‘Whatever next?’ – March 2017 update

1. LISTEN

Contrasting things this month – a small personal story; and two examples of inspiring courage from terrible personal tragedy.

First the small personal story.  No details because they’re not mine to tell, but I think the lesson I learned is.

I inadvertently upset a good friend (and former work colleague) last week.  She told me about an incident that had happened to her at work and (I thought) asked my view about it.   I didn’t agree with her take on something quite important to me, but she was sure she was right about it.  I went away and read up and around the subject, and was convinced my interpretation was correct.  So I emailed her explaining why and with some information I thought she might find useful.  In essence what I was telling her was that I believed I was right and she was wrong.

Thank goodness she had the courage to write back to me saying how upset she was to get my email.  Because it turned out, I realised, that actually she had told me about the incident asking for reassurance and comfort, not for advice.  By responding in a calm, lawyerly, academic way, I had inadvertently failed to hear what she was really telling me: that she needed a bit of tlc.

I was able to get back to her swiftly, apologising and explaining where I had come from (it happened to be a subject that meant a lot to me, and I was worried and upset by her interpretation of it).  She replied explaining what I had already figured out: that she was in a fragile emotional state and hadn’t been ready to hear my initial response.

We’ve made a good job of patching up the damage through caring enough to listen and apologise; through recognising our own frailties and weaknesses; and through hearing what the heart was feeling as well as what the head was saying.

The inspiring stories came in the wake of the death of Martin McGuiness.  I heard two powerful radio interviews: one with Jo Berry (whose MP father was killed in the 1984 IRA Brighton bombing – her subsequent experiences led her to found Building Bridges for Peace); the other with Martin Parry (whose son Tim died in the 1993 IRA Warrington bombing) – experience led him to help set up Foundation4peace.   Both inspirationally positive responses to the most terrible events in their lives.

2. TAKE CONTROL

These days it sometimes feels as though we have to hold two opposing ideas of the future in our heads at the same time, and somehow work through both.

There’s the Hard Brexit future, which frankly I fear for all sorts of reasons, not least of all the prospect, looming ever larger, of this being the stimulus for the UK breaking apart.  How to prepare for what that future might hold for us without sinking into despair?

I’ve been revisiting some of the things I’ve read over the years about permaculture and the Transition movement, mainly because (with shared roots) they both have an inspiring positivity, and a great way of working creatively with ‘problems’ to make something good.

Food

For me, part of that preparation is about seeing and seizing whatever opportunities come my way for a positive outcome rather than the negative one I fear.  Just looking at our food for now, Hard Brexit seems to carry major challenges for farming, food production and food supplies.  But maybe there are also opportunities in there as well, for us to be forced to straighten out the mess that is our national food (in)security.

This train of thought was sparked when we recently visited Dungeness.  I was fascinated to watch some day-boat fishers come in with their catch.  I chatted with one of them as he unloaded sack after sack of whelks.  I asked if there was a market for them locally.  “Oh no”, he replied. “No-one wants them here.  These are all off to Korea – they can’t get enough of them!”.

Now I don’t know whether or not I’d enjoy eating whelks, but it does seem the height of a crazy system when we harvest a sustainable, local crop like this and then send it half way around the world to be eaten.; whilst at the same time importing products from half way around the world.

As ever, it’s important to check out the credibility and reliability of our information.  I began with a Guardian article by Professor Tim Lang, someone I’ve been listening to with interest for decades now.  He knows his stuff, and his stuff is food reliability, food security, food production, food statistics.  The article was written just a week or so after the referendum last June.

He says that in the UK we produce only about 50% of our food.  30% of what we eat is currently imported from the EU.  38% of the labour force in UK food production is foreign-born (and that I think includes the labour forces in both food growing and food manufacturing).

And how’s this for some facts about where the money we spend on food goes:

The money from food is syphoned away from primary producers. Of the £201bn we spend on food annually, agriculture’s gross added value is £9bn, manufacturing adds £27bn, wholesalers £12bn, catering £29bn and retailing £30bn. This is a long-chain, unequal distribution system. Almost as unequal as the diets of rich and poor consumers in the UK, the running sore of UK food politics.

In other words, only tiny proportion goes to the growers.  Three times as much goes to manufacturers, and slightly more than that to retailers.

None of this is simple.  We export a lot of food (both products and raw materials), and we import far more than we export.  A lot of the food that is manufactured in the UK (and then exported) relies on imported raw ingredients.

But I think there are some useful things most of us can do to TAKE CONTROL of our food.  Like me, you’re probably already doing some or even all of them.

When we’re buying our food we can:

  • try to reduce the length of that food chain by (a) buying products as close to their origins as possible (ie buy unprocessed rather than heavily processed), and (b) buying as close to the grower or producer as possible (ie buy direct and/or local where possible).  By doing this we help support UK and local farmers and producers, and we reduce the oil miles incurred.
  • reduce the amount we need to import by eating seasonally, and by buying local where possible.  Same beneficial effects as above.
  • reduce the amount we waste by accepting ‘wonky’ fruit and vegetables, using up all leftovers, using what we already have before buying more, and finding uses for what would otherwise be thrown ‘away’.  By doing this we help reduce the amount of food needed to be produced.
  • reduce your waste still further by giving away food you know you won’t be able to use yourself – to neighbours, friends, or strangers.  By doing this we help reduce waste (which all costs money to take away and deal with), and we help build and strengthen our communities.

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Fresh fish, landed today. Hastings beach

Today’s catch. The netting is to keep the gulls off the fish.

These are all actually very simple steps to take, and yet if everyone did it they would start to make a significant difference.  Though as I say, nothing in this complex spaghetti that is our food chain is simple –

  • if we all buy locally, there won’t be enough.  Will that spur on more local growers, knowing there is a ready market on their doorstep?
  • if we all buy locally, who will be willing to pick the produce if the foreign workers on whom we currently rely are no longer able to come here?  Will that support higher wages that local people can afford to work for?
  • if we all buy raw ingredients, what will happen to the jobs of people working in food manufacturing?

I know – more questions than answers, but as always we have to start somewhere, and doing the things I suggest above will at least help us to….

3. BUILD COMMUNITY

This has been a busy month what with one thing and another.

At the Farm, we’ve been busy reviewing our policies and procedures – dull stuff to some perhaps, but the academic and legal side of my brain enjoys all that, so I’ve got stuck into several areas of the work.  Putting together Action Plans, spreadsheets, and proposals all tap into the kind of work I did before I retired, and helps take some of the load off our over-stretched staff.

Much more fun for all was the Bath Half Marathon earlier this month.  With more than 12,500 runners, and taking place right through and around the heart of our city, this is the largest such event in the SW of England.  The Family Fun Run alongside it had almost 1,000 participants.  All in all it’s a massive affair, which needs massive community support and event planning to enable it to happen, and happen safely.

The Bath Half also raises a substantial amount of money for charities, many of them local. Bath City Farm had 12 runners, between them they raised over £3,000 for us – money we can spend on some of the background work needed to provide the many services we provide.

I spent most of the morning staffing our stall in the Small Charities area, looking after our runners’ belongings for them, providing information for browsers, and looking after the bananas and home-baked cakes ready for the runners on their return (and working on my current crochet project in the quiet moments).

Malcolm was a Cycle Steward, patrolling his stretch of the route with his hi-viz vest and whistle.  In fact he ended up helping look after one of a number of people who collapsed in the last mile – fortunately no lasting harm to anyone.

The Bath Half is a great community event.  So many of us turn out to support and cheer on the runners and to play some small part in the support team.  It also brings a lot of trade into the city, so it’s a great economic boost as well.

4. LOOK AFTER THE PLANET

One of the best things about the Bath Half?   Almost a whole day with no traffic in the centre of the city or in the approach roads.

No noise.  No noxious fumes.  A tiny taste of what our city could be like if we had a council willing to ‘join the dots’ and see the connections between public health and transport policies and practice.

And of course March is the real start of the growing season.  I’ve sown some seeds (which are germinating – hurrah!).  I’m chitting my seed potatoes.  I’ve planted out the rest of my onion sets.  And I persuaded Malcolm and younger son to spend today building my badger defences with me.  I’m delighted with the result – just what I wanted, and not a penny spent on materials.  Everything we used apart from the screws and staples is in it’s second or even third life.  We’ll see just how effective it proves to be.  All it needs now is a bit of beautification – I have plans for a climbing rose, some bunting, and a few other embellishments.  Watch this space!

In the gap between the showers there was blue blue sky…

My brand ‘new’ fence

I also have plans for a ‘new’ shed, donated by an allotment neighbour who’s getting a brand new one as a retirement gift.  My family all think I’ve been had – as d-in-l put it, “can it really be described as a shed if it needs a new base, a new roof, and some of the walls need attention?”.

Call that a shed??

But I’m confident it will be fine, and I have a vision of something inspired by Derek Jarman’s beach hut on Dungeness – think dark black painted shed with gorse-flower-yellow trims.  With something growing over it – a kiwi maybe?  Do let me know how it went if you’ve tried growing a kiwi in the UK – I’m torn between wanting to give it a go, and worrying it won’t fruit.

This is not my shed

And then a thought for another time – I came across a series of articles called ‘make your life less oily in 2017‘.  I need to read them carefully and reflect, and thing about what changes I might make myself.  Very interesting though – fascinating to realise just how big a part oil and its derivatives play in all aspects of our everyday lives (not just energy and transport, but also food, clothes, possessions –  just everything).

Posted in Allotment, Climate change, Community, Inspirations, Local food, Reflections on life (and death), Seeing differently, Uncategorized, Whatever next? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

To sleep…..

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago, feeling somewhat desperate.   Since then I have continued with the medication, been to the GP (who was very helpful), and gradually begun sleeping more.  But I decided to publish this anyway, in the interests of ‘keeping it real’ – this is life, we take the good and the bad together.

And if I’ve neglected to read and comment on your blog, or to respond to your comment on mine, I do apologise.   I’m working my way through my backlog of ‘stuff’ at the moment, but it will all take a while to catch up.

I have been overwhelmed by a long-standing inability to sleep enough.  The past couple of months have been particularly difficult.  I have done whatever I have been able to manage, but have also had to absent myself from some things I really wanted to do (farm meetings; a friend’s 60th birthday party) because I knew I simply wouldn’t cope with the added disruption to already disrupted sleep.  And most weeks I’ve had at least one day when I was so exhausted that all I could manage was to go for a walk, to put one foot in front of the other and just go.  No thinking or planning or destination needed.

I know this is not something truly awful in the scale of things (I don’t have cancer or any other life-threatening or life-limiting disease; I don’t have to do anything I don’t feel up to doing; my life is generally very good).

On the other hand, if you haven’t experienced the effects of long-term insomnia maybe you think it’s just like having the odd bad night.  I can tell you it’s a very different thing.  An average night of 5 hours sleep is just not enough for me to cope on.  I can do it for one night or two, but not week in week out for months on end.  I am no Margaret Thatcher (in more ways than just the sleep department, I hope).

A few days ago I wrote a post reflecting on some of the things that may have kicked this off – all of them normal parts of everyday life for most of us at some time or another: the stresses of combining demanding paid work (albeit part time) with multiple substantial (part time) family caring responsibilities; some challenging relationship issues in my extended family; effects of menopause (especially the many years of hot flushes day and night).

Then I decided it was sufficiently cathartic simply to have written it. I don’t need (or want) to publish it here.  But it did help me realise just how hard I am finding it.  Which in turn helped me resolve to put first the things that aid a better night’s sleep (and the converse – avoid the things that make it worse).

So – hello to a regular bedtime routine; ensuring that I stick to the ‘sleep hygiene’ rules we all know; revisiting medication tried some years ago but rejected because it was difficult to combine with the need for an early morning start to work; and saying ‘no’ to some invitations and trips and commitments that just don’t work for me right now.

It’s goodbye to late nights out, alcohol (no great loss for me – though I enjoy the odd glass of wine or beer, I’ve never been one to drink much); caffeine beyond the early afternoon; evening meetings or parties.

And thank you especially to Malcolm for being so supportive through all of this (and for being such a good cook).

My ambition isn’t massive: just to be able to sleep at least six and a half hours a night, every night, would be truly wonderful.

A week into the new drug regime, I seem to be managing just that, and am at last waking up each morning feeling refreshed and energetic.

Maybe I’m still recovering from a backlog of weeks and months and years of lack of sleep, or maybe it’s the effect of the drugs, because right now by late afternoon I’m fairly done in.  I’m hoping that will resolve itself soon, because it’s not how I want to be nor is it how I am when I’ve slept well.

But even so, I can do (and enjoy) so much more than has been possible of recent months.  Long may it last.

 

Posted in Family, Reflections on life (and death), Retirement | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Whatever next? – February 2017 update

1. LISTEN

I’ve read some very interesting articles in The Guardian from different perspectives on both Brexit and Trump.  By ‘different perspectives’ I mean different from my own – ie outside ‘the bubble.’   It has been fascinating (and I think important) to learn more about what motivated (and motivates) people to vote for and support Trump (and Brexit), and what their hopes and aspirations are for the future.

I’ve also read some frankly chilling and terrifying articles revealing some of the background to the Trump and Brexit elections.  None more so than this one by Carole Cadwalladr (Observer journalist).  It’s a long and detailed read, but really important and worth paying attention to.

It’s also been interesting to see how many writers of blogs that are generally about crafting and particular lifestyles, or just about the everyday lives of the people writing them, have felt impelled to write about ‘politics’ and protest in ways they haven’t done before.  This stuff is deeply, deeply felt,  and there is so much pain, anger and fear – on all sides of the arguments.

I’ve continued reading blog posts from different perspectives, and I’ve been particularly heartened by some of the comments on blogs – especially those from people who for example voted for Trump and are now seeing the reaction of others to the results of his election.

I’ve watched how sometimes when a person has tentatively (very nervously I would say) stuck their neck out and tried to explain why they did that, they’ve immediately been set upon by others who hold contrary views.  I understand the anger, but really, unless we’re prepared to allow people to speak honestly how will we ever move things beyond shouting each other down through a wall? (provided the speaking is done respectfully of others – I will not allow for sexism, racism or other oppressive expressions).

So my plea is for us all to think before we speak, before we type, before we press the ‘publish’ button – are we refusing to hear? are we putting our fingers in our ears and shouting louder? are we failing to take the chance to hear, to understand, and maybe to build the very alliances we need to move things on?  Can we find a way to express what we want/need to say in a way that is respectful of others?

Dar from ‘An Exacting Life‘ wrote about reframing ‘political correctness’ as simply ‘respect for all’.  And who can argue with the need to treat everyone with respect?  Even, I would argue, those with whom we disagree profoundly.  

2. TAKE CONTROL

Oh the emails I’ve written, the petitions I’ve signed.   Does any of it do any good?  Perhaps.  Maybe.  (Well in some cases I know it did to some good – several people under threat of immediate deportation saved from that and now able to use the legal avenues of appeal or representation open to them).

But I cannot stand by and look the other way, stand by and stay silent.  So I’ve set myself a target of writing one letter/email a week encouraging something I believe to be good, and one protesting something I believe to be wrong.

And I don’t beat myself up over the many I don’t sign, don’t write.  The protests I don’t go on.  The actions I don’t take.

I did go to a lovely celebration of the contributions made to Bath by people from other countries (1 day without us).  There were a lot of us there, and it was reported in the press. What a shame then that the local press chose to (mis)represent it as ‘migrants airing their grievances about Brexit’ – it was about as far from that as is possible.

Do what we can, accept our limitations, live our lives now as well as think about the future.

3. BUILD COMMUNITY

There is a lot of generosity and good will out there.  Sometimes we just have to ask and people are happy to share their knowledge, skills and abilities.

Small voluntary organisations like the City Farm need it now more than ever – there is an ever-growing task for the voluntary sector to pick up when state provision fails, or when what it provides is far from enough.

In January we (the City Farm) needed someone to advise us on how to move our use of ICT forward.  I asked, and a former work colleague offered to help us for free (We had expected and intended we would pay him – we are extremely grateful for his expert help, every penny we spend has to be fundraised somehow or another).

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We have such ambition to do more with and for our community, and such a wealth of talent, skills and generosity to draw on within our community.  What we also need is for those who have money to share it and allow (enable) us to achieve our dreams.

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My knitted bits and bobs in the farm shop – all now sold (hurrah!), and replaced by other things we’ve made

“You gotta have a dream, if you don’t have a dream,

How you gonna have a dream come true?”

(Lyrics, South Pacific – Happy Song (Rogers and Hammerstein)

4. LOOK AFTER THE PLANET

I’m not sure what to write here this month.  All the thoughts I’ve had  and the actions I’ve taken are frankly rather tiny and pathetic.

I’ve done some work on my allotment; I’ve lobbied (unsuccessfully so far) for my council to provide the option of small rubbish bins for households when they move (at last!) to fortnightly collections later this year instead of the massive 140l bins they plan to give every household; I’ve signed heaven knows how many petitions.  I haven’t flown anywhere; I have made choices to use the train.  But I’ve also sometimes used my car when I could have cycled or used the train.

On the other hand, I’ve spent a lot of time working with the City Farm on plans to develop and expand the services we provide, which are used by the widest range of people you can imagine, and introduce many to the joy of being outside in nature, of caring for the earth and animals (and each other), and that gives me hope and optimism.

Does it amount to anything?  Maybe, maybe not.  Probably not enough.  But being conscious of the choices we make is a reasonable place to start.  We have to start from where we are, and here I am.

Posted in Climate change, Community, Inspirations, Local, Reflections on life (and death), Retirement, Seeing differently, Whatever next? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Gap Year: February

(A bit like London buses – you wait ages for a post to come along, and suddenly three appear all at once – the third on its way soon).

Finally something (slightly) more conventionally adventurous, though I have to be honest and admit not very (adventurous that is).

This time we went to Lille for a long weekend.  We’d never been there before, and with Eurostar from London the travel couldn’t have been easier (or cheaper) – just £29 each each way from London.  About the same as it cost us to get to London and back.

While Lille itself was grey, cold and even snowy while we were there, we were blessed with colour all around us.

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€1 each on a market stall

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Detail of entrance gate to La Piscine museum and gallery – see below)

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Exhibit, Palais des Beaux Arts, Lille (sorry, I don’t have the artist’s name – but it seems to be a collection of DMC colour charts)

We found a flat to rent close enough to the centre to be able to walk wherever we wanted to go.  There were churches to admire, galleries to visit, shops to ogle, people to watch.

The gallery in Lille is the Palais des Beaux Arts, an astonishing collection of paintings, antiquities, and extraordinary 17C and 18C relief maps that I can’t begin to describe.  Get a sense of the collection by clicking on the link above – I promise you won’t be disappointed. And all housed in a gorgeous late 19C building (currently undergoing a bit of renovation and addition, so sadly the cafe was closed until April 2017.  Tant pis, we found somewhere else for our coffee).

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Detail of a large glazed pottery piece (sorry, I can’t read my note of who created it)

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La Dame en noir, by Charles Duran (oddly both the title and the description by the painting fail to mention what she’s doing – knitting what looks like a sock or stocking)

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…and I failed to record who painted her or what the title of the painting was, but I love how well it captures the detail of such an everyday task

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Local pottery, about 1820

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Portrait de femme (1732), by Paul-Ponce Robert

There were many paintings of women, including one of Berthe Morisot, but sadly I didn’t see a single painting by a woman (not even one by Berthe Morisot).  I wonder, did I miss them? or did those who put the collection together miss them?  (There was one I missed – a glorious piece by Sonia Delaunay.  Damn.  Next time….).

Still, the next gallery more than made up for that.

In nearby Roubaix, La Piscine Musee d’Art et d’Industrie is I think the wackiest, most gorgeous gallery/museum I’ve ever been to.

Imagine, if you can, a gallery and museum all centred upon a former 1932 Art Nouveau public swimming pool.  As you walk around the sound is mostly of trickling water from a spout into the remaining pool.  And then every now and again a loud soundtrack plays of all the echoey noises of an indoor swimming pool full of people enjoying themselves.

The art and craft on display ranged from the wonderful to the faintly ridiculous (a bunch of kittens cavorting in and on a chest of drawers anyone?  You’re welcome).

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But there was more than enough there to delight, some to amuse, and a WW1 exhibition to give us all pause for thought.

There were many many women artists exhibited alongside the men.  I find myself noticing this more and more often these days, and being increasingly irritated by their (our) lack, which feels lazy.

There were several paintings showing the work involved in the textile industry which gave the town its former glory, and like many towns in the north of England, now its decline.

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(sorry, lost my note of the artist and title)

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Ferdinand-Joseph Gueldry – Scene de triage de la laine (Sorting the wool). The work was tough, and those employed in this task mainly young and female

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William Lee Hankey – La lecon de tricot (the knitting lesson) (sorry, can’t figure out how to include French accents)

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Statue of Handel (he of the Water Music – geddit?)

There was still time left for a day-trip by train to Bruges.

Throughout the (short) time we were there we walked and walked and walked.  And that walking exploration was for me the main pleasure (well that and the daily eclairs – who can deny the pleasure of a good French eclair au cafe? certainly not us).

And here for those waiting for decent photos, some gorgeous images from Lille, Roubaix and Bruges by Malcolm:

Lille – Notre Dame Cathedral.  The first time we visited was on a bleak, dull day.  When we went back on a sunny day, the place was transformed and the extraordinary end wall glowed as the sun shone through it.

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Detail of end wall – translucent marble

Lille – former oyster and seafood shop (now a branch of Paul bakery) – I fell in love with this building.  Sadly when we returned for a coffee on our last morning it was the one day of the week it closes.  Should have gone in when we first saw it.  Lesson learned.

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The inside as well preserved as the outside (closed today, taken through the window)

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Can’t find the name of this place – will add when I can. Fabric and craft shop.

Lille – Palais des Beaux Arts – wonderful building, wonderful collection of art.

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So many young people there being introduced to art, and looking and listening intently

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Fascinating view from back of the original building to the new addition (not yet open).  Some of what you see is the new, much is reflection of the old, with a pool between.

Roubaix – Musee de la Piscine – just a fabulous, exuberant place.  What vision the local people who conceived this project and made it happen had.  From a museum/gallery that had been closed and a swimming pool that had been closed to this.

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Bruges – a few snippets – we had mixed feelings about Bruges.  Loved the old (some reconstructed) buildings and the quiet streets and canals; not so keen on the big tourist spots full of people and the inevitable shops selling tourist tat.  Below is a flavour of what we loved.

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Posted in Gap year, Inspirations, Retirement, Seeing differently, Travels, Uncategorized, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Gap Year: January adventure

(oops, rather late again.  Sorry, overtaken by lack of sleep.  More of which another time).

People, in January we went to Birmingham for three days.

I know, I’ve been there before.  He has too.  So where’s the adventure? you ask.  In my head, is my reply.

I’m realising that ‘adventure’ is as much about our mental approach to things as it is about the physical aspect (travel, challenge, distance, difference.  Add your own words in here).

I’ve long thought that ‘adventure’ can be doing the same things but experiencing them differently, or going to the same places but seeing them differently, and this year is underlining that for me.  It doesn’t have to mean travelling far away (though it might mean that), nor does it have to mean spending lots of money (but it could involve that).

Years ago when our children were very young and money was very tight, a holiday could be a visit to our ‘holiday home‘.  This was our own house, but lived in differently for those few days.  (These days called a ‘staycation’ I think).

One time, during an autumn school holiday when we’d both taken time off work and felt very much in need of a break, come Friday evening I told the boys we were off to our ‘holiday cottage’ and we bundled ourselves into coats gloves and scarves and walked down the road to the nearby linear park (a former railway line, now part of the Two Tunnels Greenway) to see the badger sett.  It was getting dark, they’d never seen it before,  we came home to hot chocolate.  It was a great start to a long weekend of picnics, walks, and just being on holiday together.  Every day there was a treat of some kind or another.  Yes some of the picnics turned out to be indoors on the floor (to avoid the rain), but that was fun too.  After all, we didn’t normally eat our meals with our fingers sitting on a cloth on the floor.

And what on earth does that have to do with Birmingham?  Well, on the face of it nothing.  But it captures for me the way we can transform the everyday into the special just by how we think about it.

So – back to Birmingham.  We travelled by train, which didn’t take long from Bath.  We could have gone there for the day if we’d wanted, but decided to make a few days of it and stayed two nights, at the Quaker study centre near Bourneville.  We both enjoyed it (though it was a bit far from the centre for Malcolm’s preference).

Mostly we walked around exploring Birmingham’s craft and industrial history – the canals, the Jewellery Quarter, the gun-making history.  Some of those industrial buildings and structures are magnificent.  I can bore for England on the subject of beautiful brickwork, encaustic tiles, decorative brickwork, decorative ironwork and the like.  (We now have a daily limit on how many times I’m allowed to draw attention to them, and some handy abbreviations – BBW = beautiful brickwork; BIW = beautiful ironwork.  You get the picture….)

We visited the public library, the art gallery and museum (including the stunning Staffordshire Hoard exhibition), and the cathedral.  We drank coffee and ate cake (as you do).  We enjoyed ourselves a lot.  And then we came home.

Till the next time.

(all the photos bar one are Malcolm’s)

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Detail of inside the public library (this one’s mine folks)

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Posted in Gap year, Local, Reflections on life (and death), Seeing differently, Travels, Uncategorized, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Playing with colour

You’ve probably noticed by now how much I enjoy colour.  Now I’m learning to play with it myself as well as enjoy other people’s games.  Learning by doing.

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I’ve been using odds and ends of yarn left over from other projects to make some simple squares to join for a multi-colour blanket of my own invention.  (I did need to buy a few extra balls, as there weren’t quite enough left overs for the blanket).

Then I decided that instead of mixing all the colours I would split them into two groups.  As you can see below.

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And now I’ve sewn in all the ends on the red/pink group its ready for me to piece into a blanket.

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I’m thinking about how best to join them – with a dark colour? or a pale colour?  Maybe I’ll do a bit more playing around before I decide.  I’m drawn to either white (or a creamy colour), or something really dark (navy? black?).  This could go either way.

I think this one may be a present for someone (I’ll have to check first with her parents whether these colours work for her, but they’re the colours I always associate with her, and they go with her name).  If not, it will be my ‘garden blanket’.   The other one (greens, blues) is for our spare bedroom, which gets used quite a lot these days.

And then I have the twine I bought in a sale last year to make a basket or two, building on the 3-d crochet I practiced with Emma on the workshop back in October.

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Meanwhile I’m still enjoying other people’s colour play.  (All photos below courtesy of Malcolm).

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(We’ve been to Lille – more of that in another post).

Posted in Craft, Gap year, Inspirations, Travels | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

The Gap Year: December adventure

(oops- a bit late.  Trying to catch up with myself.  Gradually….)

Another ‘adventure’ that isn’t so very adventurous.  But we enjoyed it a lot, confirming my view that ‘adventurous’ isn’t a pre-requisite for an adventure.

Oldest son and daughter-out-law were away on an adventure of their own over Christmas and New Year, so we borrowed their flat in South London for a few days.

Oh how I love you, South East London! (words my mother-in-law would have been thrilled to hear from me, but it’s taken so long for it to grow on me that to my regret she never did hear me say it).

They live less than two miles from where Malcolm grew up and his parents lived for years after he left home.  We spent one of our days revisiting old haunts – the home where he grew up, his primary school, favourite pub, favourite walks.  We also took the opportunity to visit some places new to both of us, and some further afield we haven’t been to together for a while.  Needless to say, most of the time we were walking, and you do see so much more that way.

We were only away for three nights, and we spent longer than intended travelling in both directions (by car, as trains severely depleted over the holiday period), due to traffic and difficult weather (fog, ice).  Even so, we managed to pack a lot in:

  • Nunhead Cemetery – one of the famous Victorian London cemeteries – includes great views over London (at least, so we were told – too foggy to see when we were there).
  • Exploring Crofton Park, Brockley, and Nunhead (including poking our noses into the Brockley Brewery – brewers of excellent IPA)
  • The Ivy House , Nunhead – London’s first co-operatively owned pub – well worth a visit
  • Walk along Thames Path – Tower Bridge to Canary Wharf (N Bank)
  • Walk from Forest Hill to Tate Britain, Millbank via Peckham, East Dulwich, Camberwell, Vauxhall
  • Visit with friends to Tate Britain (Henry Moore; William Blake; )
  • Dulwich Picture Gallery

Below is a flavour of what we saw.

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Front gate, entrance to the ‘House of Dreams

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Detail, outside the ‘House of Dreams’

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Small bakery, shop window (closed that day)

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Former school building, beautifully designed and built

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A ram in Camberwell

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Beautiful decorative brickwork

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See how long this independent butcher shop has been going – against all the odds (my m-in-l shopped here in the 1960s and 1970s)

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Proud to be South London

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Community-owned pub – outside

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Community-owned pub – inside (midweek mid afternoon – I’m sure it’s normally busier than this!)

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Live-work accommodation, Brockley

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M’s teenage drinking haunt, now updated – still a really nice local to socialise, drink, eat, and play board games if that’s your thing

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Named for that strange-shaped thing on the top of the front – apparently a piece of whale bone. (I’m none the wiser….)

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Renowned and revived. Crofton Park’s finest.

Posted in Community, Family, Gap year, Retirement, Seeing differently, Travels, Uncategorized, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments