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.