Family Pilgrim has made Hedgerow Jam – and what a great team effort! Last week, Small Boy, Little Miss and I went blackberry picking; our local park has blackberry bushes so while the children slid, swung, and see-sawed, I foraged. Small Boy helped from time to time but Little Miss was more interested in eating the juicy berries – her little chin was stained pink by the end of the afternoon!
After walking in the heat and humidity to another nearby play area while collecting (and eating!) more blackberries, we managed to gather just over 400g.
Using some unwanted jars from a friend and a recipe I’d found in Down to the River and Up to the Trees by Sue Belfrage – a book I’d borrowed from the children’s section of the library – we were all set! Waiting until the children were asleep, Mr Pilgrim and I heated the blackberries and an equal amount of sugar (with some water and pectin-providing lemon juice) and made jam! It didn’t take long and was surprisingly easy – even sterilising the jars was straightforward, we simply put them in the oven at gas mark 1.
Just need some homemade bread to spread it on now!
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!
This is what I’ve just read, am reading and am about to read.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 newcreation 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.
Since reading Just Living last year, I have started a journey of discovering the beauty of the natural world – and the harm that we are causing it.
Last June, Small Boy, Little Miss and I took part in 30 Days Wild. I recently reread my blog post on it and was struck by how something that was on the periphery of my conscious thought has become a central part of who I am.
‘But I had learned to see another wildness, to which I had once been blind: the wildness of natural life, the sheer force of ongoing organic existence, , vigorous and chaotic. This wildness was not about asperity, but about luxuriance, vitality, fun.
The weed thrusting through a crack in the pavement, the tree root impudently cracking a carapace of tarmac: these were wild signs, as much as the storm wave and the snowflake.
There was as much to be learned in an acre of woodland on a city’s fringe as on the shattered summit of Ben Hope: this was what Roger [his mentor and friend] had taught me – and what Lily [his young daughter] did not yet need to be taught.
It was something most people forgot as they grew into adults.‘ Robert Macfarlane, The Wild Places, p.316
This ‘wildness of natural life’ – ties in so well with the ethos of 30 Days Wild. Last year, we spent two weeks in the Lakes during June with nature on our doorstep. I had been unsure how we would find 30 wild activities this year when at home in our post-war housing estate on the outskirts of the outskirts of London. But that’s the point of 30 Days Wild. It’s there. We just need to look.
Today we marvelled at a snail speedily slithering over our watering can – look carefully and you can see its poo!
We watched one of the residents of our bug hotel, an ant, carry a small dead fly that had been caught in a web. One wing with its intricate lace pattern remained captured in the spider’s trap. Woodlice scurried away when we lifted up last year’s decaying leaves.
Yesterday, we walked, picking up litter on the way, to our nearest nature reserve – an area of wilderness reserved for bees, butterflies and brambles – and played with sticky goose grass.
June, and so our 30 Days Wild, did however begin on another Family Pilgrim camping trip. The campsite was on the edge of a wood and each morning a resident cuckoo would call for hours. I’d never heard a cuckoo before and couldn’t believe my ears at first. We made Stick Man out of sticks, wandered in the woods and when it rained and we sheltered inside, I drew a duck!
I part-climbed a silver birch tree, walked barefoot on the grass and created daisy chains for the children. We found over 20 cabbage white caterpillars and pretended a tree (species unknown!) was a house.
You might not want to take part in 30 Days Wild this year but maybe you could take a little bit of time to discover wildlife and wild places on your doorstep.
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.
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‘.
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 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:
The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing.
(The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham)
I’ve been spring cleaning this week which always reminds me of Mole. Small Boy was an enthusiastic but not very skilled helper! It’s been a long winter; I’ve been feeling a bit ‘bluh’ since Christmas. But now the colder weather has gone, pockets of colour are emerging in the garden and we can spend sunny afternoons outside.
Last year, we joined the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust and in February I discovered they had a bookable badger hide. Last night Mr P and I sat very still and very quietly behind a large glass window watching and waiting. First we saw two ducks, then two rats, then two rabbits…and then the main show began…one badger…followed by another…and then another. Nine in total. Beautiful creatures, eating noisily and oblivious to their audience.
Last summer, I described how in Ruth Valerio’s Just Living, there are seven themes of practical response with ecological concern the area where I had the most to grow. I re-read this blog post yesterday and was pleasantly surprised by how much I had grown.
And so to Ratty. Ratty in the Wind of the Willows is of course not a rat but a water vole. These are one of my favourite animals.
I am discovering more about my local river, the River Colne, through the River Colne Catchment Action Network and Watford in the Water. I used to think it was a canal (!) but now I am enjoying discovering more about this small river so it was exciting to read this week that water voles have been spotted there.
No Toad to complete the Wind in the Willows cast list but we did see a local frog!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
In January’s edition of Countryfile magazine, Maria Hodson shares her wish list of 50 outdoor wishes to be accomplished in the countryside.
This inspired me to write my own (shorter!) countryside list for 2018.
Pick up rubbish
Love our garden
Go wild swimming in freshwater
Learn to identify five new butterflies (to be honest, I’m not sure how many I can identify now – embarrassingly probably not many)
Learn to identify five new birds – see above comment
Learn to identify five new trees – as above!
Read more nature books, specifically from the library
Climb a fell
See a live badger (I’m currently reading Badgerlands by Patrick Barkham and discovering how seeing badgers in the wild might be more difficult than I first thought involving patience, disguise and staying awake at night – which is kind of obvious really!)
Go for a walk near a viaduct (this was Small Boy’s contribution, probably inspired by a Go Jetters episode)
Wooden toys – I’d been wanting some pre-loved wooden dolls’ house furniture and wooden people for a while to furnish Granny’s old dolls’ house for Little Miss. Eventually, I found some for sale near by through Facebook Marketplace. (Disclaimer: I did then buy some new wooden furniture from John Lewis as the house needed a few more items). Just waiting for Grandpère to redecorate the house now!
Toy library – I finally joined the local toy library this week. Small Boy and Little Miss are enjoying playing with magnetic building blocks.
Small Boy is loving the new series of Down on the Farm – a fantastic programme for children about nature and the countryside. It also makes a change from Octonauts!
I’ve also purchased a year’s subscription to the Pearly White Club – a new local company selling bamboo toothbrushes. They are also donating toothbrushes to New Hope.
I picked up a whole carrier bag full of rubbish as we walked to church on Sunday.
The two bins in our local park have been padlocked because someone had previously threw the metal bin over the fence into a field where there are horses and donkeys.
I love my local community and it saddens me to see litter on the grass verges and vandalism which could harm animals.
Strangers on the internet have been mean to me.
I posted a comment on a Marks and Spencer’s Facebook post which was advertising their Paddington Bear merchandise. I wrote that the Paddington films have an amazing message which is at odds with their adverts in UK newspapers which incite hatred towards immigrants (see Stop Funding Hate).
I naively wasn’t expecting anyone to read my words let alone comment. None of the negative comments were particularly bad (knowing how some people are trolled on social media) but I’m quite sensitive and I was surprised by some people’s reactions. I’m not used to people behaving like that towards me and I was hurt and angry. Normally, a Facebook notification on my phone is a positive thing as someone has ‘liked’ a photo I’ve shared but on Wednesday I dreaded seeing the red notification symbol and felt sick inside.
Some of their words are still going round my head. Am I a ‘snowflake’? Do I ‘have a life’? Yet, I don’t regret what I wrote and I’m going to post a letter to Marks and Spencer this weekend outlining my concerns about their advertising.
Ultimately though it’s not about me and what a handful of people think about me. It’s about taking a stand on behalf of people who are currently experiencing injustice.