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.

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!

Spring observations

60% of children have never seen a peacock butterfly*. Is this surprising?

I’m such a Proud Mummy; Small Boy and Little Miss have not only seen peacocks but can point them out on our ID sheet. They also like to pretend to be peacock butterflies! 

Yesterday, I spotted five different species of butterfly at our local nature reserve: brimstone, small white, small tortoiseshell, peacock and holly blue. Sadly, there was no sign of tadpoles in the pond where we’d seen frogspawn. Small Boy asked me what ate tadpoles. I had no idea but Google tells me dragonfly larvae, water boatmen, grass snakes, birds and hedgehogs eat 90% of frogspawn, tadpoles and froglets.

Mr Pilgrim and I enjoyed a early morning walk on Sunday morning in Christ Church Meadow in Oxford which was full of the colours of an English spring: yellow cowslips, purple snake’s head fritillaries and bluebells. Listening to birdsong and the cathedral bells, we saw swallows – or possibly house martins – engaging in avian aerobatics above the meadows.

Work is slowly and joyfully progressing on our allotment. We’ve enjoyed meeting more of our neighbours and we’ve done lots of digging!

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.

Margaret Atwood, Bluebeard’s Egg

A happy morning was spent in the warm sunshine with bubbles, bees, birds, butterflies and buns (hot cross!). Onion sets have been planted. The climbing frame is almost ready to be installed and I think that I have found a second-hand shed which we can collect in a few weeks’ time. We hope to plant some seeds over the Easter weekend.

I hope you are able to spend some time outside over this week – even if it’s just a few minutes – to look up and to listen.

*YouGov online survey 16th – 20th October 2015 commissioned by The Wildlife Trusts.

First butterfly of the year

Spring is in the air! The Pilgrim Family have enjoyed a beautiful day at the allotment and in the garden, underneath the warm sun and the blue skies.

Digging, weeding, chopping, cutting, scooting, cycling, bouncing, throwing, chasing, laughing.

Made all the better with the company of friends from faraway.

Travelling home from the allotment in the car, I spotted a brimstone flying up ahead of us. We found a place to park and I span around trying to catch site of it again – and I did! Small Boy and Mr Pilgrim saw it too. He (it’s likely to have been male) flew off over a hedge into a garden and we got back in the car and drove the rest of the way home.

And then we saw it again! (I expect it was the same one.) He flew into our front garden and then up the road.

Winter is over. The world is coming to life again once more.

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.

Loving and living local

At the start of this year when reading Free by Mark and Lisa Sandrette, I wrote a list of my five personal values: local, community, social justice, growth and creativity. This exercise turned out to be pivotal when, a few months later, I came to make a decision about whether or not to pursue a potential new job; a role which would have fitted with four of these values but was most definitely not ‘local’. I realised then just how highly I hold this value; local does not mean less.

It may be laziness but I just like having everything near each other! I hated the daily commute when I had a job 30 miles away from my home and conversely love my current 10 minute cycle from my front door to the office car park. (Thank you Mr P for rescuing my bike this week when I lost the key to the lock!)

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

It’s important to me to be part of a church in the community where I live as well as being involved in the community itself in some way. I am blessed in being part of a church family which loves our community and have the privilege of being involved in the local community association.

I’m now learning to appreciate my local environment. I have recently discovered, through reading Matthew Oates’ The Pursuit of Butterflies, the Welsh word ‘cynefin’ meaning ‘homepatch’ or ‘heartland’. My current home hasn’t been my home for very long and so I don’t know if the natural world here will ever make my heart sing in the same way revisiting the countryside of my childhood does. But maybe. If I watch and wonder and love and live with the eyes of a child, then as seasons pass, I will be able to say this locale too is the land of my heart.

David Lindo, The Urban Birder, writes about the importance of the naturalists’ ‘local patch’. The ever-generous Mr P presented me with a surprise gift recently of a colourful weighty tome all about butterflies in Hertfordshire and Middlesex – our local patch. There is so much for me to discover and enjoy without having to travel too far.

This week I enjoyed a nature walk with a friend in a nearby nature reserve – a short walk down the road from where I live. The term ‘nature reserve’ may conjure up inaccurate pictures in your mind as this particular site is fairly small and was developed from a site of redundant allotments. Yet, it’s a area near where I live full of wildlife. My friend and I enjoyed watching:

  • A common frog in the pond
  • Dragonflies
  • A red admiral
  • Many speckled woods
  • Beetles (which require further research in my Collins Gem Insects book)
  • Squirrels
  • A robin

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Photo by Val Vesa on Unsplash

[Note 1: Small Boy was at school and Little Miss was with us but fast asleep. I doubt we would have seen all the above otherwise!]

[Note 2: We also saw a black cat.]

I have a nature notebook in which I am jotting down different wildlife I see each day to help me build an appreciative picture of what is in my ‘homepatch’ and maybe over time to note any changes. I have frequently spotted a red kite flying overhead and spotted a fox twice late at night in the same place.

The Urban Birder’s catchphrase is ‘look up’ but I think mine is just ‘look!’

Holiday highs and lows

It’s a long, hot summer. Here are some collected thoughts about living justly in the holidays.

There’s been some holiday highs:

  • Camping – Family Pilgrim enjoyed a week camping in Dorset. I’ve loved our camping trips this year and am already thinking about next year’s. We live more simply (no screen time!) and love being outside. IMG_20180724_090346
  • Beautiful parts of the country – we haven’t travelled very far this holiday but we’ve enjoyed seeing beautiful parts of the English countryside.
  • Butterflies – I am becoming a big fan of butterflies and loved seeing them on the Dorset heath. I have also taken part in Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count at home in the garden (with the help of Small Boy). We only saw ‘cabbage’ whites and it was tricky to judge whether they were Large Whites or Small Whites.
  • Crochet water balloons – ‘Bathies’ as Little Miss has named them are small woolen items crocheted to look like a balloon. After seeing the campsite littered with balloon pieces from water balloons, I decided to try crochet water balloons. We had fun yesterday trying to ambush Mr Pilgrim.
  • Swimming in the sea – Swimming in the sea is one of my favourite activities. I learnt to swim in the sea as a child and I always feel refreshed, revived and restored after a dip. Thank you Grand-père for teaching me to swim – and to swim safely – in the sea. I have now discovered that it is a great way to have some peace!

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  • Making ice lollies – we now have an apparatus for making ice lollies which saves money and single-use plastic. I also gain Parent Points with the children – but lose Dentist Points.
  • Eating Mr Whippy ice creams – We ate a lot of ice creams on holiday and I always chose My Whippy ice creams. A tasty way to reduce single-use plastic! Confession: I let the children choose their own ice creams so not only did I buy treats in single-use plastic, they were also from Nestle (I’ve avoided Nestle since I was a teenager because of the Baby Milk Action boycott): Smarties Pop-Ups, Nobbly Bobbly ice cream and Rowntrees Fruit Pastilles lollies. I can’t bring myself to say no when they have set up their heart on a ‘rainbow’ lolly.
  • Suspended coffees – we had lunch in a community cafe in Dorset which operates a suspended coffee scheme. We paid for two extra coffees which will then be available to someone in need another day.
  • Cycling – Mr P and I hired a tandem and enjoyed exploring the Dorset countryside and the coast. IMG_20180727_104131

Holiday lows:

  • Climate change – I’m (mostly) enjoying the weather. It certainly made camping easier and more enjoyable! But I’m aware that the cause of this heat wave is climate change and I’m challenged to once again think about my carbon footprint and how to reduce it. It’s not a big thing but I have stopped listening to the radio all day. It’s a big step for me as it’s a sign I am becoming more comfortable with silence.
  • Holiday hunger – food banks are seeing a greater demand over the summer holidays and many are experiencing low stock and empty shelves. There are two food banks near me and I added a few extra items into the shopping to help re-stock their shelves.

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  • Period poverty – I’ve been wondering about young women experiencing period poverty over the school summer holidays. What do they do if they have been reliant on the Red Box Project in the school? I know that many of the schemes are working with youth organisations who are seeing young people over the summer. Again, I bought a packet of sanitary towels (since I converted to the Mooncup and CSP, I never them buy them for me now) and dropped them off at my nearest collection point.
  • Loneliness – I was delighted to discover that one of the local churches decided to run its usual toddler group (expanded for older children) last week. It can be hard for parents and children when usual activities and groups pause over the summer. A morning spent making junk models and chatting to others can make a big difference to someone’s week.
  • People sleeping rough – I try to avoid buying water in plastic bottles but sometimes it’s the best thing to do. Please consider giving some bottled water to someone sleeping on the streets. This hot weather is very dangerous for people without shade, without sun cream and without access to water.

As the holidays continue, I am going to look for ways to love more and to act justly.

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!

Transformed

I love finding out the word for ‘butterfly’ in different languages; I’ve discovered many of the words are beautiful and fun to say, such as papillon (French), mariposa (Spanish), farfelle (Italian – like the pasta), labalaba (Yoruba) and lolo (Malagasy). In other languages, the meaning of the word is evocative, such as the Danish word, sommerfugl (literally ‘summer bird’),  and the more down-to-earth Dutch word, boterschijte.

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One of my 18 Countryside Activities for 2018 was to learn to identify five new butterflies. So far this year, I’ve spotted and learnt:
And hopefully I will see a few more as the summer progresses.
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Small Boy loves Transformers (he has some of the toys as well as a DVD of the 1980s cartoons) and was delighted recently to have the opportunity to sleep in a ‘transforming’ sofa bed.

Last year, when chatting with my writer friend (and owner of the transforming sofa) about a section in her book, I was struck powerfully by her insight that the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly is irreversible. The butterfly does not – and cannot – go back to being a caterpillar. The butterfly is not like a Transformer, a sofa bed or our trailer tent. The transformation is permanent.

St Paul, in one of his letters to the church in Corinth, explains how: ‘If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!’.

When I chose to become a pilgrim, a spiritual transformation happened. I looked no different on the outside but I was a ‘new creation’ and could not go back to being a caterpillar even if I tried! And I tried.

As I continue on my journey of faith, I am able to accept as true both the immediate spiritual transformation that occurred (I am a new creation, irrevocably changed) and the slow (at times, painfully slow) gentle refashioning which is making me more like Christ himself.

I love the analogy of pilgrimage and this is something I am going to be exploring over the next couple of months. But every time I see a butterfly I am joyfully reminded of the great transformation that has already taken place in my life.