Live like you’re on an island

When you live on an island, stuff matters. The sky seems bigger somehow; the sea horizon more intriguing; the elements more powerful. Islands bring out the poet, the artist, the philosopher, the inventor.

They are creative places inspired in no small part by the distance that everyone and everything must travel to get there. Limitations of climate and geography must be considered in almost everything from building homes to running a business to educating a small and scattered population. When you live on an island, you are always aware of it.

Self-sufficiency takes on a new importance when high shipping costs are added to every purchase. Whatever is brought in – from cars to washing machines to mail order clothes to groceries – has to have some sort of exit strategy attached for when their usefulness is spent. Better, then, to think up ways of reusing junk and cutting down on waste. Or buy less stuff.

Islanders the world over have had to become experts at upcycling, recycling, and reimagining all kinds of articles that in bigger places are often shoved in the bin or left on a street corner for collection. The old boat becomes a shed roof; the fish boxes are vegetable planters; salmon cages are turned into greenhouses; old enamel baths are water troughs; seaglass becomes jewellery.

I live in an archipelago which is quite good at recycling and self-sufficiency but not yet brilliant. The charity shops are plentiful. The art, the music, the poetry thrives. The hills support sheep and cows, the sea gives fish and many people grow a few vegetables.

Most food, though, is shipped in by supermarket chains, its journey and its packaging adding significantly to the costs.There is still an over-burdened landfill, although a waste-to-energy furnace provides some power, and one of the UK’s biggest district heating schemes pumps hot water throughout the main town.

Beaches vary between stunning shards of silvery sand and mad tangles of rope and plastic and old junk, depending on the tides. Some of the rubbish is seaborne from further afield than these islands, but too much we generate ourselves. There’s a community-wide spring clean of shores and roadsides, but a few windy days and a tide-mark of debris is left once more. Careless consumerism has a visible impact here.

Even so, when your home is on an island living lightly seems to come a little more easily, nudged as it is by need and neighbourliness as well as environmental concerns. There’s a shared sense of responsibility that can be lost in the noise of urban life.

Since moving here from a flat in Berlin, I no longer buy clothes on impulse, drink coffee from disposable cups or work in a place where I don’t know everyone by name. Instead, I grow a few veggies, plant a few trees, use the same mug all day and teach in a small, two-classroom school.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s no idyll. The weather can be harsh and the winters long and dark and there are days when I desperately miss city living. But here, everything just seems a bit closer to home; cause and effect of modern life more obvious.  If I drop a plastic bag in a ditch near my house, it will sit there for a dozen years or more unless the wind gets to it first. No-one cleans up after you on an island.










Silk with Soul. Pure luxury

At Susurrus we love to take a little bit of luxury wherever we find it… from the warmth of woolly socks straight off the woodburner, to the unhampered view of the Aurora Borealis dancing above us in the evening sky. And, of course, slipping into bed each night with our soft, smooth and soporific organic silk pillowcases. That is most definitely a feeling of luxury.

But what exactly is this elusive concept that changes through time and place and from person to person? What seems like luxury to one can be everyday or even vulgar to another. Our notion of luxury rises and falls with changes in society. It finds roots in culture, economics and symbolism. It follows fashions and tailgates trends. Nowadays, as so many struggle to meet even the basic needs of life, Susurrus asks, why do we love luxury, and how can we justify it?

For many, luxury is synonymous with wellbeing and comfort, with a little bit of guilty pleasure thrown in; that moment when you slow down, breathe deeply, sigh contentedly and feel acutely aware of how good – how luxurious – this feels. It’s the unexpected long-lie when you have small children;  a log fire and a glass of fine red wine on a stormy night,  or the spontaneous picnic by the sea when you should be working. These are luxuries of time and opportunity.

For others, luxury is more about those rare and exclusive experiences  and possessions – the most expensive, most beautiful, biggest, fastest…the glitz and glamour of a 5 star hotel;  the excited buzz of an art opening; the glint of a diamond or the tick of a perfect timepiece.

At Susurrus we too love turning the ordinary into the extraordinary. We too love to feel pampered and special. But not at any cost. Without mindfulness, or compassion and understanding for those whose lives are less easy, our luxury moments are meaningless.

Are our silk pillowcases a luxury product? Of course they are. But they are also carefully sourced from an organic silk maker who cares about the lives of the people who work there and the land they live on. We try to run our business with thought for others. We’re not perfect, and its not much, we know, but it is something. Can we justify our luxury? We can, but only if we keep in mind how fortunate we are and make sure our joy doesn’t come at someone else’s cost.

At Susurrus we will continue to do our bit to support other people where we can, whilst also appreciating those moments in life  – from finding the time to sit and watch the waves on the shore at dawn, to sinking into our soft silk at night. We might even enjoy the odd glass of wine by the fire – toasty in our warm woolly socks, of course.

Silk with Soul. Pure luxury.