Wouldn’t it be Wuffly….

If there was a place where all our furry friends, from the dogs with the waggiest tails to the cats with the twitchiest whiskers and the rabbits with the cuttest fluff tails could be safe from harm, abandonment and abuse. A place where everyone smiles and strokes their fur, bathes and cleans them, gives them food and shelter and protects them from harm?

What if I told you that there was a place like that?

It was a bright sunny Saturday when me and my partner made the two mile walk from our home in Chesterfield to the Chesterfield and North Derbyshire branch of the RSPCA.

My involvement with the RSPCA came about when it was suggested to me that I got some PR experience from working with a charity. It made sense to me to contact the RSPCA as I’ve always loved animals and always wanted to volunteer and help out with an animal charity. Unfortunately due to working full time and having university on top of it I just don’t have the time to volunteer in a manual way such as dog walking. I got in touch with my local branch of the RSPCA and met with Julie the Supporter Engagement manager in mid May of this year. Julie was really supportive of my involvement and we began tossing ideas around on the spot about how I could get creative and help the centre. Julie took me on a tour of the centre and explained that they are a self-funded shelter meaning they get no financial support from the main RSPCA and instead have to do all of their own fundraising, a fact which I would guess is little known!

I decided I needed to get my exams out of the way first to make sure I could devote my time and effort to helping without the distractions of university work putting me off, so it was for this reason that after my final exam I made the journey back to the shelter to do a second tour with a vision to write a post.

The shelter is always in need of fundraising, from sponsoring a kennel or buying things on the ‘wish list’ such as cat beds or paddling pools for dogs and of course, adoption is always at the forefront of any animal shelter’s mind. Right now though there’s an even more important fundraising mission: to rebuild the shelter itself.

Built in the 1950s and opened in the 1960s the shelter has seen better days. As we walk down the dust track which leads to the main entrance we pass a small enclosure littered with toys and homemade agility equipment where the dogs can be taken to play. A small row of portakabins used by volunteers stands to one side packed to the rafters with the kind donations from Thorntons. Julie quips that it’s ironic that chocolate is so dangerous to dogs yet it is chocolate donations which keep the monetary donations coming in as they can be sold, raffled or used as prizes in competitions.

The main entrance is at the front of the building and stocked with pet food, bedding, collars, leads, toys and all manner of animal paraphernalia for sale. Turning right at reception we pass the office which also serves as a bedroom for the member of staff sleeping on site, the small room where dogs can be isolated if they have just come in/had an operation etc. A tiny puppy with a leg condition which means he can’t bend his front legs is nestled in a blanket in the corner of the office. In the kitchen I am astonished by the board which hosts all the different dietary requirements of each animal. It’s not as simple as opening a tin of cat food or pouring a few biscuits into a dog bowl, each animal has different needs from the type of food they can eat to medication they might be on.

As we enter the main dog enclosure we are greeted by a smiling member of staff who is cleaning out the corridor, she’s not alone though, a cheerful yip and accompanying smile greet us from behind the fence. That’s Jack the 9 year old West Highland Terrier. Only arriving a few nights before Jack has already been reserved which I’m really pleased to hear. Dogs of his age are not used to being in the confines of a shelter and finding them a forever home to live out their final years is of utmost importance.  Behind Jack, Sky a white Staffordshire Bull Terrier brings up a chorus of yowls at the sight of us which is quickly joined by the rest of the crew in their enclosure. The amount of Bull breed dogs not just at the RSPCA but any animal shelter is incredibly sad. Growing up at home we had English and Staffordshire bull Terriers and it’s so frustrating to see how people reject them because of the media circus which surrounds them and brands them vicious. For me I’ve never known a softer, kinder, loving and loveable pet than a bull breed. I often think it’s all down to the aesthetics people want a little cute pedigree terrier which looks good like Jack or the delightfully floppy eared Sooty who are both currently reserved instead of something they perceive as Brutish and violent. They couldn’t be further from the truth.

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Rocky a 4 year old bull mastiff cross is another example of this, a gentle giant he is the largest of all the residents at the centre but as we pass his enclosure he barely makes a sound just wags his tail hopefully and moons at us with his big dark eyes. There are Akita’s, Husky’s, Jack Russell crosses, German Shepherds, spaniels, tiny terriers and beautiful bull breeds. All of them searching with hope in their eyes that we might be the ones who finally take them home.
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The dog enclosures meet the regulations set for animal shelters but they are no longer fit for purpose. The cages where they sleep are dark and hidden behind a corridor of cracked linoleum, the bars on the front are not really considered animal friendly and the runs are separate from the ‘rooms’ which means each time they want to go out or come in a member of staff or a volunteer has to manually take them out of the cage and walk them round to the enclosure. The vision for the RSPCA Chesterfield and North Derbyshire is to build new enclosures where the dogs can access the runs by themselves, where there are no old metal bars on the enclosure and where the animals can be comfortable. But without the much needed fundraising money this may remain a vision alone. When new regulations come in and the shelter is no longer fit for purpose there may be no option but to close the shelter down, what that means for the animals involved does not bear thinking about.

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As we walk along the side of the cats enclosures we are set with the regal stare of several cats haughtily perched on the inside of their enclosure looking out. I tell Ged what Julie told me on my first visit, about cats which are black or black and white being rejected at the shelter due again to what is aesthetically pleasing to the eye. I’m pleased to discover that the cat who had just had her kittens on my last visit is doing well and her kittens are now on the website as well ready for adoption.
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Round the back is the rabbit and Guinea pig enclosure  which is the only part of the shelter to have been upgraded so far, there’s a huge difference here with the glass fronted enclosures allowing the rabbits who are nestled in their boxes of straw to look out, upvc walls and doors offer better insulation and the whole image is one of ease for cleaning and tidying, letting in sunlight and keeping the animals happy and healthy.

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So what is this post really about now that our tour is complete? It’s about money I hear you say, I see your interest waning now we’re past the pictures of cute pets. ‘Charity starts at home’ I often hear and I couldn’t agree more. However… On average I get around 3,000 views a month on this blog. It every visitor followed the link to the just giving page and gave £1 that would be £3,000 closer to target to rebuild the animal shelter. If everyone gave just 50p it would be £1500 closer to raising the money. If everyone came back and kept giving 50p per month that would be a massive £18,000 towards the rebuild appeal and for a £1 per month from all 3,000 visitors that would be £36,000!!! That’s

almost as much as has been raised in the 4 years of fundraising already complete.

It might not be in your area, it may be that there’s something much closer to your home or even to your heart. But please spare a thought today for these animals who through no fault of their own have been abandoned. Think about the life they could have in a new built shelter, where they can be comfortable, where for some of them they will be living out their remaining days. Spare a thought not just for the animals but for the dedicated team of staff and volunteers who want to make their shelter a better home for them.

Donate on either of the links below!

http://www.chesterfield-rspca.org.uk/makeadonation/

Or

https://www.justgiving.com/chesterfieldanimalcentrerebuildappeal

Thank you in advance!

 

 

 

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Review: The Loney

The Loney is a story which has left me feeling unsure. It’s not the type of novel you can say you ‘loved’ or even ‘liked’. It is also one of those stories which leaves it a bit to the unknown and doesn’t really give any closure to the reader. While my literature background tells me this is an excellent technique; it has never been one which I have particularly liked…. So if you’re like me and prefer a story which answers all the questions in the end and puts all the pieces of the jigsaw back together then The Loney is not for you.

The Loney is something of a slow burner so much so that I cannot actually remember the name of the main character or if he was ever actually named. He narrates in first person and the only person who seems to refer to him by name is the priest Father Bernard who calls him ‘Tonto’. He and his brother Hanny (Andrew) are taken every year to The Loney a place in the far North of England which holds a mystical shrine. Their Mother who is obsessed by religion is determined that the shrine and its holy water will heal Hanny of the muteness he was born with.

The story unfolds after Tonto (as I shall now call him) and Hanny are all grown up. Hanny is married with 2 children and has written a book which became famous, he is also now a priest. This instantly tells the reader that Hanny was indeed cured but not exactly how. The reader is then treated to the written down words of Tonto the adult explaining how it all came about.

For me there was a lot of build up which led to nothing. There was the creepy staring ‘locals’, the haunted crumbling mansion, the witches and mystical tales as if The Loney itself was still alive. But for me there was just some part of it which wasn’t right. It didn’t satisfy my curiosity enough. I’m not saying it’s not written well because it is, I’m not saying the plot was weak because it wasn’t I’m just saying that as I laid awake last night racing through the final chapters, desperate for answers I just didn’t really find them…

Review: The Fire Child

Eat your heart out Daphne De Maurier. Not since Rebecca has the tale of the ghost of the dead wife haunted me in such as way as it has with The Fire Child. What an unnerving and truly gripping tale of the desperation of a young woman and a little troubled boy.

Firstly for fans of The Ice Twins I apologise. While the plot of S.K Tremayne’s first novel did intrigue me I couldn’t help but not think that it lived up to the hype. When I received an early copy of The Fire Child for review I admit I had my doubts. Yet another trumped up thriller story sure to end in disappointment. But no. I was wrong, I hold my hands up and eat a slice of humble pie this book was fantastic!

I started it this morning and I literally COULD NOT put it down.

The Fire Child’s main character and 1st person narrator Rachel Daly cannot believe her luck, dragging herself up from a rough upbringing in ‘Sarf London’ and hiding the terrible secrets from her past she is ready for a new beginning and a fresh start when she meets and marries the delectable David and moves with him and his son to the family home in Cornwall. But it is once they arrive that Rachel begins to be haunted by not only her own issues from the past but by the ghost/spirit of her predecessor Nina, David’s first wife and Jamie’s mother. Isolated from the world Rachel begins to think she is going mad and David is set out to prove just that. But what is truth and what is a lie in the rambling old house with its dusty cellars and even more well hidden secrets?

This book is gripping, it is dark, it has elements of everything from crime to thriller to suicide to the supernatural and the twist? Well you’ll have to read it to find that bit out!! All I’ll say is it took while very near the end for me to start and put the pieces of the puzzle together!

As well as the main storyline this novel provides an intriguing account of the history of Cornish tin mining as well as using beautiful poetic language to describe the area and really create the image of the house, the Cornish countryside and the mines themselves. It’s definitely got me interested in a subject that in all honesty I had never heard of before! I’d definitely be keen to read other novels by this author!

Review: The Kept Woman

Ah where do I even start? The Kept Woman begins in an abandoned room. A woman is there holding her daughter for the first time. Not as a mother usually would though, the daughter is a woman herself now and there’s a knife sticking out of her chest. When the crime scene is found a couple of chapters later it’s our trusty friends from the GBI Will, Faith and the gritty yet loveable Amanda who are brought on to the case.

As ever I find crime/thriller books the hardest to review. Mostly because there are obvious cliffhangers, clues etc which I don’t want to give away. So I’ll do my best to give The Kept Woman the review it deserves without any spoilers!

The women both mother and daughter at the beginning are both anonymous and for me it felt at first like you’re typical kidnapping. She’s there with the daughter she’s not seen since she gave her away at the hospital, she’s been abused all her life. The reader pities her and roots for her as she tries to find a weapon to protect them both.

Since I first started reading Karin Slaughter novels about 9-10 years ago I loved both the Sara Linton and the Will Trent series. When the two finally merged and they got together I loved it even more. The Kept Woman is very much about the way both Sara and Will’s past begins to effect their present relationship with each other. Old favourites are brought back in like Amanda Wagner and The devil herself Angie Polaski. I loved that elements of Amanda’s back story was brought into this one as well after seriously enjoying Cop Town I wanted to know more about Amanda and her life before she became just Will’s boss and the strong, feisty, take no sh*t woman she is today.

This story had all the usual twists and turns Slaughter is renowned for. As usual what you think you know and what the GBI think they know is never really what’s going on. I loved that in the middle the reader learns exactly what happened but the police still don’t know. Even at the end the police don’t know everything about what happened and how they were used as pawns in an elaborate game played by some of the other both major and minor characters.

The story also gives a lot of answers about Will and Angie’s past. The reader can finally begin connecting some of the dots and realising why both of them turned out the way they did.

An excellent read for any crime fan but if this is the first Karin Slaughter novel you’re planning on reading I suggest you go back and start at the beginning, you’ll be hooked!!

The War of the Worlds by H.G Wells

A bit of a retro review this morning on H.G Wells The War of the Worlds. It’s a book which has been on my ‘to read’ list for a while but as with everything it’s just took a back shelf (pun intended) for the more recent books I get sent to review and my university studies not to mention work! On top of this I’ve just taken on a volunteer role with the RSPCA (more on that coming really soon!)

Anyway, back to the main event. So The War of the Worlds, definitely falls into the science fiction category a genre I’m pretty fussy with. It has to be a certain style for me to like it and one of the other reasons I’ve not really looked at this book before, aliens just generally aren’t my thing…

However, having read and enjoyed The Time Machine last year I decided to give the author a chance and give this book a read and I was pleasantly surprised. The War of the Worlds is written in Well’s typical autobiographical style. Like The Time Machine the protagonist’s name is never revealed and it is written in the style of a diary-like autobiographical account of events. The reader is addressed throughout with their opinions sought out by the author.

The War of the Worlds  begins with the protagonist (implied to be Wells himself) engaging with a friend by looking through a telescope at the planet Mars and noticing some strange bursts and flashes from the planet. The reader is then thrown into the action with the first shell arriving in Woking and revealling the Martians: ‘Those who have never seen a living Martian can scarcely imagine the strange horror of its appearance. The peculiar V-shaped mouth with its pointed upper lip, the absence of brow ridges, the absence of a chin beneath the wedgelike lower lip, the incessant quivering of this mouth, the Gorgon groups of tentacles, the tumultuous breathing of the lungs in a strange atmosphere, the evident heaviness and painfulness of movement due to the greater gravitational energy of the earth–above all, the extraordinary intensity of the immense eyes–were at once vital, intense, inhuman, crippled and monstrous. There was something fungoid in the oily brown skin, something in the clumsy deliberation of the tedious movements unspeakably nasty. Even at this first encounter, this first glimpse, I was overcome with disgust and dread.’ (Wells, 1898, in John Walker, unknown date).

The story then follows the adventures of the protagonist and for some time the protagonists brother as London is attacked by the Martians and life as they knew it ceases to exist. I won’t go on and spoil the ending for those who haven’t but intend to read it as I’m a strictly no spoilers blog, however I will explore a little more about the story and the author.

As with the The Time Machine Wells writes with a sense of modernity which does not fit with the 1898 publication date of this novel. Well’s talk of invasions from Mars is in someways a little droll in its description of the slug like creatures and their creaking metal machines it seems almost unimaginative in this day age when we have the likes of Futurama, Star Wars and Star Trek demonstrating advanced and creative creatures far more human-like and intelligent creatures. But of course Wells was working within the limitations of his time and as such the creative process was still well and above other works of the period.

One of the most engaging and clarifying elements of the book for me was the knowledge Well’s already held of the self-made vulnerabilities of mankind. When meeting the artillery soldier after almost being buried alive, the soldier quips that ‘ It’s just men and ants. There’s the ants builds their cities, live their lives, have wars, revolutions, until the men want them out of the way, and then they go out of the way. That’s what we are now–just ants.‘ (Wells, 1898 in John Walker, unknown date). Further into the conversation with about The War of the Worlds which is the subject matter as well as the title, the soldier comments on the lack of importance behind the day to day life of man ‘ They just used to skedaddle off to work–I’ve seen hundreds of ’em, bit of breakfast in hand, running wild and shining to catch their little season-ticket train, for fear they’d get dismissed if they didn’t; working at businesses they were afraid to take the trouble to understand; skedaddling back for fear they wouldn’t be in time for dinner; keeping indoors after dinner for fear of the back streets, and sleeping with the wives they married, not because they wanted them, but because they had a bit of money that would make for safety in their one little miserable skedaddle through the world. Lives insured and a bit invested for fear of accidents. And on Sundays–fear of the hereafter.‘ (Wells, 1898 in John Walker, unknown date).

 

This sentiment is one continously repeated in present day. The idea that our lives are full of the drudgery of going to work, coming home, living lives we are unhappy with because they are safe and are what we know. I hope that like it did with me this has given you something to ponder on….

 

 

Cruelty Free Products

You may remember some time ago I posted a blog expressing my shock at the amount of products in my home which were manufactured by companies who still test on animals. I made a rather extensive list of the items in my home and vowed that from now on I would only be purchasing cruelty free products. So I thought it was around time for an update on how I’ve been getting on.

Researching has been extensive. There’s a surprising amount of decision making involved in choosing to become cruelty free. By this I don’t mean the decision to actually buy cruelty free products as that’s a no brainer. No what I’m talking about is the complicated process of ‘parent companies’ and ‘fixed cut of dates’ and deciding how you are going to operate.

Now we live in a world where unfortunately we cannot become 100% cruelty free unless we become Vegan. Only buy products with a fixed cut off date from 30 odd years ago and ensure that nothing we own has leather/fur etc. in it. Despite the ban on animal testing for beauty and cleaning products we have to face the reality of the situation that some of the food we consume is tested on animals and I’m not talking about taste testing. Now as a separate point being someone with a nut allergy kind of restricts me from becoming Vegan but hats off to those that are able and do become 100% cruelty free.

So it might be sensible here to provide a definition of some of the terms I’ve used here in regards to cruelty free products as some of you may not know what they mean.

Fixed cut off date. – This is where a company agrees that their products have not and will not be tested on animals after a certain date e.g. July 1980. This guarantees that any products you buy from them have not been tested on animals in the last 36 years. Some of these dates are closer to the present such as 2010. Some people believe this date is too close to the present and that you should only buy products tested before a date further in the past such as 1980.

Parent Company – Another tricky one. This is where a company sells cruelty free products but their parent company tests on animals. For example, The Body Shop is a cruelty free company but they are owned by the parent company L’Oreal who do test their products on animals. Again there is the moral argument that if you purchase from The Body Shop, although your products wouldn’t have been tested on animals, some of the proceeds from your purchase are going to be going to a company who does still test.

Myself and my best friend had a long conversation about this. We realised that (particularly in my case with my allergy) following the moral rules of the fixed cut off date and the parent companies we would be extremely restricted in what products we would be able to use. We therefore concluded that we would where possible avoid late fixed cut off dates and parent companies but where this is not really plausible we would understand that we are still buying products not tested on animals.

Household products are another issue. Things like bleach, washing up liquid and bathroom cleaner are nigh on impossible to find cruelty free cleaning and household products. I found that own brand products seemed to be more reliable than the big names so I investigated a few. Wilkinson’s was my first choice but unfortunately their response was very vague and they were unable to really confirm whether they tested on animals or not. When I emailed back asking for a breakdown of exactly what they meant by ‘when completely necessary’ I got no response. I therefore decided on Morrisons as my choice for household products. They have a statement on their website which confirms that their home brand beauty products including shampoos, shower gels and toothpaste are not tested on animals and are in the process of being printed with the leaping bunny logo. They are also in the process of obtaining certification for their household products from the Humane Household Products Standard.

So I’ve tried now to compile a (hopefully) useful list of products I’ve swapped out for including whether they have a cut off date or parent company.

I’ve changed all the household products such as bleach, disinfectant wipes and sprays, toothpaste, make up wipes and deodorants to either Morrisons or Tesco’s own brand. Tesco profess that they operate a fixed cut off date of 2007.

Makeup wise I’ve replaced my old L’Oreal, Avon and MAC products with Barry M, GOSH and Bare Minerals. Please be aware that Bare Minerals do have a parent company who test on animals due to supplying to China.

Nail varnish has remained Barry M as it was previously. Avon creams like anti-ageing, foot and hand creams have been replaced with Bbeauty from superdrug. Facewash and deodorant is also superdrug own brand.

Pz Cussons have recently released a new statement confirming that neither their products or ingredients are tested on animals, therefore their shower gels (Imperial Leather, Original Source) are now cruelty free products as is Carex handsoap and Fudge deep conditioning treatments. John Frieda shampoo and conditioner remains as this was already cruelty free.

To the best of my ability I’ve now managed to replace almost all of the products in my house with cruelty free products and in all honesty regardless of the fact these products are cheaper and often better quality it also gives you a warm feeling to know you are doing what is right.

What initially seemed like a mammoth task to completely rebrand my entire home has been a lot easier than I would have initially thought.

Any questions on products which are cruelty free please feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you. Or you can visit the PETA website for more information on which brands carry the cruelty free logo.

 

 

 

 

Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Was I excited to return to the Tearling? Wasn’t I just! Following my first read of Queen of the Tearling last week I was just as desperate to return to the Tearling as I was to return to Westeros after A Game of Thrones, to Panem after reading The Hunger Games, to Hogwarts, to Middle Earth and to the Shadow World. I could go on…

The first thing you should know before you continue reading is that if you haven’t read Queen of the Tearling you probably shouldn’t go on. Although I’ll be ommitting spoilers from this book there will be some spoilers from the first one.

So onto the good stuff. Invasion of the Tearling is the follow up novel to Queen of the Tearling and will be the middle novel in the planned trilogy when the 3rd book The Fate of the Tearling is published this November (by the way I can’t wait!). We left the central character Kelsea Raleigh Glynn as she had ascended her throne with her trusty friend and protector Lazarus ‘The Mace’ safely by her side. Kelsea had promised to clean up the Tearling and bring back the old visions William Tear had when he first landed there.

Invasion of the Tearling picks up where it left off. Kelsea is preparing for the imminent war from Mortmesne after Kelsea stopped the shipment of slaves from her Kingdom to the Red Queen.

But the story isn’t just about the war and the quest to right the kingdom. The second novel features more information about both the crossing and the time before the crossing. It fills in the gaps the first novel didn’t fill and explains more about Kelsea’s ancestors and the backgrounds of some of the other influential characters such as the Mace.

God’s church features heavily in this novel as well and we, the readers get to find out more about what is hidden behind their doors, with the ascension of a new Holy Father, Father Tyler gets himself into trouble as his loyalties begin to move from the Church’s corruption towards the Queen.

Queen Kelsea herself is beginning to learn a little bit more about the powers of her sapphires and a little bit more about The elusive Fetch.

Fast paced, despite being over 500 words long it was a quick and easy read because it was just literally unputdownable. Kelsea takes a little trip down the dark side in this one but that only serves to make her a more intruging and interesting character. I literally can’t wait to get my teeth into the next one!

 

Everyday issues, political and social issues, everyday feminism.