Keeping It Real

driving and environmentalism

So, I have something to tell you today.  Something I’m not entirely proud of, but after ten years of living car free we bought a car last month.  A teeny tiny, very fuel efficient second hand car if that makes it any better?  I suspect not, but let me tell you it wasn’t a decision we took lightly.  We’ve ummed and ahhed over the decision for maybe the past three years as life has increasingly necessitated the purchase.

A brief history about my driving.  I passed my test at the age of 17.  Growing up in a fairly rural area with limited public transport meant that it was the only way to get about without relying on my parents.  All my friends lived in different towns and it was difficult to get about.  Then I moved away to a large city to go to university and didn’t need to drive, so I only drove when I was home over the holidays.  When I stopped coming home for the summer holidays I stopped driving as I had no need to.  I then didn’t drive for 7 years, until I went to New Zealand to live/work/travel because I lived in a small town there that had no public transport.  Once I came home from New Zealand I stopped driving, and that was 10 years ago.

If we lived in Edinburgh, we wouldn’t need a car, as public transport is so good, regular and cheap there, and you can hire a car through the various pay per hour car schemes.  Sadly we can’t afford to live in Edinburgh as properties to buy and rent there are crazy expensive: our budget only affords us living a bit out of the city with no pay per hour car hire schemes nearby.  The bus service here isn’t the best and at times expensive.  It’s £16 return if my partner, my daughter and I need to travel to the next town for the dentist, or for the library or any other service we need to access, and will go up to £20 when my youngest turns 5.  It will be £30 return for us to travel to our nearest DIY store, only a few miles up the road in the other direction.  We have to go there frequently as we continue restoring our old house.  And there is only one bus an hour travelling to the nearest big town where the hospital is, and other essential services.

We have made do for as long as we can, and spent a long time deciding if any other alternative might work for us, but in the end we felt like society was against us with public transport prices and some places we want to go being inaccessible by public transport, and some places only being possible to get to with about four changes, that we felt the only solution was to buy a car.  With our parents (who don’t live close by and in places not particularly accessible by public transport)  not getting any younger, and now less able to drive long distances, we also want to be able to get to them at short notice without relying on them to come and pick us up.

So here we are. With a car.  And I wanted to be honest with you, rather than being disingenuous and hiding it from you.

I know some of you might be disappointed in me, and in truth I am disappointed in myself that we just couldn’t make it work, but we spent 10 years giving it our best shot.  We now have strict rules on the car – we don’t use it for commuting to work, we don’t use it for the school run (unless the weather is horrendous), and use it only when we need to.    I don’t actually like driving, so where we can, we drive to the nearest train station (which isn’t accessible by public transport annoyingly) and then use the train to complete the rest of our journey, which I feel helps lessen our impact a tiny bit, but I just wanted to keep it real with you, and let you know that our life isn’t by any means perfect.

Do you drive or do you have a car?  Do you feel guilt over driving?  Join my support group!





I thought I’d end the year with a bit of a personal essay.  A bit of a behind the scenes if you will, as 2016 was a funny old year.  It definitely had its up and downs.

I started 2016 by giving birth to my littlest daughter at home.  Everything was beautifully calm, and my daughter arrived, without much of a to-do at all, on our living room floor.  After the amazing team of two midwives made sure we were both ok, I went upstairs to my own bed, and spent a couple of days resting in bed with my beautiful baby in a haze of post birth euphoria.  With my partner in charge of keeping me fed, tending to the eldest, and keeping the wood stove burning, I had no place to be but to cuddle, feed and change my littlest of little ones.

After a few days, the calm inevitably wore off.  My partner returned to work and I had two girls to look after by myself for a large part of the day.  When they tell you to sleep when the baby sleeps?  Doesn’t really work when you have two.  When you don’t feel like going anywhere because you’ve only slept in two hour blocks for weeks and months on end, and just want to spend the day in your pyjamas mainlining tea and toast?  Doesn’t really work when you have to take your eldest to nursery and back every morning and then entertain her all afternoon.  I ran on very little sleep, tea and toast, walked miles each day to nursery and back, and generally felt like a frazzled cow.

Somewhere in the midst of all of that craziness, in the spring I agreed to do an interview with the Sunday Times about Moral Fibres.  I spoke to a nice journalist over the phone one morning whilst my eldest was at nursery and my youngest slept.  I hadn’t had much sleep for months, so I had no idea if I was coherent or made any sense.  Thankfully the Sunday Times found enough in what I’d said to publish the interview.

I’m always a bit wary of working with the media, as sometimes people interested in green living aren’t portrayed in the most positive of lights or the sanest of angles by the media.  I was pretty nervous on my way to the newsagent on the Sunday morning it was published, unable to remember much about what I’d said and wondering if it could have been misconstrued, but in the end I was really pleased with how the interview turned out.   Thanks to the kind journalist, I didn’t sound too much like a sleep deprived crazy person, so I emailed the journalist to say thanks for the lovely article, and I saved the article for posterity.

As it turned out it wasn’t just me that liked the article.  Off the back of the Sunday Times interview I received a call from a publisher.  A big publisher.  A publisher that I had heard off and whose books, written by some pretty big authors, were nestled on my book shelf.  And they said the most beautiful sounding words to me – that they had read my blog and they wanted to turn Moral Fibres into a book.  An actual physical book.

Now, I’ve never had any grand ideas of what I wanted to do/get out of the blog.  I write Moral Fibres in my spare time.  It’s not my main gig.  There are no business plans, business goals, heck, any kind of goals.  I just like writing and taking photos, and sharing ideas and inspirations with you.  It’s my creative outlet.  If I make a bit of money to help support the blog through the odd bit of advertising and affiliate links then all the better.  Hosting, domain names, camera equipment and such like doesn’t come cheap.

Needless to say the thought of writing a book had never crossed my mind.  I had never thought I could write a book.  Yet here was someone that publishes books saying that yes, they very much thought I could write a book, and did I want to?   Did I want to?  Well, when a big publishing house asks you if you want to write a book of course you say yes.  Countless aspiring authors spend their days trying to get their proposals and drafts even looked at by publishers, so to say no felt more than a bit foolish.

I agreed to put a proposal together for Moral Fibres: The Book (not the title we came up with, by the way), so I spent a few crazy weeks frantically typing and taking photos whilst the kids slept at night and basically didn’t speak to my partner for those few weeks.  I then sent the proposal to the publisher with everything crossed.

After a long couple of weeks they came back to me and said they loved the proposal.  Naturally my mind got a bit giddy and I began to think how things might work.  I thought perfect timing – I could just extend my maternity leave and get some childcare a couple of days a week for the kids.  It all felt workable even though I was still living on tea and toast and very little sleep.

The publishers were going to get back to me once they pitched the book to the various teams involved in publishing a book.  I had no idea so many different people were involved in the initial stages of a book’s inception, from sales to marketing, and it was fascinating to get an insight into how a book actually comes about.

The book was pitched successfully.  A few changes came about as a result of the pitch, but ultimately everything was go.  We had a name for the book, and idea of how it might look, and everything.  The publishers just needed to work out timescales, advances and so forth.  Everything felt pretty real and exciting at this point, and as we started to talk figures I thought I was going to get to add published author to my credentials.

Then summer arrived.  Apparently the busiest time in publishing as they prepare for the big Christmas releases, and Moral Fibres: The Book understandably dropped off the agenda, and then sadly didn’t get picked up again.  So to cut a long story short there is no book, but I’ve been surprisingly ok with that.  If writing a book had been a lifelong dream I would have been gutted, but as it stands for me it was quite the honour simply being approached by a publisher, and being told that they thought I could write a book.  I’m seriously flattered.

Thinking logically about it, I think it was definitely the wrong time to have considered something like that.  With my littlest one being so little and trying to write the book in summer and autumn of this year, life would have reached new uncharted levels of crazy.

Life has thankfully settled down now.  By the end of the summer my littlest one started sleeping through the night, to much fanfare.  My eldest daughter started school, and I got a bit more time to myself in the day.  By early autumn, buoyed by sleep and eating something more substantial than just toast, I felt more like myself again, and less like the frazzled cow I was in spring.  By late autumn I arranged some childcare and returned to work a few days a week which has only been a good thing – I feel like an infinitely better mum for having space to do grown up stuff, and I appreciate the days I have off with the kids much more.   And now my littlest is rapidly approaching her 1st birthday, my kids are able to play together a little now.  They mostly wrestle, but it warms my heart to see them play and makes life easier now they can entertain each other a bit.

Maybe one day in the future there might be a book.  Who knows?  I’ve not shelved the idea completely, and may pitch other publishers at some point.  I have a proposal sitting there all ready to go, after all, but right now I’m happy with our current status quo.

Safe to say, it’s been quite the orbit around the sun this year.  Whilst my own life has a bit more balance and calm to it than at the start of 2016, sadly it feels like the wider world has taken a bit of a beating.  With all the great people we’ve lost this year (David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Alan Rickman, Prince, Mohammed Ali, to name but a few), and all the other terrible things that have happened this year such as Brexit, Trump, Aleppo, extreme Arctic temperatures, etc, the world seems a bit of a poorer, sadder place.

I do often feel a sense of impotence over what difference I can make, especially when I sit down and watch the news.  To be honest I’ve had to stop watching/reading so much news this year, because it makes me feel miserable and helpless.  I don’t know what the answer is on how to make a difference, but it is something I’m going to mull over in 2017.

For now, I’m all about the self-care.  I am really looking forward to putting my feet up over Christmas and New Year, with no place to be and nothing to do but each mince pies and drink tea.  And maybe a few cheeky glasses of port for good measure.  I’m also taking a couple of weeks off from the blog to spend time with my family and catch up on lost sleep.

Thanks so very much for reading Moral Fibres this year.  It always warms my heart when someone makes a positive change after reading the blog (when I have a bad day I just look at the comments on this post).  Enjoy the holiday season, look after yourself too, and hopefully see you in 2017, well rested, bright eyed and bushy tailed!

Wendy. x