A close up of three items hanging in a wardrobe. It's unclear what the items are but two seem to be satiny, one with a Japanese inspired floral pint and the other more of an abstract bird print. The iten in the middle is a sequinned dress with long fringing.
Thinking Out Loud

Fast Fashion Slow Blogging

Back in September I took the 30 day pledge and didn’t buy any new clothes for myself through the whole of the month. Oxfam’s Second Hand September campaign was about addressing fast fashion, reusing, rewearing and recycling rather than sending piles of clothes to landfill. I didn’t actually end up buy any clothes at all, second hand or not, and my main challenge with my own wardrobe is much loved stuff just not fitting anymore.

Why am I only blogging about this now? Two months late is a bit much even by my usual delayed standards. I did an instagram post about it at the time but was reminded of it by the fabulous exhibition at National Museum Wales in Cardiff that’s been curated by their Youth Forum to run alongside Dippy on Tour, the UK’s most famous diplodocus skeleton cast. It’s in the temporary exhibitions shpace next to the gift shop until Dippy leaves at the en of January so you’ve got plenty of time to go and have a look. Not only have they curated a collection of items belonging to museum staff but they’ve also created some amazing creatures and scenes out of recycled clothes and bags with a focus on the impact of fast fashion on our precious planet. The dinosaurs didn’t see the end coming but we can do something about our own destruction of Earth. My boys loved the umbrella pterodactyl and I was blown away by the colour, quality and creativity. A big shout out to the lovely volunteer who showed some cool bones and fossils to us.

A display at the museum of a meteor model blasting into shop sale signs reading "Going Going Gone!"
One of the displays at the museum of the impact of fast fashion on our planet.

So back to the whole fast fashion thing. I have been guilty of stocking up in Primark, buying new for a treat but I’m also a big fan of buying second hand gear on eBay, there are some astonishing bargains to be found. I’ve bought from Oxfam’s online shop too (yes, that’s a thing). I’m a hoarder and I’ll rewear my old favourites on repeat. Some going out gear has been downgraded to day wear or work wear. If anything, I need to Konmari the heck out of my clothes. Yes, I still have cocktail dresses from uni (all found in the sales). When do they become vintage?!

Oxfam has shedloads of stats on the environmental impact of fast fashion, the exhibition at the museum is full of little nuggets of knowledge about it all too. I’ve cringed in the past reading some Instagram blurbs from fashion or mum blog influencers who spend obscene amounts of money on clothes under the guise of quality over quantity. I can’t afford to shop beyond the high street and even that’s a bit of a push for things like jeans and bras. What I’ve tried to do is think about versatility and timelessness, whether it sparks joy and fits me properly rather than because it’s the latest thing. I’ve never been into the throwaway bit of throwaway fashion because I can’t bear to part with clothes that I’m sentimental about.

Maybe it’s part of getting older but I don’t care if I’m not dressed like everyone else and I’ll keep on wearing it until it gets holes (and even then, if I really love it I’ll still wear it, who am I trying to kid?).

There were some pretty judgey comments on posts about the 30 day campaign, from people who couldn’t believe it was a struggle to avoid buying new for a month. I can’t afford to buy new every week but if I’m going out out there’s every chance tat I’ll have a trawl through ASOS. I have bought a ew dress this month but it’s not a one off outfit, I know I can use it for weddings or christenings as well as drinks out or a posh meal. I didn’t buy new shoes or bag to go with it, I know it’ll go with what I already have.

Four items of clothes hang. From letf to right: a pair of blue ripped jeans, a chambray long sleeved shirt, a rainbow woollen jumper and aspotty shirt dress.
One of my old Primark hauls. In my defence, these were bought in the summer of 2018 ,
they’re still regulars in my wardrobe and all are still in good condition.

 

Thinking Out Loud

A Rambling Moan about Virtue Signalling at Christmas

Those facebook posts saying “haven’t sent any cards this year as I’ve donated to charity instead so I’ll say Merry Christmas here” kind of miss the point of a Christmas card.

I don’t send as many as I used to but I think that’s to do with laziness and an ever shrinking social circle and my utter ineptitude at keeping track of addresses.

The idea that it’s an either or, a binary choice of cards versus charity is what gets my goat. I buy charity cards so a donation goes towards those organisations, I’ve used Scout Post so the local scouting groups get a little boost to their fundraising. Today I’ve received a card from a friend who’s included a reminder of her fundraising for a marathon, along with her very new address.

Typing a generic Christmas flavoured message for a social media post via your smart phone while killing time on the toilet or mid commute doesn’t bring the same moment of glee that opening a brightly coloured, handwritten envelope does.

There’s a loneliness epidemic and for some people at Christmas, a little reminder that you’ve thought of them goes a long way. Especially for people who aren’t connected online.

The public statement of “I’m not doing *insert Christmas tradition* because I’m donating to charity instead or having an ethical Christmas or teaching my children about what’s important in life” can read as “I’m better than you”, “my heart is bigger than yours”, “you are an unethical shit”. Giving a gift to your partner or buying a present for your child shouldn’t make you feel bad.

We’ve never spent gazillions of pounds on Christmas because we don’t have lots of money. More often than not my husband and I give each other tickets or vouchers for gigs, shows and local restaurants. Our kids have had presents bought second hand from eBay or gumtree. I’ve made Christmas presents like handmade quilts, dressing up costumes, photo albums, paintings, chutney etc. We don’t splurge. I’m not a fan of consumerism for consumerism’s sake, we don’t need more stuff.

But isn’t it lovely when Christmas is about generosity? I get my kids involved in ideas for what their dad would like so they can wrap and give him something and learn about the joy of giving not just receiving. I’m not talking fancy things, it’s stuff like his favourite chocolate bar. Generosity isn’t just presents and cards but time and energy. Trips to our local theatre, long dog walks around Christmas trails, carols at church, Christmas crafting with kids, inviting family and friends over, all those get togethers.

Perhaps I don’t quite get the idea of not giving or receiving as an ethical choice because we already don’t spend as much as a lot of people. Instagram has been a tad galling at times, people buying Christmas Eve box pyjamas that cost more than the main gift my youngest will be getting. “stocking fillers” that cost the same as the tickets I’ve bought for someone else.

When Father Christmas asked our boys what they’d like for Christmas (their sister opted out of meeting him this year, sad times), one said Lego and the other said a puppet. They know it’s not about presents, some of their favourite parts of the day are seeing their cousins and playing charades.

It also makes me wonder how much other people spend on cards. I’ve spent under a tenner. Should I stop this tradition to give £10 to a charity? Would it be the same if I saved £10 by not buying that bottle of wine or those books and gave that money to charity? I know there are extortionate stamps to buy too but I’ve sent half with my dad to get disseminated around family by hand in another part of the country.

It’s a tad disingenuous to be promoting an ethical stance of asking for charity donations in lieu of presents when you promote products for other people to buy. Standing behind the less is more hashtag when everything you already have is beautiful and perfect and lovely. I’d quite like a perfume for Christmas because that’s the one bottle I use through the whole year. Last year I wanted a mirror because we’d had the same one in the living room that had belonged to the previous owners about a decade before. It hasn’t gone to landfill or even a charity shop, the old mirror just moved rooms. When you also talk of having Christmas abroad in another culture away from all the stuff at the end of a year of fancy holidays and posh homewares, it jars with people who are in a financially less privileged position.      

I can air this knowing that the Instagrammers who inspired the previous paragraph won’t read it because they treat Instagram and blogging as their daily paper, they curate it to ensure that they only have what they perceive to be high quality content. This translates as only reading what’s written by their friends. They can’t believe their luck that they’ve got book deals and gazillions of followers but they don’t support or engage with the lowly regional oiks and upstarts, they don’t help nurture the blogging ecology.

I’m not advocating for these people to splurge even more of whatever money they’ve got on pointless, vacuous presents. I just wish they’d stop making me do little sicks in my mouth when they say they’re not buying their partner a gift for ethical reasons and they’ve asked for charity donations from other family. Of course you don’t need or want presents, you’ve already got everything. Your life is already perfect and you get “gifted” shit all year round so why should Christmas be especially gifty?   

If you’re giving presents and sending cards, that’s fine, you do you. If you’re not then great, you can do you too. Just bear in mind that whichever side of the fence you fall, the moment you start preaching or showing off about it on social media is the moment you alienate someone.

  

Thinking Out Loud

The Summer of FOMO

This was my first summer holiday working full time with kids. We haven’t had the wholesome days out, the free days getting sandy on local beaches, the rainy messy crafting and baking. I’m not totally woe is me about it. Just a bit sad and full of FOMO. We had a week’s holiday at the end of August that we made the most of despite the weather and we’ve had some evening walks and jaunts while some of the usual hobbies and sports are on a hiatus.

Plus we do have a little more money. Not a lot but enough to stave off the usual empty purse panic.

I’ve not blogged in a millennia. My Instagram feels boring, impersonal and a bit blah. I think there’s a connection there. I didn’t start this up to just share photos, I have my own personal account for that. I started this off to share things to do and places to go, sure, but also to vent and be silly. The whole anonymous thing is doing my nut in and really doesn’t help. I’m toying with making my personal Instagram private and actually having my face in the Vale of Glam Mam stuff.

Haven’t fully thought it through yet.

What do you reckon? I’ve not come across many other anonymous parenting blogs so I’m wondering if maybe it’s not a thing for a reason. There is comfort in being anonymous when I’m dishing out the opinions but all my family and friends know it’s me so who am I hiding from really? 

Back to the FOMO and the lacklustre Instagramming. The connection is pretty clear, we’re doing less and making less. I’m not having the family experiences that I used to snap and share. Photos of my laptop make for crappy content. I’m not selling products or services, I can’t even do outfit shots because I’m still anonymous and besides, I wear the same few things on a rotation so I’m hardly #whatmamaworemonday fodder.

I guess I’ll just have to try getting a little more creative and remember to make the most of evenings and weekends, to stop being jealous of other people having a whale of a time and be a bit more grateful for what we can do.       

Places To Go, Things To Do, Thinking Out Loud

Urdd Eisteddfod 2019 and Welshness issues

I’m Welsh but I’m not a confident Welsh speaker. On the daily, this doesn’t make me ponder on Welshness, on national identity and bilingualism but last week I took my boys to Cardiff Bay for this year’s Urdd Eisteddfod where it felt like a bigger deal on the Maes.

We were non Welsh speakers at a Welsh speaking event in Wales. We had a lovely day and we did feel welcome but also at a remove. I felt like a visitor, an outsider, somehow other.

The Urdd Eisteddfod is one of Europe’s largest touring youth festivals. As well as all of the stalls and activities on the Maes, there are loads of competitions for children and young people in things like singing and dancing following regional rounds. About 15,000 competitors take part through the week. The Urdd was set up to give children and young people the chance to learn and socialise in Welsh.

A sign post in Welsh language with the Pierhead building and Wales Millennium Centre in the background
Ble mae’r bar?

We toyed with sending the boys to Welsh school back in 2012 but our closest English primary school is behind our house. We cross no roads to get there, I can hear the playground from home and garden and it’s a cracking school.

The seven year old was in his absolute element in the Senedd display of the 2D and 3D art and design competitions. He’s a model making fiend and a puppet fan boy. He was so genuinely impressed with the paintings and drawings “wow, I can’t believe this one only came second, it’s a winner for me”, it was unsurprising when he looked up at me, his eyes glowing with creative crafting ideas and asked “how can I join in Mum?” like it’s Blue Peter and anyone can enter. Sorry babes, you can’t because you don’t go to a Welsh medium school. *insert sad child’s face* That’s where it feels excluding and exclusive. Which is understandable knowing that the Urdd exists for Welsh speaking children.

When I posted about this on Instagram I had a reply from a teacher at an English medium high school who told me that they had pupils compete so it turns out they don’t have to go to Iaith Cymraeg schools to participate. I did not know this. I thought the Urdd Eisteddfodau were a cultural rite of passage that my kids would have no part of in the same way that the opportunity wasn’t there for me as a child who grew up in Wales at English language schools. And that’s as a pupil who did extra Welsh (true story) and chose to do Welsh GCSE and A Level.

My Welsh is OK, I can get by to a limit. If you did A level French, that’s the kind of language vibe. Except it’s not. I’ve got an A Level in it but I don’t only encounter it at the boulangerie on my holidays. I work all over Wales so Welsh is at meetings, seminars, conferences, it’s in the lunch time chats and evening meals out, it’s sprinkled through emails, it’s on print, websites, in theatre productions, social media strategies. And that’s just work.

At the Urdd Eisteddfod we made an effort to use as much Welsh as we could all day. The 10 year old ordered his hot chocolate all by himself and enjoyed his “un siocled poeth”, the 7 year old  said “diolch” to pretty much everyone in Cardiff Bay.

They were in awe at how much Welsh I used (my children are very easily impressed) “how did we not know you can speak another language?!” I can’t, I’m really not that confident with it but I do try when I can. I felt guilty and lazy for not using it more at home when I do make the effort in work emails and events. I want to use Welsh with them more at home, beyond our current “nos da cariad” (good night love) and “pwy sy’n barod?” (who’s ready?).

Inside the roof of a teepee style tent with bunting and garland lights.
Inside the Children’s Commissioner for Wales tent

It was a lush day out though, one of those exhausting days where you walk for miles, while away time soaking up live music, have a nosey in every trade stall, race cars in virtual reality, golf, join a band, colour in, trampoline, make a bead bracelet, toast mshmallows and bump into a couple of people you know. As it was free entry this year I treated us to drinks and a fairground ride without the inward panic about spending all of the money.

It felt right to expose the boys to a world where people assume you can speak Welsh, it opens their mind up to realising it’s the first language for some people and it’s alive in Wales, not just something to learn in the classroom.

School Days, Thinking Out Loud

Babies Starting School

My social media is abuzz with school admissions posts and wails about “my baby” going to school. Excuse me while my lack of sympathy and I snicker darkly yet sagely into our milky tea.

I hear you, I do, but I also raise you this: MY BABY IS GOING TO HIGH SCHOOL. They will eat him alive. He is tiny and geeky and high school is not the nurturing, learn-through-play haven of Reception. He will be spat out at the other end as a legal adult.

Ok, he’s not a baby. He’s 10. Double figures and all that. And yes, I may well be projecting my own fears about moving from Primary to Comp. I blame Grange Hill. My comprehensive school looked like the fictional hell hole, it was populated with the same permed, mean eyed, all-knowing teenagers. I was definitely going to get my head flushed down the toilet or be tricked into taking an acid tab. One of the boys in my year 6 class who had an older sister there assured us that it was a rite of passage. The toilet thing, not the drugs.

I’m still yet to ever have my head flushed down the loo or trip on acid (in the words of Zammo “just say no”) and if I’m honest, I’m sure my son will be fine. He’s friendly, he’s sensible, he’s a good guy and he’s feeling cautiously confident after plenty of visits to the school and transition days.

I’ve written about it before, this ever marching time of childhood, not standing in the way of them moving on and developing, of celebrating change and not infantilising them when they’re not babies anymore.

Don’t let your 4 year old see you cry when you drop them off that first week. Please. It’s not about you. Letting them see you panicked, upset or overwhelmed is unhelpful. The same goes for all those future residential school trips. Imagine starting a new job with your partner, parent or friend crying at the entrance. I’ll be doing just that very soon (the job not the weeping) and I’d prefer a thumbs up and a snazzy new lunch box.

My step daughter’s been in high school for two years now and is having a grand old time of it. We see her so much less than we used to but that’s a whole other blog post. I’m sure my son with throw himself into a new school, make new friends, have great experiences but it’s still the great unknown. Think of all those positive things if your child’s starting primary school too.

Of course, I’m writing all of this before his Hogwarts letter arrives this summer and there’ll be a whole other level of worry going on.