Saturday, October 31, 2015
Today is my birthday.
It is also the day when children wear costumes and come knocking on your door trick-and-treating.
And also Samhain, the time when pagans believe the veil between the world of the living and the dead to be at it's thinnest.
I was born and grew up in Germany, long before the curious tradition of Trick-and-treating came over from the US. And living in a Catholic family I knew nothing about Samhain either. So the 31st of October was just another day. Which also happened to be my birthday.
The day after, the 1st November, however was a special day. All Saints Day, a holiday in the Catholic calendar.
As I got older, having a day off on the day after your birthday party became a distinct advantage. ;)
However, having a day off school didn't mean lazing around in bed. It meant spending the better part of the day traipsing across church yards to visit the graves of dead relatives. Not so much fun when you are a kid ... but an opportunity to hear old stories and to learn about people I had never had the chance to meet.
Looking at the present season with the shortening of the daylight, the dying down of vegetation and falling of the leaves; with the temperature dropping and the wildlife getting ready for the winter ahead; it's no wonder that our ancestors turned towards pondering life and death and their own mortality at this particular time of year.
And perhaps it's right that we should do so too.
And I ponder if in even a tiny way I may be able to shape and contribute to life in a positive way too.
So forgive me if I don't celebrate Halloween. If you come knocking on my door, you won't get any sweets. I won't even open it.
That's partly because Halloween just isn't a part of me. But also because I dislike the hype and consumerism attached to it. And because to me it teaches our children that you get nice things by threating to do bad things in turn. For me it's no more than Consumerism-meets-blackmail.
So forgive this grumpy old woman for not opening her door. It's her birthday!
Monday, October 19, 2015
One thing I love about having an allotment is how close it brings me to the seasons.
Yes, I know that I live in a country where I can buy fresh produce - even out of season - virtually any time... But my allotment tells me otherwise.
I love the urgency and business which this time of year brings.
Yes, at the moment I am still picking a small but steady amount of autumn raspberries. The apple tree is still laden with apples and a lot of plants are still in the ground.
But as the squirrels - who have been burying my broad bean seeds up and down the plot for weeks - know, winter is not far off.
In this part of the country frosts aren't really expected until November. But even then, November is only a couple of weeks away.
Once the frost arrives, the raspberries will stop fruiting, the apples will drop and - apart from the hardy winter vegetables such as cabbages and leeks - all produce will need to be protected somehow - either covered or picked and stored.
Winter is getting nearer.
I love the mix of having to busily plan the final jobs (picking and storing the beetroot, harvesting the apples, taking down the runner beans, processing the last tomatoes etc) and at the same time knowing that a time of quiet and rest is coming, and looking forward to it.
Winter also means shutting off the shed, letting the allotment rest, curling up in front of the fire with a freshly baked apple crumble and a blackberry wine. And perhaps next year's seed catalogue.
Winter is coming. ENJOY!
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Over the last few days I heard some shocking stories.
Stories from unemployed people who have to work 4-6 weeks at a time in Work Placements - not for pay but for continued Job Seekers Allowance.
The reasons given are that the work placement will "provide valuable experience which will look good on the CV" and that "it *might* lead to a proper paid job". But the paid job never comes. Instead the "trainee" is sent back to the job centre and a new "trainee" is brought in...
Essentially this creates a work force on extremely low "pay" which is not even paid by the employer but the tax payer, and the employers gets a work force for no cost to themselves.
That's madness! It's grossly unfair. How can we possibly allow this to happen?