Monday, 31 August 2015

Just bits and pieces


Our crow family visits faithfully, the parents now sometimes watching from a distance to give the children a chance to do things by themselves.  

Some of the young ones are bolder than others. A few days ago, the father crow brought one of his children to get some breakfast. Perhaps because I was nearby, the child was too scared to relax and eat. S/he stood on the wall, the other side of the dish from her/his father, while he ate. His idea was that he should eat, then fly away leaving her to eat. Each time he flew away, so did the child. On the few occasions the child stayed on the wall, s/he just stood stock still (Er… can I … should I…) It’s not that s/he wasn’t hungry. There were dried meal worms, suet with bugs in it, old scraps of cat food – in fact a delicious breakfast, almost as good as an eyeball. S/he just stood there, dribbling, wanting to eat but not quite sure … So I took pity on them and went in.

Each crow has his/her own distinct call, quite different from the others. The boldest of the young ones, very interested in us, has an erratic gargling voice – I love it.

Yesterday when I took out their supper, I couldn’t see them around so I took the crow call with me to let them know the food was ready. Then I saw one sentinel crow waiting patiently in the tree; but I blew the call anyway. He was dozing, and it woke him up - made him jump, poor thing.


We had a day without water last weekend – a burst pipe just north of the area where we live left our neighbourhood with no mains water, without warning. 

Happily, because it has rained a lot recently and our water butts are all full, and because of our various eco-practices, it made barely any difference to us. We just had to tie the taps in cloths to break the habit of going to turn them on. 

We did get some extra spring water (bottled), because I haven’t yet sorted out a system for filtering the roof water to make it potable – I could put it through the distiller, I suppose; the only problem with that is it loses its goodness then as well as its badness.


This is the day to send in our solar panels meter reading for the tariff the government pays us for the electricity we send in to the National Grid. 

Blessedly, my father died just before these tariffs began, under Gordon Brown’s under-appreciated and imaginative government. My father left me some money, enough to pay off our mortgage and put solar panels on the roof. The timing meant that because we were in at the beginning of the government solar scheme, we got the top rate (the amount offered went down year by year). We depend on it now. 

There’s something so pleasing about living in a house that pays its own bills – I mean, how sweet is that? The house contributes to the housekeeping! 

We are paid according to the quarter's meter reading , and part of last quarter’s payment went to buying a big stash of upcycled sawdust wood briquettes. They’re fantastic – they burn as hot as coal, kindle with immense ease, and though they are made of wood, it’s the sweepings, waste from the timber industry, so no cutting down extra trees just to burn. And there are no noxious fumes, they are made only through pressure, no glue involved. This quarter’s payment will buy the rest of our fuel for the winter.


I have been a bad girl and eaten what I should not, and given myself the most awful fibromyalgia flare-up. 


Tired unto death, and full of moving pains and stiffened joints. 

So I’ve gone back to eating Only What I Should, and it’s gradually easing. Emphasis on ‘gradually’! 

I am grateful for it really – it’s good to have a system sensitive enough to keep me on the strait and narrow; either I see to it that I stay extremely healthy or I’m prostrated in short order! 

What was it Thomas Cranmer said in the Book of Common Prayer (the General Confession)? “We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, And we have done those things which we ought not to have done, And there is no health in us”. 

Yep. That’s me at the moment. Still, onward and upward. 

The future (“But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us miserable offenders”) is in kale and organic free-range eggs.

*        *        *

Well, I think that’s it, really. I am reading Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning; today I will visit our beloved Granddad in the hospice, nearing the end of his life, and my beautiful Mama in her apartment that looks out over the hills and fields. And now I  must get up and feed the crows.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Book covers

Today I had the covers through for the next two books out in The Hawk and the Dove series new edition.

 The Breath of Peace has been previously self-published, so you might have read it, but The Beautiful Thread is completely new.

They will both be out in February 2016. After that there will be one more, A Day and a Life, completing the series.

A Day and a Life is still going through the publishing meetings to ascertain if it will be accepted for publication, but the signs are good so far. If all goes well it will be out in the summer of 2016.

Meanwhile this book, 52 Original Wisdom Stories, is available in the US too, now (here). I’m pleased with it – I think you would enjoy it. It has life, the universe and everything in it, and explores the cosmic round of things; is full of wondering.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Creating, redeeming, sustaining; God and permaculture.

I’ve been watching a YouTube video about the effectiveness of permacultural techniques for greening the desert. Excellent. Inspiring. Hope, in a situation of increasing aridity and despair.

I felt intrigued by the resistance to the approach. Towards the end of the film, they mentioned that in a year of drought (2008? 2009?) in that region, all the olives – all the olives – in the area failed entirely, except those in the permaculture village. So, not only is their planting healthy and productive, it is thriving in the context of a small farm (I think they said ten acres) plonked right in the middle of a dustbowl where nothing else is working. So – why isn’t the idea spreading like wildfire? Why isn’t the whole of humanity adopting permaculture practices? It’s easy, practical, inexpensive.

It’s as though we are blinded even to common sense by ideas and traditions we’ve been sold or handed down, such that even when the evidence is right under our noses, we plod doggedly on making destructive and unsustainable choices.

And we thought, Hebe and me when we were talking about this a few days ago and again today, maybe this is part of what the Bible means when it says, ‘Be ye not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’ In church that’s always expounded in strictly religious terms; but what if it’s not about religion – what if it’s about life? What if the revolution of the Holy Spirit is for the practical, ordinary, business and domestic choices we make in the everyday? What if the outworking of the Spirit in our lives is less about robes and altars or rites and ceremonies or hierarchies and dogma, or what books children are allowed to read on Sunday – more about greening the desert and understanding how to keep ourselves and the planet healthy?

So that opening to the shalom of God occurs everywhere we allow insight and understanding to flood into our lives like light, changing our perspective and practice to something that creates, redeems and sustains life.

Not, I mean, that we abandon the sacred for the secular; but that our faith becomes practical and the ordinary business of our lives becomes holy.

Monday, 24 August 2015


One day when it’s looking all tidy and beautiful, I will show you the work our Hebe did on her room.

When we came to this house, her room had 1970s floral wallpaper, dark russet nylon carpet tiles, a sink set in a fitted pine vanity unit coated thickly with that de rigeur orange 1970s varnish, a humungous fitted wardrobe made of melamine with fancy gilt handles and containing a huge hot water cylinder; and plenty of damp stains in the corners.

That was nearly six years ago. We’ve done a lot of work on the house since then.

When we first moved in, we tossed out the ghastly floor tiles and re-carpeted, and Hebe painted the walls. At the time we put the solar panels and solar tubes on the roof, Hebe had to accommodate an even larger hot water cylinder – so big that one of the awful melamine doors had to come off her wardrobe and be replaced by a blanket hung on a net curtain stretcher, even with some of the cylinder insulation shaved off.

So. Time went on.

One of the things we did was create a boiler room up in our attic. We laid a floor, and there re-located the boiler and hot water cylinder to join the inverter for the solar tubes that heat our water. So now it’s all easily accessible for servicing and not occupying rooms in the main house. The boiler with its penetrating blue lights used to be in Alice and Hebe’s art studio. Not any more.

Then we fixed the problems with the roof, left us as a legacy by the first men who fixed the roof, and finally stopped the ingress of damp, from the initial buckets-in-the-attic and the later slow seepage, to zero water. Glad of that. It’s raining.

When these changes happened Hebe, now water-cylinder-less, took the opportunity to have the wardrobe and plumbed-in vanity unit removed. She tore up the carpet – now a few years old and well-trodden. She had the room re-plastered so all the dodgy bits resulting from age and long damp were sorted. Into the gaps between the old Victorian floorboards she hammered wood slivers to give a gapless floor. Then she had a man with a machine sand it for her. She chose a beautiful white stain through which you can still see the wood grain, and a white wax finish. The floor man didn’t do a brilliant job, but okay. She wished she’d done it herself, but at least this is one more bit of evidence that one need never be daunted by the hallowed territory of Professionals.

She replaced the original eBay curtains, now rotted by sunlight and torn by agile cats, with white linen lined curtains over finest white linen nets, through which sunlight filters like fairyland.

A floor sleeper, she got huge and beautiful beanbags for herself and visiting family members to relax on, and the Badger built her a low-level unit out of old sanded gravel boards, to store her clothes. She got a set of ladder shelves for her books.

The whole room is now airy, peaceful, calm, pale, light-filled, elegant and Zen.

Egged on by her example, I have begun the much needed work on my own little room. The carpet that was new when we came was now stained, grubby and trodden. And I prefer floorboards because I hate vacuum cleaners with a passion. The old over-painted wallpaper and the polystyrene coving (Yes. Why?) need to come off, but I don’t feel up to that yet. So I just started with the floor.

The Badger took up the carpet for me and the underlay and hardboard and gripper rods, and took it all to the tip. I pulled up staples until my hands were all blistered, then Hebe and Fi pulled out the rest (ie most of them). Then I scrubbed the floor with sugar soap and bleach to get out all the dirt accumulated there since 1910.

The Badger is going to sand it for me too, and then I’ll rub wood balsam into it, and buff it, to get a rich protected well-fed finish.

But all that was just me getting round to what I really wanted to tell you – well, show you really.

While we were doing all this I found two things.

Digging out the impacted dirt of aeons from between the floorboards, I excavated this old rusty hairpin.

This room of mine was most likely a maid’s room for the original Victorian family. I wonder who she was – pinning up her hair early in the morning by the light of the rising sun through the window, dropping a hairpin that fell down between the floor boards to be lost for a hundred years.

She had another mishap.

The floor had a dark stain I originally took for the remains of dark varnish inadequately sanded off.

Then I realized as I looked at it carefully, having scrubbed the surface dirt away, this floor had never been varnished or stained – the boards were in their original condition (apart from all the dirt). The stain was where the hairpin owner had another accident. She knocked over an oil lamp. The dark patch is where the oil caught fire and nearly set the house alight. You can see, if you look at it, how it splashed and puddled and ran – all alight.

Someone put that out mighty quick – or maybe it fell onto a rug and set it alight, so the patches are where it burned through.

When the Badger sands the floor for me, I’ll ask him to sand round that patch. That’s precious. Along with the hairpin, it’s part of my room’s history, silently waiting there in its bones, undiscovered until now.