Friday, 1 May 2020


Some memories from lockdown from the last few weeks. 

Wednesday, 8 April 2020


Today I came across a post I had started to write after returning from a trip to Hong Kong a few years ago. Reading it took me back to a world that seems so far away now, when I had a full time job and was travelling all over the place for work. Some of the places I've been to over the last 10 years include China, Hong Kong, Turkey, India and the US and I got used to travelling up to 4 times a year for between 1 and 3 weeks at a time. A lot of my trips, were made up of stops in multiple places with the only time 'off' being on various modes of transport between destinations, although I still remember writing emails on the train between China and Hong Kong, ready to send on wifi once I reached the hotel. Reading this was a reminder of a really exciting time in my life when it felt like the world was my oyster but at the same time I can feel the frenetic energy in what I've written. The pace of life at that time was relentless and couldn't be further from where I am now.

I am home! After 3 weeks, 4 flights and 3 countries, I am finally home. Back to listening to podcasts and eating vegetables, back to Hulafit classes and working in the garden (if the rain stops). Back to English chocolate! (and unfortunately back to lemsip an echinacea to fight off the aeroplane germs I picked up along the way).

I LOVE travelling. Sometimes I think I'm the most myself when I'm on my own in a foreign country, eating alone, getting lost down back streets or working out the foreign equivalent of the London Underground.

BUT having said that, travelling for work whilst amazing, is exhausting. Imagine, a 12 hour flight to Hong Kong, clearing customs and baggage, a 20 min taxi to the train station, waiting around for 30 mins, clearing customs again, waiting 20 mins more, then boarding a 2.5 hour train to China. Arriving in China and clearing customs AGAIN before walking 10 mins to the hotel dragging no less than 40 kg of baggage behind you in 28 degree heat (at 9.30pm) because experience has told you that it's not worth the argument with at least 3 taxi drivers who don't want to take you on a 5 minute journey despite the heat and the luggage. By the time you check in and shower you're physically ready for bed but starving and wide awake because it's still day time where you've come from, so instead you take your laptop down to the hotel bar order some overpriced pasta and a glass of wine and do some work ready for your 9.30am pick up the next morning. If you're lucky you're sleepy enough by midnight. If not it it's few episodes of CSI on your tv which seems to have about 50 channels but only 4 in English and none that show anything less than 10 years old. And that's just day one.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020


Went out to the supermarket this week and it was a strange experience, although much calmer than I was expecting. We went to Sainsbury's this time, it's a huge superstore so plenty of room to social distance. Dad drove but only one person per family can go into the store so I did the shop (which was fine as I wouldn't have let him to go inside anyway). The floors are marked with tape at 2m intervals to help people stay distant from each other and everyone was calmly shopping in silence inside. That's something I've noticed about social distancing, people forget we can still talk! There's no music in the store anymore just repeated announcements reminding everyone that are not allowed to buy more than 3 of anything or more than 2 of selected items like toilet paper, eggs and flour. Most products are now in stock but there are noticeable gaps and empty shelves in some places.

The weather was beautiful yesterday and I feel very lucky to be in a semi-rural area where I can go out for a walk and barely come into contact with anyone. There is also a really nice community spirit here and it's been inspiring to see the creative ways people are finding to connect with each other.

I've read a few posts about 'how to cope' in isolation and most centre around having a routine and getting dressed like you would normally do and I'd like to say, I'm not doing either of those. I'm living in yoga pants and t-shirts the majority of the time and occasionally I put my dungarees on when I feel like wearing 'clothes' but its a permanent dress down day around here. I did put on a bit of make up over the weekend which was a nice change, but largely I am making only a minor effort and that suits me quite well! As for routine, it's pretty hard to stick to when you're not working, although this week I'm going to try and spend a couple of hours each morning on work related projects and make sure I do some kind of movement every day. Movement definitely helps me whether its yoga or going for a walk. I've been practising with my favourite teacher Jonelle on Movement for Modern Life which really grounds me and gives me a dose of familiarity and on my walks I choose a podcast to listen to which is great for getting out of my head. I was recommended the new episode of How to Fail with Elizabeth Day interviewing Alain Botton and it is simply the most uplifting, amazing and comforting thing I have heard throughout this whole lockdown experience. In fact, I'm halfway through listening to it for the second time. Listen to it here. (Also recommend both Mo Gawdat episodes for a moving, brave and refreshing insight into happiness and grief).

Friday, 3 April 2020


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


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


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


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


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


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!