Welcome! Honest Lies is the personal site of a 26 year old graduate electrical engineer living in the UK. Covering every day life, books and various other randomness. Read more about me and the site here.

The One Where I Nearly Ruin my Landlords Bathroom

i.e. the one where I attempt to dye my hair for the first time ever. With henna.

Left: the day after dying (Monday), Right: two days after dying (Tuesday)

Sunday 3rd May 2020, Around 6.30pm

For my whole life, my hair has been the same color. And the same style. As I have eczema on my scalp I have to be super careful about what products I use on my hair, and I avoid going to the hairdresser’s. But I have always been fascinated about dying my hair. Through the no poo process I learned about henna and the idea of a using a natural, nourishing product to turn my hair lovely and red really appealed to me. The mess did not. From what I read henna was difficult and extremely messy. I was also worried I would not like how it looked in the end.

But now we are in quarantine! I found myself impulsively buying some henna one night, after watching a YouTube video where someone dyed their hair and thinking about how much I would like a change too. It seemed the perfect time to experiment when no one is going to see the result immediately. I had time, both to apply it and deal with the mess, and to deal with any bad results without anyone seeing it. (So I convinced myself.) I bought one of those henna bricks from Lush, which wouldn’t be my first choice as I don’t like Lush, but it felt the easiest path to go down. They were out of stock of their fiery red henna so I chose the chestnut one instead, and had to admit to myself that was probably the best choice as something more subtle and thus, hopefully, less likely to go wrong. It took about a week for it to come, by which time the impulse had died away and I was no longer quite so interested. I admit what drove me to use it today was that my flat was slowly, after just a day and a half of the parcel entering my abode, starting to stink of Lush and I couldn’t take it any longer. 

So today I:

Washed my hair and trimmed it, yes myself, and yes badly. (As an aside, last time I discussed my no poo routine I talked about starting to use shampoo again. Since then I have found that I do not like using shampoo regularly,  as it dried out my scalp too much,  but that using a sulfate free shampoo every couple of months works wonders to clarify my hair and does not have any affect on my hair or scalp or my usual nopoo routine. So today I used that shampoo to get my hair nice and clean in preparation for dying. I had hoped that I could just rinse my hair with water for this but from what I read, the cleaner the better for dying the hair. One site even suggested using a little bit of dish soap to really strip the hair, but having done that before (don’t ask, though it may be on the blog somewhere who knows) I really didn’t want to do that again. This was to be a nourishing thing as much as a hair dying thing. The whole point of choosing henna was that I could change up my hair without affecting my eczema and getting out the dish soap or even a sulfate shampoo seemed to defeat that, so I just used the sulfate free shampoo and hoped that would work…)

The henna was suggested to be applied to dry or damp hair. So I thought I could wash my hair and then prepare the henna whilst it dried off. As my hair is quite fine I thought it would be too difficult to work with when fully dry.

To prepare the henna, I lined a glass bowl with tinfoil and set that in a bigger bowl of hot water. I tried to hack up the henna block but it wasn’t working and I was concerned about the mess that was making so I just stuck the whole thing in the small bowl, added a little bit of boiling water and slowly, slowly, melted it down into a paste. It took absolutely forever to do and I had to change the big bowl once to get the water hot again but eventually I got a nice, thick paste to work with. (Why can’t Lush provide their henna as a powder? It would be so much more convenient and easy to work with.) I had been super careful to not add too much water to the bowl as I had read that if I made it too runny then it would be messy and not stick to the hair, so I was pleased I had seemingly got this right. At this point I was excited and optimistic. I laid some cardboard down on the bathroom floor to protect it, then took my henna in  and got to work, sectioning my hair and applying the henna with a face mask applicator and my bare hands. Yes, you read that right.

Tools you need to apply henna:

Hair Color Brush
A small mirror 
Paper Towels
Cling Film or a Shower Cap
A fabric headband , hat or something similar to keep the hair wrapped up and warm

Tools I actually had:
A silicon face mask applicator
A handheld mirror 
Paper Towels
A shower cap 
One of those cloth hair turbans used for drying the hair 

It was close, but not close enough. My poor hands were clearly turning orange even as I applied it. (And the color is deepening as I sit with my hair wrapped up and waiting for the color to develop.) And it was so messy to apply. I had watched exactly one tutorial, as well as reading the instructions lush had included and a couple of online tutorials. None of those dealt with applying to long hair and I really should have investigated that. I found it so hard to get all my hair coated and to get it all to curl around itself into a giant bun on my head, as per instructions. The paste was quick to dry and crumble, falling onto my shoulders, into the sink, and onto the floor , seeming to go everywhere but on my head. At this point I hated it and was no longer excited, just frustrated. I also could not see what was going on at the back of my head with my tiny handheld mirror and struggled even more with doing that part.

Eventually I got all my hair just about coated and twisted around onto the top of my head , and somehow I even got my fringe coated and pasted on top of the whole lot of it. I went over with more henna, as much as I could, but the whole thing was threatening to fall apart so I had to give up and accept it as it was. I hadn’t used all the hair dye so I wasn’t convinced I had used enough to get a good result. I rinsed and dried my hands, definitely orange then, and applied my shower cap- one of those plastic ones you get in hotels that I steal for the express purpose of containing my hair when I do hair masks. (Can I admit that online?) Then I put on one of those hair turbans which I usually use for drying my wet hair, to keep the shower cap in place and to try to keep everything warm, as apparently this helps the red color to develop. Now I am sitting here waiting impatiently to rinse it out and see the results. It smells a bit but feels stable enough and I am pleased that my scalp doesn’t feel too itchy or uncomfortable , which gives me hope that it will be nourishing , or at least not give me a bad reaction. 

Oh, and I cleaned everything up immediately afterwards and it wasn’t too bad. Most was in the sink and on the cardboard. So I cleaned  the sink immediately and put the cardboard in a bag. There was some bits outside the cardboard but as it was so dry and crumbly I could vacuum those up and there were only a couple of areas that needed a wipe down. The bathroom looks fine. I am not sure how washing this stuff out will go though, and am nervous for that. 

Also my hands are bright orange, even my nails are stained , and they smell of the product. I really should have invested in some gloves. I thought I could maybe use some plastic bags on my hands instead but that quickly proved impractical so I boldly removed them and now I am stuck with the results. I hope it fades soon.


Sunday 3rd May 2020, Around 10pm

I left the henna in for between 3 and 4 hours (I didn’t time it exactly but it was definitely on for at least 3 hours.) During that time I kept the henna warm by applying a hot pack to my hair, in order to intensify the red as much as possible. When it finally came to rinse it out, it was pretty intense with a rush of henna mud racing towards the drain and the stuff speckled over the shower walls but once I had got most of it out, just rinsing with water, I just took the shower head and rinsed my surroundings and that was fine. Then I rinsed my hair some more, still with just water, rinsed off the shower again and that was that. Once out I quickly wrapped my hair in a towel incase it was dripping any colored liquid and inspected the shower but it seemed ok. There is perhaps a film left on the tub but it is not clear if it’s just the oils Lush used leaving a film (it did feel a little slippery underfoot) or some of the mud leaving a residue and hence a possible stain. I am a little concerned for it but I will only be able to tell tomorrow. It really wasnt the giant mess I was expecting though, which is a relief. As of now the bathroom seems to have survived , though I will need to check tomorrow in sunlight.

As for my hair, I kept it wrapped up until it was partially dry/no longer dripping, then I undid the towel, nervous but anticipatory, only to find…nothing. My hair looked its usual dark brown self. Shining a torch I on it I could definitely see lighter highlights, slightly reddish in tone but not really. My hair felt so soft though and my scalp also felt…fine. It started to itch as my hair dried, which it usually does, but it doesn’t feel any more irritated than normal. 

It was as my hair dried that I could finally see the color appear. I admit I started to laugh when I saw myself in the bathroom mirror, in the harsh bathroom light. It didn’t look bad, it was just so different. I am not used to seeing myself look different. It was not red exactly, just in the light, it seemed lighter and glossier , with a touch of red, actually it seemed a bit darker, more maroon . And my hair feels so thick and soft. I am excited to see how the color develops overnight. I read that when you henna your hair it can go a bit gingery at first and it takes a day or two for the true color to develop. I am anticipating that the color might be a bit here and there, what I see tonight won’t be it tomorrow and what I see tomorrow probably won’t be it either. But it seems like the result may be more intense than I was expecting. I was fully expecting something very subtle , only a bit of a red sheen when the light hits. It’s quite exciting to think I may actually end up with red hair. 

My bath on the other hand? I hope that doesn’t develop any color overnight. 

(And, come to think of it, I hope my already orange hands don’t get any more orange. )

Monday 4th May, Around 12pm

I woke up today and my hair definitely didn’t feel clean. Indeed, the towel I had covered my pillowcase with was green all over. Some had gotten on my bedsheets too. It was clear the henna had not fully washed out. As for my bath? There was a definite residue there too. So I showered and washed my hair with shampoo, twice. By this point my hair was feeling stripped and my scalp a little irritated, and who knows what all this washing will do to my nopoo regime. My bedsheets and towels are in the wash. The tub will need scrubbing, though I’ll bleach it and leave that for a bit first.

My hair looks like some parts took the dye better than others- some bits are lighter and others remain very dark. There is a slightly orange sheen to the lighter parts but that should hopefully go away after a couple of days. I am still not convinced all the henna is out and I am hoping I won’t put fresh bedding out, only to turn that green too, but I think there is that possibility.

My hands are still orange.

I feel rather over it all, to be honest. This has been very messy and time consuming. It’s a whole lot of effort. The henna I had left over I wrapped up and stuck in the freezer. If it makes my freezer stink like Lush, it’s out, but if it doesn’t..I am not sure if I should keep it and use it. I am not sure I want to do this again. It seems even with my dark hair that achieving firey red would surely be possible, if I took the time to source some good quality pure henna, but I am not sure it’s worth all this.

Monday 4th May, Around 7pm

The stuff came out the washing machine with light stains remaining :( My bath however came very clean with hardly any elbow grease required. My hair dried much softer and less stripped than I expected , but the reside definitely feels gone. My hair feels thick and healthy and the color is developing beautifully – it’s subtle but when my hair hits the light you can definitely tell I’ve done something. I am pleased with the result. Oh, and I realised that lush provided gloves with the henna so that was extremely stupid of me. I am keen to see how the color develops over the next few days. And pleased to put all the mess behind me (staining notwithstanding) I can’t stop looking at my hair, I am quite fascinated by it. It’s different and it’s never been different before…

Tuesday 5th May, Around 10pm

The color has deepened, the gingery-ness gone and its a subtle change that is only noticeable when the light hits my hair. It is not that intense, fiery red of my dreams but it is nice and, I think, appropriate for now. Suddenly dying my hair bright red would definitely be a little drastic and also much riskier. There was still some light staining on my pillow, which I had thankfully covered with an old t shirt I don’t particulary care for, so I guess it must still not be out? I don’t see how. My hair feels lovely (so soft!) and my scalp definitely not irritated. My orange hands are fading, slowly. (Maybe I am just getting used to them.) I remain pleased with the results, but not a big fan of the process. I posted some pictures of the result at the top of the post! Ignore the silly poses and focus on my shiny, squint a little and you can see the red hair. :) For reference of my usual color, its basically just the same chocolate brown, but there are some photos under the posts of this category too.

The One With The C Word

Great Spotted Woodpecker, as seen from my home ‘office’.* There was a pair of them but the second flew off well before I had my camera out.

The world has turned upside down. 

It’s been about a week since I started working from home. I don’t mind it; I enjoy the quiet and being around my fish and the view from my ‘office’* window, which is of a forest, where I am able to see many different birds and many squirrels. I open the window to hear the birds sing and feel the fresh air, so different from the office environment. But it can be hard to concentrate. I don’t usually struggle working from home but I feel particularly anxious now and it’s effecting me. My mind feels like it’s been pulled in so many directions right now, so much noise to fight through to focus on the daily to-dos and so easy to get pulled away from the day to day mundane into the panic and shock of the utter strangeness of everything else. 


It’s one thing to stay home by choice, and another because there is no other option. I had the radio on the other day and the music was great and even to hear the sound of the presenter was oddly nice, but hearing the news every hour left me feeling riddled with anxiety. But even without the news playing every hour it’s hard to resist the temptation to check for news, it’s hard to switch your brain away from everything that is happening. It finds a way to always be there, on the periphery of your thoughts, tugging for your attention. I feel distracted, I find myself wanting to snack more, I find myself unable to get comfortable, so restless and on edge.

The supermarkets are half empty, I had to go to three supermarkets to find toilet paper, and I am unable to find painkillers, nor flour, yeast or eggs, which makes me particularly  sad, as I was looking forward to baking bread and making cake to help me pass the time and well, because it’s delicious. (You gotta find things to make you happy, right?) I am growing increasingly annoyed with my neighbours, having to be around them and their children every moment of every day, compared to the little time we usually spend living our lives in parallel. (I am sure they must be feeling the same way, hearing me walking about above their heads all day and sometimes, if I can’t sleep, in the early hours of the night.) I am failing at following all the work from home advice – I wear a mix of lounge wear and pajamas, I haven’t been going for walks and I haven’t really established as much of a schedule as I should, and I find myself subsequently working much longer to ensure I am getting my hours in (I find myself working in chunks of focussed time split by short breaks which is working with my current short attention span but also does not feel particularly efficient) I have been taking advantage of my lunch break but mainly to lie down, exhausted and worried, and allow my mind to wander before I have to force myself to concentrate on work again. 

I have had a concert and a musical cancelled. My sister’s hen do was called off and, more and most devastating, my sister’s wedding is under threat of cancellation. I am feeling very grateful to have a job that allows me to work from home, to have space to work from home in relative comfort, to not have to be juggling work with childcare, to not have a big event looming like a wedding which could be cancelled. I am grateful but also worried for the future, wondering how long this will go on for and worrying for those around me. I worry about the economy and my finances. I worry about the food shortages. I worry so much about my family.  I find hope in the small positives, such as reading about reduced carbon emissions and increasing wildlife in cities. Perhaps some good can come from this and certainly we will pull through, somehow, but everything feels so bleak and uncertain right now….

Everything feels so strange and so wrong and so utterly surreal. 

*I mean , it’s my spare bedroom and also the fish room and also my home study and also an extra storage space…

The One with Another List

A couple of years ago I posted about some of the things I was trying out to live a more sustainable, greener lifestyle. I cannot believe that post is so old now! It feels very recent that I started to consider what choices I was making and where I could improve things, whilst working to accept the ways in which I was not able to or would not change.

So, since I have the old post open I will go over the next steps I wrote then and see how I am doing.

Then: I switched to renewable energy. My next step was to put standby loads on remotes.

Now: I am actually no longer on a fully renewable plan as it became too expensive / far more expensive than a standard plan, which is a shame, and I forgot about my goal to be better on turning standby loads off. Oops.

Then: Switched soap and started moving to greener cleaning products. My next step was to use more reusable cleaning tools, such as microfibre clothes.

Now: I since discovered that washing microfibre cloths in the washing machine releases microplastics into waterways and therefore is not very good for the environment at all. This was a bit disheartening as I had started using a microfibre, washable sponge for my dishes and incorporate microfibre cloths into my daily light cleaning, such as dusting surfaces. So I stopped using those. And switched to biodegradable cellulose sponges for dishwashing, combined with a dish brush for scrubbing. I also use plain cotton towels, the cheap face clothes you can buy, for some of my light cleaning and again, cellulose sponges. I could definitely be better still but I admit I don’t really like putting the dirty cloths into the washing machine, I worry about the chemicals of them lingering in the machine. Although I do use the more eco friendly brands now I still don’t want that kind of stuff on my skin. I am thinking I could just hand wash them, but that feels like a lot of effort? 

Then: Switched to cloth menstrual pads and liners, reusable face cotton rounds, cardboard ear buds. Next step was none, though I did mention sewing my own liners.

Now: I actually have been experimenting with sewing my own liners! I am not very good yet but I will get there. (Hopefully.) For bonus sustainability points I have also been ripping up old pajamas for the cotton flannel to make said liners, and also to make more face cotton rounds. As well as this, I made myself a wash bag, basically a cotton bag with a waterproof lining and a zip, which I can use for my dirty washing when travelling instead of a plastic bag. I already use reusable wash bags for my cloth pads but I wanted to learn how to make my own so I could customize the sizes for other uses. Right now I have a giant one for long trips, but I haven’t yet made the smaller one for short trips, so I just use the giant one for all trips. It’s not ideal as they are a bit bulkier than a plastic bag. But it works nicely and can just be chucked in the machine with the washing. It’s actually more convenient than trying to find a plastic bag to use, since there aren’t many in the house since I mostly reuse the same ones or use other reusable bags.

This leads nicely to…

Then: I was working hard to carry and use reusable bags for shopping. My next step was to become even better at this, and to help myself by keeping a stash in my car.

Now: I do keep a stash in my car! Though I am still not good about replenishing said stash once I’ve used them up/used them and taken them into the house. I find it difficult to use them when travelling too, as I don’t tend to carry one around with me. I probably should start sticking one in my bag before every trip, just in case. Also: see above as I have also been thinking about the other ways I use plastic grocery bags and starting to move away from them too.

Then: I started using a bamboo toothbrush. My next step was to perhaps experiment with alternative toothpaste.

Now: I still use a bamboo toothbrush – I like it! I have realised it is unlikely that I will replace my tooth paste though- I take pride in the good condition of my teeth and worry about that being affected. I have been thinking about floss lately though; I do need to find a greener solution to that.

Then: I was becoming better at taking a reusable cup to Starbucks and wanted to buy some steel straws.

Now: I bought steel straws! Though with everywhere now using paper straws it doesn’t feel so important anymore, which is nice as I found it difficult to carry them around. I admit to struggling to always use a reusable cup too. I tend to have Starbucks when I am on the go – buying a drink before taking a train for a overnight trip for instance. And it’s in these instances that a reusable cup just doesn’t feel feasible – I don’t want to be carrying around a bulky and dirty used cup when I am already loaded up with my luggage. A reusable cup also requires planning, you have to know that on that day you will be going to buy a drink at a coffee shop. Sometimes I am more impulsive? I just find it inconvenient really, which makes me feel bad, as I know how bad coffee cups are for the environment. I haven’t really found the answer here to be honest. 

Then: I had switched to a steel water bottle and wanted to buy a smaller one

Now: I have bought a smaller one and I use both sizes regularly, depending on what I am up to and well, how much water I need. I really love how steel water bottles keep my water cold. I do find them a bit noisy though, but that’s a very minor complaint. 

Then: I changed my lightbulbs to LED bulbs and there were no further steps noted.

Then: I was trying to be good about recycling and I wanted to make the effort to recycle glass and my old clothing.

Now: I have not made much effort in glass recycling. I have also discovered that my local council won’t take shredded paper. So let’s note some of the things my local council won’t accept- shredded paper, plastic type 5, plastic type 1, hard plastics, black plastics, any and all glass, UHT cartons… It’s just pathetic, really. These limitations can be super frustrating. On the plus side! I did gather up some old clothes and I took them to H&M for recycling and earned a shiny £5 voucher in return. (I am not sure that H&M are that trustworthy, but at least I tried.) I also segregated some old clothes, mostly old pajamas, for tearing up and reusing the material for liners, face cotton , wash bags, any sewing project really. Then, I took some items to charity. And finally, I have been experimenting with selling some stuff on Depop.

Depop has definitely been a game changer for me. Sadly not in selling; it is still super difficult to sell old clothes. However with Depop at least there are no listing fees like eBay so you don’t lose anything trying (the post also stays live until you remove it compared to eBay where it expires and then you have to pay again to relist.) ( Note it’s been a while since I sold on eBay so this is just from my memory and I could be wrong, but that is what I remember.) I have been loving buying from Depop though. There are some really good items on there. And so finally, I am moving away from fast fashion towards the second hand market. Here in the UK the main place to buy second hand items are charity shops, which requires dedicating some time to go out and shop. I rarely go out shopping and usually choose to online shop, in the evenings after work usually, which makes fast fashion so much more appealing and is why I never really got into second hand shopping. But Depop allows for the convenience and ease of buying fast fashion but with second hand items, at least that is how I feel. And again, I love eBay, but the interface of Depop is much nicer for clothes. I have found some amazing items on there. The main thing that annoys me is that not all sellers list the materials of the clothes they sell and they may not response quickly to enquiries about that, or at all, so I have missed out on items because of that. (And you then rely on the seller being honest, which is a thing too.) Also items tend not to be returnable so you better hope it fits. This makes buying certain items, like pants and skirts , a bit of a gamble. But still, it makes second hand shopping much easier, much more convenient and thus much more fun. I am enjoying it greatly and have found myself turning to it when I need something instead of going to my usual online shops and buying new items.

Some other things…

Now: I have switched to a safety razor! 

These always terrified me, I had visions of innocently cutting open an artery in the shower, but they aren’t actually that bad at all. I haven’t cut myself even once. I started with this (stunning) MÜHLE rose gold one with a closed comb and I didn’t like it. A closed comb came up in my research as the best for beginners as the blade isn’t as exposed, but I found that to be the main downside – it got clogged up really easily. Thankfully I could just switch the head to an open comb and that changed everything for me. Benefits: I rarely have to change the blade, it’s super easy to clean, it never gets clogged up mid shave like my old disposables did (or the closed comb), it is sharp and stays sharp even after multiple uses and I get less ingrown hairs with it. It’s an absolute dream, basically, and I feel stupid for not buying one sooner. The only snag is I have no idea how I am eventually going to dispose of the used blades. I am currently just….keeping them. I don’t know what else to do. They are too sharp to go into the trash and since I can’t recycle glass, I can’t use the put them in a glass jar trick as I saw recommended when I researched. It’s a puzzle…but for another day. The blades are small and thin enough and I change them infrequently enough that it’s not going to be a problem for a while, thankfully. 

Now: I tried using beeswax wraps for my daily sandwiches.

I am not convinced I like them though. I normally use plastic sandwich bags. I find Tupperware bulky and a faff to clean, so I would use a bag a few times and then stick it in the recycling. I know that is not sustainable though. So I looked at my options- paper bag would still be pretty wasteful. There are silicon food storage bags, but apparently silicon is horrible for the environment and eventually the bag would need throwing out/replacing most likely so I figured that’s a no go, then there was beeswax wraps. This seemed to offer the lightweightness and laziness I wanted – wrap it up, chuck it in my bag, rinse it off after a few uses. And yes, that was all good. But I found the wrap added a sort of dry texture, perhaps a film?, to my sandwiches. I could like, taste the wrap. I also found that the sticky wraps stuck to all the lint in my bag and would pick up hair and dust like crazy too, so it did not really feel like it was protecting my food from outside influences, but rather attracting them to it. I have considered making a cotton pouch to put the beeswax wrapped sandwich in, but that feels like a lot. So I don’t really have a solution here either. I am going to keep experimenting though.

These may be the only things I have done since that last post. I am perhaps moving at a snails pace here , and in some ways , not doing so good with this whole goal of mine. Some changes are easier than others, sometimes they feel better, such as the safety razor and cloth pads which have both been incredible, and sometimes it just feels like a total pain, such as the reusable cup and recycling.  It’s also disheartening when you thinking you are making the better choice but then you find out it’s actually not that great, such as realising that microfibre clothes release microplastics into the environment. And there is always the question- are the eco friendly products I have switched to just clever marketing?  It feels like everything has a “down side” and/or a corporate intent, especially with how ‘trendy’ it is these days to be ‘sustainable’. I mean, who knows if H&M are really recycling the clothes I give them, that the cleaning products I use are actually better etc. Also, does it even matter that I do these things, when I also do “bad” things, like driving?  And it can feel demotivating and a little depressing, that. What are the right choices? Is there such a thing? Does any of it make a difference at all or is it all counteracted by my “bad” choices or the “bad” choices of other people or the fact that this sort of sustainability/green lifestyle stuff is incredibly priveledged, really?

Nonetheless,   I will keep going as always and see where this journey takes me. It remains an interest of mine and something I want to keep learning about anyway. 

The One With No Betta Fish

Betta Fish

Alfred, Betta Fish

Yesterday I buried my eldest Betta fish.

I admit that usually I would dispose of my fish in the trash, as I feel that although callous it’s the most responsible thing to do and I don’t have access to a private garden to bury them anyway. But Alfred, my eldest Betta, I took home to my parents to bury him in their garden. He went next to Theo, my youngest Betta, who passed away just over a month ago. It feels pretty rubbish to have lost them both, to see the empty tanks, to feel like maybe it was my fault, did I not care for them properly? 

Alfred was my first Betta fish purchased in August 2016. I blogged about the experience of buying him here. He was a veil tail Betta with a red body and bluey purple fins and flecks of silver around his gills. At first I had him in an undersized 19L then I moved him into a 24L in which I put a chunk of gorgeous mopani wood and stuffed it full of fake plants, each chosen carefully so it wouldn’t tear his long fins. He was a gorgeous fish and full of personality. When I was in the room he would watch me, swimming up to the side of the tank to stare at me. When I approached the tank he would  swim up to the side of the tank and, if I got too close, he would flare at me. He would build huge bubble nests. He loved frozen bloodworm and to eat tiny flies that I would catch and chuck in the tank for him. I had to be careful about placing my hands in his tank for too long as he would stalk and attack me. He bit me a few times! Really, he was grumpy and ill tempered but he was my little dude and my companion for three years. His feistyness and his weirdness and all his antics filled me with joy.  But, not so much in recent months. His death was a long time coming and I am grateful that he made his third ‘birthday’. Truthfully, I have been watching my little dude suffer terribly for a couple of months now. I honestly don’t know when or how he got sick, but I definitely noticed it during the end. His stomach swelled up and his beautiful fins turned raggedy and he couldn’t swim properly. My little dude who would beg for food multiple times a day (see: him staring at me and swimming up to the side of the tank when I approached ) would only come out for food every few days and he would struggle to eat it, struggling to keep himself afloat for long enough. It was painful too see. I feared he had dropsy and, knowing that it was likely fatal even if treatment is attempted I did my best to keep him comfortable and happy until the inevitable happened. But it was hard. And then I went to London for a few days for work and when I came back I couldn’t see him. The next day I found him and he wasn’t moving. I told myself he was just resting. But the next day he hadn’t moved still and I knew. I feel so guilty that I don’t know when he died. I was so busy that week, have been all this month and the last, I didn’t pay enough attention and I lost him without knowing when. I feel stupidly sad too. It took all my courage to get him out the tank and I could barely look at his limp, rotting body. 

I thought after Theo died I would be better able to handle it, but I wasn’t.

Betta Fish

Theodore, Betta Fish. The red marking on his head is the wound he developed.

Theo was my youngest Betta fish. I bought him on a whim as blogged about here. This was also in August, but a year after Alfred. I put him in the same 19L as I had Alfred until I could eventually get him set up in his permanent 24L. I also put a nice chunk of wood in for him and lots of silky fake plants. I had rainbow gravel in his tank, the better to show off his colors. He was a stunning fish. He was a metallic blue crown tail Betta, with red and purple shifts on his fins and around his gills. He was a gentler fish than Alfred, sweeter. He rarely flared at me and he would get so excited when I approached the tank. I could trail my finger in the water and he would follow it. I would play with him like that, making him chase after his food in a similar way, and he seemed to enjoy it. He never attacked my hands like Alfred. He was fussier and preferred his Betta food though he did not mind the occasional bit of bloodworm. He tried to build bubble nests but he never became very good at it (they would disintegrate quickly). One day I noticed he had a small wound on his body. I didn’t think much of it, I figured it would heal. I tested the water just to be sure and the chemistry was fine so I figured I shouldn’t worry about infections. Of course, it got infected. It didn’t heal, he became weak and reclusive, barely eating. At one point I thought he had died because I found him lying on the bottom of his tank, motionless, but when I went to collect him he darted away. I never really knew if he was dead or alive, he was so still and hidden away during those final weeks. In desperation, seeing him still alive and clearly not dying and probably suffering, I bought an anti bacterial (methylene blue) and tried to treat him but it didn’t work. And eventually he passed away. I took him back to my parents and buried him there. He didn’t even make his second birthday. It killed me a little. I felt sure, still feel sure, that’s it my fault somehow.

I feel sad now, to see my empty Betta tanks. And my confidence as a fish keeper has taken a hit. Maybe I am not good enough at this, maybe I am too busy, away from home too often. My main shoal of fish are OK, although I am even having some trouble with their tank, just the icing on the cake. 

Having pets can be really hard. Their lives are so short and watching them degrade and then die can really be quite painful. 

However they bring so much joy too. I guess that makes it all worth it in the end. 

I miss my Betta fishes but realistically they weren’t going to live very long and I really tried to care for them and give them a good life. I think they were comfortable and happy fish living their best life. I really tried to give that to them.

Will I get another Betta? Mostly likely yes, I just need some time…and also to figure out how to prepare the tanks to accept a new fish without making them sick too. You can’t use cleaning chemicals on or near fish tanks which makes sterilising and cleaning a bit of a question mark at times…

The One With Too Much Stuff

I have finally bought a double bed!

You may recall (or maybe not, I’m not judging) that one of my finance goals was to buy a new bed. I have been sleeping on a single bed since forever and both bed and mattress I was using were in fact those I used as a child following my move from a cot (note: my parents didn’t believe in children’s beds. I went from cot to a single bed with a sideboard to keep me from rolling out, then just the single bed.) I loved that bed, which my dad built himself, but its small, and the mattress was probably once firm but now offers little support. I am stoked to finally own a double bed, although unfortunately I won’t be getting a new mattress alongside it as my finances don’t stretch that far yet.

I am doing much better financially then I was, but I am not yet entirely reformed. I am doing my best to reign my spending in and up my savings but progress is slow. I still find myself too influenced by social media, this culture of consumerism, and in boredom or stress I do like a good shopping binge. It’s …not great. I have also come to realise though that one of the key issues, and where I am truly leaking money, is on food and I am not sure how to go about challenging my unhealthy, somewhat disordered relationship with food.

One thing that has helped to control my spending is that, as part of preparing my room for my new bed, I have been doing a lot of rearranging of stuff and decluttering and it has made me realise just how much stuff I have amassed. How on earth did I manage to live in a dorm room, when I’ve managed to pack a two bedroom flat to the brim? Where did all these things come from? Why do I have so many t-shirts? So much makeup, when I hardly wear it? So much expired skincare? So many useless papers? I feel slightly embarrassed by how I’ve expanded my stuff to fill out all my space, how I’ve let myself spend my salary on all this stuff, which just expires or sits there or gets squeezed into a drawer and forgotten about. Look, I’m not minimalist, I like a bit of clutter, but I think I’ve crossed over from organized ‘aesthetic’ chaos to just…chaos. Decluttering and organising my room has been stressful and slightly overwhelming. I find it difficult to let go of things. It pains me that a lot of it can’t be recycled and will end up in landfill which also makes me not want to get rid of it. I attach memories to useless things and pine for them, can’t bear to let go of them. Again, embarrassing. But on the flipside, when I now find myself browsing online in a fit of boredom, I do find myself thinking – do I even have space for this? I have been asking myself “do I want or need this?” which helps, but this additional question is also very useful and adds an extra layer of scrutiny. Even if I can convince myself I’ll use something, once I realise I will have to store it and add it to the pile of stuff I am currently organising I find myself put off the purchase. I don’t want to deal with anymore stuff I realise. I think about that item being thrown out, ending up in landfill probably, if I can’t make use of it after all, and that guilt also stops me.

(If only I could think about food the same way.)

But anyway, as I change my thinking and try to control my spending, I find myself with more “extra” money each month which I can squirrel away. As such, I have been putting money into my savings each month and I’ve nearly hit my first savings goal even. I’m still relying on my credit card far too much, but I’m proud that I bought my new bed with my debit card not on credit, as I am trying to keep big purchases like this to debit, to ensure I feel the weight of them and I properly evaluate if I can afford the thing right now. (None of this I’ll stick it on the credit card and pay it later, which basically gives permission to think about it later!)

Currently, I am missing not travelling a little. I so want to go somewhere. I am trying to focus instead on day trips I can make around my local area and the fact that I am going up to Scotland in September-ish- but I do feel like I’ve lost part of my identity. Who is that girl who lived abroad in Malaysia, who traveled to Japan and South Korea alone, who dreamed of solo European trips (and started out on that with a trip to Hamburg)? I used to go places and do things, all by myself, and I have become a bit of a homebody. Still, I am keeping it in mind that travel is a privilege, that I now have more leave (from work) for mental health days and long weekends, that I still have so many places in the UK I haven’t been. It’s not the same as traveling abroad, but if I keep saving then I know I will be able to afford a big trip somewhere, eventually, but without it affecting my savings. (My trip to South Africa last year was difficult for me financially, and I felt it for the rest of the year. I don’t want that when I start travelling again.)

I am focussing on my goals, focussing on the long term, and slowly but surely making small but visible changes. And having already bought my new bed on debit with no issues, I can feel content that I am finally seeing the results I want due to this. I am still very determined that this is the year I sort my finances out.