Day 3 (from 04.08.2013: written at Camping Des Glaciers, Switzerland)

cab de l'a neuve

Tim walked up to the Cabane de l’A Neuve today. 2730m. 1100m climb from the campsite. The boys and I walked the Sentier des Cerfs. Walking to the Cabane is meant to take 3h30. It took Tim 1h45. Walking the Path of the Deers is meant to take 1h30. It took us 1h45. Mind you, the big little man walked the whole way himself. He’s only two and a half and he counted all the butterflies.

I am so impatient to be fit enough to do proper big mountain walks. To beast it upwards and really earn a spectacular view. I spent a couple of hours today trying to convince myself I could do Tim’s walk tomorrow with Tommy on my back. I got truly excited at the prospect of tramping across snow and heaving us up the final steep crevice for apricot tart and thé du glacier. And, along with the realisation that I either couldn’t do it or could but would be broken afterwards the jealousy descended. Frustration and disappointment at the physical limitations of my body.

But seven months ago I came to the end of a pregnancy whose later weeks were dominated by searing sciatica. The littlest’s journey into the world left me with a third degree perineal tear that had to be repaired in theatre. And for the first two months after that my sciatica worsened. Maybe I should have attached a warning at the beginning for the squeamish or those who thought this might be a holiday diary entry. I’ve yet to be discharged from physiotherapy for the pain from the tear and the sciatica only died down to a niggle rather than pain about two months ago. It left me frighteningly inflexible and I only managed to touch my toes without bending my knees the day before yesterday.

So, no bloody wonder my body doesn’t fancy three and a half hours of steep rocky climbing carrying 12kg mostly of baby.

Still, I can sit outside the camper van drinking wine so cheap that I keep expecting to find a penny in the bottom of my plastic mug* and gazing up at an enormous flipping alp that’s still got bits of snow on it.

*Yes, I went to a university where we dressed up as Hogwarts’ extras to eat crap, but silver-served food and downed any liquid into which someone had dropped a coin. No, I didn’t question the ridiculousness of this until many years after I left. Mainly, because it was great fun.

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30 x 10 (from 02.08.2013: blog has been a bit analogue recently)

A few weeks ago I resolved to write for at least ten minutes every day. That ran aground on day two.

It’s the 2nd of August. The perfect day to start a 30 Day Challenge that ends before September. I’m not as obsessed with these as my not as frequent as I’d intended blog would suggest. I had to double check whether I’d written about these before, having no idea that I have done so in consecutive posts.

30 Day Challenges. The way to make small changes to your life and lifestyle. The idea being that if you do something new or different every day for thirty days it will become habit. Alternatively you may never do it again. So far I’ve done 30 days of cold showers. Habit. 30 days dairy free. Not so much. 30 days of tidying up before bedtime. Didn’t even manage a week. I am thirty years old and I still half expect praise and pocket money for doing housework.

So let this be thirty days of writing. Writing anything. Dear diary. Limericks. Insightful and intelligent observations. Gossips. Dreams. Shopping lists. But ten minutes every day for 30 days. (I’m not committing to posting all of that dross here, just bits and pieces).

Day 1: check.

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30 days of challenge

First things first. The worms are not dead. Yet. They’re just going slow in the cold weather.

bread puddingSometime ago my consort and I (I just looked up husband in the thesaurus because it’s a word I don’t like, consort and monogynist were my favourite alternatives) watched a TED talk on how to change your habits or cultivate new ones. The speaker proposed setting yourself “30 day challenges” as a novel way of altering your routine. So for 30 consecutive days you eat less sugar, do thirty sit-ups, self-flagellate or similar and at the end you either have a virtuous new you or a trip to the confectionery aisle in your nearest supermarket.

Some of you may have noted my brief coverage of my 30 Day Cold Shower Challenge. I got 22 days in then came down with a stinking cold that I refused to believe was anything to do with my daily ice dousing, but which, nonetheless, curbed my enthusiasm. More recently the monogynist and I successfully completed a dairy-free month (apart from the accidental consumption of a teaspoon of marscapone on Day 21). We did it to investigate the oft exclaimed health benefits and to indulge our inner(inner? Who am I kidding?) geeks working out what we couldn’t eat and where we could get the missing nutrients. Our cupboards are now replete with pulses, figs and rice milk. And whilst I have gratefully returned to having milk in tea, I definitely felt less, well, phlegmy so I won’t be returning to the lactose-laden diet of lattes, cheddar and yogurt of yore.

This month’s challenge is more subtle and more linked to my objective of a cheaper greener second go at maternity leave. The single most difficult aspect of owning two small people is getting out of the house. Exiting the building feels like a pantomime directed by Frank Spencer. In my flustered state I often leave without food or water and end up buying lunch out. This is expensive. Another toddler-generated problem is food waste. Actually, if I’m totally honest, it’s not all his doing. When I forget to take the packed lunch and thereby let last night’s leftovers go off in the fridge I am contributing to that horrible statistic that a third of all food that is bought ends up in the bin. I confess to periodically having to go through the fridge in search of the source of that smell only to end up emptying several tupperware boxes into the bin. So March is a month of minimising food waste and food spending. Especially as the worms are on strike and we live in a block of flats so Hackney Council won’t compost our food waste.

The rules:

1. No accidental cafe lunches. We’re only allowed to eat out if that was part of the original plan for the excursion.

2. James’s leftovers are to be incorporated into the grown-ups’ meals. The exception to this rule is that food mixed with soil or play dough can be thrown away. Both of these have really happened at our kitchen table.

3. Meals must be sufficiently planned that leftovers get eaten not rotten.

So far so good, although my lack of organisation coupled with rule 3 have led to a few Dawson Dinners, so named because Grandpa D is unsurpassed in his avoidance of waste and has been known to keep solitary baked beans in old yogurt pots. Admirable, however I intend to get better at planning so we don’t have to have recent-meals-smorgasbord too often.

My proudest moment of waste-free March was making bread pudding out of all the heals I had diligently been putting in the freezer over the last three weeks. And now for the soggy bran flakes left over from the little man wanting, but not finishing, breakfast for dinner.


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Confessions of a lapsed blogger

ImageI’m not sure if you can be ‘lapsed’ after just three posts, but it’s been a while. I ambitiously started the blog whilst rather pregnant, which admittedly was kind of the point. Although life with second baby is proving vastly easier than first time round, I don’t magically have the spare time and energy I was optimistically hoping for.

Not only did blogging go out of the window, I also have some confessions to make vis à vis greenness.

Forgive me planet for I have sinned.

Confession 1.

Idolatry. The littlest man has skinny skinny legs and the over-pants I had were too big and excrement leaked everywhere and I was tired. Also the big little man has been back in nappies and claims the real nappies hurt. In my sleep deprived state I have worshipped at the altar of the false god Convenience and bulk bought Pampers.

Confession 2.

Murder. Well, voluntary wormslaughter through neglect. I haven’t fed or checked on them for at least four weeks. I think they’re probably dead. I keep putting off checking because I’ll have to do something about it if they are all dead. Help.

Confession 3.

Jealousy. Since our trailer and my bike got nicked, I’ve been coveting a shiny new Croozer Kid 2 and a sparkly Surly Long Haul Trucker. Hmm, should buy secondhand, really want new.

Now that I’m back online, I can recount the beginning of my repentance. Thanks to Hackney Real Nappy Network‘s Nappy Swap at Hackney Picture House on Wednesday I now have small enough over-pants for baby’s chicken legs and a renewed enthusiasm for using washable nappies. I’ve even got some nappies big enough for the jolly toddler giant to wear for naps and night-times (he is back on the potty wagon during the day). Three days on and we’ve had no leaks and nappy rash has disappeared.

I used the word enthusiasm in the last paragraph, the strength of said enthusiasm was fired even further when, at the Nappy Swap, I was handed a flyer promoting the Real Nappy Climate Week Flashmob planned for yesterday. I came home and announced to my husband that I thought I might become an activist. And what better way to start than by participating in my first flashmob, the protest medium du jour?

So, to raise awareness of the eco-merits of reusable nappies (disposables are the largest single-item household contributor to landfill sites) and to celebrate both Climate Week and International Women’s Day, the boys and I congregated with a dozen or so other parents on the Southbank. We went into the Royal Festival Hall, laid out a large banner reading “Real Nappies, Real Change”, then we changed the babies’ nappies and shouted our slogan. Not quite the Poll Tax Riots (the most anarchic it felt was when our photographers were quizzed by a security guard) but unexpectedly empowering. It was truly exciting and refreshing to shout about something I am growing to care more and more about and to feel the support of like-minded people. 

Now I just need to deal with the vermicide on the balcony and the bike lust.


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Green Fingers

So I’ve been devouring James Wong’s Homegrown Revolution and feverishly plotting what to grow on our North-facing balcony. Some of the pots that came with us from Walthamstow are looking a bit worse for wear, whilst others are thriving. We’ve got mint, rosemary and wild strawberries already on the edibles list, but I was childishly excited to discover that our bamboo and hostas are also food.

One last trip to B and Q before we sell our car (so I can have a lovely bike and trailer, Y-reg Peugeot 206, if you’re interested) furnished our small-holding with this unsightly, but brilliant water butt and our bathroom with a plastic hose for siphoning out the used bath water. I’ve also been keenly saving up kitchen waste water too. Frankly in this weather we produce more waste water than our currently relatively small crop can drink, even with our growing collection of water-loving ferns.

Actually, I have one more job for the car. Yesterday we went and pottered around Growing Concerns our beautiful, friendly, local garden centre by the canal and finally made up our minds and bought a stunning tree fern that I need to pick up. Not edible, but a deliciously primeval bulk to compete with/hide our monstrous plastic butt.

My next project is to source a wormery so we can compost our food waste and entertain Jim – there aren’t many creepy-crawlies or slimy wrigglers on the third floor. I’ve been obsessively reading reviews and am now paralysed by an ultimately arbitrary decision. Any deal-breaking recommendations – please let me know!

After that I’ll be looking to get hold of some elephant garlic and fiddlehead ferns, first on my list of things to attempt growing. And we’ve been plotting to make our own hanging baskets using chicken wire, butchers’ hooks and sacking. Watch this space for photos.

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Greener than thou

I have two fears surrounding outing myself as green. 1. That I will be broadcasting an open invitation to the world to point out every minute ungreen act/purchase/journey I make and 2. That I won’t be green enough to be accepted into the eco-warrior fold. I suspect fear no. 2 is largely unfounded. Fear no. 1, however, is another matter. Last night my husband accused me of leaving the tap running too long while I, Mrs Green, was brushing my teeth. And so it begins. So before anyone gets the impression that I am either a shining example or, worse, am a flawed-but-claiming-to-be-shining example I have a few confessions. At the time of publishing:

-I own a car, a dishwasher and a washer-dryer.

-I bought the little man’s winter clothes in Primark.

-I have 110 Pampers nappies leftover from a recent bulk-buy that I fully intend on using for nights.

Now I’ve got that off my chest, I can share the joys of my first week or so of using reusable nappies. I was pleasantly surprised to discover there’s no fussy folding and potentially prickly pinning involved anymore. The Motherease Birth to Potty nappies that I bought secondhand on ebay are shaped liked disposables with popper fastenings. Furthermore you don’t have to steep (I’ve never written that word before, it conjures up images of my grandma and I may have spelt it wrong) the used nappies in toxic sanitiser. I just rinse them and bung them in a lidded plastic box with a couple of drops of tea tree oil until I’m ready to wash them.

I thought being out and about might scupper my crusade, but I just carry a resealable plastic bag that’s big enough to contain two rinsed nappies.

There is no denying that it’s more work than using disposable nappies. But not much more. My small friend seems perfectly happy wearing them and hasn’t started waddling like a duck as I’d feared and they look rather cute. On top of the reduced land-fill contributions and the money saved, the little man is starting to learn to use the potty because he knows what it feels like to be wet. Seriously considering Elimination Communication Training with number two.

When some friends of mine said they’d watched a documentary about families that don’t use nappies at all, I completely poo-pooed this as madness. I take it back, after a bit of research, it seems like a plausible and practical and above all emerald green way of doing things. Watch this space in the New Year to see how we get on or how long I last before the carpet needs pulling up and I’m pulling my hair out.

Next time: North-facing balcony small-holding…

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Maternity Leave Mk 2

I didn’t really manage to go back to work after my first go at maternity leave (not out of conscious choice) here I am seven months pregnant and contemplating at least another year off work. I’ve loved the last 20 months but also found it difficult. Babies don’t offer much in the way of conversation for the first year or so and even now it’s pretty monosyllabic. They are magic though.

This time round I resolve to make a better job of my time as a stay at home mum. I mean a better job for me, something more fulfilling, I need a project. Today in the library I picked up two books on a whim:

“green babycare” by Susannah Marriott and “How to afford time off with your baby” by Becky Goddard-Hill.

I’ve only skimmed through the first one so far. I want to be greener. I am shocked by the waste involved in conventional child-rearing. I am also tired, skint and put off by the holier-than-thou perception I have of the green brigade.

I have attempted and abandoned reusable nappies once already. I briefly tried to wash and reuse wipes that only had food or wee on. Neither of these attempts lasted because:

– we didn’t have the space for bins and buckets of dirty fabric.

-if you’re out and about all day, lugging soggy toweling nappies around town is impractical and a bit gross.

-toweling nappies take ages to dry and take up lots of space while they do.

I considered biodegradables, but they seem expensive.

Anyway my conscience is newly pricked. I’m going to have another go. We are lucky enough to have a lot more space now.

So this blog will be my account of trying to simultaneously reduce our impact on the planet, reduce our spending, have fun in London with two small people and retain the majority of my marbles.

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