Sunday, April 27, 2014

plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose...

or The Interconnectedness Of All Things Quaker...

I came across a link to Jean Zaru's Easter message the other day. I heard her speak at the FWCC Triennial in Auckland, January 2004. She spoke then of the challenges faced by Palestinians whose land was being taken by the Israeli government; of the challenges of being a Palestinian Christian - a group whose history is unbroken by time right back to the life of Jesus of Nazareth yet get ignored by many Western Christians, especially those in the States who vociferously support Israel against the Palestinians; and the challenges of being a Palestinian Quaker, and added twist to the christian identity crisis many of us face explaining our unique place in the ecumenical communities of our own countries. Sadly life hasn't got any easier there.

I first found the link on Facebook via Aletia who had been at the Triennial with me, before I went there I'd been told to look out for her by Roz who'd worked with her at Glenthorne Quaker Guesthouse. I've known Roz since the early '90s and despite a 10yr or so gap in age we've been friends as well as Friends all along.

I'd ended up at the Triennial mainly as at the time I was working with Bronwyn Harwood who then was the FWCC Europe & Middle East Secretary. Part of her job included going to visit Friends in Ramallah, Palestine and Brumallah, in Lebanon. I was the one holding the fort in her absence figuring out which emails needed forwarded on and which could wait 'til she came home etc. It was the closest I'd been emotionally to having F/friends in danger zones where there was a real risk of not coming home. Yes I'd had a cousin stationed in Beirut and Northern Ireland with the army in the '80s, and I knew other Quakers who had worked in some pretty unsafe places, including Palestine, but other than it being sad had anything happened to them (which thankfully as far as I know it didn't bar a couple of deportations out of Russia) the immediate impact on my life wouldn't have been that big. But had anything happened to Bron I would've been in the thick of dealing with it back in Edinburgh - not only in terms of work, but personally as a long time friend of the family and the impact it would have had on our Meeting. Given this was around the time when at least three international observers were killed by Israelis I was always extremely relieved when she was safely back home again.

Over the years since I've known quite a few people who have been to Palestine with Christian Peacemaker Teams and Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel plus some study tours (which you'd like to think were less risky) and helping with the Palestinian olive harvests etc. So far no-one I know has been injured or killed in the line of duty, but there is no doubt the risk is still there. Currently Bronwen, who also happens to be Roz's mum, is there as an Ecumenical Accompanier and is sharing her story. Like Bronwyn she too was part of Central Edinburgh Meeting when I was, in fact Bronwen was my support person when I was WGYF administrator - a job I combined for a while with working with Bronwyn for EMES, the WGYF office being in her home.

In the run up to Bronwen and her cohort heading off to Palestine there were a number of posts and photos of the training event at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre in Birmingham on Facebook. I got double dose as another old f/Friend of mine, Mike, was one of the trainers. He was my line manager when I was WGYF administrator, and 10yrs ago was on Friends House Moscow Board with Bronwyn (and is also one of my f/Friends who've managed to be deported from Russia). Russian Friends have been much in my thoughts too of late due to the situation in the Ukraine. (FHM's statement on the situation and the response from FWCC World Office is currently on the World Office home page) I was rather relieved to hear lately that a Russian Young Friend who had been in my Home Group at WGYF has returned to Moscow having been living in Kiev until very recently.

As most posts have lately, this has taken me a few days to complete, which seemed meant to be as what popped into my feed since I started this but a link from Paul Paker, the Recording Clerk of Britain YM who I met at the World Conference in Kenya, they are busy looking for folk to volunteer for EAPPI next year.

It is pretty sad really to think that over the last decade life for Palestinians has got worse not better, it is also a sobering thought to hear news reports this week saying Russia is trying to trigger WWIII over Ukraine. How much credence to give that I'm not sure, but it feels like the clock being wound back not 10 but 20 or so years to the threats of the Cold War. I can't help but be cynical about the political influence of arms manufacturers seeking profits on this situation and surrounding propaganda. One thing that has changed though in the intervening years is the internet in terms of access to information, it is much harder now to restrict what news gets out that the 'authorities' don't want you to hear. I wonder if all the WWI centenary commemorations will have any impact on public perception of the perceived threat of global warfare? Or will it be so much for 'lest we forget'? And if the conflict in Ukraine does escalate, will we 'forget' about those who have been living with conflict for years, as in Syria, or decades as in Palestine? I hope not, and I hope that those who are risking their own safety to protect civilians and let the world know what is happening, continue to speak out and remind us of the impact the politicking has on every day lives.

Friday, April 18, 2014

tiny houses vs communal living

When I was a child, and well into my teens, I spent hours drawing plans for living on a canal boat, or in a camper van. We'd had a few canal holidays which I'd loved, and we got a Bedford camper van when I was 9yrs old. It was great when my brother and I were small, but by the time we sold it about six yrs later it was getting to be a bit of a squish for the four of us. So I would eye up those big Dreamliner mobile homes and speculate how best to use the space.

There was something that always captivated me about making the most of absolutely every last square inch of space; having multi-purpose seating with storage underneath, foldaway tables, counter tops over the tops of stoves when not in use etc. One conundrum always reared its head though - how would I find enough space for all my books? In fact this was to become a real life conundrum as an adult and resulted in shelving over the top of doorways in a couple of flats I lived in in Edinburgh where high ceilings made this an excellent solution. In these days of e-books and digital music finding shelving space for such is less of an issue for anyone with limited space, but there's nothing quite like looking along the bookshelves and music collection to get the feel of a new acquaintance and to me it looks far more homely. In one flat we got a friend to build in a loft bed which encorporated wardrobe space underneath which meant the relatively small bedroom easily doubled up as a study which was useful as my partner was studying at the time.

I've known a few people over the years who have lived in narrowboats, houseboats and caravans. For those on the water it was partly a lifestyle choice, but for all it was the only affordable way to live where they did. And none of them stuck with it long term. So when I started seeing links to pages about tiny houses I was very curious. Part of me is very excited by the idea, especially as it is a form of home ownership that is potentially possible for me, and I could go back to drawing umpteen plans on scraps of paper trying to figure out how to fit everything in (or these days trawl the internet to see what other people have drawn up!). But I wonder how long folk will last in them - especially the couples plus dog etc who have next to no way of getting space from each other at home. And then I start thinking, how on earth would I lay out a patchwork quilt before sewing it up in such a small space? Where would I put all my sewing stuff? I certainly couldn't leave my machine set up anywhere. What about bulk food purchases - you can't fit those into a tiny kitchen. And then there's wanting a veggie garden, and needing somewhere to put gardening tools....Plus I love having visitors come to stay, where can you put them???

On the flip side though I've spent the last decade or so thinking more and more about communal housing. It is something I've been interested in since a Young Friends event at Pardshaw to discuss intentional communities, like the then new Quaker community in Bamford, Derbyshire which was over 20yrs ago now. At the time four of us were flatting together, three Young Friends and a very tolerant and understanding forth not-quite-Quaker. We lived together as a household and whilst not without its occasional downsides (more to do with the standard of housing and furnishings than the people usually!) it worked better than a lot of student type flats did. The idea of having several households living together in community seemed like a good idea - as long as you could find enough likeminded people to make it work...

So musings in recent years have tended to be around large buildings divvied up into self-contained spaces with communal facilities; collections of buildings; a stair of tenement flats with communal facilities like a laundry, common room etc. on the ground floor (I never did like lugging wet washing down to the drying green to hang out! Thankfully I never lived higher than the 2nd floor) and so on. I've discovered over the years that whilst I like having my own space to withdraw to or be able to leave projects spread out in, I'm not very good at nor keen on living on my own. Especially when I have had spells of illness/low energy, having people around without having to go to any effort to find them is important to me.

So it was with great interest that I watched this clip about a tiny house at the Earthsong community in West Auckland. I visited Earthsong a few years back as f/Friends of mine who live there were having a celebration and a few of us got the guided tour around several of the homes and the communal gardens. It is a lovely space and idea, but, or should that be BUT, it is in Auckland, admittedly out west, but even so, still Auckland. And let's face it, Auckland is pretty low on my list of places I'd chose to live. I do like the idea of combining tiny house space with community - it certainly solves the gardening and where to do your laundry when you can't drive to the laundromat dilemma. But do you think I could persuade anywhere to have a sewing room? I've been to The Quaker Settlement, Whanganui a few times over the years for various events, and they do have a craft room so it isn't entirely out of the question.... but there it would make far more sense to flat with others in one of the existing houses - if I can find folk to flat with of course! Unless there is someone like Phyllis who could use someone living in to help out I can't see another way of making it work as a single person.

Some years back a group of older Young Friends started throwing ideas around about setting up another intentional community somewhere sometime perhaps as we got a bit older, particularly aimed at those of us without families, but when ideals as to where it should be covered both islands, city and countryside it was obvious it wasn't going to happen in a hurry, if ever. But I'm thinking that it would be far easier to set up a larger community if you had a communal building with lots of land and then individuals had their own tiny houses around it - then if they wanted to move on they could take their house with them... we could take over a camping ground!

Recently someone was telling me about a new house built up the road from them - five bedrooms and four bathrooms, 'why one earth would anyone want to clean four bathrooms?' was her fair comment. Aside from the fact that anyone buying a place that size in that part of Auckland would probably pay a cleaner, it occurred to me later that actually a place like that could possibly work quite well for several folk living in community together, and then they could each clean their own bathroom! Despite the adverts that I find highly irritating about the pitfalls of folk flatting together and why you wouldn't want to still be doing that when you're older (when you could get a mortgage from that bank instead...) given the way property prices are going in this country, especially in Auckland, that is the kind of thinking that could solve a lot of peoples' problems - we don't have to all have our own castle, not to mention washing machine, etc.

Ah well, it is still all completely academic, I'm not moving anywhere in a hurry and chances are that when I do move the destination will be not so much out of my hands but with a sense of being chosen for me if the last decade has been anything to go by. But in the mean time it adds another dimension to my daydreams of how one day I might utilise my living space, big or small.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

food for thought

My cousin Robin shared a picture of Sea Buckthorn on Facebook this week - he's in Finland with the family and had some amazing fruity ice cream, but no-one at the restaurant knew the English word for the fruit. A combination of Latin and Wikipedia solved that one and Sea Buckthorn it was. Now it isn't a fruit I've come across myself and having spent very little time in Nordic countries that probably isn't surprising. I hadn't even heard of it until a few months ago when I watched Ben's TED talk.

I have to say I was very excited to see Ben's talk online, not only because I wholeheartedly agreed with him, but because it was yet another proud proxy-parent moment! Having known him as a rather rapidly growing teenager a decade or so ago, I can confirm that his love of food is not a new phase. One of my main memories of him is that he's a big fan of Paddington Bear and marmalade sandwiches. Given that at the time the Winnie-the-Pooh camp had something of a stranglehold on the choice of bedtime stories at Quaker Link Group events it is testimony to Ben's persistence that at the St Andrews weekend I got to read both to them! But I digress a little...

Whilst I claim no credit for Ben's academic career path whatsoever, I definitely get a warm glowy feeling from knowing that 'one of ours' has taken a path in life that looks at something fairly mainstream through a sustainability lens. The 'mango paradox' he refers to (do watch the clip if you have time, like all TED talks I've seen it is well worth it) is something I've wrestled with in recent years. I've enjoyed the fact that over the last couple of decades I've had relatively easy access to 'foreign food' in the shops. A quick glance in our kitchen will see Thai green curry paste, sesame oil, coconut milk, miso and a decent range of spices which is a fair reflection of my cooking style which falls into the international fusion category. I'm not exactly precious about keeping things 'pure' in terms of ethnic authenticity it has to be said. But whilst I've yet to wean myself off imported flavourings (and life without chocolate doesn't bear thinking about) I realised as I walked around the supermarket today that I've pretty much weaned myself off imported fresh food.

With the exception of squishy sell 'em off cheaply bananas, that I freeze for baking on the grounds that it is far better to use them than them get thrown out, everything is Kiwi grown, and in most cases locally so. I don't even miss things, but then we are very lucky with a sub-tropical climate and the wide range of things that are locally available. I too love mangos and going to the Philippines a couple of years ago for an FWCC AWPS Gathering was heaven in that respect; fresh mangos, bananas (that taste oh so different to the ones we get), and various rice & coconut milk sweet things. But as far as I know they don't grow here so I only get to eat them when someone else serves them up. But oddly enough I don't miss them. Our cape gooseberries are ripening up fast and snacking on those whilst gardening somehow hits the same spot. Admittedly I'm not very good at only eating the ripe sweet ones and take my chances on the odd tart one which isn't quite so close, but it does me! And what is more they grow like weeds in our garden, I keep trying to find a space where I can let them grow unhindered so I don't feel so bad about pulling them up elsewhere.

Again via facebook I saw Cathy & Joel who I met at Summer Gathering were experimenting with homemade dandelion and acorn coffee and using the ground acorns as flour. Having drunk dandelion coffee quite a bit over the years I was interested to find out how they got on, and it seems to have been a success. However dandelion is one weed we don't have a lot of, so I commented that if anyone could suggest a good use of convovulous, creeping buttercup or oxalis I'd be delighted! Well apparently, as Joel pointed out, oxalis, aka wood sorrel, can be eaten - but the list of medical warnings rules it out as a proper food source for me. Mind you as I have discovered the odd leaf isn't bad as another weeding snack. It doesn't look anything like the 'vinegar leaves' sheep's sorrel I know from childhood, it tastes similar but more lemony. But given how prolific it is I had no qualms whatsoever about weeding a couple of bucketfuls out today and adding them to the compost heap. I'm curious though, what else is there out there that does grow easily here that I could eat... other than guavas which we now have a carpet of on the lawn thanks to the remains of Cyclone Ita blasting through. I've tried to like them, really I have, but they just don't do it for me.

Given the scenario Ben refers to I wonder just how well folk would survive around here if the main roads were blocked for any length of time. After all it isn't that unrealistic given our unstable landscape, shortage of road options and reasonably high risk of severe weather or tsunami cutting us off - admittedly probably just for days rather than weeks or months though. Thankfully civil unrest is unlikely to be a cause of isolation. We probably wouldn't do that badly - after all if nothing can get up here, then nothing can get out either which means all the milk and market garden produce would have to stay in the area. Hunting and fishing are a regular part of life for many and even I know how to collect tuatua on the beach, although I still won't eat them! There are probably enough folk around who know what can be foraged in the bush and how to grow crops that we wouldn't starve and in any case I'm sure supplies would come in by sea and air. But it is an interesting question to ponder on, and how as a country would we manage if for some reason we couldn't import food? Better than many I guess, and a lot better I suspect than Britain would do now compared to when it had to during WWII.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


One of the challenges as part EcoLent that Cherice is following was to buy less new stuff, and reading that tied in nicely with an article Jimmy shared on Facebook about 'stuffocation' - of having too much stuff in your life that it becomes smothering and restricting. The article suggests that accumulating experiences, 'experientialism', rather than things is the answer to the swing away from materialism without heading to minimalism and simple living. Whilst simple living is quite attractive to me, it doesn't appeal to many nor does it keep the economy ticking over in the same way, which on a mass scale presumably has certain drawbacks. Experientialism, the article claims, can bridge that gap; provide personal fulfillment, keep the exchequer happy and yet minimise the need for accumulating 'stuff'.

It is an interesting article covering the history of materialism and also the historical influence of the Christian churches on peoples' aspirations and consumer habits, I recommend it, although it blithely ignores the materialism of the churches themselves in that same era - but that is another issue. How any church could preach how it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man enter heaven and at the same time accumulate some of the greatest riches in Europe is one of the reasons I became rather cynical about the mainstream Christian churches as a teenager.

Despite their commonalities of not acquiring 'stuff' you don't need, the challenge at the top of the article 'Could you spend a month and have bought nothing physical by the end of it' doesn't really fit very well alongside simple living and urban homesteading though! Just in terms of food I cook all my meals from scratch, and a lot of ingredients I buy in bulk so of course I have things left at the end of the month. And not only do I have a stash of nuts, dried fruit, flours and pulses etc I have plants growing in the vegetable garden that have been bought as seedlings or seeds.

But looking back over the last few months expenditure the only non-consumables (other than a couple of toothbrushes, which are bamboo and repurposed as row markers in the garden when I'm done with them in the bathroom) that I have bought this year are a replacement camera (my old one having died), an extra external hard-drive (as my laptop is dying...) and a sewing pattern for childrens' clothing for making gifts later in the year, and some photos printed off to use in a Quaker workshop which can be reused/repurposed. Even the majority of the gifts I've bought rather than made have been edible! Mind you I haven't exactly been out and about to do much shopping. There are a few things that I would've bought by now had I not been stuck home unwell so much, but apart from a book and a cd (which need buying online when I get my act together rather than me going anywhere!), they are replacement items rather than 'more' stuff.

Even though the last three months have hardly been typical of my life in general they've not really been that atypical of my shopping habits. Partly a result of living on a fairly tight budget, but mainly a result of moving house so often over the years that I've learned to appreciate that less is way more manageable, and subsequently growing to appreciate less clutter in my life.

One of the facebook images being circulated this last week or so via The Story of Stuff is 'the buyerarchy of needs pyramid' - taking Maslow's pyramid into a new direction. When trying to find an image of it I could link to here it made me chuckle to find this print of it available, which does seem a little ironic! But I suppose it is all about context - as someone's latest addition to a private print collection it would be missing the point, but going up in a more public place as an educational and inspirational tool it would probably be worth it. And to be fair to the original artist, they aren't going to make a living out of us sharing it on the internet...

So, generally I'm doing pretty well on the limiting 'stuff' front, now I just need to get well enough to have more 'experiences' beyond trips to various medical appointments which seem to be the most common thing on my calendar these days. I've had a fair few new experiences so far this year which I would've quite happily done without and certainly don't recommend!

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

sharing concerns

Over the last few weeks I've been seeing links on facebook about Cherice's eco-lent blog posts and mentally bookmarking them to read when my head felt more up to it. Well finally I've got a to-it and very glad I did. Many of the issues she raises over the weeks are ones I've grappled with myself over the years, not least of which being the one about wanting to get the word out but not be seen as patronising, preachy or morally setting yourself above others with how far you've got down a particular path vs sharing your journey and hopefully encouraging others in the same direction.

One issue where our lives differ enormously is the issue of transport - I'm a non-driver, and I haven't even owned a bicycle since my teens, although I did have the use of one for four years when I first moved up here. I rely heavily on Shanks' pony and public transport. Which is all very well when you are reasonably fit and healthy, but a bit of a bummer when your legs/head conspire against you and make going beyond the end of the drive something that is as daunting as bagging Munros rather than taking a nice gentle stroll along the road.

So over the last couple of months I have been heavily dependent upon those who can and do drive to get anywhere. Usually I try to tie in with folk heading in the same direction at the same time, or who can combine picking me up/dropping me off with some other activity that takes the car out, but it isn't always possible. I am extremely grateful to my cluster of friends willing to be taxi drivers to assorted appointments. I'm hoping that it won't be long again before I can at least walk one way, if not both. Over recent years I've ummed and ahhed about investing in an electric bicycle, but I'd need to feel a lot more confident on the pavement before I even considered anything on the road! There is a lot more to be taken into account that simple lack of energy at present.

Not going out much certainly has made me more conscious again of my consumer habits - despite myself I'd drifted into using our now out of town (well 'out of town' if walking, more 'edge of town' in a car!) supermarket, mainly because when I took over doing the main shopping for a while last year that was where I could easily get a lift/bus to, or more to the point home again. But neither of us have been there yet this year, and it hasn't really been much of an inconvenience. Some things I've gone back to paying somewhat more for in town, others I've simply lived without. So far that hasn't been a big deal, but then I have had reasonable stocks of some things to work through in the house. I keep a close eye on my spending and slight changes in eating habits have meant it hasn't made any major financial difference overall. It has been a timely reminder to support our local small businesses, it very much being a case of use them or lose them around here.

But the focus of Cherice's blog posts that really gave me a kick back on track was that of plastics. I have been trying to reduce the amount of plastic in my life for some time, which I'm sure I've blogged about before (note to self - one day get around to adding tags to posts to make specific past ones easier to find again!). However I know that for some things I'd been going more for the cheaper options (usually from the supermarket) as finances have been more limited - a case of balancing ethics; diet vs my use of plastic. It is a tricky one at times, but having made the dietary changes (eg using more coconut oil, and a lot less margarine. Marion would approve!) and it become the norm now, I've got to the point where I'm willing to pay a few dollars more for the coconut oil to get it in glass jars from the health food shop, than get the plastic tubs in the supermarket. Especially as the larger jars are a decent size and can be reused as storage jars!

There are many reasons for ditching plastic; health, environmental concerns around oil extraction, peak oil, production pollution and waste disposal and so on. The latter has recently made the news with the amount of plastic waste complicating the efforts to find the missing flight MH370, maybe that will change some of the minds that images of plastic ingested by seabirds doesn't.

But back to the concerns around plastics and food. The big nasty is BPA (Cherice has handily listed the research links!) which is so accepted now as being a nasty that many items are now labeled 'BPA free'. I have a number of Sistema storage tubs which have the double bonus of being BPA free and Kiwi made, but they are still plastic and being BPA free doesn't mitigate the other factors. Being an inveterate recycler and having never quite lost many habits of being a penniless student, my 'tupperware' collection is mostly old margarine tubs etc. This has the advantage of being easily replaced and is no great loss to leave behind when moving house, let alone half way around the world. But it has to be said I have tended to use things beyond what is probably 'safe' - once they are scratched, cracked and old the plastic starts to deteriorate and then there are no guarantees of being 'food safe' anymore. And as for those plastic supposedly microwavable containers that do strange things when the tomato sauce of baked beans or tinned spaghetti (not for my consumption, but still...) is heated up in them, well I probably don't want to know and I'm fairly sure I shouldn't carry on using them afterwards! I really must remember to use a proper dish next time, but those things get eaten so rarely in this household it is easy to forget... yet again. We use very little tinned food (most of the tins used each week are cat food!), so at least any exposure to nasties on that front is limited, well for the humans anyway. I'm wondering now about the assortment of marg tubs etc out in the potting shed used under pots of new seedlings, what start in life am I giving my veggies if they've drunk from disintegrating plastic? And what effect might that then have on us? Time for a clear out methinks.

One of my friends locally is starting to replace all her plastic tubs with glass containers, albeit with plastic lids, even for use in the freezer. Financially that isn't an option for me just now, but I'm sure more leftovers could end up in jam jars in the fridge rather than plastic tubs, or more often use bowls with a shower cap type cover or plate over them. But it has to be said, they just don't stack as well and when one of you has limited eyesight it tends to be an accident waiting to happen. Something to work on.

So this last week I've topped up all the glass jars of dried fruit, nuts, pulses etc that I buy in bulk from our local wholesaler so that less is sitting around in the plastic snaplock bags of unknown plastics number. I've finally gotten around to digging out some more preserving jars from the garage for the extra items I've bought. If nothing else the jars in the pantry are way more convenient than the cupboard where I keep my stash of bulk supplies! Some tatty looking containers have hit the recycling pile and that potting shed is about to get a clear out...

Right, time to think about energy consumption next!

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

coming ready or not....

Well I've sent off my registration for Yearly Meeting in May, and booked all my travel. All I have to do now is make sure I'm well enough to make going worthwhile. At least I've now got a date for my initial specialist appointment and not only does it not clash, I can see the visiting gynaecologist here rather than travelling down to Whangarei which makes life a bit easier.

This year Yearly Meeting will be somewhat different. It is being held at Curious Cove in the Marlborough Sounds and access is by boat from Picton. It will probably mean that those who do attend will almost all be there for the whole event unlike recent years where there has been a high number of day visitors, and folk who only come for the actual weekend and have to be back at work by Monday. Whether the lure of the setting will encourage enough who don't usually to come to make up for those who can't take that much time off remains to be seen.

There are a couple of issues that look like they'll be coming up that I'm hoping we can make some progress on, outreach and paying Friends for taking on various tasks. Two very thorny issues in this YM. Apart from the part time administrator of QIET we have no-one employed through our YM to do our work, directly or indirectly beyond cleaning some of our Meeting Houses. A couple of Friends at the Quaker Settlement are paid by Earlham College for the work they do to support their Environmental and Cultural Studies programme here but fantastic as that work is, it isn't part of our YM's work. Having grown up within Britain YM which has Friends House full of staff, Woodbrooke, NFPB and many other places with paid posts working at a mixture of local, regional and national level; and having been a Quaker employee on the wardening team at Edinburgh Quaker Meeting House, doing the admin for both FWCC EMES, and the 2005 World Gathering of Young Friends to me paying Friends to do the work needed is not the anathema it is to some here. Yes we are considerably smaller than Britain YM, but we do still try to cover a lot of the same ground if to a lesser extent.

From what Friends in the know have said, it seems to take a YM of about 1,000 members to support a full time administrator (although there are notable exceptions of much smaller YMs funding one). We have about half that number, so a part-time person could well be justified. And if we had someone paid then we could do more outreach which could well boost out numbers... but then there are those who throw their hands up in horror at the idea of outreach, usually those who are refugees from the more evangelistic churches. But as one of the main messages of the World Conference of Friends 2012 in Kenya points out, now is not the time to be hiding our light under a bushel - we need to stand up and be counted, be open about what we are doing and why in order to give hope to others as well as promote our own causes. We can't be spotted by our Quaker bonnets and refusing hat honour any more, we need to be visible in other ways. The open publicity around Quaker support for same sex marriages in Britain is a great example of this. We have a same sex couple as our YM co-clerks, and what did we manage when the same legislation came up here? As far as I can figure out an article in their local newspaper and not much else!

So, we are being asked in our Documents in Advance if we agree to paying someone to produce and distribute next years Docs in Advance rather than that task falling on the shoulders of the YM Clerks. Baby steps indeed, and a far cry from what could be done.... also rumbling around (still...) is the concept of getting at least some of our national newsletter (of which I'm now on the editorial team) on our website  - as yet we seem to be fighting a losing battle (not a very Quakerly analogy I realise!) to get this out in the public domain, not hidden away in some corner where only current Kiwi Quakers can log in to read it. Being able to link articles via social media such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter etc would vastly raise our profile. Our MM Outreach Committee is similarly wanting to have an outreach focused public web presence, but we keep getting stuck in the same bog - it is hardly outreach if you have to be a member and log on to see it! And no, a discrete link at the bottom of the home page for local events wasn't quite what we had in mind either... File under 'work in progress'.

As someone who has blogged for years, has a Flickr account and uses Facebook daily as well as worked on  and used various Quaker websites over the years I'm not exactly shy when it comes to having an online presence. However the majority of Friends who attend YM are of a generation less used to such and this is I think where much of the problem lies. They say they want to reach out to those who automatically use Google to find out what they want to know, but then get very agitated about putting personal information (including names in articles etc) online. Currently the newsletter team is trying to figure out what response we can give to go in White Papers to try to move the issue forward ready for YM, maybe this year we'll finally get somewhere, after all it has been talked about for years now!

As someone with distinct Luddite tendencies when it comes to technology (I blame my Yorkshire upbringing!) it seems somewhat ironic that I'm amongst those trying to drag our YM into the C21st, but probably it is better me wanting to link to articles on Facebook and here on my blog, rather than someone +20yrs my junior pushing for smartphone apps and a Twitter feed - back to those baby steps again. Hopefully it will all come to pass eventually, whether certain Friends are ready or not. But given how slow Quaker process takes I don't think there is much chance of us ever being up there with cutting edge technology!