Saturday, May 25, 2013

Buying presents, dressing up & fixing bikes.

Since my last post a month ago I have experienced a few hurdles in my 'buy nothing new' challenge but have also gone along to a couple of Cambridge Carbon Footprint events that have really inspired me to continue the challenge and have given me some good ideas of what to do when I feel I'm stuck and need to buy something new.

The first challenge this month was that it was Mother's Day in Australia on the second Sunday of May. Living so far from your family is difficult at the best of times and I always make sure I remember to send small (but light!) gifts home to let my family know that I haven't forgotten them while I forge my new life here in this rather archaic, anachronistic but terribly fun world I now inhabit. So I felt a little bit sad that I was going to buy my mother something second-hand but also a little bit proud.

I already had in mind that I wanted to buy her some DVDs about England for her to watch to get an idea of where she would like to visit on her upcoming visit to the UK. And luckily UK Amazon have a fantastic feature where you can choose to buy used products from retailers so I just chose to purchase second-hand DVDs instead of new ones. I was also quite pleased to find that those retailers sent the DVDs in recycled packaging which I then used again to send on to my mother after I had wrapped the DVDs in some catalogues and added some decoration I also made out of the catalogues and some crafty paper folding. I'm not too sure what I'll do when I run out of cellotape but for now I was quite proud of my upcycled gift.

I sent the parcel before I tried to explain my experiment to my mother and the reason she was getting a second-hand present. I thought this would stop me from feeling bad and not sending it if she had a disappointed reaction. Luckily, the fact that her present was recycled had very little effect on her; she loved her gift.

One of the other challenges this month was that I had two fancy dress dinners to go to. Dressing up is never compulsory but it's always fun and it solves the problem of choosing what to wear otherwise.

In the past I've tried to keep the costs of dressing up to a minimum by making most of my outfit and buying odd bits second-hand on ebay or in charity stores. However, there's always the small, elusive final touch that needs to be purchased new and this time I couldn't do it.

The first dinner was 1920s themed. This would have been fine except for the fact that I went to another dinner that was 1920s themed a couple of months ago. My entire outfit then was second-hand: I wore a green silk bias cut Fenn Wright Manson dress that I'd bought second-hand off ebay for almost nothing, a plush velvet-look jacket that was my grandmother's when she was my age, second-hand shoes I'd bought off ebay, a long string of fake pearls I'd bought second-hand off ebay, a piece of elastic left over from a sewing project around my head which I tucked my hair into, a ribbon from a gift I'd received pinned on top of that and a feather plucked out of a mask I'd worn to a masquerade ball the year before.

Now, I could have just worn the same outfit again but a) the thought that someone might see me in the same outfit twice terrifies me and b) that's just not enough of a challenge!

I have a bit of an obsession with buying everything on ebay UK made by Cue, Veronika Maine, Metalicus or Trelise Cooper in my size. What can I say, I'm loyal to my part of the world. So I'd recently bought a rather odd looking Veronika Maine dress with a rather out-of-fashion cut but a really lovely back and neckline. It wasn't exactly 1920s but I figured with a string of pearls and a glittery headband on my head it would do.

I had the pearls but I needed the headband. So I searched the charity stores for one. Turns out, people are rather attached to their glittery headbands and don't pass them on to charity stores.

I decided to hunt for some sort of stretchy, glittery material in a piece of clothing instead. But again I had no luck. And I was almost ready to give up (and be kicked out of a closing Arthur Rank Hospice charity store) when I found the most hideous, black-sequin covered beret ever known to man. So I took it home, unpicked it, painstakingly cut a small band of it without cutting through the string of sequins, cut it down to size to fit my head and attached a press stud. And voila! With a black feather (also stolen from that masquerade mask) I had my 1920s headpiece.

The next dinner was 'Alice in Wonderland' themed. Again, I kind of had a dress (courtesy of Cue), had an apron from a previous dressing up experience as Magenta from Rocky Horror Picture Show and I sewed a black bow I made from some spare ribbon onto the headband from that masquerade mask (that mask sure has been versatile!). But I really wanted white stockings/tights to complete the outfit.

(Yes, I'm sure you are thinking that I really need not have bothered. But I get rather obsessed with making sure I have a complete outfit. It's ridiculous, I know, but it gives me more things to write about and something else to procrastinate with!)

To begin with I asked on Facebook if anyone had any to lend me but that turned out to be completely fruitless. I turned to ebay at the last minute but it was far too late to get them shipped and also the pictures I found were a tad disturbing. So I ended up at the charity stores again. And I found some!

Hilariously, I had to buy three pairs of tights for the one outfit. This is due to the fact that I made a conscious decision not to shave any part of my body hair ever again some years ago. I normally don't worry and am happy to not wear anything on my legs if it is warm enough. However, sheer white stockings over rather hairy legs looks rather ridiculous! So I bought a tanned pair of tights and then wore two pairs of white stockings over that. In the end I was grateful that I did because the evening turned out to be typically English (that is, freaking cold). The stockings were also old fashioned ones (hence why they were in Oxfam, I am guessing) and were made to wear with a suspender belt which I, unfortunately, do not have. Luckily, my Rocky Horror Magenta outfit had come with lace garters as well as the apron so I just wore those to hold the stockings up. And so I had an entire Alice outfit without buying anything new.

I have made one new purchase this month and that was an inner tube for my bike. The Hipster did try to repair the inner tube that I punctured (he's so handy!) but it had broken quite badly at the valve (due to my incredible heavy-handedness while pumping up the tyre) so there wasn't much to be done. But I did get a stern lecture on not brute-forcing everything (namely his stuff) to keep it in better shape for longer so I am going to try to do that. But I had said that I was going to make the exception that I would buy items that are needed for the upkeep of things I already own and I think an inner tube falls into that category.

I did manage to avoid buying a bike lock this month. I had been borrowing The Hipster's lock (for about nine months) and his patience was wearing a little thin (can't imagine why) but I wasn't sure how I was going to get a new lock. I had an old bike still left at college with a lock on it but the lock was so stiff that the person who used it previously had snapped the key in the lock. But it got to the point where using a broken key in a stiff lock was looking like the more convenient option against The Hipster's cranky face. So I went and fetched the lock, lock holder and a spare bike basket off the old bike and attached it all to my bike. And it turned out that with a bit of oil (which I borrowed off a friend in exchange for the spare bike basket) the lock is working pretty well again. And with a bit of tricky manipulation of an elastic band I got from a bunch of asparagus I was able to attach the key to my keyring in a relatively stable manner.

The final thing I wanted to mention was the Cambridge Carbon Footprint group. I went along to their Vegan Baking night a few weeks ago and then their Living with Less lecture last week and I found the people that run and attend the events are really lovely and inspiring. The Living with Less lecture in particular was really very inspiring. It was a panel of people that have been on the buy nothing new challenge for 12 months. All of them had exceptions (and all of them had decided that buying underpants new was OK which was a bit disappointing because that's the one thing I really want to find out how to get around on the buy nothing new challenge!) but it was interesting to see how it had affected different people and how different people had introduced it into their lives. I have emailed them to volunteer my time if they need someone for vegan-related events and I look forward to going to more of their events in the future.