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Entries in bag (5)


Lock bag prototype

Last year I hit a pothole so hard on my 15 year old Trek 1000 that I put a dent in the back wheel. Rather than just replace the wheel (gears have changed in 15 years, hard to find compatible old stuff), I ended up buying a whole new bike. 

Genesis Equilibrium 10

It's lovely. I like it a lot. But. I sometimes have to leave a bike somewhere that I'm not 100% sure of - like the station - for longish periods of time - like a working day, or overnight. And both of my bikes were now a bit good for me to be comfortable with that. So, I've rebuilt my Trek in a new configuration. 

Trek on a train

Yep, I finally did a singlespeed conversion. Those wheels and tyres were £70 for both, so the quality isn't great. But I love the red! And they are not quick-release. So this bike has a lot of the original components off the Trek, with the saddle that came with the new bike, some really cheap platform pedals with loose bearings, and hacked off handlebars. It is perfect for leaving at the station, and the red wheels make it really easy to find when I get back to it. 

But! I still need to lock it. Which means carrying my heavy abus chain lock. I tried wrapping it round parts of the bike, but the rattling was immense, plus I could never get it tight enough. It's filthy, so I'm not putting it round me anymore (and it's too big for my hips anyway). I have a Carridice saddlebag that I use for it on my other bags, but those aren't cheap and the purpose of this bike was to be left in dubious situations. I had a really quick look for something cheap that could work, and drew a blank. 

To the sewing machine!

Bike lock bag

Bike lock bag

I knocked this up from some old pieces of canvas from an army bag I used to carry my cricket kit in and a load of velcro. Sits nicely out of the way, doesn't rattle, takes the lock, and it's ugly enough that I doubt it'll be nicked, and if it is I'd just be irritated. 

Unfortunately, the roads of Oxfordshire are full of potholes and other nastiness, and it turns out that the velcro isn't quite strong enough to hold the bag shut when you hit a lot of bumps. It developed an alarming tendency to eject the lock at really inconvenient moments. Further work required, but for now? 

Room for improvement

The bandana is doing the trick. 


Buying nothing still

I thought I'd write a brief progress report on my Buy Nothing Challenge, what I've noticed etc. 

Buying nothing has not been going smoothly. It's having an impact, but I'm not sure it's quite what I'd expected the impact to be. I don't browse Amazon much any more. I'm still massively irritated by ads. But I still occassionally trip and buy things. Some (most?) of them I justify. The small neoprene pouch I bought that houses my iPod and earbuds I justify by saying it will increase the life of both, and I certainly use it a lot. The scraps of leather I bought were definitely not for a new project, but for putting soles on my homemade slippers and has increased the life of them for sure (they'd both have holes in otherwise). Only trouble is I then came up with other projects for the leather (hello watchstrap) which meant I ended up buying tools. But the tools are reusable, and mean I can make myself new watchstraps instead of buying them - not to mention adding extra belt holes that mean I can carry on using one of my belts. 

The tights, well, yeah. I probably could have done without them. But the cold dragged on and on and on, and I wanted to wear my skirts and without tights that would have been impractical. If the cold weather had broken just a couple of weeks earlier I probably could have resisted, but it's just a pair of tights! 

And that's been one of the unintentional side-effects. I feel guilty about buying things. The joy I might get from a small purchase has been horribly tainted by the guilt, which in fairness has stopped me making a lot of small purchases. The Stuffa jacket I bought is definitely tinged with guilt. I didn't need it, but it was half price, the concept and packing it makes me smile, it seems to suit me, and yet I still feel a little... silly actually, as well as guilty about it. 

The big purchases too, the ones I've waited for, ummmed and ahhhed over, researched out of all sense of proportion, when I finally plump for something I am worrying that it won't be what I really want or need, because I really don't want to have to go and re-buy. The golf shoes I've just bought are a bit like that, even though the shoes I've been playing in are slightly too small and not waterproof in the slightest and that's pretty miserable. (All the rest of my new golf gear is only new to me, and I didn't really pay for it - it's other people's cast-offs.)

Plus what about rewards? I had a major milestone in my PhD in May, and at the end of reaching it I was exhausted. I wanted a reward, but felt that I couldn't buy anything. I felt I had no time for rewarding myself with a trip somewhere, or even a day off (although in hind-sight I probably should have taken time off to recover). I just ended up feeling a bit flat, like I had no recognition of this big achievement. It was very strange. I probably shouldn't associate stuff with achievement, but I wanted something. 

I can also feel a really big splurge coming on. The problem with researching is that you eventually find what you want. And when you do you can justify it in all sorts of ways. I want these boots from Conker. I need some winter boots to go with smart skirts/be less noticeable under trousers, because I'm rather assuming that I'll be needing to go to interviews again at some point (I'm thinking about the black ones - although I'd love the red it's not practical). I've checked, and they make them on a natural last and can make them totally flat. As luck would have it, we have an appointment in Exeter in October, which would be a good time to go and try them on. But boots are well outside my rules, and I do have a pair of smart shoes that would be ok. But if they fit and I like them, challenge and price be damned they are coming home with me! 

And that bag I was looking for? Meet Matthew. There may be one of these in grey-blue on order for me right at this moment. Just maybe. It's for my birthday. It's just a little early. 

So overall this has been an interesting way to examine my relationship to buying things, even more than my relationship to stuff. Actually, not buying stuff is easier for me when I am not earning much than I suspect it would be when I'm back to gainful employment. But this added layer of guilt is not something I was expecting. I will continue to try and mostly stick to the rules until the end of the year (splurges aside), but I recognise that there are limits to my dedication, and that actually feels pretty healthy. 



Last week I had to get a new phone. I know a lot of people change their phones a lot, but one of the things that happened after I got my iPad was that I went back to a very old school phone. I decided that I wasn't using my phone much, certainly not enough to warrant a £20-per-month contract, and went for a £30 Nokia in pay-as-you-go. It's worked really well for me. I don't phone many people (and never have), and it's probably cut down a bit on my random tweeting (which is no great loss to humanity). The only thing I miss a bit is maps, but I just have to be a little more prepared before I go somewhere new.

So I had a cheap Nokia, and really didn't take care of it. It's been slung in outside pockets of bags then rained on, waist pouches and sweated on, just about any random pocket I could find. And last week, sadly, that came back to bite me. The backlight stopped working, which makes the screen impossible to read. I did google some fixes, but they involved a soldering iron and various components, so I wussed out. I went and bought a £9.99 Nokia to replace it. This time I vowed to take better care of it, so I've made it a cover.

Old Skool Nokia

The cover is made with some ripstop off cuts I got during my first masters in 2000. I investigated the aerodynamics of power kites, and got some of the material to play with. I'm not expecting it to be waterproof, but it should provide an extra layer of water resistance, giving me time to rescue the phone from the worst of the wet!

Phone case

Clarkie says it looks like a Breakaway Bar. The closure rolls twice, and then the elastic wraps round to hold it in place. It's not perfect, it's just a little fiddly, but it works well enough for now. I had to handsew the whole thing because it's not very big, so excuse the wobbly stitches.

While I had the ripstop out, I decided to knock up a shoe bag too. I end up slinging pairs of trainers in bags quite often, so I thought a nice, lightweight bag would be just the ticket.

Homemade ripstop shoe bag

Same principle, based on some instructions i found for sewing a stuff sack (the link seems to have died! Thank goodness I saved it to Evernote). I changed the closure though. The instructions include a drawstring, this one features Velcro instead of elastic. I machine-stitched this one, which was fiddly in places. I used my walking foot because the ripstop is quite slippery, and it worked well.

Homemade ripstop shoe bag

The hook part is on the back of the bag, so that when it's doubled over it shouldn't catch on anything (like my jumper). The different orientation of the hook section to the loop section allows me to be less precise with the closure, and gives me a little leeway on the length of thing I put in there (although I don't see my feet changing size too much!). The white Velcro isn't all that aesthetically pleasing and there is probably room for improvement in the closure mechanism, but it's only a shoe bag.

Homemade ripstop shoe bag

That's where I normally end up carrying shoes. Doesn't work so well if they are muddy, but this will definitely help with that.

Homemade ripstop shoe bag

Added bonus: it folds up really small. This means that on the days when I run in and already have shoes at work it won't be a problem to squeeze this into my pack for later.

Not perfect, but pretty useful. I'll keep thinking about closures, because I haven't solved that problem here. Room for improvement yet.


Buy nothing update

The challenge has begun. I can't really say it's begun entirely smoothly. It's interesting how many times I've caught myself starting to type amazon.co.uk into the address bar, and how many times I've then thought "Well, how do I waste this time now then?".

Actually, that has come as quite a shock. Turns out that browsing Amazon is one of my grade A procrastination measures. Heh. 

I've also kind of broken the rules twice already. I bought a new pair of running shoes on special offer, when my current ones should be good for at least another 4 months. And after running in the cold and the rain on Saturday I bought a pair of warm compression shorts. I'm going to get rid of a different pair I have which leave me with rubbed patches, but it's a bit of a cheat at best. 

I'm still wasting a certain amount of time reading bag reviews too. I have this idea that I will splurge a little on my perfect backpack, and not have to think about bags again for 10 years plus (and before you say this is ridiculous, it's kind of worked for bikes). I want a backback, around 18-20l capacity, some pockets for organising stuff, preferably a pocket for my iPad and at a pinch my 15" Macbook Pro. Ideally there should be space for a water bottle, and a nice large internal section that I can put my Eagle Creek 15" folder into for one bag travel. At the moment I'm leaning towards the Tom Bihn's Synapse, probably in black. The GoRuck bags have caught my eye, but the sizing is not there, the price tag is enormous and the overt military/American theme is a little offputting for this Brit! 

The nice thing here is that I'm not actually intending to buy any of them imminently. I can really enjoy the searching (hello Carryology!), the reading reviews, the refining of what I need, knowing that actually I have a bag that's doing pretty well right now and I'm just playing. It's one of my favourite parts of buying stuff anyway, so I shall just choose to revel in it for a little longer than normal. (If anyone knows of a British company making nice bags, please let me know! I seem to be having some difficulty finding them...)

So, it's started, but not entirely well. Fingers crossed for better efforts from here on in. 


Small, smart bag

We have a wedding to go to at the weekend, and much to my surprise I've been organised and got an outfit (a dress no less), shoes, and even a matching bracelet and earings set for it. What I suddenly realised - last week, so not all that last minute for me - is that I don't have a bag, and smart clothes rarely look so smart if you have to carry wallet, camera and phone in pockets. 

Now, thanks to a blog post by Rands on what he looks for in a good bag, I did some obsessing about bags around Christmas. I even found this site (Leif Labs), where a guy talks about how he designs and makes bags. I didn't think it sounded so hard, but Clarkie rightly pointed out that I have one or two things on the go and should probably not start bag making. Plus I don't really think my sewing machine is up to the kind of heavy-duty fabrics I'd really like to use, so I shelved that idea. Until now, when suddenly it reared up again. I mean, how hard could a small bag be to make? A hanging liner (as used by Leif Labs) is just a second bag made out of a liner material...

But no. I resisted. I went on Etsy and found what looked like the perfect bag. I ummed and ahhed over the price for a day or two, then bought it. And as the "thank you for your order" page came up, I saw the note at the bottom: "This order may take up to two weeks."

Eep, thought I. It's one week to the wedding. 

So yeah. Guess what? I ended up making one anyway. I dragged Clarkie into a fabric shop with me on Wednesday night while we were waiting for some friends, and she found the perfect fabric in the remnants pile. Quite thick, cotton, black with a wide pinstripe. More than enough for a small bag at £3.60. I nicked the strap from a bright orange small bag that I never use, and the red hippo fabric for the liner. 

Bag open

I haven't quite finished, it needs another snap and the ends tidying up. But it's more or less there. I fitted it to my glasses, wallet and phone, with enough space for my camera as well. I'm pretty pleased. That should work just fine at the weekend, and not bad for 2-3 hours of work. 

Bag closed

I'm still not starting that rucksack project though...