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