Monday, March 29, 2010

New Mum, young and reason to be proud

Here in Wetville, quite a lot of young women become mothers before they are 20. One of them is my friend K. I first knew K when she was just 13, a beautiful, shy girl in school uniform. The following year I gave birth to my daughter and the year after that, K began babysitting for us. The year after that, K became pregnant. It was a tough time for her family and brought up memories of past teen pregnancies for older women in her family.

K and her partner B now have a beautiful five month old daughter, Hayley. K shares the childminding of my own daughter with her Mum and I couldn't be happier with the love and fun they share. K and B and Hayley live with K's parents and are saving and planning to go flatting on their own. Today they went to collect a fridge and vacuum cleaner and I asked K if she would like to continue looking after my daughter when they move. Thankfully, she said yes. I pass all Brighid's clothes on to Hayley and other baby things have gone there as well. I've been thinking of what I would like to give them as a present for their new journey. Being me, I've been thinking about making pots of silverbeet so the gift can keep on growing and giving.

K is 17 now, a very impressive mother and someone who is making a positive contribution to our community. She knows many of the other young mums and despite being shy herself, supports and encourages others to go to the young mums post natal coffee group. She passes baby clothes on to other friends and is aware of and friends with others without the partner and family support she enjoys and appreciates. With the babysitting help of her Mum, she works a few hours a week in a local cafe and saves carefully for their current and future needs. B works for low wages and I am very glad that my tax goes in part to provide family assistance for families like K & B.

If K was still at school or attending a tertiary training organisation, our government would be subsidising her study. Right now K is studying motherhood as she goes and making a fine job of it. There will be plenty of time left for her to pursue further study and better paid work later on while some of her peers begin their families at 30 like I did. I hope this government does not penalise her for birthing first and studying later.

I have learnt a very great deal in the last year from K. It has been a privilege, once again, to learn from her family. When young women want to pursue motherhood and we support them just as we support their peers in their formal training ambitions, they can be the best they want to be and we all benefit. It's time to rethink young motherhood. Our vulnerable mothers are only vulnerable because they lack support. We can all be some of that support.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


There is currently a leap in my heart which the roaming cynic free radicals cannot quite squash. In my garden I have six carrot seedlings. I sowed the seed last month, just before the full moon, as today is also just before the full moon.

I've seen some terrific looking carrots in gardens around our small wet town lately. Our neighbours gave me some of their thinnings which were larger than any carrot I have ever produced since we moved to the West Coast. My friend Gaylene told me she sows Egmont Gold because that is what her mother has great success with. Yesterday I went to the garden shop and found Egmont Gold on the Yates seed stand. I grabbed it, together with some beetroot, calendula and coriander seed.

Today I weeded and sowed beetroot, coriander and calendula. The lunar garden guide from Holger Kohl which is published in the Organics NZ magazine advises me to sow all seeds today, and in a few days time, to sow spring carrots. My excitement knows little boundary - the moon will help me grow carrots. I have a space aside for them in a raised bed and I will mix some river sand in for improved drainage and nice straight carrots.

I also planted out three seedlings: celery, echinacea and lovage.

It being Sunday, it is also kitchen marathon day. I spent much of it either in the garden or at a friend's house (admiring her worm farm), but I did make something called 'impossible quiche' which turned out alright and some carrot & brazil nut muffins which were very nice. We have been enjoying our new juicer very much but until today, the chooks have received all the pulp. Today I used the pulp from the carrot/apple/ginger juices to make the muffins and also as part of the vegetable component of the 'impossible quiche'. Worked well on both experiments and I will try a carrot cake with the pulp sometime soon. I drained and added milk to my kefir. Yes, I have kefir going again! Thank you very much to Gilly and Melissa for the starter. This morning I mixed some carrot pulp with some kefir and rocket (which we finally have growing again) and it tasted very yummy. All good on the probiotic goodness then, apart from the eternal challenge of getting it into my children. I've got sourdough bread on the go. A useful thing about living where it isn't hugely hot is that the bread is very tolerant of me forgetting about it.

The budget project is going okay. Tomorrow the chimney sweep arrives and does the job which I fondly imagined I would do back in summer before the reality of my paid working life hit. I am meal planning about three days in advance. Any longer and it all falls out the window for me. Between my friend C and I, we cleaned out the fridge and now you can see what is in it and many ageing relatives of vegetables and cooked dishes have left their bar stools for the compost or the chooks. So leftovers are actually being eaten up within a reasonable distance from the date I first made them and the meals are being stretched that way also.

I am gutted, gutted gutted about Paula Bennett's new Future Terrible welfare 'reforms'. I've read a lot of excellent responses to her announcements both online and in New Zealand newspapers and I don't feel I have anything erudite to add, but I do want to register my disgust. It is so convenient to see people dependent on government handouts as non-people, but the corollary is a non-society (as in Maggie Thatcher's famous comment - she could see it and yet she still wanted it?!). There is an argument for unravelling the assumptions another layer and asking why anyone should be dependent on another person because they have sex with them. As a married woman, it is deemed perfectly respectable for me to be dependent on my husband, the father of my children, for financial support. Why should that be? Why is that a given?

I'm in need of some new energy blogging-wise. I still feel the desire to post, but what I post seems so much aimless drivel. Any suggestions for direction and feedback for improvement will be gratefully received. I've re-enabled anonymous comments.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

fish pie supreme, The Lacuna & strep throat

Edmonds. Sure to Rise. My Mum gave me two copies and I suspect she has some more stashed in her cupboard. When they brought out that glossy hardback version of the Edmonds Cookbook, she was concerned that the original would go out of print so she stocked up. Peter, if you haven't got one, then I'll send you my second copy. Not sure if Mum expects you to need it, being a boy and all. Missjoestar, did you biff yours for non-vegan sensibilities or keep it? Surely you've kept yours...

Tonight was Fish Pie Supreme. Seriously, that's what it is called. Tinned fish, boiled eggs, mashed spud, some parsley and white sauce. Tasted great. I was thinking about how deeply unfashionable this has been in an era where we were supposed to ditch spuds for some pasta with the fish, doused in less and less oil as the anti-fat cries increased. But now I'm much keener on spuds and they are much cheaper and butter is best round here. Good for all those fat soluble minerals and vitamins. Fish Pie Supreme might not work for hard core Weston A Price devotees (goodness knows how many hours you should sprout and soak and hand grind the flour before you turned the entire one tablespoonful into sauce) but as far as cheap and high protein goes, it wins high marks from me. If you want the recipe and are unfortunate enough not to own an Edmonds cookbook, leave a message in the comments. I'll be so excited that someone is reading the entire blog post rather than falling here by default from google and hastily leaving, that I will happily oblige.

I will remember The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver for a long time I think. It is set in Mexico and the US across the period 1929-1955. The Mexico sections mostly involve the protaganist's time in the household of socialist artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera and much of the US section is set in the post war communist witch hunt era. Kingsolver provides in this book that wonderful feeling of being immersed in a world not your own which I so loved about childhood reading and which I don't experience as much as I would like now. As a child of the 1970s, when the reds under the beds era was but a brief mention in the history books, I realised reading The Lacuna how much I had conveniently failed to take seriously just how powerful, nasty and oppressive the Macarthy regime was. Kingsolver layers her themes richly throughout the text and I don't think there is anything which sits on its own as a meaningless detail - quite an achievement in 500 pages. I remember studying Arthur Miller's The Crucible at school and even then still assuming it wasn't really remotely that bad. Why? Because I think I've imbibed from somewhere somehow that the US is the land of the free and nothing that totally bad could happen within the lifetime of my parents. Ridiculous when I think of Guantanamo Bay but it was reading Lacuna which opened my eyes, precisely because I didn't have my non-fiction skim reading eyes on but was engrossed in the story and had my emotional receptors turned up.

I also want to know more about Frida Kahlo and just reading about her had me deciding to rip our gloomy green wallpaper down and put something strong and jewel-bold and intense on the bedroom walls.

Strep throat. My turn. At least I wasn't sick while the kids had it, though the amount of lost sleep while they did made my vulerability rather inevitable. But I have pushed through without more time off work by going to bed very very early a few nights and resting up in the afternoons. Oh and slugging vitamins (especially C) and my winter flu remedy (apple cider vinegar, honey, cayenne pepper, garlic) and spraying colloidal silver down my throat and on the bulging glands on my neck. I did the very hot bit and then the next night the very cold bit and now I am still swollen and not hugely energetic but am clearly improved enough to be up and writing at 9pm. When I was feverish, the only thing to hand which looked like it would fit the bill was anti-flamme, which is arnica, hypericum and peppermint and which I usually pull out for rheumatic symptoms. The peppermint was just the thing for the cooling of temperature generally and temples, forehead, neck, wrists and finger joints specifically.

Of course the other giant benefit was the brand new juicer! Fresh apple, carrot and ginger juice is fantastic stuff. Today I am craving hot drinks as my throat pain sharpens and the immuno boost tea by Artemis has been meeting that need well. It has linden blossom, aniseed, plantain, elderflower blossom, sage and thyme in it. Artemis teas are expensive but seem pretty high quality when I've tried them. I would ultimately like to make my own and I do at least have sage and thyme in the garden.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

the budget project

Hmmm. I have a pretty good grip on the theory, but my/our practise has been poor for some time.

More soup, less booze.

No more rash purchases of brand new juicers or other large ticket items while caring for sick children, or not caring for sick children, or under any circumstances.

I need to attack, reform, do whatever it takes, our profligacy bit by many pronged bit. Tomorrow I will begin by focusing the Sunday kitchen marathon on lunch food for the adults as well as the children. Week one of the budget project will be home made lunches for four people, Monday - Friday. Make that Monday to Sunday, but we'll do the weekday part first.

And writing down what we spend. Every time.

I can't pop in and out of adulthood, I know I know. But sometimes I act like I can. Then it catches up.

At least The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver, is free from the library. It is completely wonderful. I want to write like Kingsolver. One tenth as well would be fine even.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

brake fluid is really important

That's the most important learning I have achieved today, more specifically the relationship between certain symptoms of brake malfunction and brake fluid. I'm just grateful that we are all still alive. My knowledge of cars does not extend to recognising that the damp looking stuff on the wheel rim behind Brighid's car door was brake fluid, though had I recognised it, even I would have known it was in the wrong place. I love the people at JJ auto services and I love that we live in a small town where the mechanic took us home, the sleeping sick toddler, her carseat, the boy with school sores and the mum in his roadworthy-with-fully-functioning-brakes-4WD.

Before that, I'd been researching further on my children's lurgies and observing their symptoms and thinking very seriously and today, just before I took the car with the dodgy brakes to the mechanic's, I collected their antibiotic prescriptions.

I also rendered lard for the first time ever earlier today. It seems like a lifetime ago and I can't even remember why I wanted to do such a thing. It was an interesting process though.

Tomorrow I am at home with the children again and hopefully as the drugs kick in we get a faster response and Brighid gets some release from the pain she has been in. I'll be keeping on with the vitamin C as I have read that it helps recovery even with antibiotics.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Two children, three days, four nasty bugs

Naturally, the doctor prescribed antibiotics.

Without even taking swabs.

So today, buoyed up by an intense, burning desire not to have to cash in the abs script, I bought a juicer.

Breville Juice Fountain Plus. Wanted one for a long time but until today, it was off the spending list.

In our home I have many things in my arsenal. I have arranged to have the rest of the week off work to care for my sick children and we have a warm house with plenty of clean towels and linen. I am the person who the children call for when they are sick and the second person they call for, their father, is home as often as he can possibly manage. I have fresh fruit and vegetables and now with my whizzy juicer, can whip lots of fruit and veges into easy drinks for persons with sore throats. I have vitamin C, echinacea, various multivitamin concoctions, grapefuit seed extract, tea tree oil, colloidal silver, coconut oil, manuka honey (new to my arsenal today). The children are asleep now and I am hopeful (for all of our sakes to be honest) that they will get a full night's sleep. That certainly could not be said of the last two nights.

I even have rooster stock. Last night I made leek and potato soup with my rooster stock and it even felt nutritious as it slid down my throat. Small step back that the smallest person wasn't eating anything, but 24+ hours on, that is changing slowly.

I've learnt the hard way what antibiotics can do. I will never forget laying in my bed almost unable to move, with my tiny daugher beside me, wondering when I would ever look after my four year old son myself again. I've learnt through long research about a lot of diseases which are related to immune dysfunction, and found it a little chilling how many I have had experience of. I've read the scientific literature on the correlation between the number of antibiotic treatments a person has had and their likelihood of developing cancer.

I have observed the powerful hold which the pharmaceutical industry has on what we hopefully call our medical system.

I don't claim to know even one tenth of the answers to questions about what health is, and I know I could yet decide that we have to use antibiotics this week after all.

Not yet though, and not at all if my careful strategies and the strengths of my otherwise well-cared for and very much loved children prevail.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday kitchen marathon & Carole Beaumont

Time to cook up the harvest and clear the egg tray (after discovering that Fionn had been flouting my freshest eggs to the front system). Progress:
1. marrows. Slow. I used one in my vege mix thingy and that's all. Ideas for the rest of it are to make stuffed marrow but not every day for the next fortnight and we have that much marrow.
2. beetroot. Better. Some in the vege mix thingy and some in a salad for dinner. STill more to process.
3. silverbeet. Beginning. Argentata beet, the best tasting silverbeet and without the crinkly-ness which makes silverbeet hard to get clean, also flops its huge leaves out in a wide radius and uses up a lot of garden space. I harvested one entire plant today and cooked it in the vege mix thingy and that has opened up a lot of space in the punga raised bed. Need to harvest two more plants at least.
4. eggs. Pretty good. See below.

The vege mix thingy. I cooked up leeks from the garden with garlic and silverbeet and thyme (all from my garden) in some coconut oil and with some chilli and canned tomatoes (I had a hissy fit with my tomatoes when it rained for months at the beginning and middle of the growing season and pulled them all out). I think it tastes alright. It was going to be a pasta sauce mix but then it seemed more soupy so I added some beetroot I had just roasted and some anchovies and a can of chickpeas to make full blown soup. It is in the freezer now.

Banana cake. Fionn helped. Especially with the licking of the bowl but also with measuring and pouring and greasing. Tastes good. Some in the freezer now, rest in the cupboard for the hungry short people during the week. Used three eggs.

Pikelets. Yes really, just like my mother taught me, and finally using her cast iron thingy to make them. By the rate at which they disappeared from the bench, I gather that they were good. Rest in the freezer now (they survived because the banana cake became cool enough to sample). Used two eggs.

I've still got four eggs to use up from the beginning of the day, but at least I know which ones they are.

I have cut out the paper parts of the nightshirt pattern and ironed an old double flannelette sheet from Mum's. I bought some lovely stripey sheets at the Sallies yesterday but I've put them on Brighid's bed as a stripey nightshirt has limited warm fuzzy appeal after reading The Boy with the Striped Pyjamas.

On the book front, I've got Barbara Kingsolver's Lacuna out of the library and am enjoying it so far.

On the political front, I am all for the credit reforms (responsible lending) bill. I knew nothing about Carole Beaumont until I got a CPAG email about this bill and also Paul has invited her to speak at our May Day dinner in Blackball, the day that we open the museum. I need to write some letters and convince our local MPs (we technically have Chris Auchinvole but O'Connor and Hague are always trying to be the local MPs as well so should also be prepared to at least read the letter.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Autumn love

Today, this afternoon, we all hung out in the back yard. Total bliss. I let the chooks out for a while and harvested lots of marrows and zucchinis and beetroot. Then I weeded more of the old chicken run and layered Raelene's chook house mix (sawdust and nitrogen-rich chook poo) on top. Then peastraw on top of that. Lastly I emptied the liquid fertiliser bucket (about 50 litres) over the top of the peastraw. I made the fertiliser over a year ago and have learnt that it really rains far too much here for bothering about liquid fertiliser. I won't make it again. The comfrey is ready to be harvested but I will try another way this time (what, I don't know yet, but by the end of tomorrow I may both know and have done it).

Favourite Handyman and the children stacked wood. They are stacking the rata first, under the lean-to where it can be accessed for the last logs on at night throughout winter. Rata is wood gold round here, famous for its high and long heat.

We have huge argentata beet in the punga raised bed at the moment and I'm thinking of cooking it all up with the garden leeks and some garlic (and maybe anchovies) and then whizzing it into puree with my whizzy stick and freezing it. Then I can get it out and defrost it and add cream and off we go for fast pasta for dinner. That is the plan anyway. Then I could plant some more things in the resulting space.

Today was definitely Autumn. I had a jersey on all morning. I need to let down the blackout lining on the children's curtains tomorrow and hopefully tack another length of thick fabric on the bottom so that the bottom of the curtain is not sitting just above their heads.

I have been puddling around with crafty bits while I surf the net in the last few weeks. I've been knitting my purple cardy and unpicking the homespun, home knitted jersey which I was handed down last year and which the marvellous Megan (who really should be blogging herself) dyed for me. Not sure what I will make with the wool yet. I've almost finished meticulously unpicking a lovely lime and white checked business shirt which I bought for 50 cents in summer. I think it will turn into a summer frock for Miss Ella's seventh birthday but I haven't measured the pattern pieces against it yet.

But now, with not merely the promise of autumn but its arrival and the promise of winter, I need to turn away from fanciful projects and make myself some jammies, or a nightshirt as that is surely less sewing than a two-piece. I haven't found any at the Sallies which do not have the whiff of a death and I cannot bring myself to pay big shop prices. I made one pair of pj pants a year or so ago and I have nearly worn out my last Sally finds. I've got a pattern from Mum still and I plan to cut up old flannelette sheets for the fabric. I am certainly going to slumber in swirly splendour.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

bold, brave & belligerent

bold. Missjoestar is my sister. She writes things which I love, like this. Missjoestar lives in Wellington where she dashes around on roller skates speaking an entirely different language and sometimes breaking her arm for good measure. Once Missjoestar climbed Mt Kilimanjaro. Where was I? Washing nappies in a tiny flat in London. My maternal out law will insist upon every visit on asking if my sister has a boyfriend, whether she might get back together with the last one. I want to scream "My sister is way too cool for that! She is not simpering around looking for a man to complete her life. She is playing some kind of aggressive sport on roller skates and being the kind of cool intellectually onto it, informed and clever kind of person which is particular to Wellington. She is more than a womb and wife in waiting."

But I did not scream and I did not say any of those things because I practise not screaming and not speaking my mind when I play daughter in law for a few days each year. The fact is though, that the thoughts in my mind are true.

brave. There is an inquest in our town this week. It relates to the terrible, tragic death of a young man who Favourite Handyman knew. There was a court case relating to the terrible tragic death, but it didn't actually go to court as such as the lawyers got together and did some trade-off to avert the need for a court case. But the friends of the young man, the men who watched him die, die just centimetres from them, they did not get to say anything in the lawyers' trade-off. Today, one of those friends asked to speak at the inquest, upset at the picture of events painted by so-called specialists who were not at the scene of the death (not at the scene of the crime). Finally, his words went public. They are on the front page of today's local newspaper. A young man almost destroyed by the death of his mate, got to have a voice, stood up straight and spoke honestly, sincerely and with conviction. We are all proud of him. It won't bring his friend back, but it may be the beginning of some healing.

belligerent. I love the Hand Mirror blog. It is diverse, intellectually challenging and has exposed me to a score of fabulous blogs on interesting topics. This post on violence is my favourite for this week.

I think I need to get belligerent in an organised fashion about the cuts to the education sector. I noytice the National Government throwing their media release about cuts to the ministry of education in with perfect timing as the PPTA contract negotiations begin very shortly.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

still life with electrical appliances

Our neighbours are keen rose growers and showers. As they were about to depart on holiday after helping to host the successful National Autumn rose show here in little old wetville, I happened to be in the right place for rescuing their blooms from imminent rain. The right place at that time was hanging out the washing. It's like lotto - buy about a zillion tickets or do the laundry for a family of dirt-lusters and eventually your prize will appear.
Above this text you will notice a grubby wall, the wooden block which the clock radio will soon be mounted upon (as in once the wooden block is on a bracket against the wall, the clock radio which belonged to his Nana until very recently and which provides intelligent National Radio sentences to counter the barrage of child hungriness which fills the kitchen and indeed every corner of our home and my life, and the toaster. I moved the flowers to the bench once I realised the effect the toaster in operation would have on the flowers. The bench which they all sit on is a piece of furniture made as part of the kitchen but not built in as such. I moved it when we put the dishwasher in (one of the very best consumer activity-related days of my life). It is a drawer at the top and then two swing drawers for sugar and flour and I think it is rimu like the rest of the house. If I were a Home and Interiors kind of person then I would sand it back and let it look divine in its original wooden colours.
Close up of the flowers. Totally gorgeous.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

hippie nutter fights cold and wins: her secrets

Last Friday I felt awful. Full of cold and the sense that it could get a lot worse. I collected Favourite Handyman from work about 4pm and put myself to bed as soon as we all got home. I spent most of Saturday in bed which definitely helped.

But so good that on Sunday I felt great again? Just a rest after such a rotten head cold? I think my other strategies deserve some credit.

1. vitamin C. Lots. We've got a mixture called revitalise (Good Health brand I think) in our cupboard at the moment which is magnesium, zinc, vit C and bioflavonoids. I alternated that with our vit C powder which is just vit C and bioflavonoids.

2. Lemon drinks. Same deal as above really.

3. My winter flu formula. garlic, cayenne pepper, apple cider vinegar and honey. Eye watering stuff but I have found that if I take it in prune juice, I can get it down me without much pain at all.

4. I put a drop of hydrogen peroxide down each ear on Saturday night, to clear out any cold/flu bacteria.

One zillion times better than taking expensive supressants from the chemist. Make that three zillion.

pink ric-rac

One skirt for our wee friend Rebecca, replete with rough and ready sewing, pink ric-rac and much love. We've known Rebecca since she was born and on Thursday my Brighid will be spending the morning with her and her Mum and her Nana, while I go to work and my childminder takes her daughter and grandaughter to Christchurch for a hospital appointment.

The bottom layer is recycled from a work shirt of Favourite Handyman's which had lovely pale blue 100% cotton fabric but worn out collar and cuffs. The top is a lovely gauzy fabric which I found in the $5/metre bin at our local Bernina shop earlier this week.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunday kitchen

Peach cake (Peaches and nectarines cake in our case) from a recipe by Annabelle White. A friend handed on to me the recipe book of White's best recipes which I largely ignored until recently. It's pretty good and I hope to use her recipe to finally make my own harissa sometime soon. Chillies, you know, are supposed to be good for the lungs and the magic ingredient which explained why in a medical study of male Mexican smokers in Los Angeles, they didn't exhibit the lung cancer levels you would typically expect from smokers. Chillies, you may also know, don't go down so well in tiny tummies and harissa sauce is my solution for providing it for FH the smoker who I want to keep alive even if he doesn't/can't kick his nicotene addiction. I could also bore you with things I have found out about magnesium and omega 3 oils and smokers. Perhaps another time.

Last week was omega 3s through anchovies and my dipping sauce experiment was bagna cauda, from Annabel Langbein's recipe in her book on Italian food (which my mum gave me fro Christmas the year FH and I went to Italy for CHristmas/New Year and which was totally redundant then but brilliant back here as it is really written for kiwi interpretation of Italian food I think). The bagna cauda was good. I would make it again.

Today's other experiment was making flaky pastry from scratch using this Delia Smith recipe. Worked okay. I turned it into bacon and egg pie. The seven year old who won't eat quiche loved the pie. Next time I would make a big batch and freeze it so that I had ready-to-roll packets in the freezer as if I'd bought the shop (full of nasties instead of butter) version.

Hummous of course. Putting basil in it at the moment.

Some of my seeds (which I sowed last weekend I think) have germinated already. So long as my daughter stops walking on the garden, we shall have home-grown food to eat for winter and spring after all.

Stories of ordinary working people

Perhaps, what I need, is a new religion. Something fundamentalist, something to be fervent about. I started out Catholic, baptised, confessed, communed and confirmed.

I didn't know I walked along a religious line when I started to follow party politics as a teenager. I declared myself for Labour and my mum said "How could you do that to your father." My dad didn't mind at all. Politics was the least of the challenges he saw ahead of him with a teenage daughter.

I didn't know I walked into a church without a building when I went to a Stop the War meeting in 2001 in East London. Special interest causes or something. It was a Socialist Workers Party strategy to get people involved and signed up. They must have learnt it in Marketing 201 or something similarly suited to a neo-liberal devotee.

I signed up and even filled in a bank slip, though with some reluctance. I recalled my mother talking about the evils of churches which tithe but I still didn't think of this stuff as religious.

So there we were, in the Spotted Dog in Barking. Not in the pub next door where the bar staff never saw racist attacks and not at the pub down the road and round the corner which was the local for BNP members. I wanted to debate things I'd been reading in the Socialist Workers Party newspaper which now arrived regularly. They were careful. They were patient. But there was one way of seeing things, one interpretation of events. I realised that I'd wanted the arguments and debates and mixed company but unsexualised camaraderie I'd enjoyed as a post-grad student at Otago. Friday nights at the corner bar of the Cook with the history postgrads and the local working class pool sharks.

I stopped my bank order and opted out of the Socialist Workers Party. I'd marched against the war in Afghanistan. I'd supposedly chaired a local meeting on the subject where an elderly Muslim man spoke too long and a stroppy Glaswegian comrade bossed me around. I was pregnant for the huge march against the was in Iraq - couldn't manage that long without the loo - but I was pleased to know that my sister marched that time.

It's a bit blurry, my religious experiences since I gave birth. I carried on saying Hail Marys every time I heard an ambulance. How could I not offer something when the sound of human tragedy squeals?

Still, throughout this, I had religious thoughts and political thoughts. It wasn't that they never intersected - that happened - but that I never saw one as the other.

Today on National Radio (NZ), there was an interview with Brian Boyd on his ideas about evolution and the origins of stories. I didn't take notes, because you can't take notes and make a peach cake and flaky-pastry-from-scratch and adjudicate short people disputes and take a three year old to the toilet both constantly and not enough.

I did hold something in my mind though. He talked about religion evolving to meet our urgent existential needs, so the less security we have in our country, the more a fundamentalist religion offers us a sense of security. His examples fitted neatly into his argument and I didn't see much light down the tunnel for Palestine/Israel.

I got to wondering about politcal systems and urgent existential needs and New Zealand and that survey of 1970s freezing workers who mostly wanted to run their own businesses that I badly want a reference for. I think Boyd even said something about political systems and the evolution of stories only my children drowned him out with their stories of desperate hunger and pooey pants.

Sometimes I wonder if I think too much about what I mean by 'left' and other times I suspect I don't read nearly enough to illuminate my worldview.

Religion might not be my nectar now, but the power of stories draws me in again and again. Sot it's fitting that on May Day this year we will finally open the Blackball Museum of Working Class History. Long live the stories of ordinary working people.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

roosters, donkeys & antioxidants

Ahhh back to permaculture land. I ditched my work shoes for some gumboots this afternoon and went out to Raelene's to help her skin and gut four roosters. Her friend Mr M, who grew up killing chooks and delivering eggs on his bicycle 70+ years ago, killed them for us in the morning. They are in the fridge now, two silkies and two larger chooks, awaiting the stock pot and some stirfrying.

I brought the guts, skin and feathers home and buried them in the garden. I also brought home four big bags of chook house litter for the garden. Perfect timing for my preparation of the garlic beds. I will layer the chook litter on thickly, then cover it with peastraw and let it decompose until mid-winter when it is garlic planting time.

Donkeys. Raelene has a donkey. Which means Raelene has donkey poo. I seem to recall an organics magazine not long ago talking about the many merits of donkey poo. There was no room to bring some home today but later in the week I shall go collect me some donkey poo. My autumn garden nurture materials are building up nicely.

I have read a few things about antioxidants. I know they are in veges and various other foods I try to eat and provide. I also know they are in red wine, so in the interests of excellent health, I bought some tonight.