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.

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