Consider a few things the most celebrated minds have said about life~
We have lost contact with reality, the simplicity of life. -Paulo Coelho
Like all magnificent things, it’s very simple. – Natalie Babbit (Of Tuck Everlasting, in case I’m a solitary fan!)
One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.― Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums
The other day after my children had left for school (they have a school bus pick up), I was washing up the breakfast dishes when I saw a young girl, about 8, scooting to the neighbouring school with her mother. She swerved off the sidewalk and went skidding into a parked car at which point I rushed out to see if I could offer any assistance with First-Aid! Well, she wasn’t too badly hurt, but heavily soiled from the wetness on the road. Her mother had a small bag she said had her classmate’s clothes from a previous play date that she was returning and said it was well and good that she thought of returning it on the day she needed a spare set for her daughter. I was left gobsmacked at the daughter’s reaction who screamed, yes, screamed that she can’t even dream of wearing “Primark clothes” to school! She demanded to be taken home for a change or she wasn’t going to school at all! After I picked my jaw off the floor and repositioned it, I asked the rather flabergasted mum if I can help in any way.. to which she asked if I had any Desigual, Scandi or Joules clothes she could borrow for a day. I walked up to my childrens’ closet feeling a slow heat build up in my mind about the kind of upbringing children were learning to associate good parenting with nowadays, or worse, what parents thought was good parenting! Don’t get me wrong, I overindulge in clothes for my children, it’s my Achilles’ Heel, but the minute they begin associating their self worth with it, they’ll be wearing refashioned pillow-cases until they regenerated a few brain cells. Whilst it’s something most of us would digest without a blink whilst discussing the sartorial habits of a Beckham child or Prince George of Cambridge, it seemed surreal to associate it with someone you would place in a relatively close world to yourself! This tacit acceptance of snobbery from an 8 year old honed in on possibly the worst attributes of middle-class suburbia.
I often ask myself why have we, the generation that really lives in the land of excess, forgotten about the relative simplicity of life and the economy of choice in our goji-acai-cacti juice-blend existences?!
For a few months now (as I’ve mentioned before) I’ve been intrigued by the lifestyle of the war generation. The times of rations, of cutbacks, of needs before wants and the impact it had on happiness, on longevity. (Before I’m pinned down and lynched, I’d like to state that that I take a segmented look at a very large situation- my commentary is limited only to the food and frugal habits of the generation that stayed home from the frontlines of battle and made do.) It’s hardly any secret that though they had less -[one egg, one pound of meat, and four ounces of fish a week; one quarter pint of milk a day; four ounces of margarine a month; and limited amounts of potatoes, vegetables, and bread that they grew and baked themselves, coupled with strenuous wartime physical work], rationing improved the health of the British people; infant mortality declined and life expectancy rose, discounting deaths caused by war hostilities, of course. This was because it ensured that everyone had access to a varied diet with enough vitamins. The concept of overeating was a luxury hardly anyone could afford and the curse of childhood obesity was unheard of!
Consider the shocking and in many ways, shaming statistics of our own times. A recent survey showed Britons are binning the equivalent of 24 meals a month, adding up to 4.2 million tonnes of food and drink every year that was fit enough to have been consumed. Apparently, a half of this goes right from the refrigerator or cupboards into the bin. One-fifth of what households buy ends up as waste, and around 60% of that was deemed fit for consumption! In short, 2 billion tonnes of perfectly good supermarket food wasted every year just as our otherwise quite philanthropic side did our best to give to the underpriveleged. I’ve always thought that the British people champion the underdog, run to raise money for Sports Relief, for Cancer Awareness, for Alzheimers! I’ve done it, my children have. And yet, we often turn a blind-eye to the obvious waste of resources we’re all guilty of under our very noses. In our home, we’ve resolved to limit waste regarding food and make things go longer as much as possible. While we’re busy throwing away perfectly edible food and wondering how to deal with our waste, 9 million people are dying every year because of hunger and malnutrition. 5 million of these are children! We can’t afford to waste the way we do… most of us , even with the least mindful thriftiness, would find ourselves freeing up a few quid to just spend wisely, if nothing else! I’m not against spending, I’m against waste!
I’m not even vaguely suggesting that we all take to retro-styled living, fold up our iPads, unhook the Wi-Fi, grab the nearest ‘ditsy print’ apron and begin canning and making the most scrumptious of pies ; I wouldn’t last a day in that life, unless the party was wholly sponsored by the good folk over at Cath Kidston! I ask to consider a few things we can do that are fun, achievable and send a strong message to our children…Recycle! Not just waste, but clothes and shoes and everything else. Pass on more, bin less. Obsolescence is one of man’s worst constructs! Our children are slowly losing the ability to live on less, and in what can only be described as fragile economy, you never know when all of us might have to seriously rethink our spending habits! Remember, our children’s generation is going to one of those who do worse than their parents.
I tend to buy small cans of things that I know I’m not too good with…for eg., Peas…I’ve tried buying fresh peas and shelling them and have thrown more than I’ve used. Tinned food doesn’t have to be bad food, you get lovely quality vegetables canned, and organic vegetables tinned in spring water! Buy less, waste less…don’t get sucked into discount-marketing that makes us bulk-buy. Stick with non-perishables for that, less is more with fresh produce!
I came across this years ago in my college library and I wrote it down in my diary; it was advice a Kentucky grandmother gave a bride for doing laundry in 1912. It went like this :
Bild fire in back yard to heet kettle of rainwater.
Set tubs so smoke won’t blow in eyes if wind is pert.
Shave one hole cake lie soap in boilin water.
Sort things, make three piles. 1 pile white. 1 pile cullord. 1 pile work britches and rags.
To make starch stur flour in cold water to smooth then thin down with boilin water.
Rub dirty spots on board, scrub hard, then boil. Rub cullord but don’t boil — just rench and starch.
Take white things out of kettle with broom stick handle then rench, blew and starch.
Spred tee towels on grass.
Hang old rags on fence.
Pour rench water in flower bed.
Scrub porch with hot soapy water.
Turn tubs upside down.
Go put on cleen dress, smooth hair with side combs, brew cup of tee — set and rest a spell and count your blessins.
There seems nothing ‘natural’ in that for us, we are so far from that sort of domestic slavery that it makes me smile! Ours is the life is savouring puréed misshapen roots from farmers’ markets, garnished with sweet Maui onions! Our savvier home-keeping, whilst celebratory, hasn’t been immune from a different form of decline. It’s not just how we eat today that’s changed, it’s also what we eat!
When I think back to stories I’ve heard in my own family and from families of my closest friends, different cultures notwithstanding, most families kept to a weekly food pattern, eating the same foods on the same day of the week. What was cooked each day depended on the leftovers from the previous day! Old fashioned home and hearth skills – the ability to run a household economically and efficiently was at the heart of every homemaker’s agenda! Amazingly, those very war years were a period of greatly improved nutrition for most people, despite the perceived deprivation. Many were healthier than they had ever been before.
Mindful eating and growing your own vegetables, which meant you ate more veg than wheat and meat, had played a part in staving off weight related ailments and other maladies our generation is plagued with! Slogans like ‘Make Do and Mend’ appeared on posters all over the country, and became catchphrases of the time. What was inspirational for one generation seems to be the most unaspirational for ours, a very misplaced and detrimental trend!
Just because we can chose from over a typical amount of 160 different moisturisers, shampoos or bodywashes at any typical supermarket doesn’t mean we have to. Most of the times, the truth is plain before us, we don’t need ‘research papers’ to bring home the point! Life is happiest when it’s it’s least encumbered… the paradox of choice is that it’s left us “bewildered and depressed” according to The Telegraph. Let’s Think More, Waste Less and make what we have go longer. For all our sakes! x
If you’ve liked what you’ve read, could I please ask of you to nominate me for the Britmums BiB Awards for Fresh Voice, Photo or Writer, the three categories I think I fit best! Please vote here . Thanks so much!
Keep Calm and Waste Less was featured in the Britmums Newbie Roundup!
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