of the yellow hay and lots of the brown food and stroked our backs a little bit. We were still a little wary but she seemed not to want to harm us.

A week later, she let us out in the garden. At first we were afraid that we were not allowed out. We had been in that tiny box for a week. We grew bold. We ran around chewing green grass and playing chase with each other. After a while, she caught us both and stroked us and put us in our box again. That had killed half an hour. It was over too soon. We were bored again. We chewed our hutch some more.

Every day, she came to feed us. Then one day, she didn’t come. We were so hungry that we chewed our hutch extra to ease our aching tummies. The next day, she didn’t feed us extra, just the normal amount. We didn’t know what had happened. A few days later, it happened again. We started to realise that we couldn’t depend on this small person at all. We were hungry. Then our bottle went bad, and all the water tasted funny and made our poo sloppy.  The tummy ache started to become constant.  And all the time, nobody cleaned out our hutch. We tried to keep each other clean but we were fighting a losing battle because only our sleeping corner was clean.  My eyes watered and I sneezed and wheezed a lot.

After long weeks, the man who brought us here came out. He let us run around the garden. We were so happy we ran and played and nibbled plants. He seemed to be emptying our box. Then he saw where we had chewed it. He hit us both and told us we were bad rabbits, but we didn’t know what we had done. Had we eaten the wrong plants? Should we have stayed in the hutch when he opened the door? He didn’t seem to be making an effort to catch us or put us away. We were both confused. We decided to put it out of mind and we went off around the garden again playing. Slightly more afraid now of this tall person. Then he filled our box with new sawdust and hay and food, and put our bottle back on the front, and herded us back into the box. We were bored again. We slept and chewed our hutch some more.

From that day, the tall person brought us food. He never stroked us or spoke to us like the girl had. He just threw the food in, closed the door and left. We didn’t really understand, but we had each other and that was the main thing.

As we got older, we started having little arguments. Sometimes she would scratch my ears and sometimes I would bite her nose. We were getting quite large, now, and it was a struggle to fit us both in our sleeping place. We certainly couldn’t stretch out like we used to. Our backs ached from always being hunched over. We dreamed of running around the beautiful garden that we could see, but instead we were stuck in a wooden box that was too small for us.

Weeks turned into months. That first winter was the most awful. The cold made us both cry and flatten our ears against our backs, but we had to sit out in the cold next to the bare wire mesh door, because our sleeping room was too small and we could barely sleep in there, let alone hang out. We craved more food, but every day the tall man just threw the same amount in. The rain came in and made our home damp. My sister got a wheeze. The man didn’t notice. Eventually, she was struggling so much to breathe that she died. I tried to raise the alarm but nobody came. I stomped my foot for hours, but nobody came. The man threw food in, and didn’t notice. It was a week later, when maggots were eating my sister’s body, that he finally investigated the smell, and saw that she was dead. He pulled her out and tossed her in a tall thin plastic box full of black plastic bags. I don’t think he was sad. I was the only person who mourned her. All the hopes we’d had, all the things we had wanted to do – to chew, to climb, to snuggle, to run as far as we could. She hadn’t even finished growing – as I found out when the box I lived in got even smaller.

Now, I was sad and lonely. I didn’t eat my food. I didn’t drink anything. I didn’t even chew my hutch any more. I just sat there and did nothing. I stared out at the garden I would never get to play in, wishing I could have my sister back. I keened for her loss. And I was so cold, now that she wasn’t here. I missed her profoundly. Nobody noticed or cared, until the man who brought the food saw that my bowl was overflowing. He tried to put the food in my face but I wouldn’t eat it. He put me in a smaller cardboard box and I hoped we were going back to see the rest of my brothers and sisters. That would have made me feel better – just to know there were other bunnies in the world who loved me.

Instead, we went to a place that smelled of fear, death and, predominantly, dog. There were dogs everywhere. Barking, whining, walking, wagging their tails. I cowered in my box and stomped my foot so they would know I was really large and not to mess with me. The man took me into a room and pulled me out of the box. Another man looked at me, held me, turned me this way and that. They made people-noises, the new man seemed irritated, then he put me back in the box.  He said a lot of things to the man who had thrown food in my wooden box.  The food man left me there and I never saw him again. Apparently if I wouldn’t eat his food he didn’t want to know. The other man put me in a new cage near some cats and dogs. I was terrified of the smell, but they didn’t seem to notice me, maybe they were asleep. The man, who I discovered was called a vet, brought me green plants and gently stroked me.  Nobody had stroked me for months. I was so excited that I wanted to nibble the green plants, but the dog smell stopped me. What if this was a trap to find out if I ate plants? Dogs ate things that ate plants. I decided it wasn’t worth the risk. I went to sleep.  Hours later, I was awakened to find that I was moving again.

I stopped moving at another brightly lit big place. I could smell rabbits, as well as cats and dogs. I nibbled my green leafy plants. Over the next few weeks, I went back to the scary dog place, where they made me go to sleep and when I awoke I felt so ill that I thought I must be dying. I sat in a corner of my new cage for days, feeling sorry for myself. It hurt so much and I felt like something had been taken from inside me – like I’d been violated somehow. Then after I got over that, my life changed forever.

Another bunny came to see me. He seemed as surprised as I was about being in the middle of an unfamiliar room, with an unfamiliar bunny. I said hello with my nose. He didn’t bite it. That was a good start. We sat staring at one another for long minutes, until he came towards me. I was afraid so I ran away. Round and round we ran, until he stopped chasing me, and I cautiously hopped towards him. I sniffed his face. Then I sat down next to him. He seemed okay. We stayed like that for a long time, until one of the tall people here put us both in my cage. It was much bigger than my old box in that garden. I spent a lot of time sat next to my new friend, even though there was so much to do. Early in the morning we would run around in huge fast circles. Later on, we would chew some cardboard and make nice shapes out of it. Then we would eat together, then we would wash ourselves and snuggle up.  I wished my new friend could have met my sister; I know they would have been friends.

One day, someone new came, and they picked me up. Then they picked up my new friend. I was suddenly very afraid that we were going to be separated, and I didn’t think I could bear it. I licked my friend’s head as soon as he was back on the ground and he stomped to show them that his place was with me. Whatever we did must have worked, because a few days later, the same someone came back with a plastic box with some hay in it, and we were both encouraged into the box, then we were taken on another journey. At the other end, the box was opened, and the landscape was the strangest I’d ever seen.

The floor was squishy but slightly coarse and beige. The light came from a big square on the wall, a bit like the door on my box where I used to live, but there was no fresh air coming from this square. There was a huge thing that had lots of platforms and ramps, and a little white picket fence in front of it. On the floor, just inside the picket fence, there was a food bowl and a water bowl. They had pictures of orange triangular things on them. There was also a green leafy thing on the floor that looked like some sort of vegetable. In a basket made of thick hay, there was lots of green stuff that looked like it actually used to be a plant! I was quite afraid that we weren’t supposed to have come out of the box, this was all so big and open. Would we get hit for escaping? I was very hesitant, but my new friend was braver. He hopped right on out towards the food bowl and rubbed his chin over it. I wasn’t having that, so I copied him, so he would know it was MY food as well. The people were watching us and making their strange people noises. I was still scared, so I ran for the smallest place I could see, and hid there. Eventually, the people went away but I stayed hidden in case it was a trap. My bunny friend seemed to be less scared than I was. The distance between me and the walls and the ceiling was making me feel queasy. It was the biggest box I’d ever been left in. Was it really all for me and my friend? After a few hours, the people came back in. I knew it! I stayed in my hiding place. They left again. They had brought us some more vegetables. I wondered if they would get angry and send us away if we didn’t eat them. I stretched my nose out and sniffed. The food seemed so far away. I stretched some more. Then my back legs had to follow and they sprung back to the rest of me. My back was sore from stretching out. I tentatively nibbled some of the green stuff. I don’t quite know what happened because I swear I only tasted it, but it was gone really quickly. I think it ate itself. It was very tasty. I hoped there would be more.

Running round was so much more fun with a huge space to run in, and I really liked climbing, too, once I got the hang of it. After a few days, I became quite confident and I started to climb on everything. I found a really good vantage point at the top where I was the tallest bunny ever, and I laid out there, relaxed, with a great view of any intruders. My bunny friend joined me, and it became our main hangout.

What I liked best about our new home was that the people who brought us food would also come and sit with us. If we were lying down, they would gently stroke us both, and we would click our teeth appreciatively. I wished my sister had lived to see such happiness. The other thing they did, was they talked to us in their odd people noises. They had a sound for everything! We learned that we had names, and we learned that we felt very happy when we were told, “good bunny” because it was always accompanied by a stroke or a treat. We also learned to feel very sorry for ourselves when we were told “bad rabbit” because the sound was barking, like a dog, and there were no strokes or treats for bad rabbits.

Years came and went. I enjoyed every new day and the possibilities it brought. I loved the new and thoughtful toys that my people brought me, and I really felt like they were a part of our herd, even though they didn’t sleep with us. Sometimes, we saw the rest of their burrow, and it was huge. Everyone had their own separate nest space and there was a communal one down lots of small platforms, one after the other, that I learned to run up and down really quickly for fun. Near the communal nest space was the food place. It was full of food. Sometimes the smell upset me because it reminded me of the smell of my sister when she was dead. Usually, though, the smell was exciting and made me look forward to my own food time – even if I never had the same food as them. Well, unless I hopped up and ran off with a leaf or a slice of carrot.

I was so happy in my new home, and I thought how lucky I was to get such a wonderful place to live. There are millions of rabbits who don’t make it this far in life, whose owners leave them in a wooden box at the bottom of the garden, who maybe throw some food at them if they remember.

They live sad, pointless, lonely lives of boredom and lack of fulfilment. The only reason I can think why people do that to us is because their own lives are the same, and they don’t see why animals should be happy if people aren’t. Worse still, they “free” rabbits into the wild, where they get eaten before they can even find their way, or where they die of diseases that people invented to kill wild rabbits, or they do all sorts of other unimaginable things to bunnies who have no voice of their own.

Occasionally, though, you will find your person, and they will sit with you and tell you things, feed you intriguing vegetables and take you out to interesting and safe outdoor spaces, they’ll stroke you and make you toys, and love you unconditionally, and understand when you get scared and bite or scratch them, they’ll never shout at you or hurt you, and most of all, they will be glad that you are around. And when you find a person like that, the days fly by in a flurry of excitement until one day you are old and fat, and you have led a longer and happier life, full of love and fulfilment.

BUNNY is for LIFE not just for EASTER
Fifer’s first day with us after we adopted him two years ago.

ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN THURSDAY: BEARD TUTORIAL

So it’s ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN THURSDAY!!!
That means… I can post about anything.

Since I uploaded a youtube video today showing the world how to do a better makeup beard (I already did a more simple tutorial here for the less adventurous), I thought I’d share it with y’all since I know you’re all dying to get a beard like this one:

beard pic2

Watch and enjoy:

Let me know what you think, I’m really excited about the results and think this beard eyebrow combo could pass off as a guy from even a face-to-face encounter, which makes it perfect for street theater, film, television or fancy dress.  Or you could just wear it around the house…

Do you have a “go to” beard for character work and cosplay?  Let me know!

Wedding Wednesday: Why do you want a wedding?

Starting off my new weekly Wedding Wednesday slot, I thought I would begin where people ought to – with questioning why anybody would want a wedding at all.

Getting married for the right reasons is like doing anything for the right reasons – it’s a good, strong foundation on which to build.  For sure, we could build our house on poor foundations, and who knows?  It might stay up and last the test of time – but it’s less likely.  So if you want the best possible chance of having a happy and long lasting married life with your significant other, you need to introspect and ask yourself why you even want to get married.

Here’s some answers the Internet gave me when I researched this for myself a couple of years ago, and my responses to this.  I may come off as an opinionated asshat about weddings.  I feel quite strongly about them:

This is the same ring my cousin got when she got married 18 months ago.
This is the same ring my cousin got when she got married 18 months ago.

1. For the ring.  
…Or you could just go to a shop and use that Personal Loan to buy something REALLY nice from Tiffany & Co, instead of wasting time and effort on the rest of the wedding.


2. For the dress

…Why not hire one and have a wedding themed fancy dress party instead?


3. For the one “Perfect Day”

What about the day after?  Could you really live with the rest of your life knowing that the one “perfect day” had already passed you by?  The idea that we only get that one “Special Day” and that all the other days are dull is very depressing.  I’ve had my share of perfect days but they were never the “One Perfectest of All Perfect Days” and they sure as hell weren’t my wedding day.  Throwing money at a specific point in time can’t actually perfect it – soon you’ll find yourself throwing more and more money at it for smaller and smaller gains (in maths, known as an asymptote), until even the most patient bridesmaids will wonder whether those seat covers were worth £500.


4. For money/financial security
Could you spend your time and energy doing something productive and contributing to your own financial security by … I don’t know… getting a job you care about and earning your own money?  If you want a wedding so you can become dependent on someone else, you’re going to struggle when they get sick of you sponging and leave you to fend for yourself.  This is NOT the same as taking time out to raise kids, which is more altruistic and assumes that at some point in the future you will get a job.  HOWEVER this is something you should discuss before you get married to be sure you’re on the same page.  A marriage is a 2 way street not a way for a needy dependent person to get their claws into a “good catch.”  Seeking Arrangement is there for that.


5. Because you’re pregnant
This can be a really good reason to marry the right person – my Aunt was 15 when she got pregnant and she got married about two days after her 16th birthday.  She is still married now she’s hit the big 5-0 and has three kids, a great career as a nurse practitioner (she started her nursing training after giving birth and worked her way up), a beautiful garden… none of this is because she got married at 16, but it’s the life she and her husband have built together, because they were thrown together by that one unfortunate act.

Conversely, I know someone else who got married at 19 because she was pregnant and thought it would make the father commit.  It didn’t.  Marrying someone doesn’t give you control over their actions and people will do what they like whether you’ve had a wedding or not.  If they’re a no good scoundrel, they aren’t going to change just because they’re married.  Guess who was divorced at 23 and is now struggling to pay childcare?  She would have been a single mum if she hadn’t married him anyway, it just delayed the inevitable and caused everyone involved a lot of stress and drama in the meantime.

6. One of you is terminally ill
This can be a lovely reason to get married, but make sure both parties are onboard, and that the commitment to care is going both ways.  Living with someone who is terminally ill is very difficult and caring for them can get very harrowing towards the end.  Make sure the person who isn’t terminally ill has a good support network, that they maintain contact with friends and family outside the relationship, and that their physical and emotional needs are getting met.  If you’re the carer, remember the best thing you can do to take care of your partner is to keep your own self in good working order 🙂

7. For the romantic fairytale experience
Go to Disneyland.

8. For the wedding presents
Um… the money you spent on the wedding could have been used to buy yourself nice presents instead.

9. For the honeymoon
Book a holiday.

10. For your parents
Parents often think they are doing the right thing by “nudging” people in the right direction but you should marry when you’re good and ready not when someone else wants you to.  Likewise, if your future spouse isn’t ready, take the pressure off by waiting until they’re ready (and stop pestering them about it) because respect goes both ways.

11. For love
Is love enough to get married?  Some people think so.  Others point to the fact that there are two stages that all relationships go through – the infatuation and the cooling off period.  If your relationship is still in that stage where you get chills EVERY time he or she walks through the door, you might want to wait a bit to make sure you haven’t gone off each other, it could be an expensive and stressful mistake.

12. After spending days of research on this, and trying to come up with a better answer, I finally arrived at my own reason for wanting to get married:  To honour, in the eyes of the law, a commitment that you are making, to stay by the side of another person, even if you’re geographically far away, to always keep a place in your heart for them.  For me, then, the wedding was meant to be a reflection of this, not froofy dresses (you know, they look like they belong in a fairytale… or on top of a toilet roll in an old lady’s bathroom, depending on your point of view), rings or anything else.  Those were the garnish on a salad of marriage.  Throughout planning my wedding, I found myself remarking several times to my future husband “can we just skip the wedding and get to the part where we’re married to each other?”

I am pro-wedding but I believe that people should do what’s right for them and that too many people lose sight of what’s really important when they start to plan their wedding – and who can blame them, with the overstimulating wedding industry and the average wedding costing over £17,000 now (including honeymoon, according to The Telegraph and The Guardian newspapers) or $25,000 (excluding honeymoon, according to http://www.costofwedding.com/, a free wedding cost calculation tool), it’s big money for people to make you want more than you need on your “Big Day” (as if you’ll only have one big day in your life).  I am very concerned that people are taking on debts they can’t afford to repay in order to buy their wedding, and that they are doing so for all the wrong reasons.

But what if you’re SUPER EXCITED about all those other reasons, to the point where you’re starting to worry that, according to this very list, your reasons are all wrong?

Ask yourself:  Do you love your partner?  Do you see yourselves getting older together?  Do you communicate with one another and have you both discussed your future plans and your opinions on things at length so you know whether there are any sticking points or areas of compromise?  Do you at least mutually care about each other the same amount and get both of your needs met through your relationship?

If that’s a no to all of those, you probably shouldn’t get married.  If you had at least a couple of “yes” answers, then maybe you just need to hash a few things out and check that you’re both on the same page.  Getting crazy excited about your wedding is natural.  And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, providing you’re not causing yourself (or other people) financial difficulty, and as long as you are getting married for the marriage, not for the wedding, and that you know that on the day after your wedding, you’re going to wake up with a big smile and say, “I married you.”