Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Being Thrifty’ Category

Renault Zoe 3

I bought a Toyota Prius back in 2003 when hybrids were still an experiment, and it’s been a great car (it’s still in the family and has done 200,000 as is still going strong).

A couple of weeks ago I took delivery of a fully electric Renault Zoe on trial, to support a campaign called Go Ultra Low. Its aim is quite simply to encourage people to think about whether an ultra low emission vehicle could benefit their lifestyle.

I was happy to find out.

We spend part of the week in London and part in West Sussex. When in London we don’t use a car, and have shied away from buying a fully electric car for our house in West Sussex because of the distances we drive from there to visit family or ferry our youngest son to sports matches. The early fully electric cars had a too limited mileage between charges and were limited in size / boot space to make it work for us.

The Zoe, though, has the proportions of a standard car and we can get about 80 miles between charge, which just about does the job for what we need. You can get the range between charges up to around 100 miles if you drive carefully (the on-board computer helps you see how careful you are being) and an “eco” button which limits you to a max speed of 60 mph helps you to edge the range up further. The challenge of increasing the range by developing good habits, like driving slower and accelerating more mildly, is satisfying and definitely encourages this driver to be safer and more considerate.

Driving a whole journey in a silent car, then coming home and simply attaching the special charging unit from the wall next to our front door and hearing the charge “kick in” does all feel rather modern, and you certainly know that you are doing your bit for the environment; low emissions and energy consumption.

My gut feeling is that if “ultra low “ is going to cross over to the mass market then the cars must fit in with modern cars and not stand out as being too different. The Zoe gets this just about right. The dashboard is nice and minimal, the on-board computer does what you want it do (filming behind the car as you reverse, syncing easily with your phone, helping you to conserve battery power etc). There are nice little streamlining touches to minimise air flow such as the concealed door handles and the overall styling allows it to blend in.

The thing that does feel like “the future” here and now, for someone who thrift is a lifestyle, is the cost of a full charge: £3 to do 80 to 100 miles. Now that is exciting and saves a fair amount of cash. Add to that 4 years of servicing for less than £300, and no road tax to pay (and no Congestion Charge if they are used in London) and it does feel rather good.

Naturally, you have to plan ahead as to where charge points are and wait 30 minutes or so to be “boosted”. Roll on the day when every fuel station has rapid charge points! The days of rapid charge points at every service station are not a million miles off: according to www.goultralow.com it’s within the next year or so. So, the future is here and it feels like I am part of it!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

I SHOULD know: fashion can be a double-edged sword. Quite often, it is human nature not to appreciate something until it’s  almost too late or it’s gone. My mum wishes she’d said more nice stuff to my Nan before she died and there are  things you’d have loved to have done in life, but you didn’t. You do it with human beings and you also do it with possessions and with buildings.  Frequently, there’s a rush for newness, a thinking that a new way is  better.

So in the Sixties we had slum clearances that paved the way for concrete tower blocks that didn’t work. At the time, people thought it was  a brave new world, but actually it was about greed: knock down one house and  build three or four properties in its place. Although the experiment  failed, it was repeated in the Eighties and Nineties when policy makers and architects again thought any kind of high density housing was the only solution to an urban renaissance. The policy was exploited by  developers and abetted by banks and their ridiculous 125 per cent mortgages. The effect was an unsustainable housing bubble and that caused the mess we find ourselves in now. So in Liverpool and elsewhere, thanks to short-sighted and often stupid planning authorities, we  have perfectly lovely streets that are earmarked for demolition.

We’re in  danger of repeating past mistakes. Just about  everything, including the Welsh Streets where Ringo Starr was  born, and those noble streets around Anfield is  sustainably salvageable—particularly in this  economic climate when building new rarely makes money. It’s been absolutely proved that most people – young and old  – would prefer to live in a house than a flat. So in Liverpool, we have  houses on a street with an outside space: the basics of  liveability are in place. The historic system for salvaging these  properties was via the council, but because town halls no longer have money,  we need to look at alternatives.  We need mortgage companies to really  support housing renovation and for the government to back their efforts. My wife, Gerardine, and I wouldn’t be where we are now without the help we  received and the work we put into our first house in Wembley, north  London. We stretched ourselves and got on to the housing ladder. That was  back in 1982. That house was also a Victorian terrace and it was practically uninhabitable: it had had no Tender Loving Care since the turn of the  century. It didn’t have any lights, the roof was a disaster, it had no heating, the chimneys were all blocked off, there were no proper bathrooms,  the plumbing was a nightmare and the electrics were completely unsafe. But  when we bought it, Brent council was giving 90 per cent grants to do that work  to kick start these streets back to life. We  brought that house back to life. I go past it regularly and it is a thriving,  lovely little street. So it worked. It took us 18 months. We were just  normal young couple and there are tens of thousands of normal young couples now like we were then who are willing to put in the effort. They would do  exactly what we did if given the chance. But the problem is funding. We’re  not talking about vast sums though. Liverpool City Council says the houses in  the Welsh Streets are worth at most £50,000 and that it would cost another  £75,000 to renovate each one. I just don’t believe that. That might be what  someone is quoting the council, but doing it yourself with the right builder would cost a maximum of £35,000 in my view.

The irony is that banks would  lend a young couple £100,000 for a new flat, but not £50,000 for an old house and a further £35,000 for renovation. I understand why: there’s a risk the  couple would just pocket the £35,000. So what we need is draw-down  mortgages where banks release funds for each stage of repair. Yes, it would  be hard work for the banks, but it would be worth it. The same applies to  the young couple. Putting that effort into your own home is part of  learning to grow up and settle down in life. Most couples would jump at the  chance of giving up a couple of nights out a week  to work hard on getting a good home. Not only would it bring streets back  to life, it would also create communities. Investing sweat into your home is a  shared experience; you make friends and you help each other out. When you  put that much into something, its human nature to love it  and cherish it. What’s more, it creates bonds and longevity in a  relationship. I know it cemented mine. It all sounds Utopian, but it’s not  impossible.

Read Full Post »

I hadn’t been to the Anfield area of Liverpool for a while and this week had a look round and left in a state of shock, anger but also with a mid racing of what can be. Anfield is, or in some cases now, was an area of proud looking solid mid 19th century houses build for merchants and traders.

Like a number of areas of old housing that had low values in that daft and damaging time of pre downturn housing boom, Anfield,was declared a Pathfinder area   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Housing_Market_Renewal_Initiative

What a bloody travesty this happened.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Looking back to the turn of the 80s when Gerardine and I started out… We’d never considered being designers, it wasn’t on the radar of two teenagers from Lancashire. I was playing in a band and we used to hang out in Camden. When Gerardine and I ran out of money to pay the rent on our house in Wembley, one saturday morning we emptied our wardrobes out of some of the second hand clothes that we both wore and some of the clothes that Gerardine had made for herself, put them into a couple of 50p checked chinese laundry bags and got the tube to Camden. For £6 rent we took over £100 and returned on the Sunday and for the next decade of Saturdays and Sundays. Camden taught us about peoples taste, retail and being entrepreneurs.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

At HemingwayDesign we have just been working on a graphic device for The London Community Recycling Network. It’s a pretty simple concept; drop the “f” from Refuse and what do you get? Re-use. For us trendy designer types, with, as my Nan would have said, “our fancy London ways”, it’s a clever play on words and an opportunity to be creative with typeface. But for my Nan’s generation refuse to re-use wasn’t cool or novel it was just common sense, everyday thrifty behaviour. I could write this whole column as a list of things that took place in the 60’s and 70’s Hemingway household that fit under the umbrella of re-creating, re-inventing, re-using, and repairing. Carrier bags became bin liners, the last bits of bars of soap were stored in a jar and then melted to create new multicoloured exotic bars, newspaper was ripped up to provide winter protection for strawberry plants, peelings were composted, most food waste made delicious “roast soup”, socks were darned, jumpers had their elbows patched. We had great fun turning last year’s Christmas cards into this year’s tree decorations and watching my mum carefully folding wrapping paper to use next year is a cherished Christmas memory. My pop’s shed was a shrine to re use, cut off bottles were filled with turpentine to ensure paint brushes stayed as good as the day they were bought, dozens of jam jars kept a dazzling array of screws, nails and bolts, the cardboard inners of loo rolls were seed propagators on the window sill, We all thought nothing of it. We weren’t hippies, that word that has become overused today, “sustainability”, wasn’t in the vocabulary, the concept of “protecting the environment” wasn’t discussed but it was still at the forefront of our DNA. The concept of passing down the good things to future generations is embedded in all species. We are survivors and for a million years or so, to survive we have learnt how to harness and protect the environment . Yet a significant sector of the population seems to have allowed over consumption to have pushed these instincts into a corner where they can’t find them. Despite the fact that buying heavily marketed labels, slavishly following looks created by magazine stylists that are being paid by the brands that advertise in their magazines, and spending on products that are obscenely overpriced is seen as uncool by the true purveyors of cool, to the majority making your own clothes, adapting items that don’t cut it style wise anymore, or buying vintage just isn’t on the radar. Sewing machine sales have doubled in the last couple of years but when you look at the figures it’s a doubling from a pretty pathetic base. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Were going through turbulent economic times. Financial sages are pontificating that the human race has never seen such global financial turmoil. Could this be a worse crisis than the 30’s depression that opened a door to a world war? When things get this bad the blame starts to fly. The tabloids are gunning for the banking community and the city using a variety of combinations of adjectives and animals from “Greedy Pigs” to “City Fat Cats”. Most people seem to be blaming an “irresponsible banking system” for allowing easy credit and offering subprime mortgages.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

It wasn’t easy to sell Red or Dead the brand we created, Gerardine (wife and co founder) said it was like  selling one of our kids but I was determined to “cash in” on 18 years of bloody hard graft, to have a crack at something new and very importantly to have more time with our 4 kids, who back in 1999 were still pretty young. We had travelled as a family and had realised that travelling (rather than spending time on a crowded beach)  as a family was a wonderful bonding experience and an unparalleled gift that any parent could give to their kids. On extended holidays to Central America, The Middle East and Australia which ate into school terms we would get into trouble with school and even social services who I challenged to prove that school could teach my kids more about life than 3 weeks travelling in a van around Guatemala… they sensibly backed off.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »