Crap food

It hasn’t been easy inside my head of late. Feeling persecuted on many counts. The world-wide swing to the right scares me. The sense there’s not enough to go around, a state of mind that induces a type of desperation whereby we stop caring about our most vulnerable.

Not a society to which I want to belong. 

But I do belong, and I’m part of the privileged, even as in the back of my mind I can sometimes feel as poor as when I was a child. 

But poverty is relative. My family never went hungry, but we ate crap food, or at least to my mind it was crap. 

The cultural stereotype of the food my mother cooked from her life in Holland: bulk stodge, potatoes with every meal usually mashed because they went the furthest, mixed with onions and carrots or apple sauce or something with an Indonesian flavour, like Nasi Goreng with a fried egg on top. 

One egg to share. 

Eggs were a luxury, like chicken, which we rarely ate. Sausages and cow’s tongue. 

Maizina pop for breakfast, a type of porridge, more like gruel, made up of corn flour mixed with water and heated on the stove top to a gluey consistency and sweetened with sugar or golden syrup. 

Not an ounce of nourishment but it filled the belly. 

Bread, bread and more bread, preferably white, which had just come into fashion then. Tip Top and sliced, slathered in margarine and jam. And buckets of LanChoo tea, always with several spoonsful of sugar and a goodly amount of milk. 

We weren’t poor, when you read it like this. 

It was the real estate surrounding our rented house at 2 Wentworth Avenue in Canterbury – posh houses, double storey mansions along Mont Albert Road through whose fences we peered on our way to school – that left us feeling poor.  

I didn’t pay much attention to the cars people drove in those days but all those houses held more than one car in their long sloping driveways and their grass was green and kept short and their flower beds were filled with exotics that needed lots of water, which wasn’t a problem in my childhood until the drought struck in the late sixties and signs went up everywhere, 

‘Bore water in use’. 

The thought police were out in those days, too.  

People dobbing on neighbours who snuck out in the middle of the night to bucket water over their roses and were caught in the glare of torch light. 

The government restricted watering hours to alternative days and only for a few hours in the early morning or evening.

Rather like the way the government took to restricting the petrol you could buy during the strikes of the early eighties. Where cars were restricted to one $20.00 a tank only on alternative days depending on the first letter of your number plate. More rationing. 

My mother told me once about the coupons issued during the war, again to restrict supplies when there was not enough to go around.

Not enough to go around, the feeling today as the rich get richer and the poor get fucked over. It scares me. 

Something good will happen

The first day of winter and I emptied the food scraps after they’d reached tipping point into the compost bin in our back garden.

It’s a tedious task but on my trudge across the back garden I sense the excitement of what I will find when I lift the lid.

Even in the cold of winter the worms scramble for cover as soon as the light shines on them, their pink ridges rippling, as they fall down from what to them must be a great height.

There are all these tiny black beetles too. They line the lip of the compost bun. Some fall off and into the decaying food below while others, like a few of the stalwart worms, cling on.

I’ve been composting myself of late, up there inside my head, a sense of not much happening beyond the regular day to day and at the same time the hope that soon enough something new will emerge. 

We have another grandchild on the way and that’s new and big.

Every day I think about this baby and the awe of my family history or at least of some aspect of that history, including the timing of my own birth. 

The daughter who carries this baby is more or less the same age now as I was when I carried her, more or less the same age as my mother when she carried me. 

My mother already had four babies by the time I came along, four live babies and one dead one. And, I had already two babies living by the time this daughter who now carries her first.

The immensity of it all.

We’ve had a cold snap of late. The coldest May day in 17 years.

What’s the point of statistics like this other than to comfort us into thinking it’s not just in our imaginations that we’re colder than usual and also in some crazy way to stave off fears of climate change and the earth warming?

My husband tells me it’s going to grow more temperate soon enough and we’re in for a dry, not so cold, winter beyond these few freezing days. As if anyone, even the bureau of meteorology, can predict the future to that extent. 

I’m wary of statistics but have no doubt about climate change. Only the optimist inside tells me something good will happen. 

This is my crazy internal mantra. Whenever anything bad happens I tell myself something good will happen. Something to offset the sadness or madness or badness of recent events, like when I cop another writing rejection, or when I find myself troubled by the recent election result and a hint of despair creeps in, not for me so much as for those asylum seekers held in detention year after year. 

I can’t shake off the thought as I put a sad face to the likes section of Facebook, when yet another horror story emerges.

Over thirty people in detention have tried to kill themselves since the election. 

An expression of sorrow or anger is not enough. 

And my mind pitches back into the past before I was born when news of what was happening to the Jewish people in Europe during the early 1940s must have trickled through the limited media of the day.

And people closed their minds to the atrocity, to the unthinkable, just as we are doing today. 

Because we feel helpless or don’t want to know. Life is hard enough without having to add the extra burden of those in trouble. And these days we have so much exposure. 

I think of what’s happening in America. The banning of abortions in Alabama and Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Talerears its head. An unthinkable future in a world that is Taliban dominated or a world in which the extreme right-wing conservative elements that breed racism and misogyny dominate in face of the fears of change. 

‘Let’s try to turn the clock back,’ these largely middle aged and old while males, say, for fear of losing their entrenched privilege. Let’s keep women back in the position of servants and let’s not let those other people whose skin is not white have too much of a say in the running of our countries. 

Let’s keep the other out. The other is a threat to the status quo. Let’s not think too much about the need to adjust to a changing world in terms of climate change because a changed world is one to which we need adjust and it’s hard enough growing old. 

It’s hard enough having to adjust to the rapid rate of technological change. The things the young people can do with their computers and gadgets that leave us far behind.

Let’s do our best to keep things as they were in the good old days. 

Of course, that doesn’t work. Change is our one great certainty. 

The worms wriggle off the walls in the compost pin whenever I pitch in an extra load and soon enough the bin will be full and I will need to let it sit a while longer till it composts and then we’ll tip it over the garden and it will enrich the soil to make way for new growth like this new baby who will soon enough enter our midst.