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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Landgrabs- where roots and rights count for nothing

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Ramona’s tiny Chucks pound the same streets my own small feet did. She squeals on the same squeaky swings. Chases the children of the squirrels I chased.  Somehow, despite living in  five different towns and two different continents in the 17 years since I left here, we are back at the place of my childhood and my daughter is growing up in my old neighbourhood.

It has always drawn on me, South London, always felt like the place I’d call home the most.  Despite having a nomadic and flighty upbringing, this is the land where my roots have dug the deepest.

My husband lived in the same house for most of his life. And they reckon most English people live within 5 miles of their birth place, which is baffling to me. And then there are communities who have lived and tilled the same land for generations and generations. Imagine their roots. Wily, strong and ancient.

I went to the breathtakingly beautiful country of Cambodia a few years ago with Oxfam, to hear the stories of people in communities they work with.  The people in the villages we visited were doing incredible, transformative stuff. Tapping into age-old farming techniques to protect themselves against a future littered with weather-related disasters and learning new ways to regenerate their land. Yet almost every single community were fighting a nightly battle with the tractors of corporations who would come in by stealth, move the fence posts, clear a space and claim it as their own. Every village had a team on nightwatch, patrolling the boundaries yet still they were all watching their land decrease in size knowing their chances of fighting it were slim. And they were the lucky ones- losing their land metre by metre instead of in one violent snatch.

Some of the heroic womenI met, transforming- and fighting for – their land

Even since I visited Cambodia three years ago an area half the size of Wales has been transferred from village farmers to corporations, more often than not in the form of “landgrabs” – villagers evicted without warning or compensation and with no recourse to action. It is heartwrenching imagining  some of the families I met, who were so stoically fighting a changing climate and invasive poverty now left with no land and no rights at all. Grandparents who were born there and who still worked the land, hand in hand with their grandchildren who were born there, forced off by men in hard hats and high vis jackets.

This battle for land is going on all over the world; roots and rights mean nothing in the face of The Paperwork. The almost bigger injustice is that the land once used for hunger-busting crops is often left derelict- to grow in value, or used for bio-fuels to feed the wealth of rich nations.

However, this injustice is preventable. In fact, already landgrabs campaigners have taken the New Forest Company to task on the eviction of 25,000 people in Uganda. Oxfam is harnessing it’s knowledge of the World Bank to call for a freeze on all dodgy land deals while the whole business gets sorted out.  This tiny video explains just how the “Power of We” could change things…

Can you spare two minutes to add your voice to the symphony of others, calling for justice?

I don’t know what it would be like for us to be chased out of our home, this grotty concrete paradise of Camberwell that I love. To be uprooted, even without generations of sweat poured into it, or a livelihood that depends on it. To be made homeless overnight, left with only the things we could carry.

I only know that I am on the side of the heroes who belong to their land, the ones who have built their lives around it and who use it to feed their families and provide for the future. And I want to join them to fight the big buisness villains who seek to evict them. And thankfully history tells us that together we have an excellent chance of winning this battle.

It is Blog Action Day 2012 and thousands of bloggers are writing along the topic of “The Power of We” – have a read and even join in.

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Ten Alternatives to Shampoo

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At the start of this year I began an experiment with my hair.  The purist in me was tired of putting toxins into my body, the spendthrift in me was weary of pouring so much money away on these toxins and the optimist in me was persuaded by our bodies ability to cope without reliance on products! I was in a wash-every-other-day-routine and was a slave to dry-shampoo. I knew there had to be a better way.

In a typically extreme move  I totally gave up shampoo and have in the last 10 months put everything from a homemade nettle brew to mustard powder on my hair! It has gone quite wrong at times but ultimately my hair is a million times more healthy, voluminous, and grows much faster. Plus I can go away for weeks at a time and need nothing for my hair but a good bristle brush. This really appeals to my hopes of living more simply and with less impact on this beautiful earth (even though I am rubbish at this in lots of ways.)

Here are TEN options I have played with- and sometimes made a lot of mess with! Most are the BEE’S KNEE’s for me and the rest are the dog’s whatchya’s for others…

One- Water! Oh groan, I know, I’m sorry.  What kind of an alternative is this?! I hear you cry. The best, truly. It took me 9 months to realise it was all my hair needed – and now it has been one month since anything has been on my hair at all. The key is in the massage- as you soak your hair, get your fingers stuck in, pushing away at your scalp and any particularly grease-o bits. I do a five minute massage every five days. My hair is thick and voluminous and does whatever I want it to do. Whooppiiee for H20!!

Two- Bicarbonate of Soda/ Baking Soda. This gets your hair SQUEAKY clean. I make a little paste with a spoonful and a few drops of water and rub it into my scalp.  I leave it for a few minutes before rinsing.The only reason it isn’t number one is because it isn’t free and I’m a cheapskate – and also my hair gets a bit bicarb weary after too many times in a row, brittle and waxy and needs a bit of Number Three Action:

Three- Egg. I use the whole egg, whisked in a cup. I pour over my head and massage in. I leave for a few minutes and rinse well.  It leaves my hair SO clean and SO soft and shiny. However, the water must be cool! I have had a couple of scrambled disasters venturing into too warm territory….

Four- Soapnuts. These are a natural cleaner and work incredibly well. My hair is like silk after- certainly the closest to shampoo I have found. I heat them in water on the stove for 10 minutes, whiz them with my hand blender and use the liquid. I am too lazy to make this my Go To alternative, but use it if my hair has become filthy. Buy them here and use them for cleaning a million and one things!

FiveRhassoul Clay. This is LOVELY stuff. For skin and hair.  It not only cleans but also conditions. I make a paste with two spoonfuls and boiling water. Once cool I smooth it into hair, after a few minutes I brush it through hair and rinse off. It is truly divine but a little on the expensive side for my thrifty self. (But doesn’t come close to the expense of good shampoo.) Buy it here!

Six- Henna. This is my once-every-six-weeks deep treatment! I mix up about ten spoons of it with hot water to make a paste. Once cool I apply it all over and leave it for two hours. (Epic I know, I use a plastic bag and grips to keep it all in place.) It needs a SERIOUS rinse, and a good brush, but my hair after is brighter, cleaner, softer.

Seven- Tea. This relies very much on the massage bit too, and the result is the same as water except you get a nice smell! Some people swear that the different aspects of the tea change your hair – chamomile adding a special softness, for example.

Eight- Lemon. Lemon has some seriously potent anti-bacterial properties and can work as a lightener for people wanting to be blonder.  Squeeze the lemon straight on to your greasy roots, massage well and leave for a few moments. I found it to be slightly drying.

Nine- Tea Tree Oil. Full of incredible properties! You would probably need a little bit too much of this to work solely as an effective shampoo. However added to the bicarb paste, the lemon or the water only wash, this makes a lovely difference. Tea tree oil is perfect for people with scalp issues, dandruff etc. In fact, one person I am VERY close to but who shalt remain nameless has had a life-long scalp issue fixed with this method!

Ten- Mustard Powder. Nettles. Mayonaise. Ketchup! These were all possible contenders that simply didn’t cut it for me! In theory they should work- they have the right mix of either anti-bacterialness or emulsifier/ acid shizzle and the internet is jampacked with people on whom these work. It just ALL depends on your hair.

A note on conditioner- Nearly all of these, bar the clay and the egg need a rinse with Apple Cider Vinegar. I use a splash in half a cup of water and throw it over the ends of my hair, leave for a few minutes then rinse out. It’s a WINNER.

The biggest lesson in all of this is to not give up  and be a brave old soul – trawl through this community until you find your hair type and give things a crack! Often different hair just needs different proportions of things. Would love to hear what your routine is and if there is some magical thing I haven’t tried!

PS ‘Scuse the well posey picture! It is seriously the only shot without a beehive from the last six months! It was when I was 5 months No Poo and taken by Jenny Harding when Pretty Nostalgic mag popped over.

Seasonal rituals – welcoming autumn

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Since becoming a mother I have had a much greater desire to ritualise life. Not in an oppressive, unflexible, establishment kind of a way but as an opportunity to celebrate and add significance to moments that might just pass us by. To give our little family moments to reflect on the subtle shifting of the weather, to welcome change and participate in often ancient customs.

Ramona is an urban baby, the sirens of emergency vehicles have been her lullabies since birth, and her sleep is in rhythm with the hum of the night bus outside our window, but I still see how nature captures her heart. We kick around in the leaves together, chase the squirrels and taste the blackberries. She is fascinated by feathers and conkers and will make a collection of knobbly odds and thistly ends to bring home (and I’ll spend some time convincing her the soggy cigerette buts and manky bottle caps needn’t come home with us too…)

A for autumn, obvs

I remember the first time Ramona came out in the rain with me, it hadn’t really rained for ages so she was about 2 months old. She was in the sling, under an umberalla and I was trying to hush her off to sleep. But she wasn’t having any of it; her eyes wide, her arms flailing out, making these mews that surely meant: WHAT THE HECK IS THIS?!! Transfixed.

There is something good about being in tune with the seasons. To eat with them,  craft of them,  dress for them, and bring a little bit of them inside your home. We pin up strings of the most magnificently coloured leaves and fill vases with spiky chestnuts. A shelf of nature, rusty trinkets with a seasonal theme.

So (a tiny little bit reluctantly maybe!) welcome, Autumn, you blustery, finger chilling, bonfire  instigating spell! Get us ready for Christmas…

PS Have a peep at Juno Magazine’s beeyoootiful Pinterest board, Celebrating Autumn, for loads of autumnal inspiration, decorations and craft.

PPS Are you very good at living seasonally? Do your family have any cool ritual things you do?

Add some sparkle to an old pair of shoes

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So, what did you think of The Debate? Unexpected dynamics or what? Reckon Obama might have recovered ground with his forthright derision of Romney’s truth-avoidance techniques today? Obviously the impact of the American political spectrum ca-

OH HELLO! Sorry, caught me right in the middle of being Very Serious. What’s that? You want to hear about my sparkly shoes? You want a tiny, quick glittery How To? Weellll… this will almost be my THIRD fashion-y post in a row, which could make me seem downright frivolous. But, they ARE nice and I AM going to have to stop talking about going to the MAD blog awards soon…

So I had this posh frock, and this big hair do, and then some old, tired clodhoppers. They are so comfortable but I bought them 5 years ago- from a second hand shop. Not right, I tell ya.

So with a small £1.50 jar of glitter and a tube of shoe glue (BY THE WAY, THE BEST INVESTMENT EVER! You can fix all your own shoes at a mere fraction of the price – buy from a shoe repair person) I added a sprinkle of glamour.

  • With a paintbrush I painted glue on to the parts I chose to funkify (use tape to mark off bits you don’t want glitter on. I didn’t due to a very poor work ethic.)
  • Working quickly I put the shoes in a box and shook glitter all over them – reusing the glitter at the bottom of the box.
  • I worked strap by strap so glue didn’t dry too quickly.
  • The glue dried in a couple of hours and I was safe to traipse the streets of London.
  • Spray on a waterproof varnish to seal it all. (I ran out of time, working on my beehive.)

I was SO happy with them, they were devoid of any “handmade vibe” even with my slap-dashery. I was even more stoked when I spotted these essentially IDENTICAL Louboutin numbers.

This could work with ANY shoe- A Thrifty Mrs does brilliant ballet pumps, Court Shoes look AMAZING and is such an eco, frugal way of rejuvanting old shoes – particuarly with party season ahead.

Right… back to rich old Romney…

Three become four

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We have been rather excited around here for a few weeks- we have had the most wonderful surprise- 2 stripes on a pregnancy test!! Yep – another little person making their presence known.

We are really quite blown away. It took us a heartbreaking 3 years to make Ramona, so were fully expecting another long wait. And, of course I am still nursing her day and night. So impossible did we think it that a whole 2 months crept by before we  even knew. I had a tiny inkling but kept writing it off, until one day I just knew with absolute certainty  so popped straight to the pharmacy for a test and my folic acid.I am feeling pretty brilliant – I remember being exhausted with Ramona but have come to the conclusion that chasing a toddler around all day (and snuggling her all night) makes you so knackered anyway there isn’t another level of tiredness to reach!

So next spring Ramona will have a little sibling and us another darling to squeeze into our fortunately GARGANTUAN bed. This little  delight, catching us unawares. I love her already with her stealthy but audacious existence!

A posh ceremony and bargain glamour

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It is not every night you tuck a loofah under your hair and get on the bus to a posh awards ceremony, eating dry Wheetos out of your handbag in case the three course dinner takes a while to arrive. I was excited and nervous in even measure- like the equilibrium people have when they carry a bag of supermarket shopping in each hand, and you ask if they need help. “Noooo! It’s fine-  I’m all balanced out.”

I was heading to the MAD blog awards ceremony. I was SO looking forward to meeting the tens of other bloggers I interact with almost daily on Twitter, but there was a tiny bit of anxiety about not knowing anyone in real life, and a big bit about whether I would be the kind of person they think I am! Such a strange thing.

Turns out, every single person I met there was in fact EASILY equal to their Internet presence. Lovely, funny, intelligent. The Real Life to Internet and back again vortex doesn’t really distort people very much at all.

I met a whole load of bloggers and Tweeters from scratch too- my whole table was full of people I’d never come across before and I can not tell you what fun we had. I genuinely laughed until I had tears streaming down my face and had to rest my forehead on the table.

I am afraid to tell you that I didn’t bring back any gongs in the two categories I was in, but rest assured they went to absolute GIANTS in those areas – Red Ted Art for Craft and Queen Frugal for Thrift. And getting to meet my rival crafty and thrifty nominees was just a total, magical joy.

I keep thinking about the chats I had with all the different souls dotted about the room and smiling.

I am going on a bit, I know. Sorry. It is just, people are great, aren’t they?  I’d link to them all but I am too lazy. (Obviously, not that great. HA TOTALLY JUST KIDDING.)

As if I am some kind of fashion blogger…  I feel you all were so diligent in your advice on what I should wear I need to update you on all that:

Despite pretty much every single one of you reckoning on The LoveBoat, I chose Princess Royal. (What, think this is some kind of democratic utopia?) I was fully prepared to do it, in order to make you all proud, and then I woke up with the MOTHER of shoulder pimples, putting that strapless number right out of the picture.

Also, I love fashion, I do; colours, fabrics, patterns, new clothes. But when I leave the house I want to also leave my thoughts about my outfit there too. I spend a bit of time getting my gear on, but then it is on and I am done with it. No tugging, tucking, straightening, smoothing, standing up tall, holding tummies in, for me. That it why I will never be a true fashionista.

Every single thing I own is second hand, and it fills me with total glee to surprise people with that. If they like my on-trend coloured trousers, and I can say they were £5 from the Hospice shop, that pretty much makes my day.

I wanted to hit the glamour stakes on Friday in order to be a walking advocate of  the pre-loved life and the Oxfam Fashion Team with their seriously chic Boutique in Notting Hill massively helped me do that. I couldn’t normally give two hoots about designers but wearing something that is ordinarily well dear did make me feel The Business  (I guess that is how the whole brand thing works, eh?)

Just so you lot wouldn’t think I was a total wuss for ditching the saucy frock I went BIG TIME on the locks. This, a huge amount of liquid eyeliner (Okay, actually I am too cheapskate for that, I just put a paintbrush in my mascara) and gluing glitter on my shoes added the razzmatazz the dress needed.

 

Is that bargain glamour and the BIGGEST BEEHIVE IN THE WORLD OR WHAT!!!

I started work on it at 3pm, thinking it would take several goes and hours to do, but I was so happy with it after 15 minutes – and some help from a loofah and a pair of tights- that I left it. Which meant I spent the afternoon peering down at Ramona from my lofty space instead of getting in the den with her, lest she touch it. It wasn’t the “Seen and not heard” philosophy that made parents of the Sixties so aloof with their kids- they just didn’t want them bashing in their boufs.

I can totally understand.

I needn’t have worried- Even even the wind turbine of the Northern Line didn’t make a single dent and it arrived in tact and the bits and pieces didn’t fall out once. HOORAY!

Linking up with all those other marv second hand lovers over at Lizzie’s place.