World Refugee Day

Today Wednesday 20th June is World Refugee Day and we’re in the middle of Refugee Week in the UK.

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Like many people of faith, I’m angry that the Bible has been used to justify the separation of children from their parents in the US. If you’re not aware, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, said this: “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order. If you cross the Southwest border unlawfully, then the Department of Homeland Security will arrest you and the Department of Justice will prosecute you. Having children does not give you immunity from arrest and prosecution.”

The White House Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders, also said: “it is very biblical to enforce the law. That is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible.” Thankfully, a number of faith leaders in the States, have refuted this view.

The more I read the Bible, the more I see a call to love, welcome, give and protect the vulnerable and the stranger. I can’t let World Refugee Day and Refugee Week pass without doing something. So here are some ideas:

EDIT: Send an email to Homeland Security here through Amnesty International.

Transformed

I love finding out the word for ‘butterfly’ in different languages; I’ve discovered many of the words are beautiful and fun to say, such as papillon (French), mariposa (Spanish), farfelle (Italian – like the pasta), labalaba (Yoruba) and lolo (Malagasy). In other languages, the meaning of the word is evocative, such as the Danish word, sommerfugl (literally ‘summer bird’),  and the more down-to-earth Dutch word, boterschijte.

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One of my 18 Countryside Activities for 2018 was to learn to identify five new butterflies. So far this year, I’ve spotted and learnt:
And hopefully I will see a few more as the summer progresses.
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Small Boy loves Transformers (he has some of the toys as well as a DVD of the 1980s cartoons) and was delighted recently to have the opportunity to sleep in a ‘transforming’ sofa bed.

Last year, when chatting with my writer friend (and owner of the transforming sofa) about a section in her book, I was struck powerfully by her insight that the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly is irreversible. The butterfly does not – and cannot – go back to being a caterpillar. The butterfly is not like a Transformer, a sofa bed or our trailer tent. The transformation is permanent.

St Paul, in one of his letters to the church in Corinth, explains how: ‘If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!’.

When I chose to become a pilgrim, a spiritual transformation happened. I looked no different on the outside but I was a ‘new creation’ and could not go back to being a caterpillar even if I tried! And I tried.

As I continue on my journey of faith, I am able to accept as true both the immediate spiritual transformation that occurred (I am a new creation, irrevocably changed) and the slow (at times, painfully slow) gentle refashioning which is making me more like Christ himself.

I love the analogy of pilgrimage and this is something I am going to be exploring over the next couple of months. But every time I see a butterfly I am joyfully reminded of the great transformation that has already taken place in my life.

My Wild Journey

Since reading Just Living last year, I have started a journey of discovering the beauty of the natural world – and the harm that we are causing it.

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The view from our nearest park

Last June, Small Boy, Little Miss and I took part in 30 Days Wild. I recently reread my blog post on it and was struck by how something that was on the periphery of my conscious thought has become a central part of who I am.

I’ve enjoyed reading Robert Macfarlane and John Lewis-Sempel and have been influenced by their erudite, evocative and literary writings on Britain’s countryside.

But I had learned to see another wildness, to which I had once been blind: the wildness of natural life, the sheer force of ongoing organic existence, , vigorous and chaotic. This wildness was not about asperity, but about luxuriance, vitality, fun.

The weed thrusting through a crack in the pavement, the tree root impudently cracking a carapace of tarmac: these were wild signs, as much as the storm wave and the snowflake.

There was as much to be learned in an acre of woodland on a city’s fringe as on the shattered summit of Ben Hope: this was what Roger [his mentor and friend] had taught me – and what Lily [his young daughter] did not yet need to be taught.

It was something most people forgot as they grew into adults.‘ Robert Macfarlane, The Wild Places, p.316

This ‘wildness of natural life’ – ties in so well with the ethos of 30 Days Wild. Last year, we spent two weeks in the Lakes during June with nature on our doorstep. I had been unsure how we would find 30 wild activities this year when at home in our post-war housing estate on the outskirts of the outskirts of London. But that’s the point of 30 Days Wild. It’s there. We just need to look.

Today we marvelled at a snail speedily slithering over our watering can – look carefully and you can see its poo!

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We watched one of the residents of our bug hotel, an ant, carry a small dead fly that had been caught in a web. One wing with its intricate lace pattern remained captured in the spider’s trap. Woodlice scurried away when we lifted up last year’s decaying leaves.

Yesterday, we walked, picking up litter on the way, to our nearest nature reserve – an area of wilderness reserved for bees, butterflies and brambles – and played with sticky goose grass.

June, and so our 30 Days Wild, did however begin on another Family Pilgrim camping trip. The campsite was on the edge of a wood and each morning a resident cuckoo would call for hours. I’d never heard a cuckoo before and couldn’t believe my ears at first. We made Stick Man out of sticks, wandered in the woods and when it rained and we sheltered inside, I drew a duck!

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Spot the Stick Men

I part-climbed a silver birch tree, walked barefoot on the grass and created daisy chains for the children. We found over 20 cabbage white caterpillars and pretended a tree (species unknown!) was a house.

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You might not want to take part in 30 Days Wild this year but maybe you could take a little bit of time to discover wildlife and wild places on your doorstep.

Back on the Bike

Last month, I wrote about needing to find restorative activities and I thought a follow-up would be apt since this week is actually Mental Health Awareness Week 2018.

I’ve got back on my bike!

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Still not a photo of my bike!

It’s only a short journey from home to work and just twice a week but it does make a difference to my mental health.

I’ve also done well at swimming once a week – aided by my new swimming costume made from recycled plastic! I’ll leave you to guess which of the colourful (garish?!) designs I chose. woman-underwater-842135_1920

The whole Pilgrim family seems to be restored by being outside and we had a fantastic Bank Holiday Weekend camping trip in ‘Trailey’ – our new-to-us trailer tent. Grandma provided the bunting and I’m trying to convince Mr P we should buy solar-powered fairy lights.

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This is Trailey!

We’ve also had a surprise new addition to the family – a cat! The Furry One needed a new home and so has come to live with us. Pets are well known for helping to relieve stress and spending time stroking his soft fur is so soothing. He is adored by Little Miss and Small Boy and (somewhat surprisingly!) looked upon with a great deal of affection by Mr Pilgrim.

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We are entering another busy period as a family and I know I need to look after myself and my mental health during this time. This will mean accepting that not everything is going to get done perfectly and on time. It means sometimes saying no to people’s requests and risking their rejection. It means making different decisions.

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Shaving, scrubbing and plogging

I am becoming an expert in consuming better – it’s so much easier than consuming less!

[I’ve updated the Consuming Better page and managed to put it on the front page. Please leave a comment here if there’s an ethical product you’re interested in me trialling!]

I’ve learnt that some sustainable choices are far better than the standard option e.g. the Mooncup (it’s more convenient, saves money and is sustainable), while other choices are a little more inconvenient or expensive yet it’s worth it e.g. cloth nappies. But some ethical options have been a waste of money e.g. the razor made of yoghurt pots which kept falling apart!

I didn’t want to return to single-use plastic razors so I decided to brave a safety razor – a metal razor with replacement blades. I bought a lady’s long-handled one from Edwin Jagger (it’s beautifully made) and after some initial accidental wounds (!), I am getting the hang of it – just in time for the warmer weather!

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Not my legs!

I’ve also invested in EuroScrubbies – 100% cotton cleaning cloths (which last for years) to use instead of kitchen sponges. Mr Pilgrim asked me to research alternatives because of the microfibres shed by conventional washing up sponges.

I’ve also bought my very own litter picker which had its first outing recently when my church ran a Helping Hands morning in our local area. It’s amazing how much rubbish there is when you start to look for it – lots of cigarette butts, drinks bottles and sweet wrappers. Small Boy was very keen to use it as well! Not sure if I am fit enough to start plogging but I think I can start with plalking!

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What’s on my shelf (part 2)?

As I wrote in January, I am doing the Better World Books challenge this year as well as reading more books about nature.

Currently on my shelf (and when I say shelf, I mean lying on the floor next to my bed).

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God is Stranger by Krish Kandiah

This is a insightful book and I recommend it. Theologically dense, it’s not a book to read quickly or even to be read once. The older I get, the more comfortable I am with the uncertainties of faith, and this book gives us space to appreciate the mystery and ‘unknowingness’ of God. It also challenges the reader to offer hospitality for the stranger in our midst: the refugee, the child in care and those with nowhere to call home.

Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane

I love words and I am growing in love for the natural world around me. This book is all about words for nature, weather and the land. As Macfarlane writes in this Guardian article, Landmarks is a collection of words which are ‘tiny landscape poems, folded up inside verbs and nouns‘.

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The Stand by Stephen King

This is for the Better World Books Challenge – a book published the year I was born. It’s very long, my first Stephen King and a very different genre from what I usually read. I love his characters and style of writing, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the story develops. I did have a sneak peek at the last few pages to reassure myself!

A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena de Blasi

Thank you to a friend for sending this to me for the Better World Books Challenge – a book about food. It looks like a light-hearted read – some relief from the above books!

The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu

A book set in Africa for the Better World Books Challenge. I’ve read a lot of well-known African fiction but this book was published in 2012 so after (a good while after!) my formal studies. It was an Observer top 10 African book 2012 and I’m looking forward to reading. If you’ve not read any novels by African authors, you should!

Books I’ve discovered this week and have added to my wish list:

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In Pursuit of Butterflies by Matthew Oates

Circe by Madeline Miller

Phoebe by Paula Gooder

Happy reading! Dido x

 

Restoration

Over this last week, a number of people have expressed their concern for me. It seems that my inner angst is not as hidden as I hoped! I’m tired and tense with a spinning, aching head. future-2304561_1280

I was encouraged to think about activities which are restorative. I realised that writing this blog – focusing my mind and losing myself in a single task – is something which renews and refreshes me, and helps me to develop the resilience I need for day-to-day living.

Walking round a lake, riding my bike or going for a swim are other re-creative activities.

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I used to live near this reservoir and would frequently walk or run round it.
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My current bike doesn’t look like this but maybe my next one will!

I am planning to start cycling to work again this week. The cold weather and a temporary office move meant I’ve not cycled to work for a while and I miss it.

I wrote last Mayabout my mental health for Mental Health Awareness Week and this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week’s focus is on stress which seems apposite.

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I need to ensure I make time for restorative activities and to avoid the things that perpetuate the metaphorical and physical head-spinning.

Thank you for reading.

Dido x

A mole, badgers, ratty and a frog

The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing.

(The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham)

I’ve been spring cleaning this week which always reminds me of Mole. Small Boy was an enthusiastic but not very skilled helper! It’s been a long winter; I’ve been feeling a bit ‘bluh’ since Christmas. But now the colder weather has gone, pockets of colour are emerging in the garden and we can spend sunny afternoons outside.

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We made mud pies – one of the National Trust’s 50 Activities to do before you’re 11 and 3/4. This weekend we’re going to be doing more digging.

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Number 10 on my 18 Countryside Activities list for 2018 was ‘See a live badger’. I have wanted to see a live badger for many many years and now I have – nine in fact!

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Last year, we joined the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust and in February I discovered they had a bookable badger hide. Last night Mr P and I sat very still and very quietly behind a large glass window watching and waiting. First we saw two ducks, then two rats, then two rabbits…and then the main show began…one badger…followed by another…and then another. Nine in total. Beautiful creatures, eating noisily and oblivious to their audience.


Last summer, I described how in Ruth Valerio’s Just Living, there are seven themes of practical response with ecological concern the area where I had the most to grow. I re-read this blog post yesterday and was pleasantly surprised by how much I had grown.

And so to Ratty. Ratty in the Wind of the Willows is of course not a rat but a water vole. These are one of my favourite animals.

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Photo by Ryan Stone on Unsplash

I am discovering more about my local river, the River Colne, through the River Colne Catchment Action Network and Watford in the Water. I used to think it was a canal (!) but now I am enjoying discovering more about this small river so it was exciting to read this week that water voles have been spotted there.


No Toad to complete the Wind in the Willows cast list but we did see a local frog!

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Amazon-free for one whole year!

My last purchase from Amazon was 10 April 2017 (a secondhand copy of BoCo the Diesel for Small Boy). I decided to go Amazon-free because they don’t pay a fair rate of tax and because of the way they treat their employees. Read more about the Amazon boycott on the Ethical Consumer website as well as this article from last year by an undercover journalist.

Timed toilet breaks, impossible targets and exhausting, “intolerable” working conditions are frequent complaints. Staff have been paid less than the living wage, and it even emerged drivers had faced fines for ‘early’ deliveries.’

In the last year, I’ve discovered a shelfload of Amazon alternatives – some of which I’ve mentioned before:

Better World Books – this is my first port of call – books are cheap and secondhand. Better World Books donate to literacy projects and I can offset the carbon associated with the postage.

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Photo by Eli Francis on Unsplash

But they don’t always have the book I’m looking for so then I turn to:

Hive which is also good for DVDs and CDs and they support local independent bookshops. I choose to support the Hellenic Bookshop in north London – my name is Dido after all! I also use Wordery and Eden.

On one occasion, I asked my mum to order an obscure book Planted: A Story of Creation, Calling and Community from the independent bookshop in my hometown as it wasn’t available online. This took a while to arrive – they needed to print it! – but it was worth it.

I’ve discovered I can search online for books stored in libraries across the county, request them (this costs 70p for adults but is free for children) and then collect from our local library. I may have to wait a while for popular books but that’s no bad thing.

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Amazon is not just books, CDs and DVDs. My mum asked me to buy some antimacassars for a relative. After Googling antimacassars to first establish what I needed to purchase(!), I tried to find a place to buy them that wasn’t Amazon. Eventually, I found a firm in Wales and ordered directly from there. If you ever need to order arm chair covers online, I can recommend Aidan Sweeney!

Being Amazon-free does involve some investigative skills!

I don’t think my boycott of Amazon has made much difference to them but I think it does make a difference to the library, to Better World Books and to Aidan Sweeney!


If you do choose to use Amazon, have you looked at Amazon Smile – a great way of supporting charities through your shopping?

Changing the Pace

Little Miss’s favourite phrase at the moment is ‘walk, please!’ and so today she and I went for a short stroll. She walks slowly delighting in everything she experiences: a worm, a tree, a flower, a puddle, a digger, a car, a man, a stone.

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Walking at Little Miss’s pace changes my perspective and brings me a deep joy and peace.

I’m currently reading Free by Mark and Lisa Scandrette – the book contains lots of tasks so it’s not the usual linear read. One of the earliest exercises is a time, money and meaning self-assessment. Unsurprisingly, my strengths are ‘Work and Meaning’ and ‘Global Sustainability’ and the areas I need to grow in are ‘Time Management’ and ‘Soul Issues’ (again not a surprise!).

I have been reading and re-reading the chapter entitled ‘Value and Align Your Time’ and wondering what I can do differently.

I’m realising some of the change is attitudinal. It’s going to be a good few years until I can have a regular day off with no responsibilities but I can decide to ignore the mess and play. A few Sundays ago, Small Boy and I enjoyed making Lego vehicles together – with fire shooters!

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At one point, Small Boy said to me: ‘We’re having a day off, Mummy’ and I realised how changing the pace benefits the whole family.

I am also learning to recognise what I am not responsible for and accepting I can be involved in a project without it all being dependent upon me. I was becoming tired and drained just by worrying and thinking unnecessarily.

It’s not just my attitude, I am learning to say ‘no’; I can’t say yes to every invitation and opportunity. Shauna Niequist writing in her book Present Over Perfect challenged me to not to compare my capacity to other people’s: I know what I can manage and it doesn’t matter if others can do more or less.

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As Stephen Covey wrote: ‘You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage – pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside.

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What’s your yes?