Two weeks ago I was quite brave and posted a photo on Instagram with the catchy title of “ask the hippie” I get lots of messages asking me questions not to mention the amount of times I get stopped in the street. I do not really notice how often i get stopped unless i am with my other half or my friends … they are the ones who soon point it out. As promised (even if it a bit later than i had planned) here are the answers. a huge thank you to those who took part.
I guess the best way to tackle these is to put the answers into a time line. So go and grab yourself a cuppa as I welcome you into the world of me
1: “Were you brought up in this lifestyle?” “you seem like such an open, non judgmental and natural person, were you raised that way or is it just the way you are?”
I have wrote and re-wrote this part out several times … I have quite a few life experiences that all play a very important role in shaping the person you see spamming your newsfeed with photos on a daily basis.
My upbringing had a huge role to play in who I am today, born in ’76 I was named after the folk singer Melanie, my mum was an arty hippie type and my dad a long haired rocker. That how ever is about as far as it goes. I have always been a ‘thinker’ was always in my own world never feeling as though I fitted in with those around me. Things were awesome until about the age of 8 when my life experiences started to happen to me that made me the person I am now. I always had ‘ME’ shouting “let me out” but it wasn’t until I was 28 that I decided that I was fed up being unhappy, that i’d had enough of fighting who I was and what I believed just to fit in and do what everyone else thought I should do. Now ten years on and after lots of hard work getting rid of all the ‘life programming’ that happens over time I can honestly say I have never been happier with the person I am today.
2: “how long have you had your dreads?” “what do you do with them, what do you wash them with etc?” “what is your favourite style to have them in?”
My dread journey started 9 years ago, it was the true start of being who I wanted to be as my love for dreads started at an early age. I often get asked “what method did you use?” the truth is there isn’t one method and at the time I wasn’t really aware of the many different methods there seems to be. I did get lots of different information from different people who had dreads already and found the mass amount of information quite daunting. I banded them off into the sections and basically just left them. There was occasion where i would back comb them and if they were fuzzy put a bit of dread gel onto them, but this wasn’t anything like the wax people use as I personally didn’t like the feel of the dreads. I washed them and still wash them several times a week in the summer and maybe once a week in the winter, always using either body shop or lush products. lush is my favourite though as i find the action of using a shampoo bar helps with the felting process …. I am not sure if felting is the correct term, I guess that is the crafter in me, but they feel felted so it is a term I like. As for style … they are either up or down, nothing really fancy or time consuming, sometimes they are up in an actual pony tail or in one of those that looks like you were trying to do a pony tail and couldn’t be bothered to pull all of the hair through properly. It then gets left to fall out a dread or a time or in one slow droopy movement over the day. As it has grown though my tendency to wear them up has become more common, especially in the summer as it feels very much like I have a wooly hat on all of the time, bed time isn’t much fun now they are linger either although you do soon get use to sleeping with your hair up in a pineapple or drooped over the back of your pillow. They get trapped in every thing, I sit or lean on them and others can also trap me when they sit or lay next to me. Believe it or not people also ask how long it takes me to do my hair every day!!! so to those who do think I dread my hair every morning my simple reply to you is Noooooooooooooooooooo. It takes a lot of time (mine took well over a year) to get them looking how mine look now, unless you get them put in by someone else of course. For me dreads are tribal, echoing back to the time my ancestors walked the earth, they make me feel more connected to them which is important to my spirituality.
3: “When did you first go barefoot?” “what does it feel like going barefoot down a normal city street?” “Do people notice?” “what reaction do you get?” “do you get asked to leave shops etc if you are barefoot? i’ve always wondered if there is a legal aspect around it”
I have always loved being barefoot but didn’t decide to be a full time barefooter until two years ago. Up until that point it had mainly been just a case of doing it around the home or just taking my shoes off once i had got to the park. Now i only put something on my feet if they get cold, If it is snowy/ I am out for a long time in the frost or when I explore abandoned buildings and other places I am not familiar to. The laws as they stand and despite what I get told my shop owners is that it is not illegal to walk in public or go in public places barefoot. I do get asked to leave some places which they are legally allowed to do as they mainly do it to cover their asses just incase you stand on something in their shop and take them to court. Most places will accept a disclaimer and I am in the process of getting lots of pre-emptive cards made so they can be handed to their HR department there and then by a member of staff. This is a massive problem to barefooters, staff often blame health and safety or hygiene laws as their reason for not allowing you there. This doesn’t stand up to reason as if there were such laws then they would have to monitor everyone’s footwear for safety before entering. I have seen more accidents involving high heels and flip flops that I care to mention. As for the hygiene aspect, my feet get washed several times a day, how many people clean their shoes, buggy wheels or shopping trolls wheels that often, if at all? I do get asked “why” lots. It isn’t part of my religion or the fact I am a ‘hippie’ either. The short of it is because I want to. The longer part is that it helps with my circulation meaning I do not feel the cold half as much as I use to when wearing shoes … or as it use to be …. when I wore several pairs of socks and shoes while still having cold feet. The other reason is that I adore the connection I feel with the earth on a daily basis. Towns and cities are quite nice to walk around, usually because of good paving, you do have to keep more of an eye out for class etc being barefoot and I can honestly say my feet have been hurt more on the beach on a day trip than the whole two years in your every day setting.
Now the subject of people noticing and their reactions are some what of a mix bag of stories, a bag that gets added to every single time I go out whether in town, country parks or just down to my local shops. You would think that people would of been use to me by now but then you would think wrong. I get spat on/at quite often, mainly when i am just on my own because groups of those type of people are only ‘brave’ enough when there are more than one of them. I do see the same people on their own and needless to say they walk quite quickly and look at the floor a lot. people are also under the impression that it was a mistake on my part and remind me by saying “excuse me luv do ya know you’ve got no shoes on?” I will fully admit to sometimes expressing my surprise at this fact as though they have just been pinched. I get shouted at a lot with things such as “put some shoes on” “you have no shoes” “whats the matter, can’t afford shoes?” “freak” “tramp” “scum” followed by hysterical laughter on their part. Kids are brilliant, their parents do not appreciate their open honesty with questions, which I respectfully answer always followed by “and because I am a grown up can decide for myself” as I am sure their parents do not want to have the “but that lady doesn’t have to wear shoes” answer when trying to persuade their children to wear shoes when they really don’t want to and point out that my son is wearing shoes. He doesn’t appreciate the attention that comes my way and so if he comes anywhere with me does the ‘typical teenage boy out with mum’ walking distance only just a little further, especially when they talk behind my back, snigger and point me out to their friends. I do have very good ‘mum’ hearing which they tend not to be too keen on, so if you are rude to me and I hear you expect me to look you right in the eye and answer your question or point out that “no i’m not wearing shoes I don’t unless it snows. If you have any more questions feel free to ask rather than being rude” or something along those lines. I’ve only had to fully put up with someone getting in my face a few times, then the lioness kicks in and I roar back. This is my every day experience of being out in the are where I have lived all my life. My house is covered in egg stains and some of the people I love around do not like my life style at all. I have even been reported to the police, social services and the council all based on their presumptions made my idleness gossip fuelled by judgments. Needless to say I want to move to a place where my and my family will be accepted into the community for who we are rather than us changing to fit in with them, which has been my advice off lots of people because apparently it is my own fault.
This brings me onto the last set of questions.
4: “Have you always lived ‘alternatively?” “How do you get by with the hippie lifestyle in modern day life? like helping the planet and all that?” “what are the ways we can all introduce a little hippie way of life into our lives? Do you have any tips for a beginner gardener who’d like to grow their own food some day but currently doesn’t have a lot of time spare?” “what natural body products do you use?”
The term hippie has many different meanings depending on your country and own beliefs, some do not class me as a hippie, so do. I refeer to myself as a hippie because I find it quite a nice term and my other half calls it me, I am “his hippie” and that to me is lovely. I have always lived an alternative lifestyle of sorts. Growing as much of our own food as we can and has always been the only way I know. It amuses me that It is making a come back and people think I am being fashionable,but with the strong influence from my grandparents who were of the ‘make do and mend’ WW2 generation it has always been my instinct. Any tips I have for beginner gardeners would be to start growing veg that you really like and start in containers, with decent compost and drainage all they will need is your time watering them as you do not have to spend hours weeding when they are not in the ground. They also make slug and snail battles easier as you can use copper tape around the container itself. I do not use any ‘pest killers’ and this year have been losing the battle against slugs, snails and the blooming foxes. As for the rest of my lifestyle …. my other half say’s I can be a pain in the bum. There are companies, shops etc that I will not use for ethical reasons and this can mean taking hours to research companies policies etc but it is made a little easier with such books as The Good Shopping Guide (there is even an app for that) and is published by The ethical Company Organisation with help from Friends of the Earth. Ethics are an odd thing and the trick is to find out where you stand on certain things and realise the difference between ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ …. I also do not mind paying more for ethical items. I will pay £20+ on a t-shirt where the workers have been paid a livable wage, (by workers the cotton pickers are included in that) have a ‘decent’ work environment and are treated in a way that I would be expected. No I do not have the money to do this often but for me the thought of spending £5 on a new top is a complete no go. That £5 has to give the shop profit, and pay the workers all the way down the line … cotton growers, cotton pickers, transport to the cotton ‘factory’ then all the work required to turn the fabric into garments and then for them to be transported to this country. £5 doesn’t go very far when you think about it and if thought about too much I cry, lots. I mainly shop in second hand shops anyway, that way I can actually get things I need and my money goes to help different charities. I do not stop there though, every single company I have boycotted has received a letter from me telling them exactly why they are not getting my money, if they bring out an ethical range I will buy a piece and write to them expressing my thanks for making an effort and that I hope it continues. If a company uses one of those lovely ‘tax relief schemes’ then I do not use them. Yes folks that’s no Starbucks, no Amazon and if I was to continue the list of places I do not shop or companies I do not use we would be here for a very long time. I shop local, from shops, buy British and English made when ever I can. If I can not find what I’m looking for then I do not go online!! I will do my best to ask a local business if they can get the item for me and do not mind if it costs me a little extra or I simply go without. The death of the high street seriously upsets me. So you can’t find what you want …. that is a want .. you are not going to die if you do not have it, the kids are not going to be neglected if they do not have that ‘must have’ toy.
This is of course how I see it, If our high streets go so does our local economy, the knock on effect is huge and is it really worth it just so you can get as much stuff as you can for a little cost to you as possible? No local shops means no local jobs which of course means more people having to turn to the government for help just to live hand to mouth and there isn’t as much money going into the system to support them because the big companies you buy from online do not pay the right amount of tax. Local authorities get cut backs in funding from the government so they have to charge more for services or simply cut them. Business rates and rents are going through the roof which then impacts on the prices those shops have to charge meaning many go online to get the things they want cheeper. While we are on this subject some of you may be thinking “but you sell online” or “I have seen that lovely dress you got off Lisa ….. that was online” I do try and not be hypocritical and since having my own business selling things have found that I can not afford to open a shop, neither can lots of other small businesses in this country and how are they going to be able to get their own premises? buy earning more money and the only way they can do that is if they are supported. So when I say “I do not buy online” the truth is “If I buy online it is only from small independent British businesses and usually from those I consider my friends”
Upcycling and recycling are huge buzz words as is ‘shabby chic’ these phrases amuse me a great deal. To me this is what you do when you are poor, this is what we are and what we have always done out of need rather than because its fashionable. My house is full of skip finds, street finds and other things that people simply didn’t want and were gifted to me or things picked up from second hand shops. This of course means less going into landfill. I did the same with highchairs, pushchairs etc I could do with Kirsty ‘moneybags’ Alsop team to come in and sort it all out for me. She is a great business woman and the ‘moneybags’ part is mainly fuelled by my grrrrrrr towards those who make second hand goods fashionable which drives up the cost for those who can not afford to buy new in the first place…… everything is linked and this is by no means a lecture, I am not going to stop being your friend or think less of you if you buy a kitkat and eat it while reading a book from amazon and sipping on your starbucks. You see If I want others to accept me and my choices then it is a two way street and I must accept that others have a different way of doing things. My other half is NOTHING like me, most of my friends are also nothing like me but that is ok too. I do not push my own lifestyle choices on anyone else the same as I will not have anyone push their lifestyle choices on me. I pretty much live a ‘by need’ lifestyle
Oh another thing I do …. I eat seasonal …. yes I only buy local and British with food too. We make our own food from scratch so the new ‘clean eating’ phase isn’t actually new, it is very old in fact. Nature provides us with the nutrients we needs at the right time of year, who cares if you gain a little bit more in the winter … we need it because it is colder. I do not have the heating on until we really really need it (usually when I am up to 9 layers of clothing) because the thought of using gas upsets me even though the energy company I am with is very ethical gas just isn’t sustainable to I use mainly electrical items because this is generated from sustainable sources. We also use alternative heat sources that cost much less, like terracotta pot heaters, try and stay away from using things made from plastic and anything else’s gets offset at the end of the year. You can get online calculators to check your impact on the earth and they offer you ways of offsetting that to balance it out. I plant a lot of trees too lol and am constantly making an effort to limit my footprint on the worlds resources.
I even think about my impact from every day use, toilet roll, you do not need your ass to be wiped by some thick quilted tissue made from trees that leaves it smelling like lavender you just want it to. I am also a Mooncup user …. brilliant things once you get over any “ewwwww” factor. It is all about questioning those “I can’t” thoughts. I do make my own body products when I have the time, same as cleaning products but do also use natural ones you can buy in the shops. My local health food shop is awesome and stock a large range of products, but you can also but them from lush, other local companies, The Body Shop etc but you do have to research which takes time.
As I have said before I am often called a pain in the ass, mainly by those who can not see why I would rather go without than go against my beliefs. I often go “Ooooooooooh that’s pretty” then look to see where it is made and put it down again. Or if the choice is between something taking a little more hard work and effort over convenience then I stay away from the latter as it usually costs more, not just cash wise but also at a cost to others or the earth.
I hope everything has been covered, if not I am sure you will let me know …. and I do not mind. I also hope that I have not come across preachy that isn’t my intent, they are just the ways that I live. If you want to take any of them on yourself then that is your choice.