Morose Alice in Wonderland

A while ago I wrote a snappy little poem about the benefits of pursuing happiness- that you gain from pursuit itself and the end result is irrelevant to those gains. There were also comments in it about not squabbling about the behaviour of the Establishment elite. Typical of me then to immediatly not follow my own advice in each and every post after… and at home. I pursue nothing, and talk politics.

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It is becoming apparent for my generation that we all of us will struggle with a depressing dilemma over ambition and practicality. We are all suffering career mobility issues that previous generations did not face, after an upbringing that nearly always focused on helping us become tenacious in our ambitions and certain of our inflated individual worth.

More concisely- our parents made us think we were all special (even though logically we can’t all be special); they pushed us to go to university and dream big or dream quirky; and just as we came of age to be leaving the nest the period of good fortune enjoyed by our parents during the late 90s ended.

What then do we do? Do we do something ‘in the meantime’?
What does that even mean- ‘in the meantime’… Meantime until which particular event comes to pass exactly? What is it you are waiting for? The second coming?

The ever determined individuals from generation Y will either struggle on after much hardship and get where they are going, get close enough, or end up back at their parents when they refuse to admit defeat. The pragmatic individuals that are left will see uncertainty and accept any job coming to them, purchase the cheapest items they require, and be housed for the cheapest rent possible. Whether due to hardship or stagnation nearly all of us will end up in some way emotionally put out.

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If it was not already apparent to some people following my blog, I have not been in a very affable mood of late. In fact, I have only recently realised that affability could be a mood you could be in or out of… by deffect of the latter.
I find myself choosing to be distent. Not unfriendly, but not forward with kindness either.

Neither am I trying to pursue anything- happiness or ambition.

I am a Gen-Y chic that after going through the hardship aiming for ambition decided to be pragmatic. I say decided. To me at the time I felt like I had no choice. I did not have a parent’s home I could run to, so when things got bad it was an option of attend university as a homeless person or work and be housed.

Work is where I have stayed. Here in stagnation I can feel myself becoming less human. That is not just hyperbole.

Choosing to be distent when you work in a bar requires true effort. To pull it off you give up your individuality. When people try to bring out the human within with anything from ‘how are you?’ to ‘so working here is just what you are doing for the meantime?’ I shut down the conversation with any small talk that I can muster. Why? Because talking about me, makes me more unhappy.

Moving in with 3 housemates, who all share very similar cultural preferences as myself would seem like a safe haven then. Somewhere I could be myself and find a little happiness to keep me afloat. Turns out any social contact is creating the same stagnant, distent reaction. I should already be getting along famously with these people. I should be learning about the quirks of their childhoods, work, family, eating preferences and through social activity creating our own in-jokes. Instead I find myself not listening and staying quiet for the most part. Occasionally I wake to my surroundings and try to contribute to conversation.

When I try to contribute it is usually current events and politics. Most people find ways to have serious conversations and still be lighthearted. These days, I cannot. Used to. Now when I open my mouth I end up depressing the tone of the discussion and ruining it for everyone else.

Previously I spoke of trying to get back into gaming- finding time to go through some interesting ones I had bought. I have also purchased a lot of very interesting books. This was when I started to feel this shit coming over me. What I was going to attempt to do was use a little escapism to get my happy hormones back on track. Perhaps that could still be something I could try.
Unfortunately it is Christmas time…

[I can’t believe I just wrote that. I love Christmas. Used to. Some people hate that there are a lot of expectations around this time of year, but to me they were anticipations. I was really good at picking gifts people would like; I really loved making and decorating; I loved to cook and to sing. I do! In me somewhere I still do love those things.]

… and I haven’t time for gaming and reading. I try to read while eating sometimes. The result is that I have re-read the same page for the last week straight, each time getting interupted by people around me.

Making me even more distent!!! Never getting time to myself is making me try to find that time when I am still surrounded by people.

…_________________..____________________________…

I should (we all should) pursue happiness. But where is it?

What do I do? Stay safe in the work environment? Escape when I can? Find joy in the simple things and ignore the big bad world outside of my bubble?

Or do I through caution to the wind? Drop the hours, the gaming, the reading… and reawaken the dream? Never shying away from the truth or the people? Can I even face that right now…

.______________________________.________________..

The true answer for Gen-Y is to stay hungry. Ambition does not hurt you. We just have to learn how much work is required of us before our dreams can be realised.

I give us very good advice… it even seems simple to follow. But it is not.

It is not gonna be easy, but nothing worth the time ever is.

I hope anyone reading this has more gumption to fight that hard fight than I do.

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A Worthwhile Individual

Is it just me, or are good catholic boys never that fucking impressive?

Perhaps that is only a sign of being raised without religion.

There is an image associated with the diligantly-faithfuls of banal purity and goodness. It is something so many young temple and church goers aspire to be. To be good. To never sin. And to be a better person for it.

Without that imprint you gain a different idea of what a worthwhile-individual looks like. There is certainly a thing about hardwork in either understanding. What the lack of puritinism gives is the impression that you are actually a better person to have survived a good many misfortunes AND sins, and to still come out of the other side well meaning.

If you suffer misfortune but never sin, then to me you are only gullible.
If you suffer misfortune and decide that that is good cause to excuse your sins, then you are lying to yourself more than you are to everyone else.

But if you are that person; the one who’s life just Sucks… and you know your faults inside and out… then you are worth my time.

The best type does not say, ‘I have done these things. It is not wise to do it, so don’t.’ Instead, the best ones say, ‘I wouldn’t advise it for [these] reasons. Do what you want with that information.’

..__________________…_______________________…

This is really about a gent I work with. Today I felt myself so moved by his plight I almost gret.
As I wrote about recently there are certain things you feel powerless to change due to your individual tininess. When you know someone in need and you haven’t a hell of a lot of financial mobility to just reach out and fix shit for them, you wish you could change things on a system level.

Or at least I did. It was even sillier to mentally reach in that way… Had I had power to change the system I would also be in a financial position to just fix it on the spot.

So Britain has the NHS. What you might not know is that each country within the UK has a seperate allocation for it’s NHS, and can spend it in the way it chooses from it’s assembly rather than be dictated from the main government in Westminster, London.
For example, in Scotland prescriptions are free; in England there is a single charge per perscription. In Scotland although you cannot get all of your dental work on the NHS it will generally cost less than in England, where you can pay £51.30 to have a tooth removed. Incidently, if you leave teeth that should be removed for long enough (that it rots away into an infection and pure agony) you can get an emergency appointment for just £18.80.

There are exemption processes for those without work or low income. What is considered low income by the government is one thing, however. It still leaves a number of people working for less than the living wage in dire straights. People who have a job for 30 hours (not bad when no company offers 40 hours) but on minimum wage cannot always pay the charges for these treatments and perscriptions.

The gent I know has a little girl. She is 6-years-old. Her dental care is free (thank fuck). But looking after her is, of course, not. And he is in the hypothetical description I have described.

Two days I watched and supported him through his shifts while he was unable to focus on anything that was not the pain in his face. After much bullying I slipped my tips into his pocket and got him to go to the dentist.
Well, he came in after having had the emergency tooth removal at £18.80 ready for his shift. He should not have been at work an hour after it, but he was. And he was willing to work.

The pain was not over obviously, but he could concentrate more than before. He did then divulge that the dentist has asked that he return in January, because 4 more of his teeth are rotting and will soon reach the same level of decay as the one removed.

I was quite ready to start a campaign like we saw with the bus monitor, Karen Klein, that gained millions in donations online. At least this gent would not act hard-done-by afterward as she did. Usually there is some viral video or post associated with that kind of campaign to fix some person’s shit misfortune.

I have known the kind of financial difficulty he has been going through without a child to look after. She may be a motivator where I had had only self-determination, but the task was difficult enough without a little human to clothe and feed.

This guy has given up one hell of a cushty life to be a better dad to this kid. There were drugs and all sorts going on. He found out she was gonna be born and then he changed. He slowly cut off all ties to that life and became a dad. He was young at the time too.

He thinks I’m crazy though; “you cannot drink, smoke and eat crap food without… bodily… consequences.” Most people look at it and say it is karma, so in a way he agrees.

.__________________…_____________________________..

Only the faithful can talk of karma when someone is in this much need. In such eyes my friend is not worth helping. Instead, I have all the time in the world for this guy. He knows that his previous life was not a great environment; back then he was only hurting himself.

And yet, he has had good enough character to know that that was not the way to raise a kid.

He doesn’t preach that you should never touch drugs and never sleep around. He tells you what that lifestyle has brought him, then tells you to do as you please.

And at the end of his shift last night… he slipped my tips back into my pocket. It was ‘okay’- he would find a way to cover it. That is a pretty fucking impressive attitude for an ordinary guy to have.

Posted in atheism, childcare, growing up, men's rights, Personal blog, religion, Working life | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Trampled Conundrum

You’re living in a block of flats directly opposite another block of flats. You’re making dinner and watching the kettle boil. Remarkably it takes a longer amount of time than it would normally, so upon looking out the window you become distracted by the saga of allegedly unconnected motion displayed in the opposite building. Simultaneously as a woman is rocking a baby, a woman above her closes the curtains in a state of half-undress, a man to the left of her sets a dinner table with a flowery apron on, and a couple a few floors down snuggle watching what looks to be an explosion filled Michael-Bay-feature. The kettle clicks at 96 degrees Celsius.

Or. You’re at a concert surrounded in swaying, bouncing bodies so thoroughly you can’t move at your own will, instead moving to the will and rhythm of those around you. Were the doors to lock and the stage to burst into flames you would trample people, they would trample you and you would all die.

Or. You’re sitting with friends at home, one of whom loves listening to the radio. It’s late and the news is playing in the tones of a stern voiced woman. She announces to you that your government is voting upon the principle that bombing people might create peace in their country halfway across the world. Disgustedly you and your logical friends wait to learn that they are going to do it and wholeheartedly think it will work.

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Just when a minimum wage paid life in a job no one could truly enjoy, but must dolefully find some worth and hilarity in to remain sane, starts to become an unbearable monotony something happens. You’ve had it before; it’s that feeling that you get when some aspect of the cosmos or symbiosis is revealed to you for the first time. The something that happens triggers it. Something similar to the scenarios given.

Most describe it as an understanding of your insignificance. There’s a feeling of being very small in a large world. Alternatively, of being very connected to something so large that your mind is incapable of describing it in meticulous enough a fashion that the resulting presentation is comprehensive. Distinctly put- we are all made of star dust.

Or star fart.

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There is less expectation for greatness when you realise it’s like a star took in nutrients and shat out what it didn’t need, and that our world is made from that. These are the atoms that make everything- everything else and ourselves.

There’s a circle of life and a circle of the infinitesimally small. Rather than make you an insignificant part of something large or just another cog in the machine, you are more the singular event in a time-line that if it were replayed with the same external inputs would still have a different yet common result. Special in singularity and still entirely boring in familiarity.

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Feeling so much connected with everything else and yet ineffective in size can be overwhelming. That the hugeness of the universe can take your life and turn it entirely on its head in no time at all. At the same time the connection doesn’t run in the counter direction and you are unable to do a hell of a lot to give the universe what-for.

That feeling that the something happening gives you can be enlightening and wholesome. If you are in a darker state of mind it may lead instead to this, the trampled conundrum.

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How do you help? Can you? If you can…
Do you even want to? Would the universe help you? Have you the compassion to transcend the need to always get something in return?

Or can you not even get to those questions? Instead left stuck in awe at devastating enormity, while monotony gives way to exhaustion.

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Tea helps me think

[That stereotype about British people loving tea? Yeah, completely true.]

tea mug

“Ooo, very good packing skills,” comments the cashier.
Is there a correct response to that? I settled for, “I do try.”

So, because I am a secret raging hippy I take a canvas bag when I go for a few messages (aka groceries). It’s always the same one so I now have this ultra effective logistical thing going on with it.

Those of you who are aware of catering health and safety fridge packing- when you pack bags do you follow the same rules?

Either by bag or by layer you may find that- cleaning products are kept vaguely separate from food; raw meats are together at the bottom; dairy products and cooked meats follow; there is a colourful veg layer on top; toilet roll and milk have handles that then dictate no need for a bag; the snack/juice you bought will be consumed on the walk home. Although I do appreciate that in some places in the world walking home is out of the question, here in Britain there is no way you need a car to get to the local grocery store (unless cat litter is involved and in which case “DO you even lift?”).

The more striking thing for me is that I had never considered my new behaviour. Following catering standards makes sense of course, it’s just…

Life was not stable enough for me to need any packing habits before. Before, I was living on “stolen” tea bags and sugar from my flatmate, “stolen” biscuits at work and the cheapest pasta and tinned tomatoes money could buy. There was a necessity that I go to the effort of searching each major grocery provider to figure out who was selling those two things the cheapest.

Why pasta and tomatoes? Starch is a great store of energy and tomatoes contain vitamin C. I didn’t fancy getting scurvy.

Can you tell I was unaware of what other deficiencies can do to you? Although I was taking my flatmate up on the hospitality she offered in the 800 tea bags she got us, I could not bring myself to also take milk. As a result, I now have 6 teeth missing.

It’s not all doom and gloom though; don’t worry. Like I say, I am now at a stage where I can buy actual food and have packing habits.

This experience… ordeal… down and out period… whatever you want to call it… Is now the reason that I smart when people and the media try to tell me the economy is recovering. Sure, I now have financial stability, but I find that that is despite the economic hardships we’re facing.

The struggle to get to this point was made so much harder in these past years. Maybe some people will think that an exaggeration- an egocentric point of view that disregards the struggles past generations and other impoverished nations suffer.

It is true that this entire post is relative to my understanding of what it used to and is like to live in my country. Yet, I do not do so with ignorance. When things get difficult in these parts of the world, they can only get insurmountably worse in poorer regions. That’s the reason I have a truly heavy heart.

Here, I could fight it. Find work, dodge bills until I had enough capital, and get by on friend’s hospitality of food and shelter. You will not find my name on the last census, but neither would you have found me on the streets when it was being conducted.

As J.K.Rowling put so well having been as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, rock bottom can be a solid foundation on which to rebuild your life, “but poverty itself is romanticised only by fools.”
jkr
[http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2008/06/text-of-j-k-rowling-speech/][https://youtu.be/UibfDUPJAEU]

I find it difficult now to keep my financial stability (which does scare me and cause floods of tears every now and again), but I also find that I cannot make ethical purchasing choices on the precipice I just surmounted. Being a secret raging hippy means I would love to grow my own food, purchase free range meats locally, by everything else fair-trade and organic. As yet, that is not actually feasible on this income bracket.

Last week I bought 100 tea bags, fair-trade, for £3. That’s the same as other companies tea bag prices when it isn’t fair-trade. Totally worth it.

The question I cannot answer that has fuelled this line of thought- why is this Establishment so damn determined to make it as difficult as possible to be good and live life?

Posted in boogie monsters, growing up, Personal blog, politics, Working life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

It starts…

As previously mentioned, I have decided to create a seperate outlet for discourse with current events.

Friday’s seem like the easiest day for me to post (Thursday evenings are quiet). These new more challenging experiments in writing deserve the attention a weekend post can facilitate.

This open diary is likely to still be sporadic but, with this new found writing practise, they may end up being in tandem.

The first one is on TTIP. If you aren’t already bored to death hearing that acronym bandied about, give it a read.
seeingtheworldinred.wordpress.com

GM food guide next? Donald Trump compilation? Third hand story from secret Russian lives? Something completely different?
Votes please. =)

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Navigating life and it’s more awkward moments

Today I met a toddler.
‘No shit’ I hear you say; “you work in a pub,” “you live in the vicinity of people and therefore families and small children.”
I know. The place is child and dog friendly and there will be various interesting types to be met in such an establishment on a regular working basis. On a quiet Sunday afternoon, however, such a little boy can grab the heart strings of anyone fascinated by child’s play.

In the course of a few hours a child will interact with so many new things and learn in each and every moment. Not everything is totally new, but the repetition is going to solidify their understanding in each turn. For example, watching this toddler repeat after his mother in sounds without the words. ‘Bubble’ became many ‘bub-wul’-s (over and over and over and over…) and ‘frog in a bog, bat in a hat, snap, crackle, pop and fancy that’ became something like ‘ohg-woag, annht-nanht, shrnn-ahp-bhap, mha-nha nn-nnna-nat’. Everyday is a constant stream of this. The result is kids holding court with themselves in a string of noises and points that are all fairly clear, just entirely nonsensical.

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You can see it on their faces too. If you’re watching. That moment when they stop staring at you (the stranger) unsure and waiting and instead have a look that says they’ve got it. They’ve figured you out. They’ve figured the game out. Figured out what you’re communicating to them. A smile cracks the o-held mouth and they start wiggling around and talking. Just random noises, but they’re talking to you so sure in their conviction that they’ve got this and the message is totally clear.

The parents among you now say ‘aaahhhh- but you forget the times when something new scares them and they become shy and timid’. Children are not always so certain and interactive with strangers? It’s just such a time I am actually writing about.

He wasn’t scared of me mind. Oh no. I play a game of hide and seek using some of the lost and found sunglasses and suddenly I am his new best friend.

hideandseek
Instead it was a time that struck a different kind of chord with me. It’s in the purview of one of the issues I hold dearest to my heart. Yet one, where in my own white-ness, I cannot always be so certain.

Today our wee chap met his very first black person. Maybe. Mum and Dad did not confirm, so it’s anyone’s guess.

So the toddler is knocking around. He can walk and he’s settled in the environment enough to get curious about what’s round the corner from his table. Off he goes to navigate the terrain with everyone (all of 4 tables of customers) watching him go. There is a black couple finishing up their post-meal coffee, ready to go out into the rainy summers day. He spots them and stops for a second. He hasn’t been totally confident on this wander; he looks puzzled at every stranger (none of them have played hide and seek yet). It’s either unfortunate or indicative that he pauses at the black couple.

Like everyone else, they were watching him too. When they seem him pause, they glance at each other and nod in that way that shares a common truth. The gent decides to say it aloud. Whether to clear any caution of the white people around, or to invite the parents to confirm or deny, or perhaps even for his own solace who knows.

“He’s never met a black man.” As they get up to go, the gent offers his hand to the wee boy. I don’t know if he wasn’t sure what that’s for though, but in any case he didn’t shake. He ignored the movement and held the o-mouth staring up into the gent’s smiling face. Still smiling he said, “oh dear.”

Whether because the music had gone off or because it was awkward, the room was awfully quiet. So I broke it, encouraging him to say hello and asking if he could wave demonstrating with the gent how to do it. The moment was totally saved when his dad laughed watching his son stare at us bemused. Just a child’s timidity.

Just as children learn in every moment, so have I today. For me, this solidified the importance of exposure to our world’s diversity. Every child should meet people from different places with different accents, and languages, and skin colours. The better to learn them when they get older and show compassion to people beyond the confines of physical similarities. It should happen young and as often as possible.

It also gave me a new and ever confused appreciation of how difficult is to navigate the world when there are racial disparities- the undesirable remnants of our horrible histories. Questioning ones own position in life because you know that the ancestors before you, who have given you DNA and so bind you in resemblance, may have been seriously nasty buggers. The children of now, young and old, struggle to navigate a way to meet and greet each other. If it were only down to our biology, and the only reason we paused is because instinct tells us to be cautious of different, it would be far easier.

That, can be laughed off. The wee boy today may have a fairly easy negotiation of his unneeded instincts hereafter. Society will not make it easy. Perhaps as he gets older he’ll pick on the societal disparities and fall into the trap of following them. Hopefully, exposure to our world’s beautiful diversity will allow him to see the pit and skirt it. He’ll become the next generation fighting to make things equal.

I wish more people would address it head on. None of this, awkward silence. Raise your voice and encourage change, even if that just means encouraging your children to say hello to strangers. It feels awkward that every kid may have their first-black-person, first-asian-person, first-white-person and even more so for whoever these ‘firsts’ end up being. The awkwardness is a truth of navigating our world that we cannot avoid, and yet the occasions are always ones that need to happen.

Posted in growing up, Personal blog, racism, Working life | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

It must be poison

image

This is Ruaridh (Rooah-ree or Rory if you can’t manage the gaelic pronunciation). He likes chasing flies, not birds; sleeping on the laundry, not his radiator bed; sitting on my shoulder, not my keyboard; eating tomato from the pizza, not the pepperoni; cat treats, cat milk and wet cat food as long as it’s not Whiskas.

Whiskas is the big named brand for cat food for most Brits. It has the advantage over supermarket products of being a brand that has a more solid marketing front for pet owners. It also has the advantage over Purina and Felix products as these have been given classy, up-market advertisements and are marginally more expensive. For your average cat owner, you’re gonna go for Whiskas because it’s the balanced middle range option that won’t break the bank.

But Ruaridh is Ruaridh… right? My cat is just being picky, right? Having originally bought Whiskas cheaper jellied wet food and Ruaridh choosing to go hungry or eat more dry food, it seemed right to branch out into their more premium version. Again, cat wouldn’t eat it. Didn’t matter if it was fish, which he usually loves regardless, he meowed on for something else after giving the food a quick lick to decide.

So… it started me thinking. Like many people, I have been aware of the less than savoury conditions most for-meat-animals have been kept in and the way it is processed, thanks to enlightening documentaries and talks like those in Food inc. and the Ted talk series What’s wrong with what we eat? A befitting conclusion then, was that whatever crap it is that we are given I can only imagine what waste products from those processes are being put in pet food. No bloody wonder he won’t eat it.

I did not have to look far for connections with other large brand companies, as Whiskas is owned by Mars. Although I am not certain of how many, I know the Mars Incorporated group own a few different subsidairy businesses to their confectionary lines such as Pedigree and Uncle Ben’s rice. In the search, I also got distracted by Whiskas website http://whiskas.co.uk It consists of a series of small soundbites, each the start of a chain of links with “cat owner advice”.The astonishing thing about the soundbites and the reason I got distracted was that each is audaciously know-it-all and self serving. Makes sense; it’s their website and there they are trying to sell an image of the brand. It’s not poorly conceived, just poorly executed; a 3-year-old could see through this bullshit.

No pet food ever claims to be less than something that provides a balanced and nutricious diet for your pet, regardless of who they are. But balanced to what extent? Cats are pure carnivores so you assume there aren’t vegetables or carbohydrates in it.
Whiskas claim is that it’s association with Waltham Centre for pet nutrition (a research establishment) means you can be sure that they make sure all of their meals provide natural goodness for your cat and are also nutrionally complete and balanced. ‘Also’.

“…it is through studying [their] behaviour that we have developed a better understanding of our feline friends than anyone else so that we can help owners provide the very best care to their cats.” Literally anyone? Did they do clinical comparison tests to be able to say that so boldly? I went looking for trial results in Web of Science and Google Scholar and came up with zip. The only thing that got results was looking only for Waltham centre. Three results of inconsequential post-grad papers.

I shit you not, the three bulletins in the Whiskas website nutrition section (the section in which you expect them to divulge some of the secret of what it is exactly that your cat needs that canines and primates don’t) are vitamins, catnip and the exclusion of allergens. No fucking shit, Sherlock. And not all cats like catnip; everyone knows that. Just saying.

Ruaridh happens to be allergic to most plastics, so I had a wee look into the allergen section. Maybe they can tell me more about what being allergic to plastic means or something?
Nope.

“Some people are allergic to cats, but did you know that some cats are allergic to different kinds of food?” I half thought reading that sentence that it was going to conclude by telling me they can be allergic to humans. That would be too fun for Whiskas though.

“… the simplest solution is to make sure she doesn’t eat the offending food.” So the website also genders the cat when at a loss for other terms that isn’t the compassionless ‘it’.

Well Whiskas, by my findings my male cat is allergic to you- wet foods, dry food, cat milkshake and the treats of various types- and I now have no choice but to exclude you from his diet. Through a loss of faith in your branding and the quality of research at the Waltham centre for pet nutrition, I now assume that either only female cats like Whiskas (and you only like them) or you are getting us to feed our pets with a worse hotdog mix than we can imagine. That’s not nutricious, that’s gross.

Posted in Personal blog, petcare | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment