Exercising with Teddy

Friday, 22 December 2017

I thoroughly enjoy being one of those humans who wears a fitness tracker. I’m the annoying person who stands up every hour to walk 250 steps because my tracker has told me to and I check my step count periodically to ensure I beat the previous week’s exercise. It’s put me in direct competition with myself which I love and my dog benefits from my constant movement.

Black Labrador Retriever Cross

If you’re not familiar with my black Labrador-Retriever cross then I’d like to introduce you to Teddy; my 3-year-old former Guide Dog puppy that my fiancĂ© and I adopted last year. He is the sweetest, friendliest, wiggliest dog I’ve ever met and I protect and spoil him at all times like he is my child. Other than biscuits, he doesn’t want much and is happy so long as you sit on the floor and let him cuddle into you. He also occasionally sits on me which was fine when he was a puppy but now that he weighs 34kg I get pins and needles pretty quickly when he decides to plonk himself down on me. He’s too cute to turf off though so I just have to sit there with numb legs until he eventually decides to move.

The problem with Teddy being so content with very little is I fear he’s not getting enough exercise. He thoroughly enjoys walking the same routes and they’re not always lengthy walks. I can see how much exercise I’m getting thanks to my fitness tracker but that doesn’t mean a whole lot for Teddy as he’s not always by my side. Fortunately, Teddy now has a PitPat, a fitness tracker for dogs that securely attaches to their collar and monitors how much walking, running, playing and resting a dog does each day. You just have to sync it to a free app via Bluetooth and you get to see your dog’s daily stats and whether they’ve met target that day.

PitPat Fitness Tracker for Dogs

After inputting Teddy’s information into the app, his target exercise goal came out at 80 minutes which doesn’t seem like enough for Teddy but it’s completely doable. For the most part, he gets at least 80 minutes of walking a day and further playing time with our other puppy so he’s a very active dog. He isn’t one for chasing things and was never allowed a ball until he was withdrawn from training so, if you try to play with him, he looks at you in utter confusion and makes you fetch whatever it is you just threw for him. I swear the majority of my steps are a result of me throwing a ball and then running after it myself.

Teddy does have his mad moments though which typically happen in a forest I run with him in and when it’s snowing. He has a habit of running at top speed all over the place before stopping and staring at me with a look on his face that never fails to make me laugh before running around again. He doesn’t go far but if there’s water, you can guarantee he’s going to end up in it and I’ll have forgotten a towel.

Black Labrador Retriever Cross

Before Teddy wiggled his way into my life, I would very much avoid exercising beyond walking to the fridge and back. I understood the importance of exercise but walking from my house to the end of town just to come back again seemed rather dull. Having Teddy with me makes that walk a little bit more exciting (and challenging when he decides he wants to go one way but I want to go the other way) and it makes running so much more fun. I actually enjoy being outside now which amuses me greatly since I was the kid who would build a fort in their bedroom and sit in there for days on end reading book after book. I’m actually not alone in preferring to be outside and exercising more thanks to my dog, it’s quite a common occurrence for dog owners.

I’m so happy I decided to adopt Teddy when he was withdrawn from training. I can’t imagine my life without that weird little dog taking up all the room on the couch, getting his head stuck in the laundry basket and staring at me with his big brown eyes until I give in and feed him copious amounts of biscuits. He’s a happy dog who is probably currently hatching a plan to break into the room I keep his food in and eat it all again. He would’ve gotten away with it if he hadn’t burped.

Disclaimer: This post is in collaboration with More Than. The PitPat was sent to me (and Teddy). All opinions are my own.

Why I Hate Christmas

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Christmas Starts Earlier Each Year

Ok let’s get this out of the way, I don’t actually hate Christmas. Yes I am outing myself as a liar and I suppose a user of clickbait titles in the first sentence but hear me out, I love Christmas on the actual day and the few days leading up to it, it’s the rest of the time when it irritates me. As a kid, I was never that bothered by December 25th and everything that comes with it but then I joined the big bad world of adulthood and had to start fending for myself. Christmas isn’t as fun when you suddenly have to spend your own money and budget accordingly.

There are a number of things that have made me dislike Christmas over the years. It’s the fact I’ve been forced into listening to the same Christmas music playlist one too many times and that I can’t drive down a nice residential street without neon signs for “Christmas trees” blinding me. It’s the Christmas lights twinkling away around the gutters of someone’s house in the middle of November and it’s the sudden realisation that everyone I have to buy presents for has everything they could ever want or need but social convention dictates I have to get them something. It’s the Secret Santa for people I don’t like, it’s the Christmas cards to people I barely know and it’s because you’ve put on Elf for the 400th time this year.

Despite all of that though, I can just about stomach Christmas until I have to venture into a store to do my weekly food shopping. I’ve almost turned to the luxury of ordering my food shopping online despite the fact Tesco is 5 minutes from my house because I can’t handle the obnoxious amount of Christmas decorations and products plaguing every single aisle. Do we really need an aisle dedicated solely to Christmas chocolate that’s so full to the point where Toblerone practically jump off the shelf and smack you in the face? All I want to do is buy my odd looking sweet potato and get out; I don’t want or need any more tinsel.

The sad reality of my disdain for 3 months of festive crap ruining my already least favourite activity is that Christmas and the months leading up to it are always the biggest push for profits. Last year, the only big store out of both supermarkets and fashion retailers that reported a loss in sales was Next and they decided to use the tired old scapegoat of Brexit as an excuse for the dip. The supermarkets and stores that reported the best increase in sales were cheap and cheerful companies such as Aldi, Lidl and B&M. Asos reported an increase of sales by 18% in the UK and 52% internationally (unlike Next, Asos can actually use Brexit as a legitimate reason for this due to the decreasing value of the pound) which is possibly a result of the rise of internet shopping and the Christmas season requiring a number of sparkly dresses.

Doesn’t the likes of Aldi and Lidl doing better than Tesco and Sainsbury are not say something about us as a nation? There is an estimated £4.2 billion expected to be spent in the week before Christmas but with Brexit in the air and inflation rearing its ugly head while our wages remain the same, can we actually afford Christmas at this point? We have adverts pushing £99 interactive tigers that will be forgotten about within 5 minutes when approximately 20% of people in Britain live in poverty. There are people dipping into their savings for the first time just so they can put together a simple Christmas as the big blowout is out of the question. Cries for people to refrain from writing “from Santa” on all of the presents to their children are abundant on social media as there’s a worry other kids won’t receive the same kind of expensive toys and will wonder what they did wrong for Santa to ignore them.

This is the part where I’m sure someone would say “it’s not the present but the thought that counts” but let’s be honest, that saying is a load of crap. The present counts just as much as the thought which is why we spend hours fighting the crowds and scrolling through websites to find something that they maybe won’t throw out in the trash along with all the wrapping paper. No one wants to be the person who is giving bars of Milka chocolate that they got from Poundland when someone else is giving bottles of Chanel No 5.

Christmas has become one giant warped competition that we happily enter into because we’re told to. We’re shown shiny adverts that don’t actually mean much when it comes to Christmas but we talk about them regardless and then end up purchasing a load of garbage from those stores. Debenhams isn’t actually selling Ewan McGregor (and if they were I’d fight you for him) but the use of him in their modern Cinderella story advert got you talking and now you’re unconsciously making your way into Debenhams.

If we could eliminate the profit margins and the sales tactics, I’d be ok with Christmas but a part of me resents how over-commercialised it’s become. I don’t want to see fully decorated Christmas trees in the corner of supermarkets in September, I don’t want selection boxes diving off the shelf at me in October, I don’t want to walk around with The Final Countdown stuck in my head thanks to whichever supermarket used it in their advert last year. All I want to do is spend time with my family, eat chocolate for breakfast and laugh as my dog excitedly runs around the house with his new toy. You can keep your overhyped John Lewis adverts and vicious Toblerone. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to buy someone a remote control Range Rover.

It’s not all doom and gloom since a lot of us get a little bit more charitable this time of year so, if you have a few extra pennies and you’re in a giving mood, here are a few ways you can donate time, money and presents to people who really need it:
- Cash for Kids is looking for toys for underprivileged kids. These can be dropped off at your local branch of Wickes.
- Oxfam sells fairtrade chocolate so not only are you giving money to charity, you’re also getting a few delicious presents for people.
- Supermarkets often have containers for local food banks; check what kind of food they’re looking for and purchase a few bits and pieces as you do your Christmas food shop.
- Your local animal shelters may require food, blankets and toys for the animals.
- Guide Dogs and Canine Partners require toys for their puppies in training. Please check what kind of toys they’re looking for before donating as some cannot be given to the dogs (for example, a certain former Guide Dog puppy of mine swallowed a “roadkill” type toy and had to have it surgically removed).
- St Mungo’s along with Street’s Kitchen are turning Euston station into a shelter for 200 homeless people on Christmas day. They’re always looking for additional funding and more volunteers.
- Any local charities will happily welcome donations and, if you have the time this Christmas, volunteering is a great opportunity. If you have a teenager who’s spending their time gorging on food and watching a movie they’ve seen countless times, encourage them to volunteer for a few hours. It’s not only beneficial to the community but it’s a great starting point for a CV.

My Month As A Trump Supporter

Monday, 4 December 2017

Donald Trump painting

There was a point during the US election where I realised President Clinton was a title reserved only for Bill. It became apparent, regardless of what the polls said, that Donald Trump would soon sit in the Oval Office. I can’t tell you why I came to the realisation; I could take multiple stabs in the dark and never hit the right answer but I can tell you I woke up to the presidential announcement with an open mind. President Trump was no longer a joke from an old episode of The Simpsons, he was officially real and at the helm of America whether we liked it or not.

At no point during the election did I ever want Trump to win. I still cannot work out how America could only find Trump and Clinton to represent the 2 major parties and I still maintain that neither was the lesser of 2 evils; they were both unfit candidates but one person had to win and that person was Trump. In the months since Trump has taken office, so many things have happened that I never thought I would see in my lifetime. I didn't expect to see white supremacists marching on Charlottesville or hear about how Russia may have meddled in the election. I didn't think Nazism was going to become part of my daily conversations but this is what we are faced with.

Before we really get into how I became a Trump supporter for a month, I want to make it clear that I don’t believe every Trump supporter is racist, ignorant and extremely conservative. I’m not oblivious to the fact there are a lot of people who felt like they were left behind by the Obama regime and responded to Trump’s policies and boldness.

That being said, I’m seeing less and less of those Trump voters and significantly more ultra-conservative voters who regurgitate Trump’s opinions and lies as if they are their own and I wanted a better understanding as to why they think the way they do. I couldn’t do it as myself; I’m not a liberal and I’m not a conservative but I have enough bias in me to realise that I can’t truly hand myself over to the alt-right. To get around my own views, I made a fake Facebook profile for a homophobic white supremacist I fondly called Christian Whiteman Junior.

Initially, it was difficult to shake off some of my views. I wanted to jump into the comment sections of a lot of racist and homophobic articles being shared by the pages I had liked and defend the ones I was supposed to be berating but I stopped myself. I wanted the full immersive experience so I started screaming about libtards, how homosexuality was wrong, why crooked Hillary should go to jail and I called all NFL players who are peacefully protesting “babies”. My most liked comments are ones that are based on nothing more than hatred and ignorance, the comments that were widely shunned were ones where I allowed some degree of humanity in and corrected inaccurate headlines. If I said same-sex couples shouldn’t be allowed to adopt, a lot of people agreed with me, if I pointed out the exaggerated claims in a news story, I could see the tumbleweeds roll by.

I realised over the course of this month that “fake news” is very easily spread so long as it fits the agenda of the people you want to read it. If you are anti-Islam and you read a story on how Muslims will now be allowed to wear burkas in their Chicago driver license photos, then that will fuel your hatred further and will encourage you to scream about western values. It doesn’t matter that the story is false, what matters is the story exists and it benefits you in some way.

As Christian Whiteman Junior, these were the type of stories that appeared on my timeline almost every minute. I read a lot of the articles and I read the comments from multiple Facebook users. I didn’t read one article that was factually correct, in fact, the vast majority of these websites never loaded across 3 devices and on 3 different wifi networks. The headlines were controversial enough to engage the supporters of these views to not have to worry about supplying a user-friendly, functioning website. The comments I read were merely a reaction to an often very racist headline and never the actual content. They were written by people who get their news from places that won’t offer different opinions or different accounts of an event. It’s designed to be extremely one-sided and it’s extremely disturbing.

One of the stories in particular that stood out to me was about Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who started the “take a knee” movement, is either an extremely well-liked or a widely hated person depending on which side you’re on. He has been dubbed anti-American by extreme alt-right supporters and this story worked perfectly in their favour. The headline was “Anti-American Kaepernick Just Denounced US & Leaves the Country – Here’s Where He’s At Now”.

The story was about how he had gone back to his “bug and crap-infested homeland of Ghana” (he’s actually from Wisconsin) and how he has no gratitude towards the white parents who adopted him from a 3rd world country. It was extremely low brow journalism but it worked; people celebrated his departure from the US in the comments but what they failed to realise was none of it was true. Kaepernick may have ties to Ghana somewhere in his family but he’s American, he didn’t denounce the US, he just wanted to educate himself more on a country that America ransacked for slaves. The entire article reeked of racism and stupidity but it was lapped up. I almost couldn't believe such an article could be written from a serious standpoint so I looked into whether the website in question was legitimate and not just satire. I couldn't find anything to suggest that this was supposed to be comical.

Even as I switch between writing this post and Christian Whiteman Junior’s Facebook page, I’m met with a headline that reads “Watch as THOUSANDS of Black People Storms Stores and Trash the HELL Out of it On BLACK FRIDAY”. I read the poorly written article and then watched the video embedded in it. The video shows a lot of white people fighting with each other over TVs but very few black people. The headline is designed to fit the “black people are thugs” narrative and, so long as you don’t bother watching the videos, you’d believe the headline.

At some point today I will go onto Christian Whiteman Junior's Facebook page and will be met with numerous articles claiming that NFL ratings and attendance are down due to the NFL players protest and images of empty stadiums will accompany these headlines. The articles will feature no evidence to back up the claims, the comments will consist of calling NFL players ungrateful and stupid and the images will have been taken before the games kicked off and before the majority of fans were even in the stadium. Is any of that important though? For as long as you carry the opinion that the protests are disrespectful and NFL players have no right protesting anything, none of that matters. You want to see empty stadiums and that’s exactly what you’re getting; it doesn’t even occur to you that there are no players on the field in those pictures.

Looking at the difference between the news I usually consume in comparison to the news I allowed a fake Facebook profile to be flooded with is staggering. The level of hypocrisy of people screaming “fake news” while engaging with the very definition of fake news is mind-boggling. I don’t doubt that there are false claims made by both sides of the argument but I’ve never truly immersed myself into anything but exaggerations and false narratives because I’ve never felt the need to until now. At no point in my life have I ever watched empathy and logic crumble while hatred thrives but here we are with Donald Trump as the President of the United States, white supremacy rearing its ugly head once more and fake news being at the forefront of every political conversation.

Christian Whiteman Junior's Facebook page made me ashamed to be a human being but admittedly, spreading his views was easy. It takes no effort to deem homosexuality as immoral, to call black people thugs and to yell that libtards are ruining everything. You don't need to think, you don't need to remind yourself that you're talking about a fellow human being who contains both good and bad traits; all you have to do is be a hateful, degrading, vile person who believes everything put in front of them so long as it's not opposing views. All you have to be is ignorant.
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