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!

bicycle-3204030_1920
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.

IMG_20180506_090249
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.

IMG_20180509_071118

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.

SONY DSC

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!

womens-3192674_1920
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!

IMG_20180428_114544

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).

adult-1852907_1920

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‘.

fog-1886939_1920

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:

nature-3280325_1920

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.

1929911_44546640392_4153_n
I used to live near this reservoir and would frequently walk or run round it.
bicycle-1209682_1920
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.

mhaw2018plaintile_0

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.

IMG_20180406_152227

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.

IMG_20180407_114939


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!

IMG_2283

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.

ryan-stone-518829-unsplash
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!

IMG_20180410_154613

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.

eli-francis-100644-unsplash
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.

shelf-3258241_1920
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.

IMG_20180315_103402

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!

lego-2589872_1920

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.

no-2887342_1920

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.

yes-68480_1920

What’s your yes?

 

What’s for breakfast?

On Martin Luther King Day last month, I listened to his ‘The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life’ sermon which contains the well-known quote:

Before you get through eating breakfast in the morning, you’re dependent on more than half the world. That’s the way God structured it; that’s the way God structured this world. So let us be concerned about others because we are dependent on others.

breakfast-2620176_1920

(Listen to the sermon or read a transcript)

I’ve ordered Where Do We Go From Here: From Chaos to Community by Martin Luther King because ‘The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life’ sermon is so absolutely amazing and I want to – and I think need to – have more Martin Luther King in my life.


Today is the first day of Fair Trade Fortnight. I’ve recently discovered some new ways of supporting fair trade:

  • Shared Interest – I’ve started investing a small amount each month; the money is lent to small farming and handcraft groups in disadvantaged areas working in parts of the world where other lenders are less keen to operate.
  • Clean and Fair – I’ve ordered a five litre bottle of handwash and a 5 litre bottle of washing up liquid (plus a funnel!) of this new fair trade product. It contains FairPalm – sustainably-grown palm oil from West Africa (where palm oil plants grow naturally). This is good news both for West African palm oil plant farmers and orangutans in Indonesia. [Grand-père – I do listen to you!]

orangutan-498533_1920

  • Arena Flowers – A fair trade registered florist. With Mothering Sunday coming up, why not send an ethical bouquet?

‘Before you get through eating breakfast in the morning, you’re dependent on more than half the world.’

What can we do to ensure that those who are involved in creating our breakfasts are paid and treated fairly? What fair trade item could you buy this fortnight?

Watch this short video created by the Fair Trade Foundation featuring Samuel Maina, a Kenyan coffee farmer. I love his gentle challenge at the end; I will certainly be thinking about him the next time I have a cup of coffee.

This film features farmers and workers at a banana plantation in Panama.

Before you get through eating breakfast in the morning, you’re dependent on more than half the world. That’s the way God structured it; that’s the way God structured this world. So let us be concerned about others because we are dependent on others.

 

Plastic Oceans, Pelicans and Periods

I’ve finally got round to watching Plastics Oceans – a high quality documentary about the problem of plastics in our seas, rivers and oceans. Small Boy and I have also watched the Pelicans Octonauts episode a few times recently: ‘It’s your favourite one on now, Mummy!’ The same topic but for preschoolers – and their parents. Explore, rescue, protect!

If you are thinking about reducing your plastic use, here are some tips from Greenpeace.

bottles-774466

I’m so proud of my mum who has recently found a milkman and is reverting to the glass bottles I remember from childhood. Sadly, the cat who always loved the cream at the top of the full-fat milk is no more.


Ruth Valerio has written a blog article on periods and different options for environmentally friendly sanitary protection. I’ve been using a Mooncup for a while now and can thoroughly recommend it. Other menstural cups are available and the Earthwise Girls website provides a guide to the various brands. I’ve also changed to reusable cloth pads. A ‘zero waste period’ is less expensive, better for the environment and Mr Pilgrim no longer has to go to the supermarket late at night because I’ve run out of towels or tampons!

I’m also becoming aware of the reality of ‘period poverty’ for many girls and women not only in the developing world but here in the UK:

Hayley Smith from Flow Aid was quoted in the Guardian: ‘Teenagers and young girls are being forced to wrap or stuff toilet paper down their knickers, to prevent them from bleeding all over themselves while at schools. The cost of sanitary products are just too much for some girls and their families, and it’s leading to missing school and it’s putting their health at risk.’

tampon-495739_1920

Find out if your local food bank, homeless shelter, women’s refuge or refugee charity would welcome a donation of tampons or sanitary towels. Understandably, charities in the UK state that reusable items are not the best option for girls and young women at school or women living in insecure accommodation.

The Red Box Project ‘quietly ensures that no young woman misses school because of her period’. You can make a donation to the recently-launched Red Box Project in Stoke Newington here.

Sweet to the soul

Today is St Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday: a day to celebrate romantic love and the start of the season of Lent.

While walking recently between our local library and the Royal Mail parcel collection office, I spotted a gate with a sign offering local honey for sale. Mr Pilgrim likes to have honey on his morning porridge so I bravely knocked on the door, which was opened by a friendly older gentlemen, and bought a jar of honey. I’ve been discovering how important insects are and I’ve signed up to updates from Friends of the Earth’s The Bee Cause so I can learn how to help bees.

honey-1460406_1920

Following this theme, I have also given my sweet man beekeeping equipment, hives and training for farmers in Ghana from Oxfam Unwrapped. Along with some Divine chocolate! Which I’m hoping he’ll share. [NOTE: These were purchased and this post written before the news broke about the Oxfam staff using sex workers in Haiti.]

An ancient proverb says: Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. I am a fan of the Love Languages and Mr Pilgrim’s Love Language is Words of Affirmation. So here are some things words of appreciation for my newest blog follower: “Thank you for being so generous, patient and steadfast. You’re a wonderful husband to me and and an amazing Daddy to Small Boy and Little Miss. I particularly wanted to say today I think you’re great at building relationships with our neighbours. I love being Team Pilgrim with you and serving our community together.”


I have been thinking for a while about what to do for Lent and I have decided to do Love Your Streets ‘Do 1 Nice Thing’. Apparently it is simple, doesn’t require planning and is flexible!