I’m sitting here, toasty warm…

…snow on the ground, sky thick with nasty needly little flakes that are more like hail. The heating’s on in the background but not blasting away; the conservatory’s wrapped in bubblewrap and the curtains & quilted blinds have stayed shut in the rooms that aren’t in use today. And I’ve been out and about with my camera, in my wonderful secondhand felted-wool coat (best bargain ever! If not exactly cheap…) my long-deceased great-aunt’s sheepskin gloves, my sturdy secondhand North Face boots, my 20p-at-a-jumble-sale handknitted wool jumper in shades of red & pink, and an assortment of other unlikely garments. I probably look like a small round ball of random vintage textiles but I’m warm, dry & happy!

Our local market was open for business this morning; many of the traders had travelled for miles to get here but sadly most of their customers hadn’t bothered, so I scooped up some excellent bargains. Stallholders pay for their stalls in advance, and run the risk of losing advantageous pitches if they don’t turn up; customers don’t run such immediate risks but may find their favourite stallholders have gone away or even gone under if they don’t support their efforts whenever possible. However, it really isn’t a day for driving if you don’t have to; luckily it’s an easy walk for me and my (reclaimed) shopping trolley, given sturdy weatherproof boots. And I do have the space to preserve & store my bargains.

We have enough supplies stashed away to coast through several weeks if necessary, but many people aren’t able to store much food, or even proper clothing for bad weather. A few years back, when I was working in sheltered housing, I was blowing my top about elderly tenants trotting off to the shops in the snow & ice in woefully inadequate clothing – high-heeled boots, thin tights, plastic raincoats, no hats or gloves – when one of them stopped me in my tracks by enquiring, “Where would we keep clothing for weather we hardly ever get? And where could we store extra food so we didn’t have to go out?” It was all too true; their “flats” were glorified bedsits with an alcove for a bedroom, a tiny living room and a kitchenette so small you had to choose between a proper cooker (as opposed to a microwave) or a storage cupboard. Adequate, perhaps, if you  lived a very active & social lifestyle so you didn’t need any room for, say, a sewing machine, or books, or could afford to spend all your winters on the Spanish Costas, as indeed many had envisaged when they moved into them 20 years before, as soon as their kids had flown the nest. Home was just somewhere to sleep, TV would take care of all your entertainment needs if you couldn’t get out, and there was always Meals on Wheels…

I do love the Tiny Houses that you see online, and many of them have roots that go back a long way, to a far more self-reliant & mobile lifestyle; the gypsy caravans, shepherd’s huts & narrowboats, the converted buses & railway carriages. You can make a home and a life almost anywhere, and a good one, without a lot of space, if you’re happy not to put down roots. And it’s very easy to accumulate far too much stuff; stuff that acts as an anchor, so that you can never spread your sails to the winds of Fate without being swamped. But equally, it’s possible to throw the baby out with the bathwater and not have enough space to store the things you really do need, even if you don’t need them all the time. I know I err on the side of having too much (which I’m constantly battling against) and that occasionally, in extreme cases of hoarding, this can prove fatal. But that’s not as likely as crashing your car  as you rush to the supermarket in the snow because you have nothing in to feed the kids, or slipping & breaking a hip on the ice because Meals on Wheels couldn’t get through, and you have no sensible footwear because you have nowhere to keep it…


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