I like shopping. I like buying new things. I like having stuff. But I know I consume too much and I want to live more simply. But this is not something that comes naturally to me.
So I’ve written a list of five activities for Black Friday (by the way it’s also Buy Nothing Day!) to position myself away from the pull of purchasing and possessing.
1) Bake a cake – did you know that bananas are the UK’s most wasted food? I’ve used our squidgy bananas to make (hopefully!) delicious banana bread. Creativity – even if it’s a simple cake – is a fantastic antidote to consumerism.
2) Write a letter – I’m going to write a letter (with a pen not a keyboard!) to a friend to thank her for her decades of friendship.
3) Give – I’ve found some books to share with the Community Book Swap and will take some clothes to a local charity shop.
4) Play – Small Boy and Little Miss are full of creativity, imagination and enthusiasm. They don’t seem to want or need that many toys for their games of ‘pretend’. I’m going to enter their worlds joyfully and with a grateful heart.
5) Pray – I will spend some time praying for my family, my local community and the work of Tearfund.
This reflection should be titled ‘What’s on our shelves?’. Small Boy is now bringing home reading books and this weekend we’re enjoying reading about Tim and his dad catching cod with a rod. It’s wonderful seeing the world of words open up to Small Boy.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!
Trips to the library are important; Little Miss chose Don’t Wake Up Tiger – a beautifully-illustrated book where the readers get involved by stroking Tiger’s nose and blowing balloons. Family Pilgrim are also big fans of Richard Byrne’s This Book is out of Control – another book where the reader needs to help out!
My local community association has just this week started a book swap which is a great idea.
And what’s on my shelf?
I’ve just finished reading Birdwatching with your eyes closed by Simon Barnes but listening to the accompanying podcast has been tricky as it upsets the cat! I’ve realised there is a greater biodiversity where I live than I thought but it’s frustrating how hard it is to distinguish which species is singing (I know that listening to the podcast will help!). Previously I didn’t know how much I didn’t know (and to be truthful, I probably didn’t care too much) but now I feel frustrated at my ignorance and the pace of my learning.
Walking places is taking longer as I keep looking up and trying to spot the singer!
At The Justice Conference, I was intrigued by a book called Blue Planet, Blue God and it’s not like any book I’ve ever read before. It’s a mixture of biblical studies, English literature, oceanography and ethical living. It’s intellectual but contains practical steps on how we can – and should – care for the sea and the creatures that dwell there. It’s a quirky and compelling read.
Next on the list is The Seabird’s Cry, recommended by my friend over at Hearten soul. We loved seeing gannets on holiday at Bempton Cliffs (and returned with the cuddly Flappy!) and I’m looking forward to learning more about them.
I have just spent two days at The Justice Conference – well, almost two days, I missed the evening sessions as finishing at half nine is just too late for me now! I hope to catch up the sessions I missed through purchasing the talks on a USB.
Not too far from home, the conference was at The Drum in Wembley, the UK’s greenest public building. Little Miss, Small Boy and Mr Pilgrim came with me on the train on the first morning – a train ride is fun when you’re small and I was glad of the company!
My head is still spinning as I begin to process the sessions and seminars. Full of poetry, drama, talks, panel discussions and audience questions, the days were full of challenging content. I want to think more about:
Encouraging young children to engage with the Creator and the natural world (I found out about a church that meets in a park! Park Church, Luton)
Making space to be creative and the importance of creativity
The Pilgrim family’s giving
Connection and holism – why is it that many of us don’t join the dots and see how our the way we live our lives (often in over-consumption) has an affect on others? Why is there still a dualism to our thinking? What can be done about this?
The highlights from me were the variety of voices – there was a diversity in gender, colour, nationality and background. An LGBTQ+ perspective was missing though.
My favourite speakers were Mandisa Gumada, a South African woman from Green Anglicans, and Micah Bournes – my new favourite poet. If you have time, I recommend listening to some of his spoken word poetry.
I’ve signed up to Jeremy Williams Make Wealth History blog and am looking forward to reading his book, The Economics of Arrival, which comes out next year.
Hopefully, as I read and write and think and talk, I will be able to share further thoughts here.
Advent starts in about six weeks and I’m already looking forward to four Advent activities I’ve planned.
Wearing my fair trade Christmas tree hat – I didn’t need it but it’s beautiful and fun! Little Miss adores wearing it and looks so winsome. I don’t look quite so cute but it’s creating joy and laughter.
Reverse Advent calendar – Grandma has already bought the children some exciting Advent calendars. Thank you, Grandma! But I want to do something alongside Lego and Peppa Pig which turns our attention – and our time and money – to those who are in need of some help.
We are going to make a reverse Advent calendar. In previous years, the logistics have overwhelmed me but I have just added 24 items, such as a bag of sugar and tins of rice pudding and custard, to my online shopping order. Each day in Advent the children can choose an item to go in our Advent Box and then together we can take these gifts of food to a local charity which runs a foodbank – dropping off weekly rather than just before Christmas.
Last year, a friend told me about the Jesse Tree – making ornaments for a Christmas tree which tell the story of Jesus. I’m fairly rubbish at craft and so have ordered a book to help! My hope is that this activity will not only help Little Miss and Small Boy learn about Christmas but will also remind me and Mr Pilgrim of the wonder of Jesus’ birth.
It can be easy to have good intentions but then not to actually do anything. I find planning – and then writing about my plan – means my idea is more likely to become reality!
Advent is still over a month away so there’s still time for you to plan a way of giving, discover something to read or do, or even buy Christmas-themed head-wear!
I thought it was time to experiment with some new plastic-free alternatives.
I’ve steered away from DIY toothpaste as I want something with fluoride. When I saw discovered online company Anything But Plastic was selling Denttab Toothpaste tablets with fluoride I thought I’d give it a go. I’ve bought six-months supply because it is cheaper that way. I clean my teeth twice a day and alternate between the toothpaste tablet and usual toothpaste in a tube. I’m still getting the hang of it! You need to make the paste in your mouth with the tab and it’s quite a different feeling to toothpaste.
For the last 18 months I’ve been using a foundation from Green People. It’s great but expensive and in a plastic container. Lush are selling Slap Stick, foundation without any plastic. I went to my local Lush to find out what shade would suit me – there are 40 to choose from! But Slap Stick foundation is only available online although there is a helpful guide to choosing the right one for your skin tone. I picked 8N which is more or less the right shade. I’m still getting used to it but I love the concept. Crocheted make-up removers – I was kindly sent some of these for free from The Willow Tree Yarnery. They’re not as soft as cotton wool but they do the job!
And in other news, I always have one (or two) notebooks on the go and, thanks to a friend’s extremely generous birthday gift, I am now the proud owner of an Elvis and Kress notebook (which is refillable). It’s made out of decommissioned fire hose and is truly sustainable luxury. A special thank you to my kind friend for such a wonderful present.
For some reason, I thought that I’d never find a pair of jeans I liked in a charity shop. Recently I’ve bought as-good-as-new Monsoon and Fat Face pairs from local shops. It takes 1,800 gallons of water to make just one pair of jeans so second hand denim is definitely a good ethical choice and they are so much cheaper too! I may be spending more money on food but I’m definitely spending less on clothes.
One of my earliest blogs on living justly was about the chagrin I felt on purchasing a pair of Converse trainers. I’ve been waiting until they needed replacing before buying an ethical alternative. They are looking pretty grubby now and I was pleased to receive an Ethletic pair for my birthday.
Once again, I am conscious that consuming better is still consuming and there is plenty of plastic (particularly small insect-related toys) in my life! But hopefully my small changes make a little difference and maybe inspire you, and others, to try a plastic-free alternative.
At the start of this year when reading Free by Mark and Lisa Sandrette, I wrote a list of my five personal values: local, community, social justice, growth and creativity. This exercise turned out to be pivotal when, a few months later, I came to make a decision about whether or not to pursue a potential new job; a role which would have fitted with four of these values but was most definitely not ‘local’. I realised then just how highly I hold this value; local does not mean less.
It may be laziness but I just like having everything near each other! I hated the daily commute when I had a job 30 miles away from my home and conversely love my current 10 minute cycle from my front door to the office car park. (Thank you Mr P for rescuing my bike this week when I lost the key to the lock!)
It’s important to me to be part of a church in the community where I live as well as being involved in the community itself in some way. I am blessed in being part of a church family which loves our community and have the privilege of being involved in the local community association.
I’m now learning to appreciate my local environment. I have recently discovered, through reading Matthew Oates’ The Pursuit of Butterflies, the Welsh word ‘cynefin’ meaning ‘homepatch’ or ‘heartland’. My current home hasn’t been my home for very long and so I don’t know if the natural world here will ever make my heart sing in the same way revisiting the countryside of my childhood does. But maybe. If I watch and wonder and love and live with the eyes of a child, then as seasons pass, I will be able to say this locale too is the land of my heart.
David Lindo, The Urban Birder, writes about the importance of the naturalists’ ‘local patch’. The ever-generous Mr P presented me with a surprise gift recently of a colourful weighty tome all about butterflies in Hertfordshire and Middlesex – our local patch. There is so much for me to discover and enjoy without having to travel too far.
This week I enjoyed a nature walk with a friend in a nearby nature reserve – a short walk down the road from where I live. The term ‘nature reserve’ may conjure up inaccurate pictures in your mind as this particular site is fairly small and was developed from a site of redundant allotments. Yet, it’s a area near where I live full of wildlife. My friend and I enjoyed watching:
[Note 1: Small Boy was at school and Little Miss was with us but fast asleep. I doubt we would have seen all the above otherwise!]
[Note 2: We also saw a black cat.]
I have a nature notebook in which I am jotting down different wildlife I see each day to help me build an appreciative picture of what is in my ‘homepatch’ and maybe over time to note any changes. I have frequently spotted a red kite flying overhead and spotted a fox twice late at night in the same place.
The Urban Birder’s catchphrase is ‘look up’ but I think mine is just ‘look!’
I have some exciting news! Family Pilgrim now has an allotment!
We put our name on the waiting list earlier this year and I emailed last month during National Allotment Week to cheekily ask if we had progressed up the list – and we had! We saw it for the first time last week and now have the key. Small Boy, Little Miss and I visited this afternoon with Grand-père and Grandma. It’s a beautiful site although our plot needs some work. We saw a speckled wood butterfly this afternoon and there was a lovely chorus of bird song on our initial visit. We are reading, researching, planning and plotting – hopefully next summer we will have grown some of our own food!
I’ve just finished reading Wilding by Isabella Tree (such a great name) about Knepp – a place I’d like to visit soon. She writes that 97% of wildflower meadows in Britain have been lost since the Second World War. This is one of those sticky stats that I can’t shake off. It saddens me to think that the countryside my children are experiencing is so different from that which my grandparents grew up in.
I’m looking to buy items produced from alternatives to intensive agriculture (one of the reasons why we have the depletion of wildflower meadows and therefore fewer species of bird, flower and insect) and appreciating our ‘from farm to fork’ food from Church Farm even more. I’ve started looking at Dove’s Farm products and reading about their farming methods.
I’ve just tried oat milk as this is meant to be the most sustainable form of milk but I really didn’t like it! It didn’t work in coffee or my porridge. I will try and drink less milk but I won’t be buying oat milk again!
Our last camping trip of the summer was to the Yorkshire coast and we visited the Seafood Social – a social enterprise cafe serving local fish and chips in Scarborough Market. The food was delicious – best fish and chips I’ve had! It was a pleasure to support this project. I can recommend it if you’re ever in Scarborough!
Family Pilgrim has made Hedgerow Jam – and what a great team effort! Last week, Small Boy, Little Miss and I went blackberry picking; our local park has blackberry bushes so while the children slid, swung, and see-sawed, I foraged. Small Boy helped from time to time but Little Miss was more interested in eating the juicy berries – her little chin was stained pink by the end of the afternoon!
After walking in the heat and humidity to another nearby play area while collecting (and eating!) more blackberries, we managed to gather just over 400g.
Using some unwanted jars from a friend and a recipe I’d found in Down to the River and Up to the Trees by Sue Belfrage – a book I’d borrowed from the children’s section of the library – we were all set! Waiting until the children were asleep, Mr Pilgrim and I heated the blackberries and an equal amount of sugar (with some water and pectin-providing lemon juice) and made jam! It didn’t take long and was surprisingly easy – even sterilising the jars was straightforward, we simply put them in the oven at gas mark 1.
Just need some homemade bread to spread it on now!
It’s a long, hot summer. Here are some collected thoughts about living justly in the holidays.
There’s been some holiday highs:
Camping – Family Pilgrim enjoyed a week camping in Dorset. I’ve loved our camping trips this year and am already thinking about next year’s. We live more simply (no screen time!) and love being outside.
Beautiful parts of the country – we haven’t travelled very far this holiday but we’ve enjoyed seeing beautiful parts of the English countryside.
Butterflies – I am becoming a big fan of butterflies and loved seeing them on the Dorset heath. I have also taken part in Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count at home in the garden (with the help of Small Boy). We only saw ‘cabbage’ whites and it was tricky to judge whether they were Large Whites or Small Whites.
Crochet water balloons – ‘Bathies’ as Little Miss has named them are small woolen items crocheted to look like a balloon. After seeing the campsite littered with balloon pieces from water balloons, I decided to try crochet water balloons. We had fun yesterday trying to ambush Mr Pilgrim.
Swimming in the sea – Swimming in the sea is one of my favourite activities. I learnt to swim in the sea as a child and I always feel refreshed, revived and restored after a dip. Thank you Grand-père for teaching me to swim – and to swim safely – in the sea. I have now discovered that it is a great way to have some peace!
Making ice lollies – we now have an apparatus for making ice lollies which saves money and single-use plastic. I also gain Parent Points with the children – but lose Dentist Points.
Eating Mr Whippy ice creams – We ate a lot of ice creams on holiday and I always chose My Whippy ice creams. A tasty way to reduce single-use plastic! Confession: I let the children choose their own ice creams so not only did I buy treats in single-use plastic, they were also from Nestle (I’ve avoided Nestle since I was a teenager because of the Baby Milk Action boycott): Smarties Pop-Ups, Nobbly Bobbly ice cream and Rowntrees Fruit Pastilles lollies. I can’t bring myself to say no when they have set up their heart on a ‘rainbow’ lolly.
Suspended coffees – we had lunch in a community cafe in Dorset which operates a suspended coffee scheme. We paid for two extra coffees which will then be available to someone in need another day.
Cycling – Mr P and I hired a tandem and enjoyed exploring the Dorset countryside and the coast.
Climate change – I’m (mostly) enjoying the weather. It certainly made camping easier and more enjoyable! But I’m aware that the cause of this heat wave is climate change and I’m challenged to once again think about my carbon footprint and how to reduce it. It’s not a big thing but I have stopped listening to the radio all day. It’s a big step for me as it’s a sign I am becoming more comfortable with silence.
Holiday hunger – food banks are seeing a greater demand over the summer holidays and many are experiencing low stock and empty shelves. There are two food banks near me and I added a few extra items into the shopping to help re-stock their shelves.
Period poverty – I’ve been wondering about young women experiencing period poverty over the school summer holidays. What do they do if they have been reliant on the Red Box Project in the school? I know that many of the schemes are working with youth organisations who are seeing young people over the summer. Again, I bought a packet of sanitary towels (since I converted to the Mooncup and CSP, I never them buy them for me now) and dropped them off at my nearest collection point.
Loneliness – I was delighted to discover that one of the local churches decided to run its usual toddler group (expanded for older children) last week. It can be hard for parents and children when usual activities and groups pause over the summer. A morning spent making junk models and chatting to others can make a big difference to someone’s week.
People sleeping rough – I try to avoid buying water in plastic bottles but sometimes it’s the best thing to do. Please consider giving some bottled water to someone sleeping on the streets. This hot weather is very dangerous for people without shade, without sun cream and without access to water.
As the holidays continue, I am going to look for ways to love more and to act justly.
The first time I walked down our road, it was not our road. I was praying for a new congregation my church were starting in the community.
A few weeks’ later, I walked down our road for the second time. As Mr Pilgrim and I left a church meeting explaining the vision behind this new congregation, I said ‘let’s be part of it’.
So even though we lived in a different part of town, we joined this new congregation never thinking that this would be for the long-term.
A year later and heavily pregnant, I walked down our road in the dark November rain. It was still not yet ‘our road’ but almost. We were about to buy what is now our house but I was having doubts. Wanting to hear from God and hoping for a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from him, I walked the streets and prayed. For the first time, I felt a glimpse of God’s love for our community and that love has became my love. I never heard that ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
We moved in and I walked. Walked in the rain. Walked in the sunshine. Walked to help my baby sleep. Walked to get out of the house.
Two years later, weighed down with fears and pregnant with Little Miss, I walked in the balmy heat of late summer. Walking to manage my gestational diabetes, the aroma of the lavender in people’s front gardens lifted my despondent spirit.
And today I walked. The houses are no longer houses, they are the homes of people I know. The school isn’t just a school, it’s our community. I walked past places we know and are known: the post office, the pre-school, the churches, the Red Box collection point and the Green. I saw love, community and beauty.
As I walked today, I remembered the first time I walked on this road. I remembered walking while pregnant in the winter rain and then in the summer sun, and I give thanks for God’s faithfulness and goodness.