I learned a new word recently: “thalassophile” – a lover of the sea; someone who is powerfully drawn to & by the ocean. And it named something deep in us. You see, we are coastal people at heart. I grew up gazing out over Belfast Loch, even on to Scotland on a rare, clear day. My husband was further from the sea but spent just as many hours on the water, racing dinghies and yachts whenever he could. And until our move eighteen months ago we had only ever known each other, lived together, by the water’s edge.
So the move inland was a wrench on our maritime souls. We spent the next eighteen months talking, dreaming and searching for the right vessel to get us out on the river. We didn’t want to spend a lot (nor did we have a lot to spend), or have the space to store something big. We just wanted to potter, to mess about on the water. You know how it is.
This year I learned a new phrase that I found a particular resonance with: “I’m sorry for what I said when it was winter.” And if this past winter was a long, tough, frozen one, then spring has been its glorious antidote. So glorious that it feels like we tumbled into summer weeks ago. And I am grateful, feeling that my barefoot self is my best self.
There have been other highlights too, of this sun-loving season.
Add in coffee – which the book does – and you basically have my ideal diet (if health wasn’t a consideration. Which it is). Simran Sethi’s book journeys through the origins, production and threats to some of the world’s favourite foods in this time of monoculture, habitat loss and climate change. She teaches us – with the help of experts – to find the story in every taste, focusing on five foods: wine, chocolate, coffee, beer and bread. But her message is broader than these particular items; by understanding what we’re losing, we can start to claim it back.
When I told people that we were going to Morocco for six nights they all spoke of the colour, the crowds, the hum of those narrow streets. And that set my expectations. Expectations that our first experience seemed to cement: following a stranger – who carried our bags while we held onto our wide-eyed wonder – through a central square of fire-silhouetted figures, and drums beating, and raw, wild energy. This, we thought, was Marrakech.
Fear not, this is not turning into a hair-obsessed blog. This will be the last hair-related post for a while, but before moving topics, I want to take you full circle, with a return return to the hairdressers after eight weeks of no-shampoo.
I have now settled into a rhythm; a daily habit of hair-brushing and a weekly habit of washing. The jars of alternative shampoos and conditioners have been found permanent homes in the bathroom, no longer loitering like interlopers on the windowsill. I have almost forgotten what showering feels like (that is a joke; I still wash).
Oh Winter. I was done with you in January. So done. But you weren’t done with me. In fact you had more to come, hurling eastern winds at us and unifying the landscape under a fleece of snow in March. I enjoyed that first snowy week; heart-warmed by the way it drew people from their homes into a sense of awe and adventure. But for the rest of the time, I have been ready for Spring; eager to air my ankles, slip into lighter jackets and feel a jaunt in my step. I want to embrace the seasons, but Winter, you were a struggle to be close to this year.
Hairdresser: “I didn’t think you’d actually go through with it.”
So, if there’s one key lesson I would share from my no-shampoo journey so far it would be this: start straight after a visit to the hairdressers. That way, you buy yourself eight weeks (or however long you wait between visits) to see how you get on and to figure out what you want them to do.
I began my no-shampoo journey on a Wednesday. If we hung out now, two weeks on, you wouldn’t know it to look at my hair. Those I have told have only ever reacted with surprise, which has been an encouragement. Colleagues still hot desk next to me. One asked to touch my shampoo-free locks (“it just feels like hair!” Yup.). My husband hasn’t recoiled at any point. Thus far, it seems to be going ok.
I feel the change myself. As the days since the last wash increase there is a slight irritation at my roots; a desire to untie my plait and scrub at my scalp. But it’s definitely liveable with. So, despite my hairdresser’s doubt (more on that in the next post), I’m going to be carrying on.
Last year, you may remember, I spent two days at the Artisan Bakery School in Devon. They taught, we baked, we ate. And I left armed with the more confidence in the yeast and leaven department. Soon after this, I volunteered to look after a friend’s sourdough starter (which goes by ‘Alfonzo’, naturally) while they were holidaying for three weeks. I took this responsibility seriously; listened earnestly while my friend told me about Alfonzo’s needs (starter-organic flour-water in ratios of 1:1:1) and habits (awake in the evening if fed in the morning). And, if I’m honest, I felt the pressure. This was something that he had nurtured from nothing, and I could, with neglect, kill it.
I have a story to share. A sustainability fail. It went like this: we needed to buy new brush heads for our electric toothbrush. We decided to put in a bulk order, reckoning that this would mean that less packaging would be used overall (it would also be kinder on the purse in the long run). Good sustainability logic. Total fail in practice. The parcel arrived, and we opened it to find tens of packets containing just a few brush heads each.