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?

 

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.

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(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!]

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  • 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.

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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.’

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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.

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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.