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Drop Dead Vegan Burger at The Harley, Sheffield

Sheffield is honestly somewhere I've not ever paid much attention to. Growing up I knew it as the place The Full Monty had been filmed, and where the Harris/Nelson family on Coronation Street had original hailed from (my mid-00s pop culture knowledge is just that good). Aside from that, it has never been on my radar. 

The only reason I recently took a trip to Sheffield is because one of my best friends moved there to study for her Masters. Naturally I Googled local vegan-friendly restaurants, because that's exactly the kind of fun thing I do. And I was pleasantly surprised. It's not somewhere that gets hailed as a vegan mecca in online circles, so you can imagine my excitement when I ended up having one of the best vegan burgers of my life while in the city. 

The vegan burger I am referring to is Drop Dead Twisted BBQ Burger at The Harley. Not just a small patty that some restaurants 'create' to tick some box that allows them to claim they are vegan friendly. Nope, this burger puts out the stops. It boasts a double patty, vegan cheese slices, BBQ jackfruit and BBQ sauce. It was one of the most extravagant burgers I've ever had - and let's be honest, extravagant burgers aren't hard to come by, but extravagant vegan burgers are.

The patties are supplied by the local Twisted Burger Company. I'll be honest, I'm not exactly sure what the burger is made from (that is the one fault of the service - people need to know this for allergens or preferences) but the burger is a mock meat. You might already be aware but I usually prefer burgers that are clearly made up from vegetables (mushrooms are my personal favourite) so for me to stand here (or type here?) and say this is one of the best burgers I've had is a bit of an accolade. 

The venue itself is definitely of the indie rock persuasion (got to love a 10 Things I Hate About You quote) and not for the conservative. Their website states that the staff personally create the playlist to suit the venue and the particular even that is taking place. The bar was also very well-stocked with a wide range of spirits to choose from - as well as a modest cocktail menu! 

If you're ever in Sheffield (or perhaps you live there already) I would definitely recommend a trip to The Harley. It's located at 334 Glossop Road, but the Twist Burger Company also sells their food in The Yard (Ilkley), Vintage Bar (Doncaster) and various music festivals around the UK. 

The Harley

Twisted Burger Company

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What's your favourite scary movie? A love letter to Scream

There are two types of people in the world: those who read this blog title and thought I was genuinely asking what their favourite scary movie is and those who knew this blog would be about the Scream franchise. If you're the latter: can we be friends, please? I have friends I can speak incessantly to about Batman, but no one I can chat Scream theories to.  

In all honestly though, sometimes people try to argue when I say Scream is one of my favourite franchises of all time. 

It's the same argument: "the first one was great, but the 2nd and 3rd ones were okay and they really shouldn't have bothered with the 4th". We're all entitled to our opinions, but for me all the Scream films were brilliant and have went down in history as some of my personal favourites (in fact, my favourite Scream film is the third one - so suck on that!). 

As you will (hopefully) know by now (and probably do know if you follow me on Twitter) is that Scream has recently been made into a TV series by MTV. I was cynical when it was first announced - because even though I loved the films, there have been other franchises I've loved that really should have bowed out gracefully (Sex and the City - are you listening? Sabrina, also looking at you). But they've not long finished the second season and I'm eagerly awaiting the third season to find out who the other killer is. 

As an addendum, this is the final point where my love letter remains spoiler free. I don't know why you'd be reading a post about a film and tv show you've not fully seen yet and expecting no spoilers - but here's me spoon feeding it. If, like me, you don't mind spoilers (or have seen both the TV show and films) then read on.  

One of the reasons I didn't think it would work, is the inevitable passing of time. Sure Scream did stay away from hideous 90s fashion so it does have a timeless look about it - but it still has been 20 years since the first one was released. Aren't the actors old now? Does the same set still exist? How can they aim a show at teenagers who weren't even born yet when the original film was released? 

But the makers of the TV show didn't make all the same mistakes that other re-boots do. They aren't taking us back to Woodsboro again and again and again. They're not still trying to pass Neve Campbell off as a high school student (tbh, she didn't even pass as a high school student back then). And they're not taking Billy Loomis back from the dead.

The Scream writers were smart and kept what made Scream iconic: the killer who has watched one too many scary movies, the high school setting, the pop culture references, the whodunit, the creepy phone call, the voice. Those were the important parts - there's not a rule somewhere that Neve Campbell has to play Sidney Prescott until the day she dies (can someone let Hugh Jackman know this? I love Wolverine but it's time to let another character get centre stage). Other successful franchises go this route too. Think about James Bond - it has survived because they've switched up the actors and moved with the times.

In the Scream television series we are taken to Lakewood (not Woodsboro), the main character is Emma Duvall (not Sidney Prescott), the film geek is Noah Foster (not Randy Meeks), the original killer prior to the film is Brandon James (not Cotton Weary), and we even get a different mask! Oh and the killer doesn't just use phone calls anymore - there's text messaging and killer selfies! (This was a bit cringey at first, but you get used to it)

Despite the changes, the TV show still pays homage to the original films. The opening scene with Nina reflects that of Casey Becker, and the closing scene at Nina's house party mirrors the final kill-off in Scream 1. Which made my pop culture heart flutter - but I did wonder if audiences who hadn't seen the films might be a bit lost. Not actually, as I've found out from friends. The references just go over their heads and they continue to enjoy the show - which is an accolade to the talent of the writers.

However, the references do have a negative drawback - I was able to guess the killers because I've seen the films. I didn't pre-emptively identify Piper as the killer, but once it was revealed she was actually the half-sibling of Emma and her killing spree was an act of jealousy - I got a sense of dejavu. If you've seen the films you'll know that in Scream 3 it was revealed that Sidney had a half-sibling through her mum, who had been given up for adoption - and killed out of jealousy. So when season 2 started it didn't take long for my suspicions of Emma's boyfriend Kieran to grow because Sidney's boyfriend in Scream 1, Billy Loomis, had turned out to be the killer.

You might be reading this and thinking I'm an old codger who rants about the youth of today. If you are good at maths and know my exact date of birth - you might have noted that I was only 6 when the first film came out. I do actually have responsible parents who kept me away from age-inappropriate media, and I didn't watch Scream until I was roughly 15. The fact that I watched it almost a decade after its first release (and loved it) is a testament to its timelessness. Okay, there are a few things that give away its 90s-ness (covered in this funny YouTube video) but it has stood its test of time. 

It wasn't until recently, however, that I discovered how important Scream was to the horror genre. Scary movies weren't having a good time in the early to mid 90s and Scream revitalised it. It was both a critical and financial success - due to its smart humour and cultural importance. The debate about whether slasher films encourage real-world killers is one that society still has today - and is actively discussed in the film. As Stu said "Movies don't make killers, they just make them more creative". The second film even comments on a lack of racial diversity in horror films: 

The revelation that they're had been two killers made it stand out as well. Think about it: how many slasher films have two killers. Two killers makes it harder for the audience to identify the culprit (I managed to guess Kieran, but I spent a lot of series convinced there would be a second killer - my money was on Brooke, which I know will annoy a lot of fans). 

Also, am I just old or is it really cool that the TV show includes a caption letting audiences know what song is currently playing? Is that new, or are all the cool shows doing it now?

To all that doubt Scream's brilliance and my love for it: 1) mind your own business and get back to whatever franchise is your favourite and 2) it saved the horror genre, managed to successfully launch a tv show two decades after the original and is full of pop culture references. 

And I don't know what else you could want in a film. 

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Christmas gift guide: your parents (or grandparents, and other grown-ups)

When people ask me in a frenzied state if I have all my Christmas shopping done, I almost feel bad saying yes. You see I'm a single, only child with no living grandparents and friends who only switch birthday my parents are the only people who are consistently on my list. 

Saying that, I think we're all in agreement that parents are the worst to buy for. You firstly have the pressure of getting them something great to make up for all the generous presents they bought you over the years (and everything else they paid for!). Then there's the added pressure of getting them something they don't already own. I mean, my parents have been around since the 1950s and I'm not entirely sure if there's any material goods they haven't purchase themselves over the years (the temptation get them something gimmicky is high). 

Whether you parents are the only people you buy for, or they're just two of twenty, then here's my guide to what you could get them (or any other older relative that you might buy for). 

Jamie Oliver Pasta Machine. Kitchen gadgets are always a great fail-safe for parents, especially when they're kitchen gadgets that they probably don't already have (but would be nice to have!). I also like the Master Pan, and the SMART Breakfast

Lapdesk. If your parents are anything like mine (or fit the stereotype of parents) they love to show off how good they are with technology *cough* and own every gadget ever (even if they struggle to work them). Give them a helping hand with a lapdesk so they can browse "The Facebook" while watching Corrie. 

Autoseal Travel Mug. Erm, it's practical? My parents love travel and anything travel related always ends up on my short list. 

Robot Mop. Just look at this gif!

This will totally make up for all the chores you didn't do as a kid. (Firebox)

A bottle of their favourite tipple. Whenever I get really stuck for ideas with my parents, it's a bottle of high-end single malt whiskey for my dad and gin for my mum. 

High-end candles. Stay out of the Yankee Candles shop. There's a range of luxury candles you can pick up for your parents, and my top pick is The Isle of Skye Candle Company

A boxset. Your parents grew up during a time when DVDs didn't exist and they had to tape everything off the TV (my mum will groan at me for saying that). But technology has caught up and their favourite films as a teenager have now been digital re-mastered.  

Gillian Kyle anything. The epitome of  mum/dad/gran friendly (if they're Scottish).

Family Crest and Surname History. If your parents are proud of their family ancestry, this is the perfect thing to get them. From: Getting Personal

The gift of experience. Whenever you're buying for someone who seems to have everything, look at  an experience. Helicopter rides, skiing lessons, or tickets to an upcoming show. There's a wide range from Getting Personal, but there's a lot of these on the market. 

Donate to a charity in their name. Gifts in Action have a large collection, but almost all big charities have a Christmas gift option.

Because I know not everyone's mum wants perfume for Christmas, and not everyone's dad wants gardening shears, I'm going to plug my wishlists based on personality types from previous years. Gift sets from small, cruelty-free brands, online shopping for ethical Christmas presents, gift guide for a Scottish fashionista,  Stocking fillers for a kitschy gardener, gifts for the well-groomed cruelty-free male, stocking fillers for a foodie who loves a drink,  AND (my favourite!) stocking fillers for redheads and gingers. Happy shopping!

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What to do when elections go to fuck

So, erm, the American election went well didn't they?

Okay, it went well if you actually wanted a misogynistic, Islamophobic and homophobic billionaire celebrity with no political experience who publicly mocks disabled people as President. 

But if you're reading my blog chances are you're not down with that (unless you're a troll or hate reader - then hello!). Chances are you put your cross in another box (or would have if you were American) and are now feeling frustrated, angry, upset, scared and a host of other negative emotions. 

I hear ya. The last couple of elections in the UK haven't exactly went my way. The UK voted for Brexit, The Conservatives won another five years, Scotland didn't go independent, and the Tories had a bit of a resurgence in Scotland. I sometimes wonder why I bother staying up to watch results come through giving I'll be both sleep-deprived and punching walls the next day. 

On the morning of the American Presidential result, I messaged my American friend to check how she was feeling. She was heart-broken but also asked for coping advice, throwing in a reference to Brexit. It was a difficult question to answer, as I live in Scotland where all council regions voted Remain. I don't have to live side-by-side with most Brexiters, and it still remains to be seen when the UK actually will leave the EU (if it ever will). 

But I've had a few days to think about it, and here's my advice for when elections go to fuck and what you can actively do. 

Understand what really went wrong

It's really easy to shout "racist, sexist, middle America who always votes for white men" and then go sulk. And while, yes, Trump (plus Brexit and Tories) win elections because there's still people out there who think women should only be married to politicians. Or that America should close its doors to immigrants, even though almost everyone in modern USA is descendent from an immigrant. Or can't even tell the difference between Iran and Mexico on a map. 

I will never ever say these things aren't true - they are. But it's not the whole story. 

Clinton won the popular vote but not the electoral college. There's a massive flaw in the voting system. There's a massive flaw in the UK voting system too: it's not about how many votes you win, it's about your supporters being concentrated into the same region! I am lucky that I can vote for who I want in a city like Glasgow where the Tories will never see light of day, but in other parts of Scotland I would be voting for the candidate I hate the least. The voting system is a massive problem. 

Another problem, was the mainstream media. I don't know how bad it was in America - but after a few weeks of watching the American elections on the BBC I actually had to Google 'who are the other Republican candidates?'. If this is how the news channels behaved in America, then it's no wonder Trump won the Republican candidacy. 

And then there's the other problem with the mainstream media - people sick of mainstream media so decided to vote for the candidate who wasn't media darling. Hillary was favoured by the American media and Hollywood, and some people took that as a sign that 'she was part of the system'. Donald on the other hand had very few endorsements so he's seen as some kind of cool anti-establishment figure. I don't know how because he's, like, the 1% of the 1% but it worked. 

We have the same problem in the UK - the BBC is state funded and meant to be unbiased. But unbiased media does not exist. Look at the way they followed Nigel Farage around before there was ever a UKIP MP, but didn't give the Green Party any attention even though they had a damn MP (in the form of the fabulous Caroline Lucas). 

And while we're on the subject of media bias ask yourself honestly: should Hillary have been the Democratic candidate? Did she maybe not get chosen due to media attention and voters thinking more about strategy rather than who really was the best candidate. Look, I'm not saying Bernie would have won - statisticians can analyse the numbers all they want but unless anyone has a crystal ball they can't say. 

AND (this is my final point) a lot of Trump's support came from un-educated Americans. You know, people with less information at their finger tips and have to rely on mainstream media. Sometimes university-educated, middle class, urban living, technology-savvy progressives need a reminder that they have access to a bulk-load more information than someone who is working-class, doesn't know how to use the internet, is working two jobs just trying to get by and lives in a small community. 

You on the other hand have a degree in sociology or politics, can pay to read news that is covered by paywall, can use the internet to dig up dirt or read a piece of information that the mainstream media is conveniently not mentioning. This is a privilege and you need to understand that many people don't have it. 

It wasn't even just the American elections - a lot of Leave voters were working class, as were a lot of Scottish Independence supporters. Because when you're fucked by the system, you'll vote for change - any change. Fellow Green Party member Chris wrote this well-balanced piece after Brexit, which covers what exactly happened

So what can we actually do? If you're in the UK donate to and support the Electoral Reform Society, and make electoral reform an important issue that you ask candidates about. Read news articles that go beyond mainstream media - dig deep, and when you find something don't keep it to yourself. Write a blog and shout your views loud and clear. And don't just campaign once candidates are chosen - campaign while they are being chosen. Don't just vote, be an actual voice. 

Donate to charities and organisations that need support

The world is still capitalist, and that's why billionaire business men win. If you want a candidate to win (whether Hillary, Bernie, or a third-party candidate) one of the best things you can do is donate to their campaign. With more money they can have more bus adverts, pop a leaflet through every door, run a TV campaign, hire a great press officer, have posters in all their supporters windows and provide badges for their supporters. Money doesn't grow on trees, and that includes the trees outside the White House. 

But it's not just political campaigns that need money. Since the Tories got in vulnerable people have become more vulnerable - and it looks like it might be the same when Trump takes his seat in the Oval Office. Donate to organisations that need you right now. It's difficult to list them all as so many need support - but Get Bullish has compiled a great list to get Americans started. I could name so many in the UK but some organisations that I throw donations towards include Rape Crises Scotland, the PDSA, and MS Society. I also give random donations to the Scottish Green Party on top of my membership fee. 

Vote in every election, every damn one

The next election in Scotland is the council elections. Yeah, those fun ones that have a really high turnout (eye roll). But the council elections actually have the fairest voting system - and that makes them one of the best to get your voice heard. Parties such as the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and even UKIP will never have a Prime Minister under First Past the Post. But they can lead councils. And that's where small little parties have the chance to prove themselves worthy of the people's vote in bigger elections. 

I'm not sure when the next American election is (or if any of them could be counted as fair) but whatever the vote is - make sure your vote is cast. 

Take care of yourself

If you need to cry, let yourself cry.  If you're one of the disadvantaged groups that are scared right now - you are allowed to be scared. Take a few days. Have a media blackout. 

Be a good alley

If you're not one of the disadvantaged groups Trump has made bigoted remarks about, now is time to be a good alley. Publicly let LGBT+, immigrant, Muslim, black, Asian, Hispanic, and disabled communities that you support them. And then take action. Donate to organisations that support them. If one of your disadvantaged friends is scared to leave the house, offer to go with them. Accompany your female friend if she needs an abortion. Call out racist and sexist jokes. Words are great, but actions are better.  

Also, do not ever fucking tell people 'now is time to unite and build a America for all'. By doing this, you are telling people that their fear of a Trump presidency is not real. You are telling them to roll over and accept a President who publicly mocks them. By saying this you keep the oppressed, oppressed. 

Look to the future

The next four years will be bleak, but there is life after every shitty government. 

And the proof?

Millennials - well, most - did not vote Trump. The cycle of life guarantees that these progressive attitudes will expand as people born in the past two - three decades grow older and finally kick bigoted views to the curb. And even take office. 

Then there's anger. The morning after the No vote in the Scottish Referendum, yes voters didn't roll over and accept it. They joined the pro-independence parties and the SNP became the biggest political party in the UK by membership. In the months that followed it became obvious that the UK Government wasn't going to keep its promises to Scotland (remember when they said that staying in the UK was the best way to guarantee EU membership, and that Scotland could never become a member on its own - still not forgotten that). 

So what did Scotland do? Sent a tsunami of SNP MPs to Westminster in the next UK election. Scottish Labour lost their stronghold on Scotland and could be found floating dead in Loch Ness somewhere. 

Heck, I've even seen it in Student Elections. One year my old university's students union Vice-President was shitty and wouldn't do his job. The next election? He ran for President and people were pissed. The turnout was high and the other candidate won by more than double the votes. 

Somewhere in the USA a young woman or girl, seen Hillary's defeat and is pissed enough that she has decided she will become the first female President. 

Sometimes, anger is what people need to get involved. 

Hold tight America, you deserve better and you'll get better. 

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Tampopo, Trafford Shopping Centre

Manchester has long been on my list of places to visit (you could argue I'm easily pleased). Growing up it was a pop culture hub with a famous soap and an even more famous football club. In my adult years it came onto my radar even more as a vegan hotspot, and the adopted home of one of my veggie blogging bffs Louise

So while heading out to Old Trafford Football Stadium was on my to-do list, so was meeting up with Louise for some vegan grub. Now, we had a bit of drama with this one. V Revolution is closed for renovations, Dough is closed due to storm damage and so many other vegan cafés were outwith the city centre boundary - and since I only had 24 hours in the city I didn't want to wander too far out. 

Then Louise suggested heading to one of the restaurants in the Old Trafford Shopping Centre. Originally I was a bit hesitant because I assumed they would all be chains that are available in Scotland, and I didn't exactly want to eat in the same-old while exploring a new city. Thankfully, there were two vegan friendly restaurants to choose from that were not available in Glasgow. 

We settled on Tampopo - an Asian fusion restaurant with clearly marked vegan dishes. If you live south of the border, this restaurant might be more familiar to you. There's three in Manchester and one in Soho, London. It had a very Wagamamas-esque feel to it - so even if you haven't been before, you'll know what to expect. 

The menu itself is large but when you narrow down the vegan dishes you're only left with a few choices - but I will never fault a restaurant for trying. (Also to note: the menu online is slightly out-of-date and is not the same as the one we were handed). This was also one of those nights where I could hear my stomach rumbling: I had had a busy day of travelling and walking round the Manchester United Museum, while Louise had been at work. So between us we ordered a starter and main each, plus a side and a dessert to share. It was one of those days.

We  each chose the same starter of vegetable tempura, and this honestly the best tempura I have ever eaten. Weirdly they included a tempura pepper, which was a bit random but the soy sauce was perfectly salty and we got a good amount of vegetables for our money.

For mains I chose the Singaporean Curry. I'll hold my hands up right now and say I'm not sure the differences between a Singaporean Curry and other Asian cuisines - but this was a good damn curry. The sauce is a mix of coconut milk and turmeric, while the vegetables were sweet potato and cherry tomatoes. I also came across a few little pieces of tofu - which cheekily weren't mentioned on the menu but I love tofu so I'm not personally complaining (though I know it could be a deal-breaker for some).

Me  and Louise also shared some Wok Fried Greens as a side. This was the only part of the meal I felt let down by. The spinach had been left too long to soak and had that horrible soggy texture that I can't stomach the taste of (the same happens when I order the Pizza Express Pianta off Deliveroo). The marinade was also no way near as flavoursome as some restaurants' take on this dish.

Remember that I mentioned that I was hungry? I was hungry enough to add in a dessert - even though I'm usually not a dessert person. There were two vegan options on the menu: mango sorbet or a banana split. The banana split would have probably been a bit more original, but I fell for my old favourite of sorbet. I know a lot of vegans groan at sorbet, but I personally really like it and this was a very creamy take on it.

Afterwards, we had a wander round the Trafford Shopping Centre itself. It's the second-biggest in the UK, and is styled after the malls you find in America. It certainly looked a lot different to other British shopping malls, with it's marble floor and water fountains. However, a lot of the shops were the same as you would find in Glasgow - with the only exception being Selfridges. And don't get me wrong - I had a massive rummage through it (it was my first time in a Selfridges). I didn't buy anything but was tempted by the Kate Spade stationery (but put it back down when I realised how expensive Kate Spade is!).

All in all, I would recommend Tampopo. There's two more in Manchester city itself so you don't need to go out to the Trafford Centre in order to try it. I love fushion Asian cuisine and it's just the trick if you're looking for something Wagamama-esque (but not quite Wagamamas).

Food: 8
Atmosphere: 8
Location: 5 
Value for money: 9

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