Everyone has life-changing, pivotal moments.

It happened in a cottage in the woods below the Malvern Hills. I entered a world of quiet, self-sufficient industry. My bag was investigated, superfluous items discarded or donated. Food was grown or scavenged. Every week, we did the rounds, collecting boxes of over-ripe tomatoes, blemished eggplants, too-knobbly celeriac, slightly fuzzy fruit. Food destined for disposal. I ate three square meals a day from it. I’d never eaten so well in my life. Date, coconut and ginger scones. Spelt porridge, made in the dawn from an enormous sack of rolled grain. Foraged mushroom risotto. Fragrant, nutritious curries. Enormous salads, crunchy with diced kohlrabi, sprouts and seeds.

And, we worked. Harder than I ever had in my life. I was handed axe and blade and directed in the art of coppicing. My arms burned. Splitting logs, chipping sapwood, piling charcoal. I was weighed every week to measure my level of consumerism. I’d never felt so raw or exposed in my entire life. I woke early, worked late. I learned how to weave, to carve.

I changed. Everything I believed in was re-scrutinised. How sustainable was I, really? Why do we live in a wasteful world? Why do we sneer at seconds? Is there truly a “best before” date on your life?

I cannot walk into a supermarket without dread curdling in my stomach. I take ridiculous delight in growing produce, cooking entire meals from the garden. I strive to reconnect with the peace I felt at Kendricks Cottage, every day. To live simply, with purpose, without external accoutrements.

You can’t go back, once you have seen the possibilities.

What are some of your pivotal moments? I’d like to know.


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