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Breastfeeding Olympics- Toddler Heat

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Here we are in London, getting ready for one of the most highly esteemed sports here at the 2012 Games.

Taking her place in the Toddler Heat of the Breastfeeding Olympics we have Ramona of Camberwell, London, surely she will prove to be a legend in her time. At 22 months old she has been preparing for this moment in the limelight for well over a year and a half.

Ramona starts off steady, toddling towards the goal signalling her wish for milk. In a commitment to efficiency she has discarded all words (her favourite once being “BAPS”)  and has now streamlined it to something that takes much less effort- a mere greedy smacking of her lips.

Here we are able to witness the critical difference between an Olympian and a rubbish human- TOTAL DEDICATION. Nothing will steer them off course. Ramona marks out her target from the other side of the playground and makes her way over, ascending small mountains of sand, elbowing other competitors out of the way, pulling at her mother’s top with a verocity that gives her a clear advantage. With not a glance at the teenage boys huddled in the corner who may be getting ready to whip out at best a smirk, Ramona tucks in.

This is what winners are made of.

Of course, like most sports there is a team to think of here and Ramona makes sure Tiny Cat, Musical Duck, Stiff Haired Playmobil Fella, Thomas the Tank Engine all get a turn at exercising their nursing prowess.

We move on to the time-trials now as Ramona shows just how seriously she takes the Olympic motto of Faster, Higher, stronger. She hurtles in for a slurp lasting just moments before running back to the game she was previously involved in. Seconds later she is back, with yet another momentary tug and a sip and a squirt high in the air for good measure. And WHAT’S THIS?! Back for a third time in 5 minutes! This time showing true dexterity by nursing upside down whilst climbing over mummy’s shoulder.

The excitement is unbearable as we head into the all important endurance phase. Ramona steers quickly away from her triumph in the Swift Nursing round and as we head into the night time she reveals exactly how superior her talent for perseverance is. This tiny mite is but a GIANT when it comes to breastfeeding non-stop throughout the period when most mere mortals have to sleep.  It isn’t just chance that Ramona’s slogan is Sleep is for the Weak.

In the final round Ramona assures her supremacy by going all out in the multi-tasking phase. She steams ahead of the other competitors by nursing AND counting her toes AND honking mummy’s nose AND poking mummy’s tonsils AND singing Wind the Bobbin Up.

And, we get a glimpse at just how critical the apparatus are, as nipples are stretched, pulled, stamped on and knelt on in a keen display of athletic versatility and strength.

AND SHE HAS DONE IT! The Champion of the World in Toddler Breastfeeding Olympics, Ramona Lily of Camberwell. Dizzying heights for a toddler of such slight stature. If she could speak she would surely thank her team and all her fans but instead she simply stares adoringly up at her mummy and her mammory glands in a profound demonstration of team effort.

Back over to the Aquatic Centre now where our beloved Becky Adlington is stepping into the water…


It is World Breastfeeding Week! Here’s to a world free from breastfeeding  misinformation and myths, where women can nurse their children without being mocked or derided, where breastfeeding mothers can get applauded and celebrated and supported, and where walls put up between breastfeeders and bottlefeeders are pulled down because we are all mammas, all wanting the absolute best for our little legends.  Woop woop!

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Car Boot Who’s Who

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We made the most of today’s glimpse of sun by getting ourselves to the Hayes Street Farm car boot fair. We weren’t expecting much seeing as it is just out of  the London ‘burbs but it turned out to be one of the biggest booties we’ve ever been to.

While I was scouting out an old set of hooks, trying to work out how to get the best price out of a wheeler dealer who had CLEARLY seen me coming from a mile away, an old know-it-all piped up over my shoulder “Oh yeah, 1950’s designer hooks them.” The seller’s ears perkied and he choked out a price way beyond my humble jumble means. I slunked/slank/slinkied (??) off thinking just how typical those characters were.

We bustled about the rest of the fair, spending only about £13 but coming away with a proper arm full. (Okay, er, boot full.) As we bustled we met the whole cast of car booters, the beloved and the beholdens you inevitably find at every one. See if you know them too. . .

Senior Seen Ya

He’s got a House Clearance van full of rusty relics, old stuff that he doesn’t know much about but he knows some people appreciate. Senior isn’t fooled by my guise of “looking poor” especially for the car boot,  he knows I can’t resist his languishing junk and hikes up the price accordingly.

Expect to hear: This piece, you know, it’s a collectible, like a vintage-retro-antique, yeah? It’s £25. A good deal too, for this piece.”

The WinWins

These are another kind of regular car boot sellers. Often a couple, retired, they fetch an extra bob on the odd vintage treasure but also have a a whole load of Rummaging Crates with a sign sticking out; “All 20p”. Their stock flows freely, they go home unburdened,  you take home a worn pack of Dominoes; everyone is happy!

Do say: “I’m just popping back to the car to get my trolley bag!”

Don’t say: “Shall we call it 15p, rather than 20p?”

60p I paid for these two sets of dominoes! I’ll keep one set and craft with the other.

Knock off Norrie

Norrie here, he’s got the Idops and the Idaps, a select handful on his muddy blue tarpaulin. But people are crowding round, and some are even buying. We saw one guy today pay £20 for a tablet off our Norrie – he never listened to his mum’s wise words-  if it seems to good to be true, it probably is!

Slogan: Less Car Boot and more Boot Leg

Colleen the Collector

Her table is a mecca for tiny porcelain creatures, a swarm of dainty ballerinas, hedgehogs and cats.  Either it is a life time of purposeful collecting, OR she made the mistake once of mentioning to someone how much she liked a miniature china hedgehog and every friend and family member has bought her a small ornament for every occasion since. She is finally liberating herself of her fragile army of porcelain.

Trademark:A slight discomfort at having her goods on display.

I got this rusty tin for 10p. Like I need another rusty tin.

Top Makes Dave

One of the rare sellers which will yell, market like, at the crowds “Top makes, everything a pound” as he tries too off load the giant pyramids of loo roll and new household products stacked up behind him. Dave comes from a long line of market traders and is single handedly taking on Poundland.

Try not to:Autocorrect “Makes” with “Brands”

I can’t refuse a Twinkle, especially for 50p. I got the the frame for 10p and a roll of the gorgeous old navy wallpaper behind for another 10p. (“Hey Big Spender, ba, ba, ba, baaa!”)

The Outdoor Boys

You’ll spot these tanned blokes wearing their polo shirts and cargo trousers – often with sons in tow-  standing behind their rows of swanky fishing rods and associated gear. I normally whizz straight by but not before wondering if they manage to shift any of their pricey equipment in this jumble rumble.

Expect to hear: Bruce Springsteen blaring out of their stereo.

Lara Landrover

Meticulous mum with meticulous piles of well priced toys and quality kids clothes. These mums help me leave with not just frivolous rusty tins but some things I actually NEED for Ramona. And I help pay for the kids Scout Camp I ‘spect.

Do say:I won’t take the princess costume but I’ll have these dungarees, please!”

Don’t say: “I don’t really buy plastic toys for my little one, even if it is Fisher Price.”

The Melancholy-Looms

It is apparent a dear elderly parent has recently passed on, or a dear elderly parent is not quite passed on but is clearing out. The table is bending under the weight of not-quite-heirlooms spanning the spectrum of a lifetime. A beautiful antique dinner set next to a modern toaster, a tray full of VHS’s under a pile of retro curtains; a film of dust and sadness clings to everything.

Try not to: Shamelessly yelp with too much glee when you find the vintage crockery you are in love with.

Tool Time Terry

Nothing. But. Tools. Hundreds of them.

Expect to see: Tools.

*curtain raise*

Would you add any other characters to this cast? Would love to hear them!

Linking up with Liz and those cracking Magpies – I bet there are car boot hauls galore over there.

Streets filled with peace (not tanks, thanks)

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There have been a fair few surreal moments in my 5 years history as a campaigner with Oxfam.

I have taught Richard Branson how to do the running man.*

I have trundled around the streets of Tunbridge Wells dressed as a big cuddley polar bear.*

I have wheeled a GIANT Santa in front of the US embassy and sung carols.*

I have bantered with Esther Rantzen in front of an audience of hundreds.*

I have mimicked those New York builders sitting on the girder eating lunch- whilst pregnant nonetheless.*

And then today I ‘as bin gallivanting around the streets of London with a big fat genuine TANK. *

Come with me for a tick, back a couple of years, to another amazing and surreal experience with Oxfam. It involved spending time in rural Cambodia, seeing the work Oxfam does in poor villages out there, arriving home just days before my daughter Ramona was conceived.  (In fact, we joked for most of my pregnancy about how a little Cambodian baby might surprise us, bahahahaha, ooh, teehee.)

As a result of the Khmer Rouge and the Pol Pot years Cambodia had a huge share of weapons within its borders.  When the armed struggles began to fizzle out soldiers from all sides went back to their homes and took their guns with them. Some estimates suggest there were close to one million unregistered weapons in that small country. As you can imagine, the presence of guns in almost every home was having a dire effect on families, in much the same way the presence of guns has an effect in my own neighbourhood of Peckham.

Fortunately for Cambodia, back in 2003, some passionate peeps decided to tackle this injustice by launching the Control Arms campaign- fighting for a UN treaty on the arms trade.   Mobs  of people from across the world joined in with the One Million Faces campaign – I added my freckly grin, as did thousands of Cambodians- even those based out in local, rural villages joined this struggle for justice in the arms trade.

Such a global force couldn’t be overlooked and  just a few months after the  this creative petition was presented to the UN work began on a historic, legally-binding international Arms Trade Treaty. (Campaigning works, it really truly DOES!)

As we know these things take time but whilst in Cambodia I was gobsmacked to see that even just TALK of an Arms Treaty was making an impact. The momentum of the global campaign had fortified national efforts to stop the arms trade, developed the campaigning consciousness of Cambodians AND lead to the handing in and burning of thousands of weapons during Gun Destruction week.  (Campaigning WORKS! Yes! It blooming WORKS!)

Now, two years on from my visit to Cambodia we have entered the final stages of an Arms Trade Treaty, and I have a little tot. Once you have children, your hopes for a more peaceful and just world become just that bit more crisp. The chance for a strong Arms Treaty that could make the lives of other children untold times more peaceful is moving nearer.

Which brings us to today and our tank. We (some activists and some policy wonks) were delivering letters and reports (read it if you like that kinda thing) to 5 key embassies, countries that have a key role to play at one of the final negotiating conferences beginning on Monday in New York. On that day too, a  global petition is once again being handed over, asking them to ensure this Treaty is effective and strong. You have just FOUR days to add your voice.

I want to see a world free from mindless violence, communities restored from the damage of guns. I want to see the young people my husband works with as a youth worker in Peckham and the young people I met in those villages of Cambodia knowing the sense of tangible peace. I want to see kids playing in streets free from tanks. I want Ramona and her generation to  inherit a more reconciled world . An Arms Treaty is one step along the way.

As we know (I may have mentioned it once or twice already) campaigning WORKS – let’s make it happen this time.  

 

*We were promoting Oxfam as the primary charity partner for the London Marathon.

*We were enticing people along to see the fantastic film, the Age of Stupid.

*We were singing climate carols and asking them to stop blocking progress at the Copenhagen Climate Change summit.

*I was basically trying to mass invite the audience to come along to the Put People First rally and she saw straight through me.

*We were raising awareness of how risky childbirth is in poor countries.

*We are giving a final push to get people to sign up for a robust Arms Trade Treaty. Please join us!

Charity Shops in Streatham and the Charity Shop Blog Hop

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When I was younger Streatham was known for only one thing; its gargantuan and spectacular ice rink.  We would put on our cool bomber jackets, exchange our best crepes (yoof speak for shoes, mum)  for some skanky boots and skate the day away to the winsome harmonies of BoyzIIMen.

Now though, memories of skating in Streatham are being squeezed out by the minutes spent gallivanting around the charity shops.

I am a charity shop ADDICT. I start going through withdrawal if I don’t go for a week (symptoms include pottering around my friend’s homes, picking things up from their shelves with an inquiring gaze.)  I like that it is a kind of shopping that requires imagination and vision (my husband didn’t have that vision when I showed him a little packet of retro Christmas candles this evening) and that it builds patience as you dedicatedly wait until you come across the item you hope for.

So Streatham REALLY floats my boat. It must have the most number of charity shops per sq mile then any other area in London. In the one mile walk from Streatham Hill along Streatham High Road to Streatham Station there are TWELVE  of ’em and two junk/antique shops. Never has a road so aptly been nicknamed (er, by me and Tim) The Golden Mile.

Here is the run down but also check out the google map where I’ve  handily plotted them for you!

Give a Little

Begin at the top with Give a Little at 77 Streatham Hill- just opposite the Mega Bowl. Bursting at the seams with clothes and trinkets, both up and downstairs. Clothes tend to be on the steeper side – £7-8 for skirts  but all good quality. The bric-a-brac is fairly priced, nice mugs for £1.

Trinity Hospice Shop
Stay on the same side of the road for this sprawling jumble sale kind of a shop,  chocka block with quirky things and people. I love the kids clothes section- literally a tiny mountain of garments that you bury your nose into – three for £1.

PAWS
A little shop that involves popping off the main street a few metres, but well worth browsing as the prices for things vary wildly.

Relief Fund for Romania
Carry back down the main road for a while until you come across the little yellow sign pointing you up to the left. This one has £1 rails- hurrah! Sometimes when you need jumpers for craft projects you really don’t want to spend more than £1 but these rails are so rare.

British Red Cross Books and Music
Cross over the road for the next two. A huge selection here, carefully laid out. In specific Books and Music shops I find you don’t get the bargains you might in another shop but you are paying for a higher chance of finding something ace, aren’t you?

Trinity Hospice
This Trinity Hospice Shop  is as sparse as the first is sprawling. But they have selected the choiciest cuts, and there are some creative little crannies. (Doe we say crannies?)

Oxfam
Nip back over the road for this new, massive Oxfam – this one is the Ikea of chazza shops. Clean, spacious, affordable and air conditioned! Primarily for furniture and bric a brac, they have some gorgeous things in there. Our sofa hails from here, this massive, bed like thing and it was only £30.

Oxfam
Amazing shoes and clothes- I snapped up a pair of Reef flip flops from there today for £3.99, they kinda, mostly fit me, even though they say a size 10 and I’m a size 6. Just a few inches sticking out the back. I wonder if I can snip that off…

Cancer Research
They have the longest rail for dresses ever seen (each one around the £5 mark) and the BEST tunes. One of my favourite things about charity shopping is the eclectic music and how it is perfectly acceptable to singalong. (No?)

British Red Cross
Huge selection of clothes and lovely crockery. They always seems to have some nice retro bits in here too.

Working for Charity
Tiny shop with a small selection of things. The things were LOVELY but, dare I say it, a bit overpriced. I saw this tea set and thought “OOf, I’d stretch to £15 for that” as it was so beautiful. Turns out they wanted £58. Yep. £58.

What the?

The ongoing charity shop pricing dillema. See, on one hand I agree that they have a responsibility to their charity to get as much as they can for an item. On the other hand, I feel like they play an important redistribution role too – making beautiful and good things affordable for those less well off.

Shelter
This is quite a new shop and  swanky with it.  It’s a Next Generation charity shop – making charity shopping more clean and appealing to the masses. (However, personally? Give me a rumble in the manky old jumble anyday.)

There it is,  The Golden Mile – for some of the best charity shopping in London. The prices reflect those of other Capital charity shops – no 50p china plates here- but for sheer volume and overall thriftiness Streatham is Where It Is At.

Having a little one, I have to plan my charity shop traipsing carefully- ensuring Ramona gets a chance to run wild either before or after. Being a scorching day we trundled round the corner to Tooting Bec Lido, this fabulous old school pool, where we bumped into a wonderful friend, scoffed ice cream and splashed our merry wee hearts out. Heaven.

And Now, Roll Up, Roll Up-  Time for the Charity Shop Blog Hop!

I am well excited about reading everyone’s write ups- be it local or exotic.

Please link back here (with the image if poss) and visit all the other linker-upperers to share a comment– hopefully you’ll find even more charity shop lovers than you knew of.  Hurraahhh!

Just click below where the links (and photos) will be displayed in all their glory…


 

And finally, if you are on Twitter use the hashtag #charityhop (see what I did there?)

Charity Shopping in London: three spots for making a day of it

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If you are stuck for something to do this weekend and love a good thrift check out my three top spots for making a day of your charity shopping. These aren’t necessarily the VERY BEST shops (another post in the pipeline) but these are my favourite because they are either part of a route of charity shops or close by to some other fantastic activities. I have gone the extra mile for you, beloved reader, and have created some google maps. No one likes traipsing around with only the rumour of a vintage palace spurring you on.

Pimilico Charity Shop Circuit
Pimlico – such an easy area to get to, just a five minute walk south of Victoria. I know this circuit like the back of my hand- I get to do the rounds at least once a week on a lunch break. What a treat!

There are EIGHT, yes, EIGHT, shops in this tiny circuit. Fara really rule the roost here with Fara Retromania (with a fun £5 rail outside), a normal shop and a Fara Kids. The Oxfam shop is excellent for shoes, and smart clothing. The Sue Ryder is a fairly cheap one, the Trinity Hospice is great for fabric ends and wool, the Fara Kids has brilliant -if pricey- stylish kids clothes (but jawdropping sales.) I have bought lots of lovely items from the normal Fara and a few crazy bits and bobs from Retromania. I have worked in this patch for FIVE YEARS and it was only last summer that I found out about a sneaky little shop hiding one block back, where I have since found some beautiful jewelry. I felt so ripped off, imagining five years worth of bargains I had missed out on!
Here is the public Google Map of the Pimlico circuit for you.
It is easy to make a day of it by having a delicious lunch at the market by Fara Kids and then a wander a bit further down towards the Thames to Tate Britain, where they have a spectacular crafty kids corner.

Blackheath
There are only two shops here but I count this as one of my favourite areas as thrifting fits so easily into a wonderful fun day. There is an Oxfam here and a Cancer Research, both of which can be a tiny bit more expensive (average £7 trousers/ £4 top) but the quality tends to be quite high. We will often train into Blackheath, hop the shops, grab a delicious lunch at one of the delis, then wander over the Heath via the icecream van, into the wonders of Greenwhich park and down to the antique markets. This is a whole Saturday with something for every member of the family. I have highlighted the shops on the map here.

Central London
This is not a route for the faint of heart but for the stoic bargain hunter wearing hiking boots. But I guarantee you will find some swag! Begin at Goodge Street, there is a wonderful Oxfam where I never fail to buy something (often brand new stuff), a Sue Ryder and a Notting Hill (both of which are good for a browse but can be quite dear- average £8 trousers, £5-6 top). There is also a high end vintage shop on the other side of the road.

Head south west down to Oxford Circus stopping at the Salvation Army on Princes Street. It is worth the diversion this is quite a massive shop and they often have brand new designer items, alongside average shoddy (but cheap!) gear. They often have very glamorous shoes and boutique dresses. Whatever you do though, DON’T USE THE CHANGING ROOM WITHOUT ASKING. You will be embarrassed if they catch you (!!!)

If you still have wind in your sails, grab some lunch and keep heading west, but back North a little to Marylebone. This is a little area jampacked with charity shops. They are filled with designer goods and the prices do reflect this but if you are looking for some good quality shizzle, Marlybone has your name on it. It is also full of lovely little independent shops and is right on the edge of glorious Regent’s Park where you can catch some music in the bandstand, or collapse under a tree with your bags of bargains!

Check out the route here and PLEASE add more if I have missed any gems!

What do you reckon- have you visited these patches? Have you got a favourite circuit you do or a place you could wile away a whole day?

PS: If you like my thrifty ways, would you be able to nominate me in the THRIFTY category of the MAD blog awards? Love you forevs 🙂

Why the Occupy LSX protest is the perfect place for kids

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I really believe in activism. I am absolutely sure that protesting changes things, so bringing the baby on board was always gonna happen. But today I realised that sometimes a protest is the perfect place for the baby. Not just as there is an extra amount of people she can woo and then phones she can steal and chew.

We had a wonderful time with the nippers up at St Pauls for Occupy LSX today– facepainting, parachute games, poetry, juggling, one of the dads even turned up with a bouncy castle. While some of the older kids reflected on and drew their ideas of utopia all around us debate, speeches and conversation took place about how we can change the utterly bankrupt society we live in right now.

I’m no stranger to the shaper edge of protest. In fact (don’t tell my mum this) the first protest I took Ramona on saw us sitting down to breastfeed in a cafe just as a Black Bloc walked past- they picked up a bus stop and smashed the entire front window with it. About 3 feet away us. I have also been in peaceful, sitting down crowds as riot police have bought their truncheons down on heads.

I realise it is not always balloons and bubbles.

But the cost of our younger generation NOT being there is higher than the tiny, one in a million chance of them actually getting hurt.*

For it is here that the little ones learn that there is HOPE – that people do believe in an alternative to the economic apartheid we currently live in. Here they see true, live,  democracy – people listening to each other and voting together. Here they hear the melody of diverse voices, discussing problems and solutions.

But it is also the perfect place for them as it reminds us why we do it. Because they are the generation who will either inherit all this- greed (and the inequality greed gives birth to) – stretched and bloated, many time worse then we have even now, or they will inherit a much fairer and more beautiful society. It is completely up to us.

Someone told me today that there are over 900 occupied cities in over 82 countries. There is an incredible global connection happening that is totally unprecedented. The Occupy movement is gathering momentum and could become enough to change things. As a friend pointed out this week, anti-apartheid protesters couldn’t envision the world beyond apartheid- all they could do was say ENOUGH, enough of this injustice. It doesn’t matter that Occupy LSX doesn’t have a list of policies, we are simply saying ENOUGH.

We have had enough of a world where FTSE 100 directors experience a pay rise of 49% on average compared to 0% increase in the public sector. Enough of a world where CHEESE is the top shoplifted item, because people just literally need to eat (baby formula is the FIFTH, the FIFTH!!!!!) and ENOUGH of a world where one years worth of bankers bonuses could pay for 23 years of the youth service being shut in every poor community in the UK. (More on all this in Polly Toynbee’s excellent article here.)

For our children’s sake. We have had enough.

If you’ve had enough too but weren’t sure about bringing your baby along to Occupy London, please get in touch and I can introduce you to some of the coolest parent and kid activists in town.

There.

I’m sorry, all seriouspants once again. I promise my next post will be about poo.


* There are safety measures you can take, I for one would almost certainly leave with my baby at the first whiff of the riot police or other violence.

**Also, beware of the haters who can be equally vicious. Someone told me off today for taking Ramona to Occupy LSX, suggesting I was teaching kids about squatting and oppressing the rights of others. (Eh?!)  Thankfully it was only on Twitter so I was able to take a breath and graciously respond about how we were actually teaching kids about equality, justice and a loving, fair society. (While mentally taking his 140 characters and flicking them at his ragey right wing eyeballs of course.)

Feasting at the Occupation- a glimpse of utopia

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There is a little old lady who lives round the corner from us with a tree in her garden that is spilling over with fat, juicy apples. A few weeks ago we plucked up the courage to knock on her door to see if we could pick some.  She was completely delighted as she can’t reach them and doesn’t even like them (I know! Who doesn’t like apples?!) and in all her time living there (she has lived there FOREVS) no one has asked.

So this morning we packed a few bags of those scrumpcious morsels and took them up to the protest camp in front of St Pauls – Occupy LSX. As we wandered over to the kitchen we saw a table GROANING under the weight of abundant fruit, sandwiches, chocolate, lentil soup. It was exactly like the harvest festival at my primary school when I was a nipper but with a lot less baked beans.

Throughout the course of today this food has been handed around, shared out, feasted on. It is a beautiful, utopian picture of how the world could be. Where people who have lots, bag it up and pass it round the crowd.  Mums and babes getting served first (woo!) along with the really hungry and vulnerable. Skips delved into, bringing out still the freshest of delights; nothing wasted.

It is a really tiny aspect of Occupy LSX, the feasting, but the rest of it is pretty up there with ideal too; the huge diversity – every age, religion, ethnicity, sexuality and salary represented, the creativity and friendliness, the slow and steady democratic process – and the patience shown throughout it.

Of course it is only a tiny corner of the world, but it reveals what is possible AND highlights what a complete, criminal, joke our current global system is- where people simultaneously die of obesity and starvation.

If you haven’t already joined your local occupation, take a few hours this week to join in the antics – even if it’s just for the food. (Jokes, that would be well cheeky. You should at least make a placard or something.)

Today we started a Kids Space, which will be every afternoon from 2-5pm by the big statue in front of the steps. We have bubbles, toys, paper and pens.

This blog was written for Blog Action Day 2011, the theme is Food, coinciding pretty superbly with World Food Day. Check it all out here.