IMG_1319When I first graduated from university, I was deluded. After three years of partying studying and working in a pub on the side, I was ready to become a young professional. I was ready for the big smoke, the little smoke, whatever smoke would come my way to enable me to earn my own money on a wage that wasn’t paid by the hour. I naively thought that my degree in Anthropology would give me a foot in the door of a full-time professional job, or at the very least a fingernail in the door. An unpaid internship? Forget it. Like hundreds of thousands of other people in the UK, with much more relevant degrees or experience, I was a needle in a haystack, a brick in the wall and the reality crushed me.

I remember writing application after application to every graduate scheme, every entry-level job and every internship I could find. Some of  them were so questionable and jarring to my personality, but “doing something you loved” seemed like a privileged fairy-tale. Yeah right. I didn’t even know what I liked doing. It felt like I didn’t have one single passion that I could turn into a job, and it terrified me. Someone once asked me what I liked doing, and when I replied “recycling, looking after children and going on holiday” they laughed. They said I could maybe open a nursery in the area. Sure, with my giant trust fund of IOU’s.  I remember every rejection email making my stomach knot, the sinking feeling that I might never be able to get a job. That everyone around me was going full steam ahead in their careers or travelling whilst I was on job-seekers allowance (which is pittance by the way). It felt like everyone I went to university with had a parent or a friends’ parent that worked in television, and was glamorously working in studios up and down the country. I was finding it difficult to get a job in a cafe in East Sussex.

I eventually found a weekend job in a shop in Brighton, with the dreamiest manager I could ask for. She was interesting, intelligent a little bit outrageous and most importantly she actually cared about the people she managed. The team I worked with was great, and I soon realised I wasn’t alone in my quest. A colleague of mine who had gone to a prestigious dance school was working lots of days for free as a wardrobe assistant in order to get her lucky break. Another colleague who studied fashion, and was very talented was also struggling to make ends meet and had to depend on her boyfriends’ income whilst she was looking for paid opportunities, for which anyone who works in fashion design knows are scarce. When I finally did get an unpaid internship in London with my income it just wasn’t realistic. There was no way I could afford to move to London. Instead I commuted, and worked at the weekends to enable me to afford the internship. I was working 7 days a week. It ended with me getting what we now call burnt-out, but which back then was called “can’t hack it” , and I got pretty sick and had to finish my internship early.

Of-course, I did find a full-time job, but it took me a long while to get there, and frequent dips into the closest thing I have ever known to depression. I still get the panic when I am “out” of a job, like when one of the companies I worked for went into administration and I was made redundant. Call me a slave to capitalism but I find it terrifying not knowing where my next pay-check will come from. I am incredibly aware that I live in a country where there is a “safety net”, where there are benefits for people who cannot find work. This topic is something I have wanted to write about for a while, because I think it’s not something people often talk about. We are ashamed to say how not having a job can make us feel, the lack of routine or purpose and we seem to forget how long it can take us to find something and how frankly depressing every rejection email is when you spend so long on each application or handing out CV’s to not hear anything.

I don’t have the answers or the step-by-step remedy to coping with unemployment. If this is something you are going through now, my biggest advice to you is to stay calm, and avoid the rabbit hole of social media. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Take breaks in-between applications, and only go for jobs you actually see yourself doing, the interest will show through on your application or interview.  Reach and see what benefits are available in your country, there is no shame in leaning on a benefit scheme for a while and believe me you will have more than paid for it in taxes once you retire or finish with employment. Do some voluntary work to get you out the house. Ask people to read through your CV and take criticism constructively. Go for a walk. Treat yourself to a fancy coffee. Keep going, you’re doing great.

 

 

 

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So, this post is a bit of a life update. I have moved into a new place. And this time there is actually room to swing a small cat. That’s a horrible expression. Enough room to do some jumping jacks. I even have more than two work surfaces people. I have an oven that doesn’t look like it is typically used for camping. I have toilet without a weird ledge, and doors that don’t come off their hinges when you open them. Everything’s coming up Milhouse.

Since living in Amsterdam I have always lived in furnished apartments.  Our new place  is a blank canvas (without furniture) and I am so excited to finally fill it with my own stuff.  The only problem is a slight lack of budget and a determination to not buy everything brand new.  I have been scoping out secondhand markets and “dumping” points to try to reuse, and rescue as much stuff as possible. Sure, there are definitely some pieces I want/ need to buy new. A new mattress, for example was a must for me, but it does feel like in 2019 there have been enough people, enough “first” homes, enough last homes that we now have enough stuff for us all to at least get one secondhand piece of furniture. If you know where to look, there’s so much stuff out there that can be picked up secondhand for cheap or free. I have included a few tips that have really helped me to get some goodies.

Firstly, have a little patience. Figure out exactly what you need; don’t panic and buy everything you see in the showroom at Ikea. Think about what you can definitely find secondhand, or at least scope out what preloved items are out there.

Online:

Check out Facebook.  I have been using Facebook Marketplace for almost everything, and learning a bit of Dutch vocabulary as I go. There are always people looking to sell something in a rush, and you can find some bargains on there. I also use a Facebook group called Amsterdam deelt/geeft (literally Amsterdam sharing and giving) . It is such a great community of people who hate waste, and so you can usually find anything on there from cat food to a King sized bed. I picked up a 4 man tent on there! It can get a bit addictive and you’ve got to be fast. If you don’t have one of these in your area, why don’t you create one?  Check out Marktplaats (Netherlands) or Ebay and change the location settings to see what is available locally. I was big fan of Freecycle when I lived in London.

The Street: 

Do not be ashamed to take something off the street that someone has put out. Most of us are lazy. It’s much easier to put something outside our house in the hope that someone will take it, than it is to take it to a charity shop or sell it.  I have actually had a lot of luck already with rehoming some street treasures. I found our sofa on the street (in perfect condition!) and a couple of chairs that were left near the bins. I gave a good clean and they have become our new dinning chairs. I’ve also found house plants, casserole dishes and frying pans looking for a new home.

There are actually bulky waste collection days in Amsterdam, so you can check out the dates for your area and take a long walk or cycle before the night before to see if there is anything that takes your fancy. You can check out the designated dates here. I am not sure if leaving stuff is a thing yet outside of London, but you can always take a snoop around your local skip.

Secondhand Markets

IJHallen, Amsterdam 

The biggest flea market in Europe, hell yes. Pre-warn the flea market does cost €5 to enter but most things are pretty cheap.Make sure you check out the Oedipus brewery round the corner afterwards.

De Lokatie :

De Lokatie has various locations, I went to the beanch on Distelweg 85.  So far this has been my favourite place to find secondhand pieces, I am talking 40 cent for a wine glass, 3 euros for a saucepan kind of cheap! And the stuff is in great condition. We found some mismatched ugly plates we love (think 70’s flowers) some baking dishes and some other crockery. They also have furniture and clothes, lamps etc. This is a real thrift shop, a place that employs and supports people with a difficult past, and whose aim is to contribute to a more circular economy.

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Van Dijk en Co 

This place is really close to our apartment and is a warehouse full of vintage pieces. Personally, I found it a bit pricey but the place you want to go want some furniture with a vintage edge.

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Neef Louis:

Since you are in the area, cross over the road to have a look around Neef Louis. Very similar to Van Dijk en co, a huge shed of old furniture for a treasure hunt. Don’t forget to have a veggie sausage roll and a slice of apple pie at the lovely cafe in the courtyard. 

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I am a total newbie to buying secondhand furniture, so I am sure I have only scratched the surface. I’d love to hear where you get yours? Do you have any tips to share?

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Belgium has been on my doorstep and on my list of places to visit for over a year now. For some reason, because it was so close it never felt that exciting. How wrong I was. After my first visit to Antwerp I was ready to move in. Belgium people (on average) speak THREE languages. Flemish (basically Dutch) French and English. I just sat there in awe as waitresses would translate into three different languages depending on who would enter the restaurant wondering what I had been doing with my life.  As some of you may know, I have now visited Belgium three times this year, and I see something new every-time.  So far, I have only really seen Ghent and Antwerp. Antwerp has become one of my new favourite places to visit, and we can get there on a train in under two hours from Amsterdam. Gent and Antwerp are very close together, and I truly recommend seeing them both. You can also very easily get to Brugge from Ghent (roughly half an hour train ride). I guarantee we did not even scratch the surface of the treats to be seen in these cities, but here is everywhere we went and recommend.

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Antwerp:

Antwerp is Belgium’s second largest city,  and really stole my heart. It’s a fusion of industry and art. The size of the city juxtaposes with its gezellig (cosy) corners.  My biggest tip is to get on your comfortable shoes and just start walking around. Stop for coffee and beers and explore every avenue.  Once you arrive at the opulent train station (don’t forget to look up at the ceiling) head straight to the cool neighbourhoods like the centre,  the Old Town or Zuid (South) district. We stayed in an Airbnb in the Vrijdagmarkt area.

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To Do:

Panoply Books & Records, secondhand bookstore.

Think Twice, secondhand clothing stores dotted around the city

Melting Pot Kilo, secondhand clothing weighed and priced by the kilo

Plantin- Moretus Museum. Planting and Moretus were two of the first printers on an industrial scale, this museum is all about the printing press and its development throughout Belgium and the world. Imagine a world before printed books and newspapers.

Museum aan de Strom, a warehouse full of interesting exhibitions. There’s a panoramic viewing point to view the city from.

To Eat & Drink:

Frituur Chips: Firstly you’re in Belgium, get yourselves some frittes or as we Brits call them, chips. The best chips I have had in a long time is from this vegan friendly little chip shop tucked away. Giant portions, an excellent playlist including Britney herself, and vegan snacks even a jackfruit Flemish stew.

For coffee, head to Normo  and Tartoer. I am a pretty big coffee lover (six cups a day is fine right?) and these recommendations did not disappoint.

Cafe De Kat, Wolstraat 22: I didn’t see any cats when I was there, but this place is super cosy and quiet with a great selection of Belgium beers, perfect for an afternoon sundowner/ existential crisis.

Bar Ami: We stumbled upon this place after craving Mexican on one of the national holidays when everything was closed and loved it. Great selection of tacos and tomales (including vegan pulled pork tacos) and cocktails/ beers.

Bistro Bar 2, Vrijdagmarkt 19,: This place doesn’t have great Google reviews but we had a very nice lunch here outside. A tad on the pricey side but if the outdoor area at the front is open and its warm it’s a wonderful local square to sit in.  There’s also a cool little vintage shop on this square worth a browse.

Ghent:

Ghent is an incredible medieval town on the water, decorated with little cafes and restaurants. The city centre is also car-free so you can peruse to your heart’s content.

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To Do:

The Design Museum; we were escaping the heat (it was a 35 degree weekend), but this museum was pretty cool. They have a whole floor on sustainable design too!

Take a boat ride; either by kayak or a tourist boat it is a great way to see the city.

Visit the Castle of Counts: the medieval castle is quite difficult to miss and if you don’t want to pay the entrance fee you can have a good look around the outside of the castle instead.

Go to some secondhand markets.  Check what is on during your stay. St Jacobs “prondelmarkt”, “Prinsenhofrommelmarkt” (once a year flea market extravaganza) and the Ajuinlei seoncdhand bookmarkt are some of the most famous markets Ghent has to offer.

Grab some mustard that has a recipe from 1790. Head to Groentenmarkt, to pick up some mustard from Tierenteyn Verlen. This is one of the things we didn’t have time for and I really regret not doing.

To Eat & Drink 

Have a drink in this microbrewery situated on Oudburg 70a, lots of great beers to try including a magnificent sour porter.

Get something sweet at Au Merveilleux de Fred. We actually treated ourselves to a night here on our first visit. The rooms were beautiful, the location perfect and we woke up to the smell (and taste) of freshly baked croissants. What more could you want? If you want to book it seems to only available through booking.com and to pre-warn you need to first enter through the bakery as there is no reception ( you then get a key card for the side door).

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Klokhuys – my parents went here for a traditional Flemish stew and said it was superb!

Have a coffee at Simon Says

Plus+  If you need a healthy lunch spot after those chips head here.

 

Brugge:

If I am being really honest, for me, a couple of hours in Brugge was enough. When I visited Brugge,  it was super crowded and difficult to move and it felt like everywhere for food was really overpriced. The architecture is beautiful, and I am sure some people out there are going to eye roll me for saying this, but I was so looking forward to seeing Brugge , and I felt slightly underwhelmed. I am not great in crowded places though. Don’t take my word for it, go and see it yourself.  To save money, I had a quick box of pasta Pasta Maria. You can easily head here from Ghent, spend a few hours and go back to Ghent afterwards. Walk everywhere and enjoy the sites.

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I know I have a few Belgium readers, so I would love to hear where you would recommend in each cities, leave a comment or send me a message.

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The summer is here. Not quite in the full throttle that it was last year, but the sun, on most days has put his hat on – or at least he is at least considering it.  That means, the protagonist of our summer wardrobes is ready to be dug out of our knicker draw. For better or for worse, the swimsuit season is upon us.

I used to buy a new bikini every year. By the time the summer was over, the constant rewearing of my swimsuit meant that once the days got cooler, my swimsuit had started to sag and discolour. The elastic seemed to be made to last one season. I bought them cheap and then I would toss them in the charity bag or demote the bikini bottoms to period pants.  In my journey to buy well and make it last I have been having a look at longer-lasting good quality swimsuit (none of that 1 pound fish bikini for me thank you Missguided). One that fits well and doesn’t leave me with an “underboob” or a saggy bottom when I am doing my best Pamela impression.  At the moment my swimsuit is a secondhand Boden swimming costume which I bought for 2.50 in a charity shop in Angel a few years ago and I love it, but as it is getting a bit tight (I’m a girl who enjoys her food)  I have the wondering eye for a new swimming costume. Here are my favourite costumes made form recycled materials:

 

Batoko 

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Photo credits: Batoko

A swimming costume made from 100% recycled plastic in fun colours? Yes please. One of Batoko’s designs even has dinosaurs on it. This English brand has a small but brilliant collection of fun costumes. Each of their adult costumes are roughly €50 and come in compostable packaging.

Stay Wild Swim 

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Photo credit @StayWildSwim

 

Founded by Zannna van Dijk and Natalie Glaze, these costumes made from Italian ECONYL® (recycled nylon) are much more classic styles but the type that will last. They are made and produced in London, offer GuppyFriend bags (bags to wash your clothes in to stop micro-plastics going into the water) and even their packaging recycled. Plus they use models that have bodies that actually look like mine, so I am sold. Prices around around €160 per piece.

PURA 

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Photo credit @PURA

All made by hand in Switzerland using  recycled materials and old fishing nets, PURA is definitely the pricier option, but they do donate money to global warming charities with every purchase. For each piece they give you an indication of the type of fabric used and the amount of coverage and support it provides. Prices around €180 per piece.

 

Weekday

 

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Photo credit @Weekday

Okay, so Weekday is a fast fashion brand, but I am also well aware that for the average person (myself included) paying upwards of €100 euros on a swimming costume is not realistic. Fast fashion brands seem to be adopting the use of recycled materials and Weekday has some pretty nice options made of recycled polyester, as does Asos (see below). Just be wary, even if they are sustainable materials fast fashion will usually be making their products by factory workers who do not have good working conditions.

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Photo credit @Asos 

 

 

Mara Hoffman 

 

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Photo Credit Mara Hoffman

 

Freaking cool patterns, made from recycled materials and all made in the USA? Sign me up. I have got my eye on this one as I do love a high waisted bottom.  Prices range from roughly €100 per piece and they do offer international shipping.

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You’ve bossed it on remembering your produce bags. You use your reusable coffee cup religiously, and you cannot remember the last time you bought a plastic bottle of water. Basically, you’ve got your personal sustainability down. It is now time, my friends to take that wonderful green gaze, and turn it towards your work environment.

For everyone, this environment will be different. For some of you, it will be an office, for others it might be a restaurant or a hotel.  Wherever you work (unless it is at Greenpeace) there are always ways to make your work environment a bit more sustainable, and guess what? This will probably have a pretty big impact. Here are some ideas to get your work to move towards the green LED light.

Set up a community. Firstly, you shouldn’t have to do this on your own. There is most probably at least one other person at your work that feels as passionately as you do. You can meet once a week, set up a task force and  share ideas before approaching your manager. It could be a great way to make new friends and shows great initiative (something all interviewers love to ask you).

Start looking at the waste products from your work. This could be anything from leftover food from the canteen, old samples, takeout boxes. Anything you see that is being thrown away, look for an alternative. Can leftovers be donated? Can you offer to take home leftover food from work to prevent food waste? Imagine every possible way to prevent waste, or make the whole business a bit more circular.

Start looking at where you can save the business money. Most businesses will love the idea of save money, and this will usually be the way to get your management to do something. If you can think of a solution to get your work that is more environmentally friendly and saves the company money, what have they got to argue with? Get your numbers in order, even if it’s an estimate. For instance, you pay 15p per takeaway cup wholesale. You ask people to bring their own with a reduction of 10p per coffee. Everybody is a winner.

Look at the energy consumption.  Are lights being switched off when no one is in the building? Monitors? laptops? Is the company burning pointless energy and money? Point it out.  Is the air conditioning on for much longer than it needs to be? Can coworkers put on a jumper before cranking the thermostat? Maybe even a sign or a conversation with the cleaners to remember to switch off all the lights at the end of the day/night can make a huge difference and save the company a significant amount.

Look at the single-use plastics. How can you reduce the plastics? Maybe you work in a bar and you can propose getting rid of plastic straws and cups or swapping them for paper ones. Maybe the restaurant you work in could swap from plastic boxes to card, or the product your company sells comes in way too much packaging that can easily be reduced.  Get creative, every idea is worth exploring.

Unnecessary flights. Business people love to fly. Especially transatlantic. It feels almost like a free holiday. Aviation is costing the planet so much. Whilst face to face meetings are better, there are so many instances where the flight is just not needed. There is such great video conference technology out there. And guess what? This also saves SO much money. Speak to your senior about putting a stricter limit on flights, and especially discuss the numbers. Look into alternative ways of travelling, trains can sometimes be the faster option.

Get your waste management in good order. When I worked at one makeup company in London, there was no recycling at all. I spoke to the manager and as long as I took on the project of ordering bins and the logistics, he was more than happy to oblige. At my current work we have no desk bins (hello 2000 less plastic bags PER DAY) and only one set of bigger bins per floor. It is fantastic. 

Remember, if no one broaches the subject then it is likely things will stay as they are. You might be surprised at how many people are enthused by making their work a little more green, climate change is something that is affecting us all.

How well is your company doing in terms of sustainability? I would love to hear if you have some ideas to share about making the workplace a little greener.

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