As I write this, a storm of conkers just descended onto the roof of our neighbour’s car and it’s 23 degrees Celsius outside. This is our topsy turvy year of seasons encapsulated.
Summer 2018 was, in many ways, my dream season. Weeks of bright, bare-footed and loose-armed days. Dinner in the garden every night, finished off with a teapot of homegrown mint tea. Claustrophobic socks left in the drawer. And yet, it was also a mixed bag. A little too hot to function at times; resilience a little fractured once 30 degree days had turned into weeks. And a creeping concern that this is the shape of things to come, the climate change canary in the mine (something I wrote more about here).
And then, at the end of August, summer seemed to suddenly and subtly give way to autumn. Things turned. Fallen leaves. Warm evening air found a chill in its edge. Arms searching their way back into jumpers. And, despite a ridiculous long summer season, I wasn’t quite ready for the change.
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 →
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.