The Truth Behind Angora

If any of you know me well, or indeed just have me on Facebook, you will be aware that I’m a massive advocate of animal rights. Since becoming vegetarian 4 years ago, I have made a conscious effort to shop for products ethically sourced/made and to make people more aware of where every day products they buy come from. If you get annoyed about my regular posts concerning Animal Rights, I’d suggest actually reading one of the posts I share on social media, as mostly I believe people get annoyed with the subject of animal welfare through outdated and stereotypical representations of protestors, but also through ignorance of simply turning the other cheek. If we aren’t made aware as a world nation of the horrific activities that occur in animal trade, then there will be no stop to it. As with human rights, we need to be made more conscious of the fact that we as this lucky and lucrative nation, do indeed have the power to put an end to many unjustified situations occurring across the globe. Of course, you always have the option too, to ignore it and just delete people like me off Facebook.

Here is my latest article, which will also soon feature on the Hand Bag Fairy blog too, of which, you can check out here.

The Truth Behind Angora

Angora wool. We all know it as the soft, luxurious material used to make wonderful jumpers and cardigans and until around 2009, was only exclusively available on a designer budget. Nowadays, you can pick up an angora jumper for as little as £30 from high street retailers, but unbeknownst to many consumers, buying cheap angora wool products, is only funding the bloody trade that lurks behind it.

It has become apparent as of late that angora wool farming is unethical and does not comply with animal welfare standards. PETA have been highlighting the factors that play the biggest part in farming the animals and the shocking truth behind where angora wool is coming from. Animal rights group, PETA, (People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals) released footage of their gut-wrenching exposé of the angora industry in China, which is responsible for 90 per cent of the world’s supply of angora wool. You can watch the footage here. [Warning: some viewers will find footage distressing]. On seeing the investigative footage, many retailers such as Spanish clothing company, Zara, halted their orders of angora fur products until its farms are verified to be in compliance with the company’s animal welfare standards.

ASOS also jumped on board the boycott, with a spokesman from the company stating, “ASOS firmly believes it is not acceptable for animals to suffer in the name of fashion or cosmetics.  ASOS is a member of the Fur Free Alliance of retailers and recognises that the sourcing of angora and other rabbit hair products causes distress to animals.  As such, we will remove all ASOS and third party branded product that fails to meet the policy and no new orders will be raised containing angora or other rabbit hair.”

Spokeswoman for PETA UK, Mimi Bekhechi applauded ASOS’s decision to “do the right thing”, and urges more companies to follow their example and “show that cruelty to animals has no place in their stores.”

The reason Angora is such a widely prized wool fur is because of the unique texture of the rabbit’s fluffy fibres. It is exceptionally fine and is much softer and more pliable than cashmere, and much cheaper too, often retailing between £30-£60 per jumper, which most of the time are only 50% angora wool and made under horrific circumstances in China.

Animal cruelty: The angora rabbits are alive throughout the plucking and are kept for several years, plucked every few months, before their throats are slit

PETA’s investigation revealed that these bargain knits are coming at an immense price to the welfare of the rabbits that produce this wool. Going to 10 different farms in an area of China known for producing the wool, an alarming discovery of appalling abuse of the animals in all 10 locations was made. In the footage, we can quite clearly see that the rabbits are treated inhumanely, being crammed into small, filthy wire cages where they are forced to spend their entire miserable lives standing on the thin cage wires that constantly cut into their sensitive footpads. They never have a chance to do what comes naturally to them and by being restricted to this deathly environment they don’t get to dig, jump or run around.

The images, taken at an undisclosed location in China, shows angora rabbits in cages

They are often barbarically plucked to remove the fur whilst struggling to break free from restraint. PETA spokesman Ben Williamson informed watchers that “After their fur is yanked out, the gentle, sensitive rabbits are left in shock, able only to lie motionless inside their tiny, filthy cages.”

Unfortunately, the animals also suffer through other torturous conditions such as being tethered with rope by their front and hind legs, stretched out and sheared carelessly by workers with metal scissors, often slicing and cutting the rabbits. Sometimes, rabbits that particularly struggle get caught with the blades so badly that they bleed to death. For those that do survive the first ordeal, the process is repeated every three months for the two to three years of the animal’s life.

Left to recover: After the rabbit had had all its fur yanked out it is thrown into a cage to regrow its fur in complete solitude

Many of the factory workers are not trained in trimming the fur with clippers and instead are seen to wrench the fur from the follicles, causing bleeding, sores and raw patches of skin that will never quite heal due to infection based on filthy conditions, not to mention causing incredible pain to the rabbits. So why are the rabbits not trimmed? Why are they confined to a life of torture? The main reason of course of which, is simple economics.

Angora is one of the highest earning trading wools, with a value of £22 to £28 per kg, but this is based on shearing the animal in a humane manner. When the animal is plucked, longer hair becomes available, wash the blood off the ends and it can be sold for double the price of shearing. It can take over an hour to shear a rabbit, whereas plucking the animal can take less than 10 minutes as shown in the harrowing footage.

Breeders of Angora rabbits in the UK told UK newspapers that it can take up to two weeks to gently remove the loosened hair of the rabbits as opposed to mere minutes of tearing chunks of fur and flesh as shown in China. Also, the UK once flourished from a vibrant angora industry, which unfortunately diminished after the Second World War, only remaining as small companies that simply cannot compete with the demand that countries such as China are able to supply.

Sarah Paul, a breeder from North Yorkshire has bred rabbits for angora products for the past 30 years and states how she is one of the only commercial producers left in the UK. Speaking fondly of the animals, Mrs Paul described angora rabbits as “lovely, very easy to keep and their fibres are absolutely gorgeous.”

The rabbits that Sarah Paul looks after are all tended to in a loving fashion, mostly living on the barn floor, regularly combed and clipped every 16 weeks to collect the rabbit’s natural regular moult. If a rabbit is not clipped, she says, its fur can become matted, ‘almost imprisoning’ the animal. But the animals enjoy the hour long combing and clipping sessions, where they are petted and groomed, often falling into calm and soporific states.

Ex breeder, William Sichel and his wife Elizabeth farmed around 100 angora rabbits for 20 years, often giving demonstrations to tourists. Mr Sichel described how the rabbit would always be unrestrained; making sure the animal underwent no stress, enabling a full grown rabbit to be clipped of its excess fur in a little over 30 minutes. The catch however, highlighted by Mr Sichel, is ‘British Welfare Standards’. Naturally as the rabbits start to age, they yield less and less fur. In horrific standards like those in China, rabbits only tend to live for up to 2-3 years owing to horrific treatment and conditions. However, if properly cared for, Angora rabbits have one of the longest natural life spans of the rabbit species, often reaching up to and beyond 10 years.

PETA does argue that it is impossible to farm rabbits in a commercial manner and be kind to them too. Nevertheless, Mr Sichel argues that the process may be able to be done, if certain sacrifices are made, but not any sacrifices of life. Each of Mr Sichel’s rabbits were kept according to British welfare standards and produced around 1kg of wool each year. When this yield of wool was mixed with an equal quantity of lamb’s wool, it made about 3 or 4 jumpers. If each jumper was sold online for £200, this would create revenue of £60,000 annually.

Unfortunately, rabbits have to be kept in clean, wire cages, in view of each other but not allowed to interact, which leads to over-breeding, fighting and dirtying of their fur. Mr Sichel reiterates that “free-range angora rabbit-keeping would be just about impossible.”

As the debate carries on, the horrific images and footage released by PETA is enough to give many British shoppers a pause for thought when stopping to stroke the fluffy angora jumpers on offer at many high street retailers this New Year.

Pain and suffering: The terror in the animal's eyes is unmistakeable as a worker with a Chinese angora trader stretches it out and yanks out its fur

So is ethical angora available or not? That’s probably a matter for your own conscience. Some luxury items are luxury because of the extensive ‘behind the scenes’ processes that go into making a top quality animal product, in a completely humane and protected manner. Unfortunately until this option also becomes available for those wishing to purchase Angora for high street prices, the best rule for now is: only buy it if you can afford it. If you can’t, opt for a synthetic version instead.

Comments are welcome on this topic, but please don’t just tell me I’m a raging Animal Rights wannabe do gooder with a chip on my shoulder. If you want to be ignorant to this topic, be so, but not with ignorant and pointless comments to match.

Popular Pop up Charity Shop Coming to an End

Here’s a little article I wrote about the local charity shop I’ve been volunteering at in King’s Cross, Pop Up 38, its due to close soon so grab yourself some vintage bargains and support a great cause whilst you still can.

photo courtesy of thinkgreenfashion.com

A locally famous ‘pop up’ charity Shop, Pop Up 38 will be set to close in late February this year, after a yearlong run selling vintage clothes and other items in one of King’s Cross’s prime spots.

The shop, located on Caledonian Road near Kings Cross station spent all of 2013 raising money for Lapis Lazuli schools, an Afghan charity making education possible in cities across Afghanistan, most notably Kabu, where education is limited due to its volatile political environment and lack of educational funding.

The shop opened in February 2013 and is run by Naomi Brons-Harper, co-founder of London fashion label Harper & Hare. Along with several volunteers, Brons-Harper has been dedicated to filling the shop with vintage clothes and distinct memorabilia all for purchase by the public. Most of the clothes sold in the shop are vintage dating back to the 1930s, with the added bonus of local designer’s collections and even items created by students of nearby Central St. Martins. One of the most popular items sold at the shop, was a collection of garments donated by the designer Alice Temperley.

Close to raising a grand total of £100,000, the shop is still open for a short while longer before all the remaining donated items are given to other local causes and charities.

Prices range from £3 upwards, the shop is closed on Mondays.

The 7 Most Memorable Moments of the 2014 Golden Globes Awards.

This Golden Globe awards saw Hollywood gather on 12th January 2014 for this year’s annual ceremony held religiously since 1961 (that’s 71 years) at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in California. The American accolade is awarded by the 93 members of the HFPA (Hollywood Foreign Press Association) to recognise excellence in both film and television, home and away. Attended by the movie star royalty, the awards are aired live, which means there’s no time for re takes or censorship. So these moments are what made the 2014 Golden Globes more magical than last year.

*Matt Damon forgot his glasses. Poor little Matt Damon walked onto the stage only to realise he’d forgotten his glasses, and he can’t see without his glasses. Reading from a teleprompter with limited vision would be near impossible to us mere mortals but in true Matt Damon style, after recognising his forgotten eyewear to the audience, he improvised the presentation of the award to Tom Hanks for his performance in Captain Phillips, and you know what, he did a fine good job at it.

*Jim Carrey is a comedian, and he likes to make a joke, especially if that joke is poking fun at someone else. So of course he was going to use the news of Shia LaBeouf retiring from public life after his plagiarism scandal to his advantage. Carrey sated, “Dying is easy, comedy is hard. I believe it was Shia Lebouf who said that. So young, so wise.” And then presented the award for Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Drama. What a joker.

*We love our home grown Emma Thompson, and she did not disappoint with her usual comedic charismatic manner at this year’s Globes. Striding on stage with martini and Louboutin’s in hand, Thompson announced the red soles of the shoes were her own blood before chucking them behind her on stage to present the award to Spike Jonze for Best Screenplay for the critically acclaimed film, ‘Her’.

*Now there’s no doubt that Woody Allen is a man of many talents, but that debate can also be extended to whether his talent lies in ruining peoples’ lives. He was notoriously found to be involved in a sexual relationship with his then partner Mia Farrow’s 19 year old adopted daughter (Allen’s unofficial step daughter) and has also been accused of molesting Farrow’s and his own adopted daughter Dylan. Upon Allen being the unveiled recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille award, his adopted son Ronan (from his relationship with Farrow), promptly tweeted, ‘Missed the Woody Allen tribute – did they put the part where a woman publicly confirmed he molested her at age 7 before or after Annie Hall?” Eek-awkward.

*Alfonso Cuarón brought us some fantastically dark Harry Potter, as well as global cinema success Gravity, which he was scooping up the award for Best Director for at this year’s Globes. During his acceptance speech, dear Alfonso enlightened the crowd on how he mistakenly told Sandra Bullock that he wanted to give her herpes, when he actually meant to say ‘earpiece’. His Mexican charm allowed him to get away with it.

*It’s been a good 12 months for Leonardo DiCaprio, not only was he part of 2013’s biggest box office hits, he remained to be the voter’s favourite for this year’s Best Actor in a Motion Picture award. Before presenting another award, DiCaprio was given a memorable introduction by Tina Fey who said to give as warm a welcome to DiCaprio as ‘a supermodel’s vagina.’ Well said.

*If you haven’t finished Breaking Bad, you haven’t yet fallen into the crippling depression that is it officially being over. So, when it won the award for Best TV Drama, it was nice to see Jesse Pinkman accepting the award via Aaron Paul with his exclamation of “YEAH BITCH, thank you.” BB 4eva.

This is just a picture of Leonardo DiCaprio without any teeth.

This article will also appear on the Hand Bag Fairy blog, of which you can check out here.

The Empty Shop Debate

So it has been announced that the UK is following in the footsteps of Brazil and opening up the UK’s very first ’empty shop’, in no other than the Manchester Arndale shopping centre later this month. The project, which originated in ye olde cultural hotspot of Brazil, Sao Paulo, saw 3.2 tonnes of fashion go in and out of its doors.

So how does the empty shop work I hear you cry? Well basically, it’s a bit like a charity shop, but in a glamourous see through box with a mix of designers and sequins thrown in the mix. Members of the public donate unwanted clothing, and as long as it’s not unwanted because it’s raggedy and has yellow sweat stains, and the garment becomes jazzed up by the ‘professionals’ Gok Wan style (just add a thick belt to cinch in the waist) to be sold on for 3x the price it originally cost. But, all in the name of charity eh?

I sound cynical, I really do, but I do actually think this is a great idea, I really do. No, on a serious note, any money raised for charity is a good thing, and definitely an accomplishment in this day and age.

I read this article on the empty shop and the comments both sparked and confirmed an underlying hate of mine. That people won’t do things for charity unless something is in it for them. The comments on this article highlighted how the structure itself, in all its Vogue House officeesque glory will cost at least £10-15,000 to actually set up in the middle of the overcrowded shopping centre, already signing off a huge chunk that could have already gone to charity. Secondly, people go to events such as these in the anticipation that they’ll hand in one of their many ‘unwanted garments’ (plain ASOS dresses, Topshop moto jeans and H&M cardigans) in the hope of it being vamped up by none other than the equivalent of Gok Wan himself. Some stick on studs and necklace-turned-interesting collar detail later, voila! A brand new dress/top/jumper/onesie for £30 more than you originally paid for it. But don’t worry, you bought it when it was plain for £7.99 and now it’s £50+ you can quietly walk away, knowing that some other mug will definitely buy it for that price. Besides, you’re more than happy with the pair of Primark shoes you bought for £40 (bargain!) because they have cute little diamantes now stuck all over them.

I feel I’m digging myself a hole here with asking for a debate on this topic, but alas, I have been on the end of trying to raise money for charity, before and people just don’t take to it unless there’s something really good in it for them, and let me tell you, it leaves you bitter. That aside, the idea that the empty shop proposes, in theory, is fantastic, but in reality, is the only way of getting the public to raise money for charity via the means of tricking them into buying back their own stuff?

The 7.39: A Review

739

After watching part deux of the much anticipated BBC drama last night, I thought I’d share my opinion on the highs, the lows and the all round ‘changing our life’ effect that such dramas have on us as we stem into the New Year.

First things first, I have to applaud the brilliant mind that is David Nicholls. Never have I ever so far, read anything by Nicholls that I’ve disliked. Yes, there has been frustration over endings, (Emma’s death One Day) and countless ‘BUT YOU LOVE HIM/HER’ moments within his stories that have had me shaking my head at the penultimate page, pleading that it turn out some different way; but the BBC took these addictive annoyances, and peeled them straight off the page and onto our TV screens with the two part installment of The 7.39.

I think everyone dreams of a kind of fast paced romance such as this one, framed in its story of two people simply sharing the trawl of the morning commute. It is a hot topic for 21st century poetry, for Rom-coms and reader’s stories in Bliss magazine. However, this fantasy doesn’t begin with eyes meeting over the heads of other commuters,but  rather paints a picture of real life, real endurance and the everyday lives of everyday people. I for one have always been quite lucky with my commutes, never normally ranging over half an hour, but some of my nearest and dearest have over 3 hours of commuting to do each day. (Also, there’s definitely no chance of this actually happening on the London Underground, hence why the story is based on an overground train. For no one dare look at each other on the underground let alone actually strike up a conversation. So for all of you reading this who have a partner who gets the underground to work everyday, your relationship is safe from public transport affairs, it’s only when they switch to the ‘longer but more scenic route’ of the overground that you have potential to worry. Anyway, I digress.)

It’s no wonder the characters of Carl and Sally end up striking a friendship which leads to something more, when you’re on a train at 7.39am everyday for an hour, when tiredness is so strong, it’s similar to being hammered, it’s a wonder we don’t see more people planning their next tired/drunken move on fellow passengers, seeking to find comfort in the fact they are both traveling on average, an eighth of their waking day, to a boring job, in a boring building with equally as boring people.

And so, (BTW this is where I’m going to spoil the ending for anyone who hasn’t seen part 2 yet) we realise right at the very end of the story, what we simply knew from Carl and Sally’s first conversation at the very beginning of part one; that Carl and Sally were never meant to be with each other, at least not long term anyway. Their affair represents not just their unhappiness with their job, the day in day out repetition of earning enough to afford a suburban middle class lifestyle, and alas; ultimately, their boredom with it all too. For it is human nature to eradicate boredom by choosing something else we think we enjoy. Without Sally, Carl has a lonely morning and evening commute, to a job he dislikes and a boss he dislikes even more. Without Carl, Sally is alone with her thoughts that she is about to get married to someone she doesn’t love, a panic rebound from an earlier divorce.

One thing that David Nicholls, the BBC and the actors within The 7.39 managed to capture perfectly, was the normality of the situation. Nowadays on TV, if we don’t see someone murdered or kidnapped as the result of another TV drama, we are pretty much disappointed. But in this drama, we are rooting for different characters for different reasons, and therefore cannot simply ‘get rid of one’ through something extreme but story smoothing like accidentally being hit by a car, or dramatically jumping in front of the 7.39 train. This story doesn’t need added drama, because the drama is embedded in the fact it could happen, and probably has, and probably is, happening to all sorts of relationships around the UK and the rest of the world.

Sheridan Smith has gained popularity by way of a lot of very strong performances as of late, Mrs Biggs springs to mind, but her success in this also lies on the fact that she makes Sally so accessible. Having met Smith in real life, filming at Lancaster Grand theatre for the gigantic cringe that was John Bishop’s ‘Panto’, I have seen her in between takes (her character in Panto was more than ridiculous) and her ability to go from normal to showbiz in a matter of seconds is second to none. And it is this cool, calm, collected air obviously stemming from her natural persona, that she brings to life in her character of Sally.

Now, the point of this comparison was a) to brag that I have a picture on my Facebook of myself and Sheridan from 2012 and b) to show that we as the audience could connect to her character of Sally so easily. Don’t get me wrong, David Morrissey and Sean Maguire did convincing jobs of a mid life crisis and gentle gym giant, but it was the prowess of Sheridan Smith and the innocence of Olivia Coleman that really did this drama justice.

Olivia Coleman playing Maggie, came across distinctly natural and with ease. Having grown fond of Coleman through seeing her on Peep Show, and more recently, her heart breaking performance in Film 4’s Tyrannosaur it is easy to see why she was picked for the role of Maggie. She plays her as if Maggie could be one half of the nice neighbours who live across the street; Maggie, the nice, ordinary woman who you sometimes see walking the dog. Maggie, the wife, mother and woman who could so easily be you yourself. And David Morrissey’s character Carl hits the nail on the head when he states that Maggie and Sally are quite alike. They are. They are both ordinary. Carl believes they are alike because he is in love with them both, but he is not in love with Sally. And he says it himself, he is ‘in love with the idea of her’.

It is hard to see sometimes, for ourselves, where to draw the line between fantasy and reality, and The 7.39 encapsulates this notion completely. It opens our New Year minds to ideas of change and turning around our fortunes. I’m not saying The 7.39 is suggesting we cheat on our partners to realise how good we’ve actually got it or that we actually just want out. I believe it is a suggestion that time (7.39am) is only noticeable, when we waiting for something better to come along or something to up and change. For Sally and Carl, it was the revelation of having a choice. For you it could be a change of direction. A choice to lose weight, cut back on alcohol, quit smoking, join a club, start knitting. If we spend our time clock watching, or more plainly, using our time to do something we dislike, are we not ultimately, wasting our time too?

Beauty Bible: Rimmel’s Scandaleyes Mascara

 

I thought I’d do a few little beauty posts here and there since I got a massive haul of make up over Christmas and for the first week, it’s the turn of Scandaleyes mascara by Rimmel.

Now Rimmel was definitely my favourite make up brand when I was 14 and wanted to make my make up look as ‘there’ as possible, but I kind of went off the brand as I moved more towards good skincare and the natural dewy look I’ve been rocking since following Millie Mackintosh on YouTube.

But I was revisiting my high school watch of 90210 on Netflix when THE most obvious plug for the Scandaleyes mascara came on…’Oh Naomi, what mascara are you using there, your eyelashes look incredible!’ (Said Annie who was standing at least 3 metres away) ‘Oh why thanks Annie, the mascara I am using is the Rimmel Scandaleyes mascara…from LONDON’…

Although painstakingly obvious, it sparked the spider lash 14 year old in me to reinvest in Scandaleyes, and see if it lived up to my high school expectation of sky high lashes, no more no less.

I picked the Extreme Black, which is £6.99 from Boots, and made me think, how on earth did I afford to be able to buy that when I was working as a salon assistant for 4 hours every Saturday? Alas, my bank account is not much better off now at the age of 22…

On to the product: From memory this mascara brush was the bomb. It’s long, it’s fat and it has such good coverage. 2014 version, and I think my knowledge of mascara brushes has radically improved. This brush was not as good as I remember, and actually left my eyelashes a bit clumpy.

I also found the formula to be quite gloopy, and when I tried to take it off with a make up wipe (I used boots own cucumber ones) I found myself absolutely murdering my eye to try and get it off…and I hadn’t selected the waterproof version.

One thing that lived up to memory though was the lash extension you can get from this mascara. I used to build my eyelashes coat after coat to get them up to spider lash standard, (blink and make the boys wink you know) but I found just three coats achieved a ‘Wow are they real?’ look without a ‘AGH! That girl has spiders for eyelashes!’ look.

Overall rating: 6/10

Dry January: Free from alcohol and a personality

So like many others, this year I have embarked upon ‘Dry January’. Not to be confused with Dryathlon, as I’m not actually raising money for any causes. I was a little late on that whole bandwagon and thought when I heard ‘dryathlon’ on the news, it was a new sport incorporated into the winter Olympics. However, I realise now that I probably should have got with it a bit quicker…better luck next year already hey. Despite not using January as a time to raise money for charity (I spend enough money in charity shops each month anyway), I am wholeheartedly sticking to dry January. Bugger me that the first hurdle of a weekend would be sprung upon me straight away. But surprisingly I found ‘not drinking’ a lot easier than I thought I would.

Friday night usually starts off with a nice meal (eating in or out) and a bottle of wine to accompany. Replacing the bottle of wine with 2 glasses of cordial ensured that I watched David Attenborough’s ALIVE and learned facts about extinct animals, didn’t decide on a spontaneous night out, and was in bed by 10.30pm, asleep by 11. I awoke on Saturday bright eyed and bushy tailed, and after a hearty but healthy breakfast, took the gift of no hangover, to actually explore outdoors. This involved a trip to Lancaster castle, and a nice lunch out. Not having the guilt of spending money on alcohol the night before assured me that I needn’t panic when I had to hand over the fee for entry without the aid of student discount, and allowed splashing out on a starter to be shared at lunch.

It’s not so much the whole weekend that initially scared me that I would have no fun without alcohol, or wouldn’t be able to socialise without alcohol, as I tend to only go out for drinks one night of the weekend anyway. But when Saturday evening rolled around, the itch of wanting to go out that was distant in the day, came back in full force swing by sundown. Luckily, going to University in a happening town like Lancaster, ensured that I had plenty of things to do despite drink myself into oblivion, bumpin n grindin at some sweaty club as I have spent my last 3  years in the city. So, spoilt for choice, I decided that bowling was on the cards. That’s right. Bowling.

But actually, despite myself being crap, bowling was actually a lot of fun. Hatching a plan to steal the bowling shoes and then forgetting I wanted my own shoes back, getting brain freeze off slush puppies and winning stuffed toys on the arcade games were just some of the highlights.The amount of 90s tune played complemented by the neon lighting, I felt like I was in one of Lancaster’s most popular haunts and ignored the fact the average age of participants was around 15.

By Sunday morning I had woken up, once again bright eyed and bushy tailed, and again, ready for another weekend day. I realised that the weekend does in fact feel like 2 days instead of just 1 when you don’t spend the former or latter hungover to hell. And I can actually confirm, I don’t need alcohol to have a good time, or at least, it no longer has to centre around my activities to socialise. At least, not for this month anyway. Roll on February 1st.

Dorothy was right

So for the past month, I’ve been working in Manchester doing a research job, and living back at home whilst the next chapter of London life unfolds or folds. I was looking forward to coming home a couple of weeks early for Christmas, having my tea cooked for me, having my washing, washed and ironed and lay out on my freshly made bed. Coming downstairs in the morning to freshly brewed coffee and croissants, warming my feet up by the fire. Reading a good book, whilst being snuggled with the cats on the sofa.

Unfortunately, this is my ‘dream coming home’ scenario, in which my mother doesn’t work 10 hour days, my cats actually like me and we are allowed anything in the fridge that doesn’t have ‘light’ prefixed to the product name. It’s true, life in a busy, cramped, South Manchester suburb might be what I’ve lived for the past 12 years of my life, but it’s certainly not something I’m aiming for for when I settle down myself. The place I lived prior to Manchester was set in the countryside, with a reservoir visible out of the back. I petted cows and sheep that rested their heads on the drystone wall and was generally just content with breathing in fresh air and not car fumes. The commuter’s paradise I’ve lived in since I was 9 is a nice, quiet, pretty village where people say ‘Hello’ to each other as they pass awkwardly in the street, but no one really knows each other. In London, if this greeting occurred, there would be weird nervous looks of curiosity at ‘the crazy man who just said hello to me walking into Kings Cross’. Saying that, I do miss London, I’ve been away from it long enough to miss it’s noisy charm, it’s bustling pace and it’s overall sooty feel. But is this just because I’ve got used to living the life I had before university again? Being home by 11pm latest on a work night as to not wake the already sleeping parents, making sure everything is ‘washed up at all time’s or at ‘least put in the dishwasher.’ Feeding the cats all the time as to not be scratched to death, realising that you’re sat in a room which was painted purple with silver swirls when you were 9, baby pink with roses when you were 13, oxblood red when you were 17 and freaking awesome and now pale forest green with a hint of guest room at aged 22.

So was Dorothy right? Is there no place like home? Because once you move from one place to another in childhood, clear off to university, have the time of your life, living in your own house with your own rules and then attempt to stand on your own two feet and then end up back at your parents house in order to afford your rent- home sweet home doesn’t seem so sweet when it’s not a choice.

 

Fun, Fit and Thin: The Truth Behind Fitness DVD’s

Here’s my latest article to feature on HandBag Fairy, a slightly passive aggressive, sympathetic fellow Christmas food gorger, looking for a new a flight of fitness for the New Year. In other words, I hate exercise so naturally I am skeptical of everything involving exerting myself.

Vicky Pattison's DVD

A  growing population with growing waistbands, we’re constantly bombarded with adverts for fast food, followed by quick fix treatments and remedies to get thin, fast. At this time of year, people are thinking of the annual January starve before Christmas has even begun, stuffing our faces with goodies and treats like animals hibernating for winter. The sale of fitness DVD’s sky rockets at the end of December as everyone prepares to attempt the ‘new you’ of the ‘new year’. But what really lies behind the fitness dvd? Are they a great way to get fit or a complete farce?

Eastenders actress Natalie Cassidy brought out her fitness DVD, ‘Then and Now’ in 2007 when the soap star slimmed down from a size 16 to a size 6 in just under 3 months. She was hitting headlines with her phenomenal weight loss and really gave people struggling to lose weight, the confidence to give it a go, her motto being “If I can do it, anyone can.” But Cassidy spoke out recently about how unhappy she was the whole time she was filming the DVD, eating “next to nothing and exercising to excess”. She states in a recent interview that she was pressured by producers to make the DVD in a short space of time, a time period concerned by doctors to be too short of a time to lose weight healthily. Happy now with her curves back, Cassidy admits that the DVD was a mistake, and she doesn’t want people to think that losing weight in this way is admirable.

Vicky Pattison, ex-Geordie Shore cast member wowed paparazzi recently with her body transformation. The Geordie lass slimmed down to a size 8 from her former frame of size 16 earlier this year. Vicky has been photographed out and about with her personal trainer, using local parks and pavements to complete her vigorous workout. Commenting on her recent weight loss, the reality star spoke out about her plans for Christmas saying, “Christmas will be filled with mulled wine and Quality Street. I don’t want to deprive myself, but I don’t want to undo all the hard work either.” Vicky has been training 6 or 7 times a week, in short bursts dubbed ‘interval training’, proven to be a healthy and effective way to lose weight fast. She’ll be releasing her fitness DVD early in the New Year.

However, for those of us who aren’t TV stars and work 9-5 jobs, what do we do about losing weight effectively but most of all, healthily? Unfortunately, it won’t be a walk in the park or just using a fitness DVD. But a bit of everything. Fitness DVD’s are fantastic tools to use, but you have to be doing other things too. Many people buy these training guides, thinking they will look like the star in a matter of weeks, but realistically, they’re just another moneymaking scheme. My advice for the New Year? Ditch the DVD and go for a jog round the block.