My Name is Alex and I’m Your Conducter Today!

 

train-seats

The young chirpy voice piped up a cheery ‘good morning’  on the packed train carrying a miserable load of  – now ‘ex’ – holidaymakers from Gatwick Airport to Clapham, and onwards to London and who knows where, home.

I looked up in surprise.  This was not the usual breed of grumpy ticket checker/issuer.  This was someone making the best of his job, possibly even enjoying it.  He was unusually verbose and clearly enjoyed interacting with the customers.

‘Good morning madam, may I see your ticket please?  Excellent.  Change at Clapham, for Basingstoke, and have a pleasant day’

Amazingly, he was even offering to help anyone that might need it.

‘If you need assistance today ladies and gentlemen, I’m the handsome chap with the sandy hair and glasses.  You can come and find me in one of the carriages’

That elicited a few smiles, a few sniggers. To me, it was wondrous  to hear a cheerful voice in the grey London dawn.  Refreshing to see people smiling, perhaps against their natural inclination, at that hour of the day.

I suspect if we were all a little more engaged, a little less preoccupied with our own troubles; if we were to do our jobs with more enthusiasm, and smile a bit more, then the world would be a better place.  A smile is infectious.  You can hear it in someone’s voice.  It can turn a grey and miserable day into something a bit more positive, even if only for a while.

I wrote to the train company and asked them to thank Alex for cheering me up that morning.  I don’t know if they passed the message on, but I hope so. Good on you Alex!

Musings of a Former Vegetarian (without a current label)

 

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I decided, age 11, that I wasn’t eating meat.  Not no more.  Not no how.  My mother was horrified and thought I would die of malnourishment.  To be fair to her, she learned to cook a few staple dishes: her version of a veggie paella (with burnt tomatoes that tasted surprisingly good) and a cheese, potato and onion bake.  We also discovered pasta – a never seen before carb’ in our potato dominated house.

As you will note, I lived!  I soon found out about various aspects of nutrition, which sparked a life-long interest (and various certificates along the way) in diet, food and cooking.  The average supermarket didn’t have ‘veggie options’ in the early 70’s and meat-spurners were forced to buy weird things from wholefood shops that were packed in brown paper bags.  You had to be creative and engaged to survive without turning into a lentil-eating, sandal-wearing hippy.  As an up-coming teen, that was definitely not a cool vibe.  Rose Elliot, and later Sarah Brown, were my lifelines.  I cooked every recipe in those original books, discovering the amazing array of plant based foods, without the need for weird things from hushed wholefood emporiums.

I remained a vegetarian for over 30 years, fairly strictly.  I was never a vegan, I relied on eggs too much, but I’ve since dabbled with vegan cooking and enjoy the challenge from time to time, although not as a permanent lifestyle choice.  Being a vegetarian definitely made me more adventurous than my meat and two-veg mates, though it by no means guarantees a healthy lifestyle.  Over dependence on dairy can be a recipe for weight gain, and eating vegetarian versions of junk food – pizza, chips, convenience foods – will leave you equally lacking in vital nutrients and  as drowning in surplus calories as your carnivorous counterparts.

I didn’t make a conscious decision to stop being a vegetarian. I simply decided to add a little fish protein to my diet at a time when I was unwell and needed to make an extra effort to look after myself.  I’m not saying that you can’t be healthy and look after your nutritional needs on a plant based diet – I did it for over 3 decades.  What I am saying is that for me, eating sustainably sourced fish was something that I incorporated into my diet and found I enjoyed.

When I moved to the Highlands of Scotland I decided to try wild venison.  A healthy and sustainable option for meat protein.  (The deer need to be managed, to some extent, to keep numbers supportable in the environment, and make sure weak herd members don’t starve in harsh winters. ) So, I enjoy some locally caught and butchered wild venison occasionally.  And occasionally is the key word.  My diet is still largely based around vegetables meals, with one fish dish a week and a meat meal very rarely.

There is absolutely no doubt that in the UK we all need to reduce our meat consumption.  The current levels are not sustainable.  There are issues with the conditions of animals reared in other countries. There are issue with transportation of livestock. There is also some question as to the ultimate healthiness of a high meat protein diet. Above all there are environmental issues with excessive meat consumption, where land is given over to growing meat, when it would be better used for growing crops. However, it is also true that there are areas of the UK where crops cannot be grown.  Some areas of the highlands are prime examples.  The land is designated as ‘rough grazing’ and the fact is that you couldn’t grow crops on it if you wanted to.  In this instance, ruminating animals are the best way of turning poor grassland into a viable protein source.  If we all reduce our meat consumption and concentrated on buying better quality grass-fed UK animals, we could do a lot better by our farmers, who often struggle to turn a living, never mind a profit.  Farmers in the highlands, along with crofters, have always struggled with the poor land and the harsh environment, if they were supported with better networks and better prices, we could be self-sufficient in beef and lamb, without the need for imports.

Raising meat well takes time and effort.  The inputs are greater and it costs more, but it is a better option than antibiotic laced, GM fed imports.  I appreciate not everyone can afford the price of an organic chicken or a slow-growing grass-fed piece of beef, but if you only ate it once a month, once every few months, it would make it more likely.

Many people will disagree with my stance, and that’s fine.  I’m not preaching for people to stop being vegetarians, or to become vegetarians.  I’m encouraging you to be conscious about what you’re eating and the implications it has for your health and the health of the planet.

If everyone became vegetarian tomorrow, or next week, it would not save the world!  Many vegetarians eat soya, which has its own set of ethical issues.  The UK would not return to some mythical ‘green and pleasant’ land.  It is more likely to become a barren place of housing estates, out-of-town shopping centres and miles of tarmac.  In the highlands, where some of the grazing animals contribute to environmental schemes, the land would be overrun with non-native species and gorse, the deer would run riot, and new forestry would be under threat.  The natural world has a delicate balance and humanity has intervened for centuries, impacting it for both good and bad.  Without management, many highland species of plant and animal life would not survive.  Already threatened by habitat loss, they would struggle even more with herds of wild deer and sheep rampaging across the countryside.

Eating is both an ethical and political issue these days.  There is much to despise in modern farming, and there is also much to admire: there is good husbandry and bad; people who care about the environment, and people who don’t.  As consumers we need to encourage the good practices by demanding high welfare, slow growing, grass fed, non GM fed animals.  We need to be prepared to eat less meat and pay more for it.  We need to shun cheap imports that out-compete our home-grown meat on price, but not on quality.

So much of my life has been spent as a vegetarian that I still think of myself as such.  Most of my meals continue to be plant based, and when I do eat meat protein, it is always locally sourced, usually from someone I know personally.  We don’t all have the luxury of those choices, but we do all have the responsibility to think about what we eat and where it comes from.  My way of eating doesn’t have a label.  It’s individual, and so will yours be – flexitarian, pescatarian, vegetarian, vegan, carnivore – it doesn’t really matter as long as it’s a thought-out position.  That will mean you’re doing what you can with the resources you have, to eat well – for you and the planet.

 

 

 

 

Food ethics, security and sustainability is a huge topic.  If you want to find out more, the food ethics council is a good place to start:

http://www.foodethicscouncil.org

A Greater Fear

alzheimersI fear Alzheimer’s more than cancer, or more accurately, any form of dementia: a disease that can rob me of my abilities and ultimately my mind itself – my life too in the end.

Writing is part of who I am.  I can’t imagine forgetting how to do it; forming words and sentences, expressing ideas.  Such an easy, natural and taken for granted skill, stolen away by synapses failing to connect; brain cells dying.

It might never happen. My octogenarian parents show no signs of it.  My mum was tested because she thought her memory was failing.  The morphine she’s on is the more likely culprit. She passed the tests. So no signs, no obvious risk markers, but the fear lurks: in my forgetfulness, my inability to recall where I’ve put things; the impossibility of retrieving the right word at the right time.  I know it’s tiredness, and stress from being tired, that robs me of my capacity to remember, to recall, but the fear lingers.  Pain is so much easier to contemplate.  I can live with pain.  I do live with pain. Even dying is easier to think about.  Easier than contemplating losing yourself and everything that makes you who you are, without even knowing it.

I think about writing about dementia.  I’ve worked with clients who have it.  My sister works in the field.  I have friends who have family members with it.  There’s a wealth of experience and information that could be explored.

But for now, I think this is all I can manage.  For now I‘m writing furiously for all I’m worth, ticking projects off against the day when who knows what, who knows when.

 

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We all experience memory loss, and the inability to recall names and words from time to time and for various reasons. If you are worried that you or a relative may have Dementia, contact your GP who will refer you/them to a specialist.

The Alzheimer’s Society can be found here:

https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/

And Alzheimer Scotland here:

http://www.alzscot.org/

 

 

Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam…

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I would like to think that the 25 comments in my queue contain an element of interaction; that somewhere, if I look hard enough, there will be a word of encouragement, a glimpse of solidarity, anything by way of human connection.  But I know.  I know you are blips and bops and spam and ads and things much worse.  You sound so plausible.  I suppose some must succumb, or why would you waste your time in such futile endeavours?  But I’ve been blogging for over 5 years now and I know.  I know your sycophantic ways. So Gerri, Vicki, Bunni, Ollie, Bobo, Maverick and Ellie I will not waste my time scouring your contributions, checking if you are really ‘spam’.  Instead I will consign you to the bin, a bulk action, along with the rest of my junk.  And I will wait for that gem of a comment that is genuine, and I will approve that to sparkle on my blog, outshining and outweighing the rest of you by a mile.

Oh Dear What Can the Matter Be? One Middle-Aged Lady is Stuck in the Lavatory

looI’m  not sure if the original version  of the ditty is 3 ladies got stuck in the lavatory or whether it was 7  – either way, I think I know why there were so many of them in there. As someone who has been stuck in the lavatory on at least 2 occasions, I have some experience.  My tale isn’t especially comic, but it does make for a mildly amusing post.

The first time was when I was at college.  It was the day of my final exams.  I took the sensible precautionary measure of going to the loo beforehand.  Unfortunately, it was at that precise moment that the door lock decided to fail and I couldn’t get out!  There were various attempts by friends to free me from the outside, but to no avail. My friends, understandably, didn’t want to wait about and get a late mark against them, but given that this wasn’t the era of mobile phones, they did agree to alert the caretaker.  I’d like to say I spent the time calmly revising, but I spent most of the time stood on the loo seat panicking about how I would get out and how late I was going to be for my exams. I considered various escape ploys, including getting through the tiny window and shimmying down the drainpipe to safety, but I didn’t rate my chances.

Thankfully the caretaker arrived swiftly.  I wasn’t standing on the toilet seat at that point, but he advised me to do so, and get back as far as I could.  In a space approximately 6 foot by 4 foot, that is not a long way back.  No harm came to me as he broke through the door to release me.  I daren’t tell him that the stress made me feel like I needed the loo again, and there was certainly no way I was going to risk it!

I’ve had a variety of near misses since then: stuck locks, difficult to shove bolts, stuck doors etc., but the second time I was locked in a toilet for real was last October, whilst on holiday in Lanzarotte.  I was on a coach trip of the island and we’d stopped at the aloe vera farm.  Not being sure how far we were from our next stop, I decided a visit to the loo might be a good option.  This particular convenience was situated about 150 metres away from the shop where the tour guide, staff and other visitors were congregated.  It was essentially a concrete hut at the end of a field.

Initially I was disconcerted that there appeared to be no bolt or visible lock, but it became clear that there was a Yale lock, with the key hung by the mirror, with directions for use.  The instructions weren’t especially complicated: ‘please use the key, not the handle to exit.  Turn key to the left.’, or some such wording. Suitably relieved, I tried to exit the building.  Try being the operative word.  The key turned to the left, but the door failed to open.  I tried it several times, with increasing concern.  I tried turning it to the right, nothing doing.  The key actually managed to turn 360 degrees without the door lock opening at all.  I tried pushing the door, turning the knob, in fact anything I could think of to secure my release.  When all of the options failed I tried panic.  It didn’t really help.  I smashed my knuckles banging on the door and was losing my voice shouting. It’s surprising how tiring panicking is in 26 degrees of heat.

I stopped banging the door and assessed the window option.  Why is it that toilet windows are always small and high and difficult to get to?  With one foot in the sink and a knee resting on the tiny ledge I decided it wasn’t a viable option, so I shouted from the opening instead.  Given it was facing a field of aloe vera and the mountains, it was a fairly futile attempt.

I did have a mobile phone on me this time, but who was I going to call?  I was on the trip alone and my sister was sunning herself on the resort beach.  I did call her mobile, but knew it would be futile as she doesn’t take her phone to the beach with her.  What’s the number for emergency services or directory enquiries in the Canary Islands?  I had no idea.  I was getting hot and thirsty by now.  I’d been in there for at least 30 minutes, although it seemed like a lot longer.  It was at this point of desperation that I noticed a large rock at the base of the sink, possibly for propping open the door.  I decided I could employ it as a battering tool to try and break the door down.  So, shouting and banging I tried once more to effect my escape.  It was at that point I heard the voices:  ‘We’re going to get you out’.  Boy was I relieved (no pun intended).

The shop staff had been informed I was missing by the tour guide.  Not that the tour guide had notice I was missing!  A passenger on the coach alerted the tour guide to the space where I should have been and she got the coach driver to come back for me.  It still took them a while to come and check the toilet, but eventually I was freed.  The news that the toilets were being replaced was of little consolation.  I was hot, emotional, and voiceless.  I survived the experience, obviously, and live to tell you this cautionary tale.  So, whenever you’re out an about try and make sure you take at least one friend to the loo with you .  It could save you a lot of pain. Literally.

Any (clean) long loo tales welcome!

 

A bit of Friday Excitement

 

wp_20170203_003I get excited whenever Friday comes around.  Not, as you might expect, because it’s the weekend.  I don’t dislike my week days and see each new day as an opportunity.  No, it’s because on a Friday I get to drink tea.  Loose leaf Assam Tippy Golden Pekoe to be precise, although it’s not the type of tea that’s important.  It’s simply that after a week of abstinence I get to drink something I love.  That’s the cause for the celebration.

When I had to give up caffeine and alcohol as a result of a bladder disorder, I was gutted.  How would I manage to live without these ‘necessities’?  Well, it turns out you can.  I can. Human beings have an amazing capacity to adapt to most things, with both positive and negative results.  As it turns out, I don’t miss alcohol at all (well, maybe the odd glass of red…) but I do miss tea.  A lot.  Given that caffeine is one of the substances that causes inflammation in my bladder (which lacks a proper lining) I’m not supposed to drink it at all, but I find that one small cup once a week is fine if I don’t already have a flare up.  So, Friday is the day.  I have an engagement with the teapot around 3pm and I do get very excited about it!

It occurs to me that we would all appreciate a lot of things a whole heap more if we weren’t swamped with them day in day out.  There’s an article in the news today about a shortage of Iceberg lettuce in the shops.  This made me laugh and despair in equal measure.  Salad belongs with summer, and if we ate more seasonally we’d appreciate our food, especially fruit and vegetables, a whole lot more.  That ripe strawberry, and many other food stuffs, become delicacies when eaten during their short periods of availability; think wild garlic, asparagus, artichokes, soft fruit.

Whilst you may conclude that my life must be lacking in excitement if I can get worked up about a cup of tea, I might equally speculate that we would value things more, not only food, if we weren’t able to get anything we wanted any hour of the day or night.  At some point in the not too distant future, that theory may well be tested.

In the meantime, happy Friday, and cheers!

Some New Nails – and a New Perspective

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Before you switch off, presuming that this is some girly blog about beauty products, stop right there.  Check out the rest of my blog.  I’m about as likely to write about makeup as I am about horror movies.  I have nothing against either, per se, they’re just not my ‘thing’.  Boys may still want to look away now though.

I had my nails done before Christmas to see how I would get on with them.  I’m getting married in June and wanted to trial them before having them done for the big day. It’s probably the only time in your life that your hands have photographs taken of them. (Although my hands have appeared in a DSS training video!)

My history with nail art is a tempestuous one.  I’ve always been hopeless with nail varnish.  Apart from the fact that my nails shred at will, if they are ever long enough to paint, the finished article lasts approximately 5 minutes.  I get impatient waiting for them to dry and you can guarantee by the time they’re done they’re ruined in short order: smudged and chipped by having my hands variously in pastry, dough, mud, paint or water. My one dalliance with false nails was equally disastrous.  Within a few minutes of having them on I’d laddered my stockings and dropped 2 of them down the loo.  I managed to replace them and continued on my evening out without further incident.  When I got home I had to take them all off.  I couldn’t work out how to remove my contact lenses with them on, and after 3 attempts and multiple pokes in the eye, I gave up.  I’ve not tried them since, until – rewind to the start of the paragraph – December.  Amazingly the gel nails looked OK on my ‘not long’ nails and they lasted really well.  My nails grew.  No chips, no smudges, no cracks.  I was impressed.

The more interesting thing about having my nails done was that it made me think about looking after myself.  It made me put some time aside to care.  I can scrub up with the best of them, but have a lackadaisical approach to my appearance – depends on my mood and energy levels.  You can guarantee I’m clean, for the most part, but very rarely styled and made-up.  I wear what takes my fancy – comfort is paramount – combined with ease of going to the loo (I have to go a lot). I’m allergic to most make up, especially mascara, and rarely bother to wear the organic versions I have.  It always seems like a waste of time, spending hours on hair and make-up and clothes selection.  I mean who’s going to see me?  Who’s going to care?  Well, I am going to.  A little bit more anyway.  Not because it matters, not because I care a great deal about how I present myself to the world, but because investing time in self-care is not really wasted.  I pay a great deal of attention to the food I eat and try and exercise when I can, and perhaps this is an extension of that.  I’m not saying you need to have painted nails and coiffured locks to look after yourself, not at all, simply that for me it’s been a bit of a revelation.  When you lack energy and suffer from health issues it’s easy to give up caring about your appearance and that can have knock-on effects.  Having my nails painted isn’t going to make me better, but as an occasional indulgence, it might make me feel a little bit better about myself.

If you spend so much time working and looking after your family that you don’t have much ‘you time’ getting you hair or nails done, or having a massage, may be just the thing to put something back into the well-being bank account.  You may not be suffering from self-neglect, which is a completely different proposition, but like me, maybe an occasional dose of self-indulgence will do you the world of good.  Although having my nails done will never really be my ‘thing’ it’s been a useful reminder that I owe it to myself to care a bit more.

A month of un-doing

hppy-shopperSo I’m a month in, give or take a day or two and you want to know how it’s going, this ‘not buying anything’ thing, don’t you?  OK, so maybe it wasn’t top of your need to know list for today, but it’s risen to the top of my need to ‘fess list.  I could say it’s going really well.  It wouldn’t be a lie, maybe just not the whole truth.

Since the start of the year I’ve been stuck in bed a few days between colds and migraines, and I’ve only managed to get to anywhere with shops a few times. My shopping opportunities have been limited.  My resources are limited too because I’m not earning any money at the moment: automatic BIG restriction.  It’s like giving up chocolate for Lent when you don’t even like it – not much of a sacrifice.  The thing is, deciding not to buy anything new has made me more aware of how much I actually buy, full stop.  My plastic gets hit routinely, not for anything superfluous or extravagant, simply ‘everyday stuff’: the groceries, the toiletries, the consumables, those odd bits and pieces which you actually ‘need’. I ran out of parcel tape and genuinely couldn’t think of how else to get packages wrapped and sent.  Perhaps I lack imagination, but I’m probably like lots of other people, trying to do the best they can; caring and failing.

I avoided the sales.  Anyone who sent me discount emails and tried to convince me that I really needed new clothes or kitchenware or books, or whatever, has been solemnly unsubscribed from.  Despite the bombardment, I did not succumb.  It’s amazing how much of an offensive there actually is to prise our hard-earned cash from us.

I suppose a lot of us are immune by now, but why subject yourself to such attacks on your good intentions.  As everyone who is addicted to something knows, you need to remove yourself from the environment where you’re likely to encounter temptation, and whilst that might not be wholly possible 100% of the time it is do-able a lot of the time.

I’ve not been able to avoid being on line.  It’s where I hang out with people.  It’s where I engage when I’m stuck in my ‘remote and isolated hamlet’.  So I run the gauntlet of Facebook advertising and pop-ups and articles that pretend to be news, but are actually trying to sell you something.  I’m relatively savvy, although not entirely immune. We were going to make our own favours for the wedding.  Really.  It was all planned.  And then a sneaky little link came from I-know-not-where and hooked me.  So now we’ve bought our favours instead.  It’s all very kosher – a donation to a charity we believe in, a gift that can do good from the purchaser to the recipient – but still unplanned, and in many ways unnecessary. (If you think I’m being obscure here, you’re right. I don’t want any guests to know what we’re planning!)  I’m not beating myself up.  We have a budget for the wedding and I’m not including it in my ‘buy nothing new’ challenge as I don’t need any additional headaches.  As I’ve said before, lots of things are being done by friends and many would-be purchases have been avoided by borrowing, buying second-hand and making.  My point is that I’ve purchased something I didn’t have to.  Nice as it is, beneficial as it may be, it was something I didn’t need to buy.  And that’s how it happens I suppose.  We know what advertisers are like and we brush them off with a laugh, but then something good and worthy and in-line with our values pops up and we’re suckered in.

No, I’m not being overly hard on myself, but neither am I patting myself on the back.  I could definitely ‘do better’.  I might not ‘technically’ be buying anything new – the book I needed for my course was definitely second-hand – but I still have a ‘buying stuff’ wire in my head somewhere that won’t unplug.  I didn’t think this challenge would be easy, a walk-in-the-park of challenges, but I didn’t expect it to tax me greatly, given my disposition and ethics.  Taxing me is exactly what it is doing, however, as I’m thinking more about things, questioning motive, need, intent; questioning myself. I suppose that’s a good thing.  I’ve re-read my original blog, which outlined the whys and wherefores of this challenge and even after a month I think it sounds rather sanctimonious.  That’s life I suppose.  We do literally live and learn.

I’m sure there will be lots more insights over the next 11 months and I will endeavour to share some of them without being censorious or smug.  I probably don’t do ‘humble’ but I’m aiming for ‘real’ at the very least.

Feel free to comment and share your own travels in un-shopping.

Post-Truth, Post-Growth, Post-care?

 

growrthMuch has been talked and written about our ‘post’ society in 2016, although the Annus Horribilis descriptor maybe up for debate. It depends on your perspective.  For me 2016 had the usual mixture of good and bad.  If 2016 turns out to be a catalyst for people engaging in politics, then there’s a lot to be said for it.

I’m not a trend watcher or an economist, but I can see that we need a new economics: a paradigm shift, not only in the way we do business, but in the way we live.

The so called ‘trickle-down’ economics has turned out to be a surge-up economics where the wealth of the country ends up in the hands of an elite few – who are already very wealthy – whilst the rest of us bear the brunt of ‘Austerity’ and debt.  Politicians seem to be too scared to address the big issues and don’t have the answers or the money to tackle them anyway.  With so many people homeless, in poverty, unemployed or struggling to support their families with low paid and insecure jobs the focus of a majority is on day-to-day living – it has to be. And it should be the focus of politicians and the rest of society too.  Such inequity is unjust and unviable, and has lead in large part to the results we’ve seen in 2016 in Brexit and the election of Donald Trump.

One way to get power back into our communities is to wrest it from conglomerates and corporations: to put the pound back into our own pockets rather than the coffers of remote shareholders.  The ‘Transition Town’ model is one way of doing this.  Initially a movement bringing communities together to tackle the ‘peak oil’ crisis and Climate Change, it has proved to be an excellent model for getting things done and effecting change on a local level.  Transition Brixton has its own power company, other groups have tackled the lack of affordable fresh food and introduced local currencies that encourage people to spend money in the local economy creating social enterprise and apprenticeships.

If 2016 has taught us anything it’s that politicians cannot be relied upon to do the right thing, and are often powerless to get things done, but we have that power.  It doesn’t need legislation or Government funding – although that would be nice – it simply needs people with a common aim to come together and do something.  It’s a simple idea yet it has the power to change communities and create thriving local economies.

We may be post-growth in the traditional sense, but Transition Town initiatives are proving that sustainable growth is possible.  If we work within the boundaries of our ever-decreasing natural resources and learn new mechanisms for producing what people need (rather than an unbounded consumerism, where manufacturing is outsourced to others) we call forth creativity and cement communities.  It is not some unrealistic ideal.  It’s happening now, probably somewhere near you.  It proves that people care about each other and about the natural world and it demonstrates in a tangible way what we can achieve regardless of who’s in power.

 

‘Peak Oil’ is the point in time when the maximum rate of crude oil extraction is reached, after which the rate of extraction is expected to begin to decline

‘Climate Change’ is a large-scale, long-term shift in the planet’s weather patterns or average temperatures, caused by human activity.

Find out about the Transition network, and any projects near you here:  https://transitionnetwork.org/

Also contains resources for setting up your own Transition Town initiative.

Read Rob Hopkins ‘The Power of Just Doing Stuff – how local action can change the world‘ for a concise and uplifting look at Transition in action.

 

The Year of Nothing New

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I’ve never been especially acquisitive or materialistic.  Even as a child I would draw, paint, read, make things out of cardboard and play games rather than buy whatever was the latest craze. As an adult, I’ve espoused the same values, so you would expect my home to be minimalist.  No.  It is burgeoning at the seams with ‘stuff’.

A combination of wanting to de-clutter, and not wanting to contribute, any more than is necessary, to the consumption of the world’s precious and decreasing resources, has led me to this decision: one year, nothing new.

There are caveats.  I’m getting married in June, and whilst it won’t be a hedonistic spend-fest  (most things are being made or borrowed) it is beyond my capabilities to organise an entire wedding without buying anything new. I’ve saved myself the stress and taken the easy option –the wedding is excluded.  Think of me what you will.

I have plenty of old and second hand goods in my home.  In over 35 years of independent living, it is only in the last 12 months that I’ve purchased a new dining set – in a sale last January – for practical reasons.  I feel no guilt for my lovely ethically sourced wooden dining chairs and table.

If you think with such a solid starting point the next 12 months will be easy, you’d be wrong!  For a start I’m an avid reader, and therefore book buyer. I’ve more or less exhausted my local library and their supply of new books is limited.  Sorry author friends, your sequels and new works will not be on my buying list this year – and it grieves me greatly.  Depending on how this year pans out, I may allow myself a limited number of book purchases next year, but first I need to curb my book buying habit!

Shoes are another problem area for me. I’m no Imelda Marcos, but I do have a minor shoe obsession, which is ironic considering I have to wear orthotics and am unable to wear heels or slip-ons!  Second hand shoes are not an option for me. In practice this means that if I see a pair of shoes I like – and can wear – I generally buy them under the guise of ‘practicality’.  This is really a thinly veiled shoe fetish.  So, this year, no new shoes (thankfully I already have my wedding shoes!)

My self-imposed moratorium will not change the world, but I’m hoping it will change me; give me enough space to examine what I buy and why, and whether there are alternatives to the things I do need to buy.

The majority of the things I do own are researched, and bought to last.  Sadly few products are made to be repaired these days, but I’m fortunate to have a fiancé who is happy to roll up his sleeves and get stuck into fixing most things.  The Swedish Government have drawn up plans that will see VAT reduced on repairs, and a new tax break introduced for the people who conduct more expensive repairs on items such as washing machines and dishwashers.  This is a direction I hope we can all head in rather than perpetuate such a disposable society.  This also necessitates building quality products that last and can be repaired, rather than having a built in redundancy.

With burgeoning amounts of waste and increasing possibilities for recycling, we also need to look seriously at using recycled materials in preference to virgin resources, and as consumers being prepared to buy recycled goods.  Legislation is sorely needed.  Our friends the Swedes are also beginning to tackle this, by introducing a “chemicals tax” on white goods and computers, which is designed to recoup costs for items that are difficult to recycle.  Until our Governments catch up, we as consumers need to be the vanguard.

I’m looking forward to the challenge of the next 12 months and hope that you will share my journey with me as I blog about it.

 

 

 

 

 

Independent Article on Swedish Government repairs legislation

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/sweden-repairs-tax-waste-reduction-plan-a7318131.html