books · Christian · community · Ethical living · Social justice

International Book Giving Day, Lent and my ‘new’ unfair-phone

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!

Image by 024-657-834 from Pixabay

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.


Sadly, I have had to replace my FairPhone with the next best thing: a second-hand iPhone from Envirofone.

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.

Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay

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?

books · Ecological concern · Ethical living · mental health

I love libraries

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.

Image by Karen Arnold from Pixabay

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?!

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

Train-bragging

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?

Image by Michael Gaida from Pixabay

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!

Image by MBatty from Pixabay

books · Christian · Ethical living · nature · Social justice

A List for 2020

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!
Image by Tluke from Pixabay
  • 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.
Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash
  • Explore some local wildlife – maybe swifts, bats or dragonflies.
Image by Derek Sewell from Pixabay

I find it easier to do rather than to be! I hope that I can also spend some time ‘being’ this year.

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!

Christian · Ecological concern · Ethical living · nature

Holiday Adventures Part 2

We’ve just returned from another week’s holiday in our caravan, this time in East Anglia staying on the Suffolk coast.

Jupiter and Saturn were visible to the naked eye, delighting Small Boy who loves learning about the planets.

A kingfisher was spotted on one of our boat trips on the Norfolk Broads – my first ever! We also saw common blue butterflies (another first), grey seals, a marsh harrier and reed buntings.

The kingfisher prompted me to find the sonnet As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Gerald Manley Hopkins and to re-read the kingfisher acrostic poem in the beautiful Lost Words books with poems by Robert Macfarlane and illustrations by Jackie Morris.

 As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; 
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells. 

We particularly enjoyed Ross’s Wildlife Boat at Horsey Mere which had a little fore cabin so the children had a secret place to hide, play with toy birds and look out of circular windows at passing boats and birds.

Another highlight was RSPB Minsmere – we visited three times, there was so much to explore! We loved the pond-dipping activity, the woodland dens and the Wild Library.  (The cafe provided a variety of vegan dishes and was making a concerted effort to reduce plastic.)

There are so many beautiful parts of the UK with many still to discover!  

It’s now the end of (meteorological) summer and the start of the new school year. I’ve been feeling down as life returns to routine and rotas, to desks and tables, homework and uniforms.

I remembered that I love autumn (the children want to make conker caterpillars!) and that life outside doesn’t have to stop. The allotment is calling!

1 September is not only the start of autumn, it is also the start of the liturgical season of Creationtide.

Creator of Life, The Earth is full of Your creatures, and by Your wisdom you made them all. During this Season of Creation, open our eyes to see the precious diversity that is all around us. Enlighten our minds to appreciate the delicate balance maintained by each creature. Inspire us to conserve the precious habitats that nurture this web of life.

(Extract from the Season of Creation 2019 prayer)

camping · Ecological concern · Ethical living · nature

Holiday Adventures

Last summer, we enjoyed holidays in Trailey, our retro trailer tent. We loved our nights under canvas but it was clear that a trailer tent wasn’t the best option for our family. Too tricky to turn from a trailer into a tent, we needed something that was more straightforward. While pondering the different options, someone asked us if we wanted to buy their caravan!

We spent just over a week in our home-on-wheels in the Lake District recently and I finally achieved my freshwater swim that I wanted to do in 2018! With Swim the Lakes, I swam to Peel Island (the Wild Cat Island) of Swallows and Amazons fame. Wearing a hired wet suit, the water wasn’t cold at all. I am a slow and steady swimmer and I enjoyed a peaceful, almost solo, swim back from the island enjoying the tranquility and views. Being welcomed back to the shore by my small applauding fan club was very precious!

Wild Cat Island (Peel Island)

Family Pilgrim also climbed a fell – just a little one that I found on this website. Little Miss (who is almost three) was in the ‘pack-pack’ and Small Boy was like a mountain goat in his new walking boots! We were excited to see a new butterfly – the dark green frittillary.

Dark Green Frittillary

The next day Mr P and Small Boy climbed the Old Man of Coniston. I was a very proud Mummy!

Small Boy’s favourite activity was learning to skim stones on Coniston Water – a reminder that the simplest and cheapest activities are often the best!

allotment · Ecological concern · Ethical living · nature

Butterfly wings and other things

We made butterfly and moth wings at the weekend! Inspired by Wildlife Explorers, the children’s RSPB magazine, we cut, stuck and painted. I’m particularly proud of Small Boy’s cinnabar moths – a beautiful butterfly-like moth which flies during the day. Look out for its crimson wings in grassy areas. We also made ‘moth cakes’ (our new name for butterfly cakes!) with fair trade sugar and wildlife-friendly flour.

In other news:

Karma Cola – I’ve enjoyed my first fair trade cola drink, Karma Cola, made from the cola nut grown in the Gola Rainforest in Sierra Leone (and available from the vegan cafe near my office) in a beautiful glass bottle.

Woodmansterne have started producing greetings cards without a plastic wrap! I like sending (and receiving!) cards and I’m trying to find a more sustainable way of doing this. I have a plan to make some…

Tearfund are running a ‘rubbish campaign‘ asking Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever to take responsibility for their plastic waste in poorer countries. You can sign the petition here and discover tips on reducing your own plastic waste here.

Fast fashion has been in the news recently as the government has rejected the recommendations in the Environmental Audit Committee’s Fixing Fashion: Clothing consumption and sustainability report. I’m continuing to buy clothes in charity shops (including some interestingly-patterned – some may say ‘garish’! – pieces) and supplementing with items from ethical companies, such as Howies, People Tree and Rapanui (including one of their new circular economy t-shirts).

In the garden: sparrows, a crow, magpies, pigeons, starlings and blue tits. I saw a goldfinch not too far from home.

At the allotment: carrots, onions, potatoes and courgettes are all growing well. Mr Pilgrim is getting to know our allotment neighbours and we gained some bolted chard to eat and some sweet pepper seedlings to plant. We found lots of ants carrying their eggs on our last visit and Small Boy now wants an ant farm!

What am I reading? The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane and Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times by Soong-Chan Rah

30 Days Wild · Ecological concern · Ethical living · nature

30 Days Wild 2019

Today is the first day of 30 Days Wild organised by The Wildlife Trusts. We’ve done this for the last two years and it’s definitely helped our lives become wilder!

You can read about 2017’s adventures here and last year’s here!

If you want to take part, visit 30 Days Wild to sign up and receive a pack. Although the pack really is not necessary! It helps with ideas but there’s also an app with suggestions. The idea is to do something ‘wild’ each day in June – in the past we have with child-like fascination marvelled at snails, observed ants and studied flowers.

Our activity for today was finding some flowers (I think my neighbour would call them weeds!) in the garden and putting them in a flower press.

I don’t have plans for the rest of the month except for one – I want to get outside during my lunch break!

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Christian · Ecological concern · Ethical living · Social justice

Extinction Rebellion

This is Just Reflections first ever interview! I’ve tracked down someone who took part in the Extinction Rebellion protests and asked him a few questions as I wanted to find out more (it wasn’t that hard as he sits next to me at work).

Dido: Thank you for agreeing to this! Can you explain why you took part in the Extinction Rebellion protests? 

I’ve known that climate change is a big issue for a long time. When I was at school I used to make what I thought was a really clever joke telling people that they needed to switch off lights when they left a room if they didn’t want to drown. A joke is never really funny when you have to explain the punchline, which I always had to do – the electricity for the lights was generated from burning fossil fuels. The burning of fossil fuels increases C02 in the atmosphere, which increases the greenhouse effect, which will warm the planet enough to eventually melt the ice caps, causing sea levels to rise, resulting in massive flooding! 40 years later the joke still isn’t funny, but this time it’s because everyone knows about climate change but we still leave the lights on! 

Last year I went with a few friends (from a group we have at my Church called Just Living) to a Green Party meeting where someone read out a statement about Extinction Rebellion. It was the first time I had heard about them. The statement pointed out that all the talk we make about climate change doesn’t seem to make a difference to how people and the government act. Everyone knows about the problem but no-one seems to do anything about it. Now is the time for action – non-violent direct action. They drew parallels with the civil rights movement and talked about how we need to undertake acts of civil disobedience to force people and governments to act. There is a moral imperative to act in disobedience as the issue is so important to the survival not just of humanity, but to a lot of life on the planet. It was a powerful message, but I had reservations; were we really going to change people’s hearts and minds by blocking roads and annoying them? I cycled home pondering these things in my heart, but I didn’t actually do anything about it for quite a while.

Dido: Can you
describe the demonstrations? What did you do? 

I missed the bridge protests last year as I was visiting my son at university, but I went to the Blood of our Children demonstration in March this year. I was deeply touched by this protest which involved pouring litres and litres of fake blood on to the streets outside Downing Street to symbolise the catastrophe that awaits our children if we don’t act now on climate change. It was incredibly moving – the visceral sight of so much ‘blood’ flooding into the gutters, the poignancy of the funeral atmosphere, the powerful and profound speeches. Afterwards I walked down to the Tate to see the documentary photographs of Don McCullin. It was a really upsetting exhibition – image after image showing the terrible things that humans can do to each other. I couldn’t stop crying. And I kept thinking how important it was to stop climate change becoming the cause of more suffering. As the speeches at the demonstration pointed out, it will be the poor who will suffer first, millions of people. We can’t let that happen just to preserve our own comfortable lifestyles.

I also attended the recent protests in London around Easter. Once again I was more of a supporter than an active participant. I brought along my reservations and unease along with my support, thinking, “Well, I have to do something!” I went down to Waterloo Bridge with my daughter (taking photos for an A-level project) and as a small act of disobedience we added a couple of plants from our garden to the growing garden on the bridge. Fired up from the first day of protest I bought some spray chalk and was prepared to re-appropriate the congestion charge road markings at Marble Arch, transforming the two Capital Cs into a message about Climate Change or Cutting Carbon. But when I got there someone had beaten me to it! I got my money back on the spray paint. The next day with a pack of chalk sticks and the help of my son I did help to transform a BUS LANE marking on Waterloo Bridge into the message BUST PLANET. I was amazed that everyone who passed stopped to take a picture! We were only re-chalking someone else’s faded work, so couldn’t really take credit either as wits or true activists!

The atmosphere at the protests was amazing, it was like a week-long street party. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood. Rebels had all been asked to commit to a ‘no drugs or alcohol’ rule and I’m sure that helped. The few interactions with blocked drivers that I witnessed were firm but very polite.

On Easter Monday my wife and I were took part in a citizens’ assembly at Marble Arch, a kind of open democracy where small groups discuss their ideas and feed them into the decision-making process. Extinction Rebellion are advocating this as a way to involve everyone in coming up with ideas on how to tackle the climate emergency. Our Easter Monday discussion was just to decide on the direction of the protest after the first week.

Dido: Do you think
the protests have had an effect?

To be honest I didn’t expect too much from the recent protests. I still had my reservations on whether inconveniencing people helps to change their minds, especially stopping public transport. Also I wasn’t expecting a few thousand rebels to make much of an impact. I’d recently been on the anti-Brexit march where the streets of London were blocked by literally millions of people, in a procession stretching all the way from Marble Arch to Parliament Square, and that march was completely ignored by politicians. I suppose that’s the Extinction Rebellion’s point – direct action can make more impact than big marches. I think the protests resonated through strong imagery like the garden bridge, the pink boat in the middle of Oxford Circus and through the commitment of the thousand plus arrestees. The timing was perfect too, with David Attenborough’s TV programme, The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) report, and Greta Thunberg’s visit all happening at the same time. So the issue of climate change really did come into the public’s attention – and Parliament’s attention. Parliament acknowledged the climate emergency, reacted positively to the idea of citizen’s assemblies, and even admitted in the last week that the Heathrow expansion needs to be looked at again in the light of climate change.

I don’t know if this will result in real political action, but I’m much more hopeful now.

Dido: You’ve already inspired me to swap to vegan pizza and vegan ice cream! (The Ben and Jerry’s cardboard-packaged, vegan, fair trade ice cream was very popular at dinner with Family Pilgrim!) What else can we do as individuals in the fight against global warming? 

Eat all the food that you buy (food waste is one of the major contributors to global warming – methane does more damage to the atmosphere than CO2,).

Eat less meat (none if you can)
From farm to fork, meat production emits way more damaging greenhouse gases – methane, CO2, and nitrous oxide – than a plant-based diet!

Eat less dairy (none if you can).

Drive less.

Don’t fly (greenhouse gases emitted higher up in atmosphere cause even more damage than if emitted on the ground).

Reduce your consumption
(of everything!)

And of course switch the lights off when you leave a room… it’s no joke!