Hello lovely readers and welcome to my shiny new blog. It’s been a while since I’ve done this. Some of you may remember my previous blog where I’d post about a whole range of subjects from decluttering to relationships (which can sometimes be the same thing), toxic friends and make up tips. It struck me, as we began to experience this strange new normal brought about by the COVID19 pandemic, that it might be time to restart them.
At the time of writing, mass protests all around the world following the death of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers have gripped our attention. People have taken to the streets to say enough is enough when it comes to racial inequality and injustice.
Of course, these issues are not new but the narrative around it is beginning to shift as we speak more about collective responsibility on a topic people of colour have felt they’ve had to deal with alone.
It’s been tough, watching this play out. Heart-breaking truths about the black experience in the UK, US and around the world are being laid bare. BUT, as hopeless as it can feel at times, the level of activism and engagement is an indication we’re moving in the right direction. People are asking themselves, how am I culpable? And how can I make a difference?
This alone, is a monumental shift and one I fully encourage. It points towards the good in people, the good in all of us that want to come together and work towards making the world a better place.
It’s all hands on deck. As a writer, for me the frontline is at my computer, so here I am, hoping to lighten the load, share some ideas, thoughts and commentary to help move us towards that better place. The blog will be a mixture of new and old posts which I’m resharing here for you to enjoy.
Whatever brings you to this page, I hope it provides a little light relief, food for thought or ideas and inspiration to carry you through your week.
I wonder if, when the pony evolved a tail, it had any sense how important it would be in women’s hair styling. For many years, I was terrified of cutting my hair shorter than pony-tail length. I’d practically flinch when the hairdresser attempted anything more than a trim.
However, following a break up, I decided to get my hair cut – short. It was a big moment. From now on I’d have to ‘do’ my hair every day. But though it was scary, I loved having an actual hair style even if it was a bit ‘Newsreader.’
I loved that crop and how its shape changed as my hair grew. Then after a few weeks I’d head back to the salon to get it lopped off again.
However, despite this new style, I was still on the chemical-straightener carousel. And so, after about three years of rocking the crop, I did what I’d been quietly thinking about for a while – The Big Chop – cutting off processed hair and literally going back to my roots.
What a revelation. For the first time in my life, doing my hair took minutes and I could wash and go every day. I frickin’ loved it. No more hairdressers. 30 minutes at the barbers and I was done.
I loved not enduring those harsh chemicals and meeting my hair in its true natural state for the first time in aaaages. And as my hair grew out, I even discovered I had ringlets.
I went au naturale for a while but then the greatest/ worst invention hit the market – straighteners. And I used them – a lot. Because, despite rediscovering my natural hair, I still revered straight hair more. On top of the constant GHDing, I started dyeing my hair, cutting it myself and even did blond highlights. I was on fire! (literally…)
Over time though, my hair, as thick and hardy as it was, suffered. When I washed it, clumps started falling out.
I had to make an emergency visit to my hairdresser, Barbara. Between the spritz sprays and peroxide, the texturizing (yes I was back on the chemicals) and singeing straighteners, my experimenting had wreaked havoc. It took several monthly visits to Barbara to return my strong, Afro hair to its former state.
From then on I seriously dialled down the processing but still hadn’t fully embracing my natural locks. But all that changed, while catching up on a bit of TV. For a while, I co-hosted a Channel 4 show and before filming I’d heat-straighten my hair, thinking that looked professional.
Eventually, I left the show to work on other projects but one night I was watching my awesome replacement and noticed she had a really gorgeous natural hair style and I had an epiphany – or hair-pyphany if you will. Since first relaxing my hair, I’d been in this constant state of warfare with my barnet and it was all down to refusing to accept its true nature. I’d relaxed it, heat straightened it and got annoyed when it didn’t style as I wanted: i.e. sleek and straight.
But when I saw this woman on TV, looking great, it helped me embrace my own hair fully. And after all these years, at last I learned how to care for my natural locks (thank you, YouTubers!) and fall in love with what I’d been given. I saw that my hair type was not only as beautiful as any other but was not difficult or ‘unmanageable’ but glorious, versatile and oh did I mention, gravity-defying!
Braids – they wouldn’t have been my first choice for a new look but it’s for an acting role and to be fair, I’d forgotten how much I love this gorgeous and protective hair style. As it’s been a hot minute since I last had braids, it’s also made me reminisce on my hair journey, which has been quite a ride – from denial, battles and burns through important lessons, acceptance and finally to love.
Thing is, I’ve got a lot of hair. Though the strands are finer than they used to be, I’ve always had A LOT of barnet to contend with.
When I was a kid I hated it. Every style felt like a battle into submission. Hair plaiting was an evening ritual I did not relish. I’d sit on the living room floor, head buried in my mum’s skirt as she put in African threading or cornrows while I craned to watch The Muppet Show.
Aside from a little interlude where mum decided to cut my hair short and experiment with using a hot comb, this weekly battle went on well into my tweens. However, by the time I hit secondary school, the hot topic was: who was getting their hair relaxed and when?
Relaxing meant getting one’s hair permanently straightened using chemicals and therefore entering the hallowed territory of having so called ‘manageable hair’.
Such was the conditioning around European standards of beauty that it didn’t occur to any of us that our own natural locks were beautiful.
Long, silky, run-your-fingers-though hair was considered most desirable while our gravity-defying kinky, coily texture was thought of as difficult, unmanageable and weak. At that time the only way for us black girls to experience long, ‘swishy’ hair was to have artificial hair braided in as extensions.
My mum tried her hand at it, even adding a few Stevie-Wonder-inspired beads. Top marks for effort but with my wispy afro protruding out of her bumpy plaits, I looked crazy. But you know what, I loved it. Why? Because the weight of the beads made my hair “swingy” like European hair. For this, I was willing to ignore the constant clatter of beads in my ears.
But soon the day came when I, like my school friends was allowed to get my hair relaxed. I stepped into the hairdressers, 14, self-conscious and very, very nervous. I’d never been in one before.
The stylist applied the relaxing cream but within minutes the tingling began and shortly after, the pain. It felt like my brain was on fire. After ten minutes of squirming, I begged her to wash it out.
‘It hasn’t taken properly,’ she told me but I didn’t care. I was on the edge of combustion.
Monday at school and the other girls stared at my half-processed locks ‘What happened to your hair?’
‘I had it relaxed!’ I said proudly and stomped off.
No one was going to deny me my glory even if my head did look like the Australian Outback. What’s a little crispy hair between friends?
And so began the part of the journey I call, Relaxed Tension – where, every six weeks, I’d return to the scene of the crime, the hairdressers, to get my roots re-straightened. And every time it was painful, expensive and worst of all, took hours. At one point my mum and I even started relaxing each other’s hair to save a few quid.
This went on for years. But even though my hair was now ‘manageable’, it felt like I wasn’t the manager. I still struggled to style it as I wanted. All it took was a windy day or misty drizzle to undo what I’d spent hours putting together.
Things began to change however, once I was old enough to pay for my own salon trips. Furthermore, as new products, tools and styles came out, it opened up a whole world of styles for me.
Check out my Hair Today Part 2 Blog – coming up next – to read about my experiments, buzz cuts and of course, the infamous ‘badger’ look!
(Little-Andi had no idea what a hair-journey she had ahead!)
It is loooovely being back filming again, but you know what makes this job literally the best? There’s a kitten in the make-up area that I get to cuddle up with pretty much every day.
He’s at the age where he wears himself out after thirty minutes of play and it is adorable. I can feel myself relax whenever I’m with him – except when he’s tugging at my hair and using my jumper as a climbing frame.
I’m away from the neighbourhood tabby I usually hang out with, so it’s nice to get some feline fun even though I’m miles from home.
Pets are just so good for our well-being – to the point where some hospitals even use them to provide therapy. And we all know, time with a beloved pet, definitely lightens our mood and lowers our heart rate.
When it comes to cats vs dogs, lots of folks have a preference. I do love dogs but they don’t half whiff and the whole picking up poo thing, it makes it hard for me to love you, Fido!
That’s why I love cats. They rule and they know it. These self-contained, self-cleaning bundles of fluff look at us, arguably the top species, like we’re idiots. However, despite their poise and grace they still do the most brilliantly daft things.
I had a cat once called Frank (Full name was Frank Butcher. Don’t @ me). He had many endearing traits. One was drinking from any dripping tap he could precariously balance near enough to. Whenever caught, he’d innocently look at us like, “Is this not cool?”
One night, I saw him absolutely transfixed by the TV. I looked over and it was a wildlife show about big cats. He didn’t move for the entire hour – like he was thinking, “My people are trapped in the talking picture box. I must free them’.
And now I’ve been part-adopted by this neighbourhood tabby (I call him Pumpkin – I have no idea why) who acts like he’s smart but then I catch him just staring at blank walls. Why, mate?
See, as clever as cats may think they are, every now and then, we catch them doing nutty things and realise, ‘Yep, you’re an idiot too’. Perhaps that balance between cool poise and idiocy, is another reason we love them.
In these challenging times where many people have been away from loved ones for extended periods, pets, are more important than ever. But it’s also important to give serious thought to getting a pet, especially in lockdown. You may have a surplus of time now, but remember, that responsibility carries over into when so-called normal life resumes. A pet isn’t just for lockdown, after all.
But whether you get a new addition to the family or have a fluffy friend who’s been by your side for years, here’s to those fabulous four legged legends that bring us so much joy, laughter and loads and loads of love.
(Why are the tops of cats heads so damn cute? I can’t handle it)
I’ve worked as a performer for nearly twenty years and one of the things I always wished for was abundance. I saw it as this joyful stream of opportunities neatly fitting together like a toddler’s jigsaw puzzle. One project would end, leading to a well-earned rest before I effortlessly sailed into the next endeavour.
Because I didn’t experience this, I thought abundance was absent from my career which felt like this stop-starty train I had to really graft to keep moving.
But then I did a workshop that caused me to question that. The facilitator encouraged me to track all the opportunities that were actually coming my way. Excel dork that I am, obviously I did this with a colour-coded spreadsheet.
For two months I diligently filled it out every day and at the end, I was shocked to find, far from being devoid of opportunity, my career was filled with abundance. For a while, I relaxed, trusting that I didn’t have to push quite so hard but eventually, as is always the way, I slipped back into my old way of thinking.
Then this year, when the lockdown began, I went into a high-hustle mode, saying ‘yes’ to pretty much everything that came my way, largely out of fear given the uncertainty in my industry. Soon I was doing remote voice-over recordings, began a major writing project, sat on two comedy awards panels and got my podcast, Creative Sauce, off the ground.
But several months in I’d said ‘yes’ to so much I felt overwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, I was massively grateful for the offers, especially as many in my field were struggling but it was all too much. Then I had a lightbulb moment.
The abundance I was seeking was in my life and always had been, but what I realised was, it just hadn’t felt how I’d imagined it would. I finally understood that abundance doesn’t always feel good! It can feel like too much, unmanageable, confusing, irritating even. Abundance can be overwhelming, inconvenient and misaligned with your schedule. It may not even come in the form you want it to. It just comes. I saw that, rather than abundance, the experience I really wanted was flow. That was the feeling of things fitting together and there being an ease and synchronicity.
The realisation was a relief. I saw that I don’t need to be in this constant panic, trying to create abundance. I just need to put my energy into the right things at the right time and make room so that flow could occur. To have flow is essentially an act of trust.
This is easier said than done, however. For many in the live performance and events industries, this uncertainty has created more hardship than opportunity and trust is, understandably, in short supply .So please spare a thought for all those who have fallen through the cracks of the Government’s support.
And if you are back at work, whether as an employee or a freelancer, I hope you get to live an abundant life that flows and gives you as much joy as is humanly possible!
As I was searching online I came across this link from the RSC they have shared their own plans on how to work in this time of COVID but also resources and possible funding opportunities that may be of help to support artists and freelancers. Let me know if it is of any use? And please share other possible resources in the comments in case they may help others.
Yep, I’m away from home at the moment and contemplating the humble (or not) hotel room…
Hotel rooms are weird. In 40sq metres or less they attempt to combine a bedroom, living room and kitchenette to create a beautifully colour co-ordinated corporate prison. Having all this in one living space is like those food trays they used to give you at school that had a trough for your lunch, desert and drink. Yummy, so appetising. I don’t know why they don’t use them in restaurants.
Bless hotel rooms, because they do try to be homely with their strategically positioned generic paintings, job lot of cushions and soft lighting but this faultless finish is almost its undoing. Like Michael Fassbender’s character in Prometheus, the robot passing as human is exposed by his clinical perfection. We almost need to see the flaws to be convinced of something’s authenticity.
Perhaps, to be more convincing as a home, hotels need to add some more believable touches. Instead of alcohol in the minibar, they should have a half empty bottle of salad cream, some out of date olives and a couple of floppy carrots.
There should be a dripping tap they’ve been promising to deal with for the last 18 months and a load of crap under the bed that needs sorting through.
If they did this, then weary travellers would enjoy the most peaceful home-away-from-home sleeps ever.
Until that day comes, here’s some ideas for de-corporatising a hotel room (for those wanting something a little more wholesome than adult movie services).
Fruit and snacks
Not only do I feel like a lawless rule breaker for smuggling contraband into the room, circumventing the room service cartel but it’s also a much healthier alternative to the late night in-house options (usually limited to what they call pizzas and us normal folk call cheese on toast). Also, a strategically placed fruit bowl in the room breaks up the corporate monotony and makes the place feel less like a hamster cage.
OK, now I’m really sharing. I always pack my slippers when I go to a hotel, ever since I treated myself to a new pair a few years ago whilst filming in Liverpool. Slippers are the bomb and I don’t care who knows it. My old pair (leopard skin pattern, very cool actually) had pretty much had it. I wore the new ones in my hotel room and they had the most remarkable effect. As soon as I slipped them on, I felt more relaxed and defo more homely. I decided there and then that they would always come with me every time I went away. I nearly wore them down to breakfast that time too but I don’t think the staff were quite ready for that. I imagined them whispering ‘how long does she think she’s staying for?’
A friend of mine also suggested taking candles with you when traveling. Candle light is known to be soothing and can help you wind down even in the most un-relaxing of environments – unless, of course you’re on the side of a mountain in a tent. In this case a candle should be considered one of your many enemies.
But I tried it and I have to say, it really worked. Obviously, safety first. Don’t put the candle near anything flammable, so basically EVERYTHING IN A HOTEL ROOM.
Not the crisps, my friend, an actual hula hoop. Now, you will never see me walking down the street dragging a wheely suitcase and rolling a hoop like some Victorian hawker. I found a hula hoop, on Amazon that dismantles into six easily transportable pieces. It’s a weighted excersise hoop (1Kg) that is a good travel replacement for gym visits which can be massively tedious anyway. On the road it’s a challenge to keep a good exercise routine going so this has been a perfect solution for me, a good ten minutes of hula hooping while watching Phil and Holly on This Morning. And remember, it’s a really good idea to move all the glasswear out of the way first…. (I can’t believe they charged me for all that stuff).
So there, you go, if you find yourself on the road, these are my slightly oddball suggestions for making the whole thing a little more bearable. And tbh, after a hard day’s graft – those 40 sq metres can feel like a god-given elixir of comfort that you can’t wait to collapse into.
Happy hooping, ppl – and not burning stuff! I forgot the hoop this time – whaddya reckon to star jumps?
Following up on my last post – touting the four self-help dating books I read – the natural next step that I could see was to write my own top ten tips for finding Luuuurve (which is different and more fun than love) – so here they are, ppl…
Andi Osho’s top ten dating tips: (which I’m definitely going to start totally following – Sssh!)
1. Love whatcha got, make the most of what you love about yourself and remember how fabulous you are. You are a gorgeous being and when you start believing it, those around you will too, including potential squeezes. If they don’t see how loveable you are, they’re simply not the one. My best relationship was based on the fact that we were each other’s biggest fans (and the belief that farting is HILARIOUS). Settle for this and nothing less (farting is up to you)
2.Read a good dating book – see previous post! Whatever freedoms and equalities each of us has managed to secure up to this point in time, successful dating remains pretty traditional and these books explain why. (THEN, make your own list of tips too. Spread the help, ppl…)
3. There are some unpalatable home truths you’ll read in relationship books and you’ll want to disagree with some of them because you’ll know someone or you yourself found love despite their advice.
I.e. you know a woman who never went out but met someone on-line – that someone already had 12 kids but still found time to pop over to see her and make incredible love to her (all on their first date too). And now? They’re happily married / co-habiting / living their best lives. Whadda result!
Great, but remember, this person’s dating-story is an exception (there are always exceptions!).
Following advice or dating tips you trust (you know, like mine) mean you won’t waste your time – or their time – and you’ll get the amazing relationship you deserve.
4. Don’t ignore the signs. If the object of your desire is being crappy about meeting up, taking you on proper dates, takes ages to call or text back – heed the warning signs. People are on their best behaviour at the beginning of a relationship and if you feel their best isn’t good enough, get rid. If a guy likes you, he’ll call. If a womxn likes you, she’ll call. They’ll call. Stop making excuses for them. Everyone knows how to use a phone. Who doesn’t have a phone attached to their being these days?
5. Crushes NEVER work out. What your subconscious mind is saying is, I’m not good enough for this person so I’ll just dream and fantasise about him/her/them instead. It also means despite all the signs and hints you’ve dropped like barbells on a biscuit tin, you’ve been ignored. Why? Because that particular luscious object ain’t interested (let them be, look after you).
6. Get out there – either with friends or on your own. Get creative about what you do and you’ll meet a broader range of people. Ever been to a football match? Give it a go and if your type is shouty, fat, bald men with a penchant for yelling with their mouths full, then all your Christmases will come at once.
7. If you must use internet dating, let me save you some time. Don’t bother writing a saccharine bio sharing your favourite films, top 5 albums and interests (Which, let me guess, include nights in snuggling on the sofa as well as nights out?). No one reads them. Just post a decent, recent photo and a titbit of info and if the right person is interested, they’ll contact you. And under no circumstances resort to poetry. You do this and I will hunt you down.
8. Don’t lower your standards but be willing to adapt and compromise. If you meet a date who’s amazing but is a little shorter than your preference for example, it may be worth still going on that one night out. This kind of small (poor choice of word) compromise may reveal a wonderful, happy surprise. And anyway, one date’s not going to kill you… unless it’s with Charles Manson.
8a. Don’t date convicted mass murderers.
9. Live your life. Be You. You are lovely and living your life has made you into the person that that significant-other-in-waiting is going to want to ask out. Why would you compromise that?
Contrary to the sign language lesson in Jerry McGuire, a relationship will not complete you because you are already whole so have fun, get on with being you with your interests, hobbies, love of shopping, dislike of Sunday drivers, car boot sale fanaticism, weekly cinema trips, annual ice skating and whatever else it is you do.
10. Annnnd – in a replay (coz it’s important) to the ending of my self-help book blog: Remember if someone is wrong for you, no tactics can keep them and if they’re right for you, no mistake can keep them away – except perhaps murder….(unless you ignore tip 8a and then it’s a whole other ball game. Can’t help there!)
Now? How is my dating life in 2020? Weeelll, it’s hard to follow your own tips sometimes (I did most of the time, and not so some of the time) and sometimes the Universe delivers a lovely surprise. Clear as mud? Soz 😉
A few years back I found myself with an arm full of dating books and no clue when it came to dating. I wanted that magic formula to make my relationships work (or even just one of them!).
Sorry to report, but there was no magic, guys – though there was some much-needed clear-headedness which I thought was worth revisiting.
The books found their way into my mitts after I’d talked to a friend about my luck in love (or lack thereof). As usual I was lamenting how I hadn’t had a proper date in four years (for the record I don’t count getting drunk with a guy then staggering back to his place. In which case I’d been dating – girls gotta eat. Right, ladies? Anyway…).
She told me I needed to turn my ‘relationship karma’ around, gave me a handful of book titles (He’s Just Not That Into You, The Rules, Why Men Love Bitches and Act Like a Lady, Think Like A Man) and sent me on my way.
I bought all the books she recommended, devoured each one in a couple of days and made notes (of course).
Of the four, I liked this one the best (Greg is a comic so I would say that). It’s scribed in the format of a very direct agony aunt replying to her lovelorn readers and pulls no punches. Read this then watch the film (it’s on Amazon Prime at the mo, in 2020) – I’ve watched it twice – and it’s an education all on its own. Really, the crux of the film and the book is: Men aren’t that complicated. If it looks like he isn’t that into you, he probably ain’t.
This title isn’t quite accurate. Exchange the word ‘bitches‘ for ‘confident women who aren’t looking for father substitutes‘ and it’s a damn fine read and a little gentler on the ego for the more fragile among us.
Now this is an interesting one because people who haven’t read it fixate on a few of the more controversial rules:
I.e. Don’t make a date with a guy for Saturday night if he calls after Wednesday.
I know many scoff at the idea of this but I think it’s OK. The thinking being, if you make late dates, he’ll always see you as the last minute gal. We’ve all had that set up where he rings or worse texts, after a night out telling you to come over. But because you’ve read this book, now you’ll say, Hard no but thanks all the same.
The Rules is a good way to bring a bit of discipline into your dating life but for me, it’s too rigid and marriage-focused. I just want a date not a bloody wedding (I’m lying, Bradley Cooper – if you’re reading this, It’s a Yes, I’d love to).
This was my least favourite love manual, mainly because Steve seemed to be addressing a type of woman I’m unfamiliar with: in it, he often referenced when you should introduce your new man to your kids and talked about juggling your ‘two jobs’. This seems to be more of an American obsession (why not get one good job? – I know why, I’m being flippant. Don’t @ me). Anyway, I found this book a little condescending but, the movie it inspired is pretty good, better than the book even.
All four books provided some vital, eye opening and eye wateringly honest insights into what it is us girls do ‘wrong’ when it comes to dating. So yes, I did learn something from all of them – and I think it’s worth having at least one or two of these manuals to casually thumb through – however, I would add, if someone is wrong for you, no tactics can keep them and if they’re right, no mistake can keep them away – except perhaps murder….
Ps – you might like to know the fate that befell one of the The Rules authors (no one died!) – check out the story in the link. Enjoy! Telegraph Article
I’m a total foodie. How do I know this? Because everyone is! I laugh when someone describes themselves as a foodie. Who doesn’t love food? I’ve never met anyone who’s like, ‘food? … Meh.’
Not only do I love food – probably a bit too much – but I also love cooking. In my twenties I would often cook these elaborate meals. Once, before me and some friends were about to go clubbing, I decided to make a Thai green curry – from scratch! Was it delicious? Yes – was it worth it? No. After, we didn’t want to go clubbing. We wanted a nap.
However, my cooking changed once I hit thirty – for two reasons. Firstly, I didn’t have time. I was trying to become an actor and stand up. Secondly, I started taking whole food cooking classes. We worked predominantly with plant-based ingredients which opened up a whole world of products I’d never heard of. Turtle beans and forbidden rice, tempeh and tamari all slowly became part of my stash of kitchen goodies.
Furthermore, over time, I noticed that my romance with meat and dairy began to shift. (About now, you’re thinking this is going to turn into some worthy call to go vegan. Relax, it’s not. You do you, boo.) I was eating more and more plant-based dishes while the animal products naturally fell away. Whilst I was still eating meat occasionally, I was also loving these new-found ingredients. And it’s been that way for me ever since.
Our meals have become heavily industrialised, and our purchasing so automatic and disconnected that we often don’t know what we’re putting in our mouths. Maybe it’s time to take dinner away from corporate and put it back in our kitchen. And yes, whole food, plant-based meals can be a part of that. If you’re up for making changes, be they for moral, health, ecological or any other reasons, perhaps start with a vegan day once a week. I promise, there are so many delicious ingredients waiting for you before you even need to think of reaching for meat substitutes. I’ve been sharing some of my favourite meals on Instagram in case you need ideas, pasta dishes, sauces, soups and more. Simple dishes with big flavours for you to try at home.
My style of cooking is very much suck-it-and-see. I share my recipe but really, the magic is in experimenting and finding what flavours work for you. As always, shout out to the brilliant Jean Torne of Concord Institute for his whole foods and macrobiotic culinary wisdom and Mutsuko Johnson, a guest facilitator who brings with her decades of experience in cooking delicious and nourishing Japanese cuisine.
This isn’t an ad for Concord Institute but they do amazing cooking classes. If you want to find out more, check them out: https://concordinstitute.com/jeanskitchen/ Or find a cooking class that works for you but whatever you do, start to bring cooking home. Your tummy will thank you!
On a scale of 1 to bizarre, how strange has your 2020 been? Keeping calm and carrying on is hard at the best of times but in the midst of a pandemic, well, that’s definitely one to tell the grand kids about. But as we come to the end of lockdown (unless you’re Dominic Cummings in which case you’re probably thinking, what’s lockdown?) and we look towards our new normal, I’ve also been looking back. Out of this unbelievably challenging three months, I’ve been wondering, are there silver linings to the dark clouds of this pandemic? And I would say, yes.
For me, one unadulterated pleasure has been the newfound quiet. I’m a city girl, born and raised but even for me, sometimes I just want everyone to shhhhhhhhhh. When that finally happened in late March, I loved it. The eerie peacefulness, the 28 Days Later style photos of normally busy city centres, the slow encroachment of nature as animals began to reclaim the streets, the absence of billowing airplane trails across the sky – was all blissful.
Whether you agree or not, the Black Lives Matter Protests were absolutely necessary and the lockdown focused people’s minds. Were we in normal, non-lockdown times, the George Floyd murder may have been trampled by the constant march of 24 hour news. The Lockdown quiet gave room for this incident and its repercussions to initiate important discussions worldwide. Were it not for the intersection of these two events, this may not have been possible.
Lockdown has been financial tough for many – those working in entertainment still have no clear pathway back to work – and I really need the nail bars to open. Sort it out, Boris! However, in all of this, it is great how some have managed to innovate, using online technology to maintain or create new income streams. I’ve attended countless meetings, online workshops, webinars, bodywork classes and seen friends put on comedy shows, play readings, run quizzes, debate nights and more. Though you can’t replace the visceral experience of a live event, this is definitely a welcome bridge until things return to normal.
But I think my biggest and most welcome change has been feeling more at ease, talking to friends, family and colleagues on the phone and video chat. Before, I would happily ping pong WhatsApp messages or emails back and forth when a five minutes conversation would have been quicker, easier and I could have said all I needed to say in half the time. We are communal creatures and I’ve enjoyed connecting more fully with people during this time.
Early on in quarantine, some people had high expectations of how it would change society for the better however, as the scenes at Bournemouth beaches and crowds of football fans demonstrate, human beings don’t always know how to do the right thing. Having said that, I hope that despite the hardships of these past few months, we all find or make some positive changes that we carry forward into our new normal, even if it is just skyping our mums.
Please be safe, take care, follow the guidelines, don’t litter, black lives matter and when you know better, do better.
These days everyone’s talking about decluttering with many a declutter or organising expert touting the benefits – Marie Kondo (obvs), the brilliant Oprah – and if you search #declutterexpert or #homeorganiser on Instagram, you’ll find a local guru all set to come and help you turf out your loot too.
All this #CleartheClutter awareness took me back to when I lived in my one bed flat, and how I almost left it prematurely…
You see, I’d decided I’d outgrown my little East London abode and it was time to relocate, maybe to a place with a garden, (fancy) – so I started flat hunting.
I told myself I wanted a cat – to mark my descent into real single-ladydom – but the real reason was, I wanted to spread out. God knows I love to buy shoes but I was running out of space to put them. My boudoir was fast becoming a shoe room that happened to have a bed in it. I needed more space. End of.
After three months of searching though all I could find were two bedroom dungeons or flats that were a few police lines short of looking like a murder scene, it was a bit disheartening.
I began to wonder if I could learn to love the place I currently had, maybe give it a bit of a makeover – that’s when a really radical idea hit me: How about, I thought to myself, instead of buying a new property so I could store more stuff – I get rid of some of this accumulated claptrap? Genius.
I lived in a one bedroom flat – how much stuff could there be? Ha! The thought of going through all the boxes and cupboards and wardrobes was an intimidating prospect. Sorry did I say intimidating, I meant boring. Soooo, I decided to make a list. Oh, I love a good list. I like the sense of achievement as I tick tasks off.
I listed all the places that needed to be decluttered:
Chest of drawers
Under the drawers
In corners of wardrobes
Shoe boxes (in every corner)
Under the bed: all kinds of hoarding crimes had been committed in this dark unseen space (unused yoga mats, old trainers, bags for life that had long since perished). The places to store crap is seemingly endless. I had to be ruthless.
As someone who isn’t particularly sentimental, a lot of the under the bed stuff was easy to resolve. Yoga mat – Out. Old reviews and newspaper clippings – In. When I’m an old lady who smells of cats and pee I’d rather show the great nieces and nephews a feathery Time Out review rather than Yoga Matters finest wares (soz).
Things started to get a bit tricky when it came to dresses and shoes. Even if I’d never worn something I was still torn as to whether to send it to the great charity shop in the sky, or as you’ll see later, Stratford recycling, which is much closer to home.
I elected to take on a tough policy. If I couldn’t visualise myself wearing the item again, it was history. It worked. After a few short hours there were three full bags brimming with dresses, coats, shoes and accessories. For the first time in years I could see the back of the wardrobe. The disappointment of not finding a portal to another dimension was temporary.
Once you get the ball rolling with a declutter it can be difficult to stop. You can end up ditching items you really shouldn’t. Fridge? First world extravagance. Cooker? I shall simply set fire to my vegetable rack and pick over the charred remains.
All in all the whole process, working my way through each room, took a few sessions but after a couple of months I was done. I completed the process by buying some nice storage furniture and a shoe store that hangs on the back of the door (literally the best thing ever) – it’s an Ikea beaut, and I have two now!
And finally my bedroom looked less like Primark during the summer sales and more like a bedroom becoming of a sophisticated lady, like what I am.
But what to do with all these unwanted garments? To simply throw them away would be recycling treason. Instead, I did what is commonly known as Stratford recycling. That is, I simply left the bags outside my house with a helpful note stating what each bag contained. The following morning the bags were gone. Obvs, visiting your local charity shop works too, or recycling your clothes at places like H&M. But back when I did this my local charity shops were dubious, and clothes recycling was probably limited to waiting for that elusive plastic charity bag to be popped through your letterbox.
It was over. I had loads of new wardrobe space, room under the bed and some lovely new furniture to boot. I was now happy in my one bedroom flat!
A good declutter can really invigorate the space you live in. Every now and then, it’s good to shake things up and do something that reminds your home you think it’s pretty cool. I say, use the four Rs (refurbing, redecorating, rearranging or recycling). Done thoughtfully, this can be an economical way of giving you a renewed love of the place you live in – so you can feel happy and content being there again. You will. I promise!
Living in clutter is bad for the soul. A home with gubbins everywhere is chaotic and causes stress, something you may, over time, become immune to feeling but it’s there. Trust me. Losing these unwanted items will bring clarity to your living space and inevitably, your thinking. It’s a way showing yourself some care and those you live with and indicates to the universe that you deserve to live a harmonious, peaceful life. Try it, you’ll see.
I hope you can do your version of Stratford recycling where you live. The best thing about it, bumping into a neighbour who you know is wearing your clobber, and they know they’re wearing your clobber and they know you know they’re wearing your clobber and you both say nothing and just smile.