This lockdown business gets you thinking. I know it is not just me because so many people have been talking to me and my normally quiet life has had my phone buzzing as I have been getting many more responses to my social media than usual. I am a regular social media person, I have an Instagram account (@soditblog), I have a Facebook Page and I even do a very occasional blog. I have resisted blogging for awhile now as I do have a tendency to speak my mind and it usually gets me in to trouble of some sort. I have thought of various rants during the last couple of months and I’ve managed to resist the urge. The consequence to that is my family have had the full brunt of my various radical opinions and on the most part have managed to handle it fairly well, even though they don’t get much of a choice, they are locked up and have nowhere to run away to.
Combined with a lot more time on my hands and the coming of spring, quite simply the most exciting time of year, you can keep Christmas and New Year I find them very depressing that flood of commercialism, capitalism, materialism, fakery and hypocrisy. Sounds like a law firm. I do like mince pies and time with the family. But as usual I digress.
So the phone has been buzzing in response to some of the pictures I post of my garden. With a little bit more time on my hands I have decided to try my hand at making short compilations. I love video editing and animation and this seems to be an obvious way of exploring that interest. I have even tried a couple of Facebook Live broadcasts of the sunset and I did a very long one, showing people around the garden, it was meant to be just a quick tour and as usual it ended up being way too long, I just got carried away, my garden does that to me. As with everything I have had to work out certain problems, the noise of wind, camera shake, sound levels etc and hopefully each one has got a little bit better.
I am not short of inspiration or subject matter, we are surrounded by nature and I don’t have to go very far, it is plainly right on my doorstep.
I am delighted with the positive reaction I have had, I suppose it is unlikely that someone would go to the bother of telling me it was shit, it is much easier to click like and be supportive of a friend! So I decided to post some to other group sites interested in nature and once again I am very pleased I got positive feedback and that motivates me to carry on.
A regular comment I get is that I live in paradise and aren’t I lucky, well yes that’s obvious, or is it? Anyone who knows me, knows I think way too hard about language and once I get something stuck in my craw I over analyse and guess what, yup, that was an obvious one, this regular sentiment has wormed its way into my head. I absolutely know that no one has said this as anything other than, “Oh wow! That’s nice,” but this is my blog and I can be as pedantic as I like. So here goes.
Firstly “luck,” I looked this up just in case: Success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.
Well there’s the problem. I didn’t happen here by chance. I lived in the UK 30 years ago. If you were there then you probably know this was the beginning of the “dark ages.” Margret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Yuppies (2 p’s in Yuppie, why doesn’t that surprise me!), Free Market Economics which for me was almost every bit as hard going as the great storm and what a surprise, there was a massive stock market crash and house prices collapse in around October of that year. I had already sold my house, now that would have been lucky if I hadn’t said on January 5th 1987, “I’m going to sell my place while there is this ridiculous unsustainable housing boom and get out of this country before the shit hits the fan.” That is a direct quote from an entry in my diary on that day.
Nyah. So on Friday the 13th of November (that was lucky!) an enormous container lorry rolled into my local village with all my worldly possessions tucked into a very tiny corner of this intercontinental behemoth that a friend of mine managed to sort out for next to nothing.
The lorry could only get within a mile or so of my place as it was so big, it couldn’t make the turning from what we call the main road up to the road that eventually our drive (in Ireland a boreen) leads off from. So we had to make a couple of trips in my small van ferrying my stuff to the house. It didn’t rain, that was lucky.
That was the beginning of a very different chapter in my life. The vast majority of people I knew at that time thought I was crazy. I had a business, I had a nice house, I had what some would refer to as prospects, I even had a filofax. So I had to be crazy to move so far away to a life with no electricity, no transport and no future. It wasn’t an easy choice, I had some very good friends I was leaving behind as well as my family but you only get one life and I didn’t see a place for me in the future that so many were rushing towards, I needed to get off that rollercoaster even if it meant giving up so much. I must add that not all my friends thought I was mad, well maybe they did but they were nice enough not to say it. I didn’t come here alone, a couple of friends also wanted a new life and they joined me along with my girlfriend and the four of us started off on a new path. Over 30 years later my friends now live in the village, the life we had then didn’t suit my girlfriend and she left and made her life back in the UK.
Life wasn’t easy, it was physically and mentally tough adjusting to manual labour, living on a very tight budget and walking the 12 mile round trip to the village with a rucksack to do the shopping. Before I lived 5 minutes from a high street and popped in to the supermarket to buy stuff for lunch and could choose from a selection of takeaways for diner. I remember missing eating Chinese food mostly along with prawn cocktail crisps, pork pies, pickled onions and decent coffee, Ireland has change quite a bit since then and now we can even get Cadbury’s Cream Eggs!
It is easy to look back both with the rosy tinted glasses of nostalgia or in black and white with all the problems I faced. Trying to turn a couch grass infested, windswept patch of stony ground into a productive smallholding growing what was needed and learning about animal husbandry. That was a steep learning curve for a soft handed urbanite such as I was. I have never got fully to grips with fencing and as for being a practical DIY man! Well suffice it to say my failing attempts at fixing stuff, building things and even mixing concrete are the substance of many comic anecdotes and even a couple of poems.
However I was able to grow, both on a metaphysical as well as a horticultural level. My mum taught me well and those hours I spent as a youngster learning from her stood me in good stead. I look back at the progression now and I can’t quite believe what I attempted. I did get a small motorbike so I could make deliveries and I even used to take salad bags down to the local hotel and tried selling to tourist parked at Barleycove Beach. I got an organic license, certainly one of the first in this area but no one seemed to care about organic food at that time and certainly none of the restaurants ever tried promoting the veg they bought from me as such.
I got into crazy stuff like collecting silage plastic and PET bottles for recycling. I had to collect a certain tonnage in order to take it up to a warehouse in Cork where it was recycled into plastic wood. I still have a few fence posts we used for electric fencing made from that plastic around the garden. My barn was full from top to bottom with plastic and many of the locals openly laughed at me when I knocked on doors asking whether they had any plastic they wanted to get rid of, it wasn’t a money making enterprise as we made no money but there was no recycling at that time and I wanted to do our bit. I can laugh as well now but at the time it didn’t seem so funny. I was trying to live self sufficiently; my bible was John Seymour’s book on the subject and it’s well worn pages I still use to this day.
I got to meet him on a visit to Wales. I just turned up unannounced to his farm and told him how much he had influenced my life and I got to talk to him not just about self sufficiency but about his experiences and politics. For me a truly great man, I heard he moved to Ireland in the late 90’s and died back in Wales in 2004.
I had to pause there for a moment to collect myself as I realise just how big a moment that was for me and let a wave of sadness just pass on through.
Mair nominated for Irish Student Activist of The Year 2020. Photo by Lizzie Scanlon
Anyway what was I talking about? Ah yes luck. I am a very lucky man. Luck to me is when you make a really poor decision or mistake of judgement and either you manage to get away with it or it turns out to be a good decision as the consequences are in your favour, a roll of the dice or a turn of a card. But how much luck is involved when you make a decision based on logical principles, you look analytically at something, consider the consequences as fully as you can summoning all your perspicacity to gain as much insight as you can and then make a life changing resolution. Is that luck?
I think it is important to take ownership of all your mistakes, as a coach I often tell my students “you always learn more from your mistakes than your victories.” I also go on to say “if you learn more from failure than success I must be a bloody genius by now!” But it is just as important to take ownership of your success, your good and bad choices are the foundations of experience and that is how we learn.
To just accept that I am lucky to live here is denying that for me and my life, I made a truly excellent choice and that should give me confidence to believe in myself and my capacity to make more good choices. More importantly as a parent I want my children to know that the responsibility for their future lies with them and whatever they choose, whatever path they decide to take is not random, not out of their control, we are not dandelions, achene attached to pappi dispersed by the wind. They are privileged not entitled to be able to make their own choices and with that comes responsibility and ownership, which for me is freedom of action.
As a note I have moved away from self-sufficiency, that ideal still lurks in the shadows of my conscious but I have moved more toward sustainability as a guiding principle and a responsibility I hope they will share.
It appears to be an even more uncertain world out there these days and I have no idea what lies ahead for any of our children, so I say, however mad or crazy some may consider you to be, take control, be brave, have the courage of your convictions since life is what you make it and only you can live it, so make sure you are equipped to do so.
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