Friday, 3 April 2020

LIFE IN ISOLATION 5

Yesterday was my first shift as an NHS volunteer as part of the Royal Voluntary Service. Reading my training material, I found out that it was founded in 1938  to help with almost every aspect of wartime life. Today, the Royal Voluntary Service adapts to meet the needs of the day, in this case co-ordinating volunteer drivers to pick people up from hospitals, deliver PPE or like me, to keep in touch with people in 12 week isolation by calling them to check in and chat. My first shift was uneventful as the service has only soft launched so only a few volunteers are being sent alerts, but I should start getting busy next week.


Besides logging on for duty online yesterday, I spent some time using my network to source fabric for an ex-colleague who is co-ordinating a group of seamstresses to make scrubs for the NHS. I managed to find suitable fabric here if anyone else is looking and happens to read this. After doing that I watched Matt Hancock (the Health secretary) say on BBC Question Time that there is more than enough PPE in the country it's just stored in a warehouse and there is an issue with distributing it! I am completely confused by the government narrative at the moment. Last week they celebrated 750k people signing up to volunteer when only 250k were needed, so why aren't they using them? For this reason, I'm really only dipping in and out of news at the moment. I find a lot of it very depressing and frustrating to watch, not least because I don't feel confident in our government's ability to do the right thing. I really hope I'm wrong.

For the last two days I haven't left the house at all and I definitely feel worse for it, so I'm looking forward to a long walk today. People are already starting to talk about what happens when we come out of quarantine. For example, if we were lucky enough not to contract Covid-19 up until that point, what happens next? Do we resume our normal lives but continue living in constant anxiety, washing hands etc? There has already been talk of immunity certificates or even wristbands for people who have recovered. That's way too close to the plot of a movie for me...

Monday, 30 March 2020

LIFE IN ISOLATION 4

The last few days have felt quite intense. The beginning of the week felt somewhat novel, adjusting to a new routine (or lack thereof), the end brought with it a realisation that this new reality could be ours for several months now and we have no control over it. On Wednesday the government made an announcement about self employment support and I learnt I wasn't eligible. I didn't think I was particularly attached to the outcome but as soon as I heard the words "we are unable to help you" in relation to people who became self employed post April 2019, I burst into tears.

The announcement brought with it a layer of vulnerability that I had so far managed to shake off and I've spent the latter part of the week feeling a bit unstuck. I haven't really wanted to go for my walks  but one thing I've learnt is that I always feel a lot better when I've been outside. The marina at golden hour on Saturday was beautiful, if once again a bit surreal with people in masks and moving to the far side of the path to keep the mandated 2m apart.



I feel like the tone of this blog is so sombre but there are lots of positive things happening too. I spent a lot of time this weekend on houseparty talking to friends with wine (or with tea depending on the time zone I've been speaking to!) Technology has been amazing for keeping us connected. My parents spent all week last week working on a YouTube channel and on Sunday my Mum live streamed her first service. We have set up a food bank collection point outside our front door and every day we are finding donations outside. It's amazing to see how the community is pulling together. 




Thursday, 26 March 2020

LIFE IN ISOLATION 3

The way the yoga community has responded to isolation is amazing. This week I have done two online classes with some of my favourite teachers, both of whom I don't see often enough in real life so it felt like a bit of a treat. I had a surreal moment last night when I was practicing and I had my eyes closed, I forgot where I was for a moment because the familiarity of the class transported me to the studio where I usually practice. It made me feel a bit emotional - not sad exactly, an unidentified emotion - it was like sudden reminder of what life used to be like and a realisation that we have no idea how long we will be here. Still, I left the class on a high. It was a true joy to practice with my teacher who is currently all the way in LA. How awesome is technology?


Wednesday, 25 March 2020

LIFE IN ISOLATION 2

After I wrote in here yesterday, I went for my 'daily exercise' which was a walk by the river. It's weird going for a walk when you know it's your one and only chance to get outside for the day. You don't want to waste the opportunity by coming home to early, but you're not sure how long you're meant to be out for.

I actually got to leave the house for a second time later that day as a vulnerable neighbour needed some shopping collecting from Co-Op so I collected it and left it at her door. Afterwards I facetimed with my sister who has been self-isolating now for 9 days as she had mild symptoms early last week. She feels better now but has no sense of taste or smell - there are reports that is now associated with Covid-19. 

I listened to a podcast yesterday which talked about the idea of 'secular immortality' which is where humans accumulate wealth or possessions to prove to themselves they're alive. This happened after 9/11 and behavioural scientists are contemplating whether this will happen again once this is over, it would mean a spike in purchasing of houses, cars etc. 

This morning I woke up feeling like I wanted to exercise so I tried a youtube workout. I completed the warm up and then I was too exhausted/mentally checked out to carry on so I sunbathed on my yoga mat. I seem to be finding it difficult to concentrate on any one thing for a long period of time, so I am experimenting with the idea of just going with the flow and doing what I feel like doing when I feel like doing it. I think this period of isolation would be a lot easy with a day job to do, but all my leads for freelance work dried up over the last few weeks unsurprisingly and there is only so much time I can spend a per day sending ~networking~ online and sending e-mails out into the ether. I edited a post on my professional website yesterday and I do intend to start posting more over there when it feels right. It feels a bit odd thinking about or writing about sustainable fashion at the moment, so I need to work out how I'm going to tackle it.

Edit: I went for my daily walk this afternoon and it felt so eerie and surreal. There were hardly and cars on the road and I walked past loads of closed down businesses. Still it was reassuring to see people are doing what the government has asked. In other good news, the government asked for 250,000 volunteers and over 400,000 people responded!


Tuesday, 24 March 2020

LIFE IN ISOLATION 1

Last night the Prime Minister set unprecedented restrictions on daily life. We now need to stay at home as much as possible - we can go out only to get essentials and we can exercise once a day.

Every morning I wake up feeling like I dreamt the whole thing. This is my 3rd day not leaving the house as I've felt a bit paranoid. The local community forums are saying the high street is still really busy - It was certainly that way on Saturday when I went to post a package, groups of people everywhere. Hopefully after last nights announcement it will be quieter outdoors, meaning the streets will be safer for vulnerable people to go out for a walk.

I'm self-employed at the moment and as I have some savings I can't access even the very small amount of government support offered but I still have to pay rent and utilities. It's worrying not knowing how long I won't be working for but I'm trying not to think about it, because there are people worse off than me.

On a positive note, the sun is shining brightly today and it looks forecast to every day this week. I'm isolating with my parents so we will be able to use the garden, I didn't think my mental health would have lasted long isolating in London but so far I feel relatively calm here.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

I started a YouTube channel!

Here in London the weather has suddenly changed, we are no longer wrapped up in 376 layers and we've been treated to blue skies, sunshine and the occasional temperature over 20 degrees! It definitely feels like Summer is finally within sight and Winter is behind us and for me that means increased productivity!

A few months ago I started a YouTube channel and following on from my last post my first video is an update on how my Low Waste Lent challenge is going. Please check out the video and if you like it give a thumbs up and of course subscribe if you'd like to see more content.



So far the process of making and editing videos has been really fun. I'm quickly picking up new skills and it's great to be learning again. At the same time I'm currently refining my skills in soy candle making and macrame and looking forward to having lots of products to sell on my etsy store which i'm launching in the next few months. I will be updating here still but to make sure you don't miss any news please follow me on instagram (@natalie_binns) as that's where I'm most active these days!


Monday, 6 March 2017

CHANGING HABITS

I diligently recycle and use the food waste bin and I've stopped using plastic carrier bags 98% of the time, I thought I was doing an OK job in terms of saving the environment but then I watched a talk by Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home. When I sat down to watch the 56 minute talk, I'd boiled the kettle thinking I'd make a cup of tea 5 or 10 minutes in. Needless to say that cup of tea never got made and I finished watching the talk determined to change the way I live in terms of the amount of 'waste' I am producing.

The first change I made was buying and using a Keep Cup. For the last year I've been working remotely from home, but the end of January brought a freelance opportunity which would take me into the office 5 days a week. Ordinarily I drink coffee once or twice a week, but three days into my commute I realised my black americano was going to become a daily necessity, so after 5 wasted paper cups I invested in my Keep Cup.


The first week was uneventful. The barista at Leon on the first day even gave me a smile and said "nice one" when I presented my cup on Monday morning. I'd been using the cup around 3 weeks before I got a barista who asked wide eyed "you want your coffee in THERE?" Gesticulating wildly at my cup and looking at it horrified as if it had just fallen from the sky. But that wasn't as bad as the guy who just blatantly ignored my request for a "black americano in my Keep Cup please" and just proceeded as though I'd only said the first two words. I pushed the cup towards him as I took my change and he not only refused to look at it but also refused to make eye contact with me and instead moved on to serve the next customer. So eventually I said loudly "I'D LIKE THE COFFEE IN THE CUP PLEASE" to which he reluctantly took the cup holding it at arms length and gave it to his colleague on the coffee machine with a sideways look at her that said "sorry about this, she wants her coffee in this unidentified object". I honestly wanted to scream at him "it's just an effing cup" but instead I walked away silently fuming and tweeted Leon who reassured me they "must do better".
Keep Cup said they advise customers to "go somewhere Keep Cup friendly" but instead I keep returning to Leon and every time that guy is on shift I make sure he takes my order. Last week I ordered breakfast with my coffee and the barista who took my order handed it to me and said "you don't need the bag right?" so in a small way I seem to have made an impression.

We have just begun Lent and whilst I am not religious it's something I've taken part in every year since I can remember. As well as giving up chocolate and biscuits this year I've decided to give up one wasteful habit. This week I've given up using cotton pads to take off my make up at night and instead I've invested in washable pads. The ones I've chosen are made from the waste fabric that comes from making washable nappies (they're the leg holes!) and they are cotton terry on one side backed with really soft microfleece on the other. I bought 12 so I don't have to wash them continuously and they're massive so I only use one per day. I will update in the next week or so as I give up more wasteful habits. Please let me know in the comments if you have any suggestions!


Tuesday, 3 January 2017

2017 INTENTIONS

I read this Guardian article this morning which really cemented what I was saying in my last post (question 30) about not setting goals. The article is relating specifically to career but I believe it can relate to all aspects of life. It's really about getting off the treadmill and doing things for the enjoyment and love of doing them, rather than to satisfy an invisible tick list. It's one of the reasons I am not into 'bucket lists'. Apart from the obviously morbid connotations, I don't believe that I will know on any given day what the 100 things I want to do throughout the rest of my life are, that will bring me the most joy, sense of accomplishment or happiness. I am constantly growing and changing and sometimes over a period of time the thing that I get the most joy out of is something simple - like realising I've had a plant for 6 months and it's still alive - something that I probably wouldn't have thought to put on my 'bucket list' had I decided to write one. Furthermore my biggest sense of achievement often comes from doing something that I least expected I would ever do - like abseiling down a waterfall in Vietnam!

So the preoccupation with lists or very specific goals with the only possible outcome being 'pass' or 'fail' are no longer appealing for me. But there are of course things I want to start doing, develop further or change this year and every year,  I just prefer to think about these things in a broader, more reflective sense.

2016 was the year I went to therapy. Regularly. Like actually turned up every week. And it was amazing. I wish I'd done it years ago and I can't wait to carry on this year. It is also the year I suddenly understood why people love yoga so much. I definitely want to write a longer post about this because it's changed my life for the better. As long as I'm still loving it in 2017, then that's going to stay in my weekly schedule. Diet wise, I watched Cowspiracy and basically hated humanity for a week and wanted to go vegan. The problem with deciding to go vegan or vegetarian overnight was that even though morally I had a reason to do it, I still really loved meat and most of my favourite dishes revolved around it. I decided to start eating a little less meat and experimenting with vegetarian recipes and gradually I've found I want to eat meat less and less. The upside to this has been cheaper grocery bills and loads more plant based foods in my life which has undoubtedly made my skin glow and my PMS symptoms reduce to almost nothing. Seriously. (Separate post on this also coming!). Whilst I don't cook meat anymore but I still eat it whenever I feel like it (mostly when I have a craving for Jamaican food and obviously on Christmas day) and I don't have a date by when I'll become officially vegetarian or vegan, it may never happen. I'm happy that I'm well and nourished and limiting my impact on the environment a bit more than before so that's the mentality I will take into 2017.

 

2016 was also the year I freelanced for the first time. I loved it about 80% of the time and I've now realised that the times when I hated it were more related to the work I was doing and less related to freelancing itself. Looking back, maybe I gave it up too soon, but I really needed space at the time to work out what I wanted to do next. More recently I've really enjoyed learning new things - weaving and candle making - and the idea of turning that into a business is becoming more and more appealing. I NEVER in the last 35 years have ever seen myself as the 'type of person' who starts their own business so realising I that I enjoy being my own boss and working on my own schedule was a massive realisation for me. Real talk though, I have bills to pay so I am putting equal vigour into all my options for generating income whether it's permanent work, temping, freelancing or starting something on my own and seeing what sticks. 



I had time in 2016 to generally slow down, appreciate what I have and spend more time with the people I really value in my life, so that is the most important thing I want to keep on doing. Learning, reading, being more grateful and less hungover have made the last few months immeasurably more satisfying as has getting back on the internet, blogging and connecting with people who I can learn from. Politically the world is not in the best shape, but personally I'm genuinely excited about what this year will bring. 

  



Wednesday, 26 October 2016

BRITISH HYGGE

I only heard about Hygge for the first time less than a month ago. It was mentioned on Twitter, I didn't know what it was, so I did a quick google and learnt that's it's basically the Danish word for cosy. I moved on, or started to move on but very quickly I noticed more and more references to it, from books promising to teach the 'art' of Hygge, retailers trying to flog blankets and candles promising they would make your home more 'hygge', to Danes proclaiming that it definitely DOES NOT just mean cosy (whoops).

So I googled again and read further this time and learnt that no it doesn't just mean cosy but also it has nothing to with buying a certain candle or a blanket and even less to do with buying a book which tells you which kind of candle or blanket to buy. Hygge doesn't have a direct translation but it's said to be a feeling of well-being and contentment created by creating intimacy. It comes into its own when the nights draw in and it's something the Danish have nailed and according to everyone with something to sell these days, it's something you can only get from trying to be more like them.

Well here's the thing, while living in Australia for the last four years there was something I missed about Winter in England. Not the grey skies or the frosty mornings but the quintessential way we deal with it and the warm fuzzy glow of contentment it creates. We go back to our parents for Christmas where the temperature is continuously set to Barbados in high summer levels, we start nights out with X Factor/Strictly pre-drinks and Sunday hangovers with the results, we knock back mulled wine like the ingredients aren't available all year round and as soon as someone mentions snow, we all get very concerned about our commute home and leave work early 'just in case' we get snowed in which is just code for going to the pub. And when we get to the pub the tables are sticky, the windows are steamed up, it's boiling, you can't sit down for  piles of coats but despite never being able to organise all of your mates into one place EVER, somehow everyone is there. It's not pretty, it's not pinterestable and you certainly wouldn't write a book about it, but it's distinctly British and that'll do for me.


Monday, 24 October 2016

BEING A MINIMIMALIST IN FASHION

I started thinking about minimalism when I was in Australia having had the tiresome task of downsizing all my belongings in the London flat I'd lived in for 5 years, the thought of which still makes me shudder. I started downsizing around 2 months before I left but days before I moved I still had to do nine (count them. NINE) trips to the charity shop with black sacks full of nearly new clothes, accessories and shoes. I decided in that moment that I would never let that happen again.

The transient nature of living in Sydney meant that it was common for people like me to sub-let from someone who had taken out a lease on a whole flat or house and therefore furnished the whole place already so I acquired very little in terms of household goods, namely a bed, shelf, chest of drawers and frying pan. Clothes-wise, the climate meant that I was shopping a lot less and the awesome market and garage sale scene meant that it was as easy as sitting outside my flat with a rail of clothes and a sign saying "for sale" to offload a few things I no longer needed or wanted if my wardrobe was getting out of hand. That being said I still moved back with about 4 suitcases of stuff when I arrived in March this year, which felt like 2 suitcases too many.


I stumbled on The Minimalists podcast when I was looking for new things to listen to while working from home and it reinforced what I already knew - I wanted to have fewer things. Less stuff, less clutter and a clearer head. Fewer clothes, fewer choices and a simpler life. Right? Not to mention a better bank balance or at least more money to spend on experiences rather than 'things'. But working in fashion and especially being back in London with its inspirational retail environments, competitive pricing, mega fast shipping when you buy online and most importantly a consistent stream of creative people with amazing individual personal style, it's taken some time to find a balance and a version of 'minimalism' or at least reduced consumerism that works for me.

1. One in one out
This has worked out far better than I'd hope as Macmillan drop these handy bags through our door around once a month. You just fill them up, put them out in front of your house the night before your allocated collection day and Macmillan come and collect them by 2pm the following day.



2. Make money, to spend money
As well as giving clothes to charity, I've made a commitment to selling newer or (embarrassingly) unworn pieces in order to fund things I want or need. I've made enough money in the last week to buy these shoes I've had my eye on, although now I've become so good at questioning whether I need every purchase, I'm not convinced I really need them anymore! Putting some distance between the thought that you want something and the action of buying it gives you some space to work out whether you really want it or whether you're just caught up in the initial flush of excitement you get from owning something new.

3. Think about replacing rather than doubling up
Last week I decided I simply had to have an orange jumper in &OtherStories so I forced myself to sell the orange jumper I already had in my wardrobe which I love but admittedly hardly wear (it's this one if you're interested!). I've already worn the &OtherStories jumper at least 5 times so price per wear it has worked out to be a good investment.
I do have exceptions to this rule: I have 3 black bomber jackets - two are everyday jackets that I wear to death (one lightweight, one heavy), the other is slightly dressier. The key if you are doubling up in your wardrobe, is making sure each piece has a different end use.

4. Invest in good quality/designer pieces
For the most part I now tend to spend a bit more on clothes not only because they last longer but also because if your style moves on, better brand names have a higher resale value! I rarely buy costume jewellery anymore, I tend to wear the same signature silver pieces and I invested in a quality leather handbag that I love and it's just the right size for day and night so no need for a separate selection of 'evening' bags (why why why try and put the same amount of stuff in a bag half the size just because the sun has gone down anyway?).

5. Make everyday a special occasion
I can remember my Mum asking me what I wanted to wear to school, I must have been about 8 and I chose the newest thing in my wardrobe (it was a pink sweater dress) and she told me I should save it to wear somewhere special the first time. I picked it out every morning until she eventually let me wear it to school. I've obviously never been the type to save things to wear on a special occasion! As long as I'm leaving the house, that's good enough for me. If I haven't found somewhere to wear something new within a week or two of buying it, it's going back to the shop.

5. Love everything you own
No more 'just in case' or 'might wear again one day' pieces that stay in a dark corner of your wardrobe. First of all, this means having a big clear out and then it might mean lots of trips to return things when you buy something you thought you loved but turns out it was just lust. Eventually it will become second nature to only leave the store with something you love or leave with nothing at all. In the last 8 months, I've found that I've become more tuned in to my own personal style, I can tell the difference between something that's really me (black bomber jackets) and something that I feel like tagging onto in the moment but probably will go off at a later date (anything with a heel).

I know to a hardcore minimalist this still sounds like I own and buy a lot of stuff and I do in comparison to them but as a fashion creative, I needed to find a way of reducing my consumption whilst also staying inspired and continuing to express myself through the way that I dress. These small steps have helped me cut my wardrobe in half and curbed my continuous need to shop. Unfortunately I went a little too far earlier in the month and gave away all my Winter coats not thinking that the temperature would drop so quickly, however a notification just told me that I've got another eBay sale, so at least I can feel good about buying a new one (somewhat), guilt free!