Elections and choices

It was Election Day yesterday. I voted in the morning and in the evening kept half an eye on the results as they came in, although I didn’t wait up to see who won. There was likely to be some horse trading with minor parties to get a majority to govern and that’ll take a few days to resolve.

I was hoping for a change in government but it’s unlikely. I think it’s unhealthy for any one party to be in power too long. They get complacent and arrogant, and start believing their own hype. Although it gets messy at Election time and figuring out who won can take days if not weeks, the MMP system we use for voting does make for a far more interesting selection of candidates and wider representation of views.

All that representation means many more choices to make. It’s a lot of work to read up on parties’ policies and decide where you think money should come from and where and to whom it should go.

There’s been a bit of misinformation passing around, but nothing like the epidemic of ‘fake news’ (or as we tend to call it here – bald faced lies) seen in the last US election. It’s bad enough trying to decide between policies let alone trying to figure out if what you’re reading is true or not.

I’m not a hugely political person. I take an interest because work demands I maintain a level of awareness, and because I believe in the principle of democracy, which to me means being not just a voter but an informed one.

So I did my reading, made my choice, and instead of going to an election night party I stayed home nursing sore hands, elbows, and hips that have been giving me grief all week. I overdid it last weekend (travel on top of a heavy week of work) and I’ve been paying the price all week.

As an aside, this year marks 125 years since women got the vote here. We’re proud of the fact we were the first country in the world to give women the vote. My great grandmother was a signatory to the petition. It seems disrespectful not to vote.

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Land visit

I just got home from a visit to the farm. I met with the farmer and drive around with him, discussing grass, cows, politics (he started it – our election is next week and water and farmers are hot topics), fencing and other suitably agricultural topics. He’s a nice man and clearly loves land and loves watching healthy animals grow.

The land is looking lovely, green and lush. The cows are happy and getting fat. The weather was sunny and much warmer than here, and it really was a glorious place to be.

I’ve pretty much decided where the house will go now, and I’ve discussed new fencing and planting the gullies with the farmer, who agrees it’s a good plan. So now I have to set various balls in motion.

But right now I need sleep. It’s a lot of driving, there and back in a weekend, and I was dead on my feet on Friday as it was.

A restorative sleep, then on with the planning.

Keeping things simple

My oldest friend Tracy is walking through Albania at the moment. She’s with a group and I’m not entirely sure where they’re headed or when they’ll get there, and I’m not even sure I could identify Albania on a map.

I’m following her on Instagram. She’s a good photographer, she posts frequently and it’s really fascinating to see what Albania looks like.

What strikes me in the photos is how beautiful the countryside is, and how old-world the life is. She has lots of photos of donkeys carting loads of hay, women and men looking like every peasant photo you’ve ever seen, horses and carts in the roads, and tiny stalls on the side of the road selling a handful of cucumbers, some grapes and a few tomatoes. It’s very picturesque, but it’s also real life for Albanian villagers.

I live about 10 minutes’ walk from the central city. I walked into town this morning to meet a friend for coffee, then decided to go shopping.

While walking home carrying my branded shopping bags, I got to thinking about the Albanians in Tracy’s photographs and about the purpose of life (as you do).

Something in those photos made me reflect on what life consists of, the myriad activities that constitute daily life for each of us. It’s not the economics of it that got me pondering (although I don’t know how you make enough to live on when your daily income derives from the sale of three cucumbers and a kilo of tomatoes, and your customers are whoever walks past your gate on a given day). It’s more to do with an engagement with the business of life.

What I saw when I looked at those photos was a life driven by ambitions different from mine. So much of my world is implicitly or explicitly about “getting ahead”, going up in the world, making it, keeping up with the Joneses and every other cliché you can think of. There’s not much room for simply enjoying life.

I’m not trying to romanticise the life of an Albanian peasant here. I’m pretty sure it’s hard work, uncertain and at times grim and depressing. Nor am I suggesting they enjoy their lives, struggling in the aftermath of communist rule. This is about me, not them.

But they are immersed in the activities of their daily life. I haven’t learnt how to be that immersed. I am always living in the future (or the past, when I get in those moods). It’s always about the next thing, what I need to do, to achieve, the goal to reach or the plan to make. I’ve read, and believed, too many productivity blogs and books.

I suspect this sense of frustration at feeling dissociated from one’s own life and therefore finding little joy in it is what drives people to embark on “Eat, Pray, Love” adventures. The Italians, the French, maybe the Albanians, all seem to know how to enjoy the day to day of life: meals, a glass of wine, dancing, talking, being with friends and family.

What if I’ve been doing it wrong all this time? I’ve got a house, my land, retirement savings, a good job, new shoes. What if all of that is beside the point?

Well, I’m quite sure it IS all beside the point. It’s nice, it’s comfortable, and it provides me the luxury of sitting round pondering the meaning of life. But it’s not the point of life. It’s a means to an end, and the point is surely happiness.

And the way to happiness? Not sure. But it’s not buying new shoes, nice though they are.

Cooking for one

Most people who like to cook will tell you that cooking for one is their least favourite type of cooking. I get that: if you’re a foodie and proud of your kitchen efforts, having no one to appreciate them must be dispiriting.

I am not a foodie by any stretch. I can and do cook, and not just for myself. But I’m not adventurous, and I avoid expensive ingredients especially anything out of season (why pay top dollar for flavourless produce?)

Lately I’ve been trying establish better food habits. I’ve started taking my lunch to work every day instead of buying it, saving probably $200 a month that is going to pay for door handles for my new house on the estate.

In order to establish this habit, I’m removing the impediments to doing it. Which in my case means having things ready to assemble in the morning so I don’t have to think or decide. I have the same thing every day for a week, which means cooking something on the weekend that I can use during the week. Last week it was falafel, made into small flat cakes that I put between slices of a chunky wholewheat loaf spread with hummus to glue it all together. This week, its fried tofu with roasted red peppers, beetroot hummus, and wholewheat ciabatta.

I’ve discovered I quite enjoy this food preparation as one of my new weekend activities. It’s really satisfying having a fridge full of food that’s been made by me for me, and knowing that during the week I don’t have to think about what’s for lunch.

Obviously this approach would drive some people crazy. I, however, am a creature of habit and I value not having to decide over variety. The nice thing about cooking for one is that the only person I have to satisfy is me.