The hand

I never went outside. Much as a child. I grew up inside. Afraid of the outside. A manor house. Big old stone thing. Creaking walls. Lots of indoor space. Perfectly manicured lawns. I think in half sentences.  

The hand.

I remember everything about it. It is the mark of. My childhood, that patch of lawn. Perfectly Cut. A square. Part of a bigger rectangle. Intersected  by a path. It sat right next to the driveway.

The hand.

I can’t remember how old I was. When it first happened. I was simply standing on the lawn. That lawn. A hand. Green and covered in grass, came up out of ground and grabbed my ankle. I was terrified. Frozen. Rooted to the spot. I looked down. I could see it had hold of my ankle. Then it let go. I examined that grass. Minutely. There was nothing there.

No hand.

A few months later the same thing. Again. It happened intermittently, as I grew up. The hand out of the lawn. I tried never to go out. Grasping my ankle. I stayed very still. It let go. I had an older cousin, Maisie. Her daughter strayed on to that patch of grass. They found her playing on it. But they never found Maisie. There was simply no trace of her. The police investigated. There was nothing.

No hand.

I could see the patch of grass from my window. Sometimes in the semi darkness it seemed to heave itself upward. Roll and then settle again. I never went on the grass. Not after Maisie. Then an even odder thing happened. The grass seemed to grow. In a neat line. Across the driveway. The gardener kept killing it off. It kept growing back.

It was the hand, I know it was the hand.

I knew even then what had happened to Maisie. One day I simply packed my suitcase. And left. I remember stepping over that errant grass on the driveway. Knowing I had won. I took one of my mothers best jewels. I watched from afar. A pariah. A thief. As the house opened to the public. It shut again after a few years. A young woman went missing. No trace was found.

It was the hand, I know it was the hand.

I married. Had a daughter. Then she had a daughter. It is all too painful, even as I think of it now. They were in an accident. A terrible accident. My husband. My daughter. My grand daughter. Not me.  In the days afterwards, that became months and years, I contacted my brother. He invited me home. To the house.

I wondered about the hand.

Back to that house. I would go. To live out my final days. He seemed to think there was some justice in what had happened. I still had that suitcase that I took with me when I first went. Tatty old thing. I took it down. Opened it. Empty. Except for a tuft of green grass in the bottom. I sat on the bed.

I wondered about the hand.

There it was, I went home. When I got there. The patch of grass had been fenced. First by wrought iron then clear plastic panelling put up. The gardeners struggled to keep it under control. I watched the grass grow, big and tall. I knew it was coming. Coming for me. It would snake out across the driveway no matter what I did. It was patient.

The hand.

Late one afternoon. After tea and cake, I put on my best dress. I went down to that piece of lawn. I opened the gate. It creaked. Clanked. As if announcing my arrival. I stepped inside. All this time, that bleak dark thing-whatever it was- had waited. I did not wait. I walked onto the lawn.

The hand.

Saving the planet: One shampoo bottle at a time won’t be fast enough

Easy question: Can I make what I do with my hair more environmentally friendly?

I tried and I made small gains, very small gains. I tried to balance the need (OK want) for my hair to look neat and tidy versus saving the planet. This sounds so shallow when I write it but to make changes you need to think about it and think what are you prepared to do.  We are not all going shampoo/conditioner/colour free tomorrow so we have to make incremental changes whilst the catastrophe overtakes us. I can’t reconcile the two. I just can’t.

Firstly I changed to a shampoo bar, like a bar of soap basically. It came wrapped in paper. This meant one less plastic bottle and probably a much better manufacturing process. It didn’t really do much for my hair. I had to use more anti-frizz and I still needed a conditioner.

So realistically: One less shampoo bottle but still one plastic conditioner bottle and probably the extra anti-frizz discounted anything gained from losing the first shampoo bottle.

I tried a shampoo and conditioner combined out of a paper pot from the same place that did the shampoo bar. More anti-frizz required.

Result: Nil gain really. My hair just needed a better conditioner and more anti-frizz than ever. It never looked great.

Then I went on holiday. I never take many toiletries on holiday. The shampoo bar proved impossible to manage whilst travelling between hotels. It got slippery and slimy and mostly just wouldn’t last the distance. I also lost the house key-unconnected but not helpful.

I had to buy emergency plastic bottle shampoo. I economised by buying shampoo-conditioner combined, meaning one bottle instead of two. I’d like to tell you this was a deliberate choice but actually it’s all the shop had.

The result was terrible hair, still no house key.  I resisted buying emergency anti-frizz, because I couldn’t find any in the shop. I tried to enjoy the holiday, forget about my hair and convince myself the house key would be found.

Then after two weeks of hard travelling (actually it wasn’t that hard, by hard I mean, we took the bus to the car hire place rather than a taxi-‘soft travelling is not a phrase yet though) the whole shampoo-conditioner thing started to work. It was a surprise- an actual shampoo and conditioner combined -worked. My hair suddenly looked glossier and shinier (you’re right these are the same thing, its just the shampoo ads always go for both so I have as well). Without anti frizz! Or we were staying in hotels with really bad mirrors or anti-frizz mirrors-which actually is quite a good idea. If you can’t see the frizz in the mirror is it really there?

The end result was I gave up the shampoo bar, but I also gave up the plastic bottle conditioner and the anti-frizz.

Now I use one plastic bottle of shampoo and conditioner combined, meaning overall two less plastic bottles because I don’t have a separate conditioner and I don’t use anti-frizz.  

I also bought a giant bottle of shampoo-conditioner that will last longer. I brushed my hair more often and also sooner after I washed it which also seemed to result in less frizz.

Still no house key.

Have I saved the planet? Not singlehandedly that’s for sure.  Have I saved the planet anything by doing this? Am I suffering slightly less good hair for no reason? The answer is that it is really hard to know. In theory I have halved my plastic use on hair products, in practice maybe the bottle I have uses a much more intensive manufacturing process, maybe the product itself is less green.

Probably I have taken a very small step when a larger one is needed. I’m still working on it.

The only takeaway I have from it is that I need to be more careful with my house key.

Second hand Clothes: Saving the planet in style.

 In May last year I resolved not to buy any more brand new clothes except socks and underwear. I didn’t do it for charity or for anything other than the planet and my own sense of being a grown up and responsible.

The catch was that I could buy anything and everything second hand. And so I have and I have accumulated a massive collection of clothes, almost all second hand. I have more clothes than I can wear.  Far more than if I didn’t have this rule. I feel like buying second hand clothes is guilt free, which it isn’t but it is better than buying it all new and better than it all ending up in land fill. I usually buy in charity shops because that helps everybody.

If you’ve owned it before I am probably wearing it now. Has it been challenging? Not in the way I thought. I never go into ordinary shops anymore. I am not tempted by what’s in the window. I don’t like the idea that there are 15 shirts all the same on the rack. I love the colour and variety of charity shops.

I have bought things that still have the label on them, who knows why anyone buys something and actually never even wears it and takes it to a charity shop. I have bought stuff that is tatty and comfortable and stuff that is shiny and new.  Mostly though I have bought stuff, and it has not felt like I am getting second best, if anything it has made me think a lot more about what I wear and whether I can actually make something work.  

I have a rule that if I own it I wear it. This is proving challenging given the volume I now have.

I express myself differently everyday through my clothes. I have learned to style it up and style it out. Yes- you can wear that into the office, people will comment but only usually nicely and who cares if they don’t.  That is simply a reflection of their lack of bravery in clothing choices. Although I do admit, on some days, no one sits next to me on the train. I also see that as a bonus.

I haven’t really thrown anything away either. There is usually a reason you bought something. Remember once you paid money for it so chances are once you liked it. Clothes are like your husband, there is a reason you married him, take him out of the drawer and try and find that reason again. If you really can’t image why or how then give it away to a charity shop.

I have a dress that is really only suited to a 1920’s cowboy themed party. I have never been invited to one in all the time I have been on the planet.  Yet I did find a way to wear it-I actually arranged a charity day at work-‘if you own it you have to wear it’ was the theme and we raised money for a mental health charity. I wore it that day with a stylish cowboy hat (questionably stylish I would say) I had borrowed. I may yet wear it again, without the hat. If not it has to go to someone who does get invited to 1920’s themed cowboy parties.

Go through that cupboard, look at that dress, see those trousers, style ‘em up, style it out, you are the queen of your own fashion statement. Save the planet. Shop somewhere different and feel the sweet sensation that your clothes are part of a story that is not just yours, they belonged to someone else and have their own story to tell. They have been places you haven’t (more than just the inside of a washing machine), you are part of a chain, a fabric that is passing through lives, yours and maybe after you, someone elses. Go shop, go charity shop.