Amazon wishlist? Good!

amazon-wishlist

At seven and a half weeks away from hitting 40, I often find myself unable to focus on everyday life, as I take time to contemplate…

… what pressies I want!

I know that for some, Amazon is practically the Anti-Christ. I concede that there is some truth in this, for various reasons. Still, I have decided that their ‘wish-list’ feature is one of the ‘greenest’ ‘fairest’ ‘loving’ (etc) ways to make a list of what you want for either Xmas or Birthday.

Why? Ah, glad you asked:

 

New or used? – I find myself adding books and DVDs that I’m keen to read/view, that I’d be quite happy to receive second hand.  By asking for it ‘used’ (put a note in the comments box) not only am I making the gift cheaper for the buyer, I’m ‘recycling’ something that is already in existence, as it were.

 

Fair trade/ethical/organic – Use Amazon’s ‘Add to Wish List’ button feature to add items from other websites to your wish-list. For example: Traidcraft. Or just something you found on ebay that you fancy.

 

Goats are cool! – If you run out of ‘stuff’ that you fancy, why not add a gift that benefits others, like a goat for Africa, or bees, or school books, etc?

 

Use your friends! – Got talented mates? I have! Remember that you can add things to your list ‘free-style’:  ‘Jenny’s amazing chocolate cake’.
Or: ‘Babysitting voucher’, ‘Poem about me’, ‘Painting – just for me’, etc. It makes it cheaper (or sometimes even free) for the buyer, and let’s face it – 100 times more meaningful (for both giver and recipient) than an Oil of Ulay/David Beckham smellies gift set!

 

I am not quite the determined eco-warrior of a few years ago, and I’m not even sure that I’m in any sort of mourning over this. But what I do feel I’ve retained is the overwhelming sense that we all have far too much ‘junk’, and that the whole issue of gift-giving can be viewed as the main culprit of this tragedy, especially as we consider how rich we in The West really are.  And I fully appreciate that tiny gestures such as this don’t single-handedly save the planet, or make me the most loving Christian who’s ever lived… but hey – it’s a start!

[If you are interested in having a greener or ‘alternative’ Christmas, please check out this book below, which I have contributed to. Ta.]

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Doing-December-Differently-Alternative-Christmas/dp/1905010230

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Facebook ads – do they matter?

A recent article (well, technically a ‘blog post’, but ‘article’ sounds posher) I wrote for Generous, on Facebook advertising, can be found hiding here.

And today, quite by chance I came across this on YouTube.
It’s a rather amusing parody of the famous John Lewis advert that includes the song: Always a Woman (that makes strong, sane women sob buckets, including me).

I rarely see TV ads, as I don’t watch much actual telly at all (but countless films, so I’m no saint, nor am I Amish). And if I do watch something, I’ve usually pre-recorded it, and then fast forward through the ad break.

Thus, I’ve not purchased a single item from the shops since the late 80’s.

OK, I have. But face it… you were impressed, just for those few seconds…

Post-Greenbelt waffle


My attempt to sum up this year’s Greenbelt, using that often overlooked, yet hugely loveable number – 4.

Gutted that I missed:
1] Adrian Plass (I’m such a fan, but wasn’t at GB on the day he spoke).
2] Jude Simpson (but at least I managed to bump into her for super brief catch-up).
3] Dave Walker‘s calendar (it had sold out by the time I got around to attempting to purchase).
4] Tea towels (Greenbelt branded ones. Again, they’d run out. Must try harder next year. Not sure I’m actually ‘gutted’ about this, more ‘slightly annoyed’).

Dead chuffed to have heard:
1] Ruth Downie (interesting talk on crime fiction).
2] Simon Morden (part 2 of his thoughts on Christian publishing, etc).
3] Andrew Philip (poetry reading that I actually understood, and enjoyed). Pic of his session, with me in attendance, here!
4] Rev Gerald Ambulance (his profound take on the current state of the Church, and some insightful comments regarding the role of women in marriage).

So glad I consumed:
1] Pie Minister pie – Heidi (goat’s cheese/sweet potato) with mash and groovy. (Read my ‘award-winning’ pie poem here.)
2] Bowl of fried potato/wine sauce and sausage, from Le Grand Bouffe.
3] Hot choc, that I managed to persuade them to add brandy to, seeing as they clearly had some as they sold coffee with brandy.
4] Pizza from the posh pizza place, as this time I went wild and paid extra for ‘all’ the toppings.

Got stuck right in:
1] Attended a ‘Student Focus’ session, (SCM). Did a creative book plug for Dear Bob, involving volunteers, weird props, jogging, masks, Pringles… you get the idea!
2] As per the past few years, did the Generous session, this year on ‘local activism’. Plugged Living Generously .
3] Donated some Dear Bobs to The Hub, for eventual distribution to teenagers at GB. (See Ben’s plan here).
4] Wrote out some Bible verses in monk-like fashion (assuming ye olde monks used i-pads with i-pens). It’s going to be presented to the Queen, no less – see my verses here.

Thrilled to natter over a cuppa with:
1] Darren Hill (after 8 years of knowing him only via phone/email/Facebook, finally met up – hurrah! He was instrumental in inflicting ‘Dear Bob’ on the general public.)
2] Jo Swinney (after knowing her… a couple of months via Facebook, finally met up)!
3] Penny Culliford (it wouldn’t be Greenbelt without at least one chatting marathon with this lady, some years we’ve managed several).
4] No cuppa, but SO pleased to grab a quick hello with fellow Subway-ers (Christian Writers’ Group): Tim R, Tim S, Jules, Paul B, Veronica Z… and those already mentioned above.

Swapped several pennies for:
1] The Insatiable Moon (Mike Riddell).
2] Paradise Now (Jari Moate).
3] A greetings card with some Christian artwork on it (with intention of framing it at some point – perhaps in the year 2017, when I’ve got a spare minute).
4] A FRANK sports water bottle, that I could then re-fill during the festival, for free!

We (family and I) were also a-weeping and a-wailing that for the first time in six (ish) years we didn’t get to camp/hang out with our buds Lori and Richard Passmore (and kids). Boo and double-boo.

Overall though, it was simply superb to wander around the site and soak up the oh-so-familiar (yet ever ‘fresh’) GB atmos with my gorgeous family, including my fab sis – a real live Cheltenham local.

A few pics can be viewed here.

So how was GB11 for you?!

Greenbelt (lite)

I’ve opted for ‘Greenbelt Lite’ this year. Not because I’m opposed to the full-fat version… in fact I’ve been, with the family (from Thurs—>Tues) for the past eight years! But this year I’m there for the Sunday and Monday only.

On Sunday evening (8pm, Galilee) I’ll be at a ‘Student Focus‘ session: University Survival Skills, plugging Dear Bob, naturally, but also hopefully participating in the promised chocolate brownies. If you’re a student, get your-fabulous-self on down there… 6 copies of Dear Bob are being GIVEN away as prizes!

Then on Monday, I’ll be involved with the Generous talk: ‘Get Down Your Local’, about local activism (The Kitchen, 2pm) where, just to be consistent, I’ll be plugging another book (one I co-authored): – Live Generously.

You are probably unaware that Greenbelt have changed their policy this year, and on the ‘talks’ page of their website (listing all this year’s GB speakers) the MOST important speakers are at the very bottom of the page, rather than at the top. The fact that Rob Bell is at the top is clearly some sort of admin error.

I aim to see: RS Downie, Simon Morden, Andrew Philip (all on this page) Jo Swinney and Rev Gerald Ambulance. This also appeals to me. Gutted I’ll miss: Adrian Plass/Milton Jones. Am I sad that I’ll miss the workshop ‘Parenting Teenagers’? Not sure. If you’re there, please take notes (include a few pictures – I get bored easily). But mostly I’ll just be wandering around the site, with various friends/family, soaking up the fabulous GB atmos, wondering if I can afford a trendy fairly-traded organic t-shirt with a bible verse printed on it… then deciding that I probably can’t, and ending up in the queue for pies.

Christmas Shopping

Yes, it’s here… again.
Shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise – it’s not as if we’re unused to the festive period. It seems to engulf a sixth of each year, at least!

And yes, I have again written about the Chrimbo shopping fiasco, published on the ‘Generous’ website, here.

Having compared it with what I’ve written in other, similar articles I’ve penned in previous years (published in various places) I note that I’m becoming a bit more honest, a tad more realistic, and even, dare I say it… slightly less Scrooge-like! But what motivates me remains in tact: to raise awareness of those who live in poverty, who would love to have Christmas Shopping trips to grumble about.

Christmas no longer illegal

img_20521

An article I’ve just written for the Generous website

Spend less and be more Generous

In 1647, the English Parliament passed a law that made Christmas illegal. Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas festivities, considering feasting and revelry on a ‘holy day’ immoral. Anybody caught celebrating Christmas was arrested. The ban was only lifted when the Puritans lost power in 1660.

The reason for mentioning this rather random historical fact is that I tend to feel rather like Cromwell’s long lost distant descendant at this time of year. Not because I aim to be, please understand. More because the ideas I choose to promote sometimes paint me as a bit of a Scrooge.

In actual fact, I’m totally in favour of ‘feasting and revelry’ and am a huge fan of the season in general. In addition to the standard merriment, food and partying, it’s a fantastic opportunity to show hospitality towards those neighbours or work colleagues that we tend to ignore. Also for using the occasion to strengthen family ties.

But when it comes to presents under the tree, ‘giving generously’ doesn’t mean we ought to re-mortgage our homes. If anything, it might be more generous to give a less expensive gift, but give it a bit more thought.

For example, a voucher that says, ‘I’ll babysit for you once a month this coming year’. Or what about buying books, DVDs, CDs, games etc. second-hand off eBay or Amazon… or from a local charity shop? And any money that we then save – by getting less expensive presents – could be directed towards those who really need it. Those who won’t be enjoying all of the festivities that we will; who wouldn’t notice if their country made Christmas illegal again. (As Bob Geldof would have us sing: ‘Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?’)

So, what about spending half as much as we usually would on family members this year, and, with the money saved, buy a goat (or similar) for those in need… and tell the family on Christmas Day? Or did you know that for £60 you can twin your toilet with one built in Burundi, for those who aren’t used to such luxuries (toilettwinning.org)?

If you’re feeling very ambitious and have time on our hands, then to make a present is a generous yet cheap idea: knit a scarf, bake a cake, paint a picture, compose a song, write a poem. Go on, I will if you will! It’s not illegal, we won’t get arrested, and, if we do something generous with the money we save by not splashing out, we’ll be making a difference to those in need, which can’t be bad.

Bye-bye Greenbelt

img_3414It seems but a lifetime away, but before the memory fades altogether, being extinguished by thoughts of xmas and suchlike, just wanted to put in a couple of links:

here is what the GB website came up with this year. Interesting, as they’d asked for a biog, I’d sent them one… then they chose to ignore it and use one they’d had from 2005! Thus, it mentions that I work on the mags I used to work on, that are now extinct.
They had one back in 2005, when I was doing more literary stuff there, rather than eco (I’ve done ‘something’ there every year since then I think, for my sins).

My this year’s talk has also been recorded, which is a 1st. Either they just got carried away and decided to record all talks this year… or it was my fair trade banana jokes that forced them to make my talk available to be inflicted on the masses. Hmmmm..
It’s available for buying here, should anyone be interested.

They weren’t really ‘fair trade banana’ jokes, as such things don’t exist, as far as I am aware. They were just ‘regular’ banana jokes, that I shamelessly used, and asked people to assume the bananas in question were, indeed, fairly traded… so that my jokes would bear some relevance on my talk.

There was also some toilet humour (that linked in with the concept of ‘sponsoring a toilet’ in a developing country)…have a strong suspicion that next year I’ll be asked, nay, begged, to be on main stage, delivering my FT banana/loo jokes to vast crowds of laughing (or groaning) greenbelters.
Oh yes.

back from greenbelt !

lest we forget had a fab fab time!

was sooooooooooooo much better just doing one thing (Generous talk thingy) rather than lots of stuff. meant i actually felt like a normal greenbelter and could do lots of stuff!

did a generous talk/discussion/quiz and stuff with claire… lasted hour and 1/2 and we had over 150 people turn up! i like to tell myself they were attracted to my name in the programme, but it’s slightly more likely that they were attracted to the promise of free 2009 GB tickets to be won! it all went v well – totally enjoyed myself and it’s always a pleasure working with claire as she is fab!

went to and enjoyed:

a meditation thingy about happiness and chocolate (in ‘soul space’)
Steve tomkins – speed christianity
rev gerald ambulance (aka steve tomkins)
fair trade panel
john archer
last orders
phillip yancy (secret of the universe)
simon morden (literature venue)
suzanne elvidge (lit venue)
Fightstar (charlie from busted’s new band… a bit heavy for me!)

a bit miffed that i didn’t get to:

jude simpson (sorry jude!)
woebegone brothers (band from long ago)
simon mayo (i’m sorry i haven’t a poo)
cider and carols (in organic beer tent)
several ‘social justice/ethical living’ talks/workshops

but generally i just loved hanging out with the lush gang from our church and also meeting up with old friends: Claire Skinner, Jo Dafforn and Penny Culliford especially, and some Subwayers also (christian writers email list). and in their defense, my friends aren’t THAT old, in case you were thinking i was starting on some new OAP outreach programme or something.

finally, i v v much enjoyed:

that fried potato stuff from that french food stall (had this twice!)
paella (also cooked in those massive wok thingys, as per fried potato)
crepe with spinach, cheese, garlic and cream… yes, cream
hot chocolate with cream and brandy

didn’t manage to get a pie… must get one next year… bring it on!

see my piccies here.
(click on 1st one to enlarge, then again to move onto next piccie)

anita roddick


read about her life here

she was far more than just ‘the body shop lady’.

she spoke at greenbelt a couple of times (well, at least once)… i have read a few of her books -v inspirational.

mark interviewed her for ‘benchmark’ magazine a year or 2 ago… an amazing woman.