Venture into the world of sustainable living, and you’ll quickly hit upon the idea of seasonal and local food. There is much that can be good about low-impact food. A confidence about how it has been produced. Freshness. Investing in smaller businesses and a food system that works for people and planet. We don’t have an exclusively plant-based diet, but our food ethos attempts to be, in the beautiful words of Yasmin Khan, ‘seasonal, abundant, plant-focused, and communal’*. And so a weekly vegetable box delivery forms the backbone of our meal planning.
Lockdown life might be shifting a bit in the UK, but many people will still be doing most or all of life at home. We have been reflecting on how to differentiate between work and home life when it all takes place in one place. This builds on the thinking we’ve been doing in recent years about what healthier life rhythms look like. It comes after long periods of being too busy, filling evenings and weekends and running ourselves into the ground until a holiday, which would take us up to neutral but never quite into the positive. We have come to believe strongly in the notion of a day off. Not just a day without undertaking paid employment. A proper day off from all forms of work, including emails, messages, tasks around the house and errands to run outside, It will come as no surprise that often those days involved: good food, coffee shops, gardening, and of course, escape from the city to the coast.
Some of these elements are not possible now in lockdown life; others take place differently. But with work and home all occupying the same four walls, it feels more important than ever to have a proper day off. And these principles – which will apply beyond lockdown life – are helping us to do so. Many of them we learned from other people. Some of them we do pretty well, others remain more of a challenge. We are, as always, a work in progress.
I last left my home six weeks ago. I have been outside. To the bins a couple of times, though now my husband has that joy to himself (following a text from the National Health Service saying I shouldn’t stray beyond our front doorstep. It is strange to live in days when the NHS sends me regular life advice). To the garden. Daily. Twice daily. As many times as the weather and work will allow. But this is all in the vicinity of home.
I am grateful that this season of life has coincided with a shift from dispiritingly soggy February to brightness, and warmth; sometimes the promise of summer and sometimes a proper preview. We’ve sowed a lot of seeds, preparing for the long haul at home. Chard that survived the winter and lettuce newly planted are already gracing out salads. Mint is beginning its proliferation (in terracotta pots, lest it rampage through the whole garden). We have had two barbecues already. And both involved eating in actual daylight; a feat only managed with the easing of time that lockdown has brought (we are optimistic people, so run late normally).
It’s the scent, I think, that draws me to real trees. It reaches you the moment you open the front door. The lights might not yet be on, but Christmas hangs in the air and leads you in from the cold.
We would always have leaned towards getting real Christmas trees. Perhaps because we both grew up with them. And fake trees have always struck me as just a little sad; somehow managing to be both a shadow of and a more brash version of the original. But that is just my perception, formed from the sense that our lifelong habit must be the right one.
And there is an annual debate about that is the ‘right one’, environmentally speaking. It seems the answers are similar to others in this debate: try to keep the one you have in use as long as possible; if buying new, buy quality and organic. So potted trees are the eventual way forward.
If you can keep them alive that is. Since we got our first garden, we have been trying. And this year, we’re celebrating the fact that we will finally welcoming one back into the house for its second Christmas season. A miracle, of sorts!
A year ago I said goodbye to shampoo. Since then I’ve managed to avoid frying an egg on my head during the heatwave. I have discovered a love of headscarves, not just for carrying me through dodgy transition days, but also for what I (perhaps deludedly) hope are french chic vibes. I’ve also, it turns out, saved a fair amount of money. But more on that in a moment.
This book was invaluable for equipping me with knowledge and recipes for the transition to no-shampoo. At the time I also wanted to know what kind of routine I’d end up with post-transition, which is why I’m sharing mine with you now.
Six months ago I finished up my last bottle of shampoo, and began a new rhythm of daily hair-brushing and occasional delving into the kitchen for something to clean my mane. My hope was that my hair would adjust, eventually needing to be cleaned just once every couple of weeks. And,I’m basically there. These days I can wait more than two weeks before washing it with an egg, or bicarbonate of soda followed by apple cider vinegar. And it’s not three days of fringe and hair down, eleven crammed in a bun under a headscarf. It’s normal looking hair, just infrequently cleaned.
And, what’s more, it feels like I’ve returned to my true hair. Rustic curls that a friend years ago described as “the kind of hair that you wouldn’t be surprised to find a bird’s nest in”. Yep, that’s the hair I love. Those curls had slipped away a bit over the last few years. I’m delighted that they’re back.
So I’ve no plans to return to the shampoo bottle. This no-shampoo journey has been easier than expected, but not entirely without effort or compromise. A few things I’ve learned or experienced along the way:
Throughout the last decade I’ve increasingly kept my wardrobe afloat with second-hand wares – jeans from a clothes swap, a top from a charity shop, a friend’s handed-on jumper. I’ve written before about how I’ve learned to make the most of the sometimes erratic preloved offerings that line shop rails. And in general, I’ve been able to find what I needed.
There have been occasions though, when I’ve picked up something new. A pair of brown brogues, after a nine-month search for second-hand proved unfruitful. A brilliant yellow mac as a birthday gift. There has been a pragmatism in these choices. But I also discovered something unexpected: a joy in wearing something newly, beautifully made. Continue reading →
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).
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.