July 2016 // Spurred on by elegance and scruffy hospitality

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Photo credit: T Kendal

I began and ended July distracted by life’s unexpected twists and turns (more details in a future post). This seems to have left little mental space to explore a coherent theme; instead I’ve been a magpie, collecting varied ideas this month.

I was challenged and encouraged by this praise of ‘scruffy hospitality’; when the invitation for dinner is extended whatever the state of the house, and the food on offer. The author goes on a wonderful journey to realisation that her friendships aren’t contingent on whether she dusts before people arrive. I think that tidying and preparing a meal can be an expression of love, a demonstration of care and dedication for the recipients. Something has gone wrong though when we feel required to present a pristine home and a four course meal, when we feel our threshold can’t be crossed until we’ve cleaned it first. This is a good reminder to jump into community, whatever the state of things.

In the past I’ve primarily listened to podcasts by individuals but at the moment I’m really enjoying the collaborative nature of dialogues. Two people in conversation, exploring ideas, together. I found my way to Tim Ferris’s treasure trove of podcasts via this discussion with Maria Popova aka Brain Picker. I have always found her stuff to be worth reading or hearing.

I delved into and emerged out the other end of the French novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog  in June but my thoughts have turned to it again and again this month so it seems worthy of a mention. The characters are onderfully conceived and revealed throughout. There were routes I hoped, but was never certain, the plot would take. The end had me weeping like I haven’t in years. Read it.

This article on how what you read matters is a helpful…well…read. My caveat is that context is key. If you want to improve your writing, then it is advice worth taking. If you want to switch off for a while, it’s probably ok to read what you fancy. As with most diets – edible or literary – diversity and moderating binges seem preferable.

I appreciate the author’s honesty in this article about their efforts to live without throwaway plastic as part of Plastic Free July – a month-long campaign encouraging people to think about the amount of disposable plastic in their lives and, more importantly, what they can do about it. This article reminds me that we all have a role to play: consumers to buy less and plan more to minimise sudden purchases, but also designers and innovators to make better products and design out disposable plastic more. We all need to recognise where adjustments can and should be made.

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We’ve taken one more step in this area ourselves, baking homemade cereal bars instead of buying the individually wrapped supermarket variety. It’s certainly reduced the amount of packaging involved but I need to explore bulk buying more because thus far some of the ingredients have come in… plastic.

In spite of the distractions we’ve enjoyed a touch more of summer in England throughout July. The garden has thrived. Homegrown salad has graced our table each week. Bike rides have been sun-kissed and spent seeking dappled shade as I realise I don’t have any suncream on. Again. Maybe I’ll learn, just in time for Autumn.

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This is part of a monthly series on the things that spur me on to keep going with intentional living. What has spurred you on recently?

Today’s soundtrack: Norah Jones // Come Away With Me

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