Friday, 17 September 2021
Saturday, 4 September 2021
- Joining (or starting?) a book club
- Reading with your children
- Swapping books with friends
- Asking friends for book recommendations/sharing your recommendations with others
Sunday, 29 August 2021
In the UK, the last Monday in August is a Bank Holiday - that is to say a public holiday. The August Bank Holiday weekend is one of the busiest of the year, the roads clogged by traffic as people try to make the most of the holiday by travelling to seaside resorts and other tourist destinations. Most schools start back in the first week of September, so there's very much a sense of grabbing the last chance for some carefree fun while the weather is still likely to be favourable and before we all return to the seriousness of work and school. In the national psyche it marks a turning point where Summer is definitely over and Autumn is poised to take over fully.
It's a perfect example of the unrealistic idea of seasonal changes we have in our heads. None of the seasons start or finish abruptly on a given date of course, they ebb and flow, morphing slowly and subtly into each other. But it's interesting to notice how people's expectations colour their experience of the seasons - they seem almost affronted if warm and sunny weather doesn't appear on cue in June as they feel it should be, they're disappointed when it doesn't snow at Christmas, and they seem to expect leaves to start changing colour and falling as soon as September appears.
This weekend does mark a turning point, but it's an internal rather than an external one. Perhaps the negative feelings people have about Autumn are based more on the human-imposed realities of having to leave the beach and return to school or the office than any flaws inherent in the season itself.
Embracing Autumn: Seasonal Turning Points
In your journal, examine your feelings about Autumn and the other seasons. What are the stereotypes you see in your mind when you imagine Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer? How do they compare to reality? It may be helpful to do this exercise in tandem with tracking seasonal changes with your camera over the coming weeks and months - the results could be surprising!
Saturday, 28 August 2021
- Decide which plant(s) you'd like to use. Harvest them with respect and only after asking permission from the plant itself. Don't take more than you need, and cut the plant cleanly. This is all about honouring the spirit of the plant, and maintaining a good, mutually respectful relationship with it.
|Close-up of a peppermint flower|
|My bunch of herbs included spearmint, peppermint, eau-de-cologne mint, lemon verbena, camomile, oregano, sage, rosemary, St John's wort, thyme, fennel, mugwort and lemon balm|
- To make your Harvest Dolly, gather your plant material into a bunch. About halfway up the bunch, tightly tie some ribbon and finish it with a bow. This is your Harvest Dolly's 'waist'. I like to use red ribbon for this - partly because red thread is often used in protective folk magic charms, partly because red can symbolically stand for 'life', and partly because aesthetically the red makes a good contrast to all that green! Obviously, you can use which ever colour you like.
- Turn the bunch upside down. The full, leafy, flowery half of your bunch forms the 'skirt' of your Harvest Dolly. The stem half will form her torso and head.
- Find something straight and fairly rigid to make 'arms' (for this I cut a small bundle of dried grass stems from the hedgerow - I felt they would be a good representative of the wild plants of the locale). Push them through and at right angles to the stems of the plants you have gathered. The stems should be gathered tightly enough to hold the arms in place, but if you want to you can use some thread to tie them more securely.
- Use some thread to tightly tie the bunch again, this time above the arms. This is your Harvest Dolly's 'neck'. You should have an inch or two of stems above this which form her head.
- If you'd like to add a head/face you could use a seedpod, nutshell, round leaf etc, or make one out of paper/card or even air-drying clay. I used the seedpod from an honesty plant (Lunaria annua). There was enough of a stem on the seedpod to push down under the neck thread, which was sufficient to hold it in place. You could use thread, a cocktail stick or glue to hold your Dolly's face in place if necessary. If you like, you could draw features onto the face (I decided to leave mine plain).
- Voila! You are finished, although if you like you could 'dress' your dolly by wrapping her in fabric or making her a tiny necklace or crown...
- Put her somewhere dry and well-ventilated, where she will be able to gradually dry out. Her bright colours will fade as she dries, but she will still be beautiful.
- Next spring, dig her into your garden soil, or leave her as an offering in your favourite green space.
- I've added a rough diagram below which I hope will make clear anything my words have failed to describe adequately.
|My finished Harvest Dolly|
|A rough diagram which may help clarify my written instructions!|
Thursday, 26 August 2021
Wednesday, 25 August 2021
The rain of recent weeks has finally - finally! - given way to sunshine and blue skies. And yet despite the presence of the sun, the days are noticeably shorter as we inch closer to the Autumn Equinox. Today for the first time this year I saw the swallows and martins lining up in chattering rows along the telephone wires as they do each year as they prepare for their marathon winter migration to South Africa.
Just as the swallows are preparing themselves for the changes Autumn brings, we humans are also preparing for Autumn - stocking up on supplies for the new academic year (or buying new school uniforms for the kids), preserving the Autumn harvest by making jams and chutneys, tidying spent bedding plants from the garden - whilst simultaneously enjoying the better weather while it lasts. Some customers in the shop where I work are even starting their Christmas shopping (I'm all for planning ahead, but that's a step too far for me!).
Embracing Autumn: Autumn Preparations
Without necessarily looking as far ahead as Christmas, what are you (or should you be) doing to prepare for Autumn? I suspect we each have different priorities when it comes to seasonal jobs, but you may like to think about:
- Putting away Summer clothes and digging out your Autumn wardrobe - it won't be long before cosy jumpers, comfy boots and snuggly scarves are the go-to choices when you get dressed in the morning.
- In the garden, tidying up straggly or gone-to-seed plants (but do leave some as food and shelter for wildlife).
- Making sure you have some nice soft blankets to hand so that you can snuggle up on the sofa in comfort or add an extra layer of warmth when you're in bed.
- Getting yourself some nice scented candles or a jar of luxury hot chocolate ready to increase the hygge factor in your home.
- Making sure you have all the necessary textbooks/stationery/folders etc ready if you've signed up for an Autumn course or workshop. You could also prepare a space in your home as a study area.
- Ensuring your garden has some suitable areas for wildlife to overwinter in safely.
Tuesday, 24 August 2021
Although 'Embracing Autumn' was intended to be a series of daily posts, once again things have slipped and I have missed a few days. This is because IB's elderly Mum - who is now living with us - had a nasty fall on Saturday afternoon which landed her in A&E. She's OK and on the mend but as you can probably imagine we've been a bit preoccupied over the last couple of days. I probably could have written something last night but to be honest I was too frazzled to sum up a coherent thought. I hope things will get back on track from now on, though.
Today I've been thinking about butterflies. In late August the buddleia bush on our patio is covered in butterflies. Many people dislike buddleia as it can be an invasive weed. The bush on our patio in fact sowed itself - I'm not sure quite where from as I'm not aware of any buddleia bushes in the immediate area, but somehow a seed must have blown in from somewhere. Now it's huge despite me cutting it back hard every winter, and at this of year time it makes the butterflies and bees so happy I can't possibly regret its arrival. I really rather love its unruly sprawl, the generosity of its abundant purple flowers drawing in clouds of butterflies and bees and the scent of honey as I brush past it. This morning as I left for work, the wall of the house by the buddleia was covered in butterflies warming their wings in the morning sun (I tucked this observation away as one of my beautiful things for today).
In this season of harvest and plenty, it seems appropriate to watch the butterflies feasting and apparently celebrating their bounty.
Embracing Autumn: Butterfly Days
How many different kinds of butterfly can you spot? If you need help with identifying them, there are man handy online guides such as this and this. You can also help with butterfly conservation by simply reporting your butterfly sightings to projects like this one.
Friday, 20 August 2021
Thursday, 19 August 2021
Wednesday, 18 August 2021
As of today I have been living at Halfway Up A Hill for 21 years, the longest unbroken period of time I have lived anywhere. I vividly remember the first morning I awoke in our new house and looked out of our bedroom window across the lush green valley spread out below us. It was a gorgeous, golden, sunny morning. The sky was brilliant blue and full of joyously swooping swallows, and the valley was filled with early morning mist. I wondered then if I'd ever tire of the view. I haven't. It still fills me with delight and wonder that I live somewhere so beautiful, and I endlessly photograph it through the changing seasons in a vain attempt to adequately capture its loveliness.
My photographs never quite do the view justice, but what they do capture is how much the view changes through the passing months of the year. I've noticed the same phenomenon when I take photos of the garden. In winter, the images I've recorded in summer amaze me with the abundance of foliage and flowers - and in summer the photos taken in winter seem impossibly stark and uncluttered, the bare bones of the land visible in a way that is completely hidden in summer when they're swathed in layers of vegetation. Taking regular photographs of the same view is a great way to keep a visual record of seasonal changes.
Embracing Autumn: Keeping a Pictorial Track of Seasonal Changes
Take a photo of a particular view from the same place and at at the same time every week throughout the autumn period. It is quite amazing how much change can be seen within the space of only a week. When you are finished, assemble the photos in chronological order so that you can track the subtle changes in the landscape that add up into dramatic differences over a longer period.
If you like, you could take a photo every day. You could also continue the project over a longer period, such as over the course of a year - or longer.
Tuesday, 17 August 2021
|Illustration by Terry Fan https://bibliocolors.blogspot.com/2013/10/musica-de-tardor-musica-de-otono-fall.html|
I don't know about you, but while I'm working or cooking - or if I'm alone in the house - I like to have music playing in the background. I enjoy creating playlists - sometimes random assortments of my favourite songs and sometimes themed. During a stressful period earlier in the summer, I created a playlist of sweet and soothing summer music to play when I was working rather than my usual randomly selected playlists. Each song in the playlist had to be soothing and/or uplifting and to 'sound summery'. It really helped to keep me feeling relaxed and happy, but I also found myself really appreciating the seasonality of it.
Sunday, 15 August 2021
It's August, and Rowan berries are ripening to brilliant scarlet, gloriously bright against the blue-grey skies.
The Rowan is one of my favourite trees. I love the slender grace of her smooth grey trunk, her dainty sprays of leaves, the froth of her creamy blossom in spring and the sass of her bold, bright berries heralding the onset of Autumn. I love the way her beauty belies her tenacity and strength - Rowan is able to grow at high altitudes (hence one of her other names, 'Mountain Ash') and in poor soils and inaccessible places which are often inhospitable to other species.
The Rowan has long been considered a magical, protective tree and had the reputation of protecting travellers from getting lost and warding off evil. People planted Rowans by their houses, hung Rowan branches over their doors and tied crossed Rowan twigs together with red thread as charms. It's also considered a 'threshold tree' and as such was not only planted at boundaries, but also believed to watch over gateways between this world and the otherworld. Perhaps for this reason it was traditionally planted in Welsh graveyards.
Other names for Rowan include Quickbeam, Berry Ash, Traveller's Tree, Wicken Tree, Wiggy and Thor's Helper (because of a tale in the Prose Edda in which Thor saves himself from drowning in a raging river by grabbing hold of a Rowan).
Rowans can grow up to 15m in height and live for up to 200 years. The leaves, bark, flowers and fruit of the tree are useful for wildlife, providing food for moths, butterflies, bees, foxes, badgers, squirrels, dormice and birds. Humans can eat the berries too, they are best made into jellies, jams, wines, cordials or liqueurs. Heating or freezing them during processing helps break down the compounds within them which could otherwise potentially cause indigestion or kidney problems.
Embracing Autumn: Make a Rowan Charm for Yourself or Your Home
Try to find a Rowan tree in your area* and gather fallen twigs and/or berries to make a protective charm for your home, car or to carry with you. The simplest method is to use two crossed twigs and some yarn (red is the traditional colour to use, but you can choose colours that are meaningful to you) to make a 'God's Eye'/'Ojo de Dios'. You could thread rowan berries onto the yarn for added protection, or add a 'tail' of threaded berries to hang down from your charm. Instructions on how to make a God's Eye can be found here (or look on Youtube for a tutorial).
Alternatively you could simply thread Rowan berries together onto a length of cotton (using a needle and thread) or a piece of wire. Hang them over your front door to invoke the protection of the 'threshold tree' for your home.
* Rowans are often planted in parks, so even if you live in a city you should be able to find one. If all else fails, rowan berries can easily be purchased from herbal suppliers online. To ensure you are buying the right kind, check the Latin name which should be Sorbus aucuparia.
Embracing Autumn: A Harvest of Beauty
In this season of harvest, make it your daily practice to harvest the beauty around you and store it in your heart to feed and nourish you through the hard times. Try it now - find three beautiful things in your surroundings. List them to yourself as a sacred prayer, hold them in your heart. Now find some more. Repeat. At the end of the day, just before you sleep, list all the beauties your day has held. Sweet dreams.
Friday, 13 August 2021
Thursday, 12 August 2021
There's something quite magical about seeing a shooting star. Perhaps it's because they're so ephemeral - blink and you could quite literally miss it. Or perhaps you are the only one of the group of friends you are with who sees it. It feels like a little spark of magic from the Universe that's just for you. One year at WitchCamp, a shooting star shot across the sky just as the Goddess was invoked, and we all ooh-ed and aah-ed at the synchronicity.
The Perseids Meteor Shower happens every year between 17th July and 24th August, so you have a chance of spotting a shooting star streaking across the night sky at any time over that period. However, the shower peaks between 9th-13th August, so tonight and tomorrow night are an excellent opportunity to engage in a bit of stargazing. At its height, the Perseids Meteor Shower can reward watchers with as many as 100 meteors per hour, so you should be lucky if the weather is favourable.
Embracing Autumn: Meteor Watching
With so many meteors per hour, you could just pop outside for 5-10 minutes and strike lucky, but why not make an event of it? Make yourself comfortable in the garden on your favourite sun-lounger with extra cushions and blankets to ensure a cosy experience. Or make a cosy nest on a dune at the beach, or in your favourite green space. Bring snacks and something delicious to drink. Enjoy the sounds of the night around you - the breeze in the trees, owls calling to each other or the flutter of moths. Or bring your i-Pod with some suitable music! And of course, remember to make a wish when you spy a shooting star...
The best part? Even if the weather isn't co-operating over the next couple of nights, the Perseids will continue until 24th August, so remember to keep watching the sky!
Wednesday, 11 August 2021
Note: I originally intended to begin this series of posts about Embracing Autumn at Lughnasadh, but due to IB's elderly mother unexpectedly moving in with us at the end of July, I have not had time until now to begin. Please accept my apologies for a late start and a correspondingly slightly shorter series of posts than I'd expected to produce!
Yes, I know. Embracing Autumn - in August? What am I thinking? And yet - bear with me. There's method in my madness.
Remember how we explored the Blessings and Beauties of Winter from November through to early February? I timed that series of posts to begin then because our Celtic ancestors saw Samhain as the onset of winter, and Imbolc as the beginning of spring. They saw Beltane as the start of summer, and in their calendar Lughnasadh/Lammas marked the beginning of autumn. This makes perfect sense when you realise that Autumn used to be called 'Harvest' by our ancestors. According to Wikipedia: "Before the 16th century, harvest was the term usually used to refer to the season, as it is common in other West Germanic languages to this day (cf. Dutch herfst, German Herbst and Scots hairst). However, as more people gradually moved from working the land to living in towns, the word harvest lost its reference to the time of year and came to refer only to the actual activity of reaping, and autumn, as well as fall, began to replace it as a reference to the season." Lughnasadh or Lammas is of course the first of the three harvest festivals, marking the start of the grain harvest (the next harvest festival is the Autumn Equinox/Mabon, and Samhain is the third).
For an agricultural society, it makes sense to divide the seasons according to what is observable in the natural world. Spring begins when the days are noticeably longer after the Winter Solstice, the first snowdrops appear and the first lambs are born. Summer comes when the days warm, the trees are all in leaf and summer migrants such as swallows reappear. Autumn - or Harvest - starts as the land, ripened by the summer Sun produces Her harvest. And winter returns as the trees become bare-limbed, the cold begins to bite and life retreats from the land.
So even if to our modern minds, August is summer holiday time, let's also be aware of the changes in the world around us that let us know Autumn is coming in. Along the lanes around me the long, uncut seed-heads of grasses are beginning to dry and brown, mirroring the ripening of their cultivated descendants wheat, oats and barley in the fields. The first blackberries, bilberries and green hazelnuts are appearing in the hedgerows, along with the scarlet splashes of rosehips and clustered rowan berries. In the garden, the early summer flowers have mostly gone to seed, while the late-blooming buddleia, Japanese anemones and crocosmia herald the changing season. Already the days are noticeably shorter than when the sun was at its height back in late June. Autumn is not yet fully arrived, but it is on its way. This year, won't you join me in fully immersing ourselves in the experience, experiencing and enjoying all the unique pleasures of the season?
Embracing Autumn: Looking Forward
You can use your regular journal for this, or you may like to begin a special 'Embracing Autumn' journal in which to record your observations and explorations of the season. To start with, make a list of all the things you're looking forward to experiencing this Autumn. This will help you feel positively about the change from Summer to Autumn and provide a delicious sense of anticipation regarding the coming months. Here are some ideas to get you started
- Which special occasions will be coming up for you between now and Samhain? Make a list of birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and festivals, trips etc
- What seasonal foods are you looking forward to enjoying this Autumn? Crisp, tangy apples straight from the tree? Sweet and juicy blackberries? Pumpkin pie? Roast squashes and sweet potatoes? Foraged mushrooms? Crunchy hazelnuts?
- What special things do you enjoy doing during the Autumn months? Admiring the changing foliage on a walk through the woods? Sharpening your pencils and lining up your textbooks in preparation for the academic year ahead? Kicking through - or jumping into! - piles of fallen leaves? Hunting for conkers or sweet chestnuts? Kite flying? Jam, jelly and chutney making? Digging out your favourite pair of boots and cosiest scarf ready for the cooler weather? Building a bonfire and roasting potatoes in the embers?
Thursday, 10 June 2021
|"I am a divine mosaic of everyone who has ever touched my heart." - Tumblr user drowhsy|
When I was growing up, my Nanna and Granddad lived in the house next door to us. Nanna was a great cook, and every week she produced a selection of cakes for both households - including her famous fruitcake. To Nanna's eternal chagrin, it always sunk in the middle. She tried tweaking the recipe - adjusting the proportions of ingredients, experimenting with oven temperatures and trying 'hacks' such as tossing the dried fruit in flour before stirring it into the cake mix. Nothing worked - the fruitcakes continued to sink in the middle no matter what she did. But perversely, it was precisely this characteristic that made her fruitcake so beloved by everyone who tried it - the sunken middle made the cake scrumptiously moist and more-ish. Isn't it strange that it's often the perceived imperfections which make a person or a thing so unique and beloved?
Since I've been doing a lot more baking recently, I decided I'd like to make one of Nanna's fruitcakes myself and asked Mum for the recipe. She has lent me two books full of handwritten recipes, one which she began keeping when she married my Dad in 1960, and one that belonged to my Grandmother. I am so enjoying leafing through the pages re-discovering favourite recipes from my childhood. I particularly love the pages with lots of splashes and smudges - clearly the most popular, frequently made dishes. I pass my fingers over the familiar handwriting, imagining the family gatherings, dinner parties, birthdays and anniversaries - and the accumulated hours of peeling, chopping, stirring, mixing and baking that went into creating them. I think of the love for us all that was that was poured into each dish. What powerful magic!
Family recipes are just one of the many small but precious legacies that we receive from our loved ones - and that we ourselves can think about passing on to those who will follow on after us. Food, songs, stories, arts, crafts, lore, skills, culture, knowledge. What precious legacies have you inherited? And what treasures do you have to pass on?
Sunday, 2 May 2021
Thursday, 15 April 2021
In Wales lockdown measures have recently been relaxed, so that we are now easing back into some kind of semi-normality. On Monday 12th April I returned to work for the first time since just before Christmas 2020 when it was announced that all non-essential retail in Wales would close. I vividly remember returning home from work on December 19th after a long hard day and hearing the news literally as I pulled into the driveway. At the time I imagined I'd be resuming work some time in mid-January, yet it has taken until now, mid-April for that to happen.
Being back at work this week has been a strange mixture of the familiar and the strange. The environment and the work is well-known and yet there's an odd sense of unreality that I don't recall feeling on my return to work after the first lockdown last spring.
I suspect I'm not alone in feeling this sense of confusion and dislocation. The long months suspended from our normal routines have been followed by a supposed return to normality which is anything but normal. I may be back working one of the several part time jobs I had before the first lockdown, but most of my other jobs have fallen casualty to the pandemic for one reason or another and ceased. I may be back in familiar surroundings fulfilling a familiar role, but I am doing it while wearing a mask and observing social distancing, and I still can't hug a workmate, invite friends into my home, or teach a workshop. Looking back, so much and so little has happened.
Seeing (separately) two friends for the first time in months this week highlighted this strangeness for me. It was lovely to see them and reconnect after being separated from them for such a long time. And yet I found myself floundering when they both asked me the simple question, 'So how have you been?'
How have I been? What have I been doing during the long months of lockdown? What has life been like, what has changed, where will life go from here?
All the answers that I could give are too deep or too shallow. How can I convey the spikes of fear and the blur of boredom; the endless anxiety about my elderly parents and my friend with COPD; the unaccustomed luxury of time to sleep in late and garden and cook and write and immerse myself in a good book; the stupefying lack of focus; the slow accretion of outstanding tasks which keep me awake at night, while I instantly forget the goals reached and accomplishments achieved during the same time frame?
When one friend asked me 'What have you been up to?' I found myself giving the slightly surreal, completely inadequate and not even wholly accurate response, 'Well, I grew a lot of carrots,'. At the time it was all my mind could pluck from the nebulous swirl of 'my life during lockdown'.
Looking back over the last year, it all seems rather like a fever dream - simultaneously vivid and vague, surreal, epic, confusing and impossible to convey precisely. Which is all quite understandable. We have all - the entire world - undergone a dislocation from our normal lives, experienced a trauma. Everyone experiences upheavals in life, times of pain and fear and loss, but we don't usually all experience them simultaneously so that the whole world is jolted from its tracks. And this trauma has not been a single short-lived shock, but a long, drawn-out upheaval which has left people exhausted.
And yet... I wonder what will come from this in the long run? I am hopeful that we as a species will move forward from this having learned some useful lessons, and thinking hard about what it is we want to 'go back to'.
Some years ago at a Witchcamp, I took part in an elaborate life/death/rebirth ritual in which people were guided through a series of gateways, each representing an aspect of their lives such as their name(s), possessions, achievements, friends/family/loved ones etc. At each gateway they were instructed to leave every one of these things behind. It was a gradual stripping away of every part of identity and self. At the final gateway they were greeted by a priestess aspecting the Goddess, who blew out the tealight they carried (symbolising their life force). They were then given as much time as they needed to bathe in Her Cauldron of Rebirth (a hot tub!) while meditating on what they had left behind, what they wanted to retrieve - and what they wanted to leave behind. It was a gruelling process for most people, but deeply informative and transformative. So much of what we carry with us through life we carry through habit, or because we've been told by others we must carry it. Stripping everything away and consciously choosing to recover only those things of value is immensely freeing. When each person was ready, they left the hot tub and were given a new tealight symbolising their rebirth. They retraced their steps through each gate, picking back up the things they wished to carry into their new lives - but crucially, leaving behind those which they had decided they no longer wished to carry. So, for example I have been known by many names in my life - Susan, Moonroot, Moonie, Susie, Wallis, daughter, sister, wife, witch, aromatherapist etc. But I have also been called ginger, fat, stupid, ugly, bitch etc. Some of these names have come from other people - and some I have called myself. When I strip away these names and identities and leave them at the gate, on my return I can choose which names I wish to carry - and those I am happy to leave in the dust.
This pandemic has stripped our normal lives away from us. When we return through each gate, I hope that we will think very carefully about what it is that we wish to pick back up. My 'normal' life before all this began was actually pretty dysfunctional in many ways. Post-divorce, job insecurity and fear of poverty had led to me working 6-7 day weeks. I was permanently exhausted, short-tempered and ill, but I couldn't seem to get off that hamster wheel. Every time I was offered more work I said yes, because I was always short of money and afraid that the work I did have would dry up, leaving me penniless. Being forced to slow down and stop made me realise how joyless life had become. During months of lockdown I have started to read books again, cook from scratch again, grow vegetables again, observe the Wheel of the Year again. I have finally learned how to properly use the camera I bought several years ago and have taken reams of photographs. I have had time for the long, deep conversations that feed my soul. I have written more in the last year than I have managed in the previous three or four years. I have had time to sit and drink in the beauty surrounding me. And most importantly I have had time to reassess the way I've been leading my life and come to some important decisions about what I want to change about that.
Much of my 'normal' life was in direct contradiction to my values and beliefs. I was buying pre-packaged convenience foods because I was too damned tired to cook. I was driving miles and miles between my scattered jobs, eating junk food on the hoof. I was too tired to have much of a social life and short-tempered with my loved ones. My house was a mess. Every so often I would manage a holiday or have an enforced break caused by illness and I would resolve to do better - but immediately fall back into my old ways. My mantra seemed to always be, 'next month, when things are less busy...', but next month never was less busy, and so it went on.
All of that has been taken away from me. I have lost three of my part time jobs and of the remaining three, restrictions mean I am only able to work at one of them at the moment. When I am able to resume all three, that will be enough. I am determined to find a way to manage financially without damaging my physical and mental health further and working myself into an early grave. My petrol consumption has plummeted. I have been gradually sorting out the house and making my environment a pleasant one. I have stopped shopping at big supermarkets and now buy most of my groceries from a small local zero-waste shop. Guess what? Their prices may be higher than the supermarket, but because I am only buying what I need and not getting sucked in by special offers and convenience foods I have actually cut our food bills and food waste. I have been growing our own vegetables and cooking proper meals - I make my own hummus and veggie burgers and bread from scratch. What I have realised is that staying on the hamster wheel required me to spend more money than it brought in. My life is now more manageable, less expensive, less wasteful, greener and infinitely more satisfying.
The other great lesson I hope we can learn from the pandemic is that we are all in this together, and working collaboratively for the good of the whole is the best and fairest way to run the world. Look at the awe-inspiring collective effort that has brought us effective vaccines in the space of a year! We humans are at our most marvellous when we co-operate rather than compete.
I believe the sense of unreality I am feeling is the world re-making itself in a new and hopefully better way. We have all had much of our lives stripped away over the last year, and spent time immersed in the Cauldron of Rebirth swirling in a fever dream of possibility. Now as we prepare to leave the Cauldron and re-enter the world, let's consider very carefully the kind of 'normality' we wish to return to. What will you pick back up? What will you choose to leave behind? The great blessing of every period of difficulty in our lives is the lessons we learn from it, and the chance we are given to grow. Let's seize this unprecedented opportunity we've been given with enthusiasm and build a better 'normal'. The old world wasn't working anyway, why go back to it?