Day 40 of Project Happiness – Happy Birthday Mum!

Status (Yesterday)

  • Meditate for 2 Minutes – No
  • Write about something positive for 20 minutes – No
  • 5 random acts of kindness per week  – 4/5
  • Take 3 x 30 minute walks per week – 3/3
  • Unnecessary items bought – 1
  • Total car miles saved – 70

Can’t believe I have been doing this for  40 days!

Didn’t get to write yesterday as I had a really busy day travelling down to visit my brother and his girlfriend in their new house, and also my Mum whose birthday it is today who came to stay also.  Fantastic.  I don’t get to see any of them as much as I’d like so this is a real treat.

Journey down was not bad, I took the train and it gave me plenty of time to read, doze and catch up on a bit of work.  I’ve just thought I could have done my blog post offline, and then posted it when I got here, but never mind.  Brother’s new house is in a lovely Cornish village, they can see the sea from their window, and it’s a half hour stroll down to the beach.  Absolutely blissful, and I’m so happy for the both of them, as they’ve worked very hard to get there.


**Non happy portion alert**

However, the laid back lifestyle, and fantastic surroundings, did make me think again about our situation at home.  We moved slightly north some years ago due to personal circumstances, but unfortunately the rest of my family have moved south, and I do feel quite isolated at times.  I also am increasingly questioning the point of what I do on a day to day basis.  I work 40 hours a week (which is a vast improvement on my last job where I worked at least 60 a week), and struggle to fit everything else in, but for what?  Other than my wage?  The work which I do is for a company which provides services for the oil and gas industry, which I don’t believe in.  And for what?  Whatever money we earn, we spend.  Right from the beginning it’s always been the same, and it seems that financial advisers do make that assumption; income = expenditure.  We have changed this, and now are in a position to start saving more (we have no savings to speak of currently), and whilst my goal is to pay off the mortgage asap, realistically it’s going to take 10 years best case scenario.  And then we’ll need to work for another 10 years probably in order to get enough savings to be able to live off the interest.  That’s 20 of the best years of my life that I have left.  Do I want to spend them this way?  Working 48 weeks of the year, to  earn enough for a 2 week holiday somewhere, buying ‘stuff’ for the house, and running round like a headless chicken to keep everything running smoothly.  I sometimes feel like I never stop.

  • I don’t spend as much time as I’d like with the kids.
  • I don’t spend as much time as I’d like with my husband.
  • I’m often stressed, which isn’t good for my health.
  • I don’t have enough time to do the stuff I want to do.  I.e. following my obsession with healthy eating, climate change, sustainable living, gardening etc.

I’ve been reading lots of things, and I have come up with a solution, but I am 99% sure Mr EN won’t be willing to go for it.  My current proposed plan of action is to sell the house and with the proceeds buy a canal boat and move in.  We’d have no mortgage, and although I have yet to do all of the sums, I reckon if Mr EN and I continued working for 5 years, with the reduced expenses, we’d never have to work again after that.  If I wanted though I could do a 3 month contract every now and again to get enough for any extras.  We have a marina near us which is very affordable, but what a life style change that would be!  But for me all the changes seem positive ones.  My main current concerns are around the kids.  Would they be ok with such a radical life style change?  How would things at school be for them?  Would 5 of us cope with the reduced space?  Especially 3 teenage girls(!)  We don’t have enough space currently, but for sure we have  far more ‘stuff’ than we need!

I feel super excited about such a possibility, but at the same time rather low because I know the rest of my family will think I’ve lost my marbles, and it’ll be too radical to contemplate  sensibly.

Lots to think about.  Maybe I’ve just been working too hard, and I’ll look back on this in a few days/weeks/months and wonder what on earth I was warbling on about, but currently it sounds wonderful!!

Plant based diet has gone out of the window this weekend, staying with family who offered me bacon for breakfast 🙂  Done the best I could, but hunger prevailed a couple of times, and my brother’s girlfriend went to a lot of trouble to make a veggie lasagne complete with white sauce, so I wasn’t about to refuse to eat it.



Purpose and Food

This week has been a busy one for me (not unusually to be fair) but work has provided it’s fair share of challenges this week, leaving me feeling washed up and demotivated.  I am seriously lacking in mojo currently 😦

However, that is no excuse to be sitting on ones laurels, so I have been getting on with the day to day chores, and trying to catch up on finishing the book I’ve borrowed from my colleague.  The former of these two tasks has taught me one invaluable lesson; always have a spare meal in the cupboard.  On Wednesday I tried to make vegetarian meatballs.  On the face of it they sounded nice.  Grated sweet potato, carrots and parsnips mixed with beans and spices and flour, fried then baked in the oven in a sauce made with roasted cherry tomatos and roasted garlic.  However, when you forget to grind the fennel seeds you toasted, discover you have run out of butter beans and chickpea flour, so make do with black eyed beans and some alternative flour (I forget which, I fear I’m traumatised), the result it transpires, is a culinary disaster of epic proportions.  They were, in a word, minging!  I ate mine (mixed with feta to hide the taste) out of sheer bloody mindedness, as I didn’t want to waste the food or the effort, but the rest of the family admitted defeat, and it was a merry dinner of cheese and biscuits in the end.

The other task, finishing the book, is proving a slower task than original anticipated.  I’m reading Your Money or Your Life, and so far am really enjoying it.  I love putting an actual real value on your hourly wage, and then working out how much life energy you need to give to buy each item.  It certainly provides a fresh and different perspective on the value of *stuff*.

I have also enjoyed the exercises to determine what drives your life.  Remembering what your dreams as a child were (to be a vet – not clever enough) and figuring out what is actually  important now (family, the environment).  One question was, what would I do if I knew I only had a year to live.  My immediate answer was to spend as much time as possible with my family, which definitely wouldn’t involve work.  I have come to the sad realisation that I’ve spent the last 20 years building up my career, and I now don’t want it.  I want to be a home maker, the very thing I had been determined not to be as a child.  We, or at least I, was bought up to believe that there was no value in that.  Now I strongly disagree.   We are losing, or indeed have already lost, all the skills our previous generation cherished and handed down.  If the food crises does come about, how many of us will be able to support ourselves?  I am trying to grow food at present, to try and supplement that which I have to buy, but last time I tried this I found myself with gluts of produce which I either gave or threw away.  My grandmother would have know how to preserve and keep these for the winter months when there is no fresh produce. I don’t.  I’m relying on books and blogs.  We need to regain these skills, and pass them on to our children.  I strongly believe that we live in a charmed age, but are by and large, unaware of how fortunate we are.  There are many different predictions of how the future may pan out, one popular one being the passing of peak oil causing a food crisis.  This paper from 2007 talks about the impact and gives these figures;

While food exports from the UK have increased significantly since 1961, from 2 million tonnes to 15 million tonnes in 2000, the value of these exports is declining. And the UK still imports almost twice the amount of food it exports, with imports growing significantly in value and weight. In 1980 the UK trade gap in food, feed and drink was £3.5 billion. This increased to £5.9 billion in 1990, £8.3 billion in 1999, £10 billion in 2002 and £12.2 billion in 2004. More recently the trade gap widened by 11% in just 12 months

This is disturbing news, especially when you see stories like this, where farmers are having to deal with surplus stock due to low demand.

The paper regarding peak oil impact also states;

Transport, because of its almost complete dependence on fuels from crude oil, is very vulnerable to decline in availability of cheap oil.

We need to invest as a country in our agriculture to support our farmers and maximise our food production.  However, we are still struggling with our milk farmers being paid a pittance for their milk.  There have been recent rumours that Tescos have changed their milk supply chain, which used to be a straight 50:50 split between Muller and the Farmers cooperative, to be 100% Muller.  This is a huge blow to our farmers.  I have take the step of buying all of my milk now from our local farm shop, which supplies milk direct from the local dairy.  There is also the sticky question of whether or not to stay in the EU, with opinions fiercely divided on what would be best for British Farmers :

In addition to the energy crisis, there are also concerns regarding the ever increasing population, along with new strands of rust disease in wheat, blue tongued virus in sheep (caused by insects) and the decline of bees and other insects which we depend upon to pollinate our crops.

UK food security threat

However, there are many alternative, but equally as dismal theories, such as the Limits to Growth book and subsequent review, which suggests we are going to run out of resources which will trigger a massive population crash. See the Guardian’s piece on it here.

Whichever theory you believe, one thing shines through to me and that is we ought to be becoming more self sufficient as a country, and I believe that needs to start at the grass roots level, i.e. us.  We need to lead the way and support our country.  Some important ways which I see we can start this are :

  • Buy local. I get my eggs from a farm in the next village, but the lovely lady delivers them every Saturday.  I get my veg, flours and meat (for Mr EN and the 2 elder girls) from my local farm shop or butchers.  I try to avoid Tescos like the plague.  And buy seasonal.  Get used to planning what you cook around what is available.
  • Cook!  And teach your children to cook.  Don’t rely on ready meals.  Cook your own.  Much healthier and tastier (unless you make veggie meatballs!).  And it doesn’t have to be time consuming.
  • Grow your own.  Everyone can do some growing, whether it is just a few herbs and come again lettuce on the window sill, with maybe a couple of pots of tomatos and strawberries on the patio, to a fully converted oasis of food production.  Every little helps, and will teach you and your children valuable skills should the worst come to the worst.
  • Community.  Get to know your community, know where there is local produce available.  Do swaps for seeds, vegetable gluts etc at work or down your local.

Our economy is in tatters.  We should be supporting it, not the economy of Japan, or China or New Zealand.

Anyway, I have finished my lunch (home made bread made with local flour, locally produced salad, and cheese, followed up by home made anzac cookies – yum!) so I’m off.