One of my favourite programmes ever is The Good Life: Tom & Barbara, going off-grid in suburbia. I always wanted to be Barbara, but the furthest I ever got was; a) buying some oversized specs, and b) moving to Somerset.
Of course, The Good Life ethos is de-rigueur now. The zeitgeist has been drifting that way; we’ve all been switching to organic, zealously recycling and thinking twice before binning stuff. I often have pangs of eco-guilt, as, until Anya Hindmarch launched her ‘I’m Not a Plastic Bag’ Tote in 2007, I had little clue that plastic, generally, was bad. I shudder to think of the landfill caused by my first 30 years on earth.
I grew up in Guildford, on-grid. My parents shopped at Tesco, but they had The Good Life tendencies. For instance, they always filled up the soap dispenser from a giant refill, never buying a new dispenser. And, when my school tights laddered, I was taught to cut the bad leg off and wear two good legs together (double gusset and all). I wondered why we couldn’t just pop to Boots and buy new soap and tights.
My mum still has my 80s Sony ghetto blaster which she fished out of a bin; I threw it away as the cassette player didn’t work…. 28 years on the radio still works ‘just fine.’
My dad’s most ‘Tom-like’ moment was when he bought an old green Renault 12 as the new family car… from a farmer who had kept chickens in it. It was so uncool! Also uncool was the fact that we never flew as a family, anywhere. We got ferries to France instead.
But of course, now those things are cool. Not flying. Filling up soap dispensers with refills. Re-using and re-purposing old things. So is growing your own and being self-sufficient; last summer, friends’ BBQs included their tasty garden produce and one even featured sausages made from their own pig. Now, Lockdown has upped the anti; everyone I know seems to be planting veg, keeping chickens or making kombucha.
I’m happy for everyone managing to do this, but for a girl from suburbia, with three kids and a business, I’ve been having pangs of ‘Eco Status Anxiety’ – the feeling that I’m not fulfilling my eco potential, like ‘everyone else.’ Tragic huh? So, I set a lockdown goal of creating a kitchen garden, but it failed to materialise. Kindly, a gardener friend stepped in and planted the patch for me.
Now, I couldn’t be prouder of the neat rows of veg and herbs, then if I’d done it myself, because I realised that I can only do so much. Eco anxiety is just another stick to beat ourselves with. We can only do our best. The planet isn’t going to die today if we put the tumble dryer on instead of hanging out the washing. The Good Life ethos should be something to ease into our Real Life as best we can, one step at a time… not something to feel overly-guilty about or (covertly, subconsciously) compete over.
I get weekly fruit & veg boxes, so I avoid overpackaged goods from the supermarket, but I still buy some things in local shops that have somewhat dubious packaging (can you recycle crisp packets?). And instead of stressing about not baking bread or making kombucha, I’ve decided to admire (and lean on) people that do!
The other day, a friend hand-delivered a warm baguette, on his bike, wearing a Breton top. My husband is making enough houmous to keep the chickpea industry in business. And, my parents both fix things on my behalf, my mum does clothes and my dad, everything else.
For me The Good Life is now about appreciating the small wins and in-roads I can easily make and congratulating myself for small changes – for instance I finally refill my own soap, and even my laundry bottles, too.
I’m settling to be Good Life… ish. Barbara would approve, I’m sure. And Mum and dad… sorry I doubted. Turns out you are cool, after all.
This blog was originally posted on SelfishMother.com by Molly Gunn.