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Lizz Roe – June

10/08/2010

This month the plan is to do something free at least twice a week – preferably every other day and start a world wide campaign! OK you might think I’m joking but it’s not impossible! Everyone has to start somewhere – even Gandhi.

OK – stuff about free stuff first – Monday is sometimes pub quiz night and Sundays I often go to Quaker meeting – but there are loads of other things I could do; choirs, crafts, art gallery openings, theatres, concerts, gardens, walks, classes, museums, festivals, fairs, fetes – I bet there’s masses. At the start of the year I started picking up leaflets so I have an idea of the sorts of websites I can look at.

There are all kinds of books which advocate ways of living free – perhaps the most famous of the current crop is ‘how to be free’ by Tom Hodgkinson. His book is a lyrical exposition of the joys of avoiding wage slavery and enjoying liberty. Another more recent book is ‘Free’ by Katherine Hibbert – this includes the authors’ endeavors over a year to just live for free, housing, travel, food, everything. It’s amazing what she achieves though at times she sounds a bit miserable.

I spent nearly 6 years living on a boat and working part time. There were many things about this that were frugal, sustainable (not always the same thing) and very enjoyable. Because why live free if it makes you miserable? I have one or two friends who live on the breadline not through choice and there’s nothing fun about it. But if it’s a choice then living frugally, or for free, or not as a wage slave is much more enjoyable.

I think about simple living quite a bit – I’ve taught courses on this a number of times. Perhaps this is because of that old saying – ‘we work in areas of our own greatest need’. As a child we didn’t have much money so I didn’t have much in the way of material things but we did lots of fun stuff – climbing over iron age hillforts, going to free fetes, static caravaning in britain, walking in the woods, building sandcastles in the rain, flying kites (also often in the rain). as an adult I think I’ve worked quite hard to become financially secure but I have begun to see that I am a bit of a workaholic. This often happens if you work in the education, voluntary sector or caring professions, and as I work within my faith community it can sometimes seem like I have only a tiny life outside of Quakerism. At the same time as knowing that I am financially OK (barring disaster) I also know that I could work less and still have enough for my normal outgoings (especially now I have the sainted allotment) but I like my job so doing less might be counter-productive. But I have been reminded as I anticipate this month of the joy of just doing free and simple stuff alongside or instead of spending ££.

As well as doing the free stuff I’m keeping a record of what I spend this month – I do know that when I buy things it’s often a book or two. So one of the things I have been doing this year is keeping track of everything I read (see separate list – Lizz Roe’s Good Book Guide) last year every time I bought a book I got rid of one, I’m not doing that this year but each time I read a book I write it down. What this has shown me is that about a third of all the books I read are re-reads, and as I read about a book a day that’s ‘worth’ a lot! I’m also using the local library now – as it’s close to the allotment this is very useful. The tetrapack recycling place is also near the allotment – so I’m having a trip there once every few weeks too.

Spending money is a funny business – I’ve said this before I know – but consumption of energy, resources, material things is all tied up together. There’s a great book called ‘status anxiety’ which talks about the ways in which we measure our own status – the argument is that we do this in all kinds of different ways which are usually linked to the extent to which we do or don’t live up to our own preferred consumption pattern (which is part of our identity formation). So I probably link my ‘status’ and ‘identity’ to books and what’s in them and well, what else? I’ll ask around.. and see what others say about this..

OK I asked a few other people about how they would describe me (the key bits that made up my identity as they saw it) – a knitter, a cyclist, a simple-living person, quite eco, a good teacher, an activist, someone who wears too much pink, a gardener, a vegan, a bit odd but quite nice, a permaculture gardener, a busy person, a Quaker, someone who makes some of their own clothes, someone who raves about camping (I do love camping – is it lurking with-in-tent?) and someone who reads a lot. I think that’s pretty accurate. So if these things do add up to to at least a strong part of my identity and if my status is tied up with being perceived as doing/being any of these things then it’s probably not surprising that I invest in them – time, energy and resources. I guess this is a bit of a circular thing – I do these things so I am seen as doing these things, this is reflected back to me – I like what I hear, I feel it confirms my sense of self (and therefore status) so I keep doing them and so on. I noticed that there were some things that people said that I know I used to do more of and this has reminded me that I like being that person so it has encouraged me to do them again!

Perhaps what’s missing is what we could call ‘the congruence gap’ – what are the things I wish I did that I don’t do, or vice versa, that I do do but I wish I didn’t and which people either don’t know about or which I don’t talk about so much, or which people were too kind to comment on. Hmm. What should I own up to – I probably have too many DVD’s, And I succumb to ice cream every once in a while, and have slid back into being more vegetarian than vegan (silly because dairy doesn’t agree with me), and I’m more traditionally built than I should be (for health rather than fashion), and I have flown too much this year and it’s only June. So I do have a gap between what I do and what I want to do! And this probably contributes at some level to not feeling good about myself or at the least not very good about my behaviour.

There’s all kinds of writing on this, and on what ultimately might actually make us happy. But I was struck by the book ‘the spirit level’ which is about economic inequality – inequality in any society is bad for everyone and the greater the degree of inequality the worse overall for everyone. This society is pretty awfully unequal economically, socially, spiritually, I could go on. I wonder if this also works for individuals – the greater the extent to which we don’t feel equal to our own aspiriations or behaviours the worse we feel? Or perhaps the more uneven, unbalanced, incongruous or unequal we feel about how we live and how we’d like to live the less happy we are. I realise this could mean that if we want a Ferrari and don’t have one we might feel miserable, but likewise if we really want to make a positive contribution or some kind of difference but feel impotent and powerless we’ll feel pretty miserable too.

So, I ask myself, ‘what can I do?’ I recently got asked to come and do a talk about eco stuff because the person had heard me before and was dead impressed by how positive, joyful and loving I was about responding to climate change’ cor, that’s nice feedback isn’t it? I felt pretty humbled by it. But I do feel positive – there’s just a world of possibility (as well as a world of unmitigated crap too, I’m not a total pollyanna – but you know about all of that dire stuff I’m sure), I’m sure there is something more I can do, something that harnesses possibility and potential and positivity. I know people sometimes laugh a bit at ‘positivenews’ but really most of the mainstream news is pretty dire – underpinned by some pretty depressing news values.

I have had a bit of a think – I’ve done campaigning and advocacy but mostly in the age before blogging, viral marketing, txt, and er – well most things many people in the UK take for granted as part of the change making landscape. so I better get wise to some of the media that will spread the word. but you know there’s got to be a bit of content too!

ha ha ha – change the world – just like that – but who knows! So I did what I do when I need to come up with ideas for work I stopped thinking about it directly. I read some really good books:

‘through the eye of the needle’ John Paul Flintoff

‘how to be free’ Tom Hodgkinson

‘how to be idle’ Tom Hodgkinson

‘timeless simplicity’ by John Lane

‘make do and mend’

‘the thrift book’ by India Knight

‘the wild life’ by John Lewis Stempel

‘permaculture in a nutshell’ by Patrick Whitefield

‘introduction to permaculture’ by Graham Burnett

‘vegan-a-go-go’ by Sarah Kramer (she’s pretty damn cool)

(two of these were given to me by my friend Pam who runs the ‘good lives’ project at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre – thanks Pam)

I reflected on recent conversations and then had a few more. I went to watch a cool film. I listened to a free lecture. I nattered to my dad. and then I thought some more about what makes the most difference in my life and to my ability to do anything for others? And just like all the world religions have spotted (though not always observed) and great philosophers have rationalised (though again not always observed) what makes the difference is love. OK, I know, that’s not exactly a world shattering insight is it..? so I’m taking it just a bit further and expanding on it!

(This is the point at which I had to really try and think out what to call the thing so that I could have a domain name and a campaign name that synched and which carried the message too! But, and here’s a fun anecdote, when I was an undergrad more than 20 years ago I was part of a christian aid group in sheffield and we were working on a new catchphrase for our local christian aid week. we chucked lots of ideas around and eventually came up with ‘we believe in life before death’. This is now the national byline for Christian Aid – maybe they came up with it independently, but I don’t think so! So I have some experience in trying to come up with catchy slogos)

So, here we go, this is the start of my new world-wide campaign: it’s called ‘all we need is love’ TM (yeah I’ve copyrighted it) and this is what it’s all about:

I’ve identified 7 different aspects of life that most of us (ok not all of us, but you know, whatever) either have to engage with or really want to engage with at some level

  1. consuming resources, goods and services
  2. working for some kind of income (if we’re not doing so now we probably did in the past)
  3. maintaining relationships
  4. being creative
  5. creating change
  6. exploring a spiritual practice
  7. relaxing, chilling, having a good time!:-

Does that ring true for you so far? Ok, here comes the ‘all we need is lovebit – here are 4 principles or approaches for each of these seven areas of life based on doing something with love and which suggests that ‘all we need is love’

Working for some kind of income should be characterised by it being:-

  1. likeable
  2. option giving
  3. viable
  4. enough

Maintaining relationships should be characterised by it being:-

  1. lasting
  2. open
  3. valuing
  4. exploratory

Being creative should be characterised by it being:-

  1. learning
  2. original
  3. visible/victorious/ value led
  4. experimental

Creating change should be characterised by it being:-

  1. listening
  2. organise
  3. volunteer
  4. encourage

Consuming resources, goods and services should be characterised by it being:-

  1. local
  2. organic
  3. vegan
  4. equalising

Exploring a spiritual practice should be characterised by it being:-

  1. loose
  2. organic
  3. varied
  4. engaged

Relaxing, chilling, having a good time! should be characterised by it being:-

  1. laughter
  2. ordinary
  3. vital
  4. energising

What do you think? Ok – so this is my humanifesto for everything – because ‘all we need is Love’! now I just have to work out how to launch a free campaign!

Week 1

I went to the free exhibition at the british library in London which is all about maps, and to the V&A to visit the quilt exhibition (with a ticket from a friend of mine – thankyou). Maps and quilts – free museums and exhibitions – they’re just the best. Have you seen the saxon gold in the Birmingham museum – that’s pretty damn amazing. As well as these two joys I’ve been at a committee meeting one evening this week, been to a party one evening, and spent time on the allotment every other evening. I also managed to spend an extra day at my dads being ill! I know when I’m ill because even the thought of reading a book or sitting in the garden is too tiring and I’m not able to even hold a book up or make a cup of tea.

I can’t say what a joy the allotment continues to be. I think I had forgotten how fantastic it is just pottering around outside for an hour or two at the end of the working day. What I usually do when I get home is make some supper, pick up my fork and watering can and a basket and make a flask of tea and grab a biscuit or cake. Then I walk down the hill, up over the railway bridge, down another bit of hill and along the road to the Hurst Mill allotments. I sometimes take my wind up radio sometimes just listen to the evening birdsong – there’s a blackbird, thrush, and robin family to enjoy, plus magpies, wood pigeons, collared doves and the occasional seagull.

I use about one to two tetra packs of soya milk every week – I used to make my own but it was a bit of a faff even with a soya milk maker (so I freegled it). I notice as I say this that there are several things I used to do when I had more time that were probably lower in energy useage overall but that this may have been a bit marginal and really if I have some spare energy I’d rather use it at – you’ve guessed it – the allotment!

First friday of the month is also ‘critical mass’ in the city centre – a celebration of all things cycling! Gotta love it – bikes are the business. Along with the washing line it’s one of the best energy efficient inventions ever! I have a fold up brompton (bright orange) and as well as a bag for the front I have a groovy bright orange trailer which looks like a large shopping trolley (and which gets used as one too). The only downer is that I like skirts and skirts and bikes have never really mixed well. Hey Ho.

One of my lovely friends in Scotland sent me a fabulous long letter – don’t you think receiving a letter or card is just the best thing? I try and write one a week – for the price of a stamp and a bit of paper and ink it’s pleasure in the post! I also try and send cards both specifically and randomly too, and maybe a pack of seeds as well.

And what about ‘all we need is love’? I had a great chat with a friend of mine who does all kinds of social and spiritual transformation work and she helped me think about some key things about campaigns (thanks Joycelin):

  1. What’s the message – that we can all make a difference, and that the means and the ends have to match
  2. Who is it aimed at – everyone, everywhere – esp if they want a bit of a framework for thinking about what and how they do things in different parts of the lives
  3. How – yikes what an amazing number of ways there are to campaign as well as ways to market your campaign!
  4. When – right here, right now, but in stages – you don’t have to do everything at once
  5. Why – because love makes the world go round, all you need is love, love changes everything and so forth!
  6. What do you hope will happen – that people will be more mindful of the different aspects of their lives and endeavour to make conscious changes to them which speak of possibility and positivity

The conversation helped me see that it’s the spreading the word bit that I’m a bit bleary on, I can get on with doing it myself but advocating to others that they can too is the harder bit. Together we wordstormed all the possibilities we could think of

Physical world

  1. workshops
  2. speaking at things
  3. stalls at fairs
  4. leaflets

Then there’s all the freebies/ that bear the logo/message -promotionals. I always think these should be useful as well as beautiful! otherwise it’s just so much tat

  1. bookmarks
  2. kites
  3. coasters
  4. postcards
  5. bags
  6. tshirts
  7. pencils
  8. rubbers
  9. seed packets etcetc

Virtual

  1. myspace
  2. facebook
  3. twitter
  4. blog
  5. youtube
  6. website
  7. email
  8. all underpinned by the notion of viral marketing

After I did all this I sat down with four bits of flip chart all taped together and did a permaculture design of the content and the process. In this way I’ve been observing something called action learning where you do four things:-

  1. observe
  2. reflect
  3. plan
  4. act

The first bit of the campaign process was reflecting on what the world was like, what my life was like and everything; then I reflected on what makes a difference, now I’m at the planning stage; next is the whole act business which in this case is twofold – doing it all, and letting people know about how to do it all!

So how do I feel about this (back to observe and reflect in the action learning cycle) – well I am adopting my own perspective and sitting

  1. lightly
  2. optimistically
  3. vivaciously
  4. energetically

To it all – after all it’s one of those things that might capture one or two people’s imaginations, then again it might not… but I have bought a domain name, copyrighted it and next week will start the whole web virtual interflip business.

and what did I spend?

  1. £1 for a cup of tea for me
  2. £1.60 for a latte for a friend
  3. £8.90 on a rail fare
  4. 30p to go to the loo at a station
  5. 60p on a phone call at a station (60p is the minimum charge now – I wonder if it would now be cheaper to buy a pay as you go mobile – I hardly ever make calls from public boxes but even once a month would now come to £7.20. I wonder if there is a cheaper way – heyho anyone know?)
  6. £2.80 on a vegan sandwich
  7. 85p on a bottle of water
  8. £2.80 on a bus fare
  9. £1.65 on a large cup of tea with soya milk at a rail station

Week 2

This is the week when I’ve been helping out with the bee-keeping course on site at the college where I work. I’ve exchanged my labour/time for free participation in the course. It is, and I’m sorry about the pun – the bees-knees! I’ve also been to a free organ concert near my dad’s house and to his local canal festival too – this provided an opportunity to go on a vintage london routemaster bus and an old style greenline too. Lovely – even though I am absolutely not a bus spotter (oh deary me)

This week I also went to a quilt show that a friend of mine was part of. She and her partner make lovely quilts – quite fantastic. Last year for my birthday they gave me the present of a quilted bag course which judith and I went on together – we both came away with fantastic bags made from recycled jeans. Judith has also got well into square foot gardening and has done amazing things in their tiny backyard – garden. It’s a real reminder that even with tiny spaces great things can be achieved. I’ve been donating permaculture design suggestions to them and in return I get the inspiration of them actually translating the ideas into tangible outcomes, which is simply a total pleasure. I’ve done this a bit now – going to visit or stay with people and in exchange for dinner or an overnight doing a design or offering some permaculture consultancy for the garden or house. I’ve stayed in people’s gardens, explored nooks and crannys, talked through life styles and garden aspirations and then together developed a design and plans to implement it. A lovely way to spend a weekend! Anyone want some ideas?

OK – worldwide campaign? I emailed the idea to someone I know who works for Quakers who liked it a lot and said she thought it had mileage! Isn’t that nice. She said I should think about what people do for campaigning and publicity these days – but what are the different kinds of ways that people do things these days?

  1. flashmobs
  2. nonviolent direct action
  3. blogging
  4. protestivals
  5. letters and cards
  6. petitions
  7. being the change
  8. speakers corners
  9. boycotts and buycotts

These seems to me to all be a mixture of delivering the message and being the message – OK, so go for it – if all we need is love and you decide to do something that makes use of the approach/principles fantastic – you can now feedback to the embryo website http://www.allweneedislove.org.uk

I’ve also printed the humanifesto out and stuck it on my wall at work as a kind of blueprint for survival! And I’ve been taking photos for this month too – of my lovely permaculture ‘all you need is love’ campaign ‘map’.

What did I spend?

£19.90 on fruit and veg (yumyum)

£13.00 on the sherlock holmes dvd

£18.46 veg

£1.49 on gloves for the bee-keepers

£1.15 on soya milk

£205.00 on a new teeney tiny tent (second hand!!! brand new would have been closer to £300)

£97:00 on a new bee hive. we made two on the course and they were available to buy! robert bought one and I nabbed the second. very very exciting. I wont start a nucleus off until next year, the end of june is a bit late. And I want to get a suit and make some frames for the supers. Can you tell there will be more on this? cos there will be!

£70 on a new camping stove (finally after much research!)

so this has been an expensive week but a fabulous one too.

Week 3

I went to the food festival in the centre of town which was great fun but also seemed like a bit of excuse for a total boozeup. I went to dinner at a friends house too. Nice! In a shop I found details about the ‘Edible Erdington’ project – which meets on Monday afternoons and is free – so I shall try and go next week. Towards the end of the week I went to a trustee meeting in London and then as the staff rep to one in Birmingham. When in London I visited ‘the secret society of vegan’s’ shop (on the Caledonian road near King’s Cross, go down the road and keep going past Housmans and after another 5 minutes it’s there on the left) and was beguiled by an organic fair trade t-shirt which is black and says VEGAN in gothic script across it; very emo. At the very end of the week we had our Garden Open Day at work – I did a talk about Quakers and helped out with the activities for all the hordes of children who came. What a totally fun but slightly bonkers-full-up week! It’s been so busy that I didn’t get to take my compost to the allotment until it had been in the bucket for 10 days!!!

What did I spend?

£8 on fruit and veg

£3 on a pressie for a freind

£7.40 on train fares

£3.99 on a book

£15.50 on lots of grains and tahini-

£13.27 on a bee book

£18.90 on a train fare

£11.90 on another train

£1.70 on a bus fare

£35.00 on books (work related)

£12.00 on a t-shirt – from the secreat society of vegans

All we need is love – I’ve been spreading the word! and practising it too – this week is Father’s day and though I’m not keen on these invented festivals my dad loves it! so I’ve sent him a card with a choo-choo on it and am busy finishing off a small present for him too.

Week 4

This week I’ve mostly been in Rhodes – freebies have included – swimming, walking, seaside stuff, promenade concerts, some museums, a craft festival, and meeting some groovy bee-keepers. I also went to the free eco-film festival most of which took place in an open air cinema. I knew about it before I went -it was one of the reasons for going at this point in june. I also went to a knitting party! Before going I had an evening at the allotment, an evening at a friend’s house, and an evening in the hotel at Gatwick airport! (the last being very much not a freebie!) I also took a small wind up radio, knitting, three books to read and some sewing! Last year I spent two weeks in Malta in the summer and read masses as well as trying to do some nightmare knitting! This time the knitting is easy stuff and the sewing is all about making a couple of skirts for august. (The knitting is a cardigan which in the pattern book is described as being not for shrinking violets!)

All we need is love – because I have been away from home I have spent some time doing it! In particular I have thought about my diet. I took the vegan a-go-go book with me as well as some key ingredients and a hand blender and lemon squeezer (oh and a worldwide plug cos who knew). (oh, and a plastic tub with a really good lid and a spork) I have spent the whole week getting back in touch with my inner vegan. Lovely. Lovely lovely. Oh, and swimming a lot and being nice to people on buses. (I once went to malta and caught tonsilitis on a long bus ride round the island – it became known to me and my friends as the ‘disease bus journey’ ever after). Margaret Thatcher once said that if you were over 40 and on a bus you were a failure! But you know what? she was wrong about a lot of things! one of my friends asked me recently how I managed to afford to go on holiday or trips so often, buy books, buy camping gear, pay my bills, not have a credit card or a loan and the easiest answer is ‘no car’.

Week 5

Only half of this week is June – but at the end of the week after I had done a day of teaching on the road I went to a 4th of July party gathering thing of mainly Quakers for a chillout fun time – sometimes the simplest things are the most enriching – sitting, chatting, listening to one another, to home-made music, to birdsong, to the crackle of a barbecue – in the company of friends the most basic of activities can become utterly joyful.

All we need is love

I’ve asked a friend to do me a postcard sized design. And someone has told me where I can get free business sized cards or bookmark cards! Cool.

This week I have finally definitely decided to buy a hoover – it’s going to be a Dyson hand-held-rechargeable. it was the smallest and most flexible vacuum I could find that was fierce suction wise and could be emptied into the compost.

What I spent.

£1.70 buses

£7.50 food

£2.00 train fares

£3.50 book

What I learnt?

Free stuff first, some of the simplest things to do include:

  1. going for a walk
  2. visiting a museum or gallery
  3. going round an open air market
  4. mapping all the local trees
  5. looking at local Birmingham city council poster sites – they’ll tell you what’s coming up
  6. just listening to bird song
  7. sailing a boat on the boating lake at Bournville (club day is Wednesday) – mines’ a wind powered one on a long string – I don’t go when there are clubmembers sailing motorised ones I’d just get in the way
  8. volunteering time to a local charity
  9. finding a social knitting, reading or making things club
  10. going to jumble sales
  11. allotmenting – once you’ve got one it is amazing
  12. using your local library
  13. watching dvds with a friend or two
  14. making and drinking a smoothie from that banana you forgot to eat earlier in the week
  15. sorting your recycling area
  16. painting a picture for a card for father’s day
  17. flying kites
  18. giving blood!
  19. writing or receiving a letter from a friend
  20. knitting
  21. whittling
  22. listening to a play on the radio
  23. sandcastles
  24. making a scrap book
  25. asking people if you’re visiting somewhere if they fancy meeting up for a chat – if you have a shared interest (bees and knitting and eco stuff for example) people are often really friendly
  26. knitting with friends
  27. there is always something going on locally and across the city – always, nearly every day and certainly every weekend.
  28. it is possible to totally avoid the World Cup!

As for starting a worldwide campaign, or possibly, as one friend described it to me, a whole lifestyle movement, you need a message and a medium and it sure helps to a. have friends who have done campaigning b. not be to wedded to a particular outcome in the first month.

Next Month

Do something constructive in the local community each week, do something positive politically each week – tithe time and money!

P.S. I’m currently trying to find something for the December challenge – any ideas?

Also in the series…

Lizz Roe – An Introduction

Lizz Roe – January

Lizz Roe – February

Lizz Roe – March

Lizz Roe – April

Lizz Roe – May

Lizz Roe – Good Book Guide

Lizz Roe – July

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