Thursday, 28 June 2007

The unread column on the show with no name

Though I’ve been writing a column for Viva Lewes for a while, nobody ever talks to me about it, so I just imagine that nobody reads it. This gives me the freedom to write with abandon, just exploring the stories in my mind. My friend Leo has a regular slot on Subud Radio. From 8 to 10 every Tuesday he sends out from his attic in St Anne’s Terrace a lovely groove of amazing music. Last week he started a world tour of tunes from every country on the planet. And for a while we’re pairing up - I read the unread column on The Show with No Name. Check it out.

Last Wednesday I booked the community car and drove cross country to pick up a child of mine. In a moment of joyriding flashback I wound down the windows, turned up the volume and sped through the hot evening landscape. I swear the verges have been left to grow this year. I let my mind run wild, imagining what will happen when petrol prices rise so high that the council stops strimming the verges altogether, and the elders and the gorse and the herbs re-seed the sides of the road and then the road itself. Because the oil party’s over. It’s been great. But the midnight hour has struck, the era of earth repair has begun and it’s time to go home to what matters. Our home, our family, our community, our land. Our food, our roses, our friends, our music.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Empowering the power down

In my family’s experiment to reduce our impact on the planet by pushing gently against comfort zones, solutions sometimes serendipitously present themselves to us. Last week our analogue cordless phone gave up the ghost so we’ve reverted for a while to a couple of old Bakelite dial phones, which I’d mothballed for sentimental reasons. It turns out these phones are only slightly more inconvenient to use, plus they don’t use electricity to fuel an answer phone - we may have to subscribe to BT’s version if this experiment sticks. Kerching!

Then the light in our trusty fridge also went, and after realising I could remove the unit and order another, I decided that I can perfectly easily see the contents of my fridge without artificial light. Saving two: Kerching!

How about a bigger gesture then? After much contemplation my son and I flipped the trip and changed our dimmer switches to normal old- fashioned ones (most low energy lights don’t work on dimmers). I’ve been putting off this step for years as I’m deeply attached to that sparkly light given off my spotlights, so have cunningly planned the changeover this midsummer to make it relatively painless. Next step is to replace those lovely halogen lights in my kitchen and bedrooms - Megaman does a version but I’ll have to budget in changing the fittings too… soon, I promise! Changing my light bulbs has been more uncomfortable to contemplate than giving up a car. Although, once through the momentary pain barrier you get that pleasure of becoming part of the solution as well as an increasing feeling of empowerment through powering down.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

10 easy steps to supermarket liberation

Last week I wrote about suicide by Tesco, which means that through our shopping choices we’ve allowed local food shops to die out, and with them our resilience. So here are some easy steps to liberation from Tesco and other supermarkets.
Just stop, cold turkey.
Take stock of the local shops. Visit.
Savour the lovely, healthy food.This assumes you’re also considering cutting back on cars.
Delivery: that’s how the Victorian middle classes did it.
Things our family gets delivered: weekly veggie boxes from Ashurst Organics, including eggs, bread, juice and now an organic fruit bag.
Infinity Foods delivers cheap, bulk, whole-foods; either direct or via Just Trade.
Unigate delivers organic milk, and we hope Gote Farm in Ringmer might start to deliver unpasteurised milk to Lewes soon.
Farmers’ markets are a great source for all produce, including meat for the freezer, and you can’t get more local than our lovely Boathouse Farm.
Get used to shopping daily for other fresh food, which means that if you are a commuter, you might have to develop another career (over time).

Food used to be 30% of a household’s budget. It’s now 8%. So now we get food-related illnesses. If budget is an issue for you, eat further down the food chain: eat less meat and dairy and more affordable organic pulses and vegetables in season. Lewes shops are rife with low-impact, high-joy foods such as olives and oysters and cucumbers and cabbages, beer and blueberries, mince and mint, carrots and carrot cake, potatoes, tomatoes, basil, carrots. Enjoy.

Friday, 1 June 2007

Gut reaction against Tesco

Over supper the other night our family were discussing what it would take to make Tesco disappear. Smuggling rats in by empty cereal packets was one option the children came up with. We talk about Tesco rather a lot, as the great ugly monster of our own making. According to Tescopoly, the supermarket now controls 30% of the grocery market and made £2.5 billion profits in 2007. Colin Brent’s description of pre-Tesco (pre-oil) Lewes as a vibrant, robust local economy with a huge diversity of crafts, skills and community shops and enterprises still haunts me. I’m deeply upset when I think of the financial choices we have made to gradually erode away the resilience of our local economy and our
natural resources such as topsoil and clean water.

We can blame corporate agriculture and retailers but, essentially, it is we who have chosen through our purses to give away our power. Our family stopped shopping in supermarkets a while ago, mainly using them occasionally as after-hours convenience stores. We tend to eat further down the food chain now, which helps make supermarket liberation affordable. And hey, we eat so well from local shops. There’s a wealth of fantastic food to be had here in Lewes - staples and luxuries too. Humanity has created Tesco so we can uncreate Tesco, and the first place to start is in our mind, just imagining life without Tesco (and Waitrose for that matter). Look at the excuses, one by one. Do they really stand up? What is your gut feeling?