Thursday, 16 January 2020

Relative values. A bit of nostalgia. The important things of life.

I am frequently amazed when I watch documentaries about famous Americans, singers and the like, who profess to come from humble origins but have immense amounts of home movie footage of their childhood. Good grief! Did they give cine cameras away in packets of breakfast cereals in the USA in the 1950s and 1960s? Some of these famous folk talk about having been poor, not dirt poor like some of the hillbilly country singers but still poor. No, poverty is all relative!

Back then we considered ourselves fortunate to have a camera, an ordinary still-photos camera, until my older sister, aged about 3, got her hands on it one day and had a poke about to find the “birdie” we were told to look out for when a picture was being taken. That was the end of the camera for a good while. But no cine camera. And we were not considered poor. My mother would turn in her grave at the very suggestion!

Then, yesterday a friend sent me a link to an article about today’s poor. Apparently hundreds of thousands of people in the UK are living without a fridge according to a report from a charitable organisation. As I read the statistics I thought back to my childhood when it was fairly common for families not to have a fridge in the kitchen. How did we manage?

One house my family lived in had a “pantry” a little room off the kitchen that was generally chillier than the rest of the house. Cheese and eggs and milk would be stored in there. And of course, the house did not have central heating, so the kitchen was a cooler place. Outside the back door was a rainwater tank. In the summer time bottles of milk were suspended in there in an attempt to keep the milk fresh.

My mother shopped for food every other day, if not every day. This was not unusual. There were no huge supermarkets and so people did not go and do a major shop for food for a week or more. You bought ice-cream from the ice-cream man, sometimes planning your meal so that his arrival coincided with time for dessert. The lack of a fridge made meal planning into a different art from what it is today!

Good grief! This is turning into one of those poverty-nostalgia pieces. I’ll be living in a brown paper bag next!

It was a different time, however, and the pace of life was perhaps slower. We managed without certain things. However, the fact that we managed does not make it right that so many people can’t afford a fridge nowadays.

And “nowadays” is a funny age to live in, in many ways. Here’s an article about how people steal cuttings from parks, garden displays and garden centres. The desire to have a fancy houseplant is great, but not so great that they want to pay over the odds for it. Instead they are prepared to steal for it.

Then there are the odd things that are commercialised and marketed. I read about a mattress company that doesn’t consider itself to be a mattress company at all. Instead it is a “pioneer of the Sleep Economy” with a mission to “awaken the potential of a well-rested world”. And so, as well as selling mattresses it also provides customer with “performance pyjamas”, whatever they are, and sleep supplements. “We believe that sleep consists of more than just the act of sleeping,”

Their marketing material tells us, “and instead, includes the entire set of human behaviours that span from bedtime to wake-up and affect sleep quality – this is what we refer to as the Sleep Arc.” The “sleep arc”!

I am aware that I have in a way bought into this idea of measuring sleep quality. My Fitbit “analyses” my sleep,pattern and tells me whether I have met my “sleep goal” of 8 hours a night, and lets me know how much of this is deep sleep, light sleep or dreaming sleep, and even gives me a quality score!!

But I take it all with a pinch of salt. There are more important things going on in the world!

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