For many people, change is a threat, because it means you have to abandon comfortable habits and learn to live with unfamiliar ones.
For others it is a challenge which many feel ill-equipped to manage and for many who have lost property and livelihoods, as in the recent catastrophic bush fires, it can be traumatic.
But change is an inevitable feature of life, and if we embrace it, rather than shun it, we can actually find the challenge is truly beneficial.
I was 3 years old when WWII broke out in 1939. We were enjoying a late summer holiday in the Isle of Wight, and within a very short time after we returned home, the car was laid up in the garage, not to be driven again until 1946!
For those who are unfamiliar with the UK, relative to its population size, the country is too small to provide for all everyday needs. The extent to which food, raw materials and fuel is imported is significant, and both their import and the export of manufactured products is necessarily by sea.
Not much of an option when you are at war with a country which is besieging your waters with U-boats and gunships.
We imported much of our beef from Argentina, lamb from Australia and New Zealand – as well as butter and cheese and some moderate climate fruits like apples and pears, while tropical fruits, plus tomatoes came largely from more exotic lands which were generally current or former parts of the British Empire.
Cotton for the mills in Lancashire came largely from India, as did tea, and, while coffee was not yet as common a beverage as it is nowadays, the coffee beans were definitely imported.
Wool for the Yorkshire mills was partly homegrown but well supplemented from Antipodean sheep.
In consequence, with the high seas in turmoil, our manufacturing efforts were largely redirected to the war effort, women took the place of men in the factories, we all tightened our belts and learned to live with food rationing, clothing coupons and general shortages.
Civilians could not buy petrol for personal travel use and, even as restriction eased at the end of the war, it was rationed.
Throughout the war, apart from the bottles of fresh milk delivered to schools for daily consumption, both milk and eggs were largely presented as a dried product. And while the war might have been declared over in 1945, we continued to have supplies limited by rationing right up to 1951.
I remember my wardrobe was limited to school uniform, something old to change into after school, to help the uniform last longer, and something good to wear to church on Sundays – or to such other special occasion which might arise.
If, as children, we had a growing spurt, and out-grew our uniform, we had to be measured up to prove the fact before we could ger extra clothing coupons
Parties, even birthday parties, were incredibly rare because you could not save up enough food coupons to cater for too many visitors.
Believe it or not, this has its positive aspect! Because such events were rate and required careful planning, we often knew about them weeks or months in advance and the excitement derived from anticipation was often greater than the enjoyment of the event itself!
We used to shop at the same dairy/grocery store every week, and once in a while the owner, if it was quiet in the shop, would pull out from under the counter a jar of something rarely available, like, say, strawberry jam, and ask my mother “Would you like one of these Mrs Melville?” (Did you know that was where the “under the counter” phrase originated?)
I think many shortages were less in country areas, where the farmers ran sheep and cows as well as keeping chickens and ducks, while growing crops like wheat, hay and potatoes for sale or for stock feed. They were clearly able to provide much of their own food requirements and sell the surplus.
In 1947, we spent 3 weeks of our summer holiday in rented rooms in a farmhouse in North Wales. It was a revelation! The first time we went to the village store, my mother spotted jars of jam and marmalade in full sight on the display shelves and, very tentatively, asked if she could have a jar of marmalade. With a lovely lilting Welsh accent, the shopkeeper said “Of course, my dear! Have as many as you want!”
Because my sister had been very ill and our doctor recommended that she have a holiday away from city life with unlimited fresh air (we still burned coal in open fires in those days, hence the famous smogs!) we had been able to get the necessary extra petrol coupons to enable us to make the trip.
In those days, of course, there was no television, because of food rationing, all cafes were closed and few hotels were operating, so eating out was not an option. On a long journey you took your own food and drink to picnic on. You also had to make your own entertainment and my siblings and I all learned to play the piano.
While this may all sound very austere, and my parents would have been very conscious of the loss of the amenities to which they had been accustomed, for me it was all ‘normal’ as it was all I had ever known – although my older brother and sister might have noticed the changes more than I did.
We lived in a dormitory suburb to the west of London about 8 km closer to London than then London Airport – now Heathrow. The famous English highwayman Dick Turpin reportedly rode his equally famous horse Black Beth on Hounslow Heath long before we learned, in 1940, to distinguish between the sound of an RAF plane engine and a Messerschmitt while the Battle of Britain was fought overhead.
The Doodlebugs came later and the distinctive sound associated with them was the silence when the engine cut out, and in that ensuing silence, we tried to work out how far from our location it would drop like a stone.
One I remember very clearly because we had all been in the back garden when it droned over. We rushed indoors, shutting behind us the back door – which opened inwards. When the blast hit us, it blew the door open and shook the house. I would have been 8 or 9 then.
I am waffling on with these old memories because I am trying to make the point that having to make drastic changes to our lifestyle because we are at war is not all bad news.
We know we have to make adjustments in order to cope with significantly changed conditions.
And it is totally relevant to refer to wartime, because we are now at war – at least nature has declared was on us because we stupidly ignored all the warnings and carried on the good life.
Now we must scramble to make up for lost time, but if you look up Mike Hudema on Twitter, you will find a never-ending catalogue of inventions which will enable us to generate renewable energy and collect pure water from the atmosphere – two necessary adjuncts of a reasonably comfortable lifestyle. All we have to do is put these ideas into production – and there is a source of employment waiting to happen.
Those of us who have been able to have rooftop solar for electricity supply know that the capital outlay is quite rapidly recouped.
For many of us, growing our own vegetables and herbs in the garden or in pots on the balcony is viable. And there is something very satisfying about our connection with the planet in these pursuits.
If we had a halfway intelligent government, all these things and more would already be underway.
Parents are often far from popular with their children because they limit the child’s freedom by enforcing discipline. But once the children have matured to the point that they understand what underlay the discipline, they appreciate the love and care behind it.
In the same way, a government which actually cares about the future of the population, can pass laws that cause grumbles and groans, but when it can be seen that the restrictions on waste and pollution and the promotion of protection of the environment and all other living creatures are in fact beneficial, then the grumbles die down.
If we do not now commence serious action to reduce emissions, as well as limiting population growth, and do all that is necessary to prevent inexorable global warming, then life on this – our only Planet – will become unbearable.
I end as always – this is my Resolution:
“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”
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