The case for fish – a meditation

February 26, 2007 at 12:57 am (Meditation)

I had to kill my own cow to make a burger. In a lucid dream the cow, Minnie, shared with me the reasons it looked so grumpy, and complained it was not getting on with its therapist. We had managed to bond even though we both knew it would end up as my burger.

Then I had to stick the knife in, not proverbially but literally, and breach our unwritten contract of friendship. Minnie accepted its fate with dignity. It did not resist, it let me slaughter it, or at least attempt to, and was patient when I couldn’t dislodge the machete from its neck.

“Do you need a hand?” it mooed. Imagine someone – something – you’re trying to kill offering to muck in. But Minnie was no ordinary cow. This was no ordinary dynamic. I wanted a burger. All I had to do was kill the cow. But I was covered with blood and had barely started.

When awoke up I remembered having cooked my friend, Serge, a lamb stew the night before. Then I recalled the piece of meat that might have triggered the dream. It was a small chunk with two holes in it, made by two tubes – tiny bone-like things – that were staring at me. Serge said they were arteries. ARTERIES? Weren’t they for the heart? I’d thought this an innocent piece of leg. When I squeezed the meat, the “bones” changed shape. Each was a few millimeters wide and a centimeter apart. A lifetime as a carnivore had not prepared me for this. I wrapped the offending piece of lamb in a kitchen towel and placed it in the bin. Then, I wanted to throw the bin away.

It’s always a relief to wake up and know you’re not actually soaked in blood. You’re not at death’s door, or killing anything; in a few hours burger shops around the land will be serving pre-killed cow in decorative boxes. In the dream there was no such luxury. The burger bar was in Pakistan. They showed me to the back of the shop and told me I had to slaughter my own cow because Usman, the butcher, was out praying. It was a dark, dank space. There was only the cow and I. Its lips did not move when it spoke – it was a voice in my head. You might say Minnie’s role was symbolic, that the process of slaughter was about my relationship with myself, that when I struck the animal, I struck me. But, at the time, the cow was the cow. Given my grandparents were farmers, it might have belonged to them, or even BEEN them.

I had my first burger when I was five or six. Burgers were not so frowned upon then. In fact, a number of my friends’ birthday celebrations were held at burger chains. Now, this encounter was chaining me to every burger I’d ever eaten. To kill the cow, and enjoy doing so, was the only way to atone for my sins. But then I would be another lowlife. How could I pretend not to care about the arteries of a fellow mammal?

All of my might could not shift the machete. Now, I was swimming in blood. Then I realized that the cow’s problems with its therapist were in fact my own. I decided to change my therapist and turn vegetarian. So today, the arteries in my food carry no blood. There is no need to slaughter lettuce, mushrooms and tomatoes. You pick them. Occasionally, I eat fish. In fact, I have decided to eat more and more fish. Yes, they have arteries, but they are nothing like we are. They cannot walk. And I can’t swim underwater for too long.

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23 February 2007

February 23, 2007 at 9:51 am (Espresso)

08:50 GMT. Woke up to hear Clint Eastwood on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. He was talking about the two films he’s just made. The interviewer prodded him, with sensitivity, to admit that his films were anti-war. It was a moment, very human on a programme the usually features politicians. Then the news reported that a US soldier had received 100 years for the murder and rape of an 14-year-old Iraqi girl. He’ll escape the death penalty, as he should, but he’ll up for parole in 10 years. There’s a cheery thought.

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February 22, 2007 at 11:53 am (Double espresso, The office)

22 February 2007. 11:49am. Just has a bacon sandwich – prepared by myself in the FT canteen. Cinnamon and raisin bagel, stuffed with rashers. There is something bacon does in the morning. And one egg. Dear me. £1.70. Now for some work. Left phone at home. Will cycle to pick it up at lunchtime. The US may be about to bomb my country of birth, eating is one way to deal with it. Although this was a valid meal, not an emotional outburst.

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Happy birthday Paul!

February 22, 2007 at 10:09 am (blog, Family & Friends)


22 Feb 2007. It’s my friend Paul’s birthday today. He is pictured, at a pub in Clapham, south London, next to my friend Sheila who was visting from LA a year and a half ago. Paul doesn’t celebrate birthdays, and certainly won’t his 85th today (it is in fact 35th). Anyway, I had better get to work. Yesterday I was 45mins late. I bought my boss a box of chocolates. Can’t pull the same trick today. I hope Paul gets married this year.

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Rescue II

February 21, 2007 at 12:30 am (soulbeantransport)


20 Feb 2007. 23:26.

Picked up my bike from Piccadilly and cycled to Camberwell in South London. It had been there for 24 hours. The trick of parking your bike is to choose a location where it is difficult to lock, let alone steal. As a friend of mine put it: “You risk getting taken out by a truck to ensure your bike is safe.” The puppy pictured I’ve had for about three years. It’s a big BMX.

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Search me

February 20, 2007 at 2:57 pm (Searches)

The following searches brought people here in the past two days. “Jack and the bean straw” signals the demise of children’s literacy. It’s “stalk” you dolt, not straw. Note the optimist who typed “perfect man” into a search engine. Sorry to disappoint you, babe.


Search Views
the jack and the bean straw 1
Angelina Jolie 1


Search Views
the living bean cafe 1
soul bean cafe

perfect man 1


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February 20, 2007 at 11:54 am (Uncategorized)

Must’ve drunk more than I thought last night. Feel coarse. There is a cartoonist sitting to my right, doodling away. “You’ve got a nice job,” I say.  “It’s like any job, in a way,” he says. “If it works it’s good.”

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February 20, 2007 at 10:18 am (blog)


This is the meat from the previous entry – cooked. Life takes a little effort. Later, I will be hungry, have forgotten about the meat, and remember it. Turmeric, salt, forgot pepper, dopey, fried with onions, and chopped green chillis, and two tablespoons of tinned plum tomato.

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Still 20 February 2007

February 20, 2007 at 9:25 am (blog, Double espresso)

It’s still 2007. And 08.15am. Perhaps I should do a how’s your new year going check-up on people. It’s not good enough to wish everyone you meet HAPPY NEW YEAR throughout January and then not care for the rest of the HAPPY NEW YEAR! Mine’s going OK. My apartment could be much tidier*. And I’m gonna phone British Telecom to demand a lower broadband tariff or disconnection. (£33 a month!). My tea is brewing. I have a bag of meat that I defrosted (minced, really lovely lamb). It has bled in my fridge. Not a sight I welcome in th morning. My poor bicycle is attached to railings near the Ritz hotel in Piccadilly. It will have suffered drizzle throug the night. Unless it got stolen. Basically, I left it out in the cold. Will go to collect this evening and take bus to office. Had better drink tea while tuning in to a country station on i-Tunes. I like country music.

*or a complete wreck. The fridge is bleeding for Chrissake.

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20 February 2007

February 20, 2007 at 4:14 am (Double espresso)

It’s 2.45am. Just got back from five bars. Ate too much. But didn’t drink. Met an incredibly attractive woman. An old man, who probably spends his afternoons asleep in the House of Lords, was hovering around her. He touched her bum. She said something to him. He went off. “What happened there?” I asked.

“He touched my bum.”

Her name was Virginie. She spoke English well, with a French accent.

“He thinks I am a toy,” she added. I took a sip of my coke.

“If I am a toy,” she said, “I am an expensive toy.”


“How can you put a price on it? Surely, there is no price.”
I can’t remember her reply, but by now we had established a rapport. Is she happy?

“I would like to live Angelina Jolie’s life,” she said. “If Angelina Jolie is not happy she should see a psychologist.”

Virginie waved, flirtily to two men wearing jumpers on shirts. Ralph Lauren.

“You do your thing,” I said. Why does she do what she does?

“Comfort,” she said. “I can fly business class to Brazil.”

“What’s wrong with economy.”

“Economy more than three hours? Not good.”

My two friends, one of whom had bought her champagne, were sitting away from us. Let’s fast forward to them, and we may come back to Virginie another time. In fact, fast forward further to Maroush, the Lebanese place in Knightsbridge. We eat humus, grilled chicken, aubergine stew. The second meal in one night, six hours apart though. Seven. No, six. Not bad. We are solving the world’s problems, the three of us. Then a man joins in with our conversation. He is of Indian extraction and advises the Labour party on “Muslim issues”. He was pragmatic, a charmer, too smooth to be committed to behind-the-scenes. Sure enough, Asif, we’ll call him, had stood for election in 2001 and failed to win a seat. Anyway, he kept name-dropping Gordon Brown and Tony Blair – “(I’ve met them)” – but he smiled and was affable. He thought detention centres for illegal immigrants “a good idea” and was rather rightwing over immigration. “The whole world can’t come here.” (The whole world doesn’t want to). I am too tired to continue. This is a blog and if you’re interested, 3.20am.

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