Monday, February 20, 2017

immigrant, emigrant

Last year my Mum got her DNA test results, or more accurately her brother's in order to get both male and female lines. It turns out that my Granny's side of things is far from dominated by the Yorkshire heritage she proudly lay claim to, but instead is a mere 9% English and the largest component 28% Yemeni. Probably just as well she's long gone, I don't think she'd be very impressed with that result!

I realized when discussing this with a fellow genealogist recently that I knew next to nothing about Yemen other than it currently being in a civil war mess. How on earth could we have ended up with such a large percentage of that bloodline? Were there British connections with the area? Well a quick look at Wikipedia the other day highlighted a gaping hole in my historical knowledge and I discovered yet another example of British colonialism in the Aden Protectorate. Well I guess it was appropriate enough reading for Waitangi Day.

I didn't get that far though as it was time to head down the road to see Phyllis and I've still yet to get back to reading more, but I mean to. I'm really intrigued as to which branch(es?) of the family connect to there. How did they end up in Britain? It could be through the East India (shipping) Company base in Aden, but given the rather turbulent history of the region it's not impossible they were refugees, a sobering thought given the current state of the world, and the USA restrictions on refugees from Yemen. There but for the grace of god....

We already knew we had a family history of emigration from the UK out around the world, not to mention extensive migration around the British Isles, but now we have a new chapter of immigration to explore. Given our apparent lack of ability to stay in the same place for more than a couple of generations I wouldn't be at all surprised to find nomadic roots near the surface on all arms of the family tree, not just Granny W's!

Sunday, February 05, 2017

November, and everything after...

Erm, happy new year! Chinese new year that is.... So yes, it's been a while and I still haven't sent out my Christmas epistle to all those who usually get it. I've been even more late than usual this season.

Why? Well basically November happened, and then December... For me, like most people I know, the major political event of November 2016 was pretty galling, but I was already in a state of altered reality and discombobulation. Nothing to do with Brexit (although that too has added to the general feeling that somehow we seem to be living in Discworld where parody has overtaken reality), but a day after her 90th birthday Phyllis took ill. Three days of scaring the living daylights out of me with her rapid decline led to hospitalization, treatment, further decline and the prospect of losing her loomed large.

Having reached the point where the Doctors were saying 'you do realize this is end of life care don't you, we're just making her comfortable for her last days, perhaps weeks' everyone started turning up to say goodbye to Grandma. She was ready to go, prayed to go in fact, but whoever was listening decided that there were other plans afoot and instead she started to get better.

It has been a slow, but steady improvement. And after a transfer back to the local hospital for rehab and now the local rest home for more of the same, she's literally back on her feet again if a tad unsteady at times. Not back to how she was (remarkably well for 90!), but there's time yet and currently the issue is reminding her how sick she was so don't over do things!

So I'm now rather well acquainted with the local hospital staff and routines, Joanne and I could probably get a pretty good reference if we wanted to be auxiliaries and we've learned more than we ever wanted to about a whole heap of things to do with the personal care of an incapacitated person. We've also learned how desperately understaffed our hospitals are and that the prospects are slim for anyone who needs that level of care who doesn't have family and friends to be at the bedside almost 24hrs a day coaxing food and drink down in minute but regular quantities, who help can adjust positioning the moment discomfort is felt, who can assist a nurse rather than them have to wait until two of them are free to change dressings and pads, toilet, shower etc.

Gradually life is now slipping into a 'new normal' and feels somewhat more connected to the outside world rather than being in some strange bubble. In fact I have been blogging for a couple of weeks, but that was setting up Marion's blog for her recipes etc. Basically she doesn't have time to get things publishable, so it's a team effort where she drafts stuff and I post it. After her and Mandy rescuing the gluten free and/or non-meat eating Summer Gatherers from the results of miscommunication and understandings and whipping up some fabulous food with the kitchen staff her recipes are in even more demand than ever! So now I just need to get my own blog back on track again, oh and get Docs in Advance ready for the printer, and the last bit of the new EcoCentre website drafted, and..... hmmm, anyone got a timeturner I could borrow?

Monday, November 07, 2016

to have and have not

A f/Friend shared this article on Facebook earlier this week. In it a piece written by a medical student who had experimented with living on $3.30 a day for 200 days is critiqued. His argument was that as he had thrived on this it shows how all the other factors of poverty must have a bigger effect on health outcomes than poor diet.

His argument sounds fairly reasonable until you factor in that he had weekends 'off', and stuck it out for 200 days out of +20yrs. Real poverty doesn't take weekends off, and the health impacts are generally due to accumulation over years not 200 days, unless one is only 200 days old. Anyway, the other article says lots of this better than I can.

I've lived on or below the official poverty line for a hefty chunk of my life. However I come from a middle class background where there has been enough money to house us well throughout my childhood no matter how low our family income might have been at times. Whenever I've found myself facing homelessness (3 times!) I've had friends with good incomes who have provided me with a home. I've lived off a very low disposable income since coming to Aotearoa NZ but there has always been someone else paying the bulk of the bills. Yes I have eating healthily off a low income down pat which proves it can be done, but I have the cashflow ability to buy in bulk, I never have to sacrifice buying food to replace a broken washing machine, buy school shoes, or fix a car. Also the only times in life that I've been turned down for jobs through prejudice has been when I was considered 'over qualified', rather than from having the wrong address, skin colour etc. Yes I know what it is like to have too much month at the end of the money, and have lived off frozen spinach, tinned tomatoes and bread from the half price bakery for several weeks waiting for the next grant cheque, but I've never actually gone hungry.

I think for some people doing the living off $3 a day or whatever experiment is quite an eye-opener and can teach them a very different perspective on life they might otherwise have been oblivious to. But they are usually still doing that in the comfort of their own home, with their bills paid, a job to go to etc etc etc. To really 'get it' you need to factor in more than just one aspect of your day. 
I'm always impressed though with the will power of those who've done the living off x amount a day, or refugee rations for a week/month in aid of Oxfam etc to raise awareness/funds. It's not something I ever intend to try given my health, and it would take a lot of planning not to end up with other food in the house/garden going to waste because you weren't eating anything but the rations etc, which does seem rather pointless. After all I'm pretty sure those for whom it is a daily reality wouldn't appreciate perfectly good food being wasted on their behalf. 

The difference between living in poverty and living below the poverty line can be huge and I am grateful for the skills I've learned as a result of the latter, and the fact that I've had the privilege in life not to fall into the former. Being part of inter-generational poverty, growing up with poor nutrition through lack of funds and/or education, living off cheap takeaways as there isn't enough money for power bills this month is the reality for some. Living in poverty is often more expensive than simply being poor, you can't take advantage of supermarket specials as you have no spare cash to buy anything not desperately needed this week, you end up paying far more for power etc to get the fixed installments so you can budget (or worse have to have pay a $500 bond to get those fixed installments! I was horrified to discover this when sorting out our neighbours affairs earlier this year) and so the list goes on. So yes providing good healthy food for the children of these families will go a long way to improving their outcome, no matter how cheaply someone else in better circumstances can feed themselves. There has recently been a swell of enthusiasm locally to get some fruit trees planted around town on public land and I really hope we can make it happen to improve access to free healthy kai here as there are plenty who need it. Now we just have to kick up a noisy fuss about the new food regulations which are making it difficult for small scale growers who sell off their surplus at the market to help make ends meet... there's always something to make life harder when you're struggling already.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Be careful what you wish for... might just happen!

A saying that I've found there to be a lot of truth in over the years, and usually it presents something quite different to deal with than what was first envisioned.

I've joined a couple more Facebook groups recently partly for work, and partly for my own benefit, one of which is Zero Waste in NZ! Basically it's for folk who are on the same waste reduction, simpler living journey as myself. Although some would say it's a harder way making a lot of stuff yourself rather than simpler, but personally I'd rather spend an extra hour in the kitchen than trekking to and round the supermarket, not to mention walking home again laden down with stuff.

Recently someone posted a question about food storage that resulted in a flurry of photos of people's pantries full of jars, tins and baskets. It has to be said there was a lot of pantry envy going on in the group! I find it hard to envision what a pantry would look like with only my dietary requirements in it given that hasn't happened for over a decade, and I've gone gluten free since then, not to mention having relocated to the opposite side of the globe which does rather tend to redefine 'local products'. But I guess if 'my' stuff were all together in a cupboard rather than squeezed in and around everything else in our kitchen, it probably wouldn't look that different from those I was oohing and ahhing over. Anyway, I was particularly admiring some large glass jars someone had and I was thinking they would be great for my oats and my 'porridge' mix (which these days looks more like muesli, but it still gets soaked overnight and cooked up in the morning). But I'm trying to avoid buying anything brand new and large jars don't often show up at the market or in op/charity shops. Some re-jigging freed up a large tin to use for my mix, but not before I'd been eyeing up the jars I get my milk in as a possibility.

But the milk jars get cycled round between the farm, drop-off point and me so the only way they'd become available would be if I stopped getting the milk. Whilst I've been wondering for some months if I could manage without milk without reverting to buying imported tetrapacks of soy/rice/almond milk, I kept putting that decision in the too hard basket. But now the new dairy regs are about to kick in at the end of the month the farm milk is no longer available as the tests the Ministry requires are exorbitantly expensive. So, I now have two large jars! (the 3rd is still at the farm, some you win, some you lose). One is already full of rolled oats, the other is awaiting a decision as the tin is working out quite well.

So I got my large jars that I wanted, and I didn't have to buy them new, but now I have to figure out what to do about milk... I've enough milk either fresh or frozen to last a couple of weeks yet at least, so there's no rush. But I've got a bowl of almonds soaking which I'll then freeze so when I do run out I have no excuse and can whizz up some almond milk as and when I need it, as remembering to soak the almonds in advance has been my stumbling block in the past. And of course I can get Trade Aid organic coconut milk (which is rather nice) at the healthfood shop, but it's hardly local, and neither are the almonds, but I can buy organic almonds loose using my cloth produce bags rather than in plastic. It's all an ever changing juggling act of priorities....

I'm sure I can cope without yoghurt on my porridge, especially as I'm making sauerkraut again as our garden has gone into cabbage patch overdrive, so I can get a daily dose of probiotics at lunchtime instead. Although I could make yoghurt with coconut milk if I really wanted to. It probably means making more oatcakes or seed crackers and fewer pikelets again, but that's no big deal, and as Gill pointed out many moons ago you can make pikelets with water!

So after pondering what I should challenge myself to tackle next in terms of lowering my footprint on the earth it turns out the decision has been made for me. And I think that's probably enough to be getting my head round for now.

Friday, October 28, 2016

getting radical

When I was discussing Plastic Free July with a f/Friend who was also doing the challenge this year she said how when she couldn't avoid non-recyclable plastic for some reason she was aiming to write to the company in question and ask them to do something about it.

It says a lot about who we both are as a person that her first reaction was to engage in direct dialogue and try to bring about change, where as I've been boycotting Nestlé for over 30 years and have never told them, and they probably didn't notice any resulting dip in sales either. However I have told a lot of other people about what I'm doing over the years, and I know some others have followed suit as a result. I also hadn't contacted any companies about their plastic use until recently.

Inspired (and a little shamed) by Jane's example I contacted a toilet paper company who used to sell their products wrapped in paper, but now use plastic. Their response by email was they had to stop using paper for hygiene reasons (?????) but the weblink they gave instead makes more sense. However although compostable it is still plastic and perpetuates the need for oil extraction. I was well impressed with Sally's solution to avoiding plastic wrapped loo roll by using a box of tissues, presumably one without the annoying plastic film insert where you pull the tissues out from, when doing a sponsored month without plastic in aid of Ocean Cleanup with her friend Sarah.

Having got that emailed response made me feel a bit braver, and I've just posted back to the University of Auckland the plastic wrapper from around their alumni magazine with a request to go on their email circulation list instead, and a suggestion that they come up with an alternative wrapper, especially as the insert with the magazine was imploring us to change the world for all our futures! They were after scholarship funding rather than suggestions that they divest from fossil fuels and avoid plastic, but never mind! I don't expect a reply however.

Working my way through the Radical Spirituality course has made me think about the whole simple living and the 'Wear it as long as thou canst' advice and whether I'd got again to the point where I needed to have a rethink about challenging myself to go a step further in this direction. As my income has increased a little over the last year I've been able to buy more bulk bin items at the healthfood shop rather than wholesalers which has meant being able to use my cloth bags rather than bring home yet more large snaplock bags, but as with boycotting Nestlé it probably doesn't change much (if anything) in the greater scheme of things unless I speak up more about what I'm doing and why.

Anyway, I recently got an email from a researcher at Massey University who I've met a couple of times before (a former research assistant of hers is a f/Friend of mine - you've got to love the small world of Quakerdom!), and Corrina is wanting to do some more interviews up here about the way people live out their environmental awareness and I'm on her list! Having seen the sheet of questions she'll be asking it feels a bit daunting, but I've got until early January to have my head around my answers, so you may find a few blog posts popping up along the way as I get to grips with them...