Hey readers, I know it has been a super long time since my last post. I have been adjusting to life in the real world now that I have a job and not as much free time anymore but I feel like I am about to get back into the swing of things. Makers meadow is attending a craft fair this Saturday 21st and I invite you to come join us for a peruse and a shop if you can make it to sheffield. There will be lots of other craft stalls from independent creators throughout sheffield and I am really looking forward to it. Stop off and say hi if your come by.
I have been meaning to do this little home task for a while and I finally got round to doing it this week. I changed my energy supplier from one of the big six energy companies to a small independent eco friendly supplier. This winter just gone has seen a great deal of focus in the media on the problems of the largest energy companies that dominate the market, known as the big six, and it has been niggling me for ages to get something done and change my supplier. So I am going to walk you through my reasons behind it and why I think you should do the same.
Personally I believe that the energy companies should be nationalised as we all need gas and electric to warm our homes, cook our food and keep the lights on and believe it is something our government should provide rather than private companies. Those are my political views but the reasons behind me switching is something I think everyone should hear no matter their political persuasion.
- The big six (British Gas, N-Power, EDF, Scottish Power, E-ON, SSE) owns 90% share of the energy market and have been subject to an inquire by the monopolies commission because this percentage means they can control the prices between them and thus have been accused making deals together to artificially inflate prices for their customers
- The high prices affect those with pre pay meters the most as the unit price and standing charge are often higher and the ones who often have pre pay meters are the poorest within society.
- They have blamed the rise in prices on green levies (see below) but if you look at their profits they are astronomical, if they cut their profits they wouldn’t need to charge people the amount they do.
- As profits are all these huge companies care about then why should I trust them with something that is an essential part of my life and a substantial amount of my bills. I place more trust in smaller companies that have time for their customers
As you probably are well aware if you read this blog often, I am very interested in protecting the environment through doing stuff in our own lives. It is part of humankind’s problem whether climate change is our fault or not and I think that positive steps towards a more environmentally friendly economy.
- Non of the big six have invested sufficiently in green energies and it is something I think we need to do as a country to help the environment. Green energies are very varied each with their own qualities and problems but with one uniting idea that we don’t need to burn away resources when their are other options. I am not going to discuss their merits here but some of the major ones include: Solar, wind, biofuels, hydro power, anaerobic digestion and several less known but equally important ones.
- Even though we are out of the recession there are still plenty of people in the UK and across the world without stable employment and investment in new green industries would provide thousands if not potentially millions of new jobs in just this country.
- We need to avoid carbon based energy and nuclear power not only for the environments health but also our own. We will run out of oil and natural gas eventually and messing with nuclear energy has already proved that it can go terribly wrong.
Maybe not everyone cares whether their energy is from a national or private company and i know many people doubt climate change but one thing I know most people will agree on is that they want to pay less for goods and services and want to save where they can
- Green energies are always accused of being too expensive for ‘normal’ people and I can understand these reservations. All energy industries are expensive to set up, so when we start investing in green energy to start the prices will be higher but after time they will pay for themselves resulting in cheaper prices for all (I say this for the major two as the sun and wind are free commodities ….currently)
- When I chose the company I wanted (Good Energy) I worked out the cost for both my current supplier and Good Energy on the average usage basis. In all fairness H and I probably use a lot less then most people but makes more sense for what the average is. Turns out that per year I would be £20 better off with Good Energy. Not a big difference but when you consider all the other factors why wouldn’t you switch.
I implore you to take a look at your current energy supplier and research the other independent ones to see if you could be making a difference to your bill and the environment at the same time. As a side note I am not affiliated with Good Energy they are the one I chose for their clear goals and straight talking about what everything costs (another problem I find with the Big Sixes websites). Take a look at the others too. Good Energy, Ecotricity, Green Energy UK
This blog post has been inspired by A) I finally got a job last week (obligatory happy dance) and b) A reminder for myself on how to be happy. The first thing I want to say is that this post isn’t about money as the key to happiness but I completely understand that in order for us to live in this world and be happy we need a basic amount of income to remain sane and explore our own happiness. Having been unemployed for just over 6 months, until last week, was such a struggle both financially, emotionally and physically and it is a sad truth but a real one that we all need to pay our bills, buy food and spend our money on necessities whether we have the cash or not. So with this in mind the musings below are generally for when you have the ability to pay your bills and don’t have the pressure on as much but at the same time I believe lots of these ideas can be applied for when you don’t have any disposable income either. The part B of my inspiration is because naturally I am a very anxious person and when the chips are down my anxiety can knock me for six. Though I have come on leaps and bounds when it comes to dealing with my worries and fears I still feel like I need help along the way sometimes. Having a check list or a cheat sheet for happiness may seem like a strange thing but it can help you focus on positive rather then negative aspects of your life and even change the way you think about your individual life. I hope that by writing out how I try to be happy it may help some one else as it helps me.
If you know why you are unhappy you can fix or change it. Unhappiness can be bred from many things and with the exception of relationship problems/ loss of loved ones/serious mental health issues , which is totally understandable, I believe that changing our mind set is more important most of the time then what we are actually unhappy about.
Worry– I often worry when I am I get into bed probably because something is weighing on my mind and I can no longer do anything about it but these feelings can strike throughout the day at any time. I find that I worry more and more about something because I am putting off a task or need to chase someone else up to resolve the problem. Procrastination is the real problem here . As soon as I do the task I don’t want to do I feel so much better
Want– Once our bills and necessities are taken care of, any money is ours to spend on what we want but if you don’t have enough money to buy what you ‘want’ then maybe it is time to re-evaluate what we want and think more about what we need. Not living within your means is the real problem here.
Health– Now I am no way any kind of health professional but when we do not feel our best physically that can affect us mentally as well. Taking care of your health can make all the difference when It comes to illness relating to lifestyle choices and your environment which are minor but can have a bigger impact then you might realise.
Loneliness- Humans are sociable creatures and they need to interact. When I wasn’t working I found it incredibly lonely and isolating as I couldn’t visit friends and family or even go out to the pub to socialise in my new city. You cannot rely on even just the people you live with as you need interactions from different sources. Getting out there is hard but key.
How to combat unhappiness
Worry– For me when worry strikes it can disable me. It creates such an anxious feeling, my chest can tighten, I feel sick and I can get into such a state as my worry comes in cycles. I understand that I create worry cycles and often, as I said, it’s because I am not doing the right thing to resolve the issue that is worrying me. Recognising that I am in the middle of doing this is the first and biggest step because then I can speak my little mantra. ‘Can I do anything about it now?? ‘ if the answer is yes = do something, if the answer is no = forget it and stop worrying till you can do something about it. A simple phrase but it gives me the control to stop worrying and get on with what I need to do.
Want– We want lots and lots of things in life but it’s not always possible. As someone who does want this and want that but is really against the rampant consumerism which is encouraged in our society It can be challenging to balance these two sides of myself. I try and step back and think whether I really need the item, whether it will improve my life, improve my happiness and what it’s effect on others could be. I know not everyone thinks about these issues when it comes to consumer goods but for me it makes me really think about what I want in life. The second point I want to make is that if you can’t afford something that is a ‘want’ rather then a need you shouldn’t feel unhappy. Instead you should look to the things in your home and life that you really love, mean something to you or just make your life easier which you already own. The big French poster we have in our living room H gave to me when he lived in France, it is a beautiful poster which makes me smile everytime I look at it, it reminds me of H obviously a lovely person to be reminded of and links the great times we have in France when we visit.
Health– When I am stuck in a rut I find it hard to look after myself and will not make healthy choices. If you see yourself doing this you should try and stop it but as with all good health, preventative measures are better then the cure. We all know that exercise, good diet, sleep, water and de-stressing can prevent illness and improve our happiness but we seldom stick to it. Making a conscious effort to improve at least one aspect of your health is definitely the way to start. When I am really focusing on improving a part of my life I feel so much better and it makes it easier to implement the things you need to focus on. I love food and I believe this is the easiest way to improve our health and happiness because we all have to eat. Good food=Happy people. As an added note I think keeping your house in a clean and tidy order really helps to improve your mindset, plus housework counts as exercise ;)
Loneliness– Whether you are lacking money, feel too busy or out of touch with people, you need to get up and go. Simply having someone round for a cup of tea or coffee, lunch or dinner doesn’t have to cost alot as you will be enjoying a homemade meal anyway, and means you can really connect with someone by having a really good chin wag. Make your family and friends aware that you want to see them and are feeling a bit down in the dumps. Your loved ones will always do what they can to make you feel better but they won’t if they think everything is fine. There is no need for false pretence so let people into your inner circle and enjoy them. Sharing problems and joys is part of the human life so find people you can share them with. Finding people as crazy as you also helps ;)
I hope this has been an interesting read and has helped someone thing about happiness that we all deserve and can have. Please leave a comment of anything that helps you stay on the happy train.
Take care and smile
I wanted to share with you the sad news that too brilliant activists died this week and how much I respected them for their beliefs and their determination to act upon those ideas. On Tuesday 11th Bob Crow, leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, died of an apparent heart attack. He defended the workers in his union and encourage other unions to do so in fighting against those who refused to pay a decent living wage especially in difficult and unsafe working conditions. He was untiring in his quest to uphold workers right and dedicated to attack the cuts that have damaged our country. He was never afraid to say what he thought and never faulted I his conviction to support his men and women.
Today it was also announced that Tony Benn, an ex MP and political campaigner died at home surrounded by his family. I have always respected him having learnt during my a-levels how he successfully campaigned to remove the hereditary peerage for the House of Lords he had gained upon his father’s death in order to re stand for election to the House of Commons (you can not be a member of both houses and he wanted to be elected by his constituents rather then automatically be part of the lords where no vote is needed for a hereditary peer. He too was dedicated to the workers, supporting the strikes of the 80s and called for parliamentary and policy reform often and vocally. He retired as an MP in 2001 saying he was leaving “parliament in order to spend more time on politics” and focused on fighting the cuts and the stop the war coalition. He will be truly missed but always remembered.
I am really enjoying keeping a wishlist on a regular basis. There are so many things that I would love to have but can’t ( just yet) normally because of lack of funds and then there are also items I want which I want to get to replace something I already have ( but obviously I wouldn’t throw something away before it needed to be, that would be wasteful) I find it great to have an idealistic wishlist as it allows me to think about what I really need, what I really want and what I really can live without. As always all these items come from an ethical back ground that I support whether eco friendly, from an independent business or fairly traded. Number 1 is a bit of a cheat as I have just bought it, It’s a blusher from BM Beauty that uses all natural ingredients. I don’t use a lot of make up so I think it’s pretty reasonable that I could slowly replace all my make up and I would be happy to with BM Beauty as I’ve found the blusher amazing. I have started to gain some temp work through an agency and would like to have some neater tops and jewellery for interviews and work plus I would like a backpack that’s good lucking but can fit more in it then my handbag so I can shop while out an about (bonus points for not using plastic bags) I would love this horseradish vodka from Godminster as I really enjoy a good bloody mary and want to make some really tasty spicey ones for friends and family the morning after the night before. Lastly I would love this piece of art
Sometimes It can feel really dark out there in the world, enough to make you want to crawl back into bed and sleep till forever. The news is just doom and gloom and it can make me feel really low. At the moment news about financial crisis, the prevalence of rape culture in the UK and the treatment of LGBT people across the world especially Russia have made me really miserable and despair a little for humanity BUT and it’s a big BUT, there is good in the world and I need a little reminder every now and then that there are many people who do great thinks for people and the planet. So here are few wonderful stories and things that brightened my day a little, plus it appears the sun might be coming out too :D Click on the photos for full story.
A homeless man spent the last of his money on a lottery ticket, won and will use his winnings on a programme for addicts and women who suffer from domestic abuse.
This monkey hugging it’s saviour! enough said.
This guy explains how we should deal with climate whether it’s true or not. This is a scientific but simple way to display the facts that neither climate change activists or doubters can have a problem with. Worth a watch.
Fairtrade at 20. Charting the successes of this wonderful organisation but also what it’s goals for the future should be
If you’ve not seen despicable Me 1 or 2 you should! It is such a good happy family film. Me and Harry are obsessed and the best part is the minions!
This Friday a new restaurant/bar is opening in Oxford, Jacob’s Chop House. A new venture for the owners of Jacobs Inn and Jacob & field’s Deli, both in Oxford and both successful small businesses. By the looks of the food and drinks on offer the Chop House is set to be a tasty success as well. I would love the opportunity to go down for the opening and try some tasty meats but alas a trip to Oxford is not on the books at the moment :( Since this isn’t a review post the reason I would like to share with you this particular place is that the co-owner Johnny commissioned me to make the aprons for all the staff starting there this week. For me this was a really special moment to do my first custom order other then for friends and family and was able to get my products in a public arena. Although I am very proud, this isn’t a post about blowing my own trumpet, I wanted to share the order with you as I think It is a really important step for my business, their business and the implications it has for all independent businesses.
I believe strongly in the power of small business over huge corporations and love the fact that with the purchase of my aprons, two businesses have cut these huge multi nationals out of the loop. This has allowed one independent maker (i.e. Me) to produce an ethical product and service for another independent business (i.e. Jacob’s). For the handmade and independent business movement it is our ability to stand alone in the economy without major funding and questionable policies that will see more small companies thrive and more people gain a job, that is both worthwhile and pays well. Supporting each other is just as important as promoting your own products and services because the more consumers who shop in a more conscious way the more space there is for the little guy or gal to succeed.
For small businesses it’s all about being seen. Why would I not want to promote another independent business. The Chop House are offering grilled British meats, fish and veggies with some tasty beers and wines to wash it all down. Though I’ve not been, their pub offers meats that are reared on site and their own homemade chorizo and their deli provides local and seasonal fresh produce all year round. What is not to like! I wish the team all the best of look in the future and look forward to when I can finally make it to oxford and sample their wares myself.
And remember, support your local independent businesses where ever you are
p.s. Photos courtesy of Jacob’s Chop House restaurant
When I talk to people about independent and ethical shopping I often find it can be bizarre ground for a lot of shoppers as we all get use to shopping in a certain way and by nature we don’t like change. For me one of the biggest problems I find is that independent shops don’t label prices consistently or visibly enough and items aren’t always laid out how you would normally find them in your bog standard supermarket or on their website. For more people to be encouraged to shop with the little guys or the eco conscious these retailers need to make it easy for others to transition. A perfect example of this is the ethicalsuperstore.com
The online retailer specialises in a whole range of products from clothes to food, gardening to beauty all items of which are either fairly traded, organic, eco friendly, promote health and wellness, educational, locally produced or charitable. These are all worthy causes that I care about so it makes the perfect place for me to find exactly what I want without failing my principles. Each item page has a thorough description of the ethics behind its production or company, each of which you can find out more about on its own page and browse its other products. The clear layout of each page means you can find out the relevant info you might want and see customers reviews at the same time to inform you on its positives and negatives.
I love that the ethical superstore is set up just like a supermarket website as it is really easy to navigate and more often then not they will have the products your looking for as they have such an extensive range of items. They display prices visibly and even offer bulk buying discounts on most of their food products. They also have offers and sales just like any other store as well as their clearance sections for homewares and clothing making the shopping experience exactly the same as you would find it in any big box store except you can rely on the products being ethically sourced. My only criticism might be that I wish the free delivery order didn’t have to be as much as £50 but that is because I like a bargain. I think this is definitely the way ethical retailers should go to encourage more people to look at their wonderful products and get them to make the switch.
Had to share this with my readers. I hate the Daily Mail as it is and I only read their articles for amusement because they are so full of BullS**t and contradictions, but this article really takes the biscuit. A Girl called Jack, or Jack Monroe is a food and benefits blogger, who started writing about how to feed herself and her young son when she found herself without a job. The Daily Mail has slated her with more lies above the ‘left wing agenda’ when she is simply a good women who happened to write about looking after family
Me and H have been in Sheffield for a few weeks now and as with all house moves its been very stressy and boring in places. We are still waiting on a lot of things to happen like internet to be installed and new carpets to be fitted but we are getting there slowly but surely. I initially said I wanted to do something new everyday upon my arrival in Sheffield but reality is a lot different to expectations. So instead I am going to update as I go along but with a focus on 30 free things to do in Sheffield which will come in handy since I am unemployed with dwindling money, Yay!
The first thing I did was join the local library services and popped on down to the central library not far from the train station. Being use to the huge libraries at Uni it was a little smaller then I expected but had a large range of fiction books. I however headed towards the History section to find something a bit more hefty and happily sat for an hour finding out about a literary group in the 18th Century called the Kit Cat club. I know it doesn’t sound thrilling to everybody but its my kinder thing. Libraries have always been a free haven to get out of the cold and wet and sit with your feet up for an hour or three. Its a good reminder for us all to use them more often especially with more and more closing, if you show support for them it will encourage the government to leave them well alone. In Sheffield their are dozens of libraries and archives to access and that includes books, CDs, DVDs, clubs, internet access, historical archives and a free place to chill out.
Almost right opposite the central library is the beautiful and stunning Winter Gardens. Basically a large greenhouse made out of huge arch shaped timber and glass ceiling bang smack in the middle of the city. It really is a little haven, with brilliant plants and flowers to look at and plenty of places to sit and chill. Its nice and warm to protect the plants as most are of the exotic variety which makes it the perfect place to escape from the wet and windy winter ahead. I like the feel of it as a community place, its very relaxing and open so any one can come in to enjoy the surroundings. If your feeling flush there is a little café at one end of the hall for tea, cakes and a spot of lunch. For more free entertainment the winter gardens is connected directly to one of Sheffield’s many art galleries, the Millennium Gallery
On my last visit to the gallery, me and H sat in on an exhibition by Sheffield born artist Chris Watson who created a soundscape of the city, ‘charting its boundaries on the edge of the Peak and travelling its waterways to the bustling heart of the city’. The large gallery room was fitted out with full 360 degree speakers surrounding four sofas and a carpeted cushion area in the middle. It was a brilliant exhibition to introduce you to the sounds and sights( there were photos of the city projected on the wall) of Sheffield. It was incredibly relaxing, except for the football chant bit, and I almost nodded off several times. The exhibition continues till February so plenty of time to get down to it. I am looking forward to seeing more of the gallery, its split up into exhibitions so you can view one at a time, but I did manage to look in the gift shop and there are some really cool items. That’s Christmas sorted then ;)
I shall be continuing my exploration of Sheffield next week with more free things for you to enjoy