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)!


What I learnt at university (other than my course material).

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Today I received the grade I will be graduating my MSc with: 76%. To someone accustomed to the American, Australian, or other such grading systems this may seem fairly unimpressive, but here in the UK, where 70% is the minimum requirement for first class honours (undergraduate) and distinction (master’s) – the highest awards available at their respective levels – and where course averages over 80% are almost unheard of, it is an achievement I feel very proud of. However, final result aside, I have taken a lot more from my university experiences than just the course contents and a fancy piece of paper.

Even studying biological sciences, with its countless hours spent in laboratories in addition to lectures and tutorials, I found life as an undergraduate highly liberating. I found I had sufficient time to regularly practice with two bands, go skateboarding, go to the gym, go out with friends, and do other stereotypical undergrad things like binge-watch TV shows. Admittedly I have always been an efficient worker, but I soon discovered that getting things done became easier the more organised I was, and without which adjustment it would have been impossible to maintain this lifestyle throughout the entire program of study whilst keeping on top of my academic commitments. Sure, I definitely didn’t sleep as much as I maybe should have, and I am sure many would argue my decision to not drink any alcohol, which undoubtedly saved me many hours of hangover recovery (and a lot of money into the bargain), is not in the spirit of the British university experience, but managing to pursue and develop my non-academic interests as I did, meet so many great new friends, and succeed academically more than makes up for it; I had the time of my life (so far anyway).

My Master’s degree, which I undertook at a different university, was a very different, but equally rewarding experience. This course followed a modular structure, with courses running intensively over a week each, with seven hours of lectures and/or practical work each day, the weeks in between modules filled with additional private study and assessments. Due to the nature of the course structure, I opted to commute to the site – a military facility 65 miles away – whilst returning to live in my family home (having spent my undergraduate years in private accommodation and halls). This might have been an isolated setting for the year, had the intensity of my studies not been so great and the course numbers so small; nights out with coursemates were few in number – mostly to celebrate birthdays or other special occasions – with socialising instead predominately occurring at meal and break times (generally spent at the Officer’s Mess), whilst working on group projects, or at the end of the day when many of us would wait for the rush hour traffic to ease before hitting the roads.

This time, the experience gave me an insight into the working world: long, full days, a lengthy commute, much less free time to devote to one’s other interests. I soon realised that an audiobook or music was all it took to turn my drives into a period of respite at the end of a long day, and that by working on any assessments I had pending whilst waiting for the traffic to subside I would have more time for playing guitar and piano or working out once I got home. I actually found that this time constraint resulted in me naturally shedding lazy habits (such as watching TV) in favour of doing the things I really wanted to do, hardly downsizing the time I invested in my non-academic passions relative to my time as an undergraduate. Initially, the step from undergraduate to postgraduate study had seemed massive – almost too great to handle – but I ultimately showed myself how much pressure I can not only handle but succeed under.

To anyone approaching a big decision in life, or about to undertake something that seems intimidating in proportion, you must first be absolutely sure it is what you want to do, or will help you get to where you want to be. I realise that had I not found my courses fulfilling the experience may have crushed my spirits and sapped my energy, which would have resulted in repercussions for every aspect of my life. The early starts would have been unbearable, and the workload oppressive. Always follow your heart; no matter how well intentioned other people’s advice may be, only you can know which path is right for you. Once you are fortunate enough to have an opportunity to pursue your goals – be it a job, a course of study, or any other challenge for that matter – do it, because regardless of the outcome, you may be amazed by what you learn about who you are and what you are capable of.


Tattoo aftercare and healing update.

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Around a week ago I finally finished a tattoo on my calf that’s been a work in progress for the last two and a half years, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s not my only tattoo, but unique as my only colour tattoo to date. This final session consisted of adding a host of colours to the tattoo: blue, yellow, orange, red, brown, green, and white.

My only anxiety prior to this final session concerned the horror stories I’ve heard of bad reactions to red inks, which thankfully in my case do not apply. In fact, with the exception of blue – unfortunately the most abundant colour in the tattoo (other than black, of course) – all of the colours have settled as beautifully: slight flaking but no excessive scabbing or itching, good going for the first week of healing (generally the most bothersome period, in which a tattoo is at its most vulnerable)!

Since my first tattoo session, about three years ago, I have had great success employing a dry healing method as suggested by the first artist to decorate my skin, as far as I am aware the preferred method in her native Japan. Dry healing has not only been incident free and produced deep and consistent blacks (and will hopefully work as well for the colours), but is about as simple as aftercare comes:

  1. Remove the plastic wrap around 3 to 4 hours after leaving the shop.
  2. Gently wash off any plasma, ink, and blood with warm water and a little unscented antibacterial soap.
  3. Gently pat dry with kitchen roll (or any other disposable paper towel, though the softer the better).
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 two or three times a day.

And that’s it! Simple!

Some additional steps I like to take include:

  • Avoiding strenuous exercise involving the tattooed area for the first few days, and ensuring I give the area an extra wash should it get sweaty or dirty.
  • Letting the area breathe as much as possible, leaving it uncovered when at home and wearing loose, soft clothing when outside (which can help prevent the tattoo getting dirty or scratched, and will protect it from the sun).
  • Using clean bedsheets (some people like to use a spare set, as any leaked tattoo ink will never come out).

However, as previously alluded to, my experience with the blue on the other hand has been a little less straightforward. Areas of blue ink have dried out much more than any other tattoo I’ve healed, and today I noticed a couple of small areas had cracked and looked slightly bloodied. Whilst it occurred to me that the cold climate won’t help the dry skin issue, the other colours have settled beautifully and all dryness and damage appears to be limited to blue areas which leads me to believe it may have something to do with my body’s reaction to this specific colour of ink. Hopefully it’ll turn out to be nothing a bit of moisturiser won’t mend, but only time will tell. And if not, a little touch up should do the trick…