books · Christian · Ecological concern · Ethical living · nature · Social justice

Christmas is coming

We’ve had Halloween and Bonfire Night and so thoughts now turn to Christmas. But…before Christmas, there is Advent.

Advent – a season of expectation and preparation. I think it’s one of my favourite times of year. Maybe because I am a person who loves to prepare and who loves the joy of anticipation. Advent is rich in symbolism and grounds us in God at a time when the voices of commercialism are at their loudest.

Here are my ideas for celebrating Advent this year:

Reverse Advent Calendar – the Mini-Ps are going to make a ‘reverse Advent calendar’ for our local foodbank. Together we will choose items to buy and then take them up to church each week and place them in the foodbank collection box. We will also read It’s a No Money Day by Kate Milner – a beautiful, tender, heart-warming and gentle book that explains what foodbanks do.

Last year, we coloured pictures from a Jesse Tree book which worked better than expected! The children really enjoyed the colouring and this year, I plan to have an actual branch to stick the pictures onto!

I have also bought an Advent candle to light each day. Hopefully, this will be more suitable than my solar-powered fairy lights which were a feeble addition to our street’s Christmas decorations! There just wasn’t enough sun to charge them so they were very dim. However, they worked very well in the summer months when we were camping!

Mr P and I both have Advent books to read: I shall be reading Freedom is Coming by Nick Baines and Mr P, Advent for Everyone by Tom Wright (one of his favourite authors).

I also want to try some of the activities in Wild Advent, such as making jar-jar lanterns, looking at the stars, and making a nativity scene out of leaves, stick and moss.

Sometimes I think I must come across very serious, worthy and austere. Don’t worry – there is a lot of fun, joy and laughter here.

The Mini-Ps have Lego Advent calendars from Grandma and I expect I shall be helping to create Star Wars vehicles out of Lego at 6am!

From Advent Sunday, I also allow myself to wear my Christmas tree and my Christmas pudding hats. I am also planning an Advent hairstyle!

allotment · books · Christian · community · Ecological concern · nature · Social justice

What’s on my shelf? (Part 4)

Once again, I find myself reading half a dozen books at the same time:

Image by Lubos Houska from Pixabay

The Garden Jungle by Dave Goulson

I love Dave Goulson’s writing, having read A Sting in the Tale earlier this year. We made the hard choice not to go and hear him speak at a Wildlife Trust event last week; we are trying to keep September as free as possible to help with the back-to-school adjustment.

The Garden Jungle is full of ideas (some simple, some needing space) for gardening for wildlife. I have a dream of completely changing our front garden so that we have grass, plants and a pond.

The Big Six by Arthur Ransome

Reading children’s books set in the 1930s is very relaxing! I enjoyed reading Coot Club on our holiday in East Anglia (Mr Pilgrim is now half-way through it!) and I’m now reading The Big Six which is also set on the Norfolk Broads. There’s a simplicity and a joy in reading about children sailing, fishing and bird-watching.

We Need to Talk about Race by Ben Lindsay

Ben Lindsay is a church leader in London and writes about the black religious experience in the UK. As a white woman, it has opened my eyes and I hope that I am changed because of reading this book. Each chapter ends with questions to consider and I know I need to keep going back to this book. If you are part of a church, I would recommend reading this.

The Gardens of the British Working Class by Margaret Willes

I spotted this at a friend’s house. She had borrowed it from our local library so I didn’t want to request it from there! I haven’t reached the sections on allotments yet but I’m enjoying looking at history through the eyes of gardeners.

Emperors, Admirals and Chimney Sweepers by Peter Marron

This beautiful book about the names of butterflies and moths was a birthday present from my gorgeous daughter. (I think she had some help from Mr Pilgrim.) I love words and names and history and butterflies and this is a book to treasure.

books · Christian · Ecological concern · Ethical living · Social justice

Inspirations

I’ve been inspired this week:

  • Inspired to pray by this video from Christians in Politics.
A video from Christians in Politics about Brexit
  • Inspired to take the train by Professor Kevin Anderson who appeared on Radio 4’s Today programme on 9 May. He last flew in 2004 and travelled to a conference in China by train – it took him 11 days. He believes we need to radically change how we live our lives if we are serious about climate change. Have a listen on BBC Sounds – it’s at 1hr 15mins.
  • Inspired to reduce meat and dairy. There is a growing awareness of the damage we are doing to the planet by eating meat and animal products and so when a new vegan cafe opened near my office this week, I was keen to visit. The chocolate brownie I ate yesterday was rich and chocolaty and I’m looking forward to trying the spinach filo pastry.
  • Inspired to pray (again!). I was given a copy of a little book called Five Ways to Pray for Your City. Using words from the Bible, it has short sections with ideas for prayers. Sometimes I find it hard to pray and a new tool can reinvigorate my prayers.
  • Inspired by Rachel Held Evans: #becauseofRHE was the hashtag on Twitter this week as people described how Rachel had inspired them in their faith. Heartbreakingly, Rachel passed away last weekend following a short illness, leaving behind her husband and two young children. I have cried – wept for her bereft family and friends and wept too as I remembered the impact of reading her book A Year of Biblical Womenhood. Writing about Junia, the concubine in Judges 19 and Huldah, she gave me a new perspective on myself and on the Bible. She gave me the the words Eshet Chayil – woman of valour. I will miss her writings and her wisdom.

books · Christian · Ecological concern · Ethical living · mental health · nature · Uncategorized

A blue tit in the bird bath

Illness, an allergic reaction and stress meant our weekend didn’t go to plan. Yet, in the tiredness and tears, were some memorable moments of joy.

One of the reasons we bought our house (and not the one next door) is that the kitchen sink overlooks the garden. Washing dishes on Saturday morning, I caught sight of a blue tit splashing in our small bird bath.

We love blue tits in our house. Small Boy found me reading about birdsong and we discovered that blue tits tweet ‘see see choo choo’. We often pretend to be birds, bugs and sea creatures in our house and Small Boy enjoyed being a blue tit: ‘see see choo choo’.

(If you are interested in learning how to hide like an octopus, find food like a bee or hop like a frog, I recommend reading Howl Like a Wolf).

All four of us gathered by the windows and excitedly watched our garden guest bathe.

In the afternoon, we headed to our allotment. As we parked, we saw a small bird hopping on the grass (a red wing) and long-tailed tits were in the bare trees at the foot of our plot. Later, a robin drew near hoping for some worms (good news for us and the robin, Mr Pilgrim dug up lots!). Mr P threw one to the robin but the bird was too timid and the wise worm wriggled away. Probably for the best!

Little Miss got bored and kept declaring: ‘I want to go the library!’ Mr Pilgrim kept digging while the children enjoyed choosing books and I picked up my order of Fascism by Madeleine Allbright.

I’ve not seen any butterflies yet although there have been sightings on the Herts and Middlesex Butterfly Conservation website. I’m looking forward to seeing my first butterfly of 2019 and wondering what it will be.

My Valentine’s present was A Sting in the Tale by Dave Goulson – all about bumblebees. They are fascinating little creatures and it’s a delight to read Dave Goulson’s humorous yet scientific (he’s a professor of biology) prose.

Lent is approaching and I’ve bought Wild Lent (full of outside activities to help us encounter God through creation). I’m also thinking about taking up one of the Living Lent challenges, organised by the Joint Public Issues Team.

books · Christian · Ecological concern · Ethical living · Social justice

Looking back and looking forward

Last year, I had two lists of challenges: Going Wilder in 2018 – 18 countryside activities and the Better World Book Challenge.

I picked up rubbish, developed a new hobby of butterflying, started looking for birds near our home, visited Bempton Cliffs to see sea birds, read a lot of books about nature and wildlife, climbed Roseberry Topping, spent a total of 25 nights sleeping under canvas, looked up at the stars, watched live badgers, walked on beaches in the south-west and north-east of England, had a tour of Church Farm by Farmer Tim, and read BBC Wildlife magazine.

I didn’t achieve my goal of freshwater swimming although I did swim through Durdle Door in Dorset. We also didn’t make it for a walk by a viaduct as when we got there Small Boy and Little Miss were fast asleep and it was raining!

And the reading challenge? I appreciated being more experimental in my book choices and enjoyed trying new genres and authors. My favourite reads were A Woman’s Work by Harriet Harman (a book by a politician no longer in office), The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (a book involving magic) and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (a book nominated for a literary prize).

This year I will be doing the Read Harder Challenge by Book Riot and as last year, I want to use the library as much as possible.


We encourage you to push yourself, to take advantage of this challenge as a way to explore topics or formats or genres that you otherwise wouldn’t try. But this isn’t a test. No one is keeping score and there are no points to post. We like books because they allow us to see the world from a new perspective, and sometimes we all need help to even know which perspectives to try out. That’s what this is—a perspective shift—but one for which you’ll only be accountable to yourself.

https://bookriot.com/?p=248175

I also want to read:

  1. Facism by Madeline Albright
  2. William Wilberforce: The Life of the Great Anti-Slave Trade Campaigner by William Hague
  3. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  4. The Divine Dance by Richard Rohr
  5. Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
  6. The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brendan Manning
  7. The Myth of Equality: Uncovering the Roots of Injustice and Privilege by Ken Wytsma

Throughout the year I will be reading Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals and The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2019.

Other goals:

  • Learn the biblical Hebrew alphabet
  • Go swimming in a freshwater lake or river
  • Discover nature in my local patch – both the hyperlocal and in Herts and Middlesex (Mr Pilgrim and I are booked on a duck identification workshop!)
  • Continue to learn about butterflies
  • Keep picking up rubbish
  • Write a list of what I buy as a way of aiming to consume less
  • Simplify my online life

books · community · Ecological concern

What’s on my shelf (part 3)?

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.

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This photo was taken on Tuesday and the shelves looked very different today (Sunday!)

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.

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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.

The year is almost over and so I’ve been taking stock of my two lists of challenges: the Better World Books Challenge and Going wilder in 2018: 18 countryside activities. I’m also beginning to think about what to do for 2019! Any ideas?!

books

So many books, so little time…

It’s often not a good sign when I have too many books on the go. It can mean I’m not focused and my mind is rushing around. But sometimes it’s just because I can’t resist another book. I keep saying no more until I’ve finished the pile by the side of my bed!

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This is what I’ve just read, am reading and am about to read.

No More Friendly Fire (bought from Eden)

This short book was written by the leaders of my church, Wellspring Church, Watford and I had the privilege of hearing some of the chapters delivered as talks a couple of years ago. One of which even influenced Little Miss’s name!

I wish I’d read this book years ago! I grew up in a church where women weren’t allowed to preach or have formal leadership roles. My confidence was so low that I just accepted this view. And accepted it for many years. Internalised misogyny.

But then – and this was partly as a result of hearing Helen herself preach – I realised that there was a different view. I read and studied such books as Why Not Women?, Discovering Biblical Equality, Women in the Church and Jesus Feminist, and I have been encouraged in my own spiritual gifts and have grown and flourished.

No More Friendly Fire focuses on how men and women can – and should – work together and explores this through looking at biblical stories such as Deborah, Esther and Ruth. Helen and Tim don’t shy away from looking at some of the awkward and confusing passages in the Bible and also aren’t afraid to reveal their own vulnerabilities. It’s a short book and definitely worth reading!

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Phoebe by Paula Gooder (also from Eden)

This has been on my wish list for a while. It’s like a novel but not. In fact, Paula Gooder says it’s not a novel and it’s helpful to bear that in mind when reading as it does feel too didactic in parts. It’s based on a real life Christian woman called Phoebe who was a deacon in the early church. Other Christians mentioned in the New Testament make appearances too: Junia and Adronicus, Prisca and Aquila, even Peter. It’s an interesting approach, very easy to read and a great way to bring the early church to life.

In Pursuit of Butterflies (library)

Trying to identify butterflies is tricky when looking after two young children! Both butterflies and children move quickly and demand attention. There’s an abundance of cabbage whites and meadow browns (or are they gatekeepers?) and I was thrilled to watch a peacock earlier this week and may have spotted a red admiral this afternoon.

In Pursuit of Butterflies is evoking a longing to go ‘butterflying’ to discover some of the rarer butterflies. I can’t travel around the country in pursuit of butterflies or spend hours standing in a wood but I can experience some of the pleasure vicariously through this book by an erudite butterfly-obsessive.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (borrowed)

The rise of the far right has got me thinking and I decided I needed to read some Bonhoeffer. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a pastor and author who was executed in 1945 for his role in a plot to assassinate Hitler. Following a colleague’s advice, I’m going to start with Eric Metaxas’ biography: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.

Time to stop writing and get back to reading!

books

What’s on my shelf (part 2)?

As I wrote in January, I am doing the Better World Books challenge this year as well as reading more books about nature.

Currently on my shelf (and when I say shelf, I mean lying on the floor next to my bed).

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God is Stranger by Krish Kandiah

This is a insightful book and I recommend it. Theologically dense, it’s not a book to read quickly or even to be read once. The older I get, the more comfortable I am with the uncertainties of faith, and this book gives us space to appreciate the mystery and ‘unknowingness’ of God. It also challenges the reader to offer hospitality for the stranger in our midst: the refugee, the child in care and those with nowhere to call home.

Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane

I love words and I am growing in love for the natural world around me. This book is all about words for nature, weather and the land. As Macfarlane writes in this Guardian article, Landmarks is a collection of words which are ‘tiny landscape poems, folded up inside verbs and nouns‘.

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The Stand by Stephen King

This is for the Better World Books Challenge – a book published the year I was born. It’s very long, my first Stephen King and a very different genre from what I usually read. I love his characters and style of writing, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the story develops. I did have a sneak peek at the last few pages to reassure myself!

A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena de Blasi

Thank you to a friend for sending this to me for the Better World Books Challenge – a book about food. It looks like a light-hearted read – some relief from the above books!

The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu

A book set in Africa for the Better World Books Challenge. I’ve read a lot of well-known African fiction but this book was published in 2012 so after (a good while after!) my formal studies. It was an Observer top 10 African book 2012 and I’m looking forward to reading. If you’ve not read any novels by African authors, you should!

Books I’ve discovered this week and have added to my wish list:

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In Pursuit of Butterflies by Matthew Oates

Circe by Madeline Miller

Phoebe by Paula Gooder

Happy reading! Dido x

 

books · Ethical living · Social justice

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?

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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