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I’ll be 39 this Summer and I’ve decided to embrace middle age with the giddiness of an overexcited teenager. One thing I really want is a tattoo! I don’t have any yet as I just haven’t got around to it (and I’m a little scared what my mum will say!).

A decade or so ago I read about a textile strike in Massachusetts in 1912, now often known as the “Bread and Roses strike” which united dozens of immigrant communities under the leadership of the Industrial Workers of the World. It was led to a large extent by women. The popular mythology of the strike includes signs being carried by women reading “We want bread, but we want roses, too!” as the women fought for fair wages, respect and dignified conditions.

This struck a chord with me at the time. I remember thinking that if I ever get around to getting that tattoo, it will be that powerful image of bread and roses, of sustenance and beauty.

Sometimes it is hard to switch out of anxiety-mode, juggling multiple jobs, chores and demands, but you have to find a way of doing this when you have a small child who soaks it all up. The pressures of life as a single mum feel hard to endure sometimes, but the arrival of Spring has felt wonderfully inspiring for me. My daughter loves to watch things change and grow around us and we have started planting our seeds to grow fruit, vegetables and flowers in our garden and our new allotment. We grew a lot last year and both my daughter and I loved spending time in our garden with our chickens, plotting what we could pick and eat for dinner. Watching our little seedlings grow has put a bit of a spring back into my step. A few weeks ago I began to think of other ways that I could provide my daughter and I with the things we need and enjoy without spending too much of the little money we have. Inspired by wonderful friends Kath (who writes the food blog and Alison (who has THE BEST bread making business Bread on a Bike my daughter and I have started to make our own bread. A few weeks in and we are both hooked! There is something very therapeutic about kneading the dough and it is wonderful to have something my daughter and I can do together and which takes me away from my work and the computer screen. I make the dough and my daughter adds the seeds (she likes poppy seeds best) and it is her job to shape the bagel dough into little flat balls and make the holes. The smell of bread baking in the oven spreads through every room in the house and the first taste of fresh, warm bread in the morning is unbelievably satisfying. We are total novices and have yet to tackle sourdough or more adventurous breads but we are loving this new adventure.

So, we have our bread. We have our fruit and vegetables. We have our roses too. And in the spirit of those textile worker women who fought for their fair wages and dignified conditions, we stick two big french loaves up to this cruel austerity-loving government! Wherever we can, we will share what we have. and whenever we can we will fight for a fairer, more equal society. With bread and with roses, we have sustenance and beauty, things every person on the planet needs and deserves, along with dignity and respect. ‘The rising of the women means the rising of us all.” Rise up my friends 🙂

Bread and Roses

‘As we go marching, marching, in the beauty of the day
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses
For the people hear us singing, bread and roses, bread and roses.

As we come marching, marching, we battle too, for men,
For they are in the struggle and together we shall win.
Our days shall not be sweated from birth until life closes,
Hearts starve as well as bodies, give us bread, but give us roses.

As we come marching, marching, un-numbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient call for bread,
Small art and love and beauty their trudging spirits knew
Yes, it is bread we. fight for, but we fight for roses, too.

As we go marching, marching, we’re standing proud and tall.
The rising of the women means the rising of us all.
No more the drudge and idler, ten that toil where one reposes,
But a sharing of life’s glories, bread and roses, bread and roses.’

UPDATE! – I am very almost 40, still no tattoo, but until then I’ll wear this

(click on the image and you can too!).