The Alongsider Wallet: A Thing of Beauty and a Joy Foraverylongtime

It is seldom that one gets a chance to make a purchase without a single scrap of buyer’s remorse. Is it useful? Yes. Is it beautiful? Yes. (William Morris sits back with a contented sigh.) Is it well-made, from quality materials? Yes. Is it environmentally friendly? Yes. Is it ethical? Yes.

As drawn as I am to the idea of simplicity, there are times when buying something is the sensible thing to do, and one of those times is when your wallet/purse starts literally falling to pieces. I wanted a replacement which was practical, hard-wearing, aesthetically pleasing, and ethical. Happily, it did not take me long to find.

alongsiderext

I bought an Alongsider Wallet from the Loyal Workshop, a freedom business which provides an alternative form of employment for women in Kolkata who want to exit the sex trade. They are given a living wage, health care, education, legal and financial advice, counselling… the list goes on. They are also trained in the production of beautiful leather products (which are, for those of you who are worrying, tanned using the ecologically sensitive vegetable tanning process).

So not only do you get a high-quality product, you also get to support women leaving a hellish life for a life of dignity and independence. Win, win, win.

But to turn to the details of the wallet in question! (Much more beautiful photos than mine are available here.) It’s a largish wallet – definitely not back-pocket material – but contains so much you could even use it as a clutch purse/handbag.

alongsiderintThere’s space for six or more cards, a pocket for coins which looks like it will spill them everywhere – but doesn’t, a thin pocket for notes, and a thicker pocket which could hold a smartphone, or a notebook and pencil, or a slim block of chocolate… the list goes on. All this, without being chunky.

The leather is beautifully smooth in the hands (and it smells amazing). With time and care, the leather will weather and gain the patina of age, but (unlike my old wallet) it won’t start falling apart. And this is why I chose so carefully: this wallet will be with me for a very long time.

For those of you who are all about the aesthetics, the Alongsider Wallet is available in brown and tan, and comes beautifully packaged. Once you get past the protective layers of packaging for transport, there is an elegant buttoned card envelope, which opens to reveal a sheet of black tissue wrapped around the wallet itself.

packaging

For those of you who are not interested in large wallets, the Loyal Workshop also make a smaller, pocket-able wallet, two kinds of satchel (larger and smaller) and two kinds of belt (men’s waists and women’s hips – I am hoping they will add one for women’s waists).

In short, I highly recommend this wallet, particularly for those who want to pair ethics and aesthetics in a product that will last for years and years.

The Surprising History of the Bath

The humble bath is so often overlooked. This useful piece of household equipment just sits there, mostly unused, sometimes even downgraded to a mere surface for shower run-off, and yet, the stories it could tell…

Manuel Domínguez Sánchez - El suicidio de Séneca

A good many people have entered this vale of tears via a bath, since the popularity of water births has increased. One assumes that a warm bath is less of a nasty shock for the new entrant, although presumably they need to be fished out fairly sharpish so they can start breathing in the normal way.

Even more people have departed this vale of tears in the bath. Even overlooking all those who were insufficiently careful with their electrical appliances while bathing.
As it says in Green Eggs and Hamlet,
“To sleep, to dream, now there’s the rub
I could drop a toaster in my tub.”

Winner of the gong for “Most Often Portrayed Dead in His Bath” is Jean-Paul Marat. Marat was assassinated in his tub, which should serve as a warning to all mankind about not giving audiences to young ladies while in the bath, especially when your wife warns you not to!

Joseph Roques - La mort de Marat - 1793

Agamemnon’s wife is said to have murdered him in the bath, although frankly, after sacrificing their daughter, staying away ten years, and then arriving home with his mistress and their children, he had it coming.

Three of the nine women who believed themselves to be married to George Joseph Smith – under a variety of different names – died in their baths shortly after making wills in his favour. The experienced diver who was helping the pathologist figure out howdunnit had a narrow escape too – it took the pathologist and a doctor half an hour to bring her round.

That’s births and deaths, what about marriages? I thought things probably hadn’t got that far (except perhaps in California) until I saw this. Which, now I look into it, appears to be from California. Where anything can and probably does happen.

A Bovine Jacuzzi - geograph.org.uk - 439542

The bath is also a great place for thinking. Archimedes figured out the whole water-displacement-volume thing in his tub time, and then invented a scientific method of stealing someone else’s bathwater: the Archimedes’ Screw. Centuries later, the great Agatha Christie dreamt up plots while lying in the bath and munching apples.

I myself am entirely pro-bath. I have lived in bath-having houses for the last twelve years, and while I have nothing against showers, there is nothing so luxuriously comforting as a hot bath when you come home soaked through on a cold rainy day.

This probably seems all the more luxurious to me as bathtubs did not feature largely in my childhood. When I was very little, we lived in a place where clean water was a rare and treasured thing.

Woman brushing hair and washing face (rbm-QP301M8-1887-496a~8)

We had a little bowl of water to soap up with, and another little bowl to rinse off. Admittedly, I had less surface area back then, but it is actually possible to get clean that way, and it is definitely water-efficient.

Fast-forward a few years and it was bucket showers, with the hot water heated in an enormous black kettle over an open fire. Baths were sometimes had in a large pink plastic bowl, with each member of the family using the bathwater in turn (while Dad read The Lord of the Rings outside the bathroom door). Proper old-school, that was.

I do try to be eco-friendly, which is why I have not made maximal use of the baths available to me for the last decade or so. But I recently realized that two showers take about as much water as one bath. (Seriously, try putting the plug in next time you shower. You will be surprised. Especially if you only have a shower stall…)

A man draws a line in his bath as part of a British Government's drive to encourage the public to ration their use of hot water and conserve fuel supplies during the Second World War. D11080

And then I made my great discovery. Using the water-displacement theories of that great bather of antiquity, Archimedes, one can enjoy a deeper bath without using more water. How, you ask? Add mass, ideally in the form of one’s dearly beloved. The volume of water thus displaced is experienced as greater depth.

Eureka.

I Have A Dream

I have a dream… a great and far-extending dream.

Lincoln Memorial I Have a Dream Marker 2413

I dream of a world where people are not trapped on a consumerist treadmill – either as consumers or consumed. A world where everyone has enough, and no-one is weighed down by too much. A world that values quality above quantity. A world where beauty is seen in individuality, both in people and in things. Standardization is an excellent thing in a cup measure but it is not a measure for humans.

I dream of a world in which people are not trafficked to feed the desires of others, whether for cheap goods, sex, or service. A world where the innate dignity of human-ness is respected. A world where sex is a matter of mutual committed love, not a matter of force or a financial transaction.

I dream of a world where people are not treated as interchangeable units, but valued for their individual talents. A world where the educational systems encourage those talents to flourish, so they can be used for the benefit of all, and not merely the profit of one’s employer. A world where everyone has something to do, and can experience the satisfaction of a job well done. A world where work is a right and a blessing, not an onerous burden or a forlorn hope.

look up

I dream of a world where people are rewarded for the value of their work rather than the prestige of it. A world where people are considered of greater importance than efficiency, profitability and wealth. A world where the economy serves the people, not the other way around. A world where governments act in their people’s best interests, rather than compelling the people to act in their government’s best interests.

A world without corruption. A world where the justice systems provide justice, but are not deaf to mercy; a world where sentences are aimed at restoration and rehabilitation, not at retribution and revenge. A world where laws are simple (and few) enough to be understood by all, and founded on fairness and common-sense, rather than the preferences of powerful lobbies.

A world where there is enough food for everyone, food that is healthy both for the people who eat it, and the land which produces it. A world that is tended like a garden, not hunted down like prey. A world where housing, clothing, and all the necessities and joys of life are produced in ways that harm neither the environment nor the people which produce them, nor those people who eventually use them.

I dream of a world where people do not have to risk their lives to seek a better life for themselves or their children; a world where people in need are not smuggled across borders or turned back with violence, but welcomed with open arms and open hands. I dream of a world where the right to live is not conditional on the acceptance of others.

Ivan Kulikov Dreamer

I dream of a world which experiences the peace which is more than the absence of war; a world where even interpersonal conflicts are handled with grace. A world where people are taught the life skills they really need: how to care for themselves and their families, how to manage their resources well, how to have healthy relationships. A world where communities are stronger than corporations.

I dream of a world where people with mental or physical disabilities are not marginalized, dehumanized, or hidden away; but rather treated as human beings just like the rest of us: different, but the same.

I dream of a world where medical systems are not understaffed, overworked, over-prescribing or over-standardized, but able to treat each person individually, taking the time to help them understand the situation and their options, and to be an active participant in their healing rather than the passive undergoer of standardized treatment.

There is more to this dream than I can say, and people have used many different words to try to sum up different parts of it. Lagom. Environmentally friendly. Fair Trade. Boundaries. Open borders. Restorative justice. Abolition.
But I have one phrase which sums this all up for me: the kingdom of God.

Wickham Market Hoard

The kingdom of God, Jesus said, is like a treasure buried in a field. When a man found it, he sold off everything he had just so he could buy that field, and possess the treasure within it.
And this is a dream that is worth giving up everything for.

I can’t make this dream come true all by myself, I know that. But I can work on the parts of it that are given me to affect, and encourage those who I recognize as working on it too. I really do believe there is nothing more worth doing with the one life given to me.

If something is not worth dying for, it’s not worth living for either, because either way you are giving your life to it.
What dream are you giving your life to?