It’s so nice to meet you! I’m Sylvia Seal! I live with the dolphins and otters and eels, and lobsters and seagulls, and turtles and snails and big fish and small fish, and flat fish and whales!
We have friends in the water, and friends on the shore, friends high in the sky who swoop, glide, and soar – and we all lived together in Blueberry Bay, until something terrible happened one day . . .
Ashley’s new illustrated storybook tells the tale of a clan of quirky sea creatures who encounter a plastic pollution problem and reach out to the children of Blueberry Bay for help.
For 6 weeks starting in August, you’ll have the opportunity to help publishthis beautiful book by participating in the Blueberry Bay crowdfunding campaign! You can pre-order a signed copy of the book, and take advantage of lots of other exclusive perks including:
Audiobook (read by the Ashley!)
Colouring and activity pages
Live children’s concerts and readings
With your support, we hope to have Blueberry Bay in stores and online in time for Christmas 2019.
Ashley’s new commission for Chester Zoo, “The Palm Oil Conga”, is live!
Her new song celebrates a commitment to sustainable palm oil, and details how the unsustainable production of palm oil is one of the biggest threats facing the forests and wildlife of Borneo and Sumatra. For more information on the Palm Oil Challenge, visit https://www.chesterzoo.org/support-us/palm-oil.
As part of the European Association for Zoos and Aquria (EAZA’s) Silent Forest Campaign, children across the Czech Republic have been rewriting and performing Ashley’s original song “Sing for Songirds” in Czech!
Songbirds in Asia are threatened with extinction due to excessive and strongly cultural rooted consumption of wild songbirds for trade, songbird competitions, pets, export, traditional medicine and food. This campaign aims to save a growing number of songbirds by increasing knowledge, awareness and commitment to do action within and beyond the zoo community.
Ashley’s song “Sing for Songbirds” was performed as part of AmaSing’s 2018’s concert at Chester’s Storyhouse. The song, commissioned by Chester Zoo, was written to raise awareness of the plight of Asian songbirds, including that of the Black Winged Starling. The song was performed by over a thousand children.
AmaSing works collaboratively with educational establishments including primary/high schools, colleges, universities and art specialists to develop and enhance children’s wellbeing, confidence and self-esteem. It also supports professional development for teachers and training teachers in developing skills and opportunities to deliver singing, music and arts in the daily school curriculum.
Ashley’s new song “Palm Oil Conga” tells the story of the great oil palm – where it’s found, how it’s used, its impact on animals and the environment, and how we can help tackle unsustainable palm oil production.
This year I had the pleasure of working alongside Chester Zoo on their “Singing for Songbirds” campaign.
In parts of South East Asia, the tradition of capturing and caging songbirds is still very popular. This practice initially led to the critical engagerment of just a few prized songbirds, including the Javan Green Magpie, Black Winged Starling, and Bali Starling.
Tragically, the capture of wild songbirds for this tradition is unsustainable, and now encompasses all birds, irrelevant of colour, song, size and most importantly conservation status.
I was thrilled when I was contacted by Chester Zoo and asked to write and record a song to help create more awareness about the threats to songbirds, and to inspire young conservationists.
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“Why even bother if you’re so scared?” asked my friend, Lea. “Just use a normal razor.”
But experimenting with a seemingly unforgiving double-edged stainless steel slicey thing had to be less harrowing than paying £16 for 8 Gilette refills. My fear of bleeding to death was the only thing holding me back.
Zero Waste. Safety razors are easy on the environment. Only the tiny blade is discarded, and it’s completely recyclable. Nothing goes to landfull.
Cost. As I mentioned before, disposable razors can be reeeeally expensive. Sure, there are cheaper single use varities, but these produce even more plastic and waste than their cartridged compadres. And they’re usually crap.
Convenience. I always run out of blades when I need them most, so it means more frequent trips to the drugstore. Or more jeans on hot summer days.
Gender Politics. I hate how women’s razors are marketed. Why are they always pink? If it’s not too much to ask, I’d like to remove my leg hair with something that doesn’t reek of lilies and destructive gender stereotyping.
Aesthetics. Disposable razors are tacky, plastic, cheap, and ugly. I love to display my favourite things in the open so I can admire their design. Hiding ugly things in a drawer isn’t my style.
Quality. Last but not least, according most sources, saftey razors provide a better shave with a lower risk of ingrown hairs. Guess we’ll see!
Safety. These are a lot safer than straight razors since the blade is guarded. It’s all in the name!
How it’s done
I opted for a Merkur 23C Long Handled model (£24.75) because it had outstanding reviews, and also because I had read that having a longer handle is better for shaving legs. I also ordered a pack of 100 blades (£9) which were not included.
Next, I hit up YouTube. Many of these “how to” videos generally advocated complicated “pre-shave” rituals, special balms, soaps, lotions, and aftershaves. It all seemed complicated, time-consuming, and intimidating.
Eventually, I got up the nerve to run a bath and give it a go. I didn’t have any special creams or lotions, so I just used hair conditioner and prayed.
The first three minutes were terrifying as I carefully experimented with the blade’s weight/pressure/grip. It took me about half a leg to get the angle right because unlike cartridge razors, safety razors don’t bend with your contours – you have to hold the blade at about 30-40 degrees and apply no pressure.
Before long, I was moving with Sweeny Todd-esque confidence, and had found my stride.
On my second shave, I didn’t even bother with the conditioner. Or water. But I don’t have sensitive skin and never suffer razor burn (haters gonna hate).
My bottom line is that the internet is full of fear mongering and scare stories about people being rushed to A&E after severing major arteries. DON’T FALL FOR IT. Safety razors are called safety razors for a reason. If you’re capable of handling a normal kitchen knife, then its time to ditch the disposibles and get a grown-up razor.
My boyfriend, Oli, also gave my Merkur a whirl after he discovered that I had stopped buying (shared) replacement cartridges. He was also dubious at first, and shaving for him is a real chore at the best of times, but he also reported a cleaner and more comfortable shave first time round.
Now we’re just sharing one razor and the same box of blades, which will probably last us years. At some point, he may get his own, but for now it seems unecessary.
Travelling with saftey razors
Generally speaking, most airports won’t allow safety razor blades through security in hand luggage.
This isn’t really an issue for me, because before embarking on long trips or sunny holidays, I usually opt for a hot wax so I can spend more time eating/sleeping/exploring, and less time grooming. The rest of the time, I can’t justify the cost of waxing, or the hassle of making and keeping appointments. Enter my razor.
Oli has just finished packing his bag for a 10-week interrailing trip around Europe, and he’s opted to take his old Gilette disposible since a) he’s not taking my Merkur; and b) the Merkur’s German design is comparably heavy which isn’t ideal for backpacking.
If you travel with checked luggage, then you’ll have no problem at all packing a safety razor (or more specifically, the blades). But, if like me, you only ever travel with hand luggage, consider your options beforehand.
Safety razors have just landed on my radar, but I am officially a convert.
Of course, an even cheaper, convenient, and eco alternative is to stop shaving altogether, but I’m not quite that brave . . . yet.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on razors, hair removal, or anything else! Happy shaving!
Clutter isn’t always physical. It’s not always in the form of odd socks and boxes and dirty dishes. Sometimes it’s mental, as well.
For me, the time surrounding the release of my latest album, Take Back the Fire was cluttered.
There were rehearsals, studios, deadlines, websites, updates, crowdfunding perks (knitted SCARVES, scarves, and more scarves!), more social media updates, newsletters, posters, a release concert, tickets, more rehearsals, accounting, and more social media.
As an independent, unsigned musician, I basically had to do the work of the band, agency, label, management – the works. And it can be pretty intense.
I taught myself to build websites, use mailing list platforms, and became my own P.A., drawing up rehearsal schedules and sorting travel logistics. In the meantime I was rearranging music and finishing off song lyrics.
It’s an extremely varied and interesting job, and I really love it. But I think that somewhere in the midst of the hustle and bustle, the joy of the actual music got a little lost. I was so focused on trying to decide whether to resolve a chord progression that I didn’t take time to really appreciate how much I enjoyed playing music that I loved with my friends.
Somehow, we turned the songs in my head into real, tangible tracks, and with the help of the people around me I was able to realise these songs fully. I gained more confidence in in my own ideas and musicianship.
For some reason tonight, I sat alone and listened to the alum. Properly, I mean, for the first time since its release, front to back.
Without deadlines, or promoters, or rehearsals to worry about, I just listened.
I thought to myself, “This is my art, my experience. And it’s exactly as I wanted it to be.”
I probably should have done it sooner – but as an independent artist, the excitement, buzz, and to-do list of an album launch wasn’t something I was prepared for. The production, duplication, bookings, PR – even as a minor league player, I found myself running out of the time and energy required to deal with the stress that ensued.
Because the album came about very suddenly and organically, I had no real plan in place for its release and promotion, and no money in the bank to finance such a huge project.
Thanks to our indiegogo contributors, we raised a lot of funds toward the album’s production, but I was still forced to work for six solid months to earn enough money to cover the rest. And this, too, was stressful and made me resent spending time with the record, somehow.
But this isn’t a post about lessons learned (although lots of lessons were learned). I’m just taking a moment to reflect on the whole process, and . . . to, well . . . enjoy the final product.
For the first time, it’s sinking in: this album could be my (second)* greatest achievement.
I’m glad I was able to revisit to this album and fall in love with it. I’m so impressed with the incredible musicianship of the band and the amazing production (by Russell Cottier and Daniel J. Logan).
Maybe it’s not the most ground-breaking, or the most radio-friendly, or the most profound. You may not even like it all!
But it’s honest, and it’s true to my voice and to the spirit in which each of these songs was written, and I couldn’t be happier.
Now, as I prepare myself to dive straight back into the manic, tangley world that is the unsigned music business (I’ve got a tour to plan!!!), I feel at peace knowing that I’ve been able to take the space and time I needed to appreciate the beauty behind the chaos.
With the help of my friends, I have worked hard to make an album that I am so, so proud of.
It’s the best feeling, to be able to say, “I made this. This is me”.