In which I am becoming a plant mum (post one of, possibly, hundreds)

Afternoon! I’m drafting a post in which I take the piss out of some of my old school work, but I’ve been editing my final project for my diploma so I’m not quite up for being witty this weekend. My braincells are sort of hanging onto life with the grim determination of someone who knows that a holiday is right around the corner. I don’t want to frighten them. So I thought that I’d talk about something nice instead and what is could be nicer, on May Day, than plants?

Okay, maybe more reliable weather and a gin but let’s not quibble. HERE ARE SOME PLANTS I’VE BEEN GROWING.

Let’s start with some courgette sproutlings. I don’t know the name for vegetables once they’ve stopped being seeds but before they look like the things you buy in the supermarket. These little dudes started growing ridiculously quickly. This was day two or three:

tiny courgette sprout

This is them on days, I don’t know, seven or nine? They got real bolshy real quickly. I was reading Maggie Stiefvater and Morgan Beem’s Swamp Thing around now and I definitely started to wonder about the extent to which plants are sentient.

Last Monday I separated them out and I’m kind of hoping the weather gets better before they grow too much more, because the next size of pot is going to be way too big for a windowsill:

This is them today:

I am so glad I’ve hoarded old, broken mugs for the last year or so. This is why I can’t be a proper minimalist. I’ve also just noticed the bird shit on the window. Yay nature!

I like telling them how I’m going to eat them. They don’t seem to mind. All right, next plants! I can’t photograph most of them, because they are either gifts or being propagated as gifts. Might get awkward. Anyway, here is what is going to become, hopefully, a pot of peppers.

I planted them this afternoon. I’ll keep you updated. I’ve been sending my mum daily courgette photos so you guys can keep track of the peppers. Okay now for something inedible: my aloe veras! (Aloe verae?)

I’m saying that they’re inedible like I have any idea if you can eat aloe vera. Some people probably do. The one on the left is a plant I’ve had for… four or five years? It’s grown like the clappers and keeps sprouting. A couple of offspring are on the right. To be completely honest, I’m not sure if they’re going to make it: I think they got a bit too much sun when I first repotted them. Fingers crossed though. Also, points to me for using an old candle holder as a plant pot. That shelf, the one with the aloes and [redacted, because it’s a gift] is right by my windowsill. It also holds my speakers, so I’ve put as many plants there as I can fit partly for the light and partly because sound is good for plants. You’re meant to talk to them I think? I reckon that between me talking to myself, Radio 4 and my MCR CDs, they’re enjoying a balanced diet.

All this plant/food talk is making me hungry so I’ll leave this here. Oh, if you entered last week’s giveaway to win a signed copy of The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes then unless you are Sonia Marie you haven’t won. Sorry. I let a computer generator thing chose the winner, so it wasn’t based on the strength of anyone’s fairy tale-related comments. I loved all of them! If you are Sonia Marie, CONGRATULATIONS.

Look after yourselves!

Francesca


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like. If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

Psst, Paperback Edition of The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes Available Now!

Surprise! My baby is now available in corporeal form. A few weeks ago I asked on social media how people feel about audiobooks versus physical books (you guys were unanimous, physical it is). I’ve been wanting to test the waters for a print copy for a while, not least because my Ultimate Dream is to have a iridescent, map-on-the-front-pages, probably-linen-bound hardcover. With a little ribbon for keeping your place. You know the type of book I mean: the type that is a work of art.

Anyway, those are expensive and since I’m self published, I’d have to figure out some sort of pre-order system to gauge demand before committing to a print run. I don’t fancy being stuck with books I can’t sell, even if they are linen bound with a ribbon. So I thought, let’s do the smart thing and have a sort of soft opening using Amazon’s print on demand system.

I’m pretty sure I’ve bitched about Amazon on here before, but if I haven’t: it’s an unholy trinity of bad packaging, ethically questionable business processes and is at least partially responsible for the devaluation of the book industry.

Unfortunately for the high street but fortunately for my bank balance, Amazon does print on demand really well. It took me about half an hour to upload my files, less than 72 hours for Amazon to check the details and tah-dahhh. You can now order a paperback of the world’s best YA fairy tale. It cost me zero pounds, because I downloaded a Photoshop trial to design a back cover and spine. The book is priced exactly as the ebook at £7.99 (well, it is until Bezos discounts it to 89p). I will make about £2 on each copy, assuming they sell at full price, so I need to sell about a thousand copies to afford a posh hardback. Less if I’m willing to put all the money toward the hardback, but I’m quite invested in earning a wage. This is probably a good time to mention that after 11.5 years of blogging, I’ve joined the Amazon Affiliate programme with the strict goal of scraping every last penny from this paperback as I can… the links in this post are all affiliated. I think a lot of you would have to click and buy for me to hit the minimum payment threshold of £25, though, ha.

Anyway, I am already in profit, because a few members of the No. 1 Readers’ Club have bought some copies (this is why you should join the No. 1 Readers’ Club). I haven’t forgotten about doing a quarterly income round up, by the way! The last quarter ended a few weeks ago but I have diploma work to finish, so I’ll probably get the post done in a month or so. My ebook royalties aren’t in, so it’ll be a short post.

As with the ebook, I’ll be paying it forward with three copies: if you or someone you know wants a copy but cannot afford it, hit me up and I’ll order you a copy to to your mailing address. I’m also doing a giveaway right here on this very blog! To win a signed copy of The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, comment on this post and tell me your favourite fairy tale or folk tale. Mine changes all the time, but Femlore Pod recently did an episode on Lieutenant Nun, who is fascinating. The contest ends on 30th April at 11:59pm BST, it’s open internationally, and I’ll pick a winner at random the next day.

Oh, one last thing:

If and when a hardcover run becomes a reality, I may pull this particular paperback. Ideally, one day I’d like this book to have a permanent home with a publishing house that can do hardcover, paperback, audiobook et al and handle all the logistics (and ensure that Amazon is not the only paperback retailer). That would mean a different ISBN, different blurb and spine and whatnot. So there’s a distinct possibility that in twenty years’ time, this particular Amazon offering will be like first printings of MCR’s first record: rare and sold on eBay for inflated prices. That’s actually already happening to an extent; the book’s been live for a week and someone’s already selling ‘used’ copies at a premium. What they’re actually doing is drop shipping: buying new copies and sending them straight to the customer, because they are [censored because it’s too rude even for this blog]. Anyway, if you’d like to be a part of history, just saying, the book is here.

'The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes' paperback on shelf
Much love to my cousin Ellen for taking The Princess and the Dragon‘s first ever shelfie!

Look after yourselves!

Francesca


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like. If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

Minimalish: Six Month Brick Phone Review with a Small Detour into a Quite a Large Consumerism Rant

Sooo if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know I swapped my smart phone for a brick phone late last year. I did a one month review and thought, since it’s now been about six months, I’d do a proper, Which?-esque write up, especially as a few people have said they’d love to ditch their smart phone. Here’s what the phone looks like:

Nokia Brick phone next to a gold foil bow

Good things about the brick

To be honest, the best things about the brick are not the phone itself. As a device, it’s mediocre. But as a metaphor conduit thing to help me concentrate, it’s bloody brilliant.

  • Since buying it, I think I’ve developed a reasonably better attention span.
  • I think I’m less twitchy and less likely to pull out the phone for something to hold and stare at and poke when I’m in an awkward situation which, considering we are living in the End Times and my natural state is extreme twitchiness, feels like a big achievement.
  • I’m definitely more likely to look at things now, rather than snapping a picture of that thing and never look at it ever again.
  • Having a very boring screen has helped me realise that lots of apps and notifications stress me out. My mum’s phone has three screens of apps and just looking at the screen makes me anxious. She has all her notifications on too. It’s like having an insect buzzing around your ear, except more annoying because at least insects contribute to the eco system. I did cut down my notifications and apps on the smart phone, over the course of a few years, but it’s been lovely to look at a screen with absolutely nothing enticing apart from the odd game of Snake.
  • I charge it about once a fortnight and I’m smug about it.
  • Because the internet is a non-event, I pay a pound a week for my data, minutes and texts. A POUND A WEEK. I’m smug about that too.

Less good things

  • It’s so easy to lose a small device in your pockets! Like I said before, do you know how difficult it is to lose something in women’s cut pockets?
  • I have occasionally replaced mindless smart phone scrolling with other bad behaviours, like mindless scrolling of Reddit, so maybe don’t do that (but I am working on the social media thing. More on that another time).
  • The brick phone doesn’t have certain apps I use a lot, like WhatsApp, banking and Headspace, so I’ve kept my old, rickety smartphone. Because we’ve been in lockdown, it’s no hassle to swap between the two.

So the brick phone is here for life, right?

Not quite.

Some nuance and adult considerations

Having lived without one, I feel like I have a new appreciation for the fact that smart phones are great. That giant computer Alan Turing came up with plus the cassette tape Lou Ottens invented, plus the camera (I do not know who we consider to be the inventor of the camera), plus interactive maps, plus texting, plus a little torch, oh and plus a telephone, tucked in my pocket. There’s a reason they’re ubiquitous and that reason is that technology is great. Mobile phones, and smart phones specifically, represent innovation and, in many ways, social equality: about five billion people own mobile phones worldwide. I couldn’t find stats on how much of that is made up of smart phones but it’s probably a fair bit.

My issue with them – everyone’s issue with them, right? – is that they are lotus-eaters, designed to wriggle into your brain and whisper that you need never leave this brightly coloured screen. I can’t not think about the hours I’ve lost to Twitter threads, the Instagram browsing page, news sites and Facebook posts by people I don’t even like. I hate how reliant I used to be on one device. When was the last time I had to use my brain to figure out a route instead of consulting Google? I can tell you: Chiang Mai in Thailand four years ago, when my battery died and I found my way through badly lit streets using my memory and the map in a guide book. Can that really be the last time I used my braincells? No wonder my memory’s shit and my confidence is shot to pieces; I needed that bright, cheery screen to find my way out of bed.

But those things aren’t the smartphone’s fault. They’re mine, because I let the phone make the easy choices for me. Use my memory or consult Google Maps. Have difficult conversation face to face or have it over text. Converse with sort-of-friends-who-I-don’t-really-like or escape to social media, where I can look at content by people I’d actually like to be friends with. Think through response to email in a sensible, measured way or fire off an angry response because the message is right there. That was all me, letting the phone make my life easier in the short term even if it made me an anxious, irritable insomniac with bad communication skills and worse coping methods in the long term.

I don’t like how we always assume people own a smart phone, either. Getting Covid tested was a bit of a faff because I couldn’t scan my app thing, but I’m still pretty tech-savvy and could fill in all details with the staff. There was a story this week about older people being discriminated against because they don’t own smart phones and can’t use apps to order from tables in pubs, etc. My great uncle got a mobile a couple of years ago not by design but because one of his neighbours had a spare. He’s barely a telly bloke. He deserves to pop down the pub should he fancy, and not be turned away because he can’t scan himself in. If I remember correctly, he did something with radios in the Royal Navy. Could I do that? No. The digital divide is real and it’s not fair. Us Bright Young Millennials are going to be confused as fuck when our children start uploading their brains into the cloud. If tech isn’t working for one lot of society, is it working for all of us?

Then there’s the cost of smart phones. People are putting down a grand for a phone like it’s normal behaviour? My dudes. These phone companies are fucking us all over with their shiny marketing campaigns and their addictive screens and their insidious whisperings that you need to take out a payment plan or use your credit card to purchase a device that will be obsolete in two or three years’ time.

Don’t even start me on the social and environmental impact of the tech industry. Actually, I’ve started. Smart phones pollute. They are made from metals mined in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, where militias often control the mines. Both those articles are a few years old; I’m not sure what the stats are at the moment. But my soapbox has been stood on: our consumerism is killing the planet and harming people we’ll never meet.

Cinderella uggghhh GIF
from giphy

This took a slightly angry turn. Back to my phone shite.

Things I quite liked about my smartphone (when its battery wasn’t dying, my brain wasn’t melting and the microchip wasn’t recording my every movement for the lizard people)

  • Usability. Tapping the ‘3’ key three times to get the letter F on the brick can be annoying. Making 6 clicks to activate silent mode is a moderate inconvenience when you’re trying to check your phone won’t go off in a meeting. The speaker, which isn’t brilliant, is a bit irritating when there’s background noise. Smart phones are just so easy to tap, man, and they’re so… solid. Well, other than that Samsung that used to catch fire if you glanced at it the wrong way.
  • Apps for boarding passes. I know it’s a non-issue at present but I love waving my phone at passport control. I don’t love carrying around bits of paper. It’s more stressful knowing that losing one item means loosing access to all your paperwork, but it’s less stressful keeping hold of one object than a file of papers.
  • Banking apps/Headspace/WhatsApp (basically the unholy trinity of my life ahaha).
  • The camera. I am so, so grateful I have about a thousand photos of my dogs from before they died. Do I look at all one thousand images every day? No. One day I may even find the strength to clear out duplicates. But for now, my folders of dog photos are important to me.

So. I will likely get a smart phone at some point now the world is opening up. I love not having to faff about with papers at the airport; I love that I can check my bank balance in five seconds. I want to take photos of my friends, and of cool things I do, and of other people’s dogs! I don’t love that the brick disappears into the folds of my trousers.

But what type of smart phone? My ideal device would be one that’s basically a Nokia 3310 I have now but with some app functions, and a bigger screen and better camera. I like the Light Phone for its simplicity (its screen uses the same tech as e-readers, so no irritating bright colours that keep you awake), but it doesn’t have apps like Whatsapp. So I guess my best option is to get an actual smartphone and just keep it in night mode forever, and be strict with myself about apps and notifcations? I try to follow a one-in-one-out rule with accounts I follow on social media, clothing and general stuff, and it’s done my mental health wonders; maybe I should do the same with apps (I think this whole Minimalish series is just me saying ‘my brain is cluttered and less physical items helps it be less cluttered’).

I’m not sure how much I’ve learnt, or how much sage advice I’ve passed on in this post. In the last couple of days I’ve finished an assignment, filmed, failed to edit and scheduled a video for the No. 1 Readers’ Club, phoned PayPal because my Patreon money is stuck in my Patreon account (it is still stuck) and done a cool thing with The Princess and the Dragon that I’ll share with you next week. So I’m ready to close the lid on the week and regain some human-ness. Wait, I wrote that sentence before I learnt that Helen McCrory died. I think I want to have a gin and watch Peaky Blinders. I was just thinking about Aunt Polly today. Stop taking nice things, 2021.

Let me know if this has inspired you to swap out your tech use, or put you off the whole idea of brick phones. Let me know your Helen McCrory memories. Let me know how much gin is the right amount for a Friday night in sort of-lockdown with a livestream and some laundry.

Look after yourselves!

Francesca


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like. If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

Living in the Nine of Wands

Morning lovelies. (It is not might not be morning by the time I publish this, but I’m trying to stay optimistic.)

I thought I’d chat about things being not-quite-finished today. The Nine of Wands, if you will. I have a couple of meaty blogs in the works (a brick phone update and a post about the school work I found when I was clearing out recently. Some of the pieces I found are historic treasures aka completely ridiculous and deserving of photographic preservation for future generations. A one page biography of Frank Iero in French, anyone?) but they deserve a bit more polishing. I’m working on a couple of short stories too, and some dragonnovel stuff, but they too need more polishing before I can justify an entire blog post… or even a tweet, to be honest. Not-being-quite-done feels like a bit of a slogan at the moment. Lockdown is not-quite-done. Covid is definitely not done, but with a few bajillion more vaccinations we might be able to stop using the phrase ‘R rate’ with such regularity. My diploma is not-quite-done, but it’s close enough that I want to skip the final three assignments and be finished.

I don’t love that feeling where the end’s in sight but too far to see the details. Stop taunting me, deadline days! I overworked myself in spring term, spent all of Easter in a not-quite-sleeping-properly-because-I’m-still-stressed-from-the-last-deadline fog and now the deadlines are closer but I have no energy to open a document and talk about presenting business data.

It does not help that two of these last assignments are very boring (yes, one topic is analysing and presenting business data. The subject itself is quite interesting, but the assessment is a kind of academic vampire hellbent on sucking the enthusiasm out of it). One assignment is less boring but very long winded. Except you can’t spend too long on it, because the word count is absolutely miniscule, but you’re so limited with space that you have to decide which parts of your research are worth including and which aren’t when, actually, they are all worth including and the assessment criteria is nonsense.

Oops, I was not expecting to one-sentence that. I am not friends with these last assignments. I want to yeet them into the Suez Canal then spend approximately six weeks on a tropical island, eating noodles and doing Pilates outside. I want spring to come back! Why did it snow when we just had a heatwave? Why did I put away my big scarves? I’m not even sure if I’m on speaking terms with my career at the moment. Why can’t I finish a short story in forty five minutes and have it edited within two days? Why am I assuming that a forty five minute story is even possible for someone who uses 8,000 sentences in every piece of work? Seriously, what was I thinking washing and putting my woollen garments away after two days of sunshine? Oh, and the anxious bit of my brain is freaking out because I’m under 30 and had the AstraZeneca vaccine. The contraceptive pill I’m on carries a risk of blood clots and I’ve happily eaten that for several years, and the vaccine risks are miniscule compared to the ‘dying of Covid without immunisation’ risks , but does my brain know that? No.

So I think it’s fair to say I’m a bit overwhelmed. That’s the thing with Nine of Wands: it’s not the Ten. It literally represents being ‘nearly there,’ or ‘enough that you could stop now if you really wanted to.’ I don’t really want to stop now. I want to yeet those assignments into their respective upload boxes, smug in the knowledge that I’ve completed every part of my diploma, knowing I’ve polished each assessment until it shines. I want to stop using the word yeet as though I’m a 15-year-old who knows how TikTok works.

I think the solution might be a cup of tea. It usually is, innit. I know that in a few weeks I’ll have most of this diploma finished, those short stories will, for better or worse, be floating around my patrons’ inboxes and we might stop talking about snow? Oh, and we can go about beautifying ourselves again. I’ll probably feel better when my eyebrows don’t look like Troy Tempest’s and my fringe is cut properly. I just have to hang on until then, and try to find coping mechanisms that aren’t a) mindlessly reading Reddit or b) coming on here to talk about tarot. It’s just occurred to me that the whole of civilisation is sort of living in the Nine of Wands. There’s a route out of this pandemic, but the road is winding and some people are in cars driven by imbeciles. Some roads are tarmacked and some are full of potholes and bad lighting.

I’m going for a cup of tea. I can’t believe I’ve turned a post about ‘feeling a bit tired’ into a metaphor about governments as terrible drivers.

Thelma and Louise car driving off cliff gif
I don’t know where this came from but it feels relevant

What are your coping mechanisms for when you’re burned out and struggling with motivation? I know most students have some form of deadline approaching. Except for GCSEs and A Levels? They’ve cancelled those, haven’t they? Have they? God, no wonder I’m all over the place. Anyway. Tell me how you’re coping! If you have a work deadline on the horizon, or you’re barely clinging to sanity while you wait for lockdown to ease, I want to know how you’re doing. Let’s cling to sanity together.

Look after yourselves!

Francesca


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like. If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

Top 10 Reasons to Read The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, by someone who is in no way biased

I haven’t slept properly because I spent yesterday in a Magnus Archives-ending bubble, then woke up at 5:30am which is probably not related but also I had at least one dream about [spoiler] so who knows. It’s the Easter holidays now, so I’m officially off the clock academia-wise for a few days, and between Magnus and holiday brain, my words aren’t working. So here’s a post I put together on a lark recently and figured I might as well finish because the world is on fire and I’m empathising with a boat stuck in the Suez Canal (that poor boat driver. I’m never going to feel bad about a work fuckup again. If a boss ever calls me out, I’ll look them dead in the eye and ask: ‘have I held up 12% of the world’s trade?’).

Top 10 Reasons to Read The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes*

*well, my top ten reasons. Yours might be different, but you’ll have to read it to find out, won’t you?

10) Upcycled fashion

9) Dragons that are people

8) Dragons that are dragons

7) Small to medium-sized nods to Real Life Events, although unfortunately none of them are boats stuck in the Suez Canal

6) Irritable psychics

5) Teenagers with ethically questionable levels of responsibility for those around them

4) One My Chemical Romance reference

3) Breakfast meetings

2) Rabbits wearing little harnesses so they can go for a walk

1) Cups of tea in difficult situations

ereader mockup of The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, on a Lilly pad/leaf background
Art by Nell from Instagram!

What more do you need from your fiction, honestly. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of retailers but you should be able to find a copy in most ebook stores or app, including library apps. Actually, while I’ve got you here and have a couple of spare braincells: would you, hypothetically, prefer to consume a hardback print copy of a book or an audiobook version of a book? I’m not saying that this question pertains to the rest of this post but, hypothetically, if it were to pertain to the rest of this post, which would you prefer? Potentially, at some point in the future?

Let me know. Imagine I’ve pasted four eyeball emojis here.

Look after yourselves!

Francesca


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like. If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

No. 1 Readers’ Club Updates: Tarot, Merch, Books & More

Hi hi. Just a quick post today because a) I haven’t finished any of the lengthier ones I’m working on, b) I missed last week’s post and feel I have to abide to arbitrary goals so needed something that could work as a mini post and c) this is actually news.

I’ve updated the tiers on my Patreon, the No. 1 Readers’ Club! There are now six, which feels nice and even. I’ve changed up some of the rewards; essentially they’re a little quicker to fulfil my end and a bit more cost effective postage wise. I’m offering more stuff on the higher tiers, because I want you guys to get your money’s worth, and I’ve taken the free copy of The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes off there, because frankly it’s available to buy and I’d rather you bought it. Those of you on the higher tiers will get more regular merch-y bits including patron-only book merch, pieces from my stationery shop and books I’ve had on my shelf that I think you’ll like (I tend to know those of you on the higher tiers well through either real life or social media, so I thought it would be nice to do something personal and pass on a novel I’m finished with.) I’m also doing tarot readings! Not sure how they’ll look yet: I know a lot of people have a groovy camera set up and film themselves pulling cards on a flatlay type thing, but I am firstly inept at videos and secondly camera-less. Maybe photos or something, I don’t know. I’m looking forward to it, though. Mostly because I’ll get to test my memory… and offer you guys the most secular, non-spiritual card readings in human history, bahaha.

deck of tarot cards on a table

I’m going to have to reuse these photos for the rest of time, because my cards are dogeared as anything now. Look how shiny they were! Now they are full of existential crises. Right. Time for me to return to my Monday state of hibernation and schoolwork. See you later in the week, probably?

Look after yourselves!

Francesca


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like. If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers.

Minimalish: Misadventures in Zero Waste Dentistry

In the last couple of weeks I’ve covered fandom and the ethics of getting vaccinated, so let’s chill for a bit and talk about teeth. Okay, not teeth, teeth are strange. Let’s talk about dental products. I’ve been experimenting with zero waste products and I thought, since I like talking about minimalism and the planet, but I’m not living in a field with a compostable toilet and no electricity, I might offer a good ‘basic consumer’ perspective?

I should start with a couple of things. Firstly, I have a huge guilt complex about plastic and non-biodegradable waste. I mean, we all should, but I feel bad every time I chuck something in the regular bin that isn’t recyclable or might be recyclable in some areas if you say four prayers and leave an offering for the bin collectors. Anything that comes in non-plastic or reusable packaging piques my interest. So I really wanted solid toothpaste and aluminium-bottle mouthwash to work, but I’m aware that a lot of you would be less invested in their success than I was.

Secondly, I thought buying solid toothpaste, aluminium-bottle mouthwash and refillable, non-nylon dental floss would be cheaper than the regular stuff in the long run. It is not. Lots of zero waste toiletries do work out cheaper in the long term (my reusable cotton face pads, safety razor and solid soap have definitely saved me money) but alternative dental products are firstly more expensive than their mainstream counterparts and secondly seem smaller, so they don’t last as long. I am sort of regretting the cash I put down on some pieces, especially after I saw my dentist recently and he confirmed my suspicions that they are, um, not worth it. But we’ll get to that. Let’s start with something I do think is worth swapping!

Dental Floss

I’ve tried a couple of ‘alternative’ dental flosses. I’m currently using the Georganics charcoal dentil floss, made with corn and vegetable wax. I didn’t choose or pay for it initially, as it was a Christmas present, but I like it. It’s nicer to use than a different eco-friendly floss I tried last summer, which was made of corn and candelilla wax. It was uncoated, so it felt less like flossing and more like hauling twine through my teeth. I like the Georganics one though. It comes in a little refillable jar which is quite sweet (and very durable. I’ve dropped it a lot and it hasn’t smashed). I’ve bought refill and although it’s pricey, especially with postage, I think it might last longer than the usual stuff. I haven’t run the numbers though; in a pinch I’d switch back to the mainstream single use plastic versions, knowing that I’ve not bought them when I could.

Oil pulling mouthwash bottle, glass dental floss jar and solid toothpaste jar by Georganics, on a blue blanket.
Really should have photographed these before they got bathroom-y.

Toothpaste

My first foray into zero waste toothpaste was with tooth tabs, last summer. For the uninitiated, they’re little tablets that come in a refillable aluminium tin. They look like mints; their main ingredient is calcium carbonate. There is a slight issue with tooth tabs in that they work when activated by water: you pop one in your mouth, wet your toothbrush and scrub. It doesn’t froth or give you that zingy clean feeling, which on reflection I quite like, but I thought they were okay-ish… until my tin got damp and they all turned to sludge. A non-airtight tin sheltering water-activated products is a bit of a design flaw when that tin lives in a bathroom…

Solid toothpaste, which also uses calcium carbonate, seemed a better bet, so I tried some in January. It resembles toothpaste, right? Except… the first thing I thought of when I opened it was that it reminded me of concrete. It might not remind you of concrete, so don’t let that put you off. But we were not off to an auspicious start. Solid toothpaste works similarly to regular toothpaste: put a pea sized bit on your brush, wet the brush, scrubby scrubby. I thought it would slide out of the jar, like face cream or tube toothpaste, and onto your toothbrush. Maybe I’m doing it wrong (are you supposed to use a spoon?) but it has the consistency of solidified porridge. I sort of scraped it out of the jar and onto the toothbrush. It’s a bit messy, like plaster; I felt a bit like I was scrubbing my gums off.

I saw my dentist a couple of weeks ago and asked if it’s worth persevering with, given the plasteryness and lack of fluoride. Short answer: it isn’t. Apparently the relative amount of plastic in the standard toothpaste tube (which can be recycled in some places) isn’t really worth the swap given that eco-friendly toothpaste’s long term health benefits aren’t clear. Also, I had this crack in my tooth enamel or something, so I have to use fancy toothpaste for a while to stop my mouth exploding in pain every time I drink something cold. Even if I loved the solid toothpaste, toothache treatment has to come before the planet because I can’t do shit for the environment if my teeth have fallen out.

Mouthwash

I couldn’t get on with alternative mouthwash, but that was on me from the get go. I thought I was buying ‘normal’ mouthwash except in an aluminium bottle. It turned out to be ‘oil pulling mouthwash.’ Oil pulling, I have since learnt, is an alternative medicine. My opinions on alternative medicine can be summarised thus:

I made this! By myself! It’s from Tim Minchin’s Storm the Animated Movie, which is a nine minute beat poem about an atheist meeting a hippie at a dinner party.

You’re also supposed to swish for 20 minutes. I know there’s a pandemic on, but I don’t have 20 minutes to to swish. As I said, my dentist explained that there isn’t a lot of info around about long term impacts of these new organic/zero waste/alternative dental products, and he reckons in years to come, people might present with issues. Oil pulling is an ‘ancient practice,’ sure, but so is bloodletting. I’m too vain to risk the quality of my gnashers; the hassle around my braces alone has ensured a lifelong desire to keep these teeth as nice as possible. Also it turns out you can get regular (or more regular?) mouthwash in aluminium bottles, so I might give that a go when I have some extra cash.

In conclusion: continuing with one out of five potential products doesn’t sound great, but I’m glad I tried them all. I imagine their prices will come down as more sustainable brands enter supermarkets, and as the Colgates of the world improve their packaging. I do most of my eco-friendly shopping on Wearth, by the way, they’re a UK-based platform that offers carbon neutral delivery and, if you are so inclined, this referral link (this isn’t a sponsored post; I’m sharing the code from my personal account thing. It has something to do with points). Some of the brands Wearth stocks are selling products that you don’t need if you’re smart about your consumption, or use everyday products for multiple purposes (I don’t need a £23 refillable conditioner when I use olive oil on my hair like the financially-stretched Mediterranean grandma I’m evolving into), but they’re worth checking out. If you have the money to spend experimenting with zero waste toiletries, go for it. If you don’t, don’t feel bad: there are other things you can do to decrease your consumption.

Right, I need a cup of tea. I’m not sure what I’ll be discussing next week: I thought about writing something about Sarah Everard or the royals, but there’s nothing I can say that hasn’t been said more eloquently already. Both those topics are heavy, as well, and I’d like to keep it light for my own mental health. Maybe I’ll do a book post. We’ll see.

Look after yourselves!

Francesca


Here is the rest of the Minimalish series.

Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like. If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers.

On Getting the Covid Vaccine

Morning lovelies. Here is my part two to last week’s mild existential crisis over being offered the Covid jab.

I had the AstraZeneca vaccine on Thursday evening and the process was as smooth as a Hozier song. My ‘hub’ was a church hall with a one way system, a human being offering directions every 20 feet and a wait time of about five minutes. I’m pretty good with vaccinations and blood tests as long as I don’t look at the needle as it goes in (I learnt that the hard way with the cervical cancer vaccine circa 2008), but it still felt like an easy process? One moment I was chatting about hay fever with the nurse, the next she was telling me to take paracetamol if I felt flu-y and pointing to the exit. I’ve spent longer making a cup of tea.

I wasn’t sure what to expect symptoms-wise. I had the flu jab last year and immediately got a dead arm, then spent the next day brain foggy and napping. I’d never had the flu vaccine before but I have had rabies, Japanese encephalitis, Hep A and Hep B for travelling, and something similar happened with those. I think the rabies one knocked me for six, but one day of feeling shitty while my body builds antibodies against a brain disease seems fair. Anyway, the same thing’s happened with Covid: my arm went sore and dead straight away and I spent yesterday in a brain fog, snoozing at regular intervals. I made a cake to feel productive (turns out you’re meant to filter the coffee in coffee cake). This morning I’m still a bit tired and my arm is still sore, but I feel all right. Enough to have another stab at coffee cake with-filter, although I substituted virtually everything and broke the mixer. I promise that would have happened without the vaccine, I am either very successful in the kitchen or a full on celebrity Bake Off nightmare.

To be honest, I’ve been fatigued recently anyway (I fell asleep in an online lecture on Thursday afternoon. Nodded right off. Thank god it was an extra work situation and not a live MS Teams call for college). I’ve also been a bit hay fever-esque for a week or so too (thanks, global warming), and I am a strong proponent of the siesta anyway. So it’s hard to know what’s due to what; I seem to get fatigued and brain foggy with a tiny cold, or if I’ve had more than one day of eating junk food, or if the moon is in Capricorn.

(I do not know if the moon being in Capricorn is a thing.)

So yeah, we’re all good here. Thoroughly recommend the process if you’d prefer a day or two of minor inconvenience to a stint in intensive care or several months of long Covid! If you’re worried about needles, I know my brother has to lie down when he gets vaccinated, because needles make him pass out, so mention that to the staff and they’ll sort you out. If you’re worried about taking the place of someone ‘more vulnerable’ when you’re offered the jab, please try not to. Having had a week to think on it, I’m grateful I can do my part to keep everyone safe and get us out of this hellscape as soon as possible, and I feel a certain responsibility to talk about the process and promote the science as far as I understand it (this WHO page explains how vaccines work with nice graphics and easy language). Coincidentally I read an article about vaccine justification yesterday and anecdotally, people with historic respiratory issues like mine are being offered the vaccine now. The ethics of deciding who should go where on the list is still complex, and I’m not going to flounce around talking about being hashtag blessed when we collectively have so far to go before everyone is safe, but if you get offered this vaccine, please consider taking it.

photograph of Covid AstraZeneca vaccine card on top of package leaflet information
I don’t know if I needed to cover the batch number?!

I promise the next post will be about something more relaxed/less Covid-y. I’ve been working on a blog about my misadventures in zero waste dental products – I promise misadventures is the right word – and I might do some more Read, If You Like posts. I’ve been reading some absolute gems recently! Let me know if there’s anything in particular you’d like to see, or if you’d like more chat about vaccines or suchlike. Or maybe a deep dive into how I managed to ruin a cake mixer?

Look after yourselves!
Francesca


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like. If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers.