I dream

I dream of a life where I’m connected into community – supported and supporting those around me through daily, close interactions. We rub against each other and live alongside each other, imperfectly together.

I dream of a life where Jenson may be an only child, but he has a multitude of other children to call his kin. Where he may not have uncle and aunties physically close, but he has a band of adults stewarding him from the early steps of childhood, running wild in nature, to the first tentative movements into adulthood, nurtured and supported by his tribe.

I dream of life where we live in seasons – not taking part in the frenetic sprint that is the western hustle – but allowing for quieter time. Moments of calm. Accepting the softness of idle time in all aspects of life.

I dream of cities being re-wilded – surrounded once more by nature instead of being concrete and bricks. Tamed no more within our clinical setting, we’d allow for the snuffling hedgehog roaming through our shared gardens, see the wild fox slink around the neighbourhood, hear the call of the owl late in the night.

I dream of fashion being a celebration of who we are individually instead of something we use to prop up our inadequacies. Consuming to forget the pain we feel.

I dream of the world being flipped right. With those working in care being rewarded properly for their invaluble contribution to society. With generations respecting each other – the elders for their knowledge and temperance, the youth for their passion and hope.

I dream of everyone recognising that we’re only where we are thanks to the random lottery, the chance fusion of embryo and sperm which saw us born into more or less privilege than another. And in knowing that, openly share the riches we have with our fellow humans.

I dream of everyone knowing the sentience of all life forms – insects, animals, fish, nature – and moving to food and life systems that do no harm to other living beings.

I dream of unhealthy addictions to food, drink, drugs, gambling and pornography being no more as people are able to say ‘I’m hurting‘ and, supported with love, work through their pain to no longer need these crutches.

I dream of wholeness – of individuals, communities, nations, the world. Not wholeness through perfection but wholeness through accountability, love, forgiveness, acceptance.

As I write this, there are many counter-arguments in my mind – how could we forge a new economy? Is this practical or doable? How would I survive in community, needing my own space? Is this just idealistic, unreasonable bollocks?

But this is the dream which brings me hope.

And I need hope in this dark time.

So I continue to hope and I continue to dream.

And I will keep taking small steps to do my small part in bringing this dream to life.

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Mine for a short while

I’ve been thinking about what being a parent means for a while now.

It started when I read the beginnings of a book called soul craft (I’ve mentioned it a bit in a few previous posts which you can read on my blog). The book is about getting to know who we are more deeply through connecting with the wild and free beings we once were before we learnt to become ‘acceptable’ to society.

There is a lot of metaphor within the book around death and rebirth. Letting the conditions parts of ourselves – the people pleasing, the addictions, the bending and flexing we do to fit in with others – fall away so we can step into who we truly are as individuals.

One sentence which had an impact on me was about how this journey might require us to step away from being a daughter or son.

By this, I don’t mean rejecting our parents.

But being a daughter or a son can be a role we play – behaving in a certain way that may not suit us anymore.

I’ve certainly found that with my parents as we have navigated towards a different relationship.

They are still my parents and love and care for (and often tolerate) me. But we are also on a more even footing as we connect as adults.

So I’m their child, but I’m first and foremost me.

And it made me start thinking.

Thinking about how Jensen really is mine but for a short while.

I know I’ll need to give him space to grow and decide who he is without putting my expectations on him and I’ve started that now, by not mandating that he is a vegan.

Veganism is deeply important to me, I can’t imagine a life when I would eat animal products (especially meat) and I don’t wish for him to eat them either.

However I need to give him space to grow and make his own decisions without any pressure of knowing that he will disappoint me through making his own personal choice.

And I know that this way of being will need to be repeated, even when it hurts. Even when he makes decisions that are against my wishes. Even when he becomes somebody who is not quite what I would choose him to be.

And I also am aware that there will come a time when I will need to let go of him.

Don’t get me wrong, I know I will always be his mother.

I will always be there for him.

I will always be his backstop if he needs me to be.

But I will need to create space for our relationship to shift. For Jenson to grow into himself. To move from baby to boy, boy to teenager, teenager to man.

I already feel the bittersweetness of this when I think of his cuddles and kisses – full, sloppy, hands-on-my-face – lessening. And when I imagine him growing in independence, no longer desperate to spoon against me at night or keen to choose me at every moment.

But it makes these moments all the more sweet as I realise that he is mine for only a short while until he becomes his own.

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Breathe

I’m coming to the end of my time here in Austin, Texas.

I’ve had such a wonderful break.

Having fun with my friend Nadine, eating great food, sleeping in, laughing, connecting, dreaming, swimming, meditating, reading.

Breathing.

And I find myself feeling so sad time is coming to an end.

I wrote in my last post about needing to bring balance my life.

And now that I’m so close to returning to my ‘regular’ life I see it’s not about balance.

It feels more vital than that.

It’s about needing to find space to breathe.

And grappling with the truth that in my current life I’m not able to fully breathe.

Not because I feel suffocated by my husband or my son.

Not because I dislike my job.

But because the pace of life is so quick.

And because life is so full.

And because I feel that my life is unsustainable as it is.

I know this deep in my bones.

Something needs to give.

I need to be able to breathe.

And this is what I feel is at the heart of my involvement with extinction rebellion.

Finding how we might have a more sustainable life as a society.

Moving from a life of consumption to a life of connection.

Because I believe that our western lives are unsustainable.

We work, work, work so we have money to eat more than we need and buy more than we need and to fill our lives with things that we don’t need – distractions, things that numb us, possessions that bring us a flurry of excitement at the time but quickly lose their relevance and importance in our life – a new dress, new notebook, new tattoo, new pair of shoes.

We follow the buzz to forget that we’re deeply disconnected from others, from nature and most importantly from ourselves.

And in doing so, we trample on others – those exploited to make the things we consume, the animals exploited, the world being ransacked for our immediate comfort.

But I don’t know where I can start.

Because it feels like such a huge shift to get to a different way of living.

And I don’t know how I can have a life that has more space to breathe when I have a young son who depends on me and brings such a closeness in his requirements of me.

I don’t know how I can slow down when I have a substantial mortgage to pay which requires a certain commitment.

I don’t know how to disentangle myself from a life structured around western consumption.

And I’m unsure how the things I love and feel so vital for me (like travel) fits into this new reality.

All I know is that I’m feeling the call to breathe more, to slow down more. And yet I don’t know what this could look like.

I don’t how I might be able to listen to this call when I’m back in the thick of my life.

A sustainable life

I’m currently in the middle of an amazing trip visiting my dear friend, Nadine, in Texas.

On the cusp of this first prolonged trip away from my family, I felt apprehensive. But another part of me knew this trip was vitally important.

It was a time to find myself again after living in the reality of new motherhood for the past two years.

During these years, I tried to find a balance between my responsibilities to my son and my work, but looking back, I can see that other things suffered – myself, the relationships I hold dear, my health, my sanity(!)…

Balancing everything in a world that promises us that “we can have it all” is an impossibility. Because I believe that “having it all” is a lie.

Even if I were a millionaire, I might have more rest through the help of a nanny, but this would be at the cost of my motherhood.

And as I meditated on my way over in the airplane, I received the following wisdom;

Amy, you have 100% of your energy available to you. So how are you going to use it? Compromises will have to be made, certain things will have to fall away. But you have the ability to make a choice in all this. 

And so sat in a beautiful cafe in south Austin, I looked at what my life currently looks like with everything important to me.  

Here are my thoughts about certain parts of it:

Work

Work is deeply important to me. It fuels my creativity, allows me to feel mastery and it contributes to being an active citizen (working for local government) as well as contributing to my personal growth. It’s important…and yet, it takes up most of my energy. I know as it is it’s not sustainable for the long-haul.

Love

I miss my husband. I miss lazy lie-ins and carefree evenings spent with friends. I miss the time to love him, the energy to go on dates, lying next to him in bed, the spare money with no nursery to pay for to go on dates without thinking about the cost, the time to both enjoy TV shows together and also catch-up without any bedtime pressure.

I know this will pass, but it’s hard.

And I want to be aware of this so that we don’t come out of the early years of parenting fog to find ourselves on different tracks in life, lost to each other.

Recuperation and rest

This is another one which will change as Jenson grows and starts to sleep through the night. At present, my husband and I take turns to respond to our son’s cries and so at least half the week is made of broken sleep. This means that ideally bedtime is 9-9:30, which eats into my connection with Gregg and ability to tap into other areas of the circle – health, connection with friends, my spiritual life…

But it is what it is.

I’m realising how important it is to have an extended period of time – a night or two – away from the daily grind each month.

It’s important to have time just being me, time of sleeping in, time of not having every minute accounted for and a countdown to when bedtime should be.

It’s also a time of connection with friends and nature (where I get my spiritual connection), so I recognise that this isn’t just about rest, but about many more things.

I’ve not been as disciplined with prioritising this time away as I should be, but I will be moving forward.

Household & health

Sure, in an ideal world I’d do a yoga class weekly. I’d a tidier house. I’d stay fit by going for jogs instead of the continual late-sprint for my train or pedalling home on my bike. I’d eat less processed food. I’d do washing in my spare time instead of when I’m looking after Jenson.

But these aren’t priority areas for me at the moment.

And that’s ok.

Motherhood

I recognise that Gregg is stepping up and caring for our boy more than I am at the moment. And it’s not just when I’ve been here on holiday – he’s stepped into a 50:50 role if not slightly more of the care role at times.

I’ve needed him to do so when I’ve reached burnout and felt like I had nothing left to give.

And that’s ok.

I’m allowed for parenthood to be 50:50 at this early stage despite every cultural bone in my body proclaiming that I should be the carer. I should have the bigger role in Jenson’s early years.

This is compounded by a noticing of how I’m less capable of staying in the role of the ‘perfect’ mum – I don’t have enough energy for it.

The reality is that Jenson spends time watching Netflix if he wakes before 6am and I often find quick fixes to entertain him as I balance the minimal amount of housekeeping and food prep I do around time looking after him.

All the while, a little voice in my head tells me that I should be engaged with his play 100% and should leave the other stuff. Should leave my needs.

But I can’t.

And so I accept the reality of what is.

Interdependencies

I notice that several of these areas are linked together. Motherhood, work and love all jostle for my time and one area reducing leads to a gain in another.

Likewise, rest and recuperation is met through travel (often to see friends) and provides time for me to seek a spiritual connection outside myself.

And my spiritual opening links to better health outcomes as I live with less anxiety and live more in my truth, which positively impacts my relationships with friend and family.

And so this wheel of life turns, ever adjusting for my awareness of it. Constantly dancing as I find space for that which I hold dear in my life.


Thanks to Nadine, who treated me to a night in the incredibly cool Carpenter Hotel, whose coffee I’ve been sipping while finishing these reflections.

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The pain awareness brings

One of the things I knew I wanted to work on in my time away from Jenson is the anger I hold inside me.

An anger that I know drives a lot of my feelings of frustration towards others. But an anger I know is really an anger I hold against myself.

And it’s an anger that I feel at myself for having heard but not listened to the environmental crisis that we’ve known about for decades.

I remember learning about greenhouse gases at secondary school, so I can’t claim to not have known about what was going on.

But I didn’t act.

I’ve been aware for years that most rubbish goes into landfill or is burnt.

But I still chose to fill up my bin indiscriminately with single-use plastics and things I’ve cast aside after limited use.

I’ve known about the injustices that go with the earth’s exploitation – slavery, poverty, bribery, corruption.

But I still selected products that I wanted (the mac I use for blogging a prime example) regardless.

When I think about these things, I feel incredibly sad.

I feel the pain I’ve inflicted to the world.

And it makes me cry, to feel incredible sadness when I sit with this pain.

I know this pain is available to me because of the awakening and connection I’ve had to nature in the past few months.

I feel how nature – trees, flowers, grass, woods, stones, mountains, insects, animals – are all alive.

They don’t live at the same frequency as us – they grow slower, communicate differently – but that doesn’t mean they’re any less alive or worthy or important.

And it’s our folly to think otherwise.

In treating them all as second class citizens (or not citizens of this world at all) we’ve arrived at this knife-edge of human viability, faced with irreversible climate change and mass bio-diversity loss.

In knowing this, I sense why other people might not be able face into this pain.

Because doing so requires us to take responsibility for what we’ve done – at an individual and collective level – and that is hard.

But in writing this, I recognise that I’m taking on responsibility for the whole of humankind and our collective responsibility for getting into this mess.

And this responsibility is not mine to hold alone. To try to do so is destructive and paralysing.

It’s too much for me to feel.

It’s not mine to hold alone.

It stops me from being as effective, strategic and powerful as I could be in taking action.


In realising this, I know I need to sit with how I’m feeling some more.

I need to contemplate how I might I step out of this anger and burdensome responsibility, not to cast it aside, but to stop myself being overwhelmed and unable to act.

I know I need to practice self-forgiveness and compassion – even just holding my hands at my heart daily and saying ‘I forgive you‘ will be a start to this.

I also wonder how I can use this insight – the pain this work brings – to find a way of helping others to look into the situation without paralysis and overwhelming pain or avoiding any responsibility at all.

And I know I need to dance daily to work negative energy out of my body. To shake off the anger and the frustration and to step into the joy that this work can bring – being whole with nature, living a sustainable life at all levels, feeling the joy that deepened connections to all life forms brings to my life.

This isn’t work that will be done in a day. It’s work that will take time.

Being aware of what is going on is the first step.

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By myself

I’ve come away on holiday for the first time by myself since being a mum. Despite feeling anxiety about leaving Jenson, I knew it was right to have time by myself.

I need it to be at my best.

And I’ve already had such breakthroughs and moments of clarity with the time I’ve had by myself.

I’ve started to read a brilliant book called Soulcraft which is enlightening and mirrors what’s going on for me in my life (here’s a few lines that inspired me):

“the wanderer must move beyond her dependence upon others and upon her social roles. She will no longer adopt, in whole or part, other’s identities or ways of belonging to the world. She will no longer sacrifice her one true life in order to make herself or others comfortable. She knows what she has to do. She must leave her old home and step out into the wild night of her life”. 

Amidst the joy of this holiday, I’ve also been challenged by a difficult interaction with someone in my life. And while it isn’t spoiling my time away, I’ve been thinking about my reaction to what’s going on.

What I should do.

What might allow me to not sacrifice my one true life whilst also being kind to the other.

This morning, I did a meditation – it’s one with drums (and one that I’ve enjoyed lots recently). But as I laid there, listening to the rhythmic beats as I usually would, I was struck anew by all the sounds going on in the background of the track that I had never heard before.

The clinking and clanking of what sounded like someone eating cereal or stirring a cup of tea.

And as I laid there, I also heard the sounds of people around me. Others walking, talking, banging doors.

It reminded me that, whatever is happening on the surface, there’s always a cacophony of things going on beneath.

The interactions I have with others and with myself are layered with rich textures.

Assumptions made based on past experiences, hurt from other things going on that seep into interactions, illnesses colouring views.

And in knowing this, I’m able to be even more detached from the situation.

I’m able to step back and see that what is going on is impacted by a lot of stuff under the surface.

And while I knew this already, it was good to be reminded.

So the question remains, how do I react without sacrificing my one true life whilst acknowledging the complexities of the situation?

One to ponder on…


Thanks to Sara who supported me and bought me the coffee I enjoyed whilst writing this ❤️

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I’ve not been here

I’m aware that I’ve not written a blog in a good few weeks now. I’ve started a few – one about my choice to be vegan, one about death and rebirth and another about the connection to each other that I’ve sensed we’ve lost.

But none of them have felt right.

I’ve been asking myself why I haven’t been able to finish/share them.

Part of me knows that there’s a hesitation to be open about my recent experiences which are a bit ‘hippy dippy’ and unlike anything I’ve experienced before. Will you accept me? Will people think I’m crazy? Are these precious, new things right to share as they unfurl within me?

Another part of me doesn’t want to alienate anyone (or perhaps make anyone uncomfortable) in sharing why I don’t eat meat, dairy or any other animal products. Or my controversial (and privileged) views about how we should consume less and step into different ways of being that hurt the planet less.

I shy away from confrontation and I know that writing about these issues can trigger responses in people that are not comfortable for me. And they might reflect things about myself that I’m not comfortable with – my white, middle-class privilege, for example.

I’ve also been hibernating to nourish myself so I can be present for those I love who are going through hard times – a friend whose child is very sick and has been on the brink of death, friends going through relationship break-ups or those trying to cope with redundancies at the worst possible moments in their lives.

And I’ve been hibernating as I ask myself some fundamental questions about who I am, what I need from relationships and where I want to be focusing my energy and time.

I also feel a new chapter of my life start to emerge. One that is focused less on introspection – asking the big questions of myself and exploring my experience as a woman on this earth – and focused more on discovering (and creating) who I am in action and in the moment. 

So why am I sharing this with you?

Because I’ve been present on this blog, week in week out, for years now. And it doesn’t feel right to not be here without sharing why.

And because I sense this blog might change slightly in its focus (or I might even question whether it needs to be here at all going forward) and I needed to work this through out loud to you, my friend. To start planting the seed of ‘what is needed’ for me.

I’ve not been here, but I am still here.

So watch this space if you’re interested in what might come next.

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Ouch!

I was walking down the street a number of months ago, hurrying to pick up a last minute addition to my husband’s birthday presents and passed a father and his son. The son was walking in the same path as I was, and we both did that weird side-to-side shuffle, trying to avoid each other but failing miserably.

He ended up falling to the ground, tripping over my feet. Not hard enough to hurt himself, but he fell.

And the father looked at me angrily after I said ‘sorry!’ and said something I didn’t quite catch.

Perhaps a ‘watch where you’re going’ or something of the sort.

I was a bit shocked – it wasn’t really the fault of either of us – and felt taken aback by his response.

I’m sharing this with you because, unlike my usual reaction, I allowed myself to feel what was going on in my body. The slap-like feeling to my temple, pressure on my chest, the tightening of my throat, the twisting of my stomach.

I allowed myself to feel the hurt physically and it was a new experience for me.

One which I found really interesting.

Likewise, I’ve had a number of situations recently where I’ve felt stung by something someone has said, I’ve felt the hurt of being let down by another.

It links into a comment I’ve heard from a relationship podcast by Esther Perel:

There’s one word that can defuse a conflict with your partner: “Ouch.” As in: “Ouch. That one hurtI don’t know if you were meaning to hurt me; but it hurt.

Through experiencing the feelings that were pulsing through my body, I embodied the feelings.

I felt the ‘ouch’.

I acknowledged the injustice I felt at being snarled at by a stranger for what was an accident. Hurt by a comment. Felt insignificant by being second place.

And it defused the inner conflict I had. The part of me that would refuse to acknowledge what was going on and would push down the feelings deep inside.

I realised it was all about how I was feeling and ouch, it hurt!

On reflection, I think this might be the way fowards for me in dealing with all the emotions I have.

To sit in the pain and feel what’s going on for my body.

To feel into what’s going on for me physically as much as emotionally.

As I do that, I recognise my inter critic. The voice trying to keep me safe by saying ‘you’re not enough, retreat back to a place where you feel safe‘.

And in this moment I choose to instead return to my inner grounding. To recognise that I’m exactly enough for myself.

I see that my ego was hurt by feeling unjustly accused, unjustly hurt, unjustly disregarded.

And, again, when I return to my inner grounding, I hear quiet, powerful voices that say ‘we know it was an accident’, ‘we’re here to comfort you’, ‘we value you.’

I feel the pain and I let it go.

No more apologies

I’ve started to prioritise myself a bit more.

It started when I realised that I was carrying so much with work and motherhood, leaving no space for myself.

My mental health was suffering from not giving myself any room to breathe, to rest, to have joy in things that are my own.

And so I started to take the space I needed.

Thursday evenings are my own to rest, reflect, explore or connect with others and each month I take a longer period of time for myself. Whether that’s a night away or a longer time alone.

But I feel judgement – mostly self-judgement – about my motherhood not fitting into the archetypical experience of what is ‘should’ be.

And on some days, I feel brave and strong when I respond to the ‘don’t you miss him when you’re away from him’, the ‘don’t you feel guilty’ or the ‘I bet you’ll miss him when you’re on holiday’ with the truth.

That I don’t miss him all the time, I don’t feel guilty for taking time for myself and that sometimes I could do with more time alone.

And some other days I find it hard to step into the greater truth.

The truth motherhood hasn’t made me. It’s challenged me, pushed me, forged a new strength in me but it hasn’t been the bright star that has given me a purpose missing in my life before.  I was purposeful enough already.

The truth that I wasn’t made to be a mum, I’ve stepped into motherhood. And if anything I feel broken apart due to the stretching that comes with my universe having to encompass another person’s needs.

The truth that I find the routine of motherhood boring at times. The rhythms of my son wanting to spend hours playing with his cars, the 5:50am wake-ups and the splitting up conversations and connections as I rush over to him to keep him safe from a height, a surface or whatever trouble is just around the corner for him.

Don’t misunderstand me, my love for Jenson is as fierce as a lioness and I’m bowled over by the joy that he brings. Yet motherhood is not enough for me in itself.

I used to get mad at myself for not having it in me to fit into this perfect motherhood box.

And I used to feel a sense of failure about this all.

But now, instead of telling myself about all the ways that I’ve failed, I feel more angry with the world and our structures which set me up for failure.

The world makes it seem possible for us to have it all – work hard, parent hard – without the social structures around us to catch the bits that are impossible to do.

The world fails me.

The social constructs with attachment parenting talks about the vital importance of the mother to instil a wellbeing in the child. But where’s Gregg’s role in this model to comfort, to feed, to be our son’s centre of gravity until he finds his own?

Our models of understanding fail me.

Our very ways of being with each other as human beings which can polarise different views of motherhood – you only have to spend a moment on Facebook to witness this behaviour. Those who say ‘it’s not natural for children to be breastfed for so long’ and those who say ‘but have you really tried?’ when a mother decides to stop breastfeeding because it’s not working for her or her child.

Our inability to listen deeply to understand the other fails me.

Our expectation that social structures – from the patriarchal vision of ‘what women should be’ down to schooling which teaches the importance of external validation -passing exams – over following what lights you up.

Our society fails me.

And where does it leave me?

Set up to feel like a failure for not being able to be everything to everyone.

The story of my life, which would have, in years gone by, led me to just try harder feeling like the impossible was due to my ineptitude and would be solved if I only worked at it a bit more.

But instead I’m starting to walk a different way.

A way which challenges the ‘don’t you feel guilty’ by asking whether that’s a question that would be asked to a man…and if not, why should I be held to account for it?

A way where I declare, starting with this blog, that motherhood is an individual journey and no two are the same. I’m no less a ‘good’ mum because I want to work and find parts of the experience boring than a mum who wants to be the sole carer and is in rapture at everything their child does.

A way where I take more time for myself and don’t have to attribute it to how good it is for my son to see a strong woman taking time for herself. I do it because I want the time alone, I need the time alone. And that’s a good enough reason to take it.

I’m not going to apologise for my experience anymore.


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Brighton, I ❤️ you!

I’m sat in a coffee shop on this gloriously hot bank holiday Monday and am full of love for Brighton, the city I call home.

On a day like today it feels like I could be living abroad somewhere. The screech of the seagulls, the murmur of people on the streets, the bunting flapping gently in the breeze.

I love all the weird and wonderful things you can do in Brighton. The historical walks talking about important women of Brighton, 5k run and wine tasting (yes, that’s a thing!), psychodrama groups, volleyball…

I love how liberal we are as a city – waving our green flag with Caroline Lucas as our Member of the European Parliament, fighting against Brexit and speaking out in support of Greta Thunberg. She’s outspoken, radical, a force of good.

I love the community around me in Brighton. The conversations that spring up as I walk down the street and the families that I’m connected to. The nursery workers that look after Jenson with such love. The people I count on to look after my son in the absence of family close by.

I love how the Laines, a haven for independent shops, are thriving despite many high streets struggling to stay open. It’s great how people predominantly buy local here.

I love my hairdresser – the bomb – which I’ve gone to for close to 10 years. Still charging next to nothing for their work and doing so with a wicked sense of humour. When I went back to get my haircut for the first time after becoming a mother, I felt like a piece of myself was returning to me. And that was the same when they lopped off my hair a month or so ago, returning me to the pixie-cut Amy in which I feel truly myself.

I love how this city increasing reflects my vegan and ethical values – with delicious food to eat and zero-waste, fair trade shops springing up here, there and everywhere.

My vegan banana bread and oat latte from this morning

I’m also sad with the soaring levels of homelessness. The increasing numbers of people wandering the streets asking for money. Listening to Ross Kemp speak to Russell Brand about knife crime and homelessness, it feels like this is a hopeless situation borne of society’s safety net not being big enough to catch all of those in need.

But I have to hope that this will get better. I look to projects like the choir with no name, giving those who are homeless a chance to be more than someone struggling for their next fix or a place to stay. Creating a community and a hope for the future.

My city is by no means perfect, but it’s perfectly wonderful to me.


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