Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Many mountains to climb

Sometimes it's necessary to shake up your environment to remind yourself what it is you really value.

Despite my previous chirpy positivity about the winter weather, all it took was a couple of nasty colds to make me retreat indoors and stay there. In fact, until this weekend away in Snowdonia I don't think I'd so much as even set a foot in my local park for over a month. Now, for some people I'm sure that's just fine, but if I've learnt one thing about myself over the last five years it's that if I spend too much time in the city, or doing city things, then I go a little nuts.

One of the biggest revelations I had on my year abroad was that I wasn't as much of an urbanite as I thought I was. Living outside of London for pretty much the first time in my life, suddenly all the things that made me anxious at home didn't seem so important any more. In London there's a lot of pressure to 'be' someone, and maybe it's just that I'm a little too inclined to narcissism but it gets me every. time.

It's a huge cliché, but something about fresh air and wide open spaces always helps to put things back into perspective. It's a combination of the reminder that to be warm, comfortable and fed are all we really need in this life, the physical challenge and the sense of insignificance against something so permanent and so old that helps me feel - for lack of a better or less annoying phrase - at peace.

Since returning from Colorado this little glimmer of fundamental truth I believe I discovered has been the driving force behind quite a lot of life decisions. When I left my job in content marketing in 2016 my boss asked me what it was that I actually wanted to do with the journalism MA I was just about to start. "I want to write for an outdoor travel magazine!" I replied. At a Halloween party last year, a much cooler and more successful journalist than me asked the same question. "What I reallllly want to write about is adventure travel" I drunkenly gasped. She looked horrified.

This weekend in Snowdonia reminded me about all of that in a big way. Considering I was just starting to feel as if winter was going to go on forever, this could not have happened at a better time. Not to sound too British about it but we were incredibly fortunate with the weather, and the day we hiked Cnicht was still and sunny. We didn't make it up snow-capped Snowdon this time, but I'm fully intending on returning for it sometime in the Spring.

And the best realisation of all is that with so many mountains to climb on this planet of ours, I've got a whole lifetime of adventures to keep me busy!

Platitudes aside, though, I'm definitely still narcissistic enough to make sure I get a good photograph for Instagram. Which just goes to show that some things will never change.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


Sometime last year I was subscribed to an email newsletter called Well + Good, a US based health site 'obsessively covering the wellness scene.' After a few months of receiving really important information about the superfood supplement Jennifer Aniston swears by, or the exercise routine of Gigi Hadid I started to notice a pattern. 'The key thing French women use to wash their faces', 'the super simple way French women get radiant skin', 'things I learnt eating like a French women for a week' etc etc. It seemed to me that aside from setting an impossibly aspirational stereotype of French womanhood, the purpose (intentional or otherwise) of these articles isn't so much as to provide women with skincare advice so much as to make the rest of us feel anxious that we're currently doing it all wrong. We couldn't possibly be doing it right already, you see, because we're not French. This isn't something confined to Well + Good, either, once you're aware of it you start to realise that francophile media directed at women is all over the shop.

Needless to say, I totally bought into it until I went to France (not for the first time, but the first since I started subscribing to Well + Good) and realised/remembered that French people actually aren't all that different from Brits after all.

C'est la vie.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Finished with my MA!

On the 4th December I finally handed in my MA project. For this project, I spent six months researching the topic of social housing in the UK. For the purpose of this piece I chose a local angle by focusing on one particular ex-local authority estate in East Dulwich, using that estate to explore the wider issues around social housing, and particularly the Right to Buy policy.

Take a look at the website I created for my piece here, which includes some photography and video.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Facing the elements

In the UK we have a well documented tendency to talk about the weather, often in negative terms.

Like Goldilocks said, when it's hot, it's too hot, and when it's 10 degrees it's too cold. Whilst I recognise that this is often as much conversational glue than anything else, it can lead to an undue negative outlook on the day - especially during the winter. "Brr" said the barista today as I ordered a tea, "it's bloody freezing". "I know, it's horrible" I replied, on-cue. But as I was cycling home wearing my waterproof jacket and ski gloves with cold, fresh wind blowing in my face, I thought is it really that horrible?

The problem with this negativity is that it often comes hand in hand with a defeatist attitude, and this is especially true when it comes to doing things outdoors. We'll decide not to go to the park/climb a mountain/go for a run and instead opt to hide in a warm pub and wait for it all to blow over.

The thing is, we actually have relatively mild winters here in the UK and provided we wear the right clothing (especially waterproofs) there's not really much we can't do. As Alfred Wainwright once said, "there's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing," and as a man who spent a lot of his life in the one of the UKs wildest and wettest landscapes he should know.

Anyway, in my experience choosing to embrace the winter rather than avoid it is often pleasantly surprising. Last February, we drove to Devon to do a 10k run and on the day itself it was sunny, and even warm. This year, I'm heading to Manchester in January to visit a friend and I'm hoping to get up to the Peak District, then in February me and Kristy are aiming to climb Snowdon.

It will inevitably be cold, yes, but it will make the warm pub afterwards that little bit sweeter.

Monday, October 23, 2017

What am I going to do without mascara

Although I’ve just about managed to wrap my head around the idea of no-plastic/zero-waste when it comes to eating out and personal hygiene the inevitable bump in the road was going to happen when it came to make up, specifically mascara.

I’m very attached to one particular Maybelline mascara and have been using it for years, but the packaging is made from thick, yellow plastic. I like to lay mascara on quite thick and I hate anything that gets too clumpy so I don’t feel too enthusiastic about making my own.

Lush is obviously my first port of call. Their mascara is called Eyes Right and it comes in a glass bottle with a plastic top which I am assured in recyclable through Lush's recycling programme (just return along with your empty black pots). Problem is, I'm not 100% that this is going to satisfy my craving for dramatic lashes.

The second most viable option I can see is to use M.A.C. I hardly ever buy M.A.C because it ain't cheap but they have a programme called back to M.A.C whereby you return 6 empty product containers to be recycled and you receive a free lipstick.

I love that brands like Lush and M.A.C are taking on some corporate responsibility when it comes to the disposal of their packaging, and hope that others will follow suit... meanwhile I'm stretching my dried up old mascara for as long as possible before taking the plunge.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Banish the Vanish! Zero-waste stain removal

A few weeks ago I had a bit of an accident and put mine and my housemates WHITE laundry through the wash with a pink lip balm. The lip balm melted everywhere and there were waxy pink splashes all over the clothes.

My housemate understandably wasn't too impressed so when she called me from Sainsbury's and said she was going to buy a Vanish stain remover I didn't want to resist even though I knew it would come in plastic and be full of chemicals.

We tried several washes using the Vanish and the stains just didn't want to shift, so when I saw this stain removing laundry soap in Karavan I had to give it a go. It cost £8 which isn't cheap and I'll admit I wasn't too optimistic about how well it would work.

The first thing I tried it on was my housemates (previously pristine) Tommy Hilfiger pants. I wet the stain, rubbed some soap into it and scrubbed fairly vigorously with the brush. It was clear straight away that it was working as the stain got much less visible, and I decided to leave the soap sitting on the fabric for a few hours before putting through the wash. Once they were out, the stains were completely gone - I couldn't believe it, and it doesn't come with any unnecessary packaging or chemicals.

I guess everything happens for a reason, and now Sting in the Tail can add melted pink lip balm to the list of stains that clay soap is effective on and I've learnt always check my jean pockets before putting a wash on.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Coffee to-go

Sitting on the U-Bahn one day in Germany we saw a builder drinking coffee out of an old jam jar, which we thought was a pretty great idea to bring home.

The glass holds the heat very well and once the lid is on, the jar is leak proof.

I'm not sure I'd use this for hotter drinks like herbal tea or black coffee as the glass might break or become too hot to hold, but for a slightly cooler drink (like this oat milk latte) it's a good alternative to a disposable take-away cup. The barista even almost managed some latte art on the top!