Saturday, February 24, 2018

Dressed to kill

As far as most clothing retail outlets are concerned, people like me are a dead loss. I spend most of my time in T-shirts, jumpers and jeans or, when I'm not well, PJs and a dressing gown. I wear my favourite clothes until they fall apart, after being repaired. I spend most of my money on necessities like food and heating, so don't contribute much to our consumer economy. My habits may not do much for that, but they do mean that my contribution to the global waste mountain and sea pollution is minimal. It wasn't planned that way but it's good that it did.

A report in The Telegraph last year claimed that British people spend an average of £1042 annually on clothes. Women spend more than men, and a lot of that is on cheap clothing that may be worn a few times, if at all, then thrown away. For the same amount of money, assuming you can afford to spend that much, you can buy good quality British made clothing that will last for years. So, maybe the fashion industry and cheap clothing retailers wouldn't like it, but you'd earn lots of ethical Brownie points.

It used to be considered enough to donate stuff to your local charity shop, as well as buy from there, but all the stuff that doesn't get sold was bundled off to second-hand clothing markets in Africa and Asia, and they don't want it any more. They're overwhelmed already, and it puts their local producers out of business. They certainly don't want your old clothes in places where there's been a disaster of some sort, like a hurricane. So where does it go instead? Landfill, where a high proportion won't rot down because it's made from synthetic materials, the manufacture of which used huge amounts of water and petroleum by-products, among other nasties. We're supposed to be reducing landfill.

To earn maximum Brownie points your ethical wardrobe should be made from natural fibres - wool, cotton, linen, and other vegetable products - so that when they eventually wear out they will decompose naturally, even go on the compost heap, and not pollute the oceans with the microfibres that escape in the laundry. They'll end up in the sea creatures' systems as well as yours, when you eat any of them. A couple of entrepreneurs have invented a laundry bag that will trap fibre particles, but that will be a drop in the ocean (pardon the pun) in terms of stemming the flow.

So here's the finger-wagging bit. It's not enough to write to your MP and Top Shop, or wherever you buy your outfits. What's in your wardrobe?

WRAP - Valuing our clothes: the cost of UK fashion.
How your clothes are polluting our oceans and food supply.
Useful natural fibre clothing information from a blogger.
The limits of ethicality in international markets: imported second-hand clothing in India.
CBS News: Is the fashion industry ready to change its wasteful ways?

Friday, October 27, 2017

Don't grow old. It's no fun.

Found myself sitting next to an older woman who'd brought her husband to see the consultant in a hospital outpatients clinic today. They both struggled to get out of their chairs (hospitals need higher seats for strugglers like us) and shuffled, rather than walked. Growing old is no fun, she observed. She and I had a nice chat while he was with a nurse. It began when I admired her cane, which had a pretty silver top, like some I've seen on 'Bargain Hunt'. It was her father's, she said, and she thought he'd have been pleased that she still used it. We agreed that the families on the TV programme 'Eat Well For Less' were ridiculous. She confided that her husband, in his nineties, had dementia, so wasn't really sure why he was there. It must be difficult, I said. Yes, she said. Did she have any help? No, she said, she managed on her own. She had suggested getting someone in to help him dress, but he wouldn't have it, so she struggled on. I have a broad back, she said. Women do, I said. (Sorry men!) She agreed, but said that he didn't appreciate it. I didn't ask if she had any family, but she said she had some good neighbours. Just one among very many strugglers. I'd like to have given her a hug, but it wasn't appropriate. Besides, we might both have fallen over.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Pep talk.

I get the impression that an increasing number of people feel depressed and overwhelmed by negative news stories, so switch off. Trouble is that that leaves fewer people to challenge and campaign, while the perpetrators of abuse, destruction, corruption and other negative influences gain in confidence.

It's quite hard work, being well-informed. You need to trust your sources and have a wide range of them. You need to think independently. Many people choose to ignore what doesn't directly affect themselves, which is understandable.

So maybe it's good to remind the politically-detached of some facts.

  • There's a huge amount of good stuff going on, but it took effort by the committed, and they deserve our support.
  • It's natural to feel that there's not much you can do, so why bother? But mass movements that achieve change, such as an end to apartheid, civil rights in America, the fights for enfranchisement, have all succeeded through many small contributions.
  • Future generations may question why we didn't do enough to make the world a better place. "I couldn't deal with it", or "I couldn't be bothered", aren't really good enough, are they?
  • So what can we do? Outnumber the prejudiced and destructive by challenging hatred, discrimination and ignorance. Write letters, to the press, politicians, local and national government, businesses and powerful organisations - it's how Amnesty works. Get involved. Do something.
  • Remember that most of us are free to express our opinion and live our lives without fearing violence - "Sticks and stones may break our bones but names will never hurt us" - so develop a thick skin.
  • Have fun and enjoy life while you can, while being grateful to all those people who fought for your privileges.

Oh, and some poor unfortunate souls don't have a sense of humour but I recommend cultivating one, if you can. It helps.

Sunday, September 03, 2017


I deleted all the posts on this blog recently. They were mostly irrelevant, considering how fast things were changing. Rather too fast.