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Pause For Thought: BBC Radio Devon

by Kimwei

In the case of an emergency, we are so familiar with the idea of a “call to arms”, but for the first time we are being faced with a “call to pause”. 2020 Pandemic lockdown has required us to firmly press the button with the two vertical lines and come to a stop. Next came the drop to an eerie silence as we’ve emptied city centres, witnessed stir-quiet beaches. We’ve seen nature start to breathe again as skies glow blue and wildlife begins to venture out. Last night I paused by the river after dark to see a toad and her three younglings right in the middle of the footpath, amazed that they came so close to me in the quiet. So, when I next saw a shadowy mound on the tarmac in front of me I paused then too, and then moving carefully, took one step, then another and knelt down. I inched forward and leaned closer to the little dark patch, only to see as it was lit by the moon... that it was a banana. In this time of lockdown we can pause for something profound - a beauty or a loss, or simply pause in order not to slip-up and come to misfortune, metaphorically speaking or literally slipping-up on an actual banana. Either way, the Pandemic is an invitation for all of us to Pause For Thought. The lockdown puts our daily lives on Pause and forces us to rethink everything. What is it like, exactly where we are? What are we like, exactly as we are?
Wearing my patched cut-off jeans shorts and shod in leather boots I began my first ever lockdown jog, feeling conspicuously un-sporting. The only possible clues that I was in-fact a genuine runner rather than somebody running away having just committed daylight robbery, were the water bottle in my right hand and the fact that somebody who was running for criminal reasons would probably have been running a whole lot faster than I was. Because in reality I am a terrible runner, yet with everything else shut and daily outdoor exercise being advocated, conditions were ripe for me to give it a go. Upon joining the footpath I found myself overtaken by several walkers, who I suspected were olympic race-walkers… though they may not have been. Yes, I have always been last in any group of friends who ever decided to run for a train or bus, or even just for fun, but lockdown gave me permission to try it, whether or not I had any ability, or appropriate footwear. After a few days of training my new game became spotting other people who had taken up running solely because of the lockdown. They can be sighted wearing such delights as pyjama bottoms with trainers, but today’s winner was a man, probably in his 70s, who was wearing trousers with a crease ironed into them, a golfing jacket and baseball cap. "More power to you sir" I thought to myself. "At first I thought you were running after some toddler grandchild who had got away, but on closer inspection there was no grandchild in sight. Instead you kept on running down the path and on and on around the corner." The lockdown puts our lives on pause and invites us to ask what we can do right now just as we are - not once we’ve bought the right kit or gained the right expertise? What could you start doing now, not because you're hoping to be good at it, but because it would nourish you? That might be starting to do something new, or rather more radically, it might be stopping some things you are doing and simply starting to rest.
It’s lockdown so it’s either we won’t see each other at all or… My partner and I move in together, to one room in a friend's house and my van parked in the street to use as a kitchen so we can be separate from our hosts. We cut our teeth as a couple by running systematically through all the possible arguments we could have around the house. We fight about the food shopping, about following the hygiene rules, over bedtime and weekly chores. We do it well, with fire and fortissimo until I go out and sit on the front step and we text each other sorry and I love you. They say the washing up always spoils romance, but I treasure these clashes and how we come out stronger. I treasure them because I remember growing up with the daily terror of shouting and rage and being blamed that left me weaker not stronger. There was no option to go and sit on the front step. No “sorry and I love you" afterwards, or if there was, none that really counted because these explosions never stopped, were never for a reason and so could never be resolved. For those of you who are locked in together who can’t stand the sound of each other chewing at dinner, but who can argue, listen to each other, shout and scream and respect each other, forgive each other, love each other, argue once or twice on each topic and then solve it, I would wish you every happiness but I know you are already making it. For those of you who are locked in with someone who says they love you but whose anger you are afraid of - trust your fear. Whether you are a child or a grown-up, and whatever they call their behaviour, from “just letting off steam” to “just an argument”, if you feel afraid all the time then the real name for their behaviour is violence even if they haven’t laid a finger on you, no matter if they say sorry, and whether they are someone who says it was all your fault or if they are someone who says it’s theirs and that they won’t do it again - it isn’t ok. *If you can leave, leave now. Go home if you are not at home or if you are at home, and you can find somewhere else to go to, go now - consider it an essential journey. !!! IMPORTANT !!! Consider your safety before attempting to leave an abusive household. For more information, advice and a listening ear Freephone 24-Hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247 or visit https://www.refuge.org.uk/ Since lockdown began, calls and contacts to Refuge's National Domestic Abuse Helpline have rocketed by around 66%. They need urgent funds to help meet demand - visit their website to contribute. *note - this last paragraph was not included in the recorded audio as it was considered too directive for a contemplative piece. However, it's also worth knowing that to "Move to a friend's address for several days to allow a "cooling-off" following arguments at home" IS considered an essential journey under lockdown restrictions.
3. Listen To The Science. My partner Emily is lying down in the road at the north end of London Bridge under a banner which reads "Tell The Truth" and wearing her labcoat proudly. This is not something she usually does, nor is it normal behaviour for the four other scientists lying there with her - they are more accustomed to being in the lab. This is a groundbreaking day, with scientists willing to break the law and be arrested to show their commitment to Climate Justice. It's 4pm on October 14th 2019 and the police are moving in on Scientists For Extinction Rebellion's protest. "Everybody film" I shout, whipping out a camera in hopes of capturing the arrest of 5 scientists blocking traffic in Central London. This is the moment we've been waiting for. For hours now my band of drummers and I have accompanied the protest, who march through the financial district, blocking traffic, speaking the Science of The Climate and Ecological Emergency as the public clamour to listen. To begin with, my biggest fear was that Emily would be arrested. After hours of illegal behaviour and noticeable reluctance from the police to move in, my biggest fear now, was that she wouldn't be arrested. Then it happened, one was scooped up and carried away bodily, and Emily was next. I pushed through the crowd to keep her in shot until, she was released by the pavement… no arrest. Not for her, not for any other Doctor or Professor of Science that day. And to this day, I wonder, what is it that made the police so reluctant to arrest the wearers of labcoats? Is there something, I wonder, that they are afraid of?
4. Build at The Speed of Trust It's March 2019 and I arrive in Bristol in time to help Jake load a van full of drums back into storage. "I just led a thousand kids across Bristol in the Climate Strike" he told me, "It's getting SO big now. With samba drums you can march. Everyone can hear you coming and they all want to join in. I'm telling you, this is just growing and growing." By April, I had joined the band, a close knit core team of around 15, making noise for marching and dancing at every climate protest going. Many had never drummed before but were united and inspired into two weeks of Spring protests in London that put Climate Change on every channel, that put a Pink Boat in Oxford Circus with David Attenborough’s voiceover from “Climate Change: The Facts” piping out. By October, there were bands springing up in every town and city, such that the London demonstrations that month included over 100 drummers and on one momentous day, we all met at Whitehall and played together - a formidable circle of sound. This kind of growth is not uncommon. From April to October last year, Extinction Rebellion's numbers, like those of their drummers, grew more than fold. Global Youth Climate Strikes swelled too, with Exeter's September demonstration expecting 100s and ending up with thousands. As Jake said "they all want to join in". What's made Climate Protest grow so fast in the past year? Perhaps because we finally believe it will make a difference, perhaps because it already has.
5. Scientists Declare Support For Protest A scientist with a megaphone is not a common image, but last October for the first time, we as a nation saw exactly that, on the streets and in the papers. I was lucky enough to be there to hear words pouring from such a megaphone including these: “We believe that the continued governmental inaction over the climate and ecological crisis now justifies peaceful and non-violent protest.. even if this goes beyond the bounds of the current law…” this is an excerpt from the Scientists Declaration of Rebellion… but Scientists supporting protesters? This was news, and indeed in October last year when Scientists For Extinction Rebellion made the announcement at London’s Science Museum, The Daily Mail reported on it immediately. To everyone’s surprise their headline read “Extinction Rebellion protesters are RIGHT to use mass civil disobedience to force Governments to change policy, group of more than 300 scientists unites to say”. The article went on to report that “In a joint declaration, climate scientists, physicists, biologists, engineers and others from at least 20 countries broke with the caution traditionally associated with academia to side with peaceful protesters courting arrest from Amsterdam to Melbourne.” But why might experts all over the world be in favour of resorting to breaking the law for this cause? As to date 1500 have now signed. Their answer is simply stated in their Declaration: “The scientific community has already tried all conventional methods to draw attention to the crisis.” v
6. Holding Up The Mirror In the end, it was the Mirror who made the boldest statement among newspapers, when in Nov last year they become the first and only paper to produce a full issue on The Climate and Ecological Emergency. It was simply titled “The Climate Issue”. Their journalist Rhian Lubin told various radio stations this: “There’s never been a more important issue than this one we’re facing today. That’s why we’ve dedicated an entire paper towards it. It’s typically something that’s been covered by largely broadsheets, so we think it’s really important to cover it as a tabloid and get the message out there that we are really at this crisis point now… we now feel that this a subject of huge importance and concern to our readers, who are normal working people, and that’s why we’ve done it”. The Mirror’s statement in choosing to give this topic centre stage is both exemplary and inspirational. As their selected experts say: Chris Packham: The climate issue is everyone’s issue. Not just readers of the Mirror but people of the world Dr Tamsin Edwards: Two words come to mind: irreversibility, and injustice Dr Douglas Parr: The bad outcomes are as bad as elements of nuclear war  Mike Child: Across the world people are already dying Holly Gillibrand: Millions of children, including myself, have been striking from school to demand action. But it is the grown-ups, the people in power, who must lead the fight for our planet... starting now Sources: https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/daily-mirror-climate-change-crisis-20812267 https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/daily-mirrors-climate-crisis-issue-20861834 https://soundcloud.com/emilygrossman/18-bfbs-rec-both https://soundcloud.com/emilygrossman/dr-emily-grossman-speaks-on-6
7. From Emergency to Vision. 2019 was an historic year for the Climate and Ecological Emergency. It was a year in which a 16 year old Activist became a household name, and TIME’s person of the year - Greta Thunberg, That people from all walks of life got out on the streets to protest - children, parents, grandparents, ordinary working people, performers, professionals, teachers, doctors, celebrities. The year Sir David Attenborough presented his documentary Climate Change: The Facts and that all media channels reported on the climate crisis, rather than the previously reported climate “debate” It was a year which saw scientists willing to be arrested to make governments listen, and that saw the Daily Mail publish a headline beginning with the words “Extinction Rebellion protesters are RIGHT…” What will 2020 bring? If 2019 was the year of the emergency, then what if we make 2020 the year of vision? The year we create a new vision for our future. Since 2019 was the year that the Daily Mirror boldly dedicated an entire issue to The Climate and Ecological Emergency, I leave you with Dr Emily Grossman’s words, speaking for them in November last year. “This emergency is the greatest threat humanity has ever faced. It is man-made and we have to stop making it worse, or – for the first time – we will face a catastrophe we cannot think, invent or buy our way out of. It will affect 100% of us and everything we love. The future of our children, and our grandchildren, is at stake. We must act radically, before it’s too late. We cannot afford to wait another second.”
TRANSCRIPTION: Sustainable Future I wonder what the world will be like 50, 100 years from now. With the climate changing as it is, we may not even be able to imagine the future. As Climate Scientist Kate Marvel writes on her blog, "We are sending our children to an unfamiliar planet." As a species we have outgrown the way that we live. It’s not sustainable and something has to change, but we don’t yet know how. When I think about all this, I think of the hermit crab, don’t you? Hermit crabs don’t grow their own shell. Instead, they live inside shells that they find. When they need a new one, they go looking for bigger one, wearing their current shell all the while. Now, say the hermit crab’s current shell represents the way we’re currently living and the new bigger shell their looking for, represents our new future way of living sustainably. It’s a bigger way of thinking - calling us to expand our idea of what’s possible, on a finite planet. But the thing is, when a hermit crab moves from one shell to the next, they must become temporarily shell-less, pink, soft and vulnerable, taking a risk as they scurry towards a new life. As a planet, I see us stranded between this shell and the next. We are vulnerable. We have outgrown our current ways but the future hasn’t materialised yet. I see us ungrounded, uncertain and afraid. But there is no use in trying to go back to our old ways – that shell no longer fits. The only way is forward. And what’s more, we won’t get to our new shell unless we focus on looking for it, without wasting time hesitating or looking back. This week’s series invites you to try on some new ways of thinking, and to ask yourself questions about what beautiful future on earth could look like.
TRANSCRIPTION: Ancient vs Modern What will a sustainable future look like? Science fiction loves to show us cities in the clouds and flying cars, or futuristic tribes in a wilderness land, farming and wearing animal skins, whilst technology is long forgotten. But what is the real life answer? As David Attenborough once said, “Anyone who believes in infinite growth on a finite planet, is either mad, or an economist.” We know that a future which is kind to the earth, will have to be very different. In my time travelling around Devon, I’ve met many along the way who have chosen a low-impact life and wondered if we could turn to them for answers. I’ve met super-tramps who can sleep anywhere without a tent or build their own bender at the drop of a willow. One such traveller was Sarah, who at 22 could hitch-hike anywhere, carrying a modest backpack which she’d made herself. You see, Sarah was a specialist in pre-historic living and could survive in the wild for months with nothing but the tools and buckskin clothes she’d made by hand. Life seemed simple for her and in my head I romanticised her wild woman ways. Sarah would then quickly crush my illusions by pulling a Ginsters Pasty out of her backpack. “Where’d did you get that?” I’d ask, incredulous “I thought you just travelled from organic farming community to organic farming community.” “Well, yes I do,” she replied “but… via service stations.” To me, Sarah’s lifestyle highlighted that contrast between what’s ancient and what’s modern. Whilst she knew how to live off the land, she also owned a smartphone and a credit card. The question for us as a species is this: how can we reclaim the relationship with our planet that we’ve all but forgotten, and yet embrace the vital roles that technology can play in our future? Surely our future will rely on both.
TRANSCRIPTION: How Will We Get Around In The Future? “What would you invent if you could invent anything at all?”, I asked my friends down the pub one evening. “Some kind of teleporter,” said Paul, “like in Star Trek but not for beaming up, just for beaming around the city. Maybe even for getting from the living room to the bathroom, if I was really lazy.” “I’d prefer a flying car, like in Back To The Future,” Steve countered, “It’d have silver doors that open upwards instead of sideways and run on banana skins and old tin cans and bolts of lightening. Have you seen the price of diesel these days? And what’s more, you won’t want all those car fumes going up into the sky if that’s where you’re going too!” At first I thought it was just those two going on about science fiction again and screaming “where’s my hoover board”, but the more people I asked the more I got the same kind of responses - a bullet train that could cross the ocean with no friction and no fuel. A car that could leapfrog, to avoid congestion on the M5. All my friends dreamt of better, faster, cleaner, cheaper, modes of transport. When it comes to a sustainable future, requiring lower emissions and less pollution, transport is a major consideration. We have a society built on travelling un-walkable, un-bike-able distances every day, often at 60miles an hour. But as Einstein said “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” We need radical new thinking. Perhaps not as radical as my friend Chris’ suggestion that the ultimate all weather mode of transport for Devon would be open toed wellies. But perhaps we need to stop asking how we can get further, faster. Perhaps we need stronger local communities, so we travel less far, work nearer home, meet online where we can, and travel sustainably. Perhaps we need to stop trying to get further, faster and start coming home.
TRANSCRIPTION: Boycott Everything? During a Dartmoor exploration I met Olly, a resourceful young man who set himself the very reasonable goal of living at carbon zero. This meant he aimed to create no carbon footprint, so he could rest easy, knowing he was not polluting the planet. The trouble is, this seemingly reasonable goal is almost impossible to achieve in a world that uses fossil fuels for producing and transporting… everything. Olly’s answer was simple: boycott everything. Wearing more than shorts, sandals and his ample beard, and carrying the biggest backpack I’d ever seen, Olly moved through the world without money; an modern-day-forager, ensuring that no object was produced produced for his benefit. Anything 2nd hand or dumped in a skip was fair game and hitchhiking ensured no additional fuel was burned on his account. I was struck by how much excess our society must throw away on a daily basis for Olly’s lifestyle to work. By the time we met, he had already lived happily this way for 5 years. Certainly Olly’s life was low-impact, but was it sustainable? His answer was “no”, because it relied on a wasteful un-sustainable society. I was fascinated by his lifestyle, but he himself had lost faith in it. “Now I’ve no carbon-footprint. So what?” he said in the end “At uni, I majored in film. If I had laptop and camera a rented flat, I wouldn’t be living so green but I could make documentaries. Get other people to live green too. If I could get 10 people to cut down their emissions, I’d be making more difference than I am by myself.” And he has a good point. When making personal change and encouraging collective change conflict, which is more important, and which will take us further towards a sustainable future?
TRANCRIPTION: Tinkers Bubble Embedded in deepest somerset, Tinkers Bubble is the UK’s oldest low-impact community. The grounds are up on a hill in the forest and can support about ten residents at any one time. Everyone lives in wooden cabins made from on-site trees cut into planks using a steam engine powered sawmill. The community grows most of its own food and makes a little money selling produce in order to buy anything they can’t grow. It’s an inspirational place, but it also sounds like hard work! I first heard about Tinker’s Bubble when my friend and bandmate Jack moved there with his family. I still remember the first time he called to invite me to visit for a band practice. “Alright Kimwei? I’m just ploughing the field this morning, but why don’t you come by later for a rehearsal. I’ll send you directions, but… hang on, I’ve gotta go. I’ve got to just turn the horse.” Needless to say, I packed my guitar into the van, and set off, curious to see this horse for myself. When I arrived, Jack showed me the porch he was building to extend his wooden house. Each log he used to build the structure had to be laboriously stripped using a hand-tool. He stood over the bench, pulling the tool over a log to show me the method. After rehearsing, we sat around the outdoor fire with the whole community. People were happy, sharing stories from their day and contemplating tomorrow when they planned to harvest the plums and make jam. Could everyone live like this in the future? Maybe. Maybe not. But one thing is for sure, Tinker’s Bubble shows us an example of how it’s possible to live well without fossil fuels. It takes hard work and commitment, and it takes working together, but surely a sustainable future is worth working hard together for.
TRANSCRIPTION: Rebelling For Life This week, protesters have set up residence at major sites in central London, arriving from all over the country to set up what felt like a climate awareness festival. The 4 main sites at Parliament Square, Marble Arch, Oxford Circus and Waterloo Bridge sprang up overnight last Sunday, complete with fully amplified stages, vegan kitchens, wellbeing and information marquees, all fully staff. The program included talks by Gail Bradbrook and Rupert Read, live music from the likes of Nick Mulvy and Sam Lee, and of course a Samba drum group which moved from site to site. I was fortunate enough to witness a multi-faith and humanist service at Oxford Circus, where right on that iconic crossroad a pink boat bearing the words “Tell The Truth”, formed the backdrop for a raised platform stage. Over a hundred were gathered to listen as speakers from many different faiths gave their sermons in turn. After that Rachel Rose Reid took the stage and said “To face something as enormous as climate change we need to all come together - people of all beliefs and cultures.” She then led the ad hock congregation in a song with words in Hebrew, English, and wordless sounds, to include all. This is the first time I have ever witnessed such multi-faith togetherness. All week, my Pause For Thought pieces have asked the question of what it would take for us as humans to create a sustainable future. Being at Extinction Rebellion gave me a glimpse of the kind of collective experience we need to feel like a community, to be together in our sadness for the world and to feel motivated to take action towards changing it for the better.
Running Out Of Money? In summer 2014, with no work booked and only a couple of hundred quid in the bank, I conceived and took what I called The £0 Challenge. I wanted to face my fear of running out of money, by well… doing it on purpose. The rules were as follows: -To seek no paid work until my bank balance read zero. -To work my way back up to a healthy income, without begging, borrowing or stealing. This meant no overdraft, no claiming benefits and no bailouts. I thought it would take a couple of weeks, but in fact it took more than six weeks to get down to £0 and two months to work my way back up. I thought I’d learn my lessons during the ascent to healthy bank balance. In reality, that six-week decline was what changed me for life. This week, I’ll share with you the most important realizations I had about money during the challenge. But to start off, how would you feel if you were on the verge of taking The £0 Challenge yourself? Does the prospect of nothing in the bank fill you with absolute terror and if so, what it is that you fear? When we know what we’re really scared of, we can address it. That is what the challenge gave me the power to do. Money fears are hard to find the root of since currency can be exchanged for so many things - property/ food / transport / security / luxury or the essentials. What are you really afraid of running out of? Knowing that alone can give you the power to change it.
TRANSCRIPTION: When’s the last time you borrowed a cup of sugar from the neighbour, and then hey, you got chatting, turns out they’re single and so are you, so they invite you in for a cuppa the rest is history? Never? Guess why – because there’s a 24hr store selling sugar just down the road, so why ever speak to your neighbours? One college housemate of mine used to knock on my door once a week to borrow my washing basket so he could do his laundry. I had no idea why he did this when we lived on the same street as Poundland where he could have easily bought one. But you know what? – as a result of those weekly laundry basket encounters, we talked more. We got the idea that it was ok to knock on each other’s doors and of everyone in that house, he’s the only one I stayed in touch with. When we buy what we could borrow or barter for, we have fewer conversations. If we’re rich enough. we don’t need favours, but what’s lost along the way? In this “Isolation Age”, aren’t we better off together? But how to start? In 2014 I took what I called The £0 Challenge, which made it public that I was open to exchanging, but many people don’t have a doorway in like that. The key is to be the one asking for the cup of sugar. Believe it or not, asking a favour feels more vulnerable, so people are less willing to be the first. But many are willing to give first and ask second. Asking someone for fair help creates a strong bond. It can lead to all sorts of new and unexpected friendships. Asking is the door: don’t be afraid to ask.
A rich company director once confided in me that he felt up to his eyeballs in stress. He owned an expensive house, could support his family easily and afford lots of luxuries besides. His company was doing well and he wasn’t in debt. “It’s just that every day when I wake up in the morning,” he told me “the first thing I think is this: today will be the day I’ll lose it all!” “You don’t feel secure?” I asked. “Exactly. I just want to feel secure.” “What does your company do again?” “I sell insurance…” TRANSCRIPTION: Well, there’s no mystery as to why he was so successful at selling insurance - just talking to him made me feel concerned about my own finances! Being rich and being secure are not the same thing and money cannot buy security because that’s not how it works. They say that if you give a man a fish, he’ll feed himself for a day, but give him a fishing net and he’ll feed himself for a lifetime.  Money is a strange thing, because we think it’s net, but in fact it’s a fish. Unless it’s converted into something more solid, it just runs out. To feel secure, we must feed, repair and build our nets. What is your net? What can you rely on or trust? Who do you treasure? Who and what can you count on? When you know your blessings, nurture and nourish them, that is what leads to security and happiness.
TRANSCRIPTION Ever played yellow-car, the art of spotting this rarest of car colours, on a long road-trip, just in time to punch your friend in the arm if you happen to see it first? If you have, you’ll know that even the rarest of treasures can be found by those who are willing to open their eyes and look. Yet, after just a 5minute stint of yellow-car, could you tell me how many red cars you passed? How many blue? Probably not. We tend to notice what we focus on and not what we don’t. During my £0 Challenge, where I decided to let my money run out, as my funds dwindled I was surprised at how many things I was able to find rather than buy, it was just a case of re-tuning my perspective. How could we use this simple principle to make our dreams reality? Can we really find what we want in life just by thinking about it? Maybe not always, but it certainly helps. The power of thought is not mysterious - after all, we have to come up with an idea before we can act it out. You have to be able to visualize a yellow car before you can spot it. The same is true of our dreams, whether they be physical (I wish I had a yellow car) or abstract (I wish I were happy and fulfilled). First you think about it, then you talk about it, then you can’t help but work towards it. You say to all your friends “I’m looking for a yellow car” and you know that somewhere in the world there is yellow-car with your name on it, waiting to be found.
I guess you’re wondering what happened on the day I ran out of money? Naturally I went to Harrods. You may question the wisdom of visiting Britain’s most notoriously expensive shop with £0 in the bank and a commitment not to neither, beg borrow or steal as I worked back up from zero through freelance work, but to me, it seemed like the natural thing to do. I felt mischievous, to be incognito, browsing through thousands of pounds worth of high end goods with no purchasing power and no earning on the cards, but having put on my best shirt and spent my last 43pence at the pick and mix, I was able to chew my way sweetly through, unnoticed. I sat in the café and wrote in my journal. I went to the sweet-smelling bathrooms and sprayed myself with free perfume and aftershave too, for good measure. This wasn’t what I expected having no money to feel like. For the past 6 weeks, as my funds declined, I imagined that when I ran out of money I’d have nothing. It was then I realized that I didn’t have “nothing”, I just didn’t have any money.”
TRANSCRIPTION Starting with £236 in the bank, I thought it would take me just a couple of weeks to run out of money when I took on my £0 challenge in 2014. In fact, it took me over 6 weeks to get to zero, because as my bank balance declined, other resources came forward. Since I challenged myself publically, to seek no paid work until I had no money at all, people who knew me approached me for exchanges and favours. I did some house sitting in London. I was fed and watered for a few days as I helped a friend move to Wales. During my 6week decline, I lived on less than job-seekers allowance, yet I was not in poverty. Poverty is the state of not having your basic needs met, because of lack of resources, one of which is money. But money is a trickster, which fools us into thinking that it is our only resource, rather than one of many, since it can be exchanged for so many things. I finished yesterday’s Pause by sharing that on the day I ran to zero, I realized that I didn’t have “nothing”, I just didn’t have any money. The challenge showed me how much I had to be grateful for besides my bank balance. When we count money, we count a figure, but more importantly, we count. What happens when we see the value of what we can’t count?
TRANSCRIPTION It’s four years since I challenged myself to run out of money completely and then build back up from £0. I can safely say the experience changed my life - I now live in a post £0 Challenge state. I can’t say I earn more than I did and sometimes I still hit the minus figures. Sometimes I even have a crisis, like that time my beloved yellow van, which I lived in, needed replacing and all-of a sudden I faced a bill for thousands. What’s important is that each time that happens, I can remind myself of what I learned from the £0 Challenge - that security does not come from money and that to be rich you only need one pound more than you need. The most remarkable thing about going to £0 was how fearful I was during the decline of my funds, and how much of a big deal the zero mark… wasn’t. At the end of the year, I’d built my way back up to a healthy income and my earnings for that year were no lower than usual. I thought running out was going to be the end of the world, but in the end it allowed me to see money for what it was - a place for me to hide my fears. Taking it away helped me to find them, face them and get back to seeing money as coins, and everything else as gold.
Alternative Living: Van life as a University Lecturer. My Dad called. “I saw you blog post last week… are you homeless?” “No Dad, not homeless just houseless. Don’t worry, it’s on purpose. I’ve still got my van.” My journey into alternative living started 10 years ago, when I moved, bit-by-bit into a 3-door car. These days, I feel at home wherever I am, even though I lack many things that are widely considered essential. But, what is an alternative lifestyle? Apparently, I’ve got one. It doesn’t take up much room, which is fortunate since I’m also a minimalist. Hmm, how can I explain? Well, remember that time you were living in a yurt, by which I mean a canvas home pitched in a friend’s back garden, whilst teaching at the music college, which you commuted to by bike (since co-incidentally that year you had also challenged yourself to travel only by bike) whilst blogging about it. Sound familiar? Probably not. Must have been just me, and small minority. That’s why it’s called alternative living Right now, I live in a van and I’m a university lecturer for AMSonline, teaching songwriting, composition and music business. Since I teach on Skype, my official job title is “Digital Nomad.” I’m part of a new wave of “backpackers” who’s backpacks are full of technology and tailored shirts rather than tents and convertible shorts.  Being houseless is an increasingly popular and workable choice, but I’m not saying it’s for everyone. For me it’s the result of asking myself one very important question “How do I want to live?” Asking that question is a vital ingredient for happiness, provided we’re willing to follow the answer, no matter how off-the-wall it may be… well I say wall.
Abundance and Minimalism I am a minimalist and often people can't cope. Clothes is what gets one of my friends. She keeps offering to buy my shirts. I say "but I've already got three." My part time teenager thinks the main problem in my life is that I don't have enough soft toys in my bed and earnestly bought me a life-sized fluffy duck out of his own pocket money, to rectify this problem.  It’s true that I have only one pairs of shoes, which developed gaping hole right in the middle of the recent snowstorm, that I expect the god of irony was to blame for this, and that duct tape didn’t work on the hole, and I had to borrow your football boots, and this week I’m on emergency flip flops whilst I wait for the cobblers to do their work. Sometimes that’s minimalism, but I still think it’s worth it. I live between my small van, housesitting and docking with friends and there's nothing like having very little space to make one thing obvious: minimalism is not lack, it's abundance. Being minimal is not about deprivation, it's about having what you need and getting rid of what you don't.  Furthermore, having more than you need is a form of lack - it becomes a lack of space, lack of time and lack of resources. It becomes trying to get to one thing, whilst something else which should have been let go of, is still there, in the way. This is true of stuff, but once you get it with stuff, you get it with everything. Time and scheduling. Money and spending, after all, to be rich, you only need one pound more than you need. These days, even emotional events are hoarded, daily photos, emails and texts automatically saved. Our past does not fade naturally. My emotional life too requires a minimalist attitude, reminding me to delete, delete, let go, become myself anew. Otherwise, well, it's trying reaching and grab the hand of who you’re going to be, whilst still holding onto the hand of who you were.
Freedom and Van Life "I could never do what you do" a friend said to me whilst I gave her a tour of my van /home "I need my freedom." I was thrown. I looked lovingly at my little yellow van, with all my worldly possessions folded under the bed. I have never felt freer. Ok, everyday things become complicated, such as cooking, getting water, finding a suitable bush, hanging up washing (on the dashboard), putting the cat out… getting the cat in. But going for an overnight in Dartmoor at 10mins notice, to see the shooting stars, or writing this script whilst lying in bed, by the river.. these things become simple. "I need my garden," my friend continued "I need space". Perhaps she imagined me cooped up in a tiny dark metal box, isolated and alone. It's true that there's not a lot of space in my van, but there is a lot of space in the world. That's my garden. It's different every day. Sometimes I park on the coast, sharing the morning's sea-sparkle view with millionaire homeowners.  So one person feels free in their own garden, which they tend and grow into a paradise of their design, For me, owning a house and big grounds would feel like a ball and chain, grounding me to one place. What do you call freedom? Perhaps it's different for you. The question is "What makes you feel free?" It might not be what anyone thinks it should be, but that’s all the more reason to pursue it.
Little Bucket List: Practicing having a good time. I'm known for my lifestyle challenges and experiments, which have included travelling only by fixed gear bike for a year, living in a yurt, going paperless, becoming a minimalist, and my £0 challenge of summer 2014).  This year I've designed my most UN-ambitious challenge yet. I'm calling it "Little Bucket List", mindful hedonism on a minute scale: a daily practice (because who says life's ambitions need to be big)? Ticking off tiny thimble sized bucket list items, such as making a really good cup of tea, stroking my first chicken, peeling an orange in one strip, having simple new experiences and enjoying the everyday, is what it's all about. After only 3 weeks, the project, which started out as a joke, had turned accidentally profound. Little Bucket List was meant to be a celebration of whimsy, but it seems that taking a few minutes per day to do something new and enjoyable deeply changes both mental and physical habits. Quite simply, I was practicing enjoying myself and getting better at it, experiencing more joy and pleasure day to day, appreciating little things and having a more vivid life.  What's more, it turns out I'm not the only one. Word had spread, and having a silly ol' time Little Bucket Listing was turning into a movement. I was asked to create a Facebook group so others could join, and twenty did. I met the ringleader, Radio Devon presenter Maggy Whitehouse and we spent hours discussing the virtues of daily whimsy. So, there you have it. When it comes to changing your life, think small, then think smaller. Don't wait to swim with dolphins, it's the doggy paddle with tadpoles that counts.  
It's the morning of Saturday March 3rd and I'm on Skype to my online student Jon. His final event is today and it's about to be snowed off. My city is shut, with snow caked so deep that central roads become meringue walkways. In his town it's the same. "What's the worst case scenario?" He's asking me "Will I fail the course?" I tell him no, but in honesty, I don't know what to do. This music degree is so important to him and like most of my mature students on the online course, his life is full, with family and a full time job. This launch event IS his final project and if it doesn't go ahead, where could he find the time to reschedule it? By mid morning, the melt has started. "I'm going to try and drive to the venue." he says at 11. "If I can get there, the audience can." I'm amazed by his determination. I forget that for so many of my students, taking a music degree represents a key life change. For most, it means achieving what they never thought possible and once that goal is in sight, it's hard to give up on, come sun or 6 inch snow. There's magic in committing to change your life and once that has taken root, nothing can stop it. At noon, the police announce that all roads will soon be clear. I exhale, and so does Jon, the venue staff and all the musicians involved, the warmth of which no doubt serves to accelerate the melt. And, when the time comes, the audience arrives in droves, after 3 days housebound by snowdrifts, they bound in eager and hungry for music and friendship. The event is an unparalleled success.
When the cowpat hits the van, remember folks, a poo story a day keeps everyone with a sense of smell away. Today’s pause is about a low point in my alternative van dwelling lifestyle. During heavy rain, believing myself to have found the right Dartmoor gate for my journey, I opened it, drove up the dirt track and directly INTO A COWPAT bigger than the van itself, and I have to admit, I was almost sunk. I’d inadvertently driven into a disused dairy farm composed entirely of what comes out of cows.    I wondered if I would be sunk. With no-one else around, would this be the end? Had the proverbial finally hit the fanbelt? I was in it deep. Should I back and forth, revving furiously? Should I open the window and leap for my life, leaving my van shaped home and all my worldly possessions to sink into a herbivores post gastronomical abyss.    No. I fought. And after much backing and forthing, drove out heroically, “steaming” with pride.    I had NEVER seen the van so filthy! I opened the window and it was even falling in FROM THE ROOF! I dared not get out. I was just feeling pleased with myself for getting “off pat”, when I realised that the power steering didn’t work anymore.    Needless to say, this was a low point for me. I could imagine haters saying “this wouldn’t have happened if you’d just rented a flat. It’s your own fault. This never happens to anyone’s house.”    But then I remember living in a house. It’s not like nothing ever went wrong then. Remember that time a pipe burst and the loft flooded and we didn’t find out until it started dripping into the toaster. Having an exceptionally bad day is available in all walks of life. The important thing to me is this: the challenges I face are part of the life I’ve chosen. In other words, the cowpat we step in on the path to our dreams, smells the sweetest. 
I live in a van. I'm saving up for heating. In the meantime, I got through this winter by house sitting. I earn my living teaching music on Skype and rely on borrowed offices for that. A question I'm often asked is "Do you feel vulnerable?" The answer is yes, I am vulnerable. There are certain things I need and don't own, but there is also plenty that I have to offer. This allows me to create relationships with a wide range of people, based on consensual exchange. What do I mean by that? Well at the start of the month, snow levelled the city and it levelled the people as well. Shops shut. No matter how much money you had, you couldn't buy bread. Within a few hours, barter, exchange and a unconditional giving had sprung up in every community. The local park because home to all ages, out sledging on anything from the cardboard box the tumble drier came in, to surfboards, body boards, baking trays and even a ghastly old painting. I lent out my waterproof socks and in turn was lent some shoes, when mine sprang a hole. A boy with no gloves swapped a few goes from on his sledge for my spare mittens. We checked on the neighbours. This is the power of a gift economy. Living in a van is a bit like that day at the snowy park. I've experienced generosity so overwhelming I've wanted to cry, and at the same time, been shocked at what I'm willing to give without a thought. Not having my own house reminds me that I'm vulnerable and that I'm capable, that I'm worth giving to and that what I have to give is valuable, and that each time we give or receive the relationships around us strengthen.
I have a female body, but I spent much of my childhood presenting myself as male. I watched boys intently, learned what they did. I performed being male, and would do anything to be accepted as a boy. TRANSCRIPTION: PERFORMING MALENESS When I was 10 I finally made the football team. I hated football; I was bad at it, but as I understood it being a boy required playing football, and getting onto the team would finally confirm my identity as a boy. At the start of the first practice “Master Smith” was called out, “Master Davies”, all the other boys and finally me “Miss McCarthy”. I was shocked. I couldn’t understand it. Surely playing football made me a boy. I’d been expecting to hear “Master McCarthy.” It was then I realised that gender is not about activity. Gender isn’t about how we look, or what we do. It’s about our personal internal sense of gender: our gender identity. How many people, transgender or not, perform their gender every day? How many boys did what I did, and cut out crying or being excited, just to be accepted as male? And what would you do differently if all expectations to do with gender fell away?
TRANSCRIPTION: NOTHING'S BINARY Being non-binary transgender is something I’ve always found difficult to explain. It seemed so unfamiliar to anyone, so invisible, so different… something they couldn’t relate to. Finally, the only thing to do was write a song, simply called Nothing’s Binary. Fellow non-binary musician Billy Bottle and I recorded it to co-incide with Exeter Pride, in May. The tag read “It's a song about being non-binary, but also celebrating LGBTQ as a whole”. A few thousand views later we were thrilled that the message had been so deeply received. It turned out, how I feel about being non-binary isn’t difficult to relate to at all. I learned that expanding beyond the binary notion of gender is not just relevant to those who identify as transgender, but to everyone, because we are all affected by the expectations of a society that sees gender in binary. The song resonated with anyone seeking to be seen as who they truly are. We heard from people who feel unseen due to gender, race, disability, or simply because for some other reason, the assumptions of others, and generic stereotyping leave them feeling judged and unacknowledged. I learned that when we see and accept each other, we love each other, and when we love each other we change the world. 
TRANSCRIPTION: Piers Morgan – The Elephant In The Room Earlier this year, Piers Morgan notoriously became angry whilst interviewing a non-binary couple on This Morning. His question, whether he could identify as an elephant, exploded across twitter and social media. For me, the elephant in the room behind his elephant comment was “Why was Piers Morgan so angry?” Was there something about the idea of non-binary gender identity that he felt threatened by? I identify as non-binary, and when I tell people this, they often have no point of reference. Their usual frames and categories, which tell them what to expect from someone male or female, are of no use. They have to take off their gender tinted glasses. Perhaps this starts them asking the question of what they assume about themselves because of their own gender. Perhaps this is frightening, or perhaps it is freeing. So, what if everyone identified as gender fluid or non-binary, or even as an elephant? We could make no assumptions. What if we took off our gender-tinted glasses, broke the frames, and saw people as they truly are?
TRANSCRIPTION: Invisible Gender Stereotyping I ask a 13year old “Is there anything that you wouldn’t do because you’re a boy?” “No,” he answers straightaway “I do anything I want to.” Then, after a pause adds “of course there are some things I wouldn’t want to do, you know, because girls do them, and I might get beat up.” What struck me then is that he couldn’t tell the difference between not wanting to do something, and not wanting the reaction from his peers. If the consequences of rebelling against gender stereotypes are serious, how can we tell the difference between not wanting to do something, and not wanting to be seen to step outside of our assigned box? How many decisions do we make every day on this basis? Inclusion is important, as humans are social creatures, and when we rebel we threaten our inclusion in our community. In a world where gender frames are narrow, and strictly enforced, the only boys who may, take up embroidery, for example, would be those who’s desire to embroider, was stronger than their desire not to get beaten up. This is one of many invisible gender issues, that slip under the radar, and for which we can all in small ways be activists; watching our little decisions to wear makeup to the gym or knit in the pub, ripple through our community, making waves.
TRANSCRIPTION: You Can’t Be What You Can’t See Why does it seem like non-binary is the new fashion trend? Can there really be more trans people than ever before? If someone begins to identify as trans later in life, are they for real? These are all questions I’ve been asked, sometimes innocently, and sometimes with the anger of Piers Morgan’s comment about identifying as an elephant. To me, the answer is simple – you can’t be what you can’t see, and you can’t be what can’t be seen. Although I experienced myself as trans all my life, it wasn’t until 2014 that I heard the term non-binary, and found that it described me. The word allowed me explain who I am to those closest to me, and once their frame of reference widened to include the word non-binary, they could see parts of me that up until then had been invisible. Until then they had been wearing gender-tinted glasses, and I existed outside their field of vision. The term non-binary changed that. The TV series “TransParent” addresses this invisibility masterfully, when the main character, a trans-woman, transitioning in her 60s, expertly answers her daughter’s question: “Are you saying that you’re going to start dressing up like a lady, all the time?” “no, honey… all my life, my whole life, I’ve been dressing up like a man. This is me.”
TRANSCRIPTION: Boy’s Haircut I finally got my hair cut short at the age of 12, sneaking off on a Saturday, with saved pocket money and without my parent’s knowledge. Up until then, I’d succeeded in looking like a tomboy, but getting that haircut was the final piece in the puzzle: after that I looked like a boy. It was a big decision. My child’s mind understood 2 basic principles: 1. I was a girl but I’d rather be a boy. 2. Ugly girls are said to look like boys. So, if I could make myself look ugly, people would think I was a boy - success. But if I was ugly, no-one would want to date me, I would never have a girlfriend or boyfriend, and never be loved. In my mind, this was the deal. I had to decide between being myself, and being loved. I chose the former, and cut my hair. Eventually I found love anyway, but years later it struck me that I made that decision. I wondered where else in my life I’d had to decide between inclusion, or self-realization. What would you choose? What have you chosen? What will you choose next time?
Why I’m Spiritual But Not Religious When I was just one year old, my Dad, was knocked off his racing bike by a van, injuring his spine. The accident left him miraculously able to walk, but in constant pain. He could no longer cycle; his no. 1 passion for 15years. It wasn’t until was 25 that I asked him about the crash. Did he wish it had never happened. He said “No, because otherwise I would never have discovered my spirituality”. He then told me the story of how, shortly after the accident, he was trying out a walk around town, but suffered so much pain that he suddenly needed to sit down and ducked into the nearest building – a church. And then, my dad said something wonderful about the value of our profound experiences. He said “people are so distracted; they are never truly with themselves. Then, one day, they might sit down quietly in a church, and it might be the first time they’ve sat quietly in that way, and in that quiet, profound thoughts that have been waiting for years to be heard, fill their mind. They are overpowered by waves of joy.” He then said “they might attribute this experience to the religion associated with the church, but that’s not necessarily true. It is a personal spiritual experience. It can stand alone and mean whatever it means to you.” I love this approach. It’s the key to being spiritual but not religious. It means trusting ourselves and our own personal sense of God. I believe that whatever we experience which is profound, joyful, powerful and deep is of great value. That profound feeling is our compass. When we feel that feeling we are led to be the best we can be, for ourselves and others. When we trust that feeling, we know who we are, and we know what to do.
The £0 Challenge: A couple of years ago I decided to face my fears about money by running out on purpose. I had no job or income at the time, and only £232 in the bank, but challenged myself to let my money run out naturally, then build back up from £0 without begging, borrowing or stealing. This meant no overdraft, no state benefits and no handouts. Instead I learned about making exchanges and the joy of being less attached to our money system. I thought that when I reached £0 I'd have nothing, but quickly realised this wasn't true: I didn't have nothing, I just didn't have any money. The number 1 thing that made an impact on me during this time was creating what I call moneyless interactions. When we buy with money, it’s a transaction. The price is usually already on a tag, and almost no interaction is required – no relationship. Without money however, every exchange or act of giving or receiving requires a conversation, a relationship. Operating without money requires genuine asking, genuine giving and genuine receiving – these things are all beautiful experiences, and much craved by more people than you’d expect. The litmus test for a moneyless interaction is that, it’s not exactly win-win, it’s that both parties go away feeling gratitude, whether they were the one giving or receiving. Since discovering this, I live now in post-£0-Challenge state. Although I’ve returned to earning and using money, my relationship with it has totally changed and I feel freer than ever. Whether I’m using money or not, has become irrelevant. I keep with me this truth, we should not be embarrassed to ask, to give, or perhaps most challenging of all; to receive, because these 3 things form the foundations that bring us close to each other. What would it be like if we could truly say exactly what we need? What would it be like if we could give someone we love exactly what they need? What would it be like if someone we love gave us exactly what we want? Asking is the gateway. Don’t be afraid to ask.
Looking Suffering In The Face - the first step towards changing the world Pain is painful. It’s painful to be in pain, to see someone in pain, to see the suffering in the world on the news every day. It’s impossibly hard. We are angry. We panic. We shut down. We detach. We engage. We are overwhelmed. What do we do? I believe the key to addressing suffering in the world is simply this: to look it in the face. To quietly and calmly look, and to see, to see it all. That is the first step. The step we as a planet have yet to learn to take. I’ve had the misfortune to be there with a loved one suffering unbearable physical and emotional pain. Or you could say, I’ve been fortunate – to be able to be there for them, so they didn’t go through it alone. Before that, I used to be terrified by the prospect of seeing someone I love in terrible pain. It brought on a feeling of cold dread. But what being with a loved one in pain teaches you is what’s truly of value in that situation. This is not panic, or attempts to help, or to make it not so (when it cannot be made different), or even to an extent, empathy. What’s needed is presence - witnessing. It doesn’t sound like anything of value, simply witnessing, but the reality is that WITNESSING IS EVERYTHING because the opposite of witnessing is denial. It’s from witnessing that clarity comes, stillness comes, and from stillness and clarity comes aligned action. If you are truly present with someone whilst they are in pain then you will know what is needed, and sometimes, witnessing is in fact all that’s needed. This being true for the individual, it’s true for global suffering too. It’s easy to get distracted or wrapped up in trying to stop the wrongs in the world. Instead w hat if you could cultivate an ability to truly witnessing that suffering, and quiet answers will come to you in plain calm voices, speaking slowly, clearly and from a place of true clarity, and then you will find your action.
Why I’m Prioritising Living Over Owning by Being A Digital Nomad. I’m speaking to you from the Roscoff to Plymouth ferry that returns me home from my first extended stint abroad as a Digital Nomad. The Digital bit refers to my work, teaching on an online music degree through Skype. The Nomad bit refers to my tendency to move constantly, exploring anywhere with a strong enough internet connection to keep that Digital bit happy. I’m part of a new wave of “backpackers” who’s backpacks are full of technology and tailored shirts rather than tents and convertible shorts. The trip has seen me meandering through rural France, house-sitting and living quietly in beautiful landscapes, amongst rolling hills and sleepy shuttered towns – slow travel, you could call it. Is this my dream? Is this why I have never had an interest in buying or even renting a home? Have I always wanted to be a Digital Nomad? The answer is no, and that “no” is very important to me. Being a Digital Nomad was never my goal, it is simply my current solution to the problem of living. Right now, it’s the best incarnation of freedom and fulfilment I’ve found. In the same way that when we search for God what we find is the result of the search. The result of the search will always grow and change, and continue to evolve. 5 years ago my solution was a Yurt – a canvas dwelling. I pitched up in a friend’s garden, after posting adverts around town which read “Ever wanted your own hermit? Having a hermit living in your garden can bring good fortune to your family. Will supply own cape. Doddering comes as standard.” I’ve also tried vans, and even lived in a 3 door car. I love putting my resources into having experiences rather than into owning my own home, particularly at this time when for my generation, financial constraints so often make that an either or. Besides, I feel at home wherever I am these days. But more than that, I believe the mortgage, car, house prescription to be exactly that – a prescription. If it’s what you want, of course, reach out and grab it. But I watch so many people wade into this prescribed path, without question, with hopes of happiness, but without asking “How do I want to live?” And to me, that question is a vital ingredient for happiness. It’s vital that we ask ourselves at every turn “I this really the best way of doing it ?” “How do I want to do this? How do I want to live?”


released January 30, 2017


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Kimwei Exeter, UK

One voice, one guitar and a whole new world of sound.

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