Thursday, 31 January 2013

Edinburgh International Science Festival 2013

Edinburgh International Science Festival launched it's programme for 2013 this morning. To commemorate the festival's 25th anniversary, the theme this year is The Future.Three of the strands include events of particular interest for those interested in environmental issues:

Future Foods will explore what we might be eating in the future, with events including Eating Aliens which will discuss whether eating invasive plant species might be the best way of controlling them (including a three course lunch of dishes made using invasive species)

Future Cities will explore possible futures for our urban centres with events including Greening the City in which experts from Gorgie City Farm and Greenspace Scotland explore various ways in which cities can be made more green.

Future Challenges will focus on some of the myriad challenges facing us as the human population continues to expand with events including Water, Water Everywhere which will explore how we will deal with managing our water resources in the future.

 There are events for all ages, many of which are free including:

Forestry DNA Detectives for children over 5 which will explore the science around DNA

Dung Days at the Zoo in which you can investigate, well, dung and learn to identify which animal leaves which type of dung (this event is free, but you'll need to pay the usual entrance fee to get into the zoo)

Patterns in Nature, one of several art exhibitions that will be on show leading up to and during the festival.

And for those who feel that cute and cuddly wildlife such as pandas get too much attention, the Ugly Animal Preservation Society will be arguing the case for the appeal of the aesthetically challenged species. 

Edinburgh International Science Festival will take place at venues across the city from 23 March - 7 April.

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Kittens in an Italian hill town

In yesterday's review of The Holy Place, the poetry book from Caroline Gill and John Dotson, I said that Caroline's poem Monte Testaccio: Mound of Potsherds reminded me of some feral cats Crafty Green Boyfriend and I had met in Italy several years ago now. 

Tommaso Gervasutti had wanted to know more, so here is a photo of the cats, that we met in Dolceaqua in the northern corner of Italy, near the border with France. The cats seemed to live by themselves in the mediaeval old town. They were quite wary (and quite smelly too!) but one of them let Crafty Green Boyfriend pick it up.

 And here's a photo of Dolceaqua, as it's a very photogenic place!

 As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The Holy Place - poetry by Caroline Gill and John Dotson

I recently bought a copy of The Holy Place, poetry by John Dotson and Caroline Gill.

The two poets have very different but complementary styles. John's poetry is mostly minimalist. I particularly like:

let's take cicadas then

in madly chanting crescendoes 
along the honey suckle-lined 

mud pathed riverbank.


The second half of the book is devoted to Caroline's poetry. Caroline may be a bit of a rarity these days in that she writes formal poetry and writes it well.  Her sestina The Figure at the Phoenix Mine included in this book won the Petra Kenney Poetry Competition in 2007.

She's also (as anyone who reads her Wild and Wonderful blog will know) a keen naturalist. Many of the poems here are informed by this love of nature. Ice Maiden of Zennor features a snowy owl that very unusually was spotted in Cornwall. The poem in its rhythms and cadences is a little reminiscent of Poe's The Raven:

Silent flakes are floating gently
high above the ocean spray;
owlish eyes look innocently
on the sailor's winter way.

There's also a hint of Poe again in Monte Testaccio: Mound of Potsherds though it features cats rather than a bird:

Can you hear the paws 
that prowl proprietorially
and saunter round the cemetery
beside the Pauline Gate?

This poem took me right back to a mountain village in Italy several years ago where Crafty Green Boyfriend and I discovered a group of cute (and quite smelly) feral cats that were prowling most proprietorially!

This book is very good value too at only £3.50 including postage and packing within the UK.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Upcycled gift bag

This little bag originally had the words 'Hand Baked Biscuits' printed on it. Well in fact it still does, but you can't see those words any more because I sewed on a length of pretty fabric! I added the button just as a design feature. And now it's a lovely gift bag.

Maybe I should do 'before and after' photos when I share my crafting projects here? What do you think?


Meanwhile, I've added another beaded bookmark to the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop.

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more. 

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Figgate Park

We went along to Figgate Park today, which is a small park with a stream and a pond and some trees. We were delighted by the number of birds we saw there. Figgate Pond often attracts unusual ducks and today was no exception, we got lovely views of the handsome male shoveller

and three male gadwalls, two of which are seen below with a coot. The male gadwall is an understated, elegant duck and this is the first time I've had a really good view. The female gadwall looks like a small female mallard.

Thanks to Crafty Green Boyfriend for the photos!

This weekend is the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. As we don't have a garden (well we theoretically have part share in a garden, but there's nowhere in it to sit and observe birds without drawing the attention of one of our neighbours and his dogs and it's not visible from our flat so its far from ideal for the garden birdwatch) we did our Big Garden Birdwatch informally at Figgate Park. As well as the shoveller, gadwall and coot, we also saw:

woodpigeons; magpies; long tailed tits: great tits: blue tits: robins: blackbirds; treecreeper; moorhens; black headed gulls; feral pigeons; mallards; Canada Geese; greylag goose: tufted ducks; mute swans: grey heron; dipper; fieldfare and mistle thrushes.

If you're in the UK, you still have time to take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend! You can also take part in Birdtrack, which allows you to record all the birds you see.


and my haiku on Daily Haiku today is here

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other pages where you can find out more

Friday, 25 January 2013

Surviving Progress

This documentary film, based on Ronald Wright's best-selling book “A Short History Of Progress”, explores whether human civilisation can be said to genuinely be making progress and just what is progress any way?

The film starts at looking at human psychology, and states that what makes us differ from the apes is our ability to ask why. However it also suggests that physically, emotionally and mentally we haven't developed all that far beyond the first humans. We're still effectively ice age hunters trying to cope with the bewildering economic and cultural developments of human civilisation.

Are we in fact in the middle of a progress trap? Wright offers an example of a very early progress trap, when prehistoric hunters found that rather than just killing the mammoths they needed to eat they could trap whole herds of mammoths. This looked like great progress until the mammoths starting running out and the hunters lost a valuable source of food. (Sound familiar at all?)

The film then looks at progress made by humans across the world and examines it's sustainability:  rampant consumerism, deforestation, genetic engineering, space exploration.

The film interviews politicians, environmentalists (including Jane Goodall) writers (including Margaret Atwood) and economists, all of whom give their perspectives on progress. 

It's a thought provoking film, worth trying to see it if you can.

Surviving Progress is showing at the Filmhouse, Edinburgh tonight at 6.15 and tomorrow at 1.10. Find your local screening here. If you're in the UK or Ireland you can also watch the film on the new Filmhouse Player here (you will need to sign up and pay for this service).

As ever, red text contains hyper-links that take you to other web-pages where you can find out more.

So Sad for the rhinos

Rhinos are just one of the animals that are severely threatened by poaching.

The northern subspecies of the white rhino is so rare that it is given it's own armed bodyguards in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy of Kenya. The animals have their horns surgically removed (which is shown to deter poachers and to not have a detrimental effect on the health of the animal) and then are looked after by armed guards.

You can read more and see a photo here.

There's something just so tragically sad about this.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

What next for our forests?

I blogged in November about The Independent Panel on Forestry which released a final report last July. The 'Forests Report' was welcomed across the sector. It makes 31 recommendations that offer a feasible and considered framework for action along with real promise for a safe and strong future for England's forests. 

Now, it's down to how the UK Government responds. In the next few days, Owen Paterson MP, the Secretary of State is expected to give the Government's official response. Woodland campaigners are apprehensive about what this might contain, you can read about why this is on the Woodland Trust blog

What the Government says - and does - about the Independent Panel's final report really matters for England's forests, woods and trees. The Government needs to take seriously the work of the Panel and the needs of our woodlands. 

And after almost 2 years of debate and discussion it's now high time for practical action. We urgently need to protect our woodlands and to ensure tree health. We certainly need decisive action on the latter if we are to prevent future disease outbreaks such as the devastating ash die-back that is still spreading across the UK. 

If you want to find out more about woodlands in the UK, visit the Woodland Trust website. Here you can find out about your nearest woods, share your photos of woodland places or get involved in campaigns to save our woods.

My haiku on Daily Haiku today has a woodland theme, you can read it here. Yesterday's haiku is here.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville West

This, probably Vita Sackville West's best known novel, outlines the end of the life of Lady Slane, from the death of her husband to her own death. It's a novel of great social insight, not just into the life of the rich during the early part of the 20th Century but into the lot of women during that time. It tells of family rivalries and quashed ambitions as well as one elderly woman's intention to do just exactly what she wants to do during her widowhood.

Not surprisingly for someone who was also a garden designer, Vita Sackville West had a great eye for nature too:

She remembered how, crossing the Persian desert with Henry, their cart had been escorted by flocks of butterflies, white and yellow, which danced on either side and overhead and all around them..... and remembered thinking this was something like her own life, following Henry Holland like the sun, but now and then moving into a cloud of butterflies which were her own irrelevant thoughts

All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville West originally published 1931, republished by Virago Modern Classics

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Winter Wonderland - Water of Leith

It was a true winter wonderland along the Water of Leith today! I walked round Colinton and Craiglockart Dells as I do most Tuesdays. This is what it looked like:

If you look carefully at the (slightly overexposed) photo of the ivy, you can see the individual snowflakes! It was like this everywhere, the snowflakes were falling so softly that they could each be seen in all their individuality!

Meanwhile the dippers were very excitable, singing and chasing each other along the river. Another lovely bird sighting was a flock of blackbirds, redwings and chaffinches under some trees. Oh and I saw a pair of bullfinches, back to when I first started regularly walking the Dells, I'd see these finches every week, then I stopped seeing them but I'm now seeing them more regularly again, which is nice!

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Handmade Paper

I had my first attempt at making handmade paper recently. I basically followed the instructions from this online tutorial and used a paper making kit that Crafty Green Boyfriend gave me as a gift.

It's a messy process and uses a fair amount of water and a fair amount of electricity as you need to use a blender to mix the paper pulp. Using the kit I've got, you need to make each sheet of paper separately, so it's very time consuming. I think also I'll need to practice a lot before I get the thickness right (the purple paper on the right is very definitely too thick!). Also I opted to let the paper dry naturally, which may have been a mistake as it took ages to dry. You can iron the paper to dry it out more quickly. Also I should have pressed out more of the water when the paper was in the mould.

The paper that you end up with is quite rough - you'd use it for texture effects in greetings cards for example rather than as writing paper. However, what I really like is the variety of colours you can make. I've sorted out my sheets of used coloured office paper into colours and the photo shows on the left the result of making paper with pink office paper and on the right using a mix of purple and pink office papers. I'll be experimenting in the future with various colours.

So this isn't a craft I'll be doing too often but it's a good way of recycling paper.

Have you ever tried making paper in this way? What were your experiences? Do you have any advice to share?

I'm delighted to be the featured poet on Daily Haiku again this week. You can read today's haiku here and yesterday's here.

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can learn more!

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Cammo Country Park - Winter Wonderland

We had quite a lot of snow overnight and thought we would go out into the woods! We chose Cammo Country Park, largely because with all the recent rain it must be much muddier than usual (and even normally it is very muddy). We reckoned that the snow and ice would mean it was now less muddy than normal and we were right! It is a lovely winter wonderland at the moment.

We saw lots of birds too, including blackbirds and redwings, a bullfinch, a goldfinch, robins, wrens and dunnocks.

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can learn more.

Friday, 18 January 2013

More on the Vole called Mr Mouse

My uncle and his field vole did appear on Winterwatch Unsprung last night (there's always an element of uncertainty about clips being shown on the programme as they get so many viewers videos etc sent in!). You can see the episode here, I think the relevant clip is about halfway through, but it's worth watching the whole episode (though if you're not familiar with the Winterwatch / Springwatch / Autumnwatch series, it's worth knowing that Unspring is more chaotic than the main shows!). I'm not sure if you'll be able to view the programme if you're outside the UK and wherever you are, it is only available to view until 24 January.The whole series of Winterwatch has been excellent, with some fascinating insights into how British wildlife survives the winter.

Mr Mouse is called Mr Mouse (despite being a female field vole) because my uncle thought it was a mouse when he found it. He quickly worked out it was actually a vole, but the name had already stuck.

(The photo above is from an original from my uncle.)

Thanks to everyone who commented on my previous post about my short story about Mr Mouse. I'm working on the outline of a story (based on the true story, but with several alterations) which I hope to get published as a children's picture book (with illustrations by an illustrator to be chosen by the publisher, that's generally how it works. I can only draw rabbits anyway, which wouldn't be much use in this context!). I won't be posting the story on this blog, but I will keep you informed of progress! I hope to finish it soon, then to get feedback from my uncle and other people and then to send it into the world.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

A Field Vole called Mr Mouse

My uncle recently asked me to write a children's story about a field vole that he found a couple of years ago. The vole looked as though it had been attacked by a cat or something and my uncle looked after it, not expecting it to survive. Three years later the vole is not only alive but has had many adventures and should be appearing (with my uncle) on Winterwatch Unsprung tonight at 9pm on BBC2.

Meanwhile I've written the outline of the story (changing quite a lot of the details) and am currently working on polishing it up and hope to send it out quite soon.

For those of you who aren't in the UK, Winterwatch is part of the brilliant series of programmes that also includes Springwatch and Autumnwatch, that look at the UK wildlife through the year. Unsprung is the part of the programme which both goes behind the scenes and invites viewer feedback and stories. The whole set of programmes does a brilliant job of getting people interested in the nature that is all around them. It's aimed at a very general audience but has enough interesting facts in it that even very keen naturalists can often learn something new!

As ever, red text contains hyper-links that take you to other web-pages where you can find out more.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Lacy patterns in icy puddles

I went birdwatching along the River Esk and the John Muir Walkway in Musselburgh today. it was very cold and I was very impressed by the beautiful patterns in the icy puddles.

There were a lot of birds along the river and the coast. I particularly enjoyed watching a group of turnstones, scurrying around, doing what they're meant to do (turning stones to find the food hidden underneath). I was very impressed by the size of the some of the stones they were turning! Plus the noise, quite a clatter as the stones turned and fell.

Then I saw a curlew in the water, digging around to find food. A black headed gull was following it and picking at the surface of the water every time the curlew stopped digging. Definitely seemed as though the gull was taking advantage of the little bits of food that were floating away from the curlew.

This more than made up for the fact that on the three lagoons, I saw no birds at all apart from a solitary carrion crow. The lagoons can be a wonderful place for birdwatching or totally empty as they were today.Even without birds, they did look beautiful in the cold winter light.

As did the boating pond.

Lovely wander and I hardly felt the cold once I had been walking for a while....

As ever, red text contains hyper-links that take you to other web-pages where you can find out more.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Monday, 14 January 2013

Revelle by Alison Wiley

I was delighted when Alison of Diamond Cut Life recently asked me to review a copy of her brand new novel Revelle.

Revelle Jones Champagne is a dancer, in tune with her body and the world around her through the joy of dance and the support of her unconventional church community. Dance and her inner joy see her through many challenges in her life including abuse, redundancy and a failed marriage. She feels like a very real character, likeable and engaging though also exasperating, flawed and liable to make bad judgements.

Revelle also loves nature. My favourite scene in the book is where she dances with horses:

Surprisingly [the three horses] all walked towards me, as if I had food for them or they knew me. They stopped at the fence and looked at me alertly. I looked back at them, engaged, and bounced on my toes, feeling a bit excited. The bay tossed his handsome head up and down as if sharing the feeling. The chestnut pawed the ground. I trotted alongside the fence a few yarsd, looking over my shoulder to keep eye contact, inviting them to move with me. They came right along. I was delighted. Fellow dancers!

I capered and pranced fifty yards in one direction , then back again. They mirrored me on the other side of the fence, trotting and turning on cue. I felt their energy like an infusion into my thigh muscles, burning warm and bright. I ran faster and they moved from trotting to cantering.

This is a novel about finding the strength to keep going through the bad times. At the end, though Revelle has extricated herself from her unhappy marriage, it is unclear where she will go next. But the reader can be certain that wherever she goes, Revelle will be dancing.

Revelle by Alison Wiley, will be published by Diamond Cut Life Publishing on 20 January.

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more

Sunday, 13 January 2013

New pincushion - very easy to make!

Given my New Year's resolution to make more crafts, I soon realised that I needed a real pincushion. I had found a nice design for one, which I wanted to make, but then one of our candles burned down and I realised that the lovely clay pot would make a perfect, sturdy base for a pincushion. So here it is!

I just folded a scrap of pretty fabric round a lump of the material you'd use to stuff a cushion (kapok or an artificial equivalent, I'm not quite sure which it is!) and then put the whole lot in the candle pot. So this will sit by my side as I do my sewing projects!

I have to say too, my new year's resolution is being made easier by a) inspiration from Pinterest (which is full of wonderful crafty ideas) and b) a large stash of crafting materials from a friend! 

Friday, 11 January 2013

'Waterproof' birdwatching notebook

I'll be needing a new birdwatching notebook soon so I made myself this one from scrap paper, the shiny cover of an out of date glossy report and a couple of scraps of elastic. The shiny card should hopefully make it at least slightly shower-proof, an important consideration in the Scottish climate!

I've made it for practicality, not beauty so the elastic is untidily knotted but can easily be un-knotted and retied when I've used up all the paper and want to add more paper.  

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Big Garden Birdwatch

The RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch has grown from humble beginnings in 1979 to now be the largest wildlife survey in the world!

And if you live in the UK, you can get involved very easily. All you need to do is to watch the birds in your garden or local park for one hour during the weekend of 26 - 27 January and record what you see. Full details are here.
If you aren't confident about identifying the birds that you see, the Big Garden Birdwatch website has a useful id chart or you can visit the bird identification pages of the main RSPB website.

I know that many people reading this blog love birds as much as I do, they bring colour and life into gardens all year round. The Big Garden Birdwatch offers the chance to get to know your garden birds better and also to feed your observations into the national survey. Over half a million people now regularly taking part, which combined with over 30 years worth of data, means that Big Garden Birdwatch enables the RSPB to monitor trends and to understand how birds are doing in the UK.

So make yourself a cup of tea, pull your chair up to the window, get your binoculars out and start counting! 

And if you are interested in recording your bird sightings all year round, then you can enter them onto Birdtrack

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Articles on the Environment

Two interesting articles worth reading on two different aspects of environmental thought:

an excellent, thought provoking (and long) article from Paul Kingsnorth on scything and deep, Dark Ecology in Orion Magazine (thanks RabbitsGuy for letting me know about this one!)

and Tony Juniper writes in the Guardian newspaper about Why the Economy Needs Nature.

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Spring in January?

We're having wonderfully mild weather at the moment - it feels more like March than January (and last year March felt like May!). This pleasant weather is very nice but worrying too.... We are promised some cold weather in the next couple of weeks though....

Other signs of Spring:

I was woken yesterday at 2.54am by a blackbird singing;

Today,by the Water of Leith, a song thrush was singing a duet with a great tit (they sounded as though they'd been rehearsing together for ages, the great tit's 'teacher, teacher' was the perfect accompaniment to the song thrushes tuneful phrasing.)

long tailed tits, blue tits and great tits were chasing each other excitedly through the bushes alongside the Water of Leith.

The dippers were also singing on the river, but dippers, like robins, sing practically all year round.

The wonderful orange ladybirds are still huddled together in hibernation in the tops of the fence poles though...... 

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Panda: Back from the Brink

I was delighted to win this beautiful book from Saraband Books in a competition on Twitter. In return I said I would write a review. I kept picking up the book and it was a while before I actually got round to reading it, because it is so full of adorable photos of cute pandas - groups of baby pandas, pandas hanging from trees in improbable poses, pandas rolling in the snow, pandas ambling through forest! Crafty Green Boyfriend must have got heartily sick of hearing me say 'oh look at this adorable panda!'.

But this isn't just a book full of adorable photos of cute pandas. It is also a concise and beautifully written account of the panda - its lifestyle, its biology, its evolution, its conservation status and the work that is being done to increase the population of pandas, and its importance as a cute cuddly poster animal to help stimulate the conservation of its habitat and the other animals that share that habitat. It also outlines how China has used gifts of pandas in international diplomacy for centuries!

The iconic giant panda is unique: it has no close relatives in the animal world. But despite becoming a symbol of wildlife conservation, having narrowly avoided extinction, there are fewer than 2000 giant pandas alive today. This spectacular celebration of our best-loved bear combines the expertise of  the foremost panda conservationists with an extraordinary collection of previously unseen photographs by the world’s leading photographer of pandas in the wild. Catch a rare glimpse of this shy creature at home in the remote mountain wilderness of Sichuan, and peek inside the nursery at the Wolong research institution where efforts to save the panda have been bearing fruit.

This is a wonderful book for anyone who loves pandas (and who doesn't?).

Sales of this book support the pandas at Edinburgh Zoo, which is owned and managed by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. A word about zoos may be in order then! Yes I have visited the giant pandas at Edinburgh Zoo and it was an amazing experience, what lovely animals. I don't like to see animals in caged enclosures, even when the enclosures are large and comfy looking as many of them are at Edinburgh Zoo. But I'd far rather see animals in a zoo than entirely extinct (and many zoos are actively involved in returning animals to the wild and conserving natural populations). Their being in a zoo at least leaves the hope that one day they can be released back into their natural habitat, where they belong. And given that it's our fault that they're losing their natural habitat, the least we can do surely, is offer them an alternative place to live? 

Panda: Back from the Brink published by Saraband Books.

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.

Saturday, 5 January 2013


'Then out to the pier, to the edge of the pier, to wait and see if any of those glorious, misshapen lumps of sea creature would show up.

"I really hope the manatees come today" Mom said.

It had been, I realised then, a year and a half filled with many odd superstitions that would come over me suddenly - what Joan Didion would call "magical thinking". All I could focus on was the following nonsensical equation: If the manatees came, it would be a good day, Mom would feel "better"....... I stared deep into the water, hoping to see one.

Then I saw one manatee and then another, and then one more. The harbor was filled with a jumble of powerboats, the hulls of which were linen-crisp against the murky water and the bright blue of the sky. The boats were still unmanned. The manatees moved slowly around and between them. But in the distance were boats at full power, churning the water. And when you stared at the backs of the manatees, you could see great gashes that had scabbed over.'

From the amazingly moving The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Scwalbe, which is mostly not about manatees but about books and illness, grief and dying, and which I review here, on my Shapeshifting Green blog. 

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you other pages where you can find out more. 

Friday, 4 January 2013

Paper hearts

It's early to be thinking of Valentine's Day with Christmas barely round the corner (and it is still officially Christmas for another couple of days according to the church calendar). However, one thing I'm really learning since I set up the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop, is that you need to start planning and stocking seasonal items very early! So I've just added the first set of Valentine's Day hearts to my shop. This selection is made up of ten hearts of varying sizes. I've also just added four sets of small hearts. Ideal for Valentine's Day or other romantic crafts!

These are made from a vintage French book. I don't normally cut up books, in fact book art often makes me feel uncomfortable, surely a book is worth more as a book? However, this book was literally falling apart so I spent a happy wee while drawing and cutting out red hearts .....

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Taxes, ethics and online book sales

Amazon, Britain's biggest online retailer, generated sales of more than £3.3bn in the country in 2011/2012 but paid no corporation tax on any of their profits – and has been investigated by the UK tax authorities.

For those who like to buy books online this may cause an ethical dilemma. Do you boycott Amazon and lose out on finding great books or do you continue to buy there and put up with the vague (or stronger) sense of unease over supporting the company's practices?

There is an alternative - Green Metropolis is a UK book selling website that supports charities (including Woodland Trust). This site doesn't have as wide a selection of books as Amazon (nor does it sell anything else but books) but it is simpler to use and all books are sold for the same price (£3.75 including UK postage).

Many publishers and bookshops also have online stores these days, so it's always worth checking these out rather than going straight to Amazon. 

Similarly if you abhor the fact that Google has not only avoided tax in the UK but is quoted as being proud of doing so, then you may like to switch your internet searching to an ethical search engine, which raises money for charity. I use Everyclick, which allows you to choose any UK charity you wish to support. I use it to raise money for Gorgie City Farm in Edinburgh. If your chosen UK charity isn't represented on Everyclick then you can encourage the charity to sign up.

Of course, tax avoidance (as opposed to evasion) is usually legal and needs to be addressed at the governmental level. I suspect not many companies are so ethical that they'll say 'oh we'll not do that, because it would mean we make money unethically' particularly not with their boards and accountants standing over their shoulders advising them on how to maximise profits. But ethics do matter more and more to the public and even the biggest companies need to be taking this on board.

And of course, tax avoidance by big companies is only one of many reasons to make the ethical choice!

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other pages where you can find out more. 

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

New Buttons Brighten up a Cardigan

One of my New Year's resolutions is to do more crafting, specially little projects that can be fitted into a spare few minutes.

First I'm going to replace the missing buttons.....

This cardigan has always been my favourite, but the old buttons were a bit boring to say the least, they were flat and grey and then I lost two of them (this is where I realise I should have a 'Before' photo of the cardigan.....) A friend recently gave me a whole load of buttons to reuse including these lovely brass ones. I think they give the cardigan a whole new lease of life. And I'll reuse the old buttons too!