Friday, 25 September 2015

The Nail Social

The Nail Social, a total beauty treasure on the delightful Haji Lane in Singapore, has got pampering down to a tee.

As a 'socially conscious salon', The Nail Social is very popular among those who want to relax in the knowledge that their treatment spend is having a positive impact beyond their fingers and toes!

In their own words, this fantastic social enterprise was "established with the aim of training and employing local underprivileged women with a higher barrier to employment, so as to help them progress from a position of vulnerability to security and self-sufficiency."

In addition, most products they use, serve or sell in the salon are non-toxic, eco-friendly, fair-trade and/or cruelty-free.

I was lucky to get a same-day appointment one Saturday morning before a social event and immediately realised that this place offers a luxurious experience far superior to regular nail salons.

Seated in a light and airy atelier, I was made to feel right at home with comfy cushions, blankets and a full menu of delicious drinks and eats available.

However, one of the most impressive things was the iPad and headphones on an adjustable stand attached to my seat, which offered hundreds of movies and TV shows to watch mid-mani-pedi.

I chose Antarctica: A Year on Ice, which is an amazing documentary about climate scientists and others going about their general work whilst facing extreme weather conditions and 24 hours of darkness in winter time; so pretty much the opposite of my situation.

And so, whilst watching penguins and polar bears watch the northern lights, in plush surroundings and with an accomplished manicurist, I indulged in a common pastime for Singaporeans and expats alike, and with wonderful results. I also had a browse of some of their fair-trade jewellery for sale on my way out.

You're not the only one who will love this place so if you are looking to escape to a sustainable sanctuary for an hour or so, I highly recommend booking an appointment in advance. I will certainly be returning with a few friends!

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Autumnal evening light

Coming home to South Devon in the evening autumn light cannot be justifiably captured in words nor pictures. 

Thrown straight into the action of taking a wild cat to the animal sanctuary. 

Seeing that the nearby sea is a little choppy; perhaps there was a storm last night. But now the sky is clear, blue and the air is crisp and fresh. 

Hot tea and hot stew cooking on the Aga. 

I can see that blackberry picking will require a small stool to reach the ripe ones on the hedges tomorrow, ready for the apple and blackberry pie. 

The fields have just been topped ready for the horses and MINIATURE PONIES and all is well with the world. 

Things happen here and there are things to be done, but they are done happily, excitedly and are not stressful, but are done together and are beautiful, enabling us to be part of the cycle of nature, just as we should be.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Silver fox in Speedos

I’d just like to take a moment to draw attention to a silver fox who likes to swim in -1°C waters with an outside temperature of -37°C and wind at 40 knots. In Speedos. Sensible, right?

If you know me or have read my blog before, you might be aware of the fact that I am proudly from South Devon. I was fan-girling all over Lewis William Gordon Pugh before I read that he was born and lived the first 10 years of his life just 10 miles from where I grew up. “Well I‘m not surprised”, I thought.

Last week I attended a good friend’s wedding at Mount Folly Farm, overlooking Bigbury Bay in South Devon. Surrounded by home pals who, like me, now live further afield, I asked a couple of them if they identify with Devon in the same way that I do; an identification akin to being an ambassador for the county, which has become a stronger feeling since moving away. The response I received was a resounding "YES!"

When I asked why, I was told “It’s clearly because we’ve had a totally awesome upbringing - superior to others who grew up anywhere else in England or indeed in many parts of the world - in the middle of the countryside with plenty of country and oceanic activities at our disposal”.

There is indeed ‘moor to sea’ in our beloved Devon and it seems that the sea has had a particularly profound impact on Pugh.

Years ago, he set out to capture the imagination of world leaders (no easy feat), in the same way that the oceans have captured his. His aim in swimming in extreme environments - the thought of which would make most people dive under their duvet - is to raise awareness of the plight of particular areas of ocean that are threatened by pollution, climate change and overfishing. His most recent Speedos-cap-and-goggles expedition highlights the urgent need to certify the Ross Sea in Antarctica as a Marine Protected Area. He has also swam the North Pole and across a large Himalayan lake, among other adventures.

The geography geek in me has a tremendous admiration for most explorers who go to extremes to raise awareness of environmental issues, but particularly this one, not only because he has succeeded in doing so, but because he is not stopping his work to influence positive political and systemic change, all with the oceans in mind. Also because he is a clever clogs (Cambridge law graduate), an articulate speaker and has a unique ability to harness the power of the images, videos and articles that his swim campaigns produce, to tell a very important story. And he’s originally from Devon, obvs.

A picture paints a thousand words.

A brief (additional) note on Devon awesomeness. Yes, we are #smug, yet I wouldn’t consider it a snobbiness that is class nor wealth affiliated. We feel very lucky. Indeed, anyone who lives in Devon or visits Devon’s natural charms can experience the breath of fresh air that frolicking in its waves and trekking across its rolling hills provides. I believe it is this closeness to nature, developed through spending time in 'the great outdoors' beyond Devon too, that leads many who are Devonshire born and bred to spend their time promoting the protection of our most vulnerable planetary environments.

Everyone likes to look at pictures of beautiful people in stunning scenery. Everyone likes to hear tales of trial and tribulation (from the comfort of an armchair/bed/hammock - delete as appropriate) faced by crazy, courageous humans who have seen and done things we will highly unlikely see and do ourselves.

So Pugh, I applaud your brave efforts thus far and will continue to follow your future risk-filled and exciting endeavours with great pleasure.


…PS If you feel even slightly inspired by Pugh's actions, perhaps you'd like to get involved as Pugh himself suggests here.

You can also take a beginners lesson in Wild Swimming by checking out one or two of Daniel Start’s books

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Oxfords, not Brogues

- A sustainability geek’s review of Kingsman: The Secret Service 


First reaction: ‘bloody’ brilliant! 

Director Matthew Vaughn skilfully intertwines Skyfall and Kill Bill, throws in a few secret underground elevators and bullet trains รก la Harry Potter, and all with the comedy action of Austin Powers.

Oh and did I mention that the unlikely hero is hot? Rugged and raw hot. Oh and charming, once he takes heed of his patron’s signature moto ‘Manners Maketh Man’. Plus he has a cute yet ridiculous dog. OK I’ll stop!

'Unlikely hero' Eggsy

My friends were cringing more than I at the violence, possibly because I’ve been brought up to remember that ‘it’s all tomato ketchup anyway’, which I sensibly recalled each time a person was sliced in half or a head blew up to fill the whole cinema screen. My mother would be proud.

A small criticism or two: if you have seen the film, then you’ll know that anyone with even a slight feminist inclination will feel that the hero’s final reward could’ve been a little classier…

Also, the strong Conservative undertones of the film (take a look at the depiction of the working-class characters as lazy, violent, half-wits) are not in line with my views nor values.

However, I definitely left the cinema wanting to be a hot British genius super-spy like Foxy Roxy. Obvs.

'Foxy Roxy'

'Foxy Roxy' in action

And wanting to excavate Saville Row to discover its hidden chambers...

Eh hem. Now to the important part. The writers have successfully raised several issues around the global challenges we are currently facing, all within a fast-paced, gadget-filled and sexy package.

The billionaire super-villain was in fact fighting anthropogenically caused climate change all along (albeit in a highly inadvisable way involving the massacre of innocent people)!

It is unlikely that the vast majority of movie viewers would leave the cinema with a renowned sense of empowerment to take individual, professional, political or community-level action against the release of greenhouse gas emissions, however, I applaud the writers for engaging the audience with a world problem that is current and real.

Kingsman training

The film raises several issues that are inextricably joined at the hip with climate change, for example societal development, and not least of all, population growth. Someone, who is, in retrospect, arguably fairly cynical in general terms, once told me that the best thing anyone can do to help ‘save the world’ in their lifetime is to…not have children.

We are set on a course to reach 9 billion on this planet by 2050 and we are already living beyond our means in terms of resource-use. True dat bruv. With fast developing nations like India and China dramatically increasing their demand for food, clothes, housing, transport, medical treatment and all of the things that go along with living in a ‘developed’ country, our impact on the earth and its atmosphere is only going to increase. True dat too bruv.

Whilst I by no means advocate mass human culls, nor do I know enough about China’s one child population policy to comment in an informed manner, I do know that we are going to have to adapt pretty quickly if we are going to have the technology and infrastructure innovative enough to sustain us in a way that does not put future generations, and the environment in which they will live, in jeopardy. Perhaps we all need to become highly-trained Kingsmen and Kingswomen.

There is mention in the film of how global politicians only really care about the next election. We will find out if that is true at COP21 in Paris in December: the gathering that is poised to result in a global agreement for action on climate change. I doubt they'll propose acts similar to Valentine, pictured below. 

Billionnaire super-villain Valentine and his side-kick, blade-runner Gazelle

The film touches upon the unimaginable power of the world’s largest corporations and their influence over government policy in some situations (note the villain’s meeting with Obama).

Could ‘Valentine’ have been referencing Virgin? Of course Branson is all for innovation and sustainability and would never be caught meddling in nano-biochemical warfare. Yet, evidently, there are companies that are more globalised and financially powerful than many countries put together.

The fact that Kingsman are an independently-funded non-governmental organisation smarts a little of ‘f*** the system’ (less so in the capitalistic sense, given the likelihood that their patrons amassed their wealth in a traditional way, but perhaps more in terms of governmental abilities to take action). Indeed, Colin Firth, always great, this time has some tricks hidden up his sleeve.

I could go on with my self-indulgent, exploratory, amateur analysis but won’t. It is a fun movie after all and is designed to be taken lightly. No doubt there will be a second movie and I will be first in line.

So that’s that. Job well done chaps and chapesses. With the popularity of cli-fi (climate fiction) on the rise, we are likely to see more popular entertainment that highlights global challenges and I say: yes please!