Rebel Yell, a word to my younger self

I’ve always been ‘weird’; that’s what my parents and siblings called me growing up. My father told my mother I would ‘calm down’, that the love of good man would quieten me and calm me and make me OK (meaning more feminine), but none of that has happened. 

If anything I have gotten more rebellious as I have gotten older. I have always loved rebellious people, those who jump outside society’s ‘normality’ boxes, those hard lines that define our lives every minute of every day. 

I meet rebels (whether they be quiet grandfathers, old ladies at bus-stops, secret rebels who clothe themselves in the conventional outfit of ‘normal’ life) and they become instant and life-long friends. 

To my younger self I say, life is a bloody roller-coaster but the rebel is still in you, and you’ve gotta live that type of rebel life until the end. 

That rebel life is saying: no, I am not going to accept this or that, I am not going to stop challenging this or that, I am not going to stop being curious and young at heart and determined to make a difference. 

My nine-year-old self wanted to run away and be a gypsy. Decades on, I still want to run away and be a gypsy, and a laptop and social media is my megaphone to the world, so I’ve gotta get this social media thing down, and quit the overwhelm of it all. 



Red Black Slow


I’ve never understood consumerism, the buying and adoration of ‘stuff’. I feel nothing for possessions, except a few favourite bits and pieces – books, prints etc, but I never want to buy much at all.

The above mosaic of photos sums me up. There’s a notebook I bought for myself to write in, wrapped up in lovely paper, then the gorgeous soft cover of it, in red, with a sort of Japanese design; there’s my bike, a soft beautiful mode of transport, perfect for escape into nature, requiring not much looking after at all. There’s a favourite Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel and there’s my bare feet on sand (I’m a barefoot person, always have been, always will be).

The above provides a recipe for a perfect day, complete in all its serenity and anti-consumerist desire.

I want to share my passion for a no-stuff existence more with you as the days and weeks go by because the time is fast approaching when I’m going to be off travelling, living out of a small rucksack with few possessions other than a compact bit of tech, some face cream, lipstick and underwear.

My books will go into storage and it will be just me and my passport and my bag and my tech and curiosity.

A no-stuff life is of paramount importance to me, and so is eating holistically and simply, eating fruits and vegetables and ethically sourced meats from local places, no plastic anywhere to be seen on my person and eating smaller portions and eating more mindfully.

Red Black Slow is my motto, and it’s a motto I apply to my daily life. Red is for passion, Black is a beautiful colour (full of colours in its own right) and Slow is what I want my life to become; slow eating, slow travel, slow experiences (rich experiences). Red and Black to me are the colours of the most beautiful sunset after a calm and serene day, fully focused on the depth of human experience, not focused on stuff, acquisition, consumption and all that crap.

I hope you’ll join me on my travels and I can inspire you to become an anti-consumer. I’d appreciate any tips you have to offer on travelling this way, so please comment below. I’ll always respond.

Jo xx


Positivity as a life sentence

Imagine someone telling you that you had just received a life sentence and a constant state of positivity was the ‘punishment’.

What would you think or do? Well maybe that state of always feeling wildly positive would be alien to you. Maybe your default position every single day is always cautious negative or an ‘oh my god, oh no’ attitude to every little thing.

That used to be my world view, not such much negative, rather tired and anxious about every little thing. If a problem was looming, I would have sleepless nights over it, waking up at 3am in a state of panic, not sleeping again until the dawn broke, hating each day for my inability to navigate life and all its niggling issues.

But I’ve changed. And I’d like to help you change too. By that I mean, not change you as a person but offer you some insights into a calmer existence. Believe me, I’ve been through it all. Here’s a little list: deportation, poverty, single parenthood, debt, custody battles in court, death of loved ones, unemployment, ill health, depression, sexual harassment by others, abuse, near-rape, fear, rejection, powerlessness, voicelessness, chronic exhaustion, despair.

OK, now for the positive stuff.

It might sound like a bit of a Pollyanna way of being, but think of this. Life really is beautiful. Think of nature, of sunsets, of azure blue skies and the ebb and flow of the seas and you’ll know that life is beautiful.

Think of love, the feeling you get when you hug a person dear to you, the endorphin rush, the warmth, the smiles within you, the peace and calm you feel.

Think of tiny successes each and every day; walking an extra half-mile to work, eating more vegetables and fruit during the day, getting a good night’s sleep, seeing a smile on a family member’s face when they are going through a really hard time, keeping to your financial budget, saying to yourself ‘I am going to unplug from the online world tonight and have a long relaxing bath, then go to bed with a good book’ and you achieve that.

These little successes build happiness. Watch it all grow like a flower.

But where to start when you’re facing a seriously huge mountain of problems, a situation I have been in many times in my life. I advise the following:

Revisit your diet. If you’re addicted to sugar and carbohydrates like bread and pasta, try to stop these. Dropping carbs from your diet works miracles, but take responsibility for yourself as I am not a doctor. It works for me, that’s all I can say. Dropping highly processed foods from my diet made me able to see more clearly about things. It doesn’t take long too. Just 24-hours on a non-processed food intake and your mind clears miraculously.

Then, ask yourself a few questions: what is the most important thing to do today that will help this situation? It might be going to the Citizens Advice Bureau or its related help service in whatever country you’re living in, and ask them your rights and if they can help you navigate the storm. They will. The CAB is brilliant at advice. That’s what they do, and you have rights, whatever you might think.

If your problems are more health related, try the food thing or go back to your GP and get some advice. Never go it alone. Speak to a family member or if you have no one special in your life and feel totally alone, contact me here and I’ll listen to you, offer my words of wisdom. Or if you don’t like that idea, go to your local place of spiritual worship, whatever religion you are, even if you’re not religious, women and men of religion can offer free and impartial help to any person, whatever their faith. It’s their duty to help members of the community. I was bought up in a semi-Christian family but I am not religious. However, I have often gone to the local church and spoken to the local minister when things have gotten too much, and they have always helped, always supported me, even though I never attend church and consider myself anti-organised religion, despite knowing that religion helps many people.

Hugs to you all, Jo xx




Go Naranjas – life’s simple pleasures

When stress is getting the better of me I like to focus on the simplest pleasures and how they make me feel. Simple pleasures offer up an ocean of joy. All these simple pleasures are free or extremely low in the pennies and pounds stakes and require no more effort than putting on a pair of shoes.

Here’s my list:-

Hugging a friend or loved one

And I mean really hugging them as though you mean it. Put your arms around their waist and lay your head on their chest and squeeze hard so that your bodies are locked together platonically. You will feel their heart beating and you’ll feel their warmth and for a minute or two you’ll feel this intense joy radiating through you. Make sure you have a good relationship with them and that they don’t mind being hugged – really hugged – by you and that they return the favour and that you don’t mind them doing that.

Writing letters or postcards

Another of my favourites is writing letters and postcards and sending them to special people around the world. OK, so this one costs the price of a postage stamp to their country but it’s a cost that is negligible. It’s wonderful when you get a card or letter back. It’s such a simple pleasure, it takes a little bit of time – the choosing of the card, the thought about what nice words to write and the trip to the post box – but it is immensely worth it.

Being a Plastic-Free person

OK, again this bit costs a little, but not anything above and beyond your daily shopping bill. I use olive oil soap and a lavender soap bar to wash and condition my hair. The Greek olive oil soap and lavender conditioning soap bar last forever and the whole process of washing and conditioning takes a little more time than using the processed rubbish in plastic bottles that are on offer at the supermarket but the whole experience is beautiful. A half an hour of gorgeous me time, a simple pleasure that leaves my hair in a super-soft state. Another simple pleasure – being plastic free – is to buy oranges in nets. I love oranges and love them grouped together in nets. Oranges are my sweet treat. I live off them. They are great for the skin and there’s no plastic packaging involved.

Going Italian

One of my favourite cafes in Edinburgh is the Café Artista in Marchmont, run by the formidable Bruno from Italy and his merry bunch of Italian waiting staff. Whenever I go there I have a super-strong coffee – Italian coffee is in my opinion the only way to go. Italians make the best coffee – and I sit and listen to the quick-fire Italian being spoken. The small cost of a coffee and the ambience and Italian being spoken around me is one of my secret joys. It makes me feel human and loved and very, very happy. Thank you Bruno.

I hope you like my ideas. Please comment with your own thoughts on simple pleasures. I’ll try any (legal) ones you suggest. Much love, Jo xxOranges