March 5, 2014 § 2 Comments
What do books, a CD, a film, potatoes and a legal battle have in common? They are all projects I have invested in.
As with most things digital, I was a latecomer to crowd-funding but it resonated with me for two reasons. First, for all the trappings of the Internet, it is not a new way of funding projects, especially in the Arts. Secondly, crowd-funding allows me to invest in a different type of economy and the kind of society I want to see.
Investment or payment?
In the past 18 months I have supported the production of a documentary film, a CD and two books. As a copy of each book, a CD and cinema tickets will drop though my letterbox at some point, my contributions could simply be called payment with deferred delivery. In some ways they are but in many ways crowd-funding is completely different to wandering into a shop and handing over money, or even pre-ordering an item.
Investing in a crowd-funded project help ideas that appeal to me see the light of day, like Leah Borromeo’s documentary Dirty White Gold, which “follows the thread of our clothing from seed to shop” or Letters to a Beekeeper, a book by Alys Fowler and Steven Benbow. Importantly, crowd-funding allows creators to produce the work they envisage, unconstrained by formats that publishers or producers impose to ‘make the product marketable’.
Take Paul Kingsnorth’s book The Wake. I have just received this beautifully produced book. How many publishers would have paid an advance to allow an author to tell the story of the underground resistance that followed the Norman Conquest, let alone pay him to do so in an invented language that resembles Old English? And how many would have gone to the effort and cost to produce a handsome coptic bound volume?
Supporting the production of a CD not only allows musicians outside the mainstream to share their music. It can also make the difference between an artist being able to pay guest musicians in a timely fashion or having to wait until the CD has been launched and enough copies have been sold. I know that in this day of downloads and streaming, many think music should be available for free or mere pennies. I however prefer a world in which everybody receives a fair and timely wage for their labour. I therefore welcomed the opportunity to support Maz O’Connor’s initiative to finance the production of her second CD This Willowed Light rather than hand over the cover price of the CD to a large corporation.
Investments with edible interest
Whilst some of the investments I have made deliver a fixed return, like a book or CD, others are more speculative.
Potatoes might not sound like an exciting product but the Sarvari Research Trust’s efforts to develop non-GMO, no-spray blight resistant potatoes caught my eye. In 2012 I contributed to a campaign to develop a new variety of Sarpo potato and this year I made a loan so the trust can produce more Sarpo seed potatoes and market them more widely.
In its latest campaign the trust welcomes donations or fixed-term loans, interest on which is partially paid in seed potatoes. When I learnt of this, I knew I wanted to invest by way of a loan but as with any formal transaction, I felt I needed to do some due diligence, especially if I was to encourage others to invest too. Being British, I felt a little awkward about approaching the small not-for-profit association with questions about its business plan and marketing strategy but there was no need. The campaign manager was only too delighted to share more information.
Due to the nature of the Sarvari Trust’s project, I feel considerably more involved in this investment than I ever shall with my pension plan! I enthusiastically read details of its marketing efforts, like last Saturday’s Potato Day, and am excited about every update on its fundraising efforts. The trust has already raised over £33,000 and is looking to get as close to £50,000 as possible by mid March!
My enthusiasm for the Sarpo Potatoes project goes well beyond the interest available on my loan. As much as I look forward to including “x seed potatoes” as income on my tax return, the main reason for investing in this project is a desire to support a business whose product I enjoy and values I support. A business that offers a positive solution to the problem of blight, i.e. seed that delivers a tasty yield in a natural way without adding to soil, water and air pollution.
Speculative but important investments
Then there are the highly speculative but important investment… like supporting Farm Terrace Allotment plot holders engaged in a legal battle to stop their allotments being sold off. Whilst Watford council maintains the sale is necessary to make the new ‘health campus’ more profitable for developers, the majority of the campus will be devoted to housing. There are even doubts about whether the campus will actually include any clinical facilities.**
Rather than being bulldozed by the council and developer, the committed plot holders are challenging the Secretary of State’s decision with a judicial review on the grounds that he did not follow his own policy when approving the sale of the allotment. As a gardener and passionate believer in allotments, I have followed this gutsy campaign closely and when Farm Terrace Allotment plot holders decided to use crowd-funding to cover the legal fees, I was happy to make a contribution. Having been a lawyer, I know that court proceedings are risky but this battle is not just about one site. The campaigners are looking to clarify the only laws we have to protect allotments against councils eager to sell off precious land. In my book, that is a battle worth investing in!
Crowd-funding may not be appropriate for every financial decision or business model but it is a lot of fun and creates a very different connection between you, society and economic activity.
* Photo courtesy of the Sarvari Research Trust.
** If you are in the UK and want to learn more about the legal battle for Farm Terrace Allotment, check out this BBC report (starting at 11.06 minutes).
February 23, 2014 § 1 Comment
Apparently it takes a month to learn a bad habit but three months to instill a good one. The last few years have been a time of habit breaking and making but I have been too focussed on the practicalities and effects of changing habits to worry about counting days, weeks or months. One thing I have learnt is that fun new routines make it a lot easier to break bad habits. The other is that distilling hopeful wishes down to true motivation makes all the difference to whether a new habit sticks or not.
For example, the smell of garlic sizzling in the pan has an uncanny way of waking up my taste buds and tempting me with the suggestion of a dry sherry or drop of wine. On a bad day it takes resolve to ignore them. That was until I moved my runs and workouts to early evening. Not only does my body crave water and food after a sweat-inducing sprint, spinning class or mile on the rowing machine, it physically cannot stomach the acidity of alcohol after a cardio session.
Similarly, whilst I am still very much a night owl, my bedtime has steadily shifted from well past midnight to crawling into bed by 11.30pm. Part of me still loves the idea of squeezing in an extra hour of reading or writing but I definitely feel healthier after an early night and these days, feeling healthy is the main priority!
Routines and systems are also important for galvanising habits into a busy schedule. Writing out a weekly menu and shopping list on Saturday morning directly influences how nutritious our diet is and how little waste we produce. Similarly, whilst I shall never be the tidiest soul on earth, simple, workable systems like a shoe rack and hooks on the back of doors means the house does not look like a permanent bomb site.
In the last couple of weeks I have been particularly conscious of the importance of habits, routines and systems. After a thoroughly enjoyable two-year interlude I have returned to work. My commute is certainly not the worst in the world and the hours are nothing like those I worked in law, but the days are still long and my energy levels are taking a hit.
New routines will inevitably develop to accommodate working life again. I suspect I will have to move mid-week runs to the morning and my blogging to lunchtime if I want to continue to enjoy these non-work activities. And as I am commuting nearly two hours a day, the laundry sequencing and holding patterns will need to be managed even more carefully to ensure a ready supply of clean, dry working clothes that still meet my strict environmental laundry credentials.
Although there is a reschuffle of routines on the horizon, I am definitely falling back on habits and systems to stay true to my priorities and values.
Now I am in the habit of putting (most) things back in their place, I am able to shave minutes off my morning routine, meaning precious extra time with Mr M and Dante before the working day. Thanks to the weekly menu, shopping list and my Sunday bake fest I can make a little efficient cooking serve multiple meals and provide us with plenty of wholesome lunches. As a result we can continue to avoid mayonnaise loaded sandwiches and over-packaged salads with meat or fish of dubious origins. And our system of bins, buckets and miscellaneous receptacles is proving to be a most efficient waste/resource management system, allowing us to limit our black bag waste with minimal effort.
Although adapting to my new reality will doubtless involve a triage of activities and a reassessment of priorities, the lost art of housekeeping will remain a fixture in my life! This does not mean the house will be spotless or that I am ripping up my views on the emancipation of women. Rather, housekeeping is the hub around which my health, ethical and environmental principles revolve (in the same way that home economics is the starting point for my wider musings on a sustainable economy). In this context, habits, routines and systems are hardly the dull processes for living life on autopilot but the pistons and valves of the engine that makes sense of and integrates many of my values.
February 2, 2014 § 5 Comments
Today Mr M and I enjoyed a very leisurely lunch at The Goring. This old-school hotel is our treat venue par excellence as its kitchen excels at modern versions of traditional British food and the subdued setting offers a level of peace and quiet which is rare in London. And as today is our sixth wedding anniversary, it seemed appropriate to head there to celebrate the occasion.
As readers of The Double Life of Mrs M probably know, Mr M is never quite in shot but always present in my meanderings through life. He is the gallant soul who witnesses my antics with a mixture of mirth and generous encouragement. After three years of blogging, however, he deserves a little more limelight. After all, how can I talk about six very happy years of marriage – despite the travails of life – without singing his praises?
So, without further ado, Mr M is the:
- supportive partner who allowed me to spend two and half years in foreign countries to pursue a career;
- compassionate husband who held me gently during the rawness of losing my beloved father and all the months of mourning that followed;
- kind-hearted animal lover who adopted two cats with me; grew attached to Zoë and Dante; helped make the painful decision to let Zoë go when she was terminally ill; and shared my delight when Dante (aka our “special needs” cat) blossomed into a loving mog;
- voice of reason who encouraged me to let go of the “responsible” career to explore areas of interest even though there was no certainty of what opportunities it would bring;
- enthusiastic guest who merrily throws himself into the clan gatherings with my (slightly) eccentric siblings;
- benevolent friend who ignores the squawky notes from my fiddle and congratulates me as I stumble haltingly to the last bar of a song;
- generous host who wholeheartedly welcomes my itinerant friends with a hearty meal and our bar of odd digestifs;
- accomplished foodie with whom I have shared hundreds of tasty home-cooked meals;
- knowledgable music-lover with whom I have sat spellbound in dozens of concerts as the last note lingers in the air;
- excited but slightly-baffled supporter who cheers me on as I drag my body across the finish line and praises my 10K-time as if I have just broken the 4-minute mile;
- optimistic gardener who, like me, considers a harvest of a dozen home-grown potatoes and a handful of kale a real treasure;
- gentle soul, who after six years of marriage, still cares enough about my feelings to not berate me for leaving puddles when I get out of the bath or shower but kindly observes that water runs off me differently than it does off him…
January 18, 2014 § 1 Comment
Last summer I joined a gym. There, I have admitted it. I shall not bore you with how much I agonised over whether I could justify it, not financially – it is a very basic (aka cheap) gym – but from an environmental perspective. Suffice it to say I had a number of specific health objectives and realised that pounding the pavements would not be enough to achieve them.
I quickly discovered that gyms have changed quite a bit since I used them over a decade ago. Back then I would pitched up at a sports centre, pay the class or gym fee and get to work. Nowadays, taking part in any class seems to involve logging onto a website to register for one of the spaces. As someone who has traditionally been very gym/exercise shy, putting a password protected website between someone and their workout strikes me as madness, but it seems to be de rigueur these days.
As soon as I joined, I worked out which classes would support my goals. I avoided anything involving complex routines or co-ordination. Old fashioned circuit training and snoringly dull free weights were about my mark. And as for the spin studio… I knew it offered a high intensity cardiovascular workout but I gave it a very wide berth. After all, I had read about this modern-day torture chamber. How people almost pass out or vomit during such sessions, how they cannot walk for three days and how the saddle can bruise the rear… I was committed and keen but not mad!
By late autumn, with my fitness steadily improving, I started to toy with the idea of trying a spin class. I occasionally got as far as registering for one on the pesky portal, only to get cold feet and de-register with a few hours to go. I was still terrified of that small loud sweaty corner of the gym.
Then over the twelve days of Christmas, as winds and rain lashed the south of England, I could not face another run on the treadmill so I bit the bullet. I registered for and actually attended a spin class.
I walked in sheepishly, fearful of what lay ahead. The instructor talked newcomers through setting up the bike height and then we started peddling. We peddled some more and then started ramping up the resistance. Before long we were out of the saddle, climbing an imaginary hill; then the resistance dropped down and we sprinted down said hill before heading up it again and again… And before I knew it, the class was over.
I had worked up a good sweat but did not find myself in an embarrassing puddle of it. My heart rate had bounced around my anaerobic threshold but no more so than it does during a good tempo run. And as for my backside, it had barely noticed a saddle that was positively comfortable compared to the one on my city-run-around bicycle. I stretched sensibly, as I would after any run, and headed home.
The next few days I expected my muscles to feel leaden but nothing. After all that procrastination and doubt, the only ill effects were two stunningly purple bruises just above my knees from not adjusting the handlebars properly!
Since that first session, I have included a spin class in my weekly routine as it proved to be an invigorating workout that is considerably less soul destroying than a speed session on the treadmill.
My procrastination over spinning is of course much like my fear of an empty page (which I still experience, especially academically) or dread of a blank form. So, buoyed by an invigorating, rather than painful, first spin session, I have sprung into action on some matters that have sat in my in-tray for too long, mostly because they involve internet passwords and electronic forms.
This week I gathered up all necessary information, ploughed my way through the forms on the HMRC website and filed my tax return with a fortnight to spare (rather than my normal hours). I have also dug out a clutch of pension plan statements and am now enquiring about amalgamating these into something a little less trivial and ad hoc. And after Kafkaesque meetings, calls and emails with the English and French branches of the same international bank, I finally have access to both branches’ internet portals and can wrap up outstanding financials issues from my time in Paris. And most importantly, I have started to put pen to paper on my dissertation proposal rather than read yet another scholarly article first…
January 12, 2014 § 7 Comments
The Wartime Wardrobe Challenge is over. Did I make it through the year with my 66 clothing coupons?
At the last count I had spent 42.5 coupons. An additional 15 went on the tops mentioned here.
Body shape could have seriously undone my efforts in the last quarter! Thanks to the miles of pavement pounded I have shed inches and shrunk out of my two pairs of black trousers and denim skirt. By the end of 2013 I was really glad I had not purged all the items in my ‘too small’ pile so I could fill some of the gaps! Of course, I did reward myself for the inch loss with a new purchase (a practical wrap dress in a heavy organic cotton jersey), bringing my total coupon spend to 64.5.
I had got through the year with an attractive, modestly sized but replenished capsule wardrobe, the occasional treat and even a token 1.5 coupons left. And then… by the third week of December another inch had come off my bust and I could no longer pretend my bras offered any support! I dug out an old one – my wedding bra actually – that sort of worked but urgently needed a properly fitting one for my shrinking bosom… And with this my credit turned into a deficit of 1.5 coupons!
Stretching my rations
I eked out my clothes thanks to a mix of patching, dyeing, using up off-cuts of fabric and leftover yarn and in the process avoided 40.5 coupons, but more importantly lots of virgin resources, energy and water.
Darning was already an established habit but last year I became über-diligent about it, fixing elbows and heels before they wore through. I even found myself doing something I had not done since I left school: fixing ladders and holes in my tights and stockings with needle and thread (rather than clear nail varnish).
I also added re-knitting to my repertoire. Self-imposed constraint made me accept that some of my home knits were not really working for my needs or just did not suit me. So I set about unpicking the seams and back of one jumper, re-knitting it to change the design and seaming it up again. As a result it became an autumn staple rather than languishing at the back of the wardrobe. I went further with a cute black cardigan that looked great on paper but not on me. I unravelled it completely and I am currently reusing the yarn, a practice my wartime peers would definitely have recognised.
A question of cost?
Cost is a point I have not touched on to date. Was it (more) expensive to buy “environmentally considerate” and/or ethically made clothes?
As with food, our sense of “expensive” is partially influenced by our benchmarks. If a wardrobe is stocked with fast fashion from Primark, H&M…, it will be more expensive to buy low-impact garments or ones that afford workers across the supply chain a fair wage. If, however, you are used to investing in quality clothes, in many cases the “green/ethical premium” is only a few pounds, if that. In reality, I noticed very little difference in the price of T-shirts and dresses. Knickers, by contrast, worked out more pricey but this was due to them being stitched in London (not Bangladesh or Sri Lanka) rather than their organic cotton content!
Disposable income also determines what we consider to be expensive. As a student living off savings, limited funds certainly helped curb my consumption. Overall I spent just under £463 on clothes in 2013. This may sound like a vast sum to some but I was pleased it was well within the annual clothing budget cited in the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Minimum Income Standard (i.e. just over £515 for a single adult in 2013).
This research organisation has calculated the minimum income needed in the UK to “achieve a socially acceptable standard of living”**, i.e. one that does not just meet our physical needs but also allows us to function as social creatures. JRF focusses on poverty eradication and therefore its report does not address ecological issues. However, as researchers often use expenditure in environmental input/output analyses to determine our carbon (and wider) footprint, I think JRF’s recommendations are a useful guide to finding a happy medium between a life cluttered with unnecessary, resource depleting stuff and a low-impact existence that is so restrictive it is devoid of joy.
For most of us it is completely feasible to limit how many new clothes (or any non-essentials) we buy for twelve months. After all, for many it is a fact of life without the luxury of choice. Making real in-roads in our environmental footprint, however, requires continuous monitoring and tempering of our resource consumption. I therefore intend to stick with rationing in 2014, possibly with a tweak or two, e.g. to reflect the difference between modern and wartime undies.
Buying less (new) stuff is of course only part of the story. Real sustainability also involves ethical considerations, some of which have received increased attention following the Rana Plaza factory collapse. And economic ones.
So, although I shall continue to buy fewer clothes and press retailers for details of their ethical practice (rather than policies), in 2014 I want to dig deeper into the ethics of “not buying” and ponder the economic and human impacts of moving away from the “business as usual” with model, as I doubt this model is sustainable, even with green and ethical tweaks. Of course, these questions will not be limited to garments. After all, my Wartime Wardrobe Challenge was never just about clothes…
* Taken from Make Do and Mend, first published by the Ministry of Information in 1943 and republished by the Imperial War Museum in 2007, p. 50.
** The MIS is based upon input from the public about what money is needed for a “socially acceptable standard of living” and as such reflects what we as a society think we should be aiming at as an acceptable minimum. The MIS currently advocated by the JRF is significantly higher than the income achievable based upon the UK minimum wage. It is actually closer to the voluntary living wage (outside of London).
January 4, 2014 § 1 Comment
It is that time of year when the blogosphere is full of reflections on 2013, lessons learnt, perspectives gained and how these translate into plans and intentions for 2014. December brought a whole new perspective to my life, not in the “Road to Damascus” sense but thanks to giving into ageing – well one aspect at least.
At the start of 2013 my optometrist had issued me with a prescription for reading spectacles. An upgrade of my regular glasses would help me generally, but she felt that after their years of hard labour, my poor eyes needed a bit more help when reading, knitting, darning… Her words were actually along the lines of “you’ve coped very well with your disability” (a bit of an overkill for poor eyesight) but “age takes its toll on us all” (charming!).
Nevertheless, a week later I was clutching two new pairs of glasses. The everyday ones lived on my nose and were so effective that I barely took the reading ones out of my bag. On the few occasions I did, I quickly took them off again. Yes, they enlarged letters, yarn, stitches… but as soon as I looked up, the world swam before my eyes and left me feeling nauseous.
I ignored the “little bit of help” the optometrist had offered for most of the year. By December, however, the lack of natural day light and volume of reading and close work had left my eyes so exhausted that I decided to give the reading specs another try. With a list of jobs to get through before Christmas, I settled down with decent light, popped my reading specs on and worked my way through my list.
Being able to see what I am doing, without peering, is a delight. Knitting, stitching and darning are a breeze now I can actually see what I am doing. And reading is a joy again. In short, I no longer soldier on with adequate general spectacles but actively reach for the correct ones.
So why the difference? Is it just that my eyes have deteriorated in the intervening months and I now really need reading glasses? Maybe, but I think it has more to do with a change in habit.
When I first got the new specs, I carried on as before: rushing around at a (still) ridiculous pace and multitasking as I went. After all, it had been my default setting for decades and involved one of those skills so beloved by employers. Yes, there are times when juggling different tasks is necessary but having to use my reading glasses has forced a change of perspective… and approach.
As switching my optical focus with the wrong glasses on leaves me feeling sick, I cannot chop and change jobs the way I used to. So instead, I work my way through one before moving on to the next and the next… And with it, I have (re)discovered that finishing a task before starting the next is not only considerably less stressful, it is also much more productive. My to-do-lists shrink with amazing efficiency. It is also considerably less exhausting on my eyes, as getting through daily tasks faster leaves more time for relaxing activities that relieve the eyes.
In life some perspectives and habits are gained through hard work or experience that comes with the passing of years. Others, like being able to see properly and not sending myself in a spin with continuous multitasking, can occur by graciously accepting one of the downsides of time passing…
December 28, 2013 § Leave a comment
The year is drawing to a close and with it the Wartime Wardrobe Challenge. There are still many topics and issues that I am mulling over but if I had to sum up the twelve months in a three words it would: research, creativity and pragmatism.
The first two have featured regularly in my posts, from my efforts to patch clothes, dye shoes and even make my own underwear to my research into fibres, production processes and environmental impacts. Practical issues have cropped up occasionally, like my oddly popular post on laundry. Pragmatism, however, has been a silent but significant factor, both in making the most out of fewer things but also in walking a realistic line between being responsible citizen and getting on with life.
Living with a limited wardrobe – whether through self-imposed rationing or out of financial necessity – means focussing on your actual life, rather than a fantasy life or aspirational longings, and it was no different for me.
It started with an honest look at the wardrobe I had (mostly suits from my lawyer days and some clothes I had grown out of but never got round to purging) and the realities of my life and situation. As a student who spends a lot of time gardening, the suits were not overly useful so I packed them away. That pretty much left me living in two pairs of black trousers and a denim skirt, with a few jersey dresses that came out when I was catching up with friends. The balance of the wardrobe was made up of teeshirts and knits, as it has been all my life, bringing me to a key fact of ‘my life’.
As I seem to have permafrost in my veins, my key concern about managing on a limited wardrobe was making sure I had enough clothes that would keep me warm. There would therefore be no point wasting coupons on pretty dresses that I might wear two to three weeks a year. Socks, woolly tights and knitwear may not be aspirational but for me they are essentials!
This pragmatism extended to the make-do jobs too. When resurrecting old dresses for the summer, I prioritised shift dresses that could be worn over a teeshirt and/or with a woolly cardigan in late spring and early autumn. And as running has become a significant part of my routine, investing in a cosy Ronhill* running top for winter morning runs took priority over a new casual skirt.
The issue of materials has cropped up frequently in posts as I mulled over the life cycle of different yarns and fabrics, but there is also a pragmatic consideration: is the material suitable for the day-to-day reality of my life?
Wool is a great insulator so naturally features prominently in my wardrobe, even if it is not without environmental impacts (e.g. methane) or even animal welfare issues (i.e. the mulesing of Merino sheep). When choosing wools for home knits, I have in the first place raided my existing stock and then sought out organic yarns or British ones from small-scale producers so that the environmental and social benefits of supporting traditional, independent players could counteract some of the environmental concerns.
Lycra is a necessary evil so not completely avoidable. Neither are synthetic fibres in running clothes, as any distance runner will tell you. But what about hybrid fibres?
I have to admit that as much as I like organic cotton, Tencel and bamboo also feature in my wardrobe. These fibres are derived from renewable sources (eucalyptus and bamboo respectively) that are chemically treated to break down the cellulose into fibre which is then spun. Like viscose, the process is energy and chemical intensive. Lenzig AG, the Austrian company that developed and produces Tencel, has adopted a closed loop process that recycles and reuses over 95% of the chemicals and water used to minimise ecological damage. The environmental impact of bamboo at production stage, however, varies depending on the process used and the producer in question.
In light of Tencel’s credentials, this fibre quite easily made it into my wardrobe in the shape of a staple long-sleeved black teeshirt from Earth Kind Originals. It pipped the organic cotton contenders to the post for two reasons: one ethical, one supremely practical. First, the founder of the company responded promptly and in detail to my queries about the company’s environmental and ethical practices. Secondly, as it is designed as a yoga top, it is cut long in the body, which means extra warmth in the lower back!
Shape and shade
Bamboo involved a lot more consideration due to its mixed environmental credentials but made it through as an occasional treat because of two key considerations that are unavoidable in a limited wardrobe.
Leaving aside environmental factors, when working with rationing (or a limited budget), long-lasting items are key. This means investing in clothes that fit and suit me well and that are sufficiently timeless to survive fashion trends. In light of these considerations, I treated myself to a bamboo jersey dress from Nancy Dee in a cut and colour that work so well for my shape and colourings that I shall get years of wear out of it. In many ways, it is no surprise that this vintage-inspired dress, with its flattering 6-panel skirt, features in the company’s range. Not only does Nancy Dee produce clothes that transcend seasons, its life cycle considerations are not limited to fibre analysis. Waste is also avoided by careful pattern design, something that featured strongly in British wartime ‘fashion’!
Whilst research and learning have deepened my understanding of the clothing sector and creativity has helped me eke out my wardrobe and add some frivolity, pragmatism has played a key role in navigating the year: from choosing designs, materials and colours to tackling the many grey areas associated with sustainable clothing. A touch of pragmatism was particularly important in making workable choices that felt responsible but also looked… attractive.
For a final coupon update and thoughts on where I go from here, please check back at the start of 2014.
* A fellow Wartime Wardrobe Challenge blogger has been looking into the ethical and environmental credentials of sportswear. Here is her instalment on Ronhill, a British running clothes brand that features in the wardrobe of many distance runners in this country.
** Photo courtesy of Nancy Dee.