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Monthly Archives: September 2011

Out with the new, in with the old…

We bought a phone from the Oxfam Shop in Streatham (the charity shops in Streatham are plenty and bountiful and well worth a visit- especially the Oxfam, our massive beauty sofa was THIRTY MEASLY QUID! ) and as we excitedly unplugged the digital, roving phone someone had given us and plugged in the peach, spirally corded retro one, our housemate said “This house is basically going backward in time….” Never a truer word said. In fact, it could be our school motto.  Replacing new with old, one possession at a time. 

This tin was 50p from a charity shop in Bournemouth, not like “oh that was 50p” meaning a general bargain, £7 or so, but actually 50p and I got a pair. Serious score.

Below, sitting on an old school bench we got from junk man Terry in Peckham, is the sewing machine Tim found a couple of weeks ago by a bin- someone had biffed it out because the key was missing. One screw driver later and Voila! And these are the beautiful old tennis rackets we have been collecting so we can have a game of doubles. Anyone? (Although our tennis fanatic acquaintance at the park tells us this will be bad for our “game” (bahaha). We are probably a leetle bit far away from him on the skills scale- he  is so obsessed with tennis hero Federa that he actually named his little boy Roger – no, really- while I have played tennis maybe twice, ever?)

Once on a trip to deepest Wales we got on this tiny vintage local bus, smaller than a van, filled with ancient people. We sat there in awe thinking “Gosh, this is all so old. We LOVE it!” and then at the next stop two middle aged Londoners got on- the only other tourists we had seen in days. After taking her ticket, one of them turned to face the passengers. As she took it all in, she opened her mouth and in the thickest of cockney accents she bellowed “COR, look at this bladdy bus!!! It’s like a MUSEUM!!!!”

We live in hope that one day this will happen to us in our very own dear home. Yeah. Then we could like, sell tickets and gifts.

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Little bundles of found wonders

Well, it has all got a little serious pants around here lately so here are some frivolous pictures from a little corner in our lounge.
This nook is completely inspired by The Recycled House– an artist’s house in Sydenham that we visited through Dulwich Open Studios. They say

“The Recycled House invites you to consider a creative alternative to consumerism”

– which articulates own own philosophy exactly. Their place is “rennovated” using all old things, I say “rennovated” because in some places this just means peeling back wall paper to reveal scraps of older wall paper, or covering a wall with ancient letters. It is something we ourselves had been wanting to do, but in a way we didn’t have the courage – we felt like ultimately we had to get our place looking Ikea-show-room-with-the-odd-stylish-vintage-item-thrown-in-ish. But our visit there liberated us from this, it made us feel like we could embrace the fact that we just love old things and really hate buying new. That things don’t have to make sense or have a function; it is fine to have things hanging around for your eyeballs to feast on.
So we ripped out the Little House on the Prairie pine veneer to expose the peeling paint and ripped wall paper, we hammered in some hooks and hung some trinkets. We displayed some tiny old cardboard boxes that are useless but delightful and folded some of my fabric in a way to make it look intentional.
This is a melodica, it is actually awesome and was £2.50 from a charity shop in Sussex. It even came with sheet music – sweeeet.

These are old glass slides we found in an antique shop in New Zealand, they have Victorians frolicking in meadows and nice scenes. I have been meaning to “do something” with them for years but feel that just nailing them is enough for now.

I have a couple more nooks to come tomorrow but Ramona waketh so I will dash…

PS- Also forgive these shocking blurry pictures, my camera has issues, so I was trying out the night setting! Baha, didn’t work.

Vandalism for my daughter’s sake

I was sitting on the train today and scoped out the poster above my head for a leading political rag. The cartoon depicted a husband reading a business paper and the wife in the doorway heaving in a load of shopping. My blood boiled, I grabbed a pen and in full view of the packed carriage scrawled “for the everyday male chauvinist” under the title. A second later I wished I had written “The 1950’s called; they want their sexist sterotypes back” but I didn’t have any Tippex on me.

It has been a while since I have taken any direct action in the name of gender equality. The last time was at the Salvation Army Headquarters in New Zealand when I took down the framed photo of William Booth above the plaque “Founder of the Salvation Army” and replaced it with Catherine and William- for she is the oft overlooked brains behind the outfit. That was really quite tame and courteous and about 6 years ago.

But since becoming a mother I have seen the world with fresh eyes, and Ramona is growing up in place with more limitations and adverse expectations due to gender then I was, that is for sure.

It’s in the quite superficial things – when I was a kid, everyone wore brown and orange, nowadays you have to work really hard to find colours other than pink and blue and shapes other than butterflies and tractors (and flipping heck, Ramona would look brilliant in a little brown and orange number.)  But also in the wider story -when my mother was bringing me up she had a consciousness about gender inequality, it was a fight being fought. Now we say we are “post feminist” and to oppose porn or point out subtle sexist messaging is to be too prim or politically correct. And then there is the not so subtle messaging – one of the UK’s biggest menswear shops, Topman, bringing out some completely misogynous  tee shirts– and the chorus of “Why all the fuss? We are post-feminist!” greeting the initial furor (Even the comments on that incredible Guardian piece reveal this – mostly arguing about whether the slogans were funny or not. WHAT THE HELL?)

I don’t know if it was the Topman t-shirts story knocking around my head or the fact that I am reading Female Chauvinist Pigs that moved my anger at that poster into action but I know that I vandalised it for Ramona’s sake.  (Ramona made me do it!) I don’t want Ramona to grow up thinking that women shop and men read buisness newspapers; I want Ramona to have a host of female role models in politics or the engineering industry,  to be able to walk around without feeling that her body is a commodity, to get paid as much as her male counterparts. It is great that the Topman story went big but there are a million everyday things that don’t even get addressed at all that make all those things much less likely to become a reality in her lifetime.

So this is me now –  never without a big black marker pen (and a bottle of Tippex for those moments when the wit arrives too late) to start addressing those little things. Any other mothers out there want to unleash your inner vandal?

Binalytics – what I dump and how to sort it

I love a bin. Never been afraid of a good rummage. When I was about ten I found a Los Angeles Raiders baseball cap in a bin on my way to school – I put it promptly on my head and walked in to my class feeling quite the lucky thing (they were THE LICK in my corner of south London circa 1992), until it’s origin was revealed with glee by the boy who saw me swipe it from the bin from his seat on the bus!

And you were wondering why a cute wee thing like me got bullied, eh?

Anyway, I have been having a rummage in my own bins this week in honour of  National Zero Waste Week. Because seriously, it is pretty pants that we, a try-hard-green-home, still manage to chuck out a bin bag of rubbish a week. Particularly considering the valient effort of the family who chucked out one bag in a year. 

The analysis:

Our living space and bedroom bins are basically mostly filled with things that could be recycled. Shocking, eh? It is because they really only get stuff put in them when I am having a mad dash attempt at tidying up and my surge of passion for a tidy room (about as often as a lunar eclipse) blots out all other emotions and I fear that if I bother to sort out the papery things from the other things I will never end up actually doing it. Does that make sense?

Our kitchen bin is almost entirely plastic packaging that can’t be recycled. Because we have our recycling and composting containters in the kitchen it is rare to find a recyclable in the main bin. However, there is a whole load of packaging. Things like the wrapper from the Soreen Malt Loaf (mmmmm Soreen Malt Loaf) and emergency veggie packaging when we have run out of veggies from our Riverford box.

Our bathroom situ is a DREAM. A wonderful old housemate created two bathroom bins –  a massive recycling bin and a small rubbish bin and her legacy means we only chuck a tiny bit of rubbish from the bathroom.

The solution:

Clearly for our living space and bedroom I need a SYSTEM! So that being good doesn’t interfere with getting the tidying done. As of this afternoon, downstairs we now have a recyclables bin and a normal bin and in the bedroom I have done a little divider in our normal bin (I say normal but actually it is FABULOUS with it’s midwestern fabric, courtesy of my sister).

Ramona too loves a bin, mainly because it involves Making a Mess, her special favourite hobby along with Eating Grim Things and Playing with Dangerous Objects.

I also need to do something about the food packaging. I think Infinty Foods may be the answer – buying all our things like pasta, lentils and chickpeas in bulk. But first we need to finish the kitchen and create a larder as we have some pesky and obnoxious mice stalking us at the moment. Someone hold me to this though! I have just done an Ethical Superstore order for all our cleaning products and shampoo etc- getting these in 5L bottles is a winner I think. Neither of these do Soreen Malt Loaf in bulk though- missing a trick, people. Missing. A. Trick.

So, hey, why not have a rummage in your dumpage too? There are blinking LOADS of ideas on this website if you want to get cracking on sorting it out.And then once you have looked in yours, you can look in some of the ones on the street- you might be fortunate enough to score a highly desirable fashion item from the nineties.

Happy Zero Waste week!

Shakeaway: breast milk to go

Once when Ramona was around 2 months I was walking along our road carrying her in the sling.  Some boys spotted me from their perch up in a block of flats and started hurling down meanness, although all I could really make out was the word “BREASTFEEDING!!!” screamed in a kind of offensive way. (The fact that this is a diss is worth a whole politics-of breastfeeding-rant in itself.) I was utterly mortified! “They must think I am breastfeeding her while I am walking along!” I put my head down and blushed to match my hair, feeling like my little freckly 9 year old self who got bullied in the playground. Then when I got to the end of the road I almost stopped in my tracks; what a bloody good idea. Of course I could breastfeed her in the sling!

The next time I was walking along and Ramona began her hungry headbutting I unhooked my bra and shuffled her around a bit;  she latched on immediately. That day a whole new sphere of stress free parenting opened up.

No more panick stations as I try and find a suitable place to feed her- with her nursing in the sling we can be wandering around the supermarket, a Parisian flea market or an  art gallery and no one is none the wiser. Well. Apart from the growling.

No more missing the train because I had to get a feed in before leaving the house. She just snacks on the walk up.

I feel it has helped build her security as she knows the instant she has a need it will be met, wherever we are – no crying involved. I love that science shows that meeting baby’s need quickly is vital to their development and nurtures things like their empathy cells. (Read more about that in my fave parenting book- it is the shizzle.)

If I ever want her to start a nap quickly (say because I have a meeting that it would be handy for her to sleep through) I just feed her off to sleep in the sling on the way. It often sends her to sleep within moments.

Around the three  month mark Ramona got way too distracted by goings on to breastfeed in public.Then she’d get all hungry and mad. However feeding in the sling helps her feel still involved somehow, avoiding what felt like miniture nursing strikes.

Perhaps best for those early days though was for the occasions when Ramona was incolsolable. They didn’t happen much but sometimes she wouldn’t feed or sleep even though I knew she was hungry and tired. As soon as I learnt to double them up she would settle really quickly. It was as if she needed movement to feed, or perhaps she wanted to feed upright.

I only wish I could have discovered it sooner.

So to those lads on the estate I will be forever indebted, for Ramona’s food on the hoof has made my life as a mother a lot easier. So much easier I would rank it in my top five mothering activities (I know, I’m a total expert after nine whole months.) I should really make those badasses some breast milk ice cream as a grateful treat.

In case your baby wants shakeaways…TIPS:

Feeding in a mei tai, ring sling or wrap is simple. Just tie it so their mouth is about level, although you may have to use your hand to hold either their head or your breast in place as they feed.

Where easy clothes, a low sccop or v-neck so you aren’t trying to yank up your top between your tummies.

Practice at home so you can get the hang of it.

Flick the end of the wrap over the top if you feel you have too much on show.

Beware of strangers coming in for a peek of your baby’s smile only to get that smile, dripping with milk, AND an eyeful of squirting nipple.

Christmas at Poundland

I walked past Poundland today and saw CHRISTMAS HAIR CLIPS!

There is something wrong about Christmas going on sale the same day the kids go back to school, no?

But the funny thing about it was that I have been so focused on Fair Christmas Fayre 2011 this week that it took me a full 30 seconds to realise the wrongness. The image of a Santa head stuck on a hair clip completely matched where my head was.

Fair Christmas Fayre is a one day ethical Christmas marketplace on Oxford Street we began four years ago. And I really want this year to be completely and utterly amazing.

We already have some brilliant stalls confirmed, oldies from the last few years and some newbies.  We have got some super crafty craft cornery-ness in the making, with a hard core retro badge machine booked in. The poster is being completed as I type.Our Twitter account is buzzing.  (Well, it will be if you follow us!)

Well, that’s all. I’m off to style my hair with my new accessories.

(JOKES! I know Poundland hasn’t signed up to the Ethical Trading Initiative!)

PS I have just cross posted this from the Fair Christmas Fayre wordpress site. What a lazy sod, I know, and is it even legal? Have I just plagarised myself? Or just let myself down? The beautiful thing is though I only did it because I want you all to come and have a wonderful time at the Fayre. However, I promise I will (probably) not do this again.

Power of Making: making makes you…

Once I sewed a weird but cute looking stuffed monster for a friend’s new born baby. As I tucked it into the envelope something pricked my finger. I had left the needle in the toy. A cuddley toy. For a NEW BORN BABY. The needle.  The things I make have charm but otherwise fail on so many levels. Yet I continue to make stuff. “Why do it, baby harmer???!”  I hear you cry. It is because I think crafting is important.

The value of craft has been given loads of air time lately – the upcoming “Power of Making” exhibition at the V and A has inspired the Craft debate at the British Museum and a brilliant article by craftivist Sarah Corbett. There is shed loads of evidence to suggest that craft has the power to challenge social injustice in an imaginative and beautiful way.

It is a topic I LOVE.  In fact just a few months ago some friends and I launched “the Make Collective” –  a group of people who make stuff together as a way to build community and explore spirituality. It is a pretty exciting time for us.

I love stories of how cross stitch has played a part in significant global campaigns, and how making your own clothes quietly subverts our damaging consumer society.

For me though, a massive and unexplored part of the “power of making” is it’s impact on the person who is doing the making. Creating (be it writing a poem, pouring paint on canvas, building an ark) puts people in touch with their soul.  When we create we reveal an often hidden part of ourselves, a side that is quite primitive the part of us that can’t fail to be overawed by a night sky jampacked with blazing stars. (As a person of faith I reckon this is because when we make stuff we are imitating God, the one who formed mountains and imagined the oceans into being. It is a deeply spiritual act.)

And when we experience that moment of connection, the satisfaction after an afternoon of making – it feels like having scratched a good itch- we are just that bit more whole.

And whole people are often the ones who feel more able to visit their neighbour, write a letter to their MP about a major issue, spend more time on the eco-ness of their homes. When I give enough time to make stuff (even terrible stuff- trousers that give Ramona  builders crack, wobbly pottery that can’t stand up let alone hold a brew) I feel things are more right, and my self efficacy goes through the roof.

Making stuff changes people on the inside for the better. And in turn this impacts society and the world.

So I think every one should get in touch with their makey selves; even people who say they are utterly unartsy leave our Make workshops after whipping up a tiny comic or piece of metalwork with a buzz. I’d go so far to say that making is as important a need as nutrition, fitness and seven hugs a day.

Some of the Make Collective creating a collaborative collage for Camberwell Arts Week

Sarah Corbett from the Craftivist Collective is leading our October Make Workshop at House Gallery and Cafe in Camberwell. Get in touch for more info.