Extreme electrosensitivity makes most jobs impossible and has led me on a poetic, eventful, exhausting, seven year journey to find a home, researching and developing sustainable livelihood all the way. Now at last I’ve found somewhere I could live, work and be well. But it’s a daunting undertaking

The Business

I have woven £12,000 worth of stock these last two seasons. This is not big news, the big news comes at the end of this piece. But it is quite good going for a van-based craft business in a period of even-more-upheaval-than-usual. My new wares are in my shop now, and there will be much more to come through autumn and winter – ponchos and shawls followed by the more strictly wintry warms, the snugs and scarves.

Now, unfortunately that does not mean that I could, with my current super-slow methods and tiny, itinerant workshop, weave £24,000 worth of stock in a year, because in these two seasons I have done next to no blogging, marketing, listing or, dammit, selling, which together require at least a third of my effort over a year. And it also doesn’t mean that I will beat my all-time record to sell £12,000 worth of stock this year. Very unlikely. Especially when limited by small looms in a small space to winterwear in decreasingly cold winters.

But, given that I already had more than £12,000 worth of stock in my shop before this season’s weaving, let’s say that I did sell £12,000 worth this year. I pay Etsy and social media platforms about 20% of that total for listing and advertising; a further 30% of it is accounted for by materials and expenses. So that leaves me with about half of the £12,000 as wages from which to pay all workshop overheads (‘use of home as office’) and living costs – £500 pcm.

The Leap

Seven years ago on the brink of launching, I reckoned that myself and large hound could live on the road in an elderly van and fund business overheads on £600 a month as long as nothing major went wrong.

A photoshoot by for my first big break: an Etsy feature that brought thousands to my shop in 2016

I don’t regret that leap for one minute (and actually I had very little choice). But it was never going to be easy, and of course major things have gone wrong all the bloody way. That and seasonality mean I’ve had to get help (for which I am so very grateful) just to scrape by in these costly big economies of ours.

Naturally I question every five minutes whether local craft can ever be viable, whether my community needs what I produce, or whether there is something better I could or should be doing. And since the answer to all these questions is basically ‘no’ in our current society, I keep on keeping on despite the contradictions. 

I like what I do: it’s relatively autonomous and low-impact, essentially peasant/resilient; it’s creative; it inspires others; it warms others; it’s politically significant, since in our economic context makership is an act of resistance. It’s as much challenge as I can cope with nowadays, and, lastly, I can’t think of a single, meaningful alternative that a landless electrohypersensitive could actually survive. (I can’t even go fruitpicking as long as every other picker carries their damn phone on them, or there’s a mobile phone mast in sight.)

The Grit

Electrohypersensitivity is classed as a disability in some European countries – in France that qualifies you for disability benefit. This makes me feel both relieved and angry: relieved because the predicament is understood in some places; angry because getting sick from diesel particulates does not make you ‘disabled’; getting sick from tobacco smoke does not make you ‘disabled’; getting cancer by glyphosate or asbestos does not make you ‘disabled’… getting sick from artificially high background radiation levels does not mean that I’m ‘disabled’, it means that there’s an environmental toxin being sold as a public good that’s become a public dependency. A post-industrial necessity that is as much a public harm. And the cruellest aspect is that the most sensitive among us (including wildlife) are the least likely to be able to communicate effectively to the wider community because our society’s prevailing means of communication is micro wave digitech, the very thing that causes our problem, so we are often cut off from the wider community, struggle overly with bureaucracy, etc. etc. 

To illustrate how my susceptibility to environmental radiation affects my lifestyle and relationships:

I effectively have a ‘budget’ of about six hours’ a week of artificial electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure, after which my body becomes over-aroused beyond quick recovery (aka relaxation) so that I cease sleeping altogether and, chronically wiped and wired and stretched and anxious and over 40, become ill. (The number of six hours can be more or less depending on how high the levels of exposure are, e.g. from zero inside a granite building in a wooded valley with all lights, appliances switched off 95% of the time to minimise effects of poor earthing in old electrics, to moderate on an exposed hillside where there’s some mobile reception, through to extreme every time I connect my phone – often my only internet access, get a zap from someone else’s device, go into town, or pass a mast.) Just shopping, essential comms and keeping my work going uses up that budget. Going out at all always costs me a few days’ recovery, which I often can’t afford. To actually enjoy any time with friends, they have to be up for switching off and wildy walks in wooded valleys. Very little else.

And I fear how many others are suffering in far worse surroundings than me, and without knowing the cause to be able to make changes, and without means and connections to pursue the crazy workarounds that I pursue; how many will resort to zombifying sedatives, or beating their wives, or psychiatric wards, or drinking themselves to death, or just experience steadily worsening health; how many of us are expendable in the name of ‘progress’, when ‘progress’ means perpetuating and protecting wealth concentration among a few in a hyper-tech ‘arms race’ to the bottom; how many sick people a straining welfare system and diminishing workforce can carry; how far behind the times the medical profession is in their knowledge of this; and how many will have to get sick before national norms for safe levels are reduced and adhered to. (As often, some European countries are ahead on this, thank goodness, namely Austria, Germany and Italy, last time I looked at the stats.)

The Nacre

So, as ever in so many ways, I’m one of the lucky ones. And against the backdrop of housing crisis, gig economy, digital nomadry and pandemic, with help and your moral support and custom, I have woven a beautiful cloth of the silver lining. I have spent much of the last five years combing the furthest reaches of these isles and Brittany for some affordable little nook I can settle relatively autonomously to quietly grow my own food in as much voluntary simplicity as anyone not-quite-hermit can feasibly achieve in this wretched ‘civilised’ world. The quest has been necessary, and it’s been romantic, in between the struggle and the mundane. It’s been dangerous and empowering, as all quests should be, but also confidence-shaking and debilitating. 

I have expended immense amounts of energy – energy that I should have been using to change the world, and to work, grow food, exercise and otherwise look after myself and my community – searching for and researching possible housing solutions in four countries (One Planet Development schemes, co-housing, eco-villaging, shared equity, building plots, planning laws, building materials, ruins, barges, squats, husbands), all of which I ultimately found I simply could not achieve as a feral, lone-female, anarchistic electrohypersensitive on a tiny income.

The Pearl

At last I’ve found a small, very roughly habitable, rubblestone cottage buried in a quarter acre of eight foot high brambles, with another half acre of tree-fringed glade, in a pocket of properly rural countryside, with no mobile phone coverage and friendly neighbours, that will be mine for a very modest £55,000. It has a new roof, a new woodburner, free water, and a very basic bathroom and kitchen. Crucially, there’s space for a proper workshop with larger looms, and for a dye garden, and possibly even a couple of fleece animals.

This sleeping beauty is too buried beneath the brambles for a photograph (which would reveal a not-particularly-beautiful, cement-rendered façade)

As well as the normal surveying process, I’ve had both a builder’s and an architect’s advice on it (friends in the right places, thank you Chris and Chris). It is structurally sound enough but there is work to be done to deal with damp and lack of use; it has old, skeletal electrics, no boiler, and an old, legally obsolete, septic tank. 

But I have tools, skills, books, contacts and courage; I know how to rough it, wing it, mend it and make do, and anyway ‘modernising’ isn’t really in my vocabulary; my way is more romantic – grow wax myrtle and make my own candles; rig up a bicycle to power my laptop and eventually go without; shun even photovoltaics – if I can.

It’s not perfect. Drawbacks include a not-very-walkable route/distance to the nearest market town but advantages include land that gently slopes to the south west; the house being at the top of the site, not overlooked; the property having its own spring as well as the shared village one piped into the house. The house itself has some nice features among the less nice ones, and ticks the essential boxes (especially no mobile coverage) where in five years of searching nothing else has. 

The Next Step

I’m researching forest gardening, regenerative micro-agriculture and permaculture. Fleece animals and dyestuffs from my own dye garden would build on my existing livelihood, as well as developing food production in case of community need. In fertile lands like these, and in the face of climate catastrophe, we need all the primary producers we can get in our precariously obese ‘service’ economies. Keeping earthskills alive is a matter of survival of the species.

No falling in love until it’s signed for, though it’s mine for the signing. I hope to move in this month or next, after putting down the deposit – the vendor knows I’m in sore need of a home before the nights get cold and dark.

The only problem is that I don’t have £55,000. Nor am I ‘mortgageable’, an advisor told me. I’m terrified, as ever, but I do have a plan.

The Plan

  1. The bank has, irresponsibly, offered me a normal loan of up to £30,000. Repayments are scary as hell on a tiny, erratic, arts income. And in my analysis, since my bank calls itself a mutual but is not, this money-created-as-debt-at-interest-by-those-privileged-with-a-license is a locking mechanism for our society’s material ills. But so much less choice than we like to think: shoulder the poverty tax and compromise my principles in the short term the better to keep fighting in the long term.
  2. Blessedly, there are some family funds I can draw on in addition.
  3. I have things to sell: my retro Mercedes; a yurt (currently backup accommodation but soon unaffordable luxuries); lots of handwoven garments and many more to come; plus two very fine musical instruments (if I can content myself with lesser versions).
  4. Once settled, I can be more productive: in the last seven nomadic years, there are seasons when I work a steady 45 hour week, months when I work a 50 or even 60 hour week, but times of upheaval in between where I barely work at all: beyond my control, exhausting and disruptive. (Life on the road is not a steady amble from one beautiful hilltop to another; there are vast swathes of inhospitable terrain – hostile territory, even – in between the very few remaining wildy refuges. Especially if you’re electrosensitive. Also, too often I have had to rely unsustainably on family and friends, who can barely accommodate my electrosensitivity themselves.)
  5. There’s a gap in the local market for lawnmowing for secondhomeowners, which I could risk destroying my soul to do if bank loan repayments became really scary in my low season – a scythe would make it less environmentally loathsome and more of a campaign stunt. There’s also a gap in the local market for holiday cottage changeovers, ditto…

…and finally, you.

The Solution

Given the vagaries of a craftsperson’s income, to reduce the amount I have to borrow, I’m appealing to you. I’m launching a crowdfunder. This is hard to ask in our society (though in the Once and Future Village, friends, neighbours and family would all help each other build their homes if they could)…

Please would you help me buy a safe, stable, longterm home from which to further my (I hope you’ll agree) worthwhile activities? 

The Crowdfunder

If so, if you’re reasonably comfortable/secure yourself, and not stretched too thin in over-giving, or stuck renting and resenting, or debt-stressed and floundering, as so many are… if so – and I can’t type a heartfelt enough ‘THANK YOU in advance’ – if so, please go to my crowdfunder page to make even the tiniest donation. I hope to raise £20,000 before November 30th, but sums will still be invaluable after that as I deal with poor drainage, decrepit septic tank, lack of boiler, rotten floorboards and stairs and so on. Your gift would make it work where without you it’s very, very touch and go. You can donate here: Rerooting: a home for Eloïse.

Where the magic money tree grows

So I was looking for home and love. Home keeps reconceptualising itself; love was ever thus. And now I am looking for my role in the revolution and my place in the new order. By this I mean the campaign against feudalism and the growth of something that somehow marries the best of socialism, capitalism and anarchism.

Maybe one day I’ll buy a little land, but something stops me now: not only limited choice, and not knowing where I want to settle and invest, but also concern that land ownership is such a problematic part of the old order. When one person owns, no other can be an equal on that territory, is my experience – no matter how careful, generous and skilful the parties, it seems.

Summer hedgerow

I’ve been inspired by the words of a woodsman fellow weaver who made the below short film. Self-proclaimed ‘nettle nerd’ Allan Brown considers his nettle textiles a symbolic act of resistance, since wildgrowing nettles are the ‘fibre of the landless’. 


Because sheep farming is tied up with land ownership, reduced bio-diversity and the meat industry, ultimately I wonder whether I should move away from wool – even the local, undyed, vegetable dyed and/or handspun wool that I prize and can ill-afford – and towards a more sustainable fibre source such as an abundant wild British plant.

At Seed eco-conference I met not only virtual friend, drop spinner and weaver Imogen Di Sapia, but also a Saori weaver, Erna Janine, freely weaving chaos principle. I have another friend, Richard Toogood, currently staying in a Neolithic reconstruction village and rough hewing his own primitive looms. Together with Allan we are cooking up ideas for a ‘Green Cloth Collective’: a Green Cloth Camp; a Green Cloth Fair; a Green Cloth Co-operative. How to make local labour viable in a globalised neoliberal world? Meantime I have some nettle yarn from Nepal out of which I’m planning a poncho. Despite that the Nepalese yarn cost me about twenty times less than if I’d spun it myself, the garment will still be pricey, alas, because of the cost of my labour at even about half the UK minimum wage. Perennial problem for craftspeople: I hate that the many cannot afford my goods. I wonder if a different world economics could alter this.

The money question. At times it’s been a relief to leave complicated barter arrangements aside and resort to the supposedly neutral tool that is currency. Like many, I have a long-held suspicion of money, but in moments like those, see its true value as a tool. I’ve never understood money markets, nor, till recently, been interested in economics at all, though now have become fascinated with the both, together and separately. Here’s why.

Contrary to what the dominant neoliberal culture would have us believe, there *is* a magic money tree, but it’s currently in the wrong hands. Money can be a common good, but the way we currently create it is not in the interests of the common good: money creation as debt forms a locking mechanism that keeps us hellbent on the impossibility of infinite growth: boom, bust, guzzle, crash. Humankind is great, but we let our shadow run the show. And the essence of our modern economic model inclines us to act more exploitatively than most of us would naturally act. *This is how it works (it’s a simplification, and it’s dry, but it’s important, so I invite you to read carefully and share widely – and of course feel free to contest).

Some fundamentals:

Firstly, apart from the tiny proportion of money that is represented by coins and notes, money is not a *thing*: money is a token, an agreement between parties, a currency that serves as a tool to be used to aid the fair exchange of actual things.

Next, a brief look at the monetary cost of *things*, that is, of goods and services:

Raw materials do not cost us money, because we do not pay money to the earth herself for the minerals and other raw materials that we extract. What we pay in money for raw materials is for the labour required to extract and process them. So the financial cost of every product or service is mostly constituted by the cost of labour, including what I will call ‘embodied labour’.

In our current monetary system, over and above the cost of labour and embodied labour, which represent the true monetary value of a thing, there’s an additional cost. On average in each monetary transaction, there is one winner and one loser, financially speaking: in order to keep afloat, the vendor must charge more for his product than the product is technically worth in terms of labour. This is because he has to pay not only the cost of labour input, but also the cost of money.

So now to explain the cost of money:

Only 3% of all money in circulation has been created by governments. The other 97% of money is debt that has been created by corporate banks who have special governmental permission to manufacture money for the purposes of lending. When a loan is agreed, the lender simply writes the money into being in their electronic ledger as they transfer it into your bank account. That’s right: they create it from thin air, as confirmed here by the Bank of England. The magic money tree is currently operated by corporate banks who commodify money, hiring it out as if it were a thing.

The borrower does not just pay a hire fee or service charge, but an exponentially growing rate according to volume and timescale: interest. As the borrower repays the loan, the money loaned is written off again by the lender: it ceases to exist. Meantime the lender has extracted surplus, in the form of interest, which far exceeds the labour costs of lending the money, and which constitutes profits for the bank’s shareholders. (Who holds the most shares and thus gains the most income from this? The richest few at the top of the pyramid.)

And back to the transaction of goods and services:

This ‘surplus’ is the additional cost that a vendor has to cover in each transaction in order to service his borrowing. Hence the consumer pays a price that is more than the true value of the actual good/service.

These individual transactions aggregate to constitute the wider economy. Because of the the moneylenders’ interest hoover, vendors charge more than the actual value of their goods and services in order to cover debt, and consumers are out of pocket. The dynamic is mathematically imbalanced: prices are higher than wages/salaries, and so wages/salaries can never cover the consumption of all the goods and services produced. This means that some vendors will make heavy losses, even while consumers everywhere borrow more and more to afford less and less. The result is an impossible quest for infinite growth: basically productivity booms as we chase the shortfall, and busts when we fail to make it. The failure is inbuilt, never-ending and relatively predictable. (So if you’ve a shrewd eye and a purse for gambling…)

Consider the human and environmental cost of all this. Most of us have our backs against the wall for at least some of the time, or are at risk of it, and fear or memory of this discomfort or strife compels us to earn harder to try and alleviate the impact of the next squeeze. Depending on our place in the hierarchy of the economic pyramid, we are either stuck on survival, running just to stand still, or, if we’re lucky/ruthless, climbing at great expense. (Perhaps even those at the very top feel they struggle financially to maintain their castles, yachts, grouse moors, oilfields.) It is hard for anyone not to feel poverty conscious. When do we have the leisure to consider the sustainability of the system, the sustainability of our households, the sustainability of our relationships, and the sustainability of our impact on the natural world?

Being debt-free as an individual does not aid the debt-based economy, since 97% of the population will necessarily be in debt (as per the current percentage of money that is debt). Keeping consumerism down does not aid the debt-based economy either: with insufficient custom, our businesses fail, and our families suffer. A debt-based economy requires consumption to be maintained at a certain level – a level that our planet cannot sustain.

Something has to change.

We reject hunting and gathering, by our land ownership, agriculture and desertification. We reject self-sufficiency, for it does not allow for specialisation. We reject communism, for it reduces us to the lowest common denominator. We contest capitalism, but even without land or property ownership, we all have capital on which to capitalise, be it time, energy, or competency. We had democratic socialism, where the welfare state looked after those in need and business gave opportunity to some. We now have neoliberalism, a barely-regulated capitalism in which voracious big business dismantles the state, looking after fewer and fewer and giving real opportunity to fewer and fewer. We rejected feudalism, but it has emerged in another guise.

Said Indian ecologist Satish Kumar of Schumacher College some years ago: ’It’s not poverty that’s the problem, but wealth.’

So what can we do about it? A pivotal measure could be the nationalisation of money creation: it could remove the locking mechanism that keeps us in wealth-hoovering, planet-devouring chains.

When things get sticky, our governments shake the magic money tree themselves and, in partnership with the central bank, perform Quantitative Easing. In other words, they print money. They can do this in any number of ways – they don’t necessarily literally print banknotes, but may create digital money to invest in particular ways with the aim of stimulating growth in a certain sector, banking on positive knock-on effects for the wider economy. It doesn’t always work, and depending on the way QE is deployed, sometimes it serves only to create yet another trickle-up mechanism to boost the already rich. But the point is this: that *governments*, the folk we elect to work for the common good, can get involved in money creation.

So what if a government took the powers of money creation largely into their own hands? President Lincoln did this successfully with ‘Greenbacks’ before he was assassinated; JFK apparently was moving in a similar direction, and other isolated economies may have done and be doing this around the world. proposes such a sovereign money system in which a friendly government works in partnership with a committee at the national bank who are independent of the governing party for the sake of neutrality. A sovereign money system would not be gameable in the way that money creation as debt is currently gameable, and should thus eliminate and/or dilute the mechanisms by which wealth is currently hoovered upwards and concentrated in the hands of a few. Sovereign money could begin to create a stable economy in which costs, wages and prices all matched. Just imagine what we’d then all be freed up to achieve if we weren’t hellbent on the myth of growth.


And meantime what can we as individuals do to resist, prepare and act otherwise? Here are a few suggestions.

  • Visit the Positive Money website and read Bank of England literature for technical details – the more of us know what we’re talking about, the better
  • Join your local Positive Money group and campaign for monetary reform
  • Check out the New Economics Foundation
  • Consider your own business model (bottom up? collectivist? co-operative?)
  • Read Marx, Raworth, Reich, Roebottom, Monbiot and Noakes, or just interrogate bankers, economists and Positive Money folk, as I do
  • Watch Bruce Parry
  • Think collective, collaborative, co-operative and municipalist 
  • Study the economics of differently-organised countries and communities
  • Support local and regional banking initiatives, including credit unions and building societies, or otherwise Triodos Bank
  • Boycott
  • Barter
  • Share
  • Discuss
  • Contest
  • Write letters
  • Vote wisely
  • Ask questions
  • Gain insight
  • Consider the overview
  • Think in systems
  • Crowd fund
  • Crowd source
  • Guerilla garden
  • Rewild
  • Recycle
  • Reinvent
  • Repurpose
  • Upcycle
  • Be vigilant
  • Dream differently
  • Plan carefully
  • Create alternatives
  • Support each other
  • Remember Camus: ‘The only way to be free in an unfree world is to make your very existence an act of rebellion’



  • [Please add to this list in the comments below]


*With special thanks to Chris Noakes for guiding my study of monetary reform.