Some months ago, a comment from Jill (Nice Piece of Work) on my post about decluttering got me thinking a great deal about privilege. About the fact that I am only in a position to make choices because of my circumstances… the fact that I am educated, that my parents both had jobs and money, that I live in a democracy, that I am a member of the major ethnic group in my country, that I have a job, that I have home and partner, that I have a supportive family, that my country is stable politically, that I am healthy. So many people have so many immediate things to worry about… where their next meal is coming from, where they will sleep tonight, whether their children are safe, how they will pay for medical treatment…. When I thought about all the problems I could be facing, it seemed somewhat crass to be fretting about clutter.


This simply isn’t available to everybody

Then last week we were having lunch with Sue (Going Batty in Wales) and discussing her recent experience during the time she had her arm in a cast, having broken her wrist. She mentioned the necessity of using prepared, frozen vegetables when she was unable to chop up her ingredients for cooking, and how disappointing many of them were in terms of both flavour and texture. This sort of inability to do things is the long-term reality for many people and so they, unlike me, are deprived of a full range of choices when it comes to, amongst many things, their food. So, there’s my privilege again.

It’s funny how these sorts of conversations come around several times… the following day I was having a video chat with Kt (Kt Shepherd Permaculture) in Spain and she mentioned the value of ready-meals for people with limited abilities to cook. She pointed out how marvellous they are for those who rely on other people preparing their food: to at least be able to choose a dish that you fancy and heat it up yourself. Ready-made food may not be everyone’s idea of freedom, but for some that is exactly what it represents. And so, again, my level of privilege is reinforced. I can choose what I eat, what I buy, where I buy it from, how I cook it. The fact that many ready meals are, in the words of Joanna Blythman, “food-like substances” rather than real food is unacceptable – we should not condemn those with limited choices only to poor choices.

So where have all these thoughts led me? I don’t think feeling guilty is the answer – that just directs energy to a useless end, but certainly being aware of such privilege is important. This issue certainly relates to the permaculture ethic of ‘fair shares’ but perhaps I haven’t really thought about it in this way before. I feel that I would like to take action, but other than doing the usual things I can to support my friends and local community, I’m not sure how. I’m only just beginning to think this through and deciding on possible actions, but I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on this and what, if anything, you or anyone you know is doing from/about their position of privilege.



My Kind of People


The Masterpiece in all its glory (picture: Alan Charlton)

When I first started blogging, I wasn’t really sure where it would lead or what to expect. I was originally inspired by Hedvig Murray, a permaculture practitioner I met on a course about seven years ago. I thought that I would share information relating to my Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design and maybe keep in touch with other like-minded people. Well, I did that… and we made a blanket known as “The Masterpiece” to represent my permaculture diploma (thanks to all those of you who contributed all those years ago – I’m still sitting on it every day as I work and blog). I think I’ll put together the story of the blanket in a post soon because so many of you weren’t around for it… and I also want to include the story as a chapter in one of my planned books.

Anyway, I finished my diploma, but by that time the blog had become a record of all sorts of stuff that I do and a place where I had met and made friends with amazing, talented, enthusiastic people from around the world. And this is really what I hadn’t expected – that my blog would become one aspect of a community; that I would follow other blogs; that I would write to, Skype and even meet fellow bloggers face-to-face. That we would send each other gifts, that we would swap our creations, that we would share ideas and give support, and that we would feel part of a safe and caring ‘space’ were all totally unexpected outcomes.

The time and effort invested in blogging is always worthwhile. At one point I thought that I might have to give up replying to comments, but what’s the fun in that? The comments and responses make a blog the dynamic and responsive space that it is – if I just wanted to tell you stuff I’d write a book or set up an ordinary web site. Both have their place, but they serve different purposes. And so, the blog carries on and people continue to be immensely kind.

Not long ago I gained a new reader, Patricia. She came to the blog via a personal recommendation… actually someone who I know through permaculture and who was there when I did my diploma presentation with the blanket. I hope that she’s going to write a guest blog post soon and stimulate some discussion but in the mean time we’ve communicated by email and via the blog. Anyway, the other day I mentioned that I thought I’d get myself a new notebook and make a start on writing one of those books I have in mind. Immediately Patricia said she had just the thing and today I received this:

With this explanation:IMGP4864Oh, I’m so touched. What a wonderful gift – what wonderful history. Thank you, Patricia, I hope that one day we can meet up and talk fabric and yarn ans sustainability over tea and cake.

So, that sums up my experience of blogging – you really are my kind* of people – thank you all for being here.


* According to the OED, ‘kind’ has several meanings, including:

A natural quality, property, or characteristic; a distinctive feature of a person or thing


A class, sort, or type of people or things


the people with whom a specific individual has a great deal in common

and, my favourite

Having or showing a benevolent, friendly, or warm-hearted nature or disposition; ready to assist, or show consideration for, others; sympathetic, obliging, considerate.



Santa Snail

Now it’s over, I can reveal what I sent in my role as Santa. One of the down sides of not doing Christmas presents in general is that I do miss the joy of giving. It’s not that I don’t give presents, but usually I just wait for inspiration and buy/make and give things somewhat at random. For Stitching Santa I had the pleasure of stalking reading lots of posts from a blogger I had not encountered before.

My recipient was Julia over at Julia’s Creative Year. I may have given myself away by following her blog immediately I got the email saying she was “my person”, so I didn’t post much about what I was including in her parcel. I spent ages looking at her blog to get a feel for what she likes and I made a list to use as inspiration (including her fondness for flamingoes). As you know I have lots of yarn, so I selected some interesting British wool from my stash (some produced by friends of mine), made a work basket and added some trimmings, vintage mother of pearl buttons, a badge, a crochet hook with a handle and specially bought stitch markers and voila:

I hope she didn’t mind that the wrapping paper was reused, but hopefully she knows what I’m like by now!

Since Julia is also a card-maker and I have piles of card-making supplies that I’m never going to get through, I included a few of those too:


cards, envelopes and handmade paper

I just hope that the parcel reached her, because, being ‘secret’ Santa, your recipient doesn’t know who to send an email to, to say they received it.

I really want to thank Sheila over at Sewchet for organising all this. It gave me great pleasure to put these gifts together and I am loving reading about all the other parcels that have been winging their way around the world. Since there is a strict limit on the spend, most of the gifts are about creative use of what we have in our stashes, and what creativity there has been. I really hope to manage to read all the Stitching Santa posts, but it might take a while to track them down!








Festively sociable

Because we don’t ‘do’ Christmas as regards presents and rushing round to visit every single relative, this time of year is wonderfully relaxing and we get a bit of time just to be sociable.


a possible source of future milk

From the solstice to my birthday I do try to do some special cooking as I have a bit more time than usual and, as I mentioned in an earlier post, this year the plan was to have beef on the solstice. Events transpired against us, and we ended up going to the farm to collect the beef yesterday. However, it on the plus side this gave us plenty of opportunity to meet one of the dairy cows on the farm and have a long chat with Sam the farmer about their plans. There’s a possibility of some raw milk from them next year for cheese-making, but they don’t have spare capacity at the moment, but it was a good connection made and we’ve supported a local business.


a fruity thank-you

In the evening one of our neighbours called round, bearing a beautiful box of fruit. They order a lot of things online and we act as their drop-off point since they both work full time. By way of thanks, therefore, they gave us this lovely gift… I keep telling them it’s not necessary, but it’s good to receive graciously, which we did. I forecast Poire Belle Helene in the future, amongst other fruity things.

Today we went off to do some last minute shopping… two Danish pastries, a pot of cream, a newspaper, some T-pins for blocking Sophie and a pair of fair-trade rubber gloves (isn’t this the list everyone has just before Christmas?). Actually we mainly went out to wish various friends who have shops the joys of the season and to catch up on news of a very poorly friend (sadly no better). There was a great deal of chatting and little shopping… now that’s the spirit of the season for me.


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?

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