Catch-up time

Oops, there goes another month with barely a post.  But now it’s September, a new year beckons, and I’m ready to go with renewed energy and time.

I have some catching up to do, and some things maybe that just will never be caught up.

I’ve had a wonderful summer – I seem to remember mostly the sunshiny bits, whereas Malcolm mostly remembers the rainy days (perhaps because they were what stood between him and his plans to go camping more this summer).

I spent the time working my allotment, improving the garden back and front, cooking, crocheting, seeing friends, walking (a lot!), and continuing my love affair with Bath City Farm (including catching up with a backlog of things I’d said I would do).  There were visits from friends and relatives.  There were several trips to London to visit a friend.  It’s been lovely in all sorts of ways.

And now I’m ready for that September feeling of a fresh start.  Jewish New Year (21 September this year) has always felt to me like exactly the right time to celebrate and begin a new year.

Crochet blanket, sold to raise money for Bath City Farm

and another, now finished and ready to sell….

The Kinks had it right….

(one of the things that’s got in the way of me posting on here is that I seem to have run out of space for images.  I’ve got round it as a temporary fix by removing some I feel are superfluous, but in the longer term I’ll need to find a better fix.  In the meantime, I’ll have to manage by using fewer photos.  I hope you can bear with me….)

 

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Posted in Community, Inspirations, Reflections on life (and death), Uncategorized, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Whatever next? – August 2017 update

Ok, so I missed June.  And July.

Whatever.

Here we are in August.

There is so very much depressing stuff going on out there.  Sometimes we need an antidote to all that, to remind us that there is hope, that there are amazing people doing amazing things, and that we too can be amazing – and maybe we already are ;-).

So, right now I’m going to

Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive, Eliminate the negative, Latch on to the affirmitive, Don’t mess with Mr In-between  (thanks, Johnny Mercer – if you need cheering up, listen to this!)

LISTEN

I’ve been to two really interesting (free) talks in London in July and August.  They were in (under?) this year’s very beautiful Serpentine Pavilion in Hyde Park.  Designed by Francis Kéré, it’s the first Serpentine Pavilion designed by an African architect (he’s from Burkina Faso), and he was inspired by his memories of ‘gathering, debate and community around a tree in his village’.

The talks were part of a series called Radical Kitchen: Recipes for Building Community and Creating Change.  They were preceded by a buffet picnic mainly for the presenters prepared by Masi Mas, a group of refugee women who come together to cook.  Delicious food, beautifully presented, all with interesting back stories.

The first one I went to was a presentation by people from the Brixton People’s Fridge (SUCH a great idea!).  The next one was by You Make It – a programme of workshops, mentoring and courses to empower and inspire young unemployed women in East London – the two inspiring things about this were hearing the CEO explain why and how she set it up; and hearing from three young women currently on the programme talking about the difference it has made in their lives.

There are more to come – one each Wednesday in August.  I hope to get along to at least one more.  Do go if you have the chance, I promise you’ll come away feeling uplifted.  Or just go and visit the Pavilion.  Especially if it’s raining hard.

And they have planted a seed in my mind to think about how I can use the ideas myself to…..

TAKE CONTROL

It’s clear that waiting for ‘them’ to make the world or our town a better place is simply not going to work.  So I was heartened last month to see a really positive and thought-provoking film reflecting the ideas of the Transition Movement.  Called Demain (Tomorrow), it follows a group of young-ish French people in their exploration of what they personally can do to change the future facing them and their children.  It’s a really positive film, and if you haven’t yet seen it and particularly if you aren’t familiar with the Transition Movement, I would really recommend seeing it.

Afterwards you can look around your own community and marvel at what’s already being done, and ponder what you can do (or maybe you’re already doing) to make the positive demain a reality and not just a dream.  Which is what I’m doing right now.

BUILD COMMUNITY

At Bath City Farm we have long had an ambition to build a real cafe, which can be open all year round and provide space indoors for people to sit and eat, drink, and chat.  At the moment we have a very sweet little kiosk, with a small covered pavilion for shelter but nowhere in the warm and dry for those occasional cold, wet, windy days (like, in July and August for example).

We’ve edging closer towards being able to achieve this, because we’ve recently been given a  grant from a local charity to pay for all the professional help we need to ensure that such a project is viable, before we go ahead and launch a major fundraising campaign.

It’s very exciting to be involved in, and also very daunting, but we have masses of support in the local community and beyond.  If we get the go-ahead, we’ll need to raise A. Huge. Amount. Of. Money.

But I’m a great believer in the power of positive thinking.  One of the things that spurs me on with our cafe project is that, several years ago now, I was out walking locally and met two cycling friends who asked me to sign their petition asking for the long-closed nearby railway tunnels to be opened up for cyclists and walkers.  I laughed, and said I would sign but it would never happen.  How wrong I was!  With much hard work by them and a small band of supporters, a crazy idea they dreamed up one night in the pub became the reality that is now the Two Tunnels Greenway.  I use it most days, and so do many, many other people.  Which just goes to show.

LOOK AFTER THE PLANET

Yesterday I came across a small pocket garden on Walcot Street in Bath.  Created recently by a group of local people on what for many years has been a weed-covered eyesore.  If they can do this there, we can do it anywhere.  Or everywhere.

On which note, I thought I would share with you the progress we have made in our hitherto lacklustre, unloved front garden.  Which you may recall looked like this.

I removed the hebes, which had long outgrown their space.  Malcolm cut the box hedges down to a more appropriate height (more trimming to come).  I have planted some fruiting shrubs along the front wall bed.  In time they will cover and hide the breeze block wall.  I have cleared all the beds of weeds and started to improve the soil (and boy does it need it).  I have planted hydrangeas and climbers along the fence bed; roses, pinks, pansies, wallflowers, sweet williams, and some bulbs in the bed alongside the paving.

But my proudest achievement is the hollyhocks I grew from seeds collected from the roadside last year.  I started them off in the late summer, planted them out in the autumn, and am enjoying their blooms right now.  Previous attempts with hollyhocks have all failed as the slugs have eaten them all.  Now I think the front garden is less prone to this, and putting in larger plants to begin with helped too.  So next I will do some more hollyhocks (of which you can never have too many) and some lupins as well.

There’s plenty more to do here, but I feel I’ve made a good start.

Watch this space as it develops – my plan is to plant a dwarf apple tree inside each of the four box squares.

 

Posted in Climate change, Community, Inspirations, Reflections on life (and death), Seeing differently, Travels, Uncategorized, Whatever next? | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gone fishing??

No, just living life as it comes and goes.

So sorry for my (unplanned, unintended) absence.  I have several started-but-not-finished posts in the pipeline, and normal service will be resumed.

Back soon, I promise!

Posted in Reflections on life (and death) | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

“Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner…..

…that I love London town.”

This song from my childhood played on a loop in my head, as I walked towards and through the London Bridge and Borough area of London on Tuesday evening, just 3 days after the horrible attack on Saturday night, to catch a train.

I revelled in the familiar scenes around the City, and the ‘business as usual’ going on around me.

I bathed in the friendliness of all the other commuters making their unfamiliar way to London Bridge, around the taped-off areas of the attack.  Unfamiliar because the normal route was inaccessible in the aftermath of the attack.  We joined together to figure out where the detour went and what the best route might be.

The Globe Theatre

Individually many of us approached some of the many police officers and thanked them for their work, their courage, their dedication.

I saw the growing piles of flowers, and witnessed others adding their tributes.

I felt very emotional, remembering that my son had passed through that very area just 10 minutes before the attack.  How easily we could have been one of the grieving families.  How easily we still could be.

Life can change in a split second.

We carry on, we live our lives.  We can choose to ensure that events like this bring us closer together, not pull as apart.  We have more in common than divides us, for sure.

I’m proud to say I’m a Londoner through and through, even though it’s years since I lived there.

I bloody love London.

Memorial to the firefighters who died in WW2 (near the N end of the Millennium Bridge)

Choose hope not hate.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Community, Inspirations, Reflections on life (and death), Seeing differently, Uncategorized, Whatever next? | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Gap Year – May adventure

What an appropriate way to end this Year of Adventures Great and Small, as we began it last year with a circular walk around London (The Capital Ring).

This month we did something I’ve long wanted to do – a point-to-point long distance walk.  The West Highland Way.

and they’re off……

Having decided we’d like to do a long walk together, serendipity resulted in us both coming up with the same suggestion, via different routes.  My inspiration was Kate Davies’ blog.

Kate has written her blog for many years, through massive life changes – the biggest forced upon her (a stroke at a very early age), others from choice (career change, move from the city to a rural setting right next to – The West Highland Way).  She is both an academic and a very talented knitter/designer/writer/now entrepreneur, married to a talented photographer.  Definitely a winning combination!  In particular, her many mentions and pictures of her beloved West Highland Way formed a drip drip drip in my brain, hence my immediate agreement when Malcolm suggested it for May.

A friend who did the walk recently encouraged us to do it the ‘easy’ way (ie through a company that would book all the accommodation for us and carry our bags) – such a good decision!  It all worked perfectly.  We stayed in a selection of very different but all fine places, and we were able to focus on just enjoying the walk.

The West Highland Way is officially 96 miles, from just north of Glasgow to Fort William.  In reality we reckon we walked just over 100 miles.  We chose to do it over 8 days, though with hindsight 7 days would have been just fine.

We walked through glorious countryside in (mostly) unexpectedly fine weather, surrounded variously by hills, Loch Lomond, massed bluebells, vivid gorse, wild moorland (Rannoch Moor), and forest.  We had rain on the last two days, but it wouldn’t have been a Scottish walk without some rain and it certainly didn’t spoil anything (apart from on the last day my walking shoes – if I wasn’t morally opposed to such things I could offer them up for germ warfare, such is the smell).

The way was well marked, our guide book excellent (informative, accurate, easy to use), and we met many other walkers doing the same thing.  We both enjoyed the mix of walking together (sometimes), walking apart (our comfortable pace is very different), and from time to time greeting others along the way.  We met people from England, Scotland, Canada, various US states, Australia, Germany, Netherlands, Japan, and France.  We chatted amiably, drifting in and out of each others’ lives.

At the end we celebrated with a well-earned tot of whisky from a bottle bought at the distillery we visited on the first day.  And a Mars bar.  Of course.

We ended the trip with a day out on the train, riding the West Highland Railway from Fort William to Mallaig.  It was stunning.  I’m told that Harry Potter fans among you will recognise this line from the films – particularly the viaduct and the steam train (which we didn’t take but saw the next day).

Then home via Glasgow and the rest of the West Highland Railway (also stunning), and a couple of days exploring Glasgow.  A lot crammed into 11 days away from home.

We enjoyed it so much that we’re already planning another Scottish walk for next May.

Some practical details:

  • Comfortable walking shoes or boots and socks were a must
  • So were lightweight waterproof clothes, and an umbrella was a welcome bonus
  • A comfortable day bag was essential, ideally including plenty of waterproof bags inside to protect contents from the inevitable rain (I forgot mine and had to borrow plastic bags)
  • The shortest day’s walk was just 7 miles or so (not long enough, it felt).  The longest was about 20 miles and tough going.
  • Some of the walking was deceptively challenging – not difficult, but clambering over stones and tree roots was tough on the feet and hard.  Especially when it went on for mile after mile (day 3, alongside Loch Lomond).
  • Planning food for the next couple of days was essential – knowing when there would and would not be somewhere to buy lunch things and snacks enabled us to ensure we carried enough food with us when that was needed.
  • Booking food for the evening early as soon as possible after we arrived also proved to be essential – there were a lot of people walking, and not many pubs/inns
  • A disappointing absence of places to eat good (or any!) tea-and-scones-and-cakes.  Luckily I had some of my step-father’s excellent home made fruit cake with me
  • Travelling by train to Glasgow from Bath and booking well in advance with a rail card kept the cost to a reasonable level

It was bluebell time in Scotland….

Welcome visit halfway through the first day

The strangest place we stayed – but fun! (lovely people, good food, bizarre decor)

Just outside Fort William

A welcome celebration at the end point

And for the Harry Potter fans out there, a couple of photos from the train ride from Fort William to Mallaig:

Posted in Gap year, Retirement, Travels, Uncategorized, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Whatever next? – May 2017 update

It seems that much of what I’ve written this month is about the choices we make.

  1.  LISTEN

So much listening to do this month, what with local (mayoral) elections and the General Election next month.  Not to mention the French presidential election.  Many people felt that ‘Brenda from Bristol‘ got it just about right.  (“What, another one?”).

Still, we were honoured to be involved in an initiative led by Brendan Cox, widowed husband of the MP Jo Cox who was murdered almost a year ago during the campaign leading up to the referendum.  He asked for all the political parties to pause their campaigns for an hour on Sunday 21 May, and for candidates from opposing parties to join together and visit a local voluntary project – a real illustration of Jo Cox’s assertion that we have more in common than sets us apart.

‘more in common’ at Bath City Farm (with cake and sunshine)

Our local Bath parliamentary candidates chose to visit Bath City Farm, and some of the trustees were part of the group that welcomed them, gave them a tour around the site, and of course provided tea and home-made cake.  The place was buzzing – a local Mencap group had booked the site for the afternoon for their spring celebration so there were even more families and young people having fun in the sunshine than usual.

It was a moving experience to take ‘time out’ with the candidates and remember a woman who was deeply committed to improving life for her community, but who was killed in her prime.

Choose hope, not hate.

2.  TAKE CONTROL

Like it or not, we must engage with this election.  We must listen and weigh up the options.  Above all, looking at the demographics of who voted in the referendum and who stands to win or lose, we must do all we can to encourage the young (and everyone else) to actually get out there and vote.  However they choose to use their vote.   And that’s something each and every one of us can do, in our own circle of friends and acquaintances.

I can’t let this moment pass without reflecting on the horrific bombing in Manchester.

What has that got to do with taking control? you might ask.  Well, it seems to me that terrorism is all about infecting us so deeply with fear that we change our habits and undermine what we hold dear.  So for me, taking control is about refusing to allow that to happen.  It’s about sticking with your plans to go to that gig in a large stadium; about making that trip to London to see the sights; about going into town when there are crowds around.  It’s about acknowledging the fear, but doing what you were going to do all the same.

Choose hope, not hate.

As for Manchester, well, what an example the Mancunians have given us of just how to respond to a horrible, terrible event with love and with dignity.

No words could say it better than those of the poet Tony Walsh, in his poem ‘This Is The Place’.  His passionate reading of the poem at the vigil the very next day was so utterly right.  So powerful, so full of love and pride for his city, and so very moving.

If you haven’t yet heard that reading, I would urge you to listen to it here.  I promise you that, while it may bring tears to your eyes, it will also fill you with hope and help you to see the way to take control.  Me, I keep going back to it.

As the man says, choose love.

3.  BUILD COMMUNITY

The month since I wrote my April update has been a busy one.

Bath City Farm

We had our Farm AGM, which was a sheer delight.  Have I ever said such a thing before about an AGM?  Nope.  But this was something very different.  It was an opportunity for those of us who are trustees to meet with some of the staff and some of the members – a mix of regular visitors, supporters, neighbours, volunteers.  Including many who use (or have used) our services.

Latest member of the farm team – 3 day old Pygmy goat named Catkin

We did the formal business, and made some good decisions about the future direction of the organisation.  After that it was lovely to have some informal time for chatting together as we were treated to a guided tour of the farm and a delicious home-cooked lunch.

I met some inspiring people and heard some inspiring stories.  I came away feeling even more than before privileged to be part of such a brilliant project.

Blooming Whiteway

This is a local project aiming to change the world one pansy at a time; one front garden at a time.  It can be replicated anywhere.  It doesn’t require much resources.  It has been done lots of times before, and will be done many more again.  You could do it where you live.  A simple idea, with impacts beyond the immediate effect of improving the appearance of the area.

4.  LOOK AFTER THE PLANET

In the context of todays’s global and national politics it is easy to feel overwhelmed with hopelessness at the prospects for the future of our environment and therefore our children and their children.  And yet the paradox is that if we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed in that way, we surrender that future to those who will despoil it.

The big question must therefore be, how can we retain hope, and therefore the strength to act?

For me some hope lies in the fact that across the world there are individuals and groups of individuals willing to take on the difficult stuff at their own local level and just get on with it, often despite what it happening in the bigger scale.

The internet is just a tool, and like any other tool we can use it well or misuse it. One of the really good uses is to connect us with other like-minded people hundreds and thousands of miles away, people we would never otherwise have access to.  And thus we have access to so much experience, expertise, enthusiasm, and learning that would otherwise not be accessible to us.

Here are just a few fascinating and inspiring websites I’ve learnt a lot from that you might also find interesting.  Maybe you could share your favourites back.

Strongtowns.org – this website is for people who want to make their cities and towns more ‘liveable’ places, but it’s about doing it ourselves not waiting till ‘they’ do it for us.  I’ve read some interesting articles there.  Some I agreed with, some I didn’t find relevant to my life, but all stimulating and energising.

frugalwoods.com – this is different from the kind of blog I normally read, but it’s definitely grown on me.  The ‘Frugalwoods’ are a young-ish couple in the US who’ve chosen to live a frugal life to enable themselves to live they want to.  Bear in mind that their starting point was that they were both in reasonably well-paid jobs, they had a home of their own, and there were many choices open to them.  So these are not people coping with poverty and all that brings with it – a whole different kind of frugal.  But given that, I find their choice to live thoughtfully and mindfully about what they’re spending money on both refreshing and empowering.  And the fact is that their frugality has put them on a path to a much lower carbon footprint than most of their peers.  Plenty to think about there.

Down to Earth – Rhonda blogs in Australia about all sorts of things, principally things connected with her and her husband’s choice some years ago to live a simple life reflecting many of the principles and values I share.  I’ve read her blog for many years now, and although mostly I’ve been doing most of the things she does for a very long time, I still find it heartening to read her blog and be reminded that there are many others who share those values and principles.  She writes well, and I find her blog a joy to read, as I know do many others.

resilience.org – I’m not sure how to describe this blog/website.  Maybe the best way to start is to just dip in and see if you find any articles that are of interest to you.  It comes from the same place as the Transition Movement, and is about sharing ideas and theories and examples of the practice of adapting and adjusting how we live to look after the planet.  I find some of the articles fascinating, some boring, and some pretty ‘off the wall’.  You never know what you’re going to find there – just now I had a look for something you might like to start with, and to my surprise came across an article called Homegrown Collective Supper Club – about an initiative I’ d not heard of in nearby Bristol drawing together a number of projects I already knew about.  And now I can feel an idea bubbling away about something we could do locally…..

Inside the Purple Patch polytunnel, St Werburgh’s Bristol

Choose hope not fear.

 

 

 

Posted in Climate change, Community, Inspirations, Poetry party, Reflections on life (and death), Seeing differently, Uncategorized, Whatever next? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Just playing around (and a request!)

After finishing the last big (crochet) blanket I felt like just playing around a bit.  So I got out all the odds and ends of blanket yarn and started on a small ‘granny stripe’ blanket using Lucy’s online tutorial (Attic24).

I didn’t want to make a full size blanket, so I made a starting chain that I thought about right for a cot blanket / knee rug / small throw.

Then I kept going till I thought it looked about big enough.

And added a border.

(The colours below aren’t very true, but do at least give a flavour).

 

 

 

 

Lucy’s tutorials are so easy to follow.  For this project I learnt how to start and do ‘granny stripes’, and tried out a new-to-me border (though I’m not sure that turned out quite how it’s meant to be). an easy, quick thing to make.  I’m very pleased with it.

I’d like to make some more of these blankets to sell to raise money for the Farm – but to do this I need to ask people to send me their oddments of Stylecraft Special DK.

I wonder if anyone would do it?  I suppose the only way to find out is to ask.  So, here goes: I’m asking!

If you have any bits and pieces of Stylecraft Special DK (anything 10 grams and over), if you could post them to me (Deborah) c/o Bath City Farm, Kelston View, Bath BA2 1NW.  I’ll do the rest!

All the proceeds of sale will go directly to Bath City Farm funds, probably towards a major fundraising project in the autumn.  More of which later in the year, I hope.

 

 

 

 

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