Monday 28 February 2011

On my way to work

A wee article from our friend and housemate Sarah, about her commute to work.

Friday morning after a wee bit of a night out, do I cycle or take the easy route (and bus).  I know I enjoy the bike ride, once I get going, but it’s still an act of will to go for the bike option.  It’s a lovely day, and even if it’s not, I still enjoy the achievement of making it to work under my own steam.  As well as being good for me, and the environment, and my wallet, it’s also fun.

So off I go (after donning helmet and gloves), avoiding the bus on the way to the cycle path, giving way to traffic, and being given plenty of space by (most of) the cars and trucks in turn.

Up the steep hill to Grey Lynn in low gear, that makes me puff pretty hard, just like the little red engine (I think I can, I think I can), passed by a couple of other cyclists (in full on lycra) who are obviously much harder than me.  I don’t mind if the light at the top is red, then I get a rest, but not today, the light is green so I keep on going (I thought I could, I thought I could).  A friendly nod to the same man at the same bus stop, each morning he’s always there and I wonder about his story.  I’m sure I’ll never know, but it’s nice to exchange a wave.

K Road is a bit of a challenge, it pays to be alert, with pedestrians and buses and lights and traffic changing lanes last minute, but it’s no trouble.  By that point I’m well into the ride and happy I’m on the ridge, it’s all downhill from here.

On the final stretch in Albert Street, catching the green lights and down the (fun!) ramp into the car-park, a brief pause to swipe the wee card and then into the free secure bike-park.  It’s great being a cyclist, and as a bonus, I’m in good time and the shower is available so no waiting for me.  It’s just a pity the stairs are alarmed in our building so I have to take the lift!!

Sunday 27 February 2011

Mabuhay ang Kalayaan

I was 11 at the time of the People Power Revolution; an intermediate student in my first year at Faith Academy, Manila. 25 years ago this last Friday, but in my thoughts all week with the news from Libya. One of my enduring memories from the months afterwords is the slogan "Mabuhay ang Kalayaan" (Long Live Freedom), painted on footbridges over the big roads downtown.

Local news has been full of the earthquake in Christchurch, and rightly so, but thankfully nobody I know closely is caught up in it. I keep tuning to the BBC to hear of the incredibly brave protesters returning to the streets where so many have been murdered.

Commentators wonder what will happen next. A friend from Iran fears echoes from her country's history. My only thought is that it takes years to form and bed in a new politics. 25 years and counting in the Philippines. I pray that the Libyans can soon start down that difficult but necessary road.

Thursday 10 February 2011

Consumerism and the rise of India and China

I wrote the email below to Peter Day, host of Global Business, one of my favourite programmes on the BBC World Service, in response to his recent interview (summarised here) with Chandran Nair, author of Consumptionomics: Asia's Role in Reshaping Capitalism and Saving the Planet.

I enjoyed your recent interview with Chandran Nair and found it very encouraging.  However, I was disappointed by your assumption that a less resource intense lifestyle would be less pleasant.  My husband and I are trying to reduce our consumption of various resources down to our global fair share.  At our last audit we used 1.5 times our fair share of water for irrigation and 75% of our fair share of agricultural land and produced 3 times our fair share of carbon emissions.   We have a rich and enjoyable life with a varied, ample and healthy diet; lots of enjoyable activities; and good access to information technology and sophisticated medical care.

We are not yet at a globally sustainable level but I suspect that a relatively small number of macro changes could close the gap.  For example, the government currently squanders 1/3 of every Kiwi's global fair share of carbon emissions on building roads: roads that we would need fewer of and which would need less maintenance if everyone lived like us.

I think people would be more comfortable with the idea of changing their aspirations if they were more familiar with stories like ours.

Tuesday 8 February 2011

Solitary confinement

Some years ago, maybe a year after I first got sick, I read "Taken on Trust" by Terry Waite.  I felt a real sense of 'company' as I read about his life in solitary confinement: living in his memories, telling himself stories, playing mental games and keeping a tight control on his emotions.  It sounded a lot like my life, and helped me to feel less alone.  A year or two later I heard him speak on National Radio, and emailed him to tell him about my experience.  He graciously replied, and said that many other chronically ill people had told him a similar story.

A week or two ago, after living with CFS/ME for nearly eight years now, I heard an interview with a psychologist who had studied men on death row in Texas.  They live in near-solitary conditions, and she found they kept themselves going with similar strategies to those Terry Waite had described.

This time, I felt a sense of familiarity, but no actual connection.  I know something of what that life feels like, but I don't live it any more.  I suddenly realised that, over the years, I have developed real activities and real engagement with the world: I have a life, and no longer live in the 'holding pattern' of solitary confinement.


And many grateful thanks to God who has enabled me to live so well within my circumstances :-)

Monday 7 February 2011

Jerusalem artichokes

The view from my bed :-)  We've planted sunflowers along this fence in the past but this year chose their cousins, Jerusalem artichokes, instead.   Letters from Wetville made me think they might do well in our heavy clay soil, and I was excited by the prospect of beautiful flowers and edible tubers from the one plant.  We've both been surprised by just how lovely they are and how nice it is to have such an abundance of flowers, rather than one per plant like we got from our giant sunflowers.