Barter a Button – a cash-free challenge

On August 31st 2022 I embarked upon quite a strange yet interesting adventure.

I decided to offer a blue plastic button I had no use for on a local zero waste Facebook group. I was asking if anyone would like to offer me something they no longer needed in return for the button which they could make some use of.

Hannah replied and offered me a stapler for the button, then Becka told me she really needed a stapler but had a violin she no longer had any use for.  I was inundated with people wanting the violin which was surprising as I would have thought it was quite a niche object. Off it went to it’s new home with two musicians and I had a pretty fancy Bean to Cup coffee machine in it’s place.

The coffee machine also proved very popular and yet again, I had a lot of offers, including several cash offers which often led to me having to explain that ‘I simply cannot take cash for the item as I’m doing a cash-free challenge’.

The coffee machine has found it’s new home now with an artist who responded to a complimentary comment I put on one of her lovely paintings on social media. I had come across Alice Mary having seen her incredible wall murals upstairs in the Exeter Guildhall Shopping Centre.

Alice offered to create an original painting in exchange for the coffee machine and this is where we are up to in the challenge. I should explain – it is not my idea. This is called the Red Paperclip Challenge which was started by Kyle Macdonald back in 2006 in Canada. Kyle took just over a year and swapped items (from a red paperclip) all the way up to house. This was replicated last year by American Demi Skipper – who took 18 months and swapped 28 items to also make it to a house. I know some people have tried here in the UK but I don’t think anyone has succeeded in reaching a house yet – but that is my dream !

We are in the situation like many families in the UK where saving for an enormous deposit for our own house is virtually impossible – whilst raising a family and paying rent. Doing this challenge requires a set of skills which seem to match my experience – and it seems to be working so far! I love that it’s cash-free as it just shows that not everything has to involve money and it really makes you think about the worth of things and what one person thinks is worth a lot,  another does not – this especially applies to art and I’m really thrilled to have a piece of art as part of this journey. Bartering has been around for thousands of years so really it’s nothing new!

So onto the painting – as I’m hoping you are reading this as you’ve heard about what I’m doing and might want to make me an offer. The painting is an original unique image of Exeter Cathedral on canvas. It’s 80x60cm large and is embossed with gold leaf.

The photos don’t really do Alice’s work justice – it looks much better in real life so let me know if you’d like to see it. I’m actually hoping that a local art gallery here in Exeter might display it for me whilst it’s awaiting it’s new owner.

You can follow more of the journey over on Instagram or Facebook and you can email me at

Thanks for reading.

Why the UK is in crisis

I get so angry and frustrated seeing post after post on social media about the cost of living crisis here in the UK in 2022. The posts are often desperately sad with people saying they are dreading any more price rises. It fills them with anxiety and worry sometimes to the point of having to take antidepressants or relying on drugs, alcohol or other unhealthy coping strategies like using food or shopping to deal with the stress of everyday living.

The British Medical Journal say that “the surge in prices over recent months has created a cost of living crisis that’s harming people’s mental health.” As a therapist myself, I can clearly see this. The McPin Foundation says “Collective action is essential to ensure that the situation does not get worse for people experiencing financial hardship and mental health problems.”

The mums groups I’m in chat about all the things they will have to cut down on to try and manage the family budget – things like their kids sports or dance clubs, their weekly shop and their heating. Some people are skipping meals to make ends meet and others are even considering making a stand by refusing to pay their bills.

One of the reasons this issue makes me so frustrated is the disconnection between what is happening in people’s everyday lives and the bigger picture. I totally emphasise with why that would be – but the reason I am writing this is to say there is a way out of this! WE have the power to change the way we live. We need to take a stand and say it’s unacceptable for people to suffer like this – in the 5th richest country in the world in 2022.

So here it is – this ‘cost of living crisis’ is happening ‘to us’ because of the Conservative government that was elected – by us ! If you did not vote in the General Election in 2019 as one third of the British population didn’t – then by default you chose to allow 44% of the other two thirds of the population to elect a Conservative government. It makes no sense to say “I’m not really into politics” because if you choose to live in a human society, someone needs to govern it and the political system exists as a way to choose the people we want as our leaders.

This Conservative government has negligently and some say purposefully let our precious NHS get into such a state that there are now barely any dentists available. Our lying Prime Minister Johnson and his cronies have cut benefits and watched while our teachers have been forced to take on second jobs and feed their children using food banks!

Over a decade of austerity measures resulting in the rich getting richer and us, well us ordinary folk having to just put up with it. Maybe now enough is enough as the new campaign says. Over 50 rallies are planned across the UK as unions, community groups, renters associations and political groups come together to demand change. I’ll be watching this group very closely and updating you on here if we have a rally in Exeter.

And lastly – don’t forget women like your mother and grandmother were imprisoned and force fed, beaten up and worse until we finally won the right for all women to vote, less than 100 years ago – in 1928. Yet so many of us women still do not think it’s important to vote or to take our children to the polling station and show them how important it is to use this precious hard-fought vote.

Climate change: facing our fears

I’m writing this as Europe is in the grips of a terrible heatwave that’s just broken the 40 degree record here in the UK. I would never wish this unbearable and often deadly weather on anyone but it’s making people talk. It’s making people wonder. Could this be connected to the way we live on planet earth?

Why does it have to take these incredible extreme weather events to make people see that the climate & ecological emergency is real?

I’ve been an environmental activist since 2009. I was a political activist and local councillor then finding I was disillusioned with party politics, moved on to join Extinction Rebellion (XR) nearly four years ago believing that non-violent direct action was the only way to literally wake people up!

I know XR made a difference but I think I’ve come to realise that only this – the extreme weather events affecting people today here in the UK will ultimately start to shake us from our apathy, fear and denial.

So where does that leave us. What do we do with our fears, how do we cope with our anxiety and how do we grieve for the things we are losing and deal with change like we’ve never known.

This is now where my own personal journey has taken me. To help with the collective fear, the anxiety and the loss – I’ve spent the last 6 years moving towards a place where I can be best equipped to help others – as a psychotherapist. I believe we are in an incredible time of transition and one where all of us will be expected to step up and play our part.

I’m still an activist, still a campaigner. You’ll still see me urging you to find ways to do things about climate change. Transition from your car to a healthier, cheaper and less polluting car free life. Pledge to be flight free and cut out meat and dairy. Avoid fast fashion, stop buying useless crap produced using more fossil fuels and shipped across the world and switch your energy provider and bank account to ones that do not fund fossil fuels and other basically criminal stuff like supplying arms to countries waging wars. Shop ethically and locally and grow your own food if you can.

And finally and most importantly – become an activist yourself. Be the change. Tell others that you ARE the change and that they can be too. Post flight free pledges on your social media, invite your non vegan friends to a vegan supper, offer to share or give a friend a trial run on your electric bike. Organise a clothes swap, create a community garden or set up a local climate cafe or tiny house project like we have here in Exeter. The ideas and opportunities are literally endless. Find or create something you are passionate about.

You have the potential to literally change the course of humanity. You can stand at this crossroads right now and take the road where you give up or turn away or… embrace your fears and uncertainties and be part of a new way of being – a brand new future. A way that opens you up to such connection and love like you have never known. The complete antidote to despair. Which route will you choose?

If you are struggling with feelings of anxiety, grief or despair connected with climate change and biodiversity loss you can get support from the Climate Psychology Alliance.

Don’t forget you can add your comments on this article below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Supporting our youth climate strikers

My 17 year old daughter has been attending youth climate strikes since they started here in Exeter in February and I’ve been to a few too and next week – on September 20th, we will be attending the largest one so far in the city. Over 2000 people are expected to attend. My son is almost 14 and has asked to come to this one – his first. Here’s the letter I’ve just sent to his school and here’s the event link if you want to know more


Dear (Headteacher)

We give my permission for our child – to not attend school on Friday 20th September; in order to attend the Youth Strike 4 Climate (Global Climate Strike) protest taking place across the UK and many other countries on that day. You might be aware that there are over 106 countries taking part in this historic event across all the continents of the globe. This is the link to the Exeter protest expecting over 2000 people – the largest ever climate protest in this city
We are aware of UK law that permits parents to only give permission for their child to miss school on medical grounds or in a few other cases, one of which is under “exceptional circumstances”.
Our view is that having only 11 years left to cut CO2 emissions by 50%, as per the latest UN IPCC report, are terrible and exceptional circumstances to find ourselves in. The news of late of wildfires burning in the precious Amazon and the Artic, plus our ice-caps and glaciers melting much faster than expected and insect numbers plummetting are all signs we need to heed and act upon. Therefore we will be attending this event with our son and give him full permission to protest against our government’s inaction.
We hope attending this demonstration will help our son to feel empowered and learn about standing up for what is right in this world, something I know is embedded in the philosophy of the school our son chose to attend. Attending this protest is part of active civic engagement which is a core part of every school curriculum. As the climate catastrophe is going to affect our children more than us, it is so important we support them in this kind of action.
We respect his decision to attend this protest and I hope you will support him too.
Kindest wishes
Sharon & Dan Pavey

Viking Blood?

I’ve always wondered if having green eyes and freckles and bright red hair (when I was little) meant I was Viking or my passionate nature possibly derived from Irish roots? Well, my genetic testing results are in and I seem to be more Scandinavian (19.6%) than the average UK result (that’s usually nearer 10%) and yes to a Celtic bloodline – an (almost) whole third (32.1%).

What I didn’t know and it just shows how amazing these family history DNA tests are is that almost half (44.4%) of my ancestors were from north west Europe. This is France, Germany and covers the Netherlands and Switzerland. Could that be why I loved learning German as a teenager and I’m thinking of going back to German classes! Maybe not but it’s fun to surmise.

So…. drum roll…… complete family history DNA test reveals I’m: 

44.4% north western European (German/French)

32.1% Celtic (Irish, Scottish, Welsh)

19.6% Scandinavian

3.9% Eastern European

Not an ounce of Anglo Saxon in there unlike the average UK resident who will find they are nearly 37%. Well indeed, it seems like so many of us here in England, I’m actually an immigrant ! Although I live in Devon I was born in north east England and the family tree I’ve been working on for the past 20 years shows lines going as far back as 1700 in Newcastle and surrounding areas. has found that “the average UK resident is 36.94% British (Anglo Saxon), 21.59% Irish (Celtic) and 19.91% Western European (the region covered today by France and Germany).

Following these top three regional ethnicities in the average UK resident are Scandinavia (9.20%), the Iberian Peninsula (Spain/Portugal) (3.05%), and Italy and Greece (1.98%).”

Genealogy is one of the most popular hobbies in the world today and I was lucky enough to enjoy sharing this with my wonderful Granddad Alec when I was younger and now he’s no longer here I work on it on my own sharing highlights with my children. My Granddad always thought our line may have come from Scotland and I know he would have jumped at the chance to have had his DNA tested too had these tests been around then.

I would love to hear from you if you have had a test done too. Please add a comment below.

Vicki’s Wedding Wish

It’s my mums 64th birthday on Sunday but it’s the first one where she won’t be answering the doorbell to a big bunch of flowers or opening her cards and saying thank you to each and every one of her five children and eight grandchildren.

I miss my mum desperately but I appreciate every single day since she closed her eyes for the last time eight months ago. I’d been thinking this way for a year or so before she died so I had the chance to say what I needed to say and let go (although it still hurts when you have to finally say goodbye).

So, we don’t have forever….some of us might only have a few months or even days. People always say “your mum was 63, that’s no age!”. Perhaps not, but cancer doesn’t care whether you’re 2 or 72.

This is true for my old friend Vicki. Well……I say ‘old’ but Vicki (below) is only 34 and was diagnosed with lung cancer in December 2015.

Unfortunately the treatment that has helped prolong her life is no longer working and it’s just a matter of time until we have to say a very sad goodbye to this beautiful spirit.

Vicki marries her beloved Jason in Hastings on 25th August 2017. She will be joined by all her friends and family including their three gorgeous and adored children – Darcey who is 11, Emily 9 and Joshua who is just 6 years old.

This date just happens to be the same day Boyzone play a concert on Hastings Pier. As Vicki is a huge fan, we’ve been trying to contact the band for a few weeks now but we’re not getting anywhere with busy agents, unanswered emails etc. So we’re asking everyone reading this to help contact the band or the guys individually.

Vicki’s wedding reception is happening just 2 mins away from Hastings Pier. Could Ronan, Keith, Shane and Mikey pop in and help make an amazing memory for all Vicki’s family to keep especially through the really tough times to come in the next few weeks. This would be the most incredible gift to Vicki and her husband-to-be and their little ones!

So with only a few days to go until the big day……we need you to contact the band TODAY on social media using the hashtag #vickisweddingwish and link to this blog so they know what we’re trying to do for Vicki.

Please share this post with all your friends and family asking them to do the same. Here’s where you can find the boys:













They’re all on Facebook too including

I’m @sharonpavey on twitter if you are connected with the band and want to contact us direct to make Vicki’s wish come true! You can also leave Vicki a message of support on here and keep up to date with the campaign. Thank you so much xxx

Update on what happened (2021)

I managed to get hold of the band and arranged a meet up with Vicki & Jason on their wedding day. Sadly Vicki is no longer with us now but I don’t think she’s very far away looking over her precious family.

“Dreams come true. Without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them.” John Updike

Mother’s Day after mum has gone

I could be sad this weekend. I could lock myself away and cry. But I don’t feel like crying. I feel like living.

My mum died in December – just four months ago and I have cried and and I have been angry. But also from the day she died and even before, I’ve told myself you have to make the most of every single day in this life. I know it’s a cliche but sitting and holding the hand of someone you’ve loved for four decades while they slip away puts your own life into perspective.

Things seem sharper now. More in focus.

Sure, I still have not-so-great days and I’m not leaping out of bed every day singing The Sound of Music and striking 50 things off my bucket list but I feel like there’s a constant clarity here now – one that I’ve been lucky enough to have glimpses of in the past.

I guess I’m recovering from grieving because the joy I feel in living is a result of experiencing the deep pain of loss. For me grief was a heavy ache in my chest, sometimes a sharper, deeper cut. Intense tiredness and the foggy hazy confusion of the first few weeks. I’ve also felt such a strong desire to let her go, it made me question others who maybe wouldn’t let her go so easily. I feel like my mum had a whirlwind of a life. It picked her up and put her down in various places, good and bad. When I think of her 63 years it seems like a blink. When I think of my 44 years it also seems like a blink. Also – my mum is still with me, I know that, so I don’t feel loss in the ‘gone forever’ sense. Others say how much they miss their loved ones and how they’ll never get to speak to them again. You can speak to them anytime you want. And if you listen very carefully you will hear them talk to you. Try it.

This week has been a particularly spiritual serendipitous one. I’ve actually felt a bit high which scares me as I wonder if there will be a low to follow. I’ve just had to think of things and they’ve happened (yes, really). I’ve stopped to listen to people more, taken time for myself and tried to be more accepting of everything. I think I’ve just slowed down a gear and doing that means I can see everything more clearly along the way. I hope this continues.

My gift to my mother this Mother’s Day is to enjoy my life as she would have wanted me to do – more than anything in the world. I know that 100% because I am a mum too. And if I could only have one wish – it would be, it is…..that my children are happy.

One Month

A month ago yesterday I lost my Mum and I’ve never been less afraid of dying than I am today. Living is the complicated confusing exhausting and sometimes exhilarating part. But mostly mundane, everyday, you-know-what, do what we have to kind of living we all do which makes it hard to ‘live everyday to it’s fullest’. Hard when we’re tired, grieving, working, getting the kids to school and paying the bills.

I sat holding Mum’s hand until she decided to let go. Of the disease, the pain, a colourful, certainly never dull life and her loved ones. And then we all faced the dazed days afterwards, sometimes together, sometimes alone. I said to my brother it will soon be days then months then years since this day. And now as I write this, one month has gone already. I will soon, in the blink of an eye no doubt, be reading this after one year – December 2nd.
In just a few days time my newest nephew will be one whole month old. He is Mum’s 7th grandchild who arrived one week to the day after Mum had gone. I held him when he was less than a day old and the last tender caring kiss a week before became the first nourishing hopeful protective kiss. Life goes on.

Results of the Fire Walk

Thank you to everyone who sponsored me for the Fire Walk in the autumn for WESC. Maggie – the fundraiser who organised it has emailed me to say:


“It was indeed an epic Fire Walk this year, caused by the weather, but our brave Fire Walking team all overcame the elements, and we now know that nearly £2000 has been raised to support the children and young people here at WESC Foundation.

Everyone overcame their fears and did something incredible, and in so doing have raised this impressive total. This money will allow 2 of the young people who attend WESC all year round, to have a week long break at The Calvert Trust on Exmoor, where they can experience exciting and challenging outdoor activities. The activities include abseiling, sailing, challenge courses, zip wires, climbing, riding and much, much more. At The Calvert Trust, they will learn that it is what they can do that counts, and their confidence will literally soar.

They too, can then feel that same amazing sense of achievement when they overcome a challenge, that you all experienced at the Fire Walk.

Thank you all so much for joining in, doing it and making a difference,


Isn’t this wonderful ! Thanks everyone.

To consume or not consume…


Our beloved flat screen television, centre of our living room, has been dying a slow death over the past few months. A flickering, jumping, distorted picture would eventually come back to life after 10 or 20 or even 30 minutes. But a few weeks ago, it didn’t even do this anymore and the television grave (landfill !) beckoned. So we’ve been without a conventional television for several weeks but we’re using our laptops to watch TV and a home theater installed by home theater company atlanta installing professionals, an iplayer mainly or the occasional film. Put it this way – I’m not rushing out to buy a new telly….just yet.

As a family, we’ve downsized a lot over the past 3 years and we try not to have too much stuff. We also try not to buy new things if we can get something second hand or even free. Our extremely comfy (new) double bed was from a lovely lady in Kilmington via Freecycle. My 7 year old son’s latest bike is a hand me down from his step-uncle now in his twenties. I’ve just bought the most gorgeous red jacket from a local charity shop and my latest favourite purple cardi was from the clothes swap at Transition Town Honiton’s Sustainable Saturday in February. It’s not something I can say is a recent transformation, I loved charity shops and antique shops when I was a teenager too, but I did go through my twenties buying mainly new things as we climbed up the career ladder, then got our first house, had our children etc.

I’ve just read George Monbiot’s article ‘Let’s stop hiding behind recycling and be honest about consumption’ and he says “on 24 April, the Committee on Climate Change (a body that advises the UK government) will publish a report on how consumption emissions are likely to rise, and how government policy should respond to the issue. I hope this is the beginning of a conversation we have been avoiding for much too long. How many of us are prepared fully to consider the implications?”

In the local paper today, there’s a piece about a family in Axminster who lost nearly everything in a house fire a couple of weeks ago. There’s a photo of them looking quite happy to be alive and a photo of the charred ruins of their family home. I remember reading about the fire there when it happened and thinking how they all left their house in the morning, a home full of things of sentimental value they’d accrued over their lifetimes – to return at the end of the day to find everything they own had gone literally in a puff (or two) of smoke. I had a similar experience at the age of 17 when my family was made homeless, and all I took with me was what I could stuff into a small bag in a hurry. Luckily I was able to go back a few weeks later and pick up a few more things which meant something to me. By that time, I’d changed my mind about what was important anyway but unlike the family from the fire, I did manage to get my childhood teddy bear, photos and precious books etc, most of which I’ve carted round the country until this day.

I would love to hear your comments, your ideas and views – are you making a conscious effort about what to buy and what not to buy? What things are important to you in your life?