Tag Archives: UK

Twenty films about fighting poverty in the UK

Over the past year I’ve been carrying out a project to make 20 films – yes 20 – about fighting poverty here in the UK.  The scale of the task was a little crazy given that I work part-time and also have to travel overseas with some regularity, but as the project draws to a close I can honestly say it’s been brilliant.

The idea behind the project was to tell the stories of some of the UK projects Tearfund has supported over the past 15 years (you might have noticed that we’re much better at talking about the overseas work), and to pool their wisdom and experience to help others (you!).  And so I have spent a year visiting some extraordinary and courageous and, frankly, deeply spiritual (but-all-in-different-ways) people.

[The following links will take you to each film].

There was Hope Corner in Runcorn where a tiny band of visionaries are revolutionising education and expanding the horizons of their local young people; there was the impressive Springfield Project in Birmingham, working out of a church and ministering to the predominantly Muslim community that surrounds them, who so impressed the government that they were petitioned several times to become a Sure Start Centre.  We went to Croydon where Reachin’ Higher have been working creatively and energetically with young people for more than ten years, rewriting the reputations of the rioters.  We headed out to Green Pastures and met the legendary Pastor Pete who introduced us their vision of helping the church end homelessness in this country (they have the best website – they won an award which confirms it) through inventive, entrepreneurial tactics.  We strolled across the hills of Derbyshire with Hazel from Good News Family Care and listened to the stories of families who had been restored and healed through their compassion and faithfulness (and horse-riding).

Then we stopped and took a deep breath.  And had a summer holiday (ahem, went to film in Thailand and Australia and then did a month of shows at the Edinburgh festival).

Next it was out to Northern Ireland to hear how Knocknagoney Parish Church had taken a lead in transforming their community, seeing crime figures fall from the highest to some of the lowest in Belfast; then onto Cornwall, one of the poorest regions in Europe, to encounter the humility and steadfastness of DISC, opening their doors daily to vulnerable adults and looking for ways to help.  Just up the road in Liskeard was Greenbank Care with a vision to care for the enormous, often isolated, elderly population in Cornwall, and we saw dancing and games and hugging and love across the generations.  Closer to home, we spent a day in Ilford at the beautiful Welcome Centre (oh no! this is the only unfinished film!), a drop-in Day Centre, where local councillors and former clients were queueing up to tell us how special the place was, and we were blown away by the passion and integrity of Sonia and her team.

And then the last one.  How amazing it was to travel the length of the country (apologies to Wales & Scotland who we didn’t reach this time) and to end up on my own doorstep.  The final project we visited was Pecan in Peckham, where half the volunteers I met came from my own church.  It was a bit like The Wizard of Oz where you go on a long journey only to end up back at home (having made many strange new friends and learnt all kinds of things).  And perhaps it was a little nudge to get stuck in locally.

So I’ll end this post by introducing you to our local project:

The observant amongst you will have noticed that I only listen ten films.  The ten are part of a project called The Ten Keys, and each film is devoted to a different piece of advice for running your own project.  For more info, have a look here.

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Eating Green

Yes, drum roll, it’s another instalment of…

the greenish life

Another blog about how we are attempting to live in a collaborative, ethical, earth-friendly kind of a way, minimising our damage of the planet and the waste of resources.

So, a few days on from the launch of the UK-wide IF campaign, it seems like it would be topical to talk about food.

(What? You haven’t heard of IF?  Quick, have a look here.  It’s a massive national campaign to address the huge justice issues that mean that nearly one billion people go to bed hungry every night and two million children die from malnutrition every year.  Important, yes? Sign up!)

Trying to tackle the gargantuan realities of unjust trade laws, land grabs, unsustainable farming, child labour, corruption and tax dodging through your weekly food shop is clearly ambitious.  And optimistic.  And most of all, complicated.

It often feels a little pointless when there’s a Tesco on every corner.  But I stubbornly believe in doing things not just because we hope they will change the world.  I do them for the sake of my own soul (and body).  And because I’m the only one I can change.

So here is a list of four ways we try to shop and eat in a greenish manner, and why.  They are not the ‘right answer’, but more a snapshot of where we have got to as we wrestle through the shedloads of options and information out there.

1. We try to assess cost in a holistic way.

Being raised by a Scottish mother means I have an eye for a bargain.  Andy will similarly gravitate to the ‘reduced to clear’ section of any given shop (much faster than me).  So I have a moral compass that says it is always right to spend as little as possible.  But that becomes complicated when spending as little as possible means that other people suffer: farmers haven’t been paid fairly; poorly waged children have worked in factories or fields to make the saving possible; dangerous chemicals have been used to make crops more durable.  There are other costs that I am forcing others to pay.

Now spending more is no guarantee of those factors not being present.  But taking up those clichéd middle-class shopping habits of buying fair-trade and organic – for those who are able financially – seems to me a better choice, and a way to influence the market towards that kind of production.

This week's fruit and veg box.  So far the contents have made it into veggie lasagne, pizza and soup. (The weird one is celeriac).

This week’s fruit and veg box. So far the contents have made it into veggie lasagne, pizza and soup. (The weird one is celeriac).

For us that means a fortnightly organic fruit & veg box, and we also stock up on other locally produced basics – eggs, milk (the amount of hormones constantly injected into milk-producing cows in order to keep them perpetually pregnant is horrifying, hence we have switched to organic milk), some meat and fish.  The added cost means we probably eat a bit less than we used to, especially when it comes to snacks.

It’s a full-time job to source everything locally and organically (I only work part-time, and it’s too much for me) – which is why companies like Riverford/Abel & Cole and even some of the better supermarkets like Ocado – are very helpful…especially when they deliver.

2. We only eat meat at weekends.

I once participated in a debate over vegetarianism at Tearfund, one I (shamefully) didn’t take very seriously.  I seem to remember using bacon as my main argument.  But hearing the other side, hearing arguments about our unsustainable level of meat production around the world, convinced me that some big habits need to change.  The environmental cost of eating meat every day is just too high.  It’s a tough habit to break, so we have given up meat Monday to Friday, meaning that when we eat meat on the weekend we can afford to buy organic/free-range meat.

(It is possible that you have spotted the husband eating meat on a weekday lunchtime.  He would like me to emphasise that he is in theory behind the habit-change but is working on his follow-through…)

3. We try to minimise the links in the chain between earth and table.

When I first travelled overseas with Tearfund, to Brazil in 2006, one of the things that took me by surprise was how much I loved the closer connection between land and table.  What we ate in small rural communities was usually what we had seen growing outside (or running through the yard).  I realised just how many complex processes (and journeys) separated what I ate in London from where it had come from.  I miss the connection.

Amazing magic bread dough (thanks River Cottage) which is super-easy and makes delicious garlic bread and pizza

Amazing magic bread dough (thanks River Cottage) which is super-easy and makes delicious garlic bread and pizza.

So there are a few things we do to reinstate it.  We try to grow veggies and herbs on our tiny balcony (more on that one in a future blog – we live round the corner from a great garden farm who do free gardening lessons).  We try to buy British (see point 1).  I try to make things from raw ingredients rather than get them ready-made (it is easier when you work part-time).  We avoid heavily-processed food.



4. We are trying to simplify our tastes and be more grateful

This one might seem a little a strange, and Andy is much better at it than me.  There is such a raft of exotic and extraordinary food on sale everywhere, and for someone whose emotional well-being is strongly connected to her diet, it’s pretty exciting.  I could eat a different style of cuisine every night of the week.  But when you can always eat anything, nothing feels special.  It’s harder to appreciate the simple things and be grateful for them.    So we are trying to impose some limits.

Andy never used to like drinking plain old water, but over time he has resolutely trained his body to drink little else (I am trying…).  He has taken to eating plain porridge for brekkie very day. He doesn’t buy booze because it is an expensive habit.  He only drinks tea if he’s at your house and you want to make him some, and never coffee.  Now I happen to really enjoy coffee and red wine, but I’ve drunk less wine at home since we’ve been married  – we only really drink it with other people.  It has become more of a treat.

Here is some veggie pizza we made from the bread dough. Mmmm.

Here is some veggie pizza we made from the bread dough. Ok, it won’t make it into a food magazine anytime soon, but it tasted good.

I’ll be honest that I find this one harder because I derive more pleasure from food than he does.  But simpler doesn’t mean less fun.  It just involves a bit of retraining to appreciate things that are less complicated.

I’m on a journey with it.

I would love to hear what you do to try to shop and eat green.  (Do you forage?  Do you eat all your left-overs? Do you have a wormery? )


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On being a hopelessly amateur helper

It’s been 3 days since I cam be back from Liberia but I am still re-acclimatising to the blustering wind and rain sweeping through the UK.  Much as I love my home, I so often feel like I am in a permanent bracing position, steeling myself against the elements, battling through the city streets with my shoulders hunched and head down.

It’s a posture that keeps my focus on me and my battles.  I zone in on my own fight to get home and I fail to notice what is happening around me, or to stop and reflect on it.

And I don’t want that to be how I live and move through the neighbourhood, even in the winter.  I want to see the potential for good things, I want to know what the needs are, I want to be part of things going in a good direction for everyone who lives here. The truth is, I feel desperately unqualified, not least by how little I notice outside of my own concerns.

One thing I have noticed is that in the last few months a woman called Sonia has taken up residency outside our local tube station, where she sits in all weather, begging from commuters.  She has been on the street more than a decade which, from my limited understanding of homelessness, is an unusually long time for a woman.  Even on the days when I just hurry past her, I realise that I hate how she’s out in the cold so much.  If I think some more, I puzzle as to why she doesn’t seem able to access the support that many London projects offer.  On a good day, I’ll stop and leave the theory aside.  But besides buying her hot dinners and sitting to chat to her, I don’t know how to help.

Thinking about her reminded me of a trip I took a few months ago to Cornwall, to a drop-in centre started by a church.  You might remember that I blogged about them here.  What I loved about them was their straightforwardness.  One Christmas, they had their eyes opened to the needs on their doorstep and they responded.  They still don’t know how to meet all the needs they encounter (although they’ve found some great people and resources to help them with a bunch of issues), but they want to, and that’s always their starting place.

Here’s the film I made about them.  I hope they inspire you too.

And if you’ve any advice about our new friend, I’d be glad to hear it.

DISC Camborne from Integral Mission on Vimeo.

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2012: the year that was

It seems to be normal in the world of blogging to round up an old year with your favourite posts from the past year.  I know I’m coming to the party late.

Looking back on the year, and the blogs I have written, it’s impossible not to feel amazingly grateful at all the places I have been able to visit, and the projects and (more importantly) people I have encountered.13122012patzun0011

So I’m starting the new year in gratitude for the old.  Here are my favourite posts (and my readers’ favourites) from the past 12 months of life at The Good Stuff (all of which you can now find here).

Here goes:

Screen Shot 2012-07-16 at 14.53.28

This year I was most inspired by my friends in UNOH in Bangkok, our Tearfund partners at Good News Family care in Buxton, Hope Corner in Runcorn and DISC in Cornwall and the extraordinary work of Pamela Leon in Guatemala.  More than ever before I was totally inspired by the organisation I work for, and realised that I love my job.

When Helping HurtsIn July I was thinking about how believing shabby stories about the world helps nobody.

In September I was in Switzerland with Micah Network and a raft of professional poverty-fighters from around the world, and I found myself challenged about why it matters that we take things personally.

In October the husband and I took a holiday to Devon rather than Cyprus, and I wrote about why I think that life is richest when we live within limits.

In November my beautiful niece Amelie was born and I wrote her a letter.

It was also a year for theatrical adventures and over the summer I wrote about how we formed our theatre company, and then what most inspired me during our adventures in Edinburgh.

This is the four of us who got the couch.

This is the four of us who got the couch.

I wrote a post about one of my favourite Sundays in 2012 with our local community.

And finally, I ended the year in the USA with family and friends where the snow followed us across three states, and I thought all about my addiction to consumerism.

What a great year.  Stay tuned for 2013.





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A handful of hope

This post is bringing you a little round-up of the things that have inspired me this past week, the things that reassure me that there is good in the world still. I’m about to head off to Burkina Faso to make a short film about how churches are working with their local communities to bring positive change.  I hope I’ll return with some good stories, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be offline all week. So in the meantime…

This is a short film about the power of writing handwritten letters, and, more than that, the hunger we have for people to be present with us when things are tough, however that is transmitted…(actually see comments below for the link).

You might remember I wrote a post a few months ago about Knocknagoney, on the edge of Belfast.  It’s a loyalist community and had one of the highest crime rates in Northern Ireland, but since the church started bringing the different community groups together things have totally changed (and crime figures have dropped).  This article talks about the film we made and the impact it’s having, and there’s also a link to the film.

This week we said goodbye at work to an amazing colleague who’s been at Tearfund more than a decade.  She recently adopted two sisters who were 4 and 5 and after a year of parental leave has decided not to come back to her demanding job. I keep returning to what a brave and beautiful thing she has done, for all the sleeplessness she is enduring and the past trauma she is helping her girls to work through. My friend Kelley wrote a beautiful reflection recently entitled Tread Softly on my Adoption which feels important.

And finally I came across a brilliant project through a friend who’s involved, called Scene & Heard.  They mentor kids at schools in Somers Town in London and help them to write plays which professionally actors then perform.  Have a look:

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Old school kindness

Last week I went to my tenth Tearfund UK project to do a final day of filming for the epic Ten Keys Project.

We were in Ilford, and we interviewed a man from the council.  I asked him to jot down his job description for me and it took 8 lines of my notebook.  (It wasn’t a large notebook, but still).  I asked him why he’s worked in the Housing Department of Redbridge council for twenty odd years.  And he said, self-deprecatingly, that it was because he was “old school”, meaning that he wanted to work to improve services in his community and make things better.  And stick at it.

We spoke to another guy in the Housing Department, because they were queuing up to praise the project we were filming, known as The Welcome Centre.  He said that there are a bunch of services working with people who are homeless, but what marks out this project is their persistent kindness, no matter how often people fall back into bad choices.  Rough sleepers are a hard group to work with, a fragile and often entrenched community who frequently resist support and certainly have no time for the bureaucracy of council services.

(To access help from the Housing Department you need ID and proof of eviction to get past reception.  It’s hard to get a nice letter from your wife explaining why she threw you out).

The Housing Department couldn’t get these people to come to them, so the department staff went to The Welcome Centre (which was set up by a local church).  They knew that the town’s rough sleepers felt safe and welcome there, so it was the only place they could go and talk to them and find ways to help them.  Having been to both of their buildings I can honestly say that I would choose the Welcome Centre every time as well.

The new Welcome Centre, funded by the government’s ‘Places of Change’ initiative

The project itself was brilliantly inspiring (staffed by some amazing women with fiery compassion and great wisdom) but I keep returning to those two men from the council.  They weren’t especially prepossessing or charismatic, probably just what you might imagine civil servants to look like.  But they were faithful.  They were in it for the long haul. They hadn’t been neutered by the bureaucracy of local government.  They were working away in overheated, decaying, depressing office blocks, amidst ever-increasing cuts, and they were keeping going, eager to find news ways to support people who are hard to help.  And they were championing this brilliant ray of light that is The Welcome Centre, trying to find them funding and to look for news ways to partner with them.

It reminds me David Hare’s play, Skylark, and some impassioned, angry words from the main character, Kyra (with some expletives removed):

You only have to say the words ‘social worker’…’probation officer’… ‘counsellor’… for everyone in this country to sneer.  Do you know what social workers do?  Every day?  They try and clear out society’s drains.  They clear out the rubbish.  They do what no-one else is doing, what no-one else is willing to do.  And for that, oh *****, do we thank them? No, we take our own rotten consciences wipe them all over the social worker’s face, and say, ‘If –‘****! – ‘if I did the job, then of course if I did it…oh no, excuse me, I wouldn’t do it like that…’

I’m not owning up to being that angry on a regular basis, but there’s something ugly about the contempt we show for these kinds of jobs, how quick we are to dismiss, or critique. And there’s something tragic about how society is moving further away from valuing them (kids only want to be glamour models and footballers now, apparently).  I don’t remember ever having the first clue what a social worker did or how you might become one.

So today’s post it talking up the people who work for good in the council.  The people who sit on committees.  The people who work in local government to make things better.  The social workers and support workers.  What honourable work you do.

There’s something to be said for old school kindness.

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I love lunch

I write “I love lunch” optimistically, full of faith and hope because if I’m honest lunch is usually the weakest contender in ‘meal of the day’. (It’s normal to review the day’s meals and compile a leaders board, right?)

Too often I’m out of the house, unprepared, grabbing something on the fly, pacing the streets of Teddington in search of anything that isn’t an overpriced panini.

But I am hopeful, because I have just invested some birthday money in an exciting book: River Cottage Veg Everyday by Hugh Fearnley-Whatsisface.  Part of my journey on living within limits brings me to the question of food.  Is meat-eating basically a terrible environmental catastrophe in the making?  (Pretty much, at current levels anyway). I posted on Facebook, asking for recommendations of books that might convert me to the green side, and received all kinds of responses.  These ranged from “Don’t do it!” to diet book recommendations (once I worked out people weren’t just calling me a ‘skinny bitch’ – it did seem unlikely), to a handful of ethical reflections and then the practical advice of my friend Dave: “Honestly, get the Hugh Fernley-W book. Skip the theory, and get some good recipes!!”.  And so I did.  And I’m cooking up a storm in the kitchen.

Saying that, I was hoping to write this post earlier, only the night I returned, recipe book in hand, to greet my organic veg delivery and get cracking, I was devastated to discover that the veg had been delivered while my husband was asleep, and so they had been rescued by our faithful next door neighbour Frank, except he had now gone out for the evening.  I was grumpy and there was no vegetarian food to photograph.

But here was today’s lunch:

Ribollita. It’s a kind of hearty soup.

It’s called ribollita and it was great, although perhaps not the most appealing meal to have photographed?

Anyway, we’re now officially veggies from Monday-Friday, and so far I haven’t even eaten meat this weekend.

The other reason to blog about lunch is because of this BRILLIANT new film about a project my friend Rachel helps to run, called LUNCH.  “There are children around this country who are only eating if their school provides them with a meal” she says.  1.2million children in the UK are registered for free school meals, but there is no provision for them in school holidays.  That’s where this nifty and amazing project comes in.  Get involved.

Lunch from Matt Bird on Vimeo.

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Hope on the final frontier (the wild west of England)

I decided not to come back to London (despite all my protestations in favour city living).  Well, not for a few more days.

In fact, after leaving Devon, I moved further west and was ensconced for 48 hours in luscious Cornwall.

Cornwall, to me, is clotted cream and ice-cream and the Eden Project and the beach.  It’s best known and loved for holidays.  One of my friends and colleagues grew up by the beautiful beaches of Hayle (we actually holidayed at her family home last year which was idyllic) and she would love to live there still.  Only there is hardly any work.  Cornwall is one of the most deprived regions in Europe.  It even qualifies for poverty-related grants from the EU.

I went to hear stories from two great groups of people running projects in the region that are trying to push against the tide of increasing deprivation.  It’s a rough battle right now, with so many cuts.  We started out in Camborne, hosted by the seemingly indomitable vicar of the parish church, Mike Firbank.  He rocked up five years ago and started talking about how the church should be helping the community out.

On location with my photographer…(so glamorous)

Shortly afterwards a congregation member was in town for a meeting and nipped into the local public toilets.  He found a group of men huddled around the hand-driers, trying to keep warm, nowhere else to go.

Shocked and heart-sore, he knocked on the vicar’s door.  They talked.  And on Christmas Eve they opened the church hall for a Christmas dinner for anyone with nowhere to go.  And the doors have never really shut since then.

They called themselves DISC, which stands for Drop In and Share Centre, and it’s a simple idea.  They run a drop in centre when anyone is welcome – those often excluded elsewhere by nature of their addictions and behaviour, or those who are just a little lonely. When people arrive they’re offered a cup of tea and a chat, and some help if they want it.  They don’t prescribe specific kinds of problems they will solve, or promise to know what the answer is.  But they will try, and they will search out people who have more expertise and experience than they might.

It’s a safe, stable place.  A shelter, a rock, a hiding place.  Somewhere you can trust.  The staff’s stories are of long, difficult journeys taken with people, of disappointments and heart-breaking relapses and of beautiful steps towards change and hope.

One of the things they run is a foodbank.  They provide emergency food as a stop-gap for families who find themselves suddenly in the lurch.  Their benefits don’t come through, or change, and there is no income for a few weeks.  It’s inscrutable how one of the richest countries in the world can still leave its own people starving.  And just recently working families have starting turning up at the foodbank because they just can’t afford to feed their kids.  It doesn’t bode well for the year ahead, and Mike reckons the worst is yet to come.

DISC are suffering from all the cuts.  They’re having to scale back, even as the needs are getting more critical.  I want to turn it around, I want the church across this country to step in and step up and join in, even as I know that so many of them are on their own journeys deeper into all of this already.  I want to shake the bureaucrats making the cuts and make them see what it’s doing to people.

I ask Lorna, the Centre Manager, how they keep going, and keep hoping that things will improve.  She shakes her head.  We see train crashes, she says, we see them all the time.  We see people in crisis.  But we’re there at the other side of it too.  The crash isn’t the end of the story; we’re there to see every tiny step forward that they take afterwards.  And that’s where hope becomes something real.

And to put it in their own words, here’s a short video they made of Mike introducing their work:

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Return from Oz

I just switched off for a week.  Well done to me (and the husband).

I’m fresh back from holiday, from 7 days of blustery beach walks and lie-ins, leisurely swims and horse-rides, cream teas and Sunday roasts (well, one of each), croquet, table-tennis and a lovely yoga class with the middle-aged ladies of Woolacombe.   I have read books and gazed out of windows and slumbered and journalled.  I have cooked hearty dinners and supped red wine.  I have noticed birds singing (loudly) in the trees around me and I have stopped to look at views.  I have learnt to reverse back along narrow country lanes to the nearest passing point.

This is where we were, looking out towards Baggy Point

If you want to do the same then head straight for the gorgeous Pickwell Manor in North Devon run by some great friends of mine: two families living in community together, trying to live sustainably and generously and to create a space for you to come and unwind.

I’m a big fan of rest, of building big blocks of it into life, of taking your foot off the accelerator and remembering that there is something more to life than ceaseless forwards momentum.  Amazingly, and wonderfully, I find that it all keeps going without me.

Part of what I wanted to do this last week was wrench my attention from the future and sink it back into the now.  I hate how I’m always about the next thing, always planning, organising, keeping things on track, rather than being fully present – and alive, and grateful – in the right now.  I took with me the book Present Perfect by Greg Boyd to help.  I love the imagery he uses from the Wizard of Oz – how we’re always looking for something which we already have:

You’re dreaming about what’s over the rainbow, in some mythical land of Oz, and this is the very thing that’s keeping you from experiencing the love and joy that’s already round you in Kansas.

He’s not telling me my life is already everything I ever want it to be, but that the things that matter most are already mine, so I can stop chasing them.  Phew.

He writes about giving a talk along those lines to a youth group once, only to be challenged by a frustrated parent afraid that their child will never achieve anything unless they are driven; ambitious; feeling a lack that would need to be satisfied by attainment, success, whatever.  A hole.

I don’t want to be driven by a hole in me. I don’t want to believe that the only thing that will drive my children to contribute to the world is their own sense of incompleteness.

What if I have enough, now?  What if I am free, and loved, and worth something now?  Can I believe that, not just on special holy days, but every day?

As I write I’m staying with friends who have a four year old son – a beautiful, exuberant, chatty little man currently making brownies with his mum.  Playing cars with him yesterday uprooted me right out of my planned afternoon activities and what I was counting on accomplishing.  And it was ok.  It reminded me that real rest, and stopping, is only possible when we can let go of that drivenness, that neediness, and be ok just with who we are and where we are.  Which is hard when we’re frankly so flawed and needy. I think it must be hard to get to that place without God (but maybe you have?).

Of course it’s all easier outside of London and all my normal routines, so I’ll get back to you about how it goes when I’m back.

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Confessions of a reluctant city-slicker

I’ve been getting into the blogosphere more recently.  (Currently my favourites are Lulastic, Sarah Bessey, A Beautiful Mess and Godspace if you’d like a recommendation).  But I’m developing a worrying habit.   Somehow I am gravitating more and more towards American or Canadian mothers-of-small-children, living in big houses (by my British standards, I think it’s pretty normal out there) with outside space and animals and a love for home-baking and instagraming.

I’m not sure it’s good for me.

I dream sometimes of space. Storage space to begin with. Just a couple of large cupboards would do it, somewhere to stash the guitars. But then, there’s also a wild fantasy I have of outside space. Maybe a garden where I could grow veggies, and keep chickens if I ever overcame my fear of birds.  It could even include a view of mountains or a lake.  Actual safe space for kids to run and play in. Maybe a tree which I could hang a swing from (if I ever worked out how to make a swing).   Sometimes I get carried away and I fantasise about clean air, and time moving more slowly, and no big distractions but plenty evenings of staying in and laughing and talking. And sitting on the porch (does anyone in England ever sit in their porch? My only experience of English porches in that they’re quite cold and small and glassy).

We’re at the age where lots of friends are leaving London.

We all come here after university, in search of jobs and independence and culture and wanting to be part of something big.  And it is exciting (when it’s not lonely), it’s full and it’s fast-moving.  And then we hit our 30s and suddenly it’s too depressing how expensive houses are, and do you want to drag a buggy up 4 flights of stairs every day, and can you really keep living at this pace, and do you want your kids to go to inner-city schools, and maybe we’ve done London now.  The mass exodus out of the city takes place.

Can you tell I am grieving?

The thing is, I get it, it’s all for healthy reasons.  I want the space and calmness too.  Why would anyone in their right mind chose to live in the biggest city in Europe?  It’s full up. I mean the culture and everything is great, but I could easily take a year off art galleries and theatre trips now.

And it’s getting more lonely in the city.

This week I edited a film that made me remember why we stay.  Here’s a little clip.  It’s our mate Ash Barker who lives in the biggest slum in Bangkok with his family and who has just done a PhD on ministry in slums.

More and more, the inner cities are left to the super-rich and the poor. Who don’t often “mesh well together” (to quote Clueless).  And if the half of the world may well be living in cities by the middle of the century, I think a bunch of us need to stay and find a way to do it well and work for good, and get to know our neighbours, and help make the schools better (or whatever needs some help).  A grand ambition, I’m sure we’ll fail in countless ways, but this is our plan.

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