I’ve been reflecting on the post I wrote here, and thinking that if I’m proposing that I and others do something, maybe I should hold myself to account and record what actually I’m doing myself.
So this is either the first in what will either become a regular feature, or a one-off that I won’t continue with. Only time will tell.
I’m not going to list everything here, just pick something in each heading to write about each month.
I have to confess that I am often not very good at this. Or at least, I am good at it when I’m in ‘listening mode’, but I have a (bad) habit of jumping in too soon and responding before the person talking to me has finished what they’re saying. (Those who know me well will I think be nodding in agreement with this). Sometimes that’s to do with my loss of hearing; other times I misread whether the sentence has finished; sometimes I (think I) know what is going to be said. I must try harder.
I have been reading the blogs of some people (particularly in the US) whose lifestyles are in many ways similar to mine, but some of whose core beliefs are a world away from mine. I’m finding this both comforting and shocking. Sometimes I’m completely in sympathy with how they live their lives, and then they share something about their underlying beliefs and I recoil in horror. And then I read on, to better understand. How can we be so similar and so far apart?
2. TAKE CONTROL
I’m starting with thinking about shopping, partly because this is something most of us can’t avoid doing, if only to feed ourselves (but also for housing, warmth and clothing).
I’ve always been careful about where I spend my money (and what I spend it on). Now I’m trying to be even more mindful and careful about this. I realise it is a privilege to be able to do so – I have enough money that I can choose to spend more on something if I wish to.
So, I’m already choosy about where I buy my food, clothes, utilities, books, and everything. But I think there’s scope to review all of it, and consider whether and how I can do more.
In particular, research shows us that money we spend in chains and online migrates out of our own community (and often avoids paying any UK tax, to the detriment of us all), whereas money we spend in our communities especially with independent shops and traders mostly remains in our communities (and attracts proper UK tax and local Business rates). So this year will be a year of even more careful scrutiny on my spending.
3. BUILD COMMUNITY
I recently read a sobering comparison about two areas of our city that I know well. The ward where Bath City Farm is situated is one of the 10% most deprived in the country. The ward where I live, just a 30 minute walk away, is one of the 10% least deprived in the country. I’m sure this difference and inequality is replicated in most towns, cities and villages in the UK.
One of the things I love about Bath City Farm is the way it brings together people from all over our city and beyond, across all sorts of divides (class, money, race, religion, age, dis/ability, health, sexuality….). Unlike many City Farms, we offer open access, free of charge (though we ask those who can to donate what they can – access is free, but unfortunately upkeep, maintenance and develop all cost money, which we have to find from somewhere.).
Malcolm and I play an active part in fundraising for the farm, and in December that included helping pack shopping at one of the local supermarkets. This proved far more enjoyable than you might imagine – there’s a huge difference between packing your own shopping when you’re feeling frazzled and stressed, and helping others pack. And people were so generous, and appreciative of what the farm adds to our community.
We also volunteered to help our local Samaritans group with their fundraising by being their collectors at an evening Bath Rugby match. Until recently I had no idea just how much money Bath Rugby raises for local charities, but the City Farm was one of their Charities of the Year last year and this autumn we received a substantial cheque as a result. So, on a chilly dark and drizzly evening last month we went to a rugby match, held out collecting buckets, and hoped for the best. The atmosphere at the match (and before and after it) was great, people were generous with their money, and I’m guessing that even on a miserable autumn evening a lot of money was raised for local good causes.
For the first time I appreciate the important part Bath Rugby plays in the life of our city – a focus for sport certainly, but also for being at the heart of our community and supporting the city.
And as ever I often chat to people along the street and when I’m out and about. I may be morphing into the person you hope won’t sit next to you on the bus…..
4. LOOK AFTER THE PLANET
I’ve been thinking about how I will cut down on dairy products. It struck me that in order to see whether I’ve managed to do this I first need to gauge how much I’m currently using. So I deliberately didn’t immediately make any changes in my diet. I totted up the plastic milk bottles that went out to be recycled just before Christmas morning, and I was shocked to find that it totalled 26 pints. Really??? Really. That’s two people in one week. Did we really get through 13 pints each in just one week? I can only assume we did. I plan to record the plastic bottles each time I put out the recycling this year, and see whether I make any difference. Or not.
As for farmed meat, that’s a relatively easy one for me. We don’t eat meat every day, and a while ago we took a decision to mostly eat wild meat, rather than farmed meat. We stopped eating intensively farmed meat a long time ago. We are fortunate that we can buy local venison, wild boar and wild rabbit easily and comparatively inexpensively. This isn’t meat reared for the table, it is genuinely culled (killed) to keep wild numbers in balance in the absence of non-human predators. We also stretch whatever meat we eat with lots of vegetables, barley or whatever, so that meat is not the main component of a meal.
Malcolm recently did a course on game butchery and cooking. The venison sausages and pies he brought home with him were delicious, so I’m looking forward to more of the same.
I’m not sure yet how I’ll measure or assess any change we make, but I will at least try to be more conscious of what we’re eating.
In the meantime, on Friday I’ll be marking the inauguration of the new US President by going to a bridge with a poster, and demonstrating my belief in ‘Building Bridges not Walls’.
Do share if you feel tempted to join me in any or all of these. I’m sure you also have great ideas of your own which I’d love to hear about and think about taking on.