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 · 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?!

Ethical living · Social justice

Getting ready for Advent

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.IMG_20181023_083100

Reading God is in the Manger by Dietrich Bonhoeffer – I have recently read Eric Metaxes’ biography of Bonhoeffer which I wholeheartedly recommend. I’m now ready to read some of Bonhoeffer’s works and this Advent devotional of compiled writings seemed an appropriate place to start.

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!

 

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?

community · Ecological concern · Ethical living

Snapshots

This week I attended a photography workshop (a birthday present but it’s taken me some time to organise it!). I’m looking forward to being creative, growing more confident with our camera, and capturing some of Small Boy’s and Little Miss’s childhood.
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Small Boy and I made banana bread this morning using soft and squidgy (fair trade) bananas. I ate a deliciously warm slice topped with homemade Greek yoghurt (our latest addition to the zero waste journey) as my mid-morning snack; don’t judge me – the Small Boy alarm clock woke me at half six and Little Miss was awake for much of the night.

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The pavements and grass verges in our local area are frequently littered with dog poo. Problematic when pushing a pushchair alongside an energetic Small Boy, I’m know I’m not the only mum who is fed up with cleaning wheels and shoes – we live near a primary school and many children and parents use the pavements to walk to and from school.
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Our local borough council has a ‘report it’ function on its website, specifically for this issue. I’ve reported pavement poo three times now (including yesterday) and twice the street cleaning team has been rapidly dispatched to wash the area. I’d rather there wasn’t a poo problem in the first place but I’m pleased I can do something about it! It’s a small way I can love our community.

My bedtime (library) book is by John Lewis-Stempel, an award-winning nature writer. I’m currently reading The Running Hare, his account of trying to farm a field using traditional methods. That might not sound fascinating, but it’s a brilliant, evocative and provocative read. I’m saddened by the demise of many British wild flowers which my parents and grandparents would have grown up with.
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I’m making plans for my 18 countryside activities for 2018; I’ve found a place to go and look for wild badgers, discovered a large hill to climb with Small Boy, and beaches to visit and puffins to spot.

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I’m looking forward to writing about them!

books

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

 

Ethical living · Social justice

Black Friday

Today is Black Friday. I really like this article from Positive News listing alternative activities to shopping. I’ve added some of my thoughts…

Revamp your wardrobe

My new hobby of buying items in charity shops is fun and addictive! I’ve not spent a great deal of money and have purchased some gorgeous items – some of which are not quite my usual style. I’m wondering how long I can go before I actually need to buy a new item of clothing!

I’d encourage you to get to know your local charity shops. Declutter your wardrobe and search for your own bargains!

Read a book in peace

Read. Read on your own. Read to a child. Visit your local library. Buy a second-hand book from your local charity shop or from Better World Books. Buy someone else a pre-loved book. Give away one of your own books. Buy a book for a child in care this Christmas through The Book Trust. Read.

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Get outside

Go for a walk where you live. Look up. Look around. Go down a street you’ve not been along before. What do you see? Who do you see? Where’s the life?

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Support ethical businesses

Consume better (a list I’m compiling of how and where to do this). Make one change the next time you do your supermarket shop.

Buy second-hand 

Clothes, books, toys, a bike, a trailer tent and a bread machine – all items Family Pilgrim have purchased second-hand this year.

(And we’ve borrowed toys, clothes, books, tools and cloth nappies)

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Give items away to people in need. Be patient when you want something. Try and find it second-hand.

Buy gifts for refugees in need 

If you can’t get to the pop-up shop mentioned in the Positive News article, then donate to your local charity helping people seeking sanctuary.

Volunteer

Give your time willingly with no strings attached.

Support independent designers and artists 

Appreciate creativity. Be generous.

Buy Nothing

Give something away. Find out about Buy Nothing Day.

Support companies that are doing their bit. 

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From 1 Million Women

Have a look at Traidcraft’s thoughts on Black Friday (including some scary stats on how much money is spent over this weekend and how many people around the world celebrate Black Friday).

Enjoy today and this weekend: be generous, be kind, be loving, be creative, be you. 

Christian · Ethical living · Social justice

I know I’m not Kate Middleton but…

Initially my quest to live more justly was experimental, novel and fun. Changes were made, new items purchased and knowledge gained. Now though, I’m feeling a bit glum.

Turns out trying to live more ethically often involves a cost. Sometimes financial – buying the more sustainable or fairly-traded item is usually more expensive. Sometimes personal when my desires for the shiny and new are not sated.

I am surprised to discover how materialistic I really am. I like the endorphin kick I get from new purchases and I am looking forward to shortly unwrapping a large pile of birthday presents (hopefully all chosen from my carefully compiled wishlist).

I know I’m not Kate Middleton but I feel embarrassed that in a couple of recent Facebook photos I’m wearing the same ‘special occasion dress’.

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Does this matter? Should it? Does it matter to you?

I find it hard to resist purchases for my children despite knowing their happiness is not dependent on having the latest toy.  Many of Little Miss and Small Boy’s playthings are from charity shops and some even used to belong to me or Mr Pilgrim. A sofa, blanket, chair and laundry basket can become a house or a boat or a train providing hours of entertainment, laughter and joy.

I’ve started reading L is for Lifestyle (another book by Ruth Valerio). Not a new purchase – we found it in a box of books under the bed! She quotes Richard Foster’s 10 principles for the outward expression of simplicity from the classic Celebration of Discipline.

FullSizeRender (23)I’m feeling challenged afresh as I look at the list:

  1. Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status
  2. Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you
  3. Develop a habit of giving things away
  4. Refuse to buy the latest gadget
  5. Learn to enjoy things without owning them
  6. Develop a deeper appreciation for the creation
  7. Look with scepticism at ‘buy now, pay later’ schemes
  8. Obey Jesus’ instructions about plain honest speech
  9. Reject anything that breeds the oppression of others
  10. Shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God.

One of the reasons I like writing this blog is that it helps me to sift and clarify my thoughts and feelings. As I come to the end of this post, the sad feeling I mentioned at the start has dissipated. Reflecting on Little Miss and Small Boy’s joy and delight in simple pleasures helps me to focus on what’s important in life: people not things. 

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