Blog time : as i write it’s December 25th , grey , mild and wet just like yesterday was and as with yesterday i’m alone in a quiet house doing some writing until my partner gets home from doing dad-watch duty at the old farm where they live……a farm that is falling down around them . Here, iv’e just lit the woodburner so that the house is more cheerful for when Jax gets home and there’s a distinct smell of garlic from the kitchen from the lamb shanks which are marinading in a spice , garlic and oil mix for our dinner today.
Right now i can’t decide whether to change back into my dirty working clothes and get outside and do an hour’s work in the light rain – i’m slowly scrubbing and bleaching all of the exposed wood, decks, fences and suchlike which needs doing this time of year or maybe i should go and cut back the new bramble shoots along the road edge wall : well i would except that the road edge wall is now lined with cars that use it as a free car park.
Last night and the one before i had two very late ones drinking coffee and reading late into the early hours – i often can’t get to sleep until then anyway but this time i had the excuse of a book which my partner passed to me after a comment i’d made about something i’d seen on the internet. The book is titled ‘Homesick‘ and written by a musician/writer/surfer Catrina Davies who lives in an actual shed not far from here further down in the Cornish peninsular – it’s funny in an unfunny kind of way but one of my first thoughts today , as i lit the woodburner, was that i hoped she had some dry firewood and was warm enough today in her uninsulated and unimproved garden shed. Last night i did a search using Google earth, trying to find a small tin shed with a tiny garden , next to a minor road junction somewhere in far-west Cornwall. It took me a while of ‘driving’ around the lanes and zooming in and out but yes…..the shed and tiny garden is really there and i think that iv’e even driven past it at some time.
I didn’t intend to write a book review today, so i won’t – just go buy and read the book yourself but be prepared to be shocked, saddened , angered and uplifted all in the space of a few pages : basically that Catrina has to live in a shed because that’s all she can afford even with having a university degree, being smart and being prepared to do any job just to get by. Why i think of her very poignantly today is how similar parts of my earlier working life were – low paid and living in shared houses with difficult people : i don’t know if you can imagine what it’s like to work several night shifts back to back in an under staffed intensive care unit and to go ‘home’ to a cold room or bedsit in a shared house where the other renters are either arguing, having a raucous party, or noisy sex and they’ve already used up the last of your milk from the fridge…..happy days.
If this sounds a bit ‘slash your wrists’ misery-talk then no, not all so, at least not from my end – iv’e just put the lamb shanks in the oven to braise and soon the house will be full of a rich wine and garlic aroma, also…..iv’e just been out to the dry utility area (which i built) to chose and onion, which i grew this year and to collect some dry firewood which i scavenged, cut stacked and seasoned. We live in a small miners cottage at the opposite end of the peninsular from Katrina’s shed, live with some of the same problems except that we’ve maybe made better choices with our working lives and live in a warmer, dryer and more secure situation .
If all that sounds weirdly dissonant from a retired (with a pension) bloke who blogs about exepnsive trivial luxuries like sailing yachts then remember that that’s also a matter of choice in that there’s stuff that deliberately don’t have such as TV and the latest in ‘smart'(dumb) phones and in my case that i can either run or build a small boat or run a car…..but i can’t do both. I suspect too that one of the new problems we will all face this year is a huge increase in our utility bills and maybe in our council tax too so my small NHS pension will become worth less and less in real terms….even now i’m thinking about finding a part time job and just like Katrina Davies will face the same difficult choices with that one.
Right now, i’m trying to come up with a working plan of just how to live in 2022 and the first part of that is working out a practical personal strategy for life as we move into the endemic phase of this pandemic – by all accounts we will all be exposed to the virus even people like me who live an almost hermit-like existence. I have to accept that i will be exposed to the virus simply because there’s no way that my partner can avoid exposure – working as she does in a large acute hospital which can only act as a locus , pool and super-spreader. The first problem we all have then, not just me, is prepare for exposure and infection – the good news being that maybe the endemic variant will be much more like a heavy cold than a lung-busting killer. I happen to think that there are positive steps we can take and they’re not the ones that an incompetent and corrupt authoritarian government are still pushing – rather some simple boost to our immune systems, especially in winter, might be the way to go.
Last year, 2021, i chose to live in the way that i do/did for that year – living and working on my boatbuilding project at home and hardly ever going out ; i’m a stable enough and asocial enough person to live like that for some time but even for me that way of life wears a bit thin and even i need some degree of contact with others greater than a quick chat over the fence with a neighbor….welcome as that is. This year i’m much less sure that my high level of social isolation is viable for much longer even though i will be spending a lot of time in my own backyard and in my own head-space again this year as i pick up on my project again .
This year, right now, iv’e got the small stuff to work out – for example that i really need to start the year with a fast and to get both my everyday nutrition back on track and to set some new fitness and training goals : my ‘diet’ basically went to pot last year as i spent more and more time working on the boat and thus more and more time having coffee breaks ……coffee breaks with biscuits that is !. I did less and less training and exercise too because we made an early decision that we weren’t going to Utah on a major hiking trip. Just because of that one decision i basically stopped my hiking training and with that i also stopped doing all of the side exercise like press-ups, pull-ups and simple free weights out on the back deck.
That’s the simple but essential stuff though , has to be done and just needs more discipline than last year , i feel though a strange instinct – i call it ‘the party’s over’ that life is about to change in a much more serious way than even what we have experienced this last 2 years. I can’t yet put a rational handle on this as it could just be the effect of the anxiety we all feel to some extent and in my case it might just be because i’m bombarded with negative information and commentary through the internet…..i spend far too much time on the net and i don’t think it does me any good compared say to scratching my head over a boat problem or just going for a walk.
I may be wrong, completely wrong even but i have more than just a sense that there’s a storm coming as i ‘look to windward’ , it’s not just that the freedoms i grew up with and lived with have been slowly stripped away since the appalling Thatcher years of government but that civil society as we knew it is fracturing and breaking apart. It seems to me that the authoritarian drive that started then, and with it the corporate drive and naked greed and corruption, have all taken over whatever there once was ; sometimes i think i’m becoming just like the many older people that iv’e met and cared for who feel that the tide of change has swept over them and left them behind.
Well, tomorrow my partner will be back at work and i’m just going for a soggy walk in the woods however wet it is, on Monday i’m going to start a fast and a new job list outside, finish the January posts that iv’e been working on and then i’m going to turn the computer off and not turn it back on again until January is done.
My best wishes to you all, whichever shed you live in.
Catrina Davies photograph.