In praise of the humble bar of soap


When did we fall out of love with the humble bar of soap? Growing up in the 70s I have no memory of liquid soap or shower gel (or showers for that matter, which were generally viewed with suspicion in 1970s Britain). I look at my bathroom now and it is awash with plastic bottles, most of which won’t end up being recycled (despite putting them into the recycling bin). It is an environmental disaster staring us in the face, but is somehow still acceptable. Our children and grandchildren will probably look back on this era with horror and wonder how we could be so blasé.
I have always loved soap, yet have somehow been brainwashed into buying shower gel as it seems more sophisticated. But there is something special about a bar of soap wrapped in old-fashioned paper ( the Italians and French seem to excel in the art of creating beautiful bars of soap). I spent many years buying these lovely soaps as gifts, but the recipients usually smiled politely and put them into a drawer next to the bar I bought them last year. Most people just don’t seem to get soap, but there is something so honest and nostalgic about it. My maternal grandmother used to buy Shield, a sensible and practical soap with a clean and germ- free scent about it. When I smell this soap it instantly brings back happy memories of my grandmother and her lovely welcoming home, where there would be no ‘stuff and nonsense’ but a delicious home cooked meal and plenty of love. My paternal grandmother always used Camay which I am sure she regarded as a cut above ordinary household soap- no home cooking there but Mr Kipling French Fancies which were considered quite an extravagance. My husband always uses Imperial Leather and that soft spicy smell will always remind me of him. My mother has fond memories of Pears soap which reminds her of days as a very young girl, before a more practical soap was introduced ( glycerine soap was considered wasteful as it dissolves too fast). Shower gel just doesn’t seem to create memories or traditions (but perhaps this is because I am from the soap era).
Anyhow, I have decided to re-introduce soap into the house. I want to do something- however small- to reduce the use of plastic and I am excited about trying a variety of everyday and exotic soaps and experimenting with soap dishes. Perhaps soap is really undervalued or I am just a little crazy?


The end of an era

This September thousands of parents are seeing their children leave for University, and I am one of them. After 18 years of my children being at the centre of my world, my eldest has left home. I have such mixed feelings about this and I haven’t decided how to deal with it yet. On the one hand I miss his presence around the house ( he is a ball of energy and fun), on the other this is such an exciting time for him, a whole new adventure and the start of his adult life, and he is loving it. It is right that he has left home and is learning lots of new things. So I have no right to be sad -but I am. A little. So I am going to allow myself a little self-indulgent wallowing, for a limited time, and then I shall dust myself down, organise my ideas, enjoy time with my husband and youngest son, and start some new adventures of my own. The greatest gift we can give our children is to be happy, have our own life and let them live theirs. I am working on it!

6 ways to stop your free time being hijacked when you work part-time


Working part-time has benefits but also many challenges. Often you are not treated with the respect of a full-time employee, or paid as well. Part timers are often overlooked for promotions and annual pay increases in favour of full- time workers. In addition to this, they are often expected to put in extra hours each week answering emails and dealing with problems during their personal time. This can add up to a big percentage of (unpaid) extra work. Increasingly, the work force is made up of a higher proportion of part-time and freelance workers and it is important that we manage our time carefully to ensure that the way we work is understood, respected and fairly compensated. Here are a few tips to help keep your part-time work part-time and not allow it to eat into your personal time and other projects.

1. Set clear expectations

Explain that you are fully committed to role and will give it your all when working. However, this is a part time role and you have other commitments outside these times. Therefore, you will not always be able to respond to email outside of these times. You understand that there will be times when something exceptional happens that needs to be dealt with, but this needs to be the exception, not the rule. Do not make excuses or apologies which imply that the only reason you cannot respond/ do extra work out of hours is because you are busy with something else. You don’t need to justify why you cannot work, unpaid, on a non-workday.

2. Stick to a clear work schedule 90% of the time

If your job is Mondays and Wednesdays, stick to those days and agreed hours. Avoid taking work home and get everything finished up for the week by the end of Wednesday, so it is already to go next Monday. If you work at home for a set number of hours, then keep your work files in a separate space so that you cannot see them during your personal time. This may be an office, allocated space or even a storage box. Keep it our of sight and out of mind when you are not at work.

If it is impossible to get the work done within your agreed hours then you either need to negotiate some additional paid hours, or edit your workload. Putting in a few extra hours every week is not the solution.

3. Be visible

Make sure that people know who you are and what you do. It is easy to be invisible as a part-timer as you will not attend all meetings and simply are not there every day. So make a point of introducing yourself to colleagues and explaining what you do and which days you work.

4. Do not always be contactable

Your boss may need to be trained that you are not on call at any time of the day or night, so unless the issue is urgent, do not respond immediately out of work hours. If you do, you are giving the message that you are always available and happy to be contacted. Successful boss training requires you to be fair, firm and consistent, much like training a puppy. Most employers will try to get more out of you than the agreed hours. That represents good value for them, but not for you.
Ideally have a separate phone number and email account for work, so that it is separate from your private accounts. If it is too late, and you have already given out your personal email and mobile number, then make sure the phone is switched off most of the time, so that you can respond to voicemail at specific times.
Most email providers now allow you to set rules for specific contacts. Set up auto response for messages received from work during evenings or non- work days saying that you will deal with emails when you are back in the office ( if there is an urgent problem then please send a text). This makes it clear that the message has not been looked at yet, so there is no expectation of an immediate reply.

5. Reconnect at home

To reclaim your evenings and family time you could introduce an evening curfew. A set time when all members of the household switch off their phones and tablets and put them in a box. Switch off wifi too – we can all manage a couple of hours every evening without checking social media. This is also a great habit to get children used to (but adults need to join in too!) They may protest initially, but it will actually be a relief for them. It offers an enforced break from the addiction of social media and notifications, with precious time to reconnect with family.

6. Be a joy to work with!

The real challenge here is to do an excellent job, be positive and yet not have your free time hijacked. You certainly don’t want a reputation as a constant complainer. It is a difficult balance to strike and requires you to be an asset to your employer, but not a door mat. Set clear boundaries with your boss, respect your capabilities and your time and others will too. Never apologise for not being available all the time. You do a great job and you deserve to be recognised and rewarded for your contribution.


Photo by Sonja Langford on Unsplash