books · Christian

Hope

Last year, I was excited about Advent – a season of hope, expectation and preparation. But then something happened. One of those phone calls that you don’t want to have and never forget with news that you don’t want to hear. Advent then became a reality for me – I had to ‘live Advent’. Hope couldn’t just be a nice thought, a theology or a theory. Advent had to be more than that.

Much has happened since then and, thankfully, my worst fears weren’t realised. So, even though this year has been one of the hardest I’ve ever experienced, 2020 was better than expected! Yet, we need hope more than ever.

Until quite recently, I had no enthusiasm for marking Advent this year. But then a friend posted a link on Facebook to an Advent course, Living in Hope, and I was drawn to it. It turned out others were too and so together we will be exploring issues of living and dying well.

Once again Small Boy and Little Miss (who are not so small and little these days) will have a Lego Advent calendar from Grandma – some normality in a difficult year. We have also purchased 10 chocolate Advent calendars for the Red Trust Bushey to give to local families.

Earlier this year, I purchased four Advent candles which we shall light at our family dinner times throughout Advent.

Draw with Rob at Christmas is another Advent gift for the Mini-Ps who both have a new interest in drawing, sparked by Draw with Rob online tutorials watched while at Bubble School in the summer term. I don’t know what the long-term affects of living through a pandemic will be but I hope they remember the fun times rather than the difficult days. Among the many losses of this year, there have been some gains and seeing the children happily sitting and drawing at the kitchen table is one of them.

I’ve also picked Advent for Everyone: A Journey through Luke off the shelf. Mr P read it last year and since Luke is one of my favourite books of the Bible, I will also read this.

I learnt last year that I needed Advent in a deeply personal way, and so this year, with all that has happened and continues to happen, I need to reach into the season even when it feels hard.

Sadly, no purple (the liturgical colour for the season) hair for me this Advent which was probably one of the highlights of last year although the Christmas tree and Christmas pudding hats will be worn daily!

Ethical living · Social justice

Lost Stock

Exactly four months ago, I placed an order with Lost Stock. The impact of coronavirus meant that many clothing companies cancelled orders leaving the workers in Bangladesh unpaid (and at risk of not being able to buy food) with the clothes heading to landfill.

So I placed an order: for £35 (plus postage) I would be sent at least three items of clothing within 6-8 weeks. There were a few questions to answer about the style of clothes I liked and my age. I lied as I think (at age 41) I wear 35-40 rather than 41-50. They have now changed the way that question is phrased to allow for people who ‘dress younger or older’ as well as expanding the age brackets.

Logistical problems (which they did keep me informed about) meant it took four months for the clothes to arrive but it was worth waiting for. Even though they are from the summer range, two can be worn in the colder months with some additional layers.

I received three stylish tops so definitely worth the money. Two of them I think I will wear often. The third is a bit frilly for me – I felt like a lampshade. I realised that for the last three years my clothes have come mostly from charity shops so it was a really good feeling to have some shiny, new clothes. Yet, still a purchase that was doing good.

Ecological concern · nature

Moth Night

My wonderful husband made me a moth trap for my birthday (as requested!) mostly re-purposing bits of wood and using some egg boxes a neighbour no longer wanted (one of the good things to have come out of the pandemic is our road’s WhatsApp group where people often give away items).

Moth trap

Moth Night 2020 runs from 27th August to 29th August and so we used it last night for the first time. This morning I was surprised by how many moths were trapped but also disheartened as they all looked so similar. There are many more moth species than butterflies!

After looking through the Concise Guide to Moths and discovering the incredibly helpful What’s Flying Tonight? website, I had a good idea about some of them and then checked online with a Facebook group. Pleased that the ones I had identified, I had identified correctly, it was nice to know the names of the ones I had struggled with.

So we have: Square Spot Rustic, Large Yellow Underwing, Setaceous Hebrew Character, Pale Mottled Willow, Silver Y and Straw Underwing.

Our new wildflower area in our front garden is very popular with moths: mint moths during the day and I’ve spotted moths at night – just need to find out which ones now!

Wildflower Garden with mint moths
Wildflower Garden
allotment · Ecological concern · mental health · nature

Summer Harvest

I’ve not had the inclination, energy or time to write much here since the pandemic began. For weeks, I struggled to even read and reading for me is almost like breathing. Like many I was juggling work, homeschooling and housework. My experience was easier than for many as I did have childcare for most of my working hours (I’m a key worker) and Small Boy returned to school in mid-June. It was still incredibly challenging though and I need to reflect more on my personal coronavirus experience, especially the emotions: fear, anger, grief, loneliness, and a yearning to lament. At times, my mental health wasn’t great. I’ve isolated myself (more than was necessary!). There were some scary days.


Taking my daily nature photo was incredibly helpful, especially on days when I didn’t feel like it. Our garden, allotment and local nature reserve all provided solace, space and serenity.


So what’s been growing?

At the allotment, we’ve had courgettes (so many courgettes!), potatoes, onions, beetroot, radishes, spring onions, and four majestic sunflowers. Fruit trees have been planted but no fruit yet. Half of the plot is covered over and we hope by next spring to be able to make use of all our space.

At home, tomatoes and green beans are growing in our homemade wooden planters (and eaten daily) with pumpkins and squash looking good for an autumn harvest.

At the beginning of this year, Mr P began to remove all the concrete from one section of our front garden. A laborious process involving drilling and digging. Rubble collected and topsoil added, we planted some seeds for pollinators, added cuttings of californian poppies, alyssum, nasturtiums and lavender, and transferred some dahlias I’d planted from seed (as a lockdown activity). There is also Small Boy’s sunflower from Beavers (which elicited a wonderful conversation with the postman who proudly showed me a photo of his nephew’s lofty sunflower).


Our front garden (or at least this section of it) has been transformed from boring and barren to bright and buzzing with insects.

(Sadly, as we were adding soil, five other houses on our road were removing it and having new drives laid.)


If you’re interested in creating a wildlife garden, I’d recommend The Garden Jungle and Wildlife Gardening for Everyone and Everything.

I’m hoping the transformation process can be repeated in a different part next year!

30 Days Wild · haiku · nature

Haiku

Inspired by a walk the children and I took on Monday and my brief encounter with a butterfly on Tuesday, I had at go at writing haiku (as suggested in an email from the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust).

Sitting by the pond.
Tadpoles swim, dragonflies speed.
Quick snacks for the ducks.

Pink blossom now brown.
Goose-grass crown stuck to my hair.
A sparkling moment.

Cow parsley flowers.
You run down the small green hill.
I am eight years old.

Secret wild meadow.
Branches and blossom our roof.
My ideal home – tea?

Holly blue, surprise!
Too fast for my camera.
Butterfly catcher.

Ecological concern · mental health · nature

Nature Photos 3

Each day during lockdown, I am aiming to take at least one nature photo (I think I have missed one day). We’ve noticed more avian activity in our garden over this last month: starlings, blue tits, robins, blackbirds, pigeons, magpies and goldfinches have all visited. I’ve also seen a few new-to-me species when out walking or running: chiffchaff, greenfinch, wren, mistle thrush and (new to Small Boy) a woodpecker. We’ve enjoyed finding tadpoles, butterflies, caterpillars, and seeing our first dragonfly of the year.

Here are some of my recent favourites either taken in our small garden or in the community where we live. Little legs can’t walk far!

Starling
Robin

I’m not finding lock-down easy but it’s easier because of the natural beauty around me.

books

What’s in my book bag?

The Tiger Who Came to Tea and Me from The Giraffe, the Pelly and Me enjoyed World Book Day which they celebrated by staying up late looking at books. They know I find it hard to tell them off for reading!

At the start of the year, I found two canvas shopping bags – one for me and one for the children – so that I could always find our bedtime books following many frustrating searches for The Enchanted Wood. Surprisingly our Bedtime Book Bags have worked incredibly well and we have read from a chapter book every night as well as a daily poem from I am the Seed That Grew the Tree and a small section of the Bible using Topz.

I then purchased some ‘real’ bedtime book bags for both the children and me created by For Joy by Kathryn Jane. Small Boy, Little Miss and I now have beautiful, personalised organic cotton bags (which came in reused packaging). Bedtime is now a little bit more organised, we are a little bit tidier and bedtime books have become even more special.

Personalised Toy Bags  Organic Cotton image 0

Currently in Small Boy’s bag is A Comet in Moominland; I’ve started a collection of the Moomin books published by Puffin Books in the 1970s which are rather stunning.


And in my bag…The Starless Sea by Erin Morgansten (The Night Circus was one of my favourite books from 2018 and I am enjoying this magical tale) and Defiant by Kelley Nikondeha.

What’s not in my bag is The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel. I’m practicing patience by waiting for my library reservation. I’m 18 out of 144!