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.

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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!

 

 

Snapshots

This week I attended a photography workshop (a birthday present but it’s taken me some time to organise it!). I’m looking forward to being creative, growing more confident with our camera, and capturing some of Small Boy’s and Little Miss’s childhood.
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Small Boy and I made banana bread this morning using soft and squidgy (fair trade) bananas. I ate a deliciously warm slice topped with homemade Greek yoghurt (our latest addition to the zero waste journey) as my mid-morning snack; don’t judge me – the Small Boy alarm clock woke me at half six and Little Miss was awake for much of the night.

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The pavements and grass verges in our local area are frequently littered with dog poo. Problematic when pushing a pushchair alongside an energetic Small Boy, I’m know I’m not the only mum who is fed up with cleaning wheels and shoes – we live near a primary school and many children and parents use the pavements to walk to and from school.
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Our local borough council has a ‘report it’ function on its website, specifically for this issue. I’ve reported pavement poo three times now (including yesterday) and twice the street cleaning team has been rapidly dispatched to wash the area. I’d rather there wasn’t a poo problem in the first place but I’m pleased I can do something about it! It’s a small way I can love our community.

My bedtime (library) book is by John Lewis-Stempel, an award-winning nature writer. I’m currently reading The Running Hare, his account of trying to farm a field using traditional methods. That might not sound fascinating, but it’s a brilliant, evocative and provocative read. I’m saddened by the demise of many British wild flowers which my parents and grandparents would have grown up with.
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I’m making plans for my 18 countryside activities for 2018; I’ve found a place to go and look for wild badgers, discovered a large hill to climb with Small Boy, and beaches to visit and puffins to spot.

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I’m looking forward to writing about them!

What’s on my shelf?

Lying in bed with the flu earlier this month frustrated that I was unable to do very much, I decided to do the Better World Books Reading Challenge. That way I could at least achieve something!

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From the Better World Books Facebook page

I’ve already read or am reading:

  • A childhood favourite – I finished reading my 30-plus-year old copy of Swallows and Amazons which I started last year and intend to read Swallowdale too
  • An author’s first novel – The Homecoming (borrowed from my sister)
  • A book recommended by a friend – I borrowed The Little Book of Hygge
  • An anthology of poetry – The Seasons: The Nation’s Most Treasured Nature Poems – I discovered this in our local library which is becoming a regular Saturday destination for the Pilgrim family. We enjoy reserving books online from any county library and then picking them up locally. Our library is small but incredibly busy (used by a varied demographic) with a great children’s section. I hope that it continues in some form in spite of forthcoming budget cuts. Love your library! If you are in any doubt over the importance of libraries, read this article from Voices for the Library.
  • A book by a deceased author – The 39 Steps My copy used to be belong to my Grandpa who first read it in the 1920s.

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I’m looking forward to reading a book published in 1978 – plenty to choose from! Any ideas?!

I’ve just ordered a second-hand copy of Julius Caesar (from Better World Books – did you know that they offer a carbon offset scheme?) for the ‘play or screenplay’ category because Mr Pilgrim and I are off to see the new production at Bridge Theatre. We’re being more intentional about spending time together alone and choosing to invest in our marriage and home-life. More about priorities another time!

Do you have suggestions for the other categories? Please share your recommendations below. Thank you! Dido x

 

Hello! Is it me you’re looking for?

‘A-rro’ says Little Miss as she picks up her toy mobile phone cutely mimicking her parents’ actions.

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I had my first mobile in 1999 and my first smart phone in 2010.

Six mobiles (including two second-hand) in 19 years.

I’ve been using an iPhone 5 since August 2013. For the last year I’ve been reliant on a portable battery charger because the battery would die after just a few hours use – and Mr Pilgrim wanted to prolong the phone’s life for as long as possible!

I’ve been aware of some of the ethical issues with smart phones for a while (read this report from Ethical Consumer if you’re not aware) but that didn’t stop me from choosing to own an iPhone or iPad. It’s so easy to not think about an object’s past (or indeed its future) and only see the brand-new shiny commodity in front of us. It’s that dopamine hit!

Following further frustrations with the battery over Christmas, I purchased a new phone. I am now the proud owner of a FairPhone – an ethical smart phone. It’s modular, with a transparent supply chain and is made without the use of conflict minerals.

I thought it may be a sacrifice but actually so far I’m very impressed by its design, usability and functionality. (The camera isn’t as good as the iPhone’s though.)

Just as we need to ask ‘who made my clothes?‘, we should ask the question: ‘who made my phone?’

Was it made in a sweatshop in Vietnam?

An in-depth investigation of Vietnamese Samsung production facilities peels back the shrink-wrap of Big Tech to reveal an extremely vulnerable, mostly female workforce that may be sacrificing its neurologic and reproductive health in digitized Dickensian workshops to make cutting-edge smartphones.’ From: https://www.thenation.com/article/was-your-smartphone-built-in-a-sweatshop/

Factory workers spend, on average, 8 to 12 hours a day on their feet, and often rotate between night and day shifts—resulting in persistent joint pain and fatigue. According to women’s testimonies, employees frequently succumb to nose bleeds, dizziness and stomach aches.’ From: http://msmagazine.com/blog/2017/12/08/exploited-endangered-female-factory-workers-vietnam-open-work-conditions/

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This is a photo of ‘iPhone girl’ – a young woman working in an iPhone factory. Her photo was discovered on a new iPhone purchased in 2008 by Mark Mitchell, an IT manager from Hull. It’s likely that she was testing the camera and then the photos simply weren’t deleted. You can read more about her on the brilliant Follow the Things website. 

Students at Exeter University are asked to keep the photo of ‘iPhone girl’ on their phone’s home screens for the duration of their four-month Material Culture module. Student Sophie Woolf wrote about her experience here:

In all honesty, I’ve become a bit obsessed during my university term with the idea of tracing commodities. I’ve been grabbed by it. Let me explain: it’s like wearing glasses that have gone foggy, but you’re unaware, and suddenly one day you wipe them. BAM. All these connections that you’d never stopped to think about are revealed.’

Let’s think about the connections.

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What’s the journey and story behind each item that we purchase?

And what happens to these items when we no longer need them?

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In the UK, FairPhones  can be bought (monthly bundles and contract) through the Phone Coop.


Yet, it's hard. It's difficult making ethical choices.

Also, the weirdness.

Some may think I'm odd. Or judging them.

And it can be expensive. And inconvenient.

And I definitely don't always choose the most ethical option. 

So then there's the guilt.

But yet there's always grace.

 

 

Going wilder in 2018: 18 countryside activities

In January’s edition of Countryfile magazine, Maria Hodson shares her wish list of 50 outdoor wishes to be accomplished in the countryside.

This inspired me to write my own (shorter!) countryside list for 2018.

  1. Pick up rubbish 
  2. Love our garden 
  3. Go wild swimming in freshwater
  4. Learn to identify five new butterflies (to be honest, I’m not sure how many I can identify now – embarrassingly probably not many)
  5. Learn to identify five new birds – see above comment
  6. Learn to identify five new trees – as above!
  7. Read more nature books, specifically from the library IMG_3549
  8. Climb a fell
  9. Go camping
  10. See a live badger (I’m currently reading Badgerlands by Patrick Barkham and discovering how seeing badgers in the wild might be more difficult than I first thought involving patience, disguise and staying awake at night – which is kind of obvious really!)badger-2030975_1920
  11. Go for a walk near a viaduct (this was Small Boy’s contribution, probably inspired by a Go Jetters episode) 
  12. Walk on a beach – and pick up rubbishplastic-bottle-606881_1920
  13. Take photos of our local neighbourhood 
  14. Be a Nature Detective with the Woodland Trust
  15. Have a tour round Church Farm (this is where our meat and vegetables come from)
  16. Use the National Trust’s 50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾ activity list
  17. Read BBC Wildlife magazine (as with Countryfile magazine, I used Tesco vouchers to buy a year’s subscription)
  18. Look at the stars in a dark sky, maybe as part of the Dark Skies Festival (this is Mr Pilgrim’s contribution)

Happy New Year! x

Today I flew a kite

I flew a kite today for the first time in over 20 years. 

I noticed it was exceptionally windy this morning when I went outside to the recycling, so when Mr Pilgrim asked what we should do today, I replied: ‘let’s go and fly our kite!’

I’d spontaneously bought it for £2.99 from Oxfam in the summer, confident Small Boy and Little Miss would want one someday. 

The morning reminded me of afternoons on French beaches with Grand-père; the kite spending more time on the ground than in the air. 

But occasionally we got it: the colourful diamond dancing and swirling and circling with its long blue tail twisting and turning through the air.

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In these moments, I almost held my breath with joy and wonder. It was the same when I went sailing earlier this year. Again, it didn’t happen often but every now and then, I’d position the boat correctly with the wind in the sails and we would pick up speed. My muscles and mind remained tense as I concentrated on the boat but inside there was deep exhilaration and joy.

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My instructor was able to look at the lake and determine where the wind was and then position the boat ready for the gusts. I don’t know much about meteorology, sailing or kite-flying but I wonder if this is what journeying with God could be like. We wait, we watch and then together we move in a divine partnership. 

We sing a song at church called ‘Jesus, Be the Centre’ which contains the line ‘Be the wind in these sails’. (It’s a beautiful song, if you have a moment, you can listen here) 

So that’s my prayer for 2018: Jesus, be the centre. Be the wind in these sails. 

Waiting, watching, sailing, soaring.

Happy Christmas, Mr P!

Here is a little thank you to my husband, Mr Pilgrim, as a (zero-waste!) Christmas present:

This time last year I had no intention of pursuing a more sustainable lifestyle. To be honest, I thought we did quite well. We recycled, we cycled and we had fair trade wedding rings. Yet, as I read and reflected, I realised how much we could change and should change – for the sake of the world and those who live in it.

Mr Pilgrim has encouraged me every step of the way. Always building me up and offering his support. Not always agreeing with me; sometimes gently questioning and challenging. Yet often helping me stay on track when I was tempted to wander!

He has embraced our vegetable boxes and cooked some amazing meals which have been a pleasure to share with him. He tackled our parsnip glut creatively by making awesome ginger and parsnip soup as well as parsnip crisps. He has researched ethical cycling shorts, made the switch to using cloth nappies for Little Miss and wrapped up my Christmas present in an old map. He has accompanied me to charity shops, bought me fair trade chocolates as a treat and built this brilliant bug hotel with Small Boy.

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He’s even eaten kale and chard.

I returned to work on 1 September and I haven’t bought sandwiches from a shop at all during this time – saving money AND avoiding single use plastic! Every day I have had homemade sandwiches with Mr P’s homemade bread (from the pre-loved bread machine – his idea!). One lunchtime they were hand-delivered still warm to my desk.

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He’s never once laughed at me, dismissed what I’m trying to do as a ‘fad’ or been critical.

Thank you, Mr P, for being my fellow-pilgrim and for championing me, listening to me and encouraging me to be the best version of myself. I love you. Happy Christmas.

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Meat, feet and retreat

Meat

Since we’ve started living more sustainably, Family Pilgrim has made some changes to what we eat and drink. Mr P and I have become much more aware of both the provenance of our food and the impact on climate change of eating meat, particularly red meat.

I‘ve realised that animal welfare is something that matters: I know that sounds obvious but how often do we think about who made our clothes or where the components of our smart phones came from or how the animals we eat were treated?

I need to ask questions about where the food on my plate comes from.

We’ve been buying vegetables, meat and fruit from Church Farm for about six months now. I’ve recently stopped purchasing all meat products from the supermarket and bought Quorn for the first time. If it’s good enough for Mo Farah, it’s good enough for Family Pilgrim! 

I’m becoming more intentional about choosing vegetarian options when eating out. Tonight I had chestnut roast at my work Christmas dinner.

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Currently, I’m not planning to become vegetarian but I do want to continue reducing our meat-intake. 


Feet

My Charity Shop Purchase of 2017 has to be these £15 green DMs from my local HomeStart shop.

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I’d been chatting to someone about how I’d like to get some Doc Martens and how I had loved them as a teenager. And then three days later when Small Boy and I were shopping, we spotted these. I was fairly sure they wouldn’t be in my size, but they were! 

They’re definitely an ice-breaker and Small Boy and Little Miss love delighting in fighting taking turns in putting them on!

The large purple hippo (a Christmas present for Little Miss) was runner-up in my Charity Shop Purchase of 2017 Award!

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Retreat

I’ve been feeling emotionally and mentally tired recently and my mind has been racing. A conversation with a friend prompted me to have a break from my phone and computer for 24 hours. I told a few people so they’d know to contact Mr P if there was an urgent problem and then put my phone on airplane mode from sunset to sunset. I think I might make this a regular thing as it definitely helped me switch off.

I’m also aiming to leave my phone downstairs at night-time and relying on an old alarm clock to wake me up in the mornings.

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Although to be fair most mornings Small Boy is a very effective alarm clock! 

Less/More

Less/More

Less Facebook

Less internet

Less radio

Less television

Less noise

Less light

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More peace

More presence

More purpose

 

 

Advent 2017

The season of Advent is about to begin. We’ll be putting up our Christmas tree at the weekend and will start spending time each day reading the Christmas story with Small Boy and Little Miss. 

(We also have a Lego Advent calendar for Small Boy and Little Miss has an Advent mouse with a tutu!) 

I’m going to start reading a recently-published novel ‘A Christmas Calling’ by Chris Cottee as well as two devotionals ‘A Perfect Love’ by Mummas: The Word and ‘The Meaning is in the Waiting‘ by Paula Gooder (a charity shop bargain in January). 

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I want to make space for God during the busyness but more than that: I want my everyday nappy-changing, tidying, cooking, shopping, queueing, Facebooking, walking to school, project-planning life to be Christ-centred. 


I have now been blogging for a year. My first posts are all reflections on Advent and Christmas which you may wish to read or re-read over the next few weeks: 

Grace makes beauty out of ugly things

God moved into the neighbourhood

The little Lord Jesus no crying he makes

Take the child, his mother and flee

Waiting for the baby