Welsh Word of The Week

llyfr – book

If you know me, then you’ll know that I am a big reader. This year, however, I’ve dropped the ball slightly… I set myself a target on Goodreads at the beginning of the year of reading 100 llyfrau, which is what I aimed for – and reached – the previous two years. However so far this year I’m only on 55, which Goodreads tells me is 17 behind target. Yikes. A couple of days ago, I was delighted to see an advert pop up on my Kindle for a 2 months’ free trial of Kindle Unlimited – just what I needed to read more, I thought! Being unemployed, I’ve been getting along with the books I got from the Free Books shop in town (which recently had to move, and hasn’t yet opened in its forever home) and cheap Kindle books. I’ve already got through two in two days, and I’m so glad to have a wider range of llyfrau to read!

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Welsh Word of the Week

gwallt – hair

I’m still getting used to my new gwallt after getting it cut short last week. For a few days it felt like I had a phantom pony tail, I’d lean my head against the wall or the back of the sofa expecting to feel that my hair was tied up. I run my fingers through the couple of inches or so of hair I have on the back of my head, enjoying the sensation of making it stand on end. I’m still very happy with my decision, and I recognise myself more when I look in the mirror now.

Suitable for Vegetarians

Vegetarian

I still remember, just over a year ago, noticing the ‘suitable for vegetarians’ logo on a carton of UHT skim milk. I was still half-asleep, I hadn’t had my coffee yet. Even as a vegetarian I thought, is this really necessary, it’s milk.

I became a vegetarian in August 2015. People ask me why, and I don’t really have a concrete answer. It was during a two-week holiday I had that month, and I ended up staying at home for various reasons, instead of actually going away somewhere. So I had a fair bit of time to think, I suppose. It wasn’t a case of watching a documentary about the meat industry, or reading an article or anything like that; I just started thinking about what eating meat meant for me, for reasons I can’t even remember anymore. And the more I thought about it, the more I became uncomfortable with it. I hardly ate any meat anyway, and had always been very picky about it. I’d maybe buy a packet of prosciutto cotto a week, but that was about it. The difficult thing was giving up fish. Smoked salmon was a treat for me, which I’d often buy to reward myself or to cheer myself up. I loved my tuna and sweetcorn sandwiches, and even in my late twenties I’d still eat the odd fish finger (yes, I know, don’t judge me).

There wasn’t much in the way of meat-free substitutes in Italy, at least back then. At one point veggie burgers came out, as in ones containing vegetables, as previously there had only been soy ones. I tried them once, but one contained a massive piece of cauliflower, and I noped out of there pretty quickly. I did like the soy cotolettas, to be honest there wasn’t much in the way of taste difference between meat ones I’d eaten and the meat-free kind. But the variety of food I could eat dropped dramatically. There wasn’t – at least not in the supermarkets I shopped – a vegetarian logo on all products that were suitable for vegetarian diets. It made food shopping harder than it had been before. I’d have to read through the ingredients of a jar of sauce (yes, I know, I’m lazy) to see if it contained any rogue animal byproduct.

Back in the UK, I was amazed. I remember my jaw dropping in front of the freezer cabinet that contained the frozen meat-free food in Tesco. All that variety! Everything from your standard soy burgers and sausages, and veggie burgers; to pies and sausage rolls and even bacon! Vegetarian bacon! I’ve had Quorn for the first time since I was in secondary school, the chicken pieces went down very well with a stir fry. There are gorgeous Linda McCartney rosemary and red onion sausages. And the pies Tesco makes, ah, they’re beautiful. Even these vegetarian/vegan substitutes are marked with the ‘suitable for vegetarians’ logo! And even vegetarian friendly drinks are clearly labeled!

My diet has changed so much, it’s all so easy now. I can pick something up and instantly know if I can eat it or not. It’s also clearer in restaurants, even though there isn’t always that much variety. One thing I do miss from being a vegetarian in Milan is an Italian vegan chain called Universo Vegano. It was wonderful being able to step into a restaurant and be able to order anything on the menu.

One thing I will say about vegetarian food in the UK though… The goat’s cheese. All of the goat’s cheese. I don’t even like goat’s cheese!

The Big Chop

New hair

Tah dah! I’ve had quite the drastic haircut!

I’d been thinking about cutting my hair short for a few weeks. It had grown very long, and it was a big decision to make. I eventually decided to cut it short once I reached my goal weight – which I did last Monday – but I still managed to put off the appointment for just over a week.

There’s a story behind why I decided to grow my hair long around five years ago. Back then, my hair was as short as it is now – even shorter at times – and had been so for about a year and a half (if I remember correctly). But during that autumn I decided to start growing it. Why? The only reason was that I thought it would make me look more attractive, more feminine, and help me finally find a boyfriend – which I shockingly hadn’t actually had yet at that point in my life. Did it work? Did it heck. My ex found me a couple of months after I started growing my hair, so it was still very much short at that point; but apart from that? Nothing. It took me a very long time to realise that long hair wasn’t going to change my luck; and over the last few months my hair has become very brittle, I’ve been losing it at a rate that’s been slightly alarming, so I decided to cut it all off. I was still very nervous and a bit sad at my decision, feeling the pressure to conform to society’s idea of beauty and femininity; seeing it as the final nail in the coffin of my attempts to find someone to share my life with.

But it was the right decision. I feel like myself again, and the face I see in the mirror looks more like me than it did before. I wish I’d done it sooner, and not felt the pressure to look a certain way. People have been complimenting my new hair, saying it suits me better than my old long hair. It looks in a much better condition than it was long, it looks and feels healthier and thicker. Even at my old age, I’ve learned the importance of staying true to yourself, and of not being influenced to conform to society’s beliefs or to try and please others. I definitely won’t be growing my hair long again any time soon!

What I’ve Been Reading and Listening To: August 28th – September 3rd

What I’ve Been Reading: Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam series

MaddAddam

A few weeks ago I saw a story on the news which reminded me of a series of books that I love, and I thought, I should really re-read them. It’s the MaddAddam series by Margaret Atwood, consisting of Oryx and Crake, The Year of The Flood, and MaddAddam. Much like with The Handmaid’s Tale, the world these books are set in is also just a step away from ours, in a non-specified future. The news story I saw was about the development of the technology to allow human organs to be grown in pigs, which is what’s seen with the pigoons in the MaddAddam books. The series deals a lot with creating animal hybrids, and also altering animal bodies for human benefit – such as with the pigoons, or the Mo’Hair sheep who are used to grow human hair. It’s a fascinating, and slightly disturbing, glimpse into a future which already seems to be coming true.

What I’ve Been Listening to: Welcome to Night Vale, Our Fair City, Kakos Industries

I haven’t had much of a chance to listen to anything new this week, and all the unlistened podcasts that I have sat in my podcast app are taunting me. However, I have been able to listen to a few episodes of three different audio dramas which I was already listening to. I’m now very nearly up to date with Welcome to Night Vale, which I’m very excited about! I’m already a big fan of the new arc that began with the show’s sixth year, it promises to be fascinating. I’ve just finished the sixth season of Our Fair City, and the finales get more and more traumatic each time… And Kakos Industries was a podcast which had fallen by the wayside over the last few weeks, and I was glad to pick it up again.

Welsh Word of The Week

bwyd – food

I posted yesterday about how I’d finally reached my target weight after having been on a diet for a year. It was on Monday that I’d finally reached my goal, and since then I’ve been enjoying all the tasty tasty bwyd that I couldn’t indulge in before. Creision (crisps), siocled (chocolate), hufen ia (ice cream)… The problem now is that I have to restrain myself, or I’ll end up putting all that weight back on again!

The Target

You might know that I’ve spent the last year on a bit of a drastic diet. Well, I say ‘the last year’, it was Monday when I finally reached my target weight (it’s been a bit of a busy couple of days).

The first photo was taken on the 23rd of August last year, just over a week after I started my diet. Thanks to my height, I could still fit into a very baggy size 8 top and stretchy size 10 jeggings, trying to convince myself that my weight hadn’t ballooned that much, even though the scale said I had. When I started my job as a Christmas temp in retail nearly 2 months later, I had to buy a uniform. I tried two pairs of black trousers on, a size 10 and a size 12. The pair that fit me were a size 12, and my heart broke. Not that a size 12 is large at all, I want to be perfectly clear. But I used to be a size 8, and the heartbreak was because I’d put on enough weight to push me up two sizes. I felt disappointed with myself, and my lack of self-control. During the course of a particularly stressful couple of years, I’d managed to put on a shocking 20 kg, which works out at just over three stone. After returning back to Wales, as part of my plan to re-start my life, I decided that I’d shed the weight I’d gained mostly through comfort/stress eating, and get back to a healthy weight for my height.

On Monday, the 28th of August of this year, I did it. My target weight was 50kg (I haven’t quite been able to shift the habit of thinking in kilos), or 7 stone 12 lbs. I could lose a few more kilos and still be at a healthy weight for my tiny height of 5 ft, but I couldn’t bear the thought of dieting any longer. In the photo I’m wearing a gorgeous starry T-shirt which is an XS, and a pair of size 10 jeans which are, by now, too big around the waist.

This week I’ve been enjoying the freedom of eating whatever I want. That first day when I had toast and tea – with milk and sugar! – for breakfast was glorious. It was the most delicious meal I’d had in a long time. I’ve had chocolate! And guilt-free ice cream!

But I’ll have to be careful. I’ve had problems with me weight all through my life. At 16 years old I wore a size 16. Through the freedom of being able to buy my own junk food from the supermarket five minutes down the road, I went up a size during my first year at university, and this is the third time in 10 years that I’ve lost a considerable amount of weight. So, yes, the trouble is keeping it off. And it gets harder as time goes by, I’m no spring chicken any longer, and I don’t have the metabolism I used to (if I ever did, that is). I’ve got a very sweet tooth, and I often use food as a way of compensating for being lonely. But no, before anyone asks, I didn’t lose weight to try and make myself look more attractive. I’ve been this weight before, and it didn’t work. Not even remotely. This time it’s for me, and no one else.

What I’ve Been Reading and Listening To: August 14th-20th

What I’ve been reading: Reamde by Neal Stephenson

Reamde

When I started reading Reamde on my Kindle the other day, I didn’t realise how long it was – it comes in at little over 1,000 pages. Though, in hindsight, I should’ve had some idea; seeing as the other novel by Stephenson I’ve read – Anathem – is just under 1,000 pages. So far, I’m about a quarter of the way through, and I’m really enjoying it. It revolves around a massive online game much in the vein of World of Warcraft, and involves the people who created the game and others linked to it in some way. It’s easily one of the nerdiest things I’ve ever read, and the detail and work gone into the world-building is incredible.

What I’ve been listening to: MarsCorp

MarsCorp also gave me a surprise when I started listening to it yesterday afternoon – it was created by people from the UK! Nearly all of the audio dramas I’ve tried out over the past few months have at least a mostly American cast, and it’s somewhat disorientating when I come across one which is British. And the surprise didn’t end there, I was blown away to hear a Welsh accent in an audio drama! It turns out that one of the people behind the show is, in fact, Welsh. I was so thrown off, I had to go back and listen to it to make sure! But there it was, a very subtle, Cardiff-area accent, not unlike one which I had been very used to hearing at a certain point in my life… Anyway. MarsCorp is, unsurprisingly, set on Mars. It’s a comedy about a terraforming colony, which is (very) behind schedule, in 2070. I’ve only listened to the first two episodes, but I instantly liked it.

Welsh Word of The Week

sgwrs – conversation

This morning I got myself out of the house, and walked the short distance to the town centre to see a friend and former colleague, who was working her last shift as a sales assistant before her ymddeoliad (retirement). I hadn’t seen her in a while, I always seemed to miss her when I was in town, as she only worked a couple of days a week. We had a nice sgwrs, catching up on the last few months, my job search, and talking about the shop we used to work in. She was a joy to work with, and I wish her all the best on her retirement.

Welsh Word of The Week

Iaith – language

Sigh.

I’m sure we’ve heard about that edition of Newsnight this week, haven’t we? Any Welsh speaking person will know what it’s like to feel attacked because of the language they speak. To be insulted, to be offended, and yet for this bigotry to still be seen as acceptable by many.
This week, the National Eisteddfod has been held on Anglesey; a celebration of Welsh language and culture, of song and dance and poetry and literature. So an attack on the iaith by the BBC during this week was particularly vicious and cowardly.
I am tired, I am exhausted of constantly having to defend my mamiaith (mother tongue). I’m tired of feeling so angry because people disrespect the language I grew up with, the language my family speaks. I am tired of components of the English language media getting bored every few months, and deciding to pick on a language and culture it doesn’t understand. I wasn’t in the mood to write anything today, I’d woken up feeling rubbish and I still feel rubbish; but I thought, if I didn’t do this feature I would feel as if I had let them win. And I can’t do that. We have to fight back.