Going wild

When I was a girl we lived in a house. It was a compact terraced house situated on the fringes of Station Town in County Durham. The station – actually located in the adjoining village of Wingate – was no longer there (although my father could remember it) and was built to serve the local mining villages surrounding it. The line was no longer there either, ultimately a victim of Beeching in the 1960’s although declining before then, but evidence of its existence was all around us. Not only in the place names, but also in the miles of reclaimed railway lines now bridleways that cross cross their way through the villages to the coast.

When I lived there, Station Town was in the middle of the countryside in the middle of the 1970’s. Woodchip paper adorned the walls of our little house. The window frames were rotten enough to remove and climb through if you had forgotten your keys (true story) and the lino on the passageway floors was bumpy and cold to a bare foot. Heating and hot water were provided courtesy of a coal fire, chilblains were a real threat and if the wind was blowing the right way (thanks to a broken vent) it would snow on you in the bath. Life up North could be grim.

Nevertheless, there is a certain kind of being ‘alive’ when you have to embrace the seasons without the buffer of mod cons. And it wasn’t all bad. Being in the countryside as a child was a blessing. It provided places to explore and fish and hills perfect for sledging. A glorious freedom where we could stay out all night and watch the stars with an innocence not yet coloured by life.

My childhood experiences left me with a preference for cooler temperatures, a desire for exploration and a constant love of nature in all its forms. Living an adventurous life becomes much harder when you become an adult. Burdens such as responsibility, lack of time and lack of money hang around the neck of freedom. And the biggest burden of all, fear.

As a child, although cautious and risk averse, I was also reasonable fearless when it came to adventure. Not afraid of making difficult decisions, my life has taken many twists and turns over the years. But the older I get (and the increased comfort that comes with financial security) the more I seem to have to fear.

And I don’t like it.

There are many roads in life I would love to travel down. One of those is reducing the cocoon of modern life in order to experience the elemental wonders this planet has to offer. I’m talking about being in the weather, in wilderness, travelling without mod cons and allowing my body to feel, to be without the five star support. Well, realistically it’s more like three star, tea but no biscuits kind of support but you get my drift.

I want to feel alive rather than comfortably numb.

Our first micro adventures have already been completed. We loved throwing ourselves in Bude sea pool in November and the Atlantic on New Years Day. They have given us a little taste of the possibilities. So G and I have reviewed the things that are currently stopping us from seeking adventure and we’ve started to dismantle those barriers. Our next slightly bigger challenge is to wild camp. It’s been a hearts desire for a long time and now we live close enough to Dartmoor – where it’s legally permitted – its eminently doable. As soon as these bloody storms stop, we’re out there.

20/20 Challenge | January update

After January feeling like the longest month ever, the last few days have sped by with the urgency of a high speed locomotive. So, now it’s time for the monthly 20/20 challenge update. You can read the original post about the challenge here.

My first impression of the challenge was somewhat naive. I genuinely thought G and I would breeze through the whole thing in the first few months. Now we’re a few weeks in, the enormity of the challenge is becoming apparent. Mostly, I think because although relatively easy, they do require perseverance and our the tasks are not ingrained in habit yet. We’ve been to the supermarket countless times in the last month and have forgotten each and every time to get something to put towards the food bank. Shameful really.

Other times failure has been more practically based. It turns out the Highways Agency in Devon are committed to cleaning the road signs. Most of the ones we drive past are really quite polished. Those that aren’t tend to be out of reach. I need to take the cleaning fluid when I head back to Surrey where the Highways Agency aren’t quite so fastidious. In any respect, this one will need a little bit of planning in order to complete it.

But we are having lots of successes. We started on Jan 1st when we shoved the telly up in the loft and rearranged the sitting room. During the rearranging, we cleared loads of books and DVD’s into bags to take to the charity shop. The purge extended to the kitchen where unused tins and bits and bobs went in the bag. Between us, G and I corralled over 40 items so in theory, we could cross that one off the list.

Three £20 notes have been banked. Well, it seemed sensible to do that at the start of the month rather than the end. Books have been read, blog posts written and rubbish picked up.

We’ve been diligent with self care. G and I starting the year with a *ahem* refreshing dip in the Atlantic sans wetsuits. We were due to join a group dip that turned out to be at the other end of the beach from where we were. On the dot of 11am, they charged into the sea while we debated whether to jog down the beach to join them.

Although we could see them, we were at least 10 minutes away, so in the end it was a moot argument. After playing ‘I will if you will’ for a few seconds, we both caught a dose of ‘Sod it’ and stripped off ready to charge in, much to the alarm of a family who were walking along the beach.

It was freezing and invigorating in equal measures. The sea temperature was higher than the air temperature. In part due to a chilly northerly blowing across the beach. But neither was balmy, so we soon got out again, clambered back into dry robes and marched back up to the top of the dunes and the safety of the Porthole cafe.

I’ve taken a day off when the weather was forecast to be nice. Heading to RHS Rosemoor for a wander around in the beautiful winter sunshine. G and I have also made it our mission to roam around various venues across Somerset, Devon and Cornwall. It’s an area neither of us know particularly well. We’ve explored National Trust properties at Killerton and Trelissick and enjoyed an exciting trip to the Eden Project; getting there in sufficient time to complete the park run. It’s been a brilliant way to get to know our new surroundings.

I’ve also attended a soap making course earlier in the month. I’d branched out to make my own deodorant – which turned out to be easier than I though (partly because the ingredients are mainly inert; coconut oil, Shea butter, arrowroot and bicarbonate of soda with a few oils thrown in. Soap making needs more chemical interference and since I got 26% in my last chemistry exam in year 9, I didn’t feel confident to experiment on my own.

The chemical in question is sodium hydroxide, a strong alkali. Know as lye in soap making, it does something chemically to the oils added to leave soap behind. We used a mix of olive oil, coconut oil and sustainable palm oil (Shea butter would be fine too). And added essential oils for aroma in some or honey and oats for a delicious exfoliating soap. The process was in no way scary – care was taken – and the process was really quite therapeutic. The soap is currently curing in the spare room and should be good to go by the end of the month.

We’re also experimenting with less time on social media. We’ve completed one day successful, but a couple more have been scuppered early doors because we’ve forgotten and logged on to Facebook first thing to catch up. Purely habit.

So, in order to instil better habits, I have deleted my Twitter account (which only makes me rage and adds nothing positive to my life at the moment) and will experiment with no social media Sunday’s.

20/20 challenge

So, a change of pace and topic here for a little while. Three and a half years, waking up after a vote (that should never have happened and as it turns out was conducted illegally) my heart was broken. I didn’t agree that the (advisory) vote should be honoured and I don’t believe it was to destroy democracy to think that way.

In time, I hoped a way would be found to reconcile and remain in the EU but after Thursday devastating result, that hope turned to hopelessness. And frankly I’m scared. I’m scared for society, democracy, people on the brink of poverty and those already fallen into the crevasse, those relying on the wonderful NHS now and in the future and ultimately the safety of the world. I’m not ashamed to say I shed a lot of tears yesterday. Shed for everything we’ve lost for apparently very little gain.

So now, more than ever is a time for love and kindness. For the world and personally. Inspired by my great friend Lee. G and I have made a commitment to the 20/20 challenge to complete 20 things in 2020.

The twenty ‘challenges’ are personal and designed to contribute to self care, care of my community or care of the environment. They are meant to be fun but not frivolous. And a beacon of hope in a very dark time. Here’s the list…

1. Donate 20 items to charity.

2. Visit 20 new places (can be local).

3. Donate to a food bank 20 times.

4. Get back into volunteering and volunteer 20 times.

5. Spend 20 days where I don’t go online at all.

6. Read 20 books.

7. Watch 20 films I’ve not seen before.

8. Complete 20 thirty minute lunchtime walks.

9. Try 20 new exercises (dragon walk anyone?)

10. Replace 20 household/garden items with a more sustainable version when needed.

11. Pick up random street/beach rubbish 20 times.

12. Go on 20 different walks.

13. Lose 20 lbs

14. Save 20 £20 notes

15. Write 20 random cards to family & friends.

16. Do 20 random acts of kindness.

17. Do 20 things as a means of self-care (e.g. massage, or visit to art gallery or something relaxing).

18. Write 20 blog posts.

19. Cook 20 new dishes in a year.

20. Clean 20 road signs.

So, there you go. Starting Jan 1, I’ll keep you updated with how it goes.

And for those of you feeling similarly despondent at the moment. I need to borrow the words of ee cummings. ‘i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)’.

Stay strong x

Clean

Puerto del Carmen – 2019

A few months ago I finally managed to realise a dream to write for the Mass Observation. Mass Observation are a social group that specialise in material that records every day life. I’ve had a life long passion in anthropology and love the work they do. They’ve been in existence since 1937 documenting the mundane in peoples lives. That’s what I love about it most – the beauty in the collection of trivial stories around a theme.

The last set of tasks involved a discussion around plastic and the first task was to list the amount of single use plastic encountered in a day. A suggestion made was to document room by room in the house. I started with the bathroom and initially entered into this task thinking it would be easy. It wasn’t long before it dawned on me how many items we use involving plastic. It was horrifying.

The next task involved thinking back to what we used to do before plastic truely started to dominate our lives. Ironically, my Dad used to work in the plastics and polymers division in ICI Wilton, in the North East. He was a perspex advocate – so much so he glazed his greenhouse with the stuff (and some of the windows in our house). But that aside, the use of plastics was definitely less. We used soap instead of bottles and bottles of unguents. Fruit and veg was either grown or bought in brown paper bags and since we would buy half a beast at a time, meat was delivered on a tray ready for prepping and freezing.

I mentioned it to G and we decided together that we would start to tackle our use of plastics with am aim to reduce as much as possible.

Last week we headed to Lanzarote for our annual trip to support Ironman Lanzarote. After the last few months of hectic living in two places and not quite in either we were due a few days of sunshine and R&R and the island didn’t disappoint. There we managed to catch up with many of our friends, old and new. The simplicity of life on holiday is compelling and what I really love is the chance to research and talk through ideas and concepts with people. Our friend, Lee, is already miles ahead of us in the environmentally friendly game and we chatted about alternatives, especially soaps. Fully sold, we got a few bits in Lanza and when we returned to Devon, sourced a community owned co-operative committed to reducing plastics use.

Soap!

One of the other topics for consideration out in Lanza was health. G and I have been implementing our ‘move more’ philosophy to great success. Already we’re feeling a lot better and G has been running and cycling amazingly well at the moment. Perfect for his trip to Ironman Austria next month.

We’ve been trying to find a lifestyle diet that will help with weight loss but be sustainable. For the last few months I’d been getting increasingly contradictory advice regarding between keto, LCHF and paleo healthy eating – which was leading to confusion.

Lee had told me that one of the pirates had been eating paleo for a while now. He’d had incredible success with it, reversing his Type II diabetes diagnosis and competing in Ironman Lanzarote (which he successfuly completed in one of the toughest years to date). Just as we were chatting about him, he appeared beside us and we took the opportunity to ask him about his lifestyle. He said he had been through the whole gamut of paleo/keto related approaches and now focussed on just four rules:

  1. Eat clean – nothing out of a packet
  2. No seed oils
  3. Swap all ‘beige’ food for vegetables
  4. Take in magnesium

It sounded completely do-able and really fired me with excitement. So, the next stage will follow these rules and add a little more structure to the ‘move more’ around swim, bike, run and weight training.

Hopefully the above will lead to us being cleaner inside and out and is one more step towards a much simpler way of life.