This blog entry was perhaps as inevitable as Christmas itself.  Love it or loathe it, you certainly can’t avoid it!  I confess right here and now to being a Christmas lover.  It was always made into a special celebration at home, and even now, with my parents in their late 70’s and 80’s , they still go to town.  My dad is like a big kid, and his enthusiasm is infectious!  I like a lot of the Christmas traditions, and especially those of a foodie nature.

I am not a proponent of the more commercial aspects of Christmas – we spend billions each year on presents and consumables, much of which ends up in the bin or on the scrap heap- but I am sane enough to acknowledge that the money spending/making machine is unstoppable, especially when some retailers make 30% of their sales at this time of year.  There is no ‘getting back to’ some half-imagined fairytale of ‘how it used to be’.  I do believe there are alternatives however, to the credit card debt and misery that is Christmas for many families.  It is possible to take control and make choices that temper the lunacy and make the season a touch better for everyone.

Working in mental health, I am perhaps more aware than most how stressful and isolating this time of year can be for many people.  A large proportion of people with mental health issues struggle to cope.  People who manage admirably most of the year can become ground down and deluged by the relentless pressure to buy, socialise and generally conform.  If you find engaging socially difficult, then Christmas can be exceptionally hard.  If you don’t have a family, or one you get on with, or a good social network, you can feel more isolated at this time of year, and a lot of people succumb to depression or relapse at a time when there are few services available.

The Samaritans charity expects to receive over 190,000 calls this Christmas, and there are many who are lonely or not coping who are unlikely to pick up the phone.  For the elderly and those struggling with addiction Christmas can be equally difficult, and many people will simply batten down the hatches and ride out the storm until after new year.

With many families buying more food than they need, and then throwing it away, one big way of making a difference would be to invite someone who is on their own around for Christmas dinner.  There is bound to be someone in your community if you look.  If your not accustomed to entertaining ‘strangers’ it can seem a bit daunting, but in my experience it can be rewarding.  As a youngster at home I always remember a proliferation of waifs and strays from friends who had no families, elderly people on their own, and even the local park keeper.  My parents would draw the line at the local ‘vagrant’ community, but I do remember my mum taking parcels and meals to an odd collection of those on their own.  It added another dimension to Christmas, especially as we were a small family and as children we had no grandparents.  Older people can be very interesting to talk to.

If you don’t feel you can invite someone into you home for a few hours to share a meal, then sparing an hour or two to visit someone or take a Christmas lunch around could still be the highlight of someone’s day.  There are also organised lunch events in some communities, run by voluntary organisations, where you can offer to help out.  These events are hard work, but also a lot of fun.  They bring a bit of belonging, as well as a hot meal, to people who would otherwise be on their own. A little bit of thought can bring a lot of happiness.

I love Christmas, I can’t help it!  I like the cold and, where I live, the probability of snow.  I like the short days for a while.  Into this cold dark season Christmas is a pinpoint of light and hope, whatever your beliefs or lack of.  The mid-winter festival that the Christian feast was tacked onto was something for people to look forward to to brighten the dark drear days of winter and point to the lighter brighter days to come.  With a slight adjustment of focus: less concentration on the material aspects of Christmas, and more investment in the ‘soul’ of the season, we might uncover a healthier happier kind of Christmas with less debt, less waste, and a tiny bit more joy for a few more people.


Merry Christmas!




bio D Ethical, Earth friendly Cleaning

Anyone who knows me will be aware that I am not a proponent of chemical cleaning products.  I tend to use natural cleaning ingredients where possible, and if I do use a proprietary product then I like it to have as few ingredients as possible, and none at all  that are going to do harm to the planet.

Bio-D household products have been something of a revelation.  I trialled the range of products over a couple of months, using each item in place of my normal brands, and in some cases where I don’t currently use a brand.  At an aesthetic level, I like the branding: simple containers with no fancy packaging in useful sizes.  The packaging is recyclable and made with a proportion of recycled materials. For example, the laundry liquid comes in a cardboard box and the dishwasher cleaner is in powdered form, rather than tablet, so no extra wrappings.

The company’s philosophy is to produce ‘products that don’t cost the earth’ in all senses of the phrase.  The whole range is natural and biodegradable, ethically sound and with minimal environmental impact, so certainly something you can use with a clear
conscience.   According to their ‘blurb’ they are also a UK based, family-owned company.

A lot of companies are trying to climb aboard the ‘green’ bandwagon and simply re-branding or changing the advertising angle without any real attempt to clean up the more damaging chemical contents of their products (no pun intended).  Bio-D seems to be different.  Most of the cleaners have a handful of ingredients – spelt out in longhand rather than chemical numbers-
and most of them are things you would recognise like water, vinegar, orange oiland vegetable glycerine.

All very sound, but the big question is do they work?  In short, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’!  I was sceptical; I invariably am, but having tried each product I am converted!   The bathroom was my first target (I loathe cleaning the bathroom).  The bathroom cleaner seemed like the obvious choice! The instructions are to spray, leave 30 seconds and then wipe with a damp cloth.  No scrubbing involved.  I didn’t think this was very likely given the state of my soapy sink, but I followed the instructions and 30 seconds later without any effort I had a clean and shiny, stain-free sink.  Amazing! The toilet cleaner is a delight too –not adjectives I generally employ with toilet cleaners, in fact, any cleaners – if you follow the instructions.  Squirt down the loo and leave overnight; in the morning scoosh around with a loo brush and hey presto, gleaming, stain-free toilet!  I thought this might all be a bit too good to be true and decided to try the glass cleaner on the shower screen. OK, so you have to use a little elbow power to remove the smears, but actually the shower screen was fairly grotty with soap spray at the time, and it too came up sparkling without too much effort.  It also seems to need less frequent cleaning when I use this product as the soap stains don’t adhere as much.

Onto the kitchen: the multi surface cleaner works as well as the bathroom cleaner, and in fact I wonder about the need for both, as I think the multi-surface would do a good job anywhere. It certainly tackled the counter tops, the hob and the kitchen floor  fairly effortlessly, and my kitchen is no model kitchen as friends and family will attest!  I don’t tend to use disinfectant because of the harm it can do to aquatics, but the Bio-D disinfectant is a product you can use without worrying.  It’s a good general purpose disinfectant utilising the powers of eucalyptus.

The dishwasher powder and rinse aid did a creditable job with the dishes, at least as well as my current brand, although there was sometimes a reside left; on a positive note, any residue of food etc. seems to come off easily rather than be baked on hard, which is curious, but welcome.  The washing up liquid is concentrated and you only need a couple of drips for a whole bowl of dish cleaning power.  No residue and no need to rinse.  As a bonus the products have been allergy tested, so no red irritated hand either.

On the laundry front, the bleach, washing liquid and conditioner all perform as well as my current brands on a range of temperatures.  I must admit I’m not a fan of washing powder and haven’t got around to trying it yet, but I probably will  give it a go.

The polish leaves a nice shine on wood, without any nasty coating, and you barely need to use any at all.  This seem to be the case with most of the products where a little goes a long way meaning much better value all round.

I have not been paid to write this review, although I did get to try the products out.  I am not prone to praising cleaning products, but I genuinely feel that this is an effective and good value range, which you can trust to carry out the full array of cleaning across the household.  As Bio-D state, “you have nothing to lose, the earth has everything to gain”.