Vegan-friendly hunting

Not long ago I found myself sitting in the reception of a police station in Scotland, nervously awaiting a criminal intelligence analyst job interview. A poster on the wall depicting a man with empty hands raised as if shooting, demanding people either apply for an airgun license or surrender their weapons caught my eye. It turns out that as of the very last day of last year, air weapon law has changed north of the border, and even simple possession of an air rifle (which in England can be legally used by an unsupervised fourteen year old on private land) could potentially put you behind bars.

Seeing this poster reminded me that an air rifle of my own, bought fairly impulsively by sixteen year-old me (and scarcely touched since), lay stowed away in a corner of my bedroom in my dad’s house. Now, back in the south, I thought I’d dust the old thing off and see if it works at all with a little target shooting:

Turns out it does. Truthfully, I wasn’t expecting such a powerful discharge for something I remember thinking of as a toy when I first bought it nearly a decade ago; I had walked into a local shop and asked for something cheap and cheerful for precisely what I did today: shooting targets in my garden (a practice which came to be known as “vegan-friendly hunting”), as an alternative to darts, which my friends and I had been obsessively playing at the time. And while the craze for target-based games passed fairly quickly, we had a lot of fun with it back in the day.

I have never aimed a weapon of any description at a living thing, so I have absolutely no idea the potential for damage or injury that a gun like mine presents, but having seen it tear through both sides of a can and into the plank behind it, I wouldn’t much fancy being on the receiving end of a shot. I have really enjoyed a little target practice (as I did together with my dad this afternoon), but also understand the Scottish authorities’ desire to limit the availability of such items to youngsters who may not appreciate the damage they could cause. Either way, today was both an eye-opener and a spot of light fun (with a healthy dose of nostalgia), but now the gun lies back under the wardrobe, likely to be forgotten once again (particularly if work calls me to Scotland…).

Truthfully, more than likely due to having grown up in the UK, firearms very rarely come to my attention, save the odd (usually negative) news article, so I would love to hear your opinions on the topic in the comments below (though please exercise restraint and respect for the opinions of others)!

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Hey oh.

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Today I swapped my daily skate for a snowball fight!

Apparently I’ve not been paying close enough attention to the weather forecasts (actually, I haven’t listened to one at all for some time now…) because it was a complete surprise too! My colleague Alex and I ran out of the lab and after pausing for a couple of minutes to appreciate the snowfall (which despite not setting too well was fairly heavy) got straight down to business pelting each other with snowballs – a great way to let off some steam after a long day’s work.

There’s something so satisfying about sinking one’s fingers into fresh snow, even if it was the final blow to my already dry winter skin (my cold after-work skates don’t do my skin any favours), actually splitting open at the knuckles. Ouch. Between having had some fairly mild winters of late and having spent a few winters in the Caribbean it has been some years since I last saw snow, much less had a snowball fight, and sure enough they’re still as fun as I remembered – there are some things you just can’t grow out of!

Bizarrely my home, only 6 miles from the lab, appears to have missed out on all the fun, the roof of my car bringing the only snow to be seen in the area… Well, that and the half-melted remains of a snowball found in my jacked pocket upon arriving home. I’d like to say the snowball fight was a battle I won, but alas she got me. She got me good.

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Richmond.

Today I didn’t skate, but instead headed straight for the London Borough of Richmond after work, where I would spend my last evening as a 22 year old. I met up with my good friend Samantha at the station, and took off exploring the area! This evening was crisp but dry and clear, and so it was lovely to walk the streets and take in the ambience, catch up on life and have a laugh.

During our adventures we stumbled upon an amazing “games cafe” called The Library Pot that has hundreds of board games (over 450 unique titles) that you can pluck off the shelves at will and play with friends and strangers alike. Not only do they host several gaming events every single day (check their website for details), but if you get tired of playing around you can relax by dressing up in the many adult-sized costumes and accessories dotted around the shop, or by heading to their underground ball pit. Yup, they have an adult ball pit

This friendly little shop is definitely worth a visit, but if planning a trip it is worth bearing in mind that it has such a strong community that weekends now require a booking just to get in (via their site). I’ll definitely be back soon!

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adventure:mk

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Anyone familiar with the town in question will understand this post’s title, though for the benefit of those of you who aren’t it is a reference to Milton Keynes (also known as MK), where the mid-noughties saw a spate of large buildings named (or renamed) in a similar manner, including: stadium:mk (since renamed ‘stadiummk’), the local football team’s ground; centre:mk, the town’s largest shopping centre; hub:mk, home to restaurants, bars, and hotels; and even office blocks, such as pinnacle:mk. Modern day Milton Keynes is one of Britain’s newer settlements, arising as part of the third wave of ‘new towns’ in the late 1960s, taking its name from a pre-existing village in the area.

It has to be said that Milton Keynes, unless you are particularly fond of snow sports (more on that later), isn’t much of a tourist destination. I found myself there for the first time yesterday evening to see my closest university friend, Emma, who lives in a nearby village. My first impression of MK (or what I saw of it, anyway) was that it seems very functional, if a little soulless: the town’s centre, for example, presents a collection of large industrial-looking buildings with sprawling car parks throughout a grid of wide multi-lane roads (admittedly a much more efficient and simple to navigate road system than the usual mess of narrow and poorly maintained roads seen in most of Britain’s towns). Due to its brief history and rapid construction, the town’s uniformity in architectural style is also unusual; I, for example, grew up in a 20th century house directly opposite a church built around the turn of the 12th – though for context the area is a lot older, having been continuously inhabited since the Saxons settled there during the Dark Ages.

One building, ‘Xscape’ (our destination for the day), stands out from the rest. The enormous glass-fronted half-dome houses not only shops, restaurants, and bars, but also a casino, a nightclub, an art gallery, a multiscreen cinema, a bowling alley, an indoor skydiving centre, and a real-snow indoor slope (one of only six in Britain!). We filled the afternoon with back-to-back bowling and pool best of threes, having a laugh while catching up on what’s new, then grabbed a bite to eat before heading back to hers to kick it for a bit.

Every time I get back from an enjoyable trip somewhere new I wake the next morning with the itch to get out there and discover somewhere else, and this morning was no different; as always it was wonderful to get in my car and explore, made even better by the fact I got to see a close friend I’d missed into the bargain. Yes, it could have been the worst place on earth and I’d have had a great time thanks to the company I had, but honestly MK has no shortage of fun looking things to do: I’d really like to try the snow slope, as much for the novelty of being able to snowboard indoors on real snow as for anything, and indoor skydiving sounds fantastic. As the old adage goes, you should never judge a book by its cover.

 

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Man’s best friend: what my dogs have taught me.

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Today began with a long walk through the Windsor Great Park – or part of it, anyway; at 20.2 square kilometres the one-time private hunting ground of the Royal family is an enormous piece of land. And the park is as beautiful as it is large, particularly resplendent in its Autumn colours.

The park is a dog walker’s dream (and most likely a dog’s too): no shortage of different routes to keep walks interesting; plenty of other dogs (and their walkers) to meet at all times of the day, yet enough space to never feel crowded; and safe for humans and dogs alike, with very few areas of the park accessible by vehicles, and even then most roads are reserved for the use of authorised persons only.

I love watching my dogs run, play, and explore, endlessly stimulated by various animal scents and sounds, chasing rodents, and each other. In taking in their surroundings in such a deep, multisensory manner my dogs never fail to remind me to stop, look around, and appreciate the wonders of nature. It is amazing how many beautiful views I never stopped long enough to appreciate before having the dogs, always otherwise distracted by where I’m going or what I’m doing. If you don’t make an effort it can be easy easy to forget to occasionally go outside just to be outside, and dog walks force me to do exactly that.

Our walks give me time to think, but I can also lose myself watching the dogs running around, carefree and happy, tails raised and gently wagging, or by grabbing a stick and getting involved myself (and believe me, it’s not just them enjoying our games). They don’t even care about the weather, never mind the countless little things we are all guilty of letting play on our minds and dampen our spirits. My dogs remind me of the importance, and freedom, of living in the moment and putting everything else to one side, even if just for a while.

 

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