Friday, 31 October 2014

'The Best Things In Life Are Free' and privilege.

(This isn't meant to be a preachy post. Just some thoughts)

I've been thinking a lot about privilege recently. For example, when I had the opportunity to go on a study year abroad, I was able to grab it and not have to worry too much about the financial aspect. While I'm here, I've been enjoying quite a lot of free, enjoyable things.

You often hear the saying 'the best things in life are free' from people who've made it. Iggy Pop, for example, just gave a lecture at the BBC and ended with it. (Link at the end of this article

And it's true, some really nice things about life are, or can be, free. For example:
  • Curling up in bed with a book (libraries!)
  • Going for a walk and enjoying the scenery
  • Sitting somewhere and watching the world go by
  • The scent of clothes which have been air-dried outside
  • A really good chat with a friend

But they're not free, not really. For a start, they all require time, which, as we all know, is money. When you have less money, or you live by yourself, many tasks take longer than they do for other people.

For example, the landlord of my student house last year had bought a really cheap washing machine. Sure, it did the job, but the quickest cycle was over two hours long. When you use a laundrette, you have to plan the time to get there, and wait around for your clothes - some are open only for relatively short hours, which makes the job even faster.

When you don't have a car, you have to grocery shop more often so that you can carry things home, and that, naturally, means it takes more time, just from queuing to pay and from getting there and back, both of which take the same amount of time per visit (and the actual getting there and back is quicker if you have a car). If you have a tiny fridge and freezer, you have to shop more often too, meaning that when you might just want to go out after work or university one day, you can't, because you have to go grocery shopping. One way around this, of course, is to use online deliveries. I did a Sainsburys order fortnightly during my summer internship and it was a great way of doing things - unfortunately, grocery delivery isn't really a thing here!

So if you're working five or six full days a week, and especially if you don't know your hours until right before the week starts (which was what I disliked about my summer job last year), it can be incredibly difficult to fit the 'life organisation' around that, leaving you no time to sit and watch the world go by without feeling incredibly guilty for taking the time for yourself.

Going for a walk and enjoying the scenery is one of my favourite 'free' things to do. But there are certain things that you need: shoes that won't fall apart, and a warm layer (especially at this time of year!). You also, more importantly, need to live somewhere where it's safe for you to go out and walk and where there's nice scenery within walking distance. That's something that lots of us take for granted, I think. 

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Essence Hello Autumn range

I was in Müller last week buying nail polish remover (as I only realised once my nails were completely scrappy that I had indeed come to Germany without any - oops!) and saw the rest of the Essence stand with their Hello Autumn display and thought I'd give a few of the items a go.

The first things I saw were a pair of six-pan eyeshadow palettes, in shades 'Walk In The Park' (browns) and 'Keep Calm and Go For A Walk' (greens).

Here are the two palettes together. As you can see, the packaging is simple, and although it's clearly low-cost it's not 'cheap.' I think the lightest shade in each palette is identical, and then the colours diverge. The various browns in the first palette are lovely.

Here are the swatched shades from the browns palette. As you can see, the pigmentation isn't particularly heavy, but that makes these shades perfect for everyday use. The golden brown shade (bottom left of the swatches) is my favourite from this palette, I think

And here are the swatches of the other palette. The slightly glittered off-black is a great shade to have.

I was impressed by the lack of fall-out of these shadows; at 3.75 euros each, they were a very good buy! I couldn't find them on the Wilko's website, but that would be where to find them in the UK.

I've had my eye on the Bourjois colour-adapting blush for a while but couldn't justify the price when I wasn't sure if I would like it. In stepped Essence with their own, for only 2.45! I chose the pink shade, Keep Calm and Go For A Walk:

It looks incredibly pale in the pan, but (on me anyway) creates a lovely pink flush that creates the impression that I've been out for a walk in the autumn leaves. I'll definitely be picking up the reddish shade!

You can never have enough pencil eyeliners, right? I picked up the brown one from this range, called Leaves Are The New Beef:

I really like the finish of this liner; it's got a bronzey sheen rather than being shimmery, and blends out nicely with the foam end of the pencil. Very much worth its 1.45 price-tag!

Here's the eyeliner (right) and the blush (left; unfortunately it doesn't really do its thing when swatched on the back of a hand!) swatched for you.

On the strength of these products, I'll definitely pick up more from Essence in the future; I'm very impressed!

Monday, 20 October 2014

Some thoughts on rubbish collections and recycling.

(I know, little bit of an odd topic to come back to blogging with... bear with me!)

Image from the Guardian - James Townson and Sarah Genoves. 

For most of us, bin collection isn't something we really want to think about. We just want to get rubbish out of our house and away.

In their efforts to encourage us to recycle, however, some local councils seem to be pursuing tactics which actually don't work that well for anyone not in the 'default' type of housing for that area.

Where my parents live, for example, the rubbish collection system has recently changed. In the past, black bag waste was collected weekly, and recycling (which you had to separate out yourself) was collected fortnightly. Great idea in theory, but it meant that if you had a big bin of empty bottles and cans (as often happens after my brother has friends around...) and especially if the next week was just a black bag collection and not a recycling collection, it would often just be put in the black bag bin.

Now, there are fewer bins - 'just' four - which is an improvement in lots of ways. Newly, we have a food waste bin, a mixed recycling bin, a bin for paper and cardboard, and a black bag bin. The food waste is collected weekly, and then the recycling and black bag waste alternate weeks. I bet the Council thought that was a great idea. But, again, there are a couple of issues, and most of them arise if you don't fit the stereotypical mould of a family household in a house with outside space.

Terraced houses, especially, often don't have a way to bring the big bins around the outside of the house from the back yard to the front for rubbish collection, and so the bins sit in front of the house looking untidy until collection day. We had this in my student house last year - it was either that, or drag smelly and untidy bins through the house (through the tiny lean-to where all of our clothes had to hang to dry) - no thanks! Plus, in very small spaces, it's incredibly difficult to try to keep more than a week's waste without it being an eyesore. In time, kitchen designs will move on to keep up - here in Germany, the mixed recycling is simply a special yellow bin bag which we keep by itself in the cupboard under the sink - and people won't build kitchens without any space in them for the bin (ahem, last year's landlord!).

What happens if you have to go away for work over your bin collection day, on a week for black bag waste? That means that by the time it's collected, some of it will have been sitting around for four weeks. Even if you rinse everything out before putting it in the bin, it's going to be a bit... fragrant.

A lot of councils' waste strategies seem currently to advise people to cope with this by taking excess waste to the tip - or, as they're now called, 'recycling centres.' Lots of these recycling centres, however, are at big out-of-town sites. Fair enough, but how are you meant to get your rubbish there without a car? I certainly wouldn't be very impressed if someone got on my bus with bags of rubbish to take to the tip, and I doubt they'd enjoy having to pay the bus fare. Since lots of councils have town- and city-centre offices and even depots, surely it would make sense for them to have a smaller recycling centre there?

Here in Germany, all four bins (black bag, food waste, general recycling, and paper) are collected weekly. Far more sensible, in my opinion! Oh, and there's not usually that much in the general recycling, because most drinks bottles can be taken back to where you bought them to get a bottle deposit (between 8 and 25 cents) back. It's a great system, I think - Google 'Pfand' for more information.


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