The last few days I have been taking a moment to pause and take photos of the nature I see around me; the birds visiting our garden, the everyday wonders we can take for granted, and signs of spring.
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.
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.
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!
A sparrowhawk landed in the garden this afternoon! She fleetingly sat on our pile of pallets (destined for the allotment) before disappearing. I read recently how an apex predator is a sign of a healthy ecosystem – it means there are enough plants for the caterpillars, enough caterpillars for the little birds, and enough little birds for the big bird. A friend had seen one in her nearby garden and I hoped I would too one day.
14th February is now International Book Giving Day as well as Valentine’s Day. Unsurprisingly, I love this idea and celebrated by making a donation to Give a Book, a charity which gives books to schools with high levels of deprivation, prisons and community organisations. I was also the grateful recipient of Red Sixty Seven – a book about the 67 red-listed birds published by the British Trust for Ornithology and I bought Mr P The Planets by Brian Cox.
Since seeing Venus and Saturn shining brightly in the sky on holiday in Suffolk, there has been a growing interest in astronomy in our house. Mr P and I went to a Valentine’s Day star-gazing evening run by the National Trust at Dunstable Downs but sadly due to Storm Dennis we couldn’t go outside! Instead we lay, listening to the wind and the rain, in a mobile inflatable planetarium and enjoyed learning about some of the stars and planets. I was surprised at how much I had picked up from reading children’s books about the solar system!
“He who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns midnight into dawn and darkens day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out over the face of the land— the LORD is his name.” Amos 5:8
Last year, we saw our first butterfly on 23 February. Hopefully it won’t be too long before we see our first of 2020. In the meantime, I am re-reading The Butterfly Isles by Patrick Barkham. Winter is almost over. There are splashes of colour in our garden and it won’t be long before we start planting in the allotment.
I’m pleased I tried the FairPhone (I had the FairPhone 2) but the microphone kept breaking and I was unable to make or receive calls except via WhatsApp. Maybe the FairPhone 3 is better but right now I need a phone I can rely on.
Lent begins on 26 February and I will be reading the archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent book for 2020: Saying Yes to Life by Ruth Valerio. Will you be doing anything?
Is there an ‘I love books’ gene? When my auntie researched my grandma’s family, she discovered generations of cat-loving bibliophiles. Little Miss, my three-year-old daughter, is the latest in this long line of book-loving feline-fans. Not yet able to read, she often falls asleep with a pile of books on the floor next to her bed and our cat curled up at the other end of her bed. Very cute.
I’m avoiding buying new books this year. Instead I am reading books I already have, buying second hand (I’ve added World of Books to my Consume Better list) and borrowing from the library. Inspired by reading suggestions on The Earthbound Report blog (which I recommend you follow as it’s so interesting and informative), I was delighted to discover that I could request to borrow both There is No Planet-B by Mike Berners-Lee and From What Is to What If by Rob Hopkins from the library service. The books are similar in adopting an anti-fatalistic approach to the climate crisis but look at solutions from different angles. Both encouraged me to keep going on my journey of living justly when it’s easy to succumb to either consumerism and individualism on one hand or anxiety and fear on the other. It’s good to have a reminder of the importance of living simply and investing in creativity, play, rest and relationships.
Disappointed that Bird Therapy, a book about bird watching and mental health, wasn’t available from the library service, I submitted a request for them to purchase it. I can’t quite believe that I (me!!!) have the power to effect change but (just a few days later!) the book is now on order for five libraries in the county and I am on the reservation list!
Our Saturday morning library trips are becoming a regular occurrence and we return with a bag full of books and often a DVD for the children too! Renting a film reminds me of standing in front of rows of videos in the local Blockbuster in the 1990s – is anyone else out there still borrowing films?!
Tagskryt, a Swedish word meaning ‘train-bragging‘, is my Word of the Month. Its contrasts with flygskam or “flight shame“. Here comes my tagskryt!
As the Pilgrim family travelled up to Edinburgh from London on the train, I wondered how different it would have been to have flown. Was the train quicker? Cheaper? Did it use less carbon? Was it less stressful?
While a plane would have been faster (if we had got a taxi to the airport), it would have been more expensive. Little Miss Pilgrim would have needed a ticket on the plane but she can still travel for free on a train. We also have a family railcard which further brings down the price. Both train journeys were relatively easy with some stunning views of the east coast of the north of England, a lost tooth at Wolverhampton and time to read.
But in terms of carbon emissions, the train journey wins hand down. The Energy Saving Trust calculated and compared the carbon emissions for journeys from London to Edinburgh (based on a single person travelling); the plane was 144kg and the train 29kg.
I wrote last about my goals for 2020. I have started well with home-made flapjack as a snack with less plastic packaging (I couldn’t find demerara sugar in a non-plastic packet). I’m more of a domestic disaster than a domestic goddess and I was surprised that it turned out perfectly; I’ll attribute its success to my three (mostly enthusiastic) helpers!
I’ve finished Arthur Ransome’s Peter Duck and Winter Holiday, and am now onto Pigeon Post! A retreat to much-loved books of childhood.
Our county library service have impressed me with their range of books I can reserve, including The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Sarah Bessey’s Field Notes Book Club’s book of the month), From What Is to What if by Rob Hopkins, the founder of the Transition Towns movement, and Allotment Month by Month.
I’ve also signed up for a 5km Cancer Research Race for Life in the summer so need to get running!
I find having some written-down goals helps me achieve at least some of them!
- Borrow rather than buy books – I have already reserved from the library Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light, the final book in the Wolf Hall trilogy, which is published in March. It’s a good exercise in patience to wait my turn and, at 864 pages long, I will be glad of my superhero speed-reading skills!
- Home-baking – I am aware that my kitchen bin is still frequently full of single-use plastic and so I want to think again about alternatives to packaging. I’m going to start with making flapjack!
- Buy items from a zero waste shop, such as The Refill Pantry in St Albans.
- I’ve recently subscribed to Sarah Bessey’s Field Notes and will be joining her Book Club for 2020.
- Last year, I started using Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. Not every day but often. I’ve returned my borrowed copy and purchased a slimline version for myself. I received a new Bible for Christmas – a Lectio Divina Bible – which I am enjoying using in conjunction with the Common Prayer book. These books are now in a ‘book bag’ by the side of my bed so that I always know where they are and can be easily transported. I’m going to see if a similar system will help with the children’s bedtime books. (It may just be me but I keep misplacing my books!)
- Do a 5K run – a friend and I go for a walk/run once a week and we’d like to do a Cancer Research Race for Life in the summer.
- Finish re-reading the Swallows and Amazons series of books that I loved as a girl. I now own all of the books – thanks to some birthday presents and a serendipitous find in an Oxfam bookshop in Oxford. Reading about boats and birds is very relaxing.
- Explore some local wildlife – maybe swifts, bats or dragonflies.
- Do some of the St Albans Pilgrim Way
I find it easier to do rather than to be! I hope that I can also spend some time ‘being’ this year.
Advent – a time of waiting, a time of keeping watch, a time for wresting with the now and not yet of our faith. We look forward to that time when all will, finally, be well. We anticipate the day when there will be:
and no death.
We long for God’s Kingdom to come and in the midst of our waiting, watching and wrestling, we – with God, with the God of Justice – can bring hope, freedom, peace, healing and love.
I have found three more Advent activities to help me have a richer and deeper experience of the God of Justice.
- Red Letter Christians and the Diocese of St Albans are producing a daily Advent Challenge on the theme of Jesus and Justice. You can sign up here.
- Tiny Advent poems – one for each day in Advent (there’s one at the end of this post). They are available from Engage Worship.
- Write for Rights – each December, Amnesty International organise a writing campaign so people can send messages of hope and solidarity to human rights defenders across the world. It’s much easier to participate in the era of emails and the internet! I have already sent a few messages and hope to send a few more during Advent.
Reading some Bible notes recently, I was surprised to see Tamar described as an adulteress and Bathsheba as a seductress. Really?
Really? Still? Is that the label we are still giving women who were abused?
A few days later, I received an email from Red Letter Christians featuring Silenced Women of the Bible, gut-wrenchingly, powerful paintings by Jen Ford.
Take a moment to look at her paintings
Bathsheba – Victim not seductress.
Abuse labeled as sexual immorality.
Victim not seductress.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
This is a follow up to Me Too.