Be a starling in 2017

Exactly a year  ago I wrote a post using the quote from John Taylor below (you can see his original post on Facebook here). As I wrote then, it summarises exactly and succinctly my outlook and the outlook I try to encourage in others…


Be a starling

I work as a Climate Change Advisor in Suffolk, UK. It fascinates me how people react to documentaries and films on climate change, and what motivates people to act. I’ve seen a lot of messages saying that it is all too much and it makes them depressed. Something that helped me was an analogy I first heard from Systems and Feedback Thinker, David Wasdell. The point he made and that I want to emphasise is this. How we define a problem determines how we react to it. Climate change, we are told is a BIG problem. A favourite analogy among politicians and commenters is that it is like an oil tanker. It is a vast problem with it’s own inertia and a long turning circle. The trouble is, this image creates a psychological disconnect when it comes to individual action. How is me changing a light bulb going to turn this ship around?
But this is not how I see climate change. For me, it is like a murmuration of starlings. It looks big, but look closer and you will see it is really made up of thousands and thousands of smaller individual actions and choices. It is how I heat my house, the type of car you drive, the air conditioning in that office on my street, on everyone’s street. There is no single control room driving this ship, Climate Change is an emergent property of all our individual actions.
And compared to an oil tanker, change in a flock is agile and swift. Yes, please care about the bigger picture, but if you act in the areas that you directly influence, you have the power to be the bird that turns. So do something in your life today, and be proud and tell people about it. The birds around you will see and follow suit, and soon that change will ripple through out the whole flock. If you think of climate change like this, a global response can begin with you.


John Taylor @coppicejt

So, re-reading it today, I thought I’d share some of those “individual actions” that all make a difference. I wandered around the house this morning a took these six photographs of some of the little things that I do…

All the above have helped to reduce the amount of packaging, especially plastic packaging, that I am responsible for, as well as reducing the volume of goods transported around the country. All of these things are now part of my everyday life, and not something that I think much about, but each one makes a difference and helps in environmental terms. Every choice you make in life is important – you are important – so do your bit and shout about it from the rooftops (oh and follow John on Twitter).

Thanks again to John for allowing me to share his words.

Happy Birthday Demark Farm

This year marks the 30th birthday of my favourite local conservation charity: Denmark Farm Conservation Centre. So, yesterday we went there to celebrate…

As well as the birthday party, there was the official opening of the new Wildlife Discovery Room, which has views over the reserve, links to nest box cameras, and footage from the trail cameras that have been recording wildlife in secret around the reserve in recent weeks (all under the supervision of Mr Snail). Our local MP, Ben Lake, came along to officially open the new facility. He’s actually younger than Denmark Farm and visited with his primary school to make nest boxes and plant trees when he was about eight. Over the years, many children have visited the site and it’s good to hear that they remember it fondly once they are adults – some even visiting with their own children now.

All the people who attended the celebration – staff members and volunteers old and new – seemed to have a good time, and we were also joined by some of the wildlife:


A lost treasure

I’m not entirely sure whether this post is a celebration of hoarding or of clearing out. Both probably, since without the combination of the two, a lost treasure would never have come to light.


not promising as treasure chests go

When I went to university, I took some photographs from the family photograph albums (remember those? we used to have paper pictures in paper books rather than digital pictures on screens) to remind me of home. I kept them in a little box and I looked at them when I was feeling homesick. Over the years, I looked at them less. Then, during a house-move some years later, the little box got packed away in another box and disappeared from sight. The big box moved house a couple of times and finally ended up stored in the loft Chez Snail… until two weeks ago.

One of my 17 for 2017 targets is to have three sessions sorting out some of the stuff in the loft, so I couple of weeks ago, knowing that I wanted to find some very old paperwork that I was sure was up there, I brought down a few boxes to go through. And, the little box of pictures emerged. It was lovely – some memories of my late dad, some pictures of my nieces’ and nephew’s christening… and a couple of very old ones of my parents. The first is of them cutting their wedding cake, the second of them when they got engaged. And it was the second that was so special.


striking gold!

There weren’t many copies of this picture, but the one my mum had went astray some years ago, leaving her only with a scanned version. No one, least of all me, remembered about the one I had, but there it was, tucked away and waiting to be found. I’m not going to put it in the post – much too precious. I’ve scanned it and will take it over very soon. My mum is over the moon.

And the moral of the story? Never throw away a box, however old, without going through it first to check it isn’t full of treasure…


As you know, I’m all for supporting local businesses, so I read with delight a couple of weeks ago that a new cinema had opened up in the small coastal town of Borth (about 25 miles from where we live). Cinema is dominated by multiplexes and, whilst all those screens mean that you are bound to be able to see the film that you want the moment it is released, they tend to be soulless venues owned by big multi-nationals. What could be better, therefore, than a boutique cinema, seating 60, in an old chapel? Add to that a restaurant serving local food and you may have the perfect destination for an evening out. Actually, we didn’t manage to go there to eat (I’ll report back when we do), but we did go and see a film last night. It is the most comfortable, friendly, quirky cinema I have ever been to; you just have to hope that the film isn’t boring otherwise you’d end up falling asleep…

If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend Libanus1877.

Bye-bye blankets

Over the past nine months or so, I’ve been contributing to the Sixty Million Trebles Project – highlighting the plight of the sixty million refugees in the world (in fact, there’s now more than sixty-five million). The idea was to make blankets to send to refugees and for each stitch (a standard UK crochet stitch is called a ‘treble’) to represent one refugee. Three knitting stitches are equivalent to one crochet treble… you can, therefore, perhaps begin to imagine the huge amount of work that has gone into this.

Originally, the plan was to create a world record-breaking blanket. However, it gradually dawned on the group that the blankets were actually desperately needed by displaced people and so it was agreed that we would set aside the world record attempt and get the blankets to where they would keep people warm. Boxes and boxes have already gone to Syria to a hospital caring for premature babies, but the main bulk of the blankets are destined to travel to those in need later this month. So, feeling a little sad at seeing them go, I’ve just completed my last ‘refugee blanket’ and packed up my final three (totalling 97,258 trebles) to go off to one of the big collection points.

Prior to this, I’d made eight smaller blankets (plus a bigger one that went to a different charity – Knit for Peace) and these had already been dropped off in person at one of the collection points. Here they all are (as well as one of those in the current batch):blankets

The grand total for the 60MT project so far is 55 million trebles, so you can see how close we are. After this big dispatch, further blankets are destined for various UK charities as it was agreed that we also wanted to support people in need closer to home.

For now, though, I’m going to concentrate on some personal projects and finishing some neglected WIPs*


* WIP = Work In Progress


Over to you

I think its all too easy to be a little bit lazy… or possibly it’s just a symptom of being worn down:


a completely non-cynical hat, but I do have a reusable coffee cup and a bear

We look at the world around us – the environment, health, politics, agriculture – and when something seems amiss, we say ‘someone should do something about that’. It would be lovely if corporations and governments had the motivation to solve all the world’s problems, but they don’t. With my cynical hat on, it seems to me that the majority of corporations are mainly interested in profit and the majority of governments are interested in power. I know that there are exceptions, but it does appear that when we place power in the hands of institutions, decisions tend to be made without humanity.

Individuals can have the same motivations, but often our choices are very personal and very complex. They certainly depend on a whole range of emotions and drivers… one of which is caring for the world and the people around us, so let’s try to focus on that one.

Once we accept that the ‘someone’ who can do something (even if only a little something) is ‘me’, it’s very easy to take the next step. And that next step need only be something tiny – smiling at someone on the bus, taking your own cup for take-away coffee, refusing a straw or a plastic bag. The next step might even be not doing something – not buying that pair of shoes that you don’t actually need, not upgrading to the latest piece of computer hardware, not lashing out when you see something on social media that annoys you.


Let’s make rainbows!

And that way, one tiny step at a time, we change the world and make our lives happier. This week I ordered a book from the library rather than buying it. This week Mr Snail offered to try to mend a keyboard for a friend so she doesn’t need to buy a new one. This week we will be eating almost exclusively locally produced food. This week (hopefully) I will be finishing off my final blanket to go to Syrian refugees.

So, it turns out that we can all make the world a bit better place. Do you have plans to do something kind (for a person or the environment) this week?

Why are we all here?

The world of blogging is a funny old place. You write stuff and people, somehow or other, come across it. They read it, and then what? Some people hit the ‘Like’ button, some people leave a comment, some people wander off to another part of the internet never to return and some people sign up to follow you. Some people become regular commenters/likers.

Here at The Snail of Happiness I do my best to respond to all of the comments. I don’t always manage it and occasionally I return to a previous post and notice some comments without responses, in which case I generally respond there and then, however old the post. I think that because I engage with you, my readers, you feel welcome and maybe that encourages you to return. I know this is the case for blogs that I follow – getting a response to my comments makes me feel valued and part of the community associated with that particular blog. In fact this sort of interaction does lead to genuine friendships away from the blog, via Skype, letters, emails or even meetings in person. However, those sorts of things only happen with the minority of readers and I’m intrigued about everyone else.


don’t be shy…

I’ve been blogging quite a lot recently and simultaneously getting quite a lot more followers. I’m really not sure whether the two are linked – and whether, if they are, the increase in traffic is to do with the number of posts or the subject matter.


So, I’m wondering whether you’d be willing to tell me why you are here? Why do you visit this blog? And how did you arrive in the first place? Please don’t be shy… I’d love to know, no matter whether you are a regular contributor, have just arrived or have been lurking in the background in silence for ages. You don’t have to have a WordPress blog to be able to comment… just write something and click on the button…

Go on… you’ve been reading my words, I’d love to read some of yours! And then maybe I’ll tell you why I’m here…

Small calm things

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

I came across this quote a while ago and saved it, thinking that I might use it in a post sometime. And, today, whilst looking at some old drafts I came across it, and thought that the time had come to share it.

After a number of recent ‘big mean things’ happening across the world, this feels like a very good time for ‘small calm things’. A few days ago I finished the cotton blanket I have been making for 60 Million Trebles (who have got two thirds of the way to their goal, reaching 40 million trebles last week), I’ve now returned to the wool and squares sent to me by Wild Daffodil earlier this year… it’s very fine yarn, so this blanket could take a while, but I am regarding every blanket that gets sent out as representing a hug to someone in need.

I’m also thinking that over the next month I will try to focus on some random (and not so random) crafts/acts of kindness. I have one gift completed to send off to a friend who is not at all well at the moment (no picture, as I want it to be a surprise), I have a partially made blanket that I want to send to a bereaved friend (again no picture to maintain the surprise), and I’ve made a start on some letter- and postcard-writing that’s long overdue.


so many letters!


I like random acts of kindness directed at strangers who I will never meet, but it’s also uplifting to do something for someone I know, allowing me to witness the positive effect of my action.

The Art of Manchester

Originally, my reason for going to Manchester this past weekend was to take part in Chorlton Arts Festival. Our Kindness Tree event, which sort of morphed into a Hearts for Manchester event was part of the festival, but our biggest contribution was the display in the window of The Make It Shop. Many, many thanks to those of you who contributed – the window looked fabulous, although trying to photograph it effectively proved beyond my limited skills with a camera; all I could manage was a flavour of it:

Danielle, however, managed a much better shot:


Craft+Activism=Craftivism (c) Danielle Lowy

Many thanks to those who contributed – I hope you can spot your creations (they are all in there), which will now be going off to new homes.

Although the emphasis was heavily on the performing arts this year, the Chorlton Arts Festival did include several other visual art exhibitions and we managed to visit two.

First, opening its gate for the tenth and final year, Bob Nancollis’ Smallest Sculpture Park in the World:

And second, Creative Recycling, where they make art from all sorts of materials, including the glass off-cuts from their picture-framing:

Do you notice, that as well as the art, they also have a little free library out the front of the shop?

So, life goes on in the city of Manchester, if with a heavy heart. I do hope that everyone out and about over the weekend had their lives brightened a little by the creativity that was on display, whether tattoos, beauty from recycled materials, craftivism, sculpture, our decorated community garden, or the lovely bees sent by Helen of Crawcraft’s Beasties, long before we realised how significant they were going to be.

A bee for Manchester


A tattoo too

When great tragedy happens, there is often an outpouring of compassion. This has certainly been the case in Manchester over the past week, with many anonymous acts of kindness and generosity. But, in addition, many people want to make a statement, to give a signal that they are part of the wounded community, indeed simply to be part of that community.

And thus, when Samantha Barber, a Manchester tattoo artist, had the idea of offering bee tattoos in support of the bombing victims (the worker bee is the symbol of Manchester), the idea took off (pun intended).  Many tattoo parlours decided to take part, donating all the proceeds to the fund supporting the victims. It seemed likely that there would be many takers, but who would have thought that up to 900 people would queue up at a single parlour in the hope of handing over £50 each for their bee? That, however, is exactly what happened at Sacred Art in Chorlton. They drafted in the help of their friends and they opened up at 10am on Sunday morning – by which time, some people had been waiting for nearly six hours.

We walked past around 1pm. Those in the queue were happy and chatty, being entertained with music and provided with food and drink by various businesses, as well as the residents of many of the houses in the streets along which the queue extended. The tattoo artists worked all day and into the night free of charge. They only stopped, at 11.15 pm because they ran out of supplies. Indeed, they said that, had this not have been the case, they would have worked until they had inked everyone in the queue.

I’ve seen various negative things written about the pointlessness of getting a Manchester bee tattoo, but being there on Sunday, and feeling the sense of belonging and the importance for all those people of simply showing their solidarity for the city in which they live brought home to me the value of this sort of act. It’s hard to describe the atmosphere, but this quote from the Sacred Art Facebook page gives a little flavour of it:

I want everyone to know that from the bottom of our humble hearts, everyone here at Sacred Art salutes you. Your mad enthusiasm, patience, empathy and unwavering support has been second to none. It’s truly testament to the heart of our city. Without it, this event simply wouldn’t have happened. By success, I don’t just mean the money we all raised (which was a staggering £18,204.70 ). The success of seeing our friends, families and neighbours all coming together to convey a message of only love. Irrespective of geography, gender, sexuality, religion or ethnicity, we all did this together, celebrating the soul of our city and cementing it with the Mancunian worker bee. It was heartwarming to see our community sharing their grief whilst celebrating their unity.

I hope that the city can continue to draw on this feeling of love and community in the coming weeks as it starts to heal from the terrible harm that has been done to it.

…and now, just for your entertainment, here’s where the title of this post comes from…

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