A Conversation With: Jen Carr


We open VOICES with one of my best friends, Jen Carr. One of the kindest, funniest, and most well-read souls I am grateful to know. This past year has seen me miss her biggest milestone yet, and, on the verge of motherhood, I am about to miss another. I really wanted to document Jen in this momentous time of her life - think of this conversation as a point in time – a snapshot of London during lockdowns, marriage and pregnancy...

 

FL: Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

JC: I’ve been living in London since 2016, what started off as a two-year stint has turned into a stay of indefinite duration. I grew up in the Hokianga Harbour, went to boarding school in Auckland and then university at Otago, always it seemed moving further and further away from home. 

I’m currently 40 weeks pregnant and can’t get my head around the fact that my child might have a British accent. As to what I do – I work at a bank in Financial Crime Compliance.  

 

London truly does seem worlds away from your family farm. Your baby will have such a different childhood to you!

Oh my god, I’m going to have such urban spawn! I grew up in such a remote part of NZ, my physical world was limited to the valley in which the farm sat and occasional trips to ‘town’, where we would have begged my mum to let us come with her to Kaikohe while she ran errands and did the grocery shop. Respect to my mum for achieving anything with three children in tow.

It’s weird to think that our baby won’t grow up in the countryside, but I’m determined that the Hokianga will be a special place for them.

 

How has it been through all of the UK lockdowns and restrictions? How have you looked after yourself, both spiritually and physically? 

I think the most frustrating part about Covid-19 in the UK is so much of the hardship and uncertainty seems to be inflicted upon us by an incompetent government (I will restrain from further political narrative). Especially when you compare the UK’s response with NZ!   

I have been very lucky throughout the past year to have kept my job and have been able to work from home. The lockdowns (we’re now on our 3rd!) have made me appreciate how grounding a routine and structure is. It’s taken far more discipline in lockdown to maintain a yoga practice or even just a daily walk. If you’re not careful you sink so far into the couch and auto-play that you lose yourself.  

So, to look after myself, I try and leave the house every day, practice yoga and maintain a regular(ish) bed time. I watch far too much TV though, and for someone who thinks of themselves as a bookworm, I have not read nearly enough.

What are the silver linings to come out of the past year?

My partner and I planned on getting married in May last year and for a time it felt like the stars aligned perfectly with my most dearest friends and family lined up to join us London for the day. BUT then we had COVID-19 and had to unpick all our beautifully made plans. 

We had always planned on having a small laidback wedding, with the day orientated around our neighbourhood in London. Our local hood means so much to Mark and I, as it is where we fell in love, where we live (and plan to have our baby) and where we were to wed and did wed! I love the fact that within walking distance of our front door are all these deeply personal milestones.    

So after a few attempts (and one fabulous lockdown-cancelled wedding celebration) my partner and I managed to get married in September, we had four friends present for the ceremony - which we zoomed for our in-absentia guests. We were lucky that the COVID-19 rules at the time allowed for weddings of up to 30 guests. So the ceremony was followed by photos in the park and then a long lunch at a gorgeous local pub. It felt so special to be able to walk from our home to our wedding, to the party and home again.  

Luckily my beautiful wedding dress (a LOCLAIRE creation) was cut on the bias and managed to accommodate my 20-week baby bump, not at all what was initially envisioned.  

And of course, Baby Watson-Carr who will be making their entrance to this world soon!

Isn’t it just crazy that live-streamed weddings are the norm now. Do you think that not being allowed to travel has made some of your relationships closer? Reaching out, checking in?  

The lockdowns have definitely made me re-group and re-focus on friendships. Without meaning to we have found ourselves forming an extended bubble of friends that we try and see as much as possible (in a safe and socially distant way). 

I’ve always been rubbish with phone calls, face time etc, but find myself now making a conscious effort to check in with people, especially in the current lockdown which I think mentally has been more challenging that the first one.

The past year has seen a lot of friends return to NZ from London, which has made our circle in London feel closer and more manageable! Pre-pandemic I would sometimes feel like I was spreading myself too thin.

 

And what has your pregnancy taught you about your own strength, as a woman?

Pregnancy has been an interesting experience for me. I’m quite cynical in regards to a lot of what is written about pregnancy and motherhood. Sometimes it all feels like one large experiment in gaslighting. 

But it has made me appreciate the strength of my body and I’ve loved watching it change and adapt to the baby growing inside me. I think we all love feeling like we are in control of ourselves and our body, so for me a large part of the pregnancy experience has been learning to let go. I now think that child birth will happen to me, as will motherhood.

And how about for your child, what sort of world do you hope for, for them? 

Omg the anxiety about bringing a child into this world! I do have reservations about having a child when the world seems to be burning around us and I have no real answer. I would like Baby Watson-Carr to inherit a cleaner, greener, and kinder place then the one we currently inhabit. Being raised in London I think will help with that, they can experience a car-free existence, public transport will be second nature to them, and diversity will seem so much the norm that NZ will be a culture shock!  

 

What does LOCLAIRE mean to you? 

LOCLAIRE means so much to me. It’s a physical manifestation of all the hard work, talent, vision and love of one of the best people I know. Every piece of LOCLAIRE clothing I own I cherish and because of the quality of the design and fabric will wear for years to come.   

LOCLAIRE has put sustainability and ethical supply at the heart of its business (well before it became fashionable). So wearing LOCLAIRE feels like I’m helping the planet and also feels amazing because all the fabrics are incredibly luxe. 

What are some other ways you practice mindfulness and sustainability in your life? 

I attempted not to buy any new clothes for a year, and while some new purchases slipped in (a rain coat, togs, cycling gear) the experience of actively not buying reshaped how I approach purchases. I would much rather buy a few beautiful, well designed pieces (like LOCLAIRE) than buy anything I wouldn’t wear after a season or even years. Fast fashion makes me sick. If only fast food did too! 

I now eat a lot less meat, which for a girl who grew up on a beef farm feels like a big deal! So for me being less of a consumer of material goods and meaty goods is my attempt at a sustainable life.  

Mindfulness – yoga grounds me so much. It helps me to disconnect from the world, while at the same time connect with myself and others around me. The practice of setting an intention and dedicating my practice to someone is very impactful.   

Empathy as well. I think so many human issues could be resolved if we all tried to be truly empathetic. We gain nothing and lose so much when we do not try to understand one another.

 

I am totally with you. These days, I am constantly reminding myself that every single person has experienced the pandemic in a totally unique way – influenced by their location, job, community etc. A caring thought or hand to another person can go a long way.

Finally, I miss you! I think this is the longest time we have been without seeing each other. What are you most looking forward to when you can finally come home for a visit? 

I miss you and all the PEOPLE!! Friends and family. When I come home, I try and give myself a week with family, a week with friends, and then a week showing my British other half the best of NZ, which usually involves my family and friends as they are the best part of NZ for me.  

The beaches are pretty shit aye...   

 


QUICK CHATS -

Your favourite read - I just finished reading Beloved, by Toni Morrison. A ghost story like no other as it explores the lives of former slaves in a post-civil war America.  

A song that gets you moving - Bad Guy - Billie Eilish, I can mooch around the house clicking, bopping and grooving.   

Your ultimate dinner party menu - For our zoom lockdown wedding, my lovely friends planned a zoom dinner party for us – the menu was spot on! Bruschetta  & campari sodas to start, puttanesca, and tiramisu and espresso martinis to finish. 

Wise words to live by - I'm not at all religious, but "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" seems like a good way to live your life. Or maybe "never say never as you’ll make a liar out of yourself." 

 

 

Photos by Mark Watson / Jen wears from top: Reefs Shirt, Turtle Tank, Scallop Bike Short, Pipi Blouse, custom Oyster Gown, Scallop Crop.


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