I managed to escape for an hour or so yesterday and freed some time to walk to a meeting, something that sadly hasn't been so possible lately.
When I walk anywhere, I tend to do so with the eye of a forager! I noted about myself some time ago that my eyes are constantly darting from ground to sky and scanning around for edibles. I don't know whether this is something that's innate, a hark back to when food was scarce, or whether it's something learnt by means of having a slightly food obsessed nature!
This time of year is excellent for the forager because it's the time when the fruit trees are in blossom. Short of having actual apples dangling from the branches, it makes easy work of spotting potential bounties realised in the autumn. Cherries and plum relatives (plums themselves, but also gages and blackthorns for sloes) are currently blossoming here; apples and pears won't be too far behind now. I made a mental of note of where to return later in the year!
Having a large household and feral children makes for monumental amounts of washing. I cut this to the bone because I hate it; it's my least favourite of all the household chores, with the exception of changing king size duvet covers...
I have been lucky enough to be involved in a longstanding project to improve the alleyways that lie between the back-to-back terraces in my town. I can't even begin to describe just how dreadful some of these are - full of rubbish and flytipped waste, dog and cat faeces and the scene of various criminal acts. But slowly, slowly we have been turning things around. I can't take any credit for this - it is down to a group of people, people I now include amongst my friends, that we've collectively nicknamed the 'Alleypals!'
I am not, for the most part, a stress head, but I have struggled this week.
I have had a tax return to complete, I've been worried that my financial future was looking a little 'insecure,' one of my daughters had a concern about her football training, my partner and son were ill and everything just felt very overwhelming. On the scale of it, not that big a deal, but sometimes everything feels like it comes at once.
We are currently gripped by very cold temperatures and a few inches of snow. Nothing major or unlikely for the time of year but the cause of both much excitement and simultaneously much dismay in our little household.
I walk to work (well, one of my current places of work) and on days like today, it's something for which I'm very grateful.
My mittens were safely housed in the car overnight. Very safely it transpires, as with much tugging of locks I was unable to open any of the doors - all frozen shut! I ended up wearing three mismatched gloves...
And several thousand layers of clothing. Walking, even in very cold temperatures, is perfectly fine IF you are adequately clothed. For me this meant two pairs of thermal socks, thermal boots, legwarmers, five layers plus a jumper and a coat, scarf and hat. Others maybe more tolerant: I do not like being cold!
But it has huge advantages too. Whilst all around people were wrestling with deicer and scrapers, car engines were left noisily running and churning out noxious fumes, I simply stepped out of my front door, no fuss and no effort. I walked past nose to tail jams and I knew exactly how long my journey would be - bang on 38 minutes as normal. No stress, no frustration and perfectly timed.
Walking keeps me finely tuned, physically and mentally. When I don't walk, I feel like my day's missed something. I feel boxed in, cabin fever. And I love that I have no impact on the world around me. It's just me, under my own steam.
But above all, it's what I see and hear. The small patch of winter purslane by the cycle path end, the elderly couple with the Labrador who always say hello, the big holly bush that entices me with promises of festive decoration, a catch up with a good friend, the sound of my boots being the first to tread in the snow, the light of the sunrise hitting the cedars...
Car commute? I really don't think so!
We are a family who do sports. Lots of sports.
I think this is possibly the one aspect of life that I find most difficult to rationalise with my greenie aspirations.
Today we've been to Leeds, a journey of 130 miles round trip for my daughter's inter-county hockey tournament. (Hockey is a novelty; it's usually football, but that's another story...) She was one of 15 on her team, with 7 counties represented, so approximately 100 young people, all travelling in individual cars with parents. (Incidentally, hockey families drive big, expensive cars as a general rule. Ours is small and 15 years old. It sticks out like a sore thumb).
100 cars, 100 people buying cheap snack foods with one-use packaging, 100 sets of kit made of fossil fuel derived polyester, 100 people plus at least one parent using the toilet facilities etc etc... And none of it strictly, actually essential to life. You get my issue? It bothers me, and yet I couldn't not-do it, not just for the love of my daughter but also for what the experience brings to all of our lives.
Here's how I try and justify it: firstly, we keep the car journeys to a minimum. In the summer, the shorter journeys to local training we make by bike or on foot, though predictably tired legs are often unwilling! It takes time too, and we've fallen out of the habit (one to add to the 'to do' list again). We occasionally offer spaces in our car to others without transport, and gatecrash the team bus when we can.
We always, always bring a packed lunch and a flask of hot drinks. It's a money saver and a waste saver and steers us clear of the bacon buttie hatch!
Kit is an issue as matching strips are a must. We pass on what we can, but I am reminded that I did consider offering a second hand stall that I've never followed up (again, one for the 'to do' list!) The hockey stick pictured is a jumble sale find, £3. She's been playing with it for years, whereas her team mates have sticks that cost over £100. I asked her coach; the only difference is in weight but as a 13 year old? Really not worth it. She's happy, my daughter's happy, I'm happy. Maybe it's worth asking around for cast offs if you're in the same boat. I notice there are Facebook buy/sell/pass on pages springing up which makes the whole process simple, but the usual charity shops and eBay are an option too. And don't forget to gift your used equipment and clothing. There are other families like us!
And so to the biggest reason I encourage the sport, and one that's applicable to us all, young and old...
To nourish your body, to feed it good food, to keep it functioning at its most effective is not only what you owe yourself (because you are utterly wonderful!) but what you owe your neighbours on this little rocky planet. Illness and infirmity affects your capacity to care for others, to improve your surroundings and to make optimum choices. It costs - financially and environmentally. Whilst it is an option for you to stay healthy, you should grasp that fortune and opportunity with both hands and stride forwards through life's adventuring, because it really isn't a possibility for so many. You owe you good health!
And that's what I owe my kids - the best possible start to their lives, the skills and knowledge to make the right choices and provide themselves with the healthiest, and coincidentally, greenest future.
Tough call, but I hope the right one.
Treading Lightly is simple living, within your means and the means of the planet, and making a minimal impact on the Earth. Find out more here about Catherine, of Barefoot Solutions, does this from day to day.