Sunday, 17 September 2017

I do like to be beside the seaside

I've been craving some great big lungfuls of sea air and some fish and chips for weeks now, so yesterday Paul and I hopped on the bus to spend the afternoon in Whitby.  It's one of my favourite places along the coast but I hadn't been for years, and Paul had never been, so I was excited to go back and take him for his first visit.


We arrived at around half past twelve, and straight away set off for a bracing walk along the front - it was very windy but a beautiful day, and I was well wrapped up in my scarf.  The tide was in, so we couldn't get onto the beach at first.  Instead we took our time wandering, looking around the shops and pretty buildings in the town, and making our way up the hill to the famous whale jawbones.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Meeting the elephants at Whipsnade Zoo

I got to meet an elephant!  Back in June, Paul and I headed to Whipsnade Zoo for our meet the elephants experience, which had been my Christmas present from him last year.  June seemed so far away in December but I'm so glad it came around quickly because I was beyond excited.

We went to Luton on the train via London and we stayed at Luton Hoo Hotel which is super fancy - very Downton Abbey.  Sitting in the foyer waiting for Paul to check in made me really self-conscious of my leggings and sweatshirt (I wanted to be comfy on the train!) but luckily our room was in one of the out buildings in the grounds.  Still very elegant, but fewer tapestries.

After breakfast the next day we got a taxi over to the Whipsnade.  It's very different from some of the other zoos I've been to in that it's a lot more spaced out.  The park is spread over 600 acres, so there is a lot more walking to do between the different animals.  I was really happy to see that all the animals seemed to have plenty of space to move around.  Because they have such a large park, the keepers are also able to take the elephants out for a walk every day!  They are out for up to two hours at a time after 2pm so no matter where you are in the park you should have chance to see them walking along in a line, holding on to each other's tails with their trunks!

The Meet the Elephants experience is definitely one of the best things I've ever done and surprisingly emotional - I never thought I would get the chance to be so close to a real elephant.  Paul says he has actually had this up his sleeve for a while, but he knew it was important to take me somewhere that the elephants were well looked after which is true - I would never want to go elephant trekking or anything abroad.  I know there are places that only encourage activities that are good for the elephants such as bathing and feeding, but I see so many stories of elephants being mistreated, whipped and forced to give rides (which is actually very harmful to their backs and should never be done). I'm just not willing to contribute to that industry, and it would upset me a lot to see that first hand.

After seeing the enclosure and listening to the keeper, I don't have any doubt that their elephants are pretty spoiled!  I was really impressed to know that the duty of care doesn't end when an elephant is sent to another zoo either - for example, a young male who can no longer live with the female herd - and Whipsnade will only ever send an elephant to a zoo they have fully checked out.  Their keepers will visit Whipsnade to see how they look after the elephants there, and the Whipsnade keepers will visit the new zoo to make sure everything meets the standards they expect for their animals.

The elephant we met was 35 year old Lucha, she was absolutely beautiful!  There were 6 of us taking part altogether and we all lined up along one side of the enclosure, taking it in turns to go up to Lucha and feed her bananas.  The bananas were cut into three pieces and we were told to hold them all in our left hand and pass them over one by one to our right hand for her to pick up with her trunk.  They said to do it one at a time as otherwise she would definitely inhale all 3 pieces at once!  It was so much fun watching her feeling around with her trunk - wetter than I imagined and it really tickled too!

After feeding, we were allowed to stand with Lucha and stroke her, take photos etc. before the next person's turn.  For me this was the most special part, getting to be so close and really take her in.  The elephants at Whipsnade are clearly used to being around people because of how their keepers interact with them from a young age; Lucha was friendly and perfectly happy to let us touch her - she didn't find us as interesting once we had run out of bananas though! 🍌

We each got to go up twice and then the keepers emptied the rest of the fruit out for her as a reward for being so well behaved and patient.  They explained that each section of banana is the equivalent of a human eating one m&m, so not enough to damage her teeth or affect her diet at all.  Then it was time for questions as Lucha went back to join the rest of the herd.  The whole experience was 'behind the scenes' away from public view, and the keepers didn't rush us at all - if anything I think we were all just a bit too polite and British about it and gave up our turn to the next person a bit too easily!  If we ever go again, I'll definitely take my time a bit more.

Thanks to the keepers at Whipsnade, gorgeous girl Lucha and of course Paul for such a special memory. 🐘💜

Friday, 8 September 2017

How cruelty free is my makeup bag?

Something I've been thinking about a lot recently is the idea of going cruelty free.  I've always loved animals and been appalled by animal testing, but I'll be honest and say I've never actively taken steps to stop buying products from brands that continue to test on animals.  It's easy to fall into a routine of buying the same products that you've always been used to, but that's something I'd like to change and I thought it would be interesting to document my progress!

Photo by Manu Camargo on Unsplash

Eventually I would like to be a 100% cruelty free shopper, including household chemicals and other such products, but for now I'm going to concentrate on makeup and toiletries because I think that's where I can make the biggest change.

Before I can start making any substitutions, I need to know which of the brands I already use practice animal testing.  So, the first step I've taken is to make a list of the products I use day to day and group them into brands, then research each brand individually to find out how cruelty free I am already. First up, my make up bag.  I use the same products most days and only really change it up for special occasions - no massive lipstick collection here!  Here's what I found, brand by brand.

Bobbi Brown
Products used: Corrector and Creamy Concealer Kit
Unfortunately, Bobbi Brown is not a cruelty free brand - they do not test or ask anyone to test for them, except where required by law.  Bobbi Brown cosmetics are currently available in China, where animal testing is mandatory for all foreign cosmetics companies.

Products used: Collection Lasting Perfection Concealer
I use ths concealer like it's going out of fashion so I'm very happy to learn that they are a cruelty free brand!  Their website states that they never have and never will conduct any animal testing on any products - the use of animal testing for cosmetic products and their ingredients is banned in the UK and all EU member states and Collection Cosmetics are not sold in China.  

Products used: Eylure Brow Pencil
The websites for Eylure and their parent company, Original Additions, did not offer much information about their stance on animal testing.  Looking around online, I found this post on Cruelty Free Blog with a response the writer had received from Eylure.  Although they state there that they do not permit and/or commission any animal testing of products and/or ingredients and do not currently have distributors in China, I struggled to find any more recent information so I also sent an email to Original Additions.  I'm waiting for a response and I'll report back, but for now I'm happy to keep them in rotation on the assumption that their position hasn't changed.

Products used: L'Oreal True Match Foundation
I think L'Oreal are a pretty shady brand for lots of reasons, and unfortunately they are not cruelty free as they are available in China.  The True Match foundation isn't my favourite anyway - it can be quite drying on my skin, and they don't have a shade that suits me perfectly, so I'll happily wave goodbye to them.

Products used: Skin Active BB Cream
As a L'Oreal owned company, unfortunately Garnier are not cruelty free.

MAC Cosmetics
Products used: Eye Brows pencil 
The MAC website is a little unclear, simply saying that some governments conduct animal testing to prove safety before they will allow the sale of their products. However, MAC Cosmetics are currently sold in China, making them a non-cruelty free brand.

Natural Collection
Products used: Clear mascara
I couldn't find a specific brand statement for Natural Collection, however as a Boots own brand I believe they are cruelty free.  The Boots website acknowledges that it is illegal to test on animals in Europe and outlines their no animal testing policy, including the comissioning of tests on their behalf.  As far as I could find out online, Boots currently only have a pharmaceutical presence in China - but I'll be keeping an eye out for any changes here.

Products used: Lasting Finish Foundation
This is what I currently have in my makeup bag for occassions when I want to use an actual foundation instead of a tinted moisturiser. I'm not particularly attached to it, which is just as well as Rimmel are also not 100% cruelty free.  They state they are against animal testing but recognise that some ingredients are tested to meet government requirements.

Soap and Glory
Products used: Hand Food Hand Cream, One Heck of a Blot Super-Translucent Mattifying Powder, Supercat Liquid Black Eyeliner Pen
In their FAQ section, Soap and Glory state that they 'absolutely do not test our formulations on animals, however we can't say that each and every ingredient that goes into them has not, at some point historically, been cleared for human use, by animal testing.'  After reading through this a few times, what I take away is that they can't guarantee that the ingredients they use have never been tested on animals - it's likely that a lot of the stuff in cosmetics was tested this way before it was made illegal.  That's just how I interpreted it, and I'd be interested to know if anyone has any other thoughts.  However, Soap and Glory products are not sold in China and the company has recently been bought by Boots, who are cruelty free and committed to ending animal testing as mentioned above. So for now, I'm happy to keep them around.

Of the 12 products I've mentioned, 6 are cruelty free.  To say it's something I never gave much thought to, I'm pretty happy with that!  But I'll definitely be making changes in the other areas. Some of the problematic products I'm not a fan of anyway - particularly the Rimmel and L'Oreal foundations, so I'll happily try out alternatives, and I already have some in mind.  My only major concern here is finding something to replace the Garnier BB cream, as I don't tend to wear anything heavier for work days.  Please send your recommendations my way!

Saturday, 2 September 2017

A Fresh Start

I left education 3 years ago now, but I'm yet to shake the mindset that September is the start of new things.  This year I haven't bought any new stationery, or dilligently copied out a timetable, but I have started a new blog...

Welcome to As Told By Holly.

I used to have a blog called Holly Pocket but I've decided on a fresh start.  I've loved having that blog and I'm really proud of some of the posts there, but for a while now I've been feeling less than inspired by that space.  The title Holly Pocket has started to feel childish - I still love it as a nickname which is why you can still find me under it on my social media - just trying to be as confusing as possible! But whilst it worked well as my blog title 3 years ago, since I've got older and my idea of what I want my blog to be has changed, I've been thinking about creating a new space.

Enter As Told By Holly!  Only partially inspired by the Nickelodeon cartoon As Told By Ginger (who else remembers that?!) it's a title that I've been thinking about for a while.  I think it lends itself to any type of posts I want to write and can evolve as my life does, and I've taken it back to basics with the design too. You can still expect book reviews but also posts about causes I care about, feminism, lifestyle, days out, self-care... Basically, a bit of everything, as told by me. 

I've imported some of my old posts from my previous blog, so any that you see dated before today are old.  Not all of them have made it across, just the ones that are in keeping with the kind of thing I want to post here now.

I'm looking forward to blogging more and hope you'll keep coming to have a read 😊