Eleanor Wilde

Hungry For Justice


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The REAL food bank fast

Hi there!

Well, the last three days have been interesting. After 40 days of frugal living, with just £15 to feed ourselves every three days, we took a step down in the world from budget eating to food bank eating. After having our pick of the supermarket to spend our pennies in, we struggled to find enough nutritionally-balanced food to fill our basket this time. Since Monday, we have survived on an authentic food bank parcel, with nothing perishable, refridgerated or cooked in the oven. We used nothing from our cupboards and accepted no staff meals or ‘gifts’ from friends and family. Here is what we ate:

Monday

Breakfast: Special K almond & honey porridge sachet (27g) with soya milk, 1 frangipane tart

Lunch: Sainsbury’s tinned soup (1 can each) with cream crackers

Snacks: Ginger biscuits, tinned mandarin segments

Dinner: Pasta with tinned lentils, 1 jar red pepper & chilli pasta sauce

 

Tuesday

Breakfast: Same as Monday

Lunch: 1 tin sprats in tomato sauce on cream crackers

Snacks: Ginger biscuits, tinned peach slices

Dinner: White rice, 1 sachet Blue Dragon Sweet Chilli & Garlic stir fry sauce with tinned carrots and sweetcorn

 

Wednesday

Breakfast: Same again, this time with no frangipane tart, just ginger biscuits

Lunch: Pasta with 1 jar garlic & onion pasta sauce

Snacks: Same old ginger biscuits!

Dinner: ‘Cock flavour soup mix’ instant soup with noodles, a little rice and 1 tin butter beans in the soup, with cream crackers

 

We were hungry, almost all the time. Even more so when I was at work, running around a hot kitchen on an empty stomach. The worst meal for me was the sprats, with the sauce reminding me of baked beans, and it was just not filling enough. So this is what many people live with every day. I’m sure the Trussell Trust do a better job than we did; I was shocked by how little we got for our money. This experience was grim, and made us realise how much luxury we had been living in on just £2.50 per person per day. Please don’t underestimate the experience of living in poverty, surviving on handouts and feeling hungry every day. This is not just an experiment, this is real life. We wanted to make a difference, and to that end we are going to give the money we have saved this Lent to three charities which Keith Hebden from End Hunger Fast has recommended to us.

We don’t have much money anyway, with only one minimum wage and help from our families, but we have calculated that we’ve saved £150, which we will split three ways. It’s not too late, if you’ve been touched by our experience or that of Keith on his full 40 day fast, to donate to these very worthwhile causes yourself, and make a real difference to the lives of those in real food poverty. These are the causes we will be supporting:

 

Southwell & Notts diocese Lent Appeal- Ecoworks/ Edible Churchyards

Find out more here: http://southwell.anglican.org/life-faith/lent-2014/lent-appeal-2014/

The Trussell Trust food bank charity

http://www.trusselltrust.org/donate

Sherwood Food Bank-  Mansfield branch, St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s Church

This is our local food bank, which Ruth volunteers at, and the money we give to them will be spent on extra supplies for people in need, to supplement their food bank parcel. This could be anything from treats for children to toilet paper, toothpaste and other essentials which people may struggle to afford.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my blog. It’s been an experience which I’ll never forget. Thank you to everyone who has followed, commented and supported the blog. A big thank you to our friends and family, who have kept us going, and most of all to Keith Hebden, whose dedication never ceases to amaze me.

God bless you all and Happy Easter,

Eleanor. 🙂


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Ending the Food bank Fast

Hello there!

Well well well, it’s nearly the end! This will be my penultimate post, to recap and end the food bank fast which we have undertaken for a whole 40 days. Keith Hebden had his first meal last night; his 40-day fast is now ended, and he has done really well! He’s adjusting to food again, and we will all have to adjust to taking back the privilege we had before Lent, to be well fed and healthy. I only pray that we don’t forget what we’ve learned, and that we don’t ever stop speaking out against the drastic inequality in our society.

The End Hunger Fast campaign is not quite over, however, and as it ends on Wednesday, Ruth and I are going to hang on for a few more days. Yesterday we spent ages agonising over and eventually purchasing a realistic food bank parcel with our £15, which we thought would last us for 3 days. We have rationed everything down to the last tin, but as the Trussell Trust describe here   we have included some treats as well. We tried to follow their shopping list as closely as possible. Nothing is perishable, or requires a fridge, freezer or oven to cook or store. We are not using anything from our cupboards, not even those amazing mixed herbs which are STILL going. Here is our receipt to prove it:

Not much, is it?

Not much, is it?

We will be having sachets of microwave porridge for breakfast, soup and crackers for lunch and some interesting dinners: Jamaican cup-a-soup mix with butter beans, pasta with tomato sauce, and some stir fry with rice for our dinners.

I did also mention treats: Aldi provided us with some little frangipane cakes and some ginger nut biscuits, which came in handy this morning when we realised that the porridge sachets we had bought are tiny child portions. Honestly. The porridge didn’t even fill a third of a normal-sized bowl. It was quite yummy though 🙂 And having cake for breakfast is great.I  have just had my red pepper, tomato and lentil soup from Sainsbury’s, with crackers, for lunch. It was nice, but I miss being able to cook something for myself! With such a limited shop, though, there’s no chance of making things from scratch. The other downside, so far, is that the food we have bought seems like just enough to keep us going. I have been feeling hungry since breakfast time; I guess we are used to larger portion sizes and more calories.

Oh, in case you were wondering, the most interesting thing I bought (which you may have spotted from the receipt) is this:

If you don't laugh, you're a better person than me.

If you don’t laugh, you’re a better person than me.

All foolishness aside, that one sachet of stock and spices is hopefully going to make a meal for two people, with just a tin of butterbeans added. We had to agonise over every item in our trolley this time, so that we don’t get scurvy/anaemia/low blood sugar. There will be one more post to come from me, on Thursday, letting you know how we did. We will never stop buying Basics range products, drinking cheap coffee or baking soda bread, and not a scrap of our food will be thrown away from now on. These are the things we have learned this Lent; to walk with our Lord in the wilderness and to walk with those who have to live this life every day. We must make the most of what we have, and we must not let people starve in this country. On Thursday, we will also let you know how much we think we have saved, which will be donated to End Hunger Fast.

It’s been a pleasure sharing this journey with you. Until next time,

Eleanor 🙂


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Triple Decker food shop recap

Hi there,

This post is about shops 6, 7 and 8…lots in store for you lovely readers, with more detail about what I’ve been cooking up in my super budget kitchen!

Shop 6: Whilst we were house- and dog-sitting, we did one shop, from Nisa Local (a mini supermarket) and from one of those discount food shops with lots of freezers and factory surplus. The Nisa was disappointingly expensive compared to Sainsbury’s (60p for chopped tomatoes and 89p for kidney beans) but we did get a great reduced section deal on some Jus Rol puff pastry for 40p. This made a lovely roast veg tart, which is an easy and filling dinner and we had enough left over for lunch the next day. The discount shop had some weird and wonderful items including a huge bag of frozen chopped red peppers for £1, and a paella spice mix for 60p. We also bought some BBQ crumbed pollock fillets, which sounds very odd and to be honest, tasted a bit naff. The fish inside was nice, though, and Ruth made them into a lovely meal with homemade potato wedges and garlicky sauteed carrots. I used the paella spice mix for paella, of course, with those red peppers and some Quorn chicken-style pieces, but it also worked well in enchiladas which I baked in the oven with some ready-grated cheese on top. The cheese, sadly, was not very good value for money, as I used the whole packet in one meal.

Shop 7: Back to Sainsbury’s, hooray! The mythical reduced section triumphed again, with 4 white baps for 29p. We’re not making as much soda bread any more, as it uses up a lot of soya milk and therefore reduces my breakfast options. Speaking of breakfast, peanut butter oat cookie/flapjack things were on the breakfast menu, as the oats and peanut butter were running out and I just couldn’t face another morning of porridge. These were made with oats, peanut butter, honey and Basics spread. I melted an equal amount of spread and honey in a pan with a bit of allspice, then mixed in the oats and a little plain flour, and formed the mixture into balls. After baking in the oven for 15 minutes at Gas 4, they were golden-brown and tasted delicious. Ruth also bought some Basics black olives, which were delicious with a tomato sauce on pasta. The little tub of mixed herbs I bought ages ago is still going, and we’ve been using it for the majority of our meals. It really is a star buy at 35p, and has lasted me since the 7th of March!

Shop 8: This was a bit of a luxury shop, as we really fancied some treats for once! We managed to find some reduced croissants for breakfast, courtesy of the reduced section, 29p for four. We also bought some chillies, as I was missing spicy food, and a bar of Basics dark chocolate for 30p. The biggest luxury purchase was a jar of Marmite for £1.70. I’ve been missing it so much! Anything over £1, on this foodbank fast, is a luxury. I will make the Marmite work for its price tag, though: it can do so much more than perk up your soda bread toast! For example, Marmite enriches sauces and gravy, and provides much-needed Vitamin B12 to supplement our veggie diet.

The best meal I made was a sweet-and-sour Chinese stir fry with egg-fried rice. Everyone has a different recipe for sweet-and-sour sauce, and mine ended up tasting just slightly too much of tomato. Usually I would use ketchup, but we had none, so I made it with these ingredients: Chopped tomatoes, honey, tinned pineapple, soy sauce, a pinch of Chinese five spice, malt vinegar and chopped garlic. It’s really important to mix the sauce cold and taste it while you’re making it. We used half of a big bag of stir-fry mixed veg from Sainsbury’s (700g for £1) and the rest of the Quorn chicken pieces for the stir fry, and it was more than enough for both of us.

On this last shop, Ruth had a good chat with the checkout staff about End Hunger Fast. She had to put some items back at the till (lemons and anchovies) and instead of disdain, she encountered sympathy and interest about the cause. If you want to find out more about why we’re doing this, please visit http://www.endhungerfast.co.uk.

I would like to get something off my chest here, and shed some light on how we make our food last on so little money. I don’t eat every meal at home, as I work in a kitchen for 25-30 hours a week, mostly in the evenings. My workplace offers me a small staff meal after working 5 and a half hours, which I sometimes take advantage of (once or twice a week) even during this foodbank fast. You may think that this is unfair, as I end up eating outside of the budget some nights, and therefore our fast isn’t authentic to how people in poverty live. Let me just answer that with some statistics:  According to the Trussell Trust, In 2012-13, 18% of people referred to their foodbanks were there because of low income (http://www.trusselltrust.org/stats). These people on a low income are likely to be working in industries such as catering, which has very little union activity, widespread abuse of zero hours contracts and frequent breaches of employee’s rights. Most catering jobs pay the minimum wage. Believe me, I have been working in catering since I was 16 and I have never been paid above the minimum wage, with the exception of my current job, which pays 36p an hour above for back of house. Just think about it: if you were under-employed, surviving on the minimum wage, and barely able to pay your rent and bills, you wouldn’t say no to a free hot meal.Therefore, I am going to continue having my staff meal when I get home late at night.

Thanks for reading. See you soon for shop 9,

Eleanor.


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Shop 5- The shop that never happened

Hi there,

It’s been a while! I’ve been working and studying very hard, so I haven’t had time for the blog, sorry! I hope you enjoyed my other half’s guest post; I think it’s important to talk about the wider issues around what we’re doing and Ruth reminded of those in the last post. The whole aim of this blog and this foodbank challenge is to help End Hunger Fast but I hope that our observations of extreme-budget eating might help those who do live on this kind of money every day. As Ruth said in the last post, we feel a bit (or a lot) shocked and guilty about how much of a storecupboard we are building up, and how little we have had to worry about food, despite drastically reducing our budget. So, as I was coming back from a late shift the other night, Ruth suggested on the phone that we give our next shop (or the £15 it would cost) to someone who works on a nearby housing estate, to give food to someone in need. There was someone specific in Ruth’s mind who had used up his food bank allocations and was pretty desperate.

That is why shop 5 ‘never happened’, and to be honest, we didn’t miss it. We got creative with leftovers and had everything from Thai curry to minestrone soup on just the food we had left. We haven’t yet done another shop. Ruth has succeeded in making soda bread, and we’ve discovered that vermicelli from the world food section (though cheap) is not a suitable replacement for normal noodles when put with a Thai curry! They do, however, go very well in minestrone. The minestrone that we had last night was the most delicious meal so far.

So…what next? I am currently sitting in a friend’s kitchen, because we are dog-sitting until Tuesday. I’ve got 3 bags of leftover food on the table next to me, believe it or not, but I am out of coffee! We’ll be trying out a Netto shop later, as that’s now our nearest shop, and there’s also something called a Nisa Local and a frightfully expensive Co-op Food as well. It’ll be an interesting scavenger hunt! Until then, however, we have been ordered to eat whatever food is going off while our friends are away, so another shop might not be needed yet.

This is what we have left, after almost a week (and in all honesty, a couple of meals with family and friends):

1/3 box frosted flakes cereal

About 20 teabags

2 garlic bulbs

1 carton chopped tomatoes

1/4 bag oats

1kg plain flour

1/2 bottle sunflower oil

500ml malt vinegar

About 600g salt

3/4 pot curry powder

About 100g baking soda400g allspice

About 300g penne pasta

10 small potatoes

7/8 onions

1/2 jar peanut butter

Almost full jar of honey

3/4 pot mixed herbs

6 1/2 veg stock cubes

1/4 bag rice

1 tub vegetable spread

1/2 carton sweetened soya milk

As you can see, basic things like oats, flour, onions and potatoes last a very long time. One thing I would like to do, and will do on one of our shops, is to try and go without fresh fruit and vegetables- in other words, we’ll try to eat in a similar way to a food bank parcel recipient! We’ve been eating very healthily due to all the fruit and veg, but with just storecupboard food, would we still be able to eat a balanced diet? We’ll see.

So…the next update will be on our next full £15 shop, when we eventually do it. For the moment, we will enjoy the rest of our provisions and see what else we can scavenge from this house-sitting gig.

See you later,

Eleanor 🙂


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Shop 4: the most accurate shop so far!

Hello there.

My name is Ruth and I am Ellie’s fiancée. I am guest posting this time as Ellie is incredibly busy (she is currently planting peas in the community garden with the children from church and then she’s off to work!)

I will begin by saying that I admire Keith Hebden greatly for the 40 day fast he is doing. He is completely abstaining from food for Lent in solidarity with people who skip meals because they can’t feed themselves and their families. He is raising awareness of the hunger situation in Britain and the End Hunger Fast campaign on television, online and on the radio. I hope he and all those supporting the campaign achieve their three goals: a welfare system that works as a robust last line of defence against destitution and hunger, work that pays enough for people to provide for their families, and a food market that doesn’t revolve around money and profiteering off hunger but that promotes sustainable and healthy diets for all. For more information go here: endhungerfast.co.uk

It doesn’t have to be like this. It has been said before, but I will say it again: this earth has enough food to provide everyone on it with enough food and a healthy, balanced diet. Every time I say grace, I don’t thank God for my food- I find that hard to say when there are so many people who go hungry- we shouldn’t believe God blesses some people and not others when the real problem is injustice. Instead, I thank God for the abundance of creation and for providing for us, and then I pray for those who go hungry and for the world to be a place where justice reigns and all people have life and food in abundance.

As Ellie has already explained, we are doing what is called the ‘3 day food bank fast’ in solidarity with those who are so hungry and poor that they have to use food banks. Don’t believe what some politicians have said about people using food banks to get a ‘free meal’. I have met many people who have used food banks in my job as Pastoral Assistant for the churches in Mansfield and they do so because they are desperate- often they are not able to buy food because they are struggling to control their debts and outgoing payments. People I’ve met who have used the food banks are often not only poor and hungry, but also feeling worthless because they are relying on others to feed them, stressed and worried about their money situation which is out of their control, and bordering on depression because they can’t see a way out. These are the people we want the government to help. Politicians of all colours and parties need to check their own privilege and remember that there are many people- often people we have met and spoken to unawares- who are living hand-to-mouth because of low-paid and insecure work or changes in benefits. Just this morning at church a lady told me that this is the first time in years that she has not lived day-to-day and skipped meals in order to feed her children. She had a full-time job but she was on a low wage and when she was ill or her children were ill, they just didn’t pay her because they did not have to by law. This kind of thing is a DISGRACE and it needs to stop. This is a ‘developed’ country and I am ashamed that we allow so many people to live on the poverty line.

Ellie and I both feel like we are cheating with this fast, because not only do we get to build up a store cupboard so each shop is easier than the last, but we also keep getting given ‘gifts’ by friends and family- invited for a meal here, given some cake there. It does all feel a bit too easy. That’s not to say that we aren’t learning something- we are. We are learning that most things in the ‘Basics’ range are just as good as the other products (although I realised this week that the ‘basics’ baked beans really aren’t as good as other beans!!) We are also learning that throwing anything at all away is just wasteful- everything, absolutely everything, can be re-used in a new meal. We were never very wasteful with food and always tried to use up leftovers, but this is on a whole new level- we are eating not only the cauliflower but the cauliflower leaves, we are using leftover sauce from one dish and making it into a new sauce for another dish. The other day I threw away a few small bits of soda bread which were stale and Ellie was very cross with me! I don’t think we’ll ever look at food the same way again!

The fourth shop we did was the most accurate shop so far! We spent £14.99 out of a possible £15. Here is our receipt to prove it:

Image

This time around we were able to buy Quorn pieces, which will be very versatile and a good replacement for chicken. The truth is we are semi-vegetarian anyway- even before starting this fast- and we love Quorn! We also have a problem with buying meat if the animal has been treated badly, so the only chicken we buy is always free-range or organic. On this fast there is no way we can afford it, so it was lovely to have some chicken at our friends’ house last night! To be fair, they gave us a meal, but it wasn’t because they knew we were doing the food bank fast. It was to thank us for some dog sitting we will be doing this week for them!

The most expensive items were a sauce for making Thai green curry- it would have been much more expensive to buy the paste and the coconut milk- and some cheddar cheese. We have realised how expensive cheese is since we started this fast!

Thank you for bearing with me on this fairly long post- I will hand you back to Ellie for the next one!

Here’s to the campaign to end hunger fast!

Ruth


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Shop 3- The quest for yellow stickers

Hi there,

Once upon a time, there was a mythical land, filled with good and inexpensive things to eat, called The Reduced Section. Most people were unaware that it even existed, busily filling their trolleys with artisan olive bread and organic cucumber dip, pouring their money into the hands of the Man, who laughed his big corporate laugh all the way to the bank. The Reduced Section was Nirvana for the skint intrepid explorer; crammed with slightly dented tins and sauces without labels, stuffed with pizza bases and crumpets that had a week’s shelf life to go. Yesterday, I found this mythical land. It felt like this:

We Won!!!

We Won!!!

My reduced haul included crumpets, pizza bases, cereal with a broken cardboard box and 30p soya milk (yes, 1l for 30p!) and best of all, some of that fancy bread that princesses eat (ie. ciabatta) down from £1.20 to 20p! I am going to make some posh garlic bread with that, yes I am. 🙂 The reason that the quest for yellow stickers was a quest, rather than a simple look-around, was that Sainsbury’s has placed their reduced section in the far corner of the pet food aisles. In fact, if you haven’t got a cat of a specific age and breed, you would never see these few little shelves at all. We went to town, my partner and I, because we had already bought every essential item that we needed and still had a few pounds left of our 15 quid. The fact is, this foodbank fast is getting easier.

I actually feel like it’s a little unfair, how easy it is. For example, I had so much stuff left from my last shop that my third shop was little more than topping up. I feel quite guilty that I am building up a nearly-full storecupboard, when the reality of foodbank handouts is often that 3 visits is the limit. My other half recently met a man on disability benefits who has had his benefits changed, and subsequently used up his three foodbank parcels whilst trying to repay massive debts. Under this government, the most vulnerable are suffering. We are very privileged in comparison, and we hope that this experience will change the way we eat from now on. All of the money we save this Lent will be donated to End Hunger Fast, and perhaps this habit of saving and donating could become permanent. I certainly don’t need to spend £3.00 on overfished cod fish fingers, for instance, when Sainsbury’s offers a Basics 10-pack of MSC certified pollock fish fingers for just 60p. Little savings add up, and if I don’t need that £2.40 I just saved, then someone else will.

We’ve learned a lot during the last week, about how to make the most of what we have. We have been buying one form of carbohydrate on each shop, going without meat and making sure we eat lots of cheap non-animal protein such as lentils and beans, making big batches of re-heatable meals and using cauliflower leaves as our only greens (delicious, by the way). Shop 3 was £14.63 altogether, our best shop yet, and Lent is only just beginning. As we journey with our Lord through the wilderness, we are realising that the well-packaged and overpriced temptations that the supermarkets offer are just that: temptations, which turn out to be worthless when we find out that more money does not equal better food.

Until next time,

Eleanor. 🙂


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Shop 2- now with added caffeine!

Hi there,

Ever so sorry for not posting yesterday. We had an intermittent power cut for the entire day, which meant lots of candles and romance but no internet. My apple flapjacks were just cooked when the power went off again in the evening, which is a plus. Did I mention that I made apple flapjacks? They are my new favourite breakfast food, especially when accompanied by 50p instant coffee from Sainsbury’s Basics. We’re eating like queens! On a serious note, we had a good long time yesterday to think about those who can’t cook, wash their clothes or heat their homes because their money doesn’t stretch to a coin in the meter.

Today I am going to treat you to some multimedia.

Here is my second shop from Sainsbury’s, which came to £14.25:

Look at all the nutrition!

Look at all the nutrition! Peppers, cauliflower, mixed root veg, bananas, soya milk, lentils, baked beans, chopped tomatoes, curry powder, mixed herbs, allspice, honey, instant coffee, plain flour, vinegar, kidney beans, mild cheddar, white rice.

Now, Sainsbury’s Basics is awesome. The cheap mixed veg pack is going to last us for ages, and their 35p mixed herbs are a revelation. Unfortunately, I did notice a couple of things that seemed wrong to me. First of all, there are no lentils in the Basics range, presumably because poor people don’t eat lentils; despite them being a cheap and healthy source of protein. Secondly, and most disturbingly, all of the Basics products are on low shelves, often the bottom shelf, which I recognise is a good way to make people buy the expensive stuff at eye level. The effect on shoppers, however, is that those who are strapped for cash have to practically crawl to get their shopping, and after kneeling on the floor for the best part of an hour, phone/calculator in hand, I felt quite deflated. I also had to ask the cashier to tell me if I was going over £15 at the till, because that’s all I had. The look he gave me was the same one I used to get at the Jobcentre. Why do we treat people this way, just because they have a little less money?  Personally, I pity the other shoppers for not realising how much money they could save just by buying the Basics range.

I’m not going to post every recipe I make on here, but if requested I can detail the ingredients I’ve used. Below is the lovely leftovers dinner I made for myself last night (the other half was getting well fed at Mirfield on retreat):

IMAG0014

Chickpea Fritters with peas, cauliflower and tomato sauce

You know what your mother told you about wasting food? There are children starving, in Britain, and so help me God I will never waste another morsel of food. There was too much water/tomato juice in Thursday’s pasta bake, which my partner drained off into a mug. This, thickened with flour and butter (a roux, if we’re being fancy) made a lovely tomato sauce. The chickpea fritters were a mixture of leftover hummus (technically chickpea dipping sauce, because I added too much water) and flour, with some more lemon juice thrown in for flavour. This made a gnocchi-like dough, which was very filling. I fried the fritters in oil over a high heat. A few steamed scraps of cauliflower and some peas, and there you have a yummy dinner. I would only add that if you do try this at home, add whatever herbs and spices you fancy, because I didn’t have any and that was the only thing the fritters could have done with more of. I do now have herbs and spices, which is very exciting. I miss my seasonings most of all!

An update on the soda bread front: My second loaf is in the oven now. It is stupidly easy to make, just ask Jack: http://agirlcalledjack.com/2013/07/02/airy-fairy-easy-peasy-soda-bread/

I cannot overestimate how awesome this bread is. I have just bought plain flour and malt vinegar, both very cheap. Any vinegar can be substituted for the lemon juice in a soda bread recipe, and I can testify that it’s cheaper (as recommended by a kind commenter on this blog). Any milk, including bog-standard soya milk, will do for the recipe as well.

I will leave you with some more multimedia, which has nothing to do with anything:

IMAG0011

Look! A tiny coffee-drinking giraffe!

Have a nice day,

Eleanor 🙂