Community spirit

Ivy house front bar

Front bar. Copyright Kate McGinlay

The Ivy House in Nunhead is a pub like no other. Offering yoga classes, Irish music sessions, gigs, kids’ discos, experimental cinema and a farmers market, ‘London’s first cooperatively owned public house’ is as much a community hall as a drinking den.

Which is not to say the pub has lost its boozy character since being taken over by the locals in 2013. A row of wisecracking ageing geezers can still be found lined up on the stools in the front bar, which offsets all those nice young middle-class newbies drinking Fentimans as they do their knitting and the like.

I went there one wet Monday to ask the pub’s affable head of entertainment, Hugo Simms, why this pub is so different. It was a quiet night – maybe 20 punters were in – but the atmosphere was congenial, enhanced by a folky girl who was singing at her table for two beardy boys sat either side of her. Continue reading

The milk of human kindness

Copyright David Savva

Copyright David Savva

When I started this blog, a friend asked me to find out why Rachel’s was at the bottom of Ethical Consumer (EC) magazine’s milk league table, below even dairies supplying supermarkets’ own-brand milk. At last I have an answer for you, DM. It’s tainted by association with Nestlé (notorious for its pushing of milk formula onto mothers in developing countries). Groupe Lactalis, the French company that took over Rachel’s in 2010, has a partnership with the villainous multinational. Continue reading

Bagging rights

Like shoes, handbags are presented in the media as objects so desirable that they fill women with a vampiric lust to possess. Surely it is understandable, then, that moral questions such as ‘Is it ok for a reptile to be skinned alive when the resulting personal receptacle looks so delicious?’ can be overlooked. (For more gruesome details on the leather industry, see Peta or the Vegetarian Society.)

However, ever in pursuit of a third way between rampant consumerism and thoughtful living, I have found ethical brands that produce high-quality canvas or faux-leather bags (Matt & Nat’s Moxy, pictured above, for instance). Continue reading

Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Robert Pirsig’s mind-bending cult book is as relevant today as when it was first published in the countercultural 1970s.

Zen is both an autobiographical account of one man and his son taking a roadtrip across the States and a profound philosophical enquiry. The author interweaves these strands by using the pair’s pitstops – for rest, burgers and motorcycle maintenance – as segues into intellectual musings and flashbacks to his former life as an academic. The narrative passages in between providing breathing space as well as an exemplar of how his lofty ideas might apply to the real world.

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These boots are made for vegetarians

vegetarian boots melissa protection
Think of two words that conjure sheer unbridled sexiness. Ryan Gosling may come to mind but ‘vegetarian shoes’ most certainly won’t – for decades I associated the concept with rigid, DM-like footwear, as displayed in the Brighton store Vegetarian Shoes in the 1990s, but how things have changed. The latter now has appealing styles such as a mid-heeled brogue and uses 12 types of leather alternative for its uppers, some of which age gracefully like the real thing; while label whores can avail themselves of Stella McCartney’s designs for her own brand and Adidas, or Vivienne Westwood and Karl Lagerfeld’s jelly shoes for cult Brazilian make Melissa. If you don’t think plastic’s fantastic, British companies Beyond Skin and sell fashionable shoes that could pass for leather – the footwear equivalent of Quorn, if you will.

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