Variety is the spice of life.

That phrase “Variety is the spice of life“, is something that I’ve heard many times during my lifetime, but I’ve never really thought about what it means. Recently I came across Mark Boyle’s book – Drinking Molotov Cocktails with Gandhi and he pretty much explained it in a simple paragraph….but since I don’t want to get stung for copyright infringement I’ll try to paraphrase him.

He was talking about how the industrial age, or as he calls it The Machine, has taken us over, making specialists of us, pigeon-holing us into strictly limited roles, making us no more than a cog in the machine. There’s no diversity. Meantime we play our part, as a part of the system, by consuming products and services. He reminds us that it didn’t used to be that way. We used to fully participate in life, in community – rather than distancing ourselves from it. We foraged, grew, produced and cooked our own food. Made our own entertainment, played music, made up songs, poems and stories to share around a communal fire. We made the things we needed, be it a wooden spoon or a woven fabric. Made our own wines, beers, mead, cheeses, butter, jam and preserves to share with our family and neighbours, as part of a living, breathing village. Our lives were rich with diversity with the freedom to express ourselves in a variety of ways. We could be a hunter one day, a farmer the next, a furniture maker, artist, poet. Life was interesting and fluid. Variety was the spice of life. These days for the sake of “maximum efficiency” we are reduced to rigid conformity, a cog in the wheel of industry, doing the same repetitive thing over and over again.

Don’t you think it’s time to take back our lives? To make them varied and interesting again?

We have come to rely too much on the system, on the Machine and what it delivers. Sooner or later, (I fear it will be sooner rather than later, the way that the world is heading) the system will break down and our specialist pigeon-holed existence will be our downfall. We won’t have the individual skills to survive, because we’ve lost that variety in our lives. We tend to know how to do one thing, a narrow field of view. We’ve become an expert, skilled in one thing and lost the ability to perform a hundred other tasks. We will not be prepared….thanks in the most part to what we have viewed as “progress”.

For anyone interested in Mark’s book, I’ve pasted the link to the goodread’s page for the book Drinking Molotov Cocktails with Gandhi below. I will probably be making further posts about the contents of this and others of Boyles books later on. I’m less than half way through the book and have learned so much already. As usual many thanks for reading and your comments etc are most appreciated.

On turning 60

Hi all. The 15th of November 2019 sees me hitting the big 60….whatever that means. Personally I find it quite odd how birthdays with a zero after them acquire more significance than any other birthday…or indeed any other day, period.

I was at my brothers house for dinner today….I’m writing this on 19th Oct…so several weeks earlier. And, like me, my brother doesn’t see anything significant to be celebrated at 60 that couldn’t equally be celebrated at 59 or 58 or 61 for that matter. As Paul McCartney said in his 1970 hit…It’s just “another day”.

BUT my wife and my sister-in-law insist that it should be celebrated. Have a party, have friends round, do something exciting. What would you like to do….Hmmm…?

It’s really not that easy.

I don’t want to insult or upset anyone’s good intentions. I honestly don’t. I was born in November 1959 in England. I was brought up in a small village, to the north of the city of Sheffield, called Grenoside. The kids I went to school with at the age of 5 or 6….THEY are my friends. The are the ones I hold most dear…as sad and pathetic as that may sound. Some of whom I kept in touch with, some who have already died….so relatively young for these days… and others who I’ve unfortunately lost contact with over the passing years, BUT I still think of all of them as good friends.

At the age of almost 30 my family emigrated to New Zealand and life thereafter tended to revolve around my kids (as it does)…..their school activities, sports etc. The people I associated with here in NZ were to do with school or football (I coached football/soccer at kids and adults level for around 15 years)….or from work. Once each phase ended, the kids grew up, moved out, injury stopped me from playing and coaching football….most of the “friends” I had made just drifted off. Sure I’d keep in touch on Facebook or say “hi” if we bumped into one another at the supermarket and we’d say to each other “Hey must catch up for a beer sometime” and we never do….but otherwise, pretty much nothing. Likewise with work mates. Once they changed jobs, or I moved on, either to another job or to the semi-retired state I find myself in today….no real contact (and yes I do realize that it’s a two way street and I could have made more of an effort than I have).

So, the years pass and something seemingly as simple as inviting my friends round to celebrate my birthday isn’t actually simple at all. As a human being….I am a bit sad and pathetic really…I admit it. My kids have moved on, got their own lives, got married…moved away from home, one’s even moved out of the country. My parents are both dead – for almost 5 years – and I miss speaking with them so much. It still feels strange not being able to call in to see them and spend some time. Other than my school friends back home in England, and my brother with whom I’ll enjoy an occasional beer, my best friends are my wife and my cat….and that’s the fact of it.

What do I want to do for my 60th? Do I want to have a BBQ, a party, go to the pub, have a weekend away at Lake Taupo? Not really no.

What I’d like to do firstly, is to walk in the woods where I used to play as a child, and where the ashes of my parents and my dad’s parents are scattered (so I can stand by a tree – apparently talking to myself – and blubber…probably) and then, to have a hand pulled pint of beer in the Old Red Lion pub back in my home village of Grenoside….and invite all the kids, who I started school with 55 years ago, to have a pint with me and reminisce. The next day suitably hung over, I’d hop on a train and go under the channel tunnel to Paris, attend a reading at Shakespeare & Company book shop on the banks of the Seine…and buy a book (preferably a signed first edition by a favourite author). The next day I’d spend outside a typical Parisian café, under trees, in dappled sunshine (not likely in November but hey it’s my birthday, my fantasy), drinking good coffee, or sipping a full bodied French wine and reading my book. Then later perhaps, go on a literary walk around Paris guided by, Australian born writer and Francophile, John Baxter. The cat would sadly have to stay at home, but my wife is most welcome to come….

Poem – Where do we go from here?

Sometimes I think that we’ve lost the humanity that defines us as Humans. We’ve lost our way in the grand scheme of things…if a grand scheme ever existed. We’ve adopted systems that don’t work for everyone. Systems that divide and conquer and build wealth for the few. That value material wealth over the wellbeing of our lives and of our planet. We’ve been fed the lie that we are more intelligent than other species and therefore ride rough shod over them, and nature as a whole. How can we be more intelligent when we are on the brink of destroying everything, including ourselves? I was sitting here, this morning pondering the mess that we’ve allowed to happen and wondering to myself “where do we go from here?” This poem just kind of flowed out as I sat and wondered if the future brings hope or despair.

We’ve turned our backs on refugees

They don’t look the same as you and me

Their religions are a blasphemy

Where do we go from here?

We’ve declared war on foreign lands

We’ve played and then died on the sands

We’ve both burned books and had them banned

Where do we go from here?

We’ve polluted water, earth and air

Killed off species, don’t seem to care

Have security cameras everywhere

Where do we go from here?

Dictators, Despots, Socialist States

Autocrats who watch and wait

Who lie to divide us, we take the bait

Where do we go from here?

We’re obsessed with our material world

Pledge allegiance to the flag unfurled

On-line petty insults hurled

Where do we go from here?

We allow pipelines across sacred lands

We turn away from outstretched hands

‘Cause we’ve got our friends here on broadband

Where do we go from here?

We allow all this but won’t be shamed

To possessions and baubles we are chained

Can common sense yet be reclaimed?

Where DO we go from here?