If there was a blackout could I survive?

I have pasted below details of a chat on twitter around community and food (two of my favourite subjects) which was prompted by the programme Blackout. Could we survive? Would people really behave like that? What would we do? 

  1. Steph Clarke ‏@Essitam9 Sep
  2. Where’s the scenes of community coming together? Because they would, there’s always people willing to do good #blackout
  3. Karen Strunks ‏@karenstrunks9 Sep
  4. @Essitam that was horrendous! The only hint of community was the old lady staying in the flat downstairs. The rest were animals
  5. Steph Clarke ‏@Essitam9 Sep@karenstrunks it was an awful portrayal of society. We’re not all monsters.
  6. Coral Musgrave ‏@travellingcoral9 Sep
  7. @Essitam @karenstrunks I agree in my terrace we would support each other i am sure. well we all have keys! and veg and lentils and rice.
  8. Karen Strunks ‏@karenstrunks
  9. @travellingcoral @Essitam it would be very interesting to see who helped who. Just remembered a gas camping stove in the cupboard! 🙂
    1. @karenstrunks @travellingcoral in case of #blackout l I’ve already proposed a massive street party to use up all the perishable foods 😀

    2. @karenstrunks @Essitam pretty sure in my terrace we could cobble something together as we have logs and open fire and they have veg
    3. @Essitam If someone hasn’t syphoned my petrol, I’m coming to your street party! 😀 @travellingcoral

This led me to think about the food I have in the house and whether, like Steph I could plan my meals around what I already have.

Coral Musgrave ‏@travellingcoral9 Sep

the irony is that most of us have enough in store cupboard to make a basic meal if there really was a blackout. #blackout

Steph Clarke ‏@Essitam9 Sep

@travellingcoral I’ve done food calender for this week using what I have in the house. All I needed to buy in was mushrooms.

Coral Musgrave ‏@travellingcoral9 Sep

@Essitam wow that is organised! i need to do a food audit

And of course I invited A Girl Called Jack into the conversation.

A Girl Called Jack ‏@MsJackMonroe9 Sep

  1. @travellingcoral tinned toms essential! 🙂
    A Girl Called Jack retweeted you
  2. 9 Sep:

    if i sent @MsJackMonroe a list of my store cupboard she’d feed a family for a month (may need to stock up on tinned toms) #blackout

The food audit has taken me a couple of days to complete and I am sure there is some things I have missed out. I was shocked at just how much I have. I consider myself good at cooking on a budget, shop almost daily for basics like milk and bread and cook low cost meals, stretching the chicken from Sunday dinner to chicken pie on Monday and make stock with the carcass for soup for lunch for the rest of the week. I hate food waste. I have taken up the Live Below the Line Challenge and have writting about surviving on £53 a week.

Yet I am hanging my head in shame. If you are interested the list is here.

Too much food is clutter.  I have written elsewhere about my mission to simplfy my life by getting rid of stuff that I don’t need and why I need to declutter. I am not saying we don’t need food, of course we do, but buying food because it is on offer and then not using it is wrong and wasteful. It is clear to me that I need to plan better and only buy what we need.

I have this week started to plan around the food list.

Yesterday I used up some of the vegetables and passatta left over from when we made pizza on Saturday. I had a half pack of pasta, so all I bought was 500g of mince, used half of it,  and made this. The rest of the mince will be for another meal later this week.

Pasta with leftovers

Today I bought some potatoes and we will have sausage from the freezer, use some of the fresh veg, with mash.

The carrots have been made into a soup for lunches this week, using up stock made with the chicken from Sunday.

Perishables are the priority as the street party isn’t going to happen unless we really do have a national disaster.

And it looks like I need to find ways of using all that pasta, rice and lentils. And buy some tinned tomatoes.

What would you cook?

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Why did you Live Below the Line?

This week many of you reading this will have participated in Live Below the Line or know of someone who has. The challenge is to live on £1 per day for all food and drink. Some are living on nasty value sausages, cheap bread and forgoing tea and milk. Others, who are more used to eating well on a budget, have had a much more healthy and varied diet. Many are tweeting and blogging about it. Some are good, such as A Year Without Supermarkets and some are dire. I won’t name and shame them.

I am not participating. Not because I don’t care about those that have no choice to live on less than a quid a day, it is because I think the message about food poverty is being lost. There are millions in the world who live below the line every day including people in developed countries such as the USA and the UK. Thousands in the UK are now relying on food banks. Read how this happens to educated, hardworking people here.

I am already bored with reading tweets about how LBLers miss caffeine, withdrawal is kicking in or that going without butter is such a hardship. They chose to do this, for five days. Others have no choice and live like this for five weeks of five months. Most LBLers still have a roof over their head and can afford a smart phone that enables them to tweet every sip of water. What is more they are digitally engaged enough to know how to. People in poverty are often not digital natives. Yet when universal credit rolls out, applications have to be made on line. No job, no PC, where do you go to register then? Library, ah, the one that has been closed or has reduced hours because of budget cuts. Who is going to help you to register and claim?  Library staff? Those too have been reduced? Are you sure you want a complete stranger to see your personal financial information?

Great, raise money by living below the line. But get angry too.

Get angry about food poverty. When supermarkets throw food away and carrots are rejected for not being perfectly straight.

Get angry that over 400 people died in a fire in Bangladesh. A factory that makes cheap clothing so the all consuming First Worlders can have new top to go out in on Friday night. The people who died would be living below the line despite having jobs. They will have children who are now possibly orphans and homeless and hungry. That t shirt for a fiver costs more than those that died making it had to feed themselves on. How does that make you feel?

Get angry.

Can you share too much?

Or is that what social media is all about?

A few months back a Facebook friend sent me a DM saying  ‘no offence but I am having to un friend you, your posts fill up my time line too much’.  I met this person way before the days of Facebook. She wasn’t a close friend but she lives near me and we have volunteered on the same project and we once shared an employer. I wasn’t offended, just a tad surprised. Did I really share too much on Facebook? Do I retweet too often?Did I annoy anyone else? Well if I do, I am sorry and please go ahead and un friend/follow me too.

Then this happens:

A Facebook and real life friend acknowledged me in her self published book, Going it Alone at 40: How I survived my first year of self employment for ‘services to sharing and retweeting’. She even calls me the Queen of Sharing, and she means that in a good way.

We see social media as an opportunity to share information and knowledge. We both help out at social media surgeries and attend the monthly Social Media Cafe in Birmingham organised by the wonderful Karen Strunks.

I have documented my social media journey in other blogs so I won’t go over old ground. If you are interested, you know what to do.

All I will add is that all the friends I have made in the past year, who I meet with regularly, go on trips to Malvern with, go to supper with, meet at a Street Food events, and those who came to my birthday bash, I met via social media first.

Happy sharing!

A totally locally Christmas

So it’s over. That was Christmas and I think it was a good one. Just the four of us yet for some reason I thought it necessary to cook beef, turkey and a goose. As ever Queen Delia rescued me, as her Christmas book covers all three, and with two ovens and a lot of juggling and a microwave that also functions as a convection oven I got there. Of course, it’s so much easier if you have men to cook the meat on a Weber, as per last year in Melbourne.

A few years back when I had a stressful, busy, corporate life I bought all the Christmas food from Marks and Spencer, all pre prepared. Then Aldi came into my life. I now have palpitations at the prices in any of the big supermarket chains. I need to say it now, it costs so much less and I do not compromise on quality.

The turkey and the goose were free range and English. The beef was British. All the veg was from the UK too. I made pickled red cabbage and bread sauce, glazed carrots, sprouts with pancetta and without and everything was bought on my local high street. And no petrol was used to procure these items. So I reckon it’s not just been a locally bought Christmas but a green one too. We did wheel the supermarket trolley home, as that was easier than dragging heavy bags. What we need is a Melbourne Market Jeep.

We all agree to buy presents from lists, so we get what we really want and need, instead of piles of tat that clutters our lives. This means we don’t get into debt by falling into the Christmas trap of spending for spending sake. I bought three hampers of homemade goodies from Maidens Fayre, again most ingredients were locally sourced and I’m supporting a local mumpreneur. We still get little surprises, such as keyring torches courtesy of corporate rebranding, Hobbit Related goodies from our lovely friends in New Zealand and a beautiful china tea set from a new friend who I met though the Four Week Shopping Locally Challenge. And this years Christmas crackers were cracking!

So despite my brother related meltdown moment on Christmas Eve, I’m pretty sure that my nearest and dearest had a good day. All rounded off with Dr Who.

Oh, and I got twitter earrings!

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The 30 minute blog

Distracted moi?

Ok I am a procrastinator who doesn’t seem to get much done although I am busy all day.  I am a the Friends character Monica with a Phoebe rising, or the other way round, I am not sure. I want to be a better writer, so I am experimenting with the 30 minute blog.  Yesterdays blog took  up most of my day and nothing else got done. I had heard about the Pomodoro method and I thought, hey I will try that for my to do list and to blog is on that list. So in front of me is a timer set to 30 minutes and when it pings, I will publish.

Thinking smarter or faster?

So I have to think fast and not waste time looking for the perfect picture, as that sees to be what took up most of my time yesterday. Or too many links. Less typos perhaps. And not strive for perfection.

Facebook eats into my life too much

The day started with me ranting at a post on my Facebook timeline from Lorraine, queen of day time TV. I know its not her posting, but you know it really irritates me that it is all about not having bingo wings and the perfect Christmas dress. I rarely watch the programme, I think morning TV is a distraction we don’t need, and when I do I am dismayed to find that it is really all about making women feel worse about them selves. The men just watch to lech at Lorraine. Maybe I will watch it tomorrow and count how many times they say perfect. Let that eat into my time instead of my Facebook and twitter timeline.

Social Media is better than watching the news

It is, really it is. It is often on twitter before the tellybox anyhow if something major happen. Yesterday there was a big explosion and fire at a factory in Langley. A FB friend  lives close by and reported that it had happened, after calling the fire brigade. I knew more about the situyation form her and later tweets from the various news stream I follow on twitter that I would hav done from the telly box.  I also know that Larry Hagman had died before it was on the radio of TV.  And I like that it is short and headlines not subtext. If I want to find out more, I can, but hey I’m a headline person.

The explosion meant…

My husband works in Crosswells Road for the Special Library Service delivering books to the housebound. He was telephone to say they had had to evacuate the building so he went to Thimblemill Library for the rest of the day. It meant he couldn’t take the van back or bring our car home which had the coal in it for our fire. But that was a minor inconvenience.

For the people who lived nearby, the fire meant they had to spend the night in temporary accommodation, not knowing if they had a home or car to go back to. I know this because my FB friend  (another one I have also met in real life) reported this. She knows her car is a write off. She is not sure what state her house will be in. She is also a local Labour Councillor and while she was upset and afraid, what struck me was that she cancelled all her appointments, not just because she had a lot of stuff to deal with, but to support the local residents. I know her and I am sure she has personally visited everyone to see what she can do to help. That is humanity. I would have her in my corner anytime.

Seven minutes on the clock. 633 words. And that is all folks.

The #4amproject

What is the 4 am project?

I first heard of the 4 am project over a year ago. I had started following @karenstrunks on twitter via people I had met at Social Media Surgeries. Karen had been driving home one night at 4 am and it had struck her how different the world looks at that time. The idea for the project was born.

Made in Birmingham

This is now a global project but it all started here in Birmingham in 2008. Social media has enabled us to play a part in building a global picture of the world at 4am.

My involvement

I met with Karen at one of the monthly Social Media Cafes she organises in Birmingham.  I have been on a bit of a mission to actually meet people I met first through twitter and she was on the list. Her blogs are brilliant and she is a real enabler in so many ways. The next 4 am project was coming up and she persuaded me to join in.

Street furniture

When I attended Planning Camp I learnt a lot about street furniture. So it seems has Winchester.

The decline of the high street

This was the theme  of my first contribution to the 4 am project. I had got involved with the Portas Pilot bid for Bearwood and I had started noticing the empty shops more and also the general neglect of what is essentially community space. I wrote a bit about it on my blog Post Travelling Blues. I called it litter and light.

Litter and Light

We chose a different location for the 4am project this time and we knew it would be interesting to see the contrast between Bearwood in Sandwell and Winchester in Hampshire. There were some common themes, again in litter and light.

Turn off the lights?

It was shocking to see how many empty shops in Bearwood had lights left on all night. The wast is shameful. Yet in Winchester we found that so many of the Building Societies and shops also left not the odd one of two lights on but loads of them blazing away. From a security point of view there may be valid reasons to do this, yet the waste of power appalls me.

Things really look different at 4am

They really do. Looking at the photographs today a few things struck me. I had walked past this shop in daylight (well gloomy rain filled light ) earlier and never noticed this display. Now all I can see is legs and handbags.

Or this one.

The once busy pubs were all shut up and chairs on top of tables.

Yet here there was a whole team of staff laying tables at 4am.

Who would have seen this in the daylight?

And what a gloomy, dirty and neglected bus station for such a beautiful city.

Yet again, I was glad I was not waiting for a bus…..

Friends. The other one about Social Media.

Batu Caves Thaipusam 2007

Just over a year ago I started following two people on twitter. Very different people. One was @JDEntrepreneur the other @thevicarswife.

I liked the feisty tweets from @thevicarswife and really admire the work she and her extended household are doing in a very deprived area of Sandwell. Her blog is really brilliant. You can find it here.

When she knew I would be visiting Malaysia she invited me for tea at The Vicarage. I remember the day vividly. Her three children were in dressing up clothes jumping down the stairs. I immediately felt at home as much of my childhood was like this, when I wasn’t living up a tree! At the Vicarage there is always tea and lots of homemade cake. Yet it was four months later that I was able to realise the real value of the friendship.

I was in Kuala Lumparand hating it. Really hating it. Phil and I had joined a G Adventures tour travelling overland from Singapore to Bangkok. We’d been on the road for three months in first world countries so Malaysia was a bit of the shock to the system. There were some great people in the group. And one that everyone found difficult. Ugh Oh I shall call her. Our tour guide, Pong, had been mugged outside our horrible hotel. And the previous night we had eaten horrible food in a fake American bar. This wasn’t the Colours of Asia I had been expecting.

We had been to the Thaipusam festival in the Batu Caves. Phil, Kelly, Sean and I found it so disturbing we had fought back through the crowds, back on to an even more overcrowded train and gone back to the hotel. We were all exhausted and a bit teary. On top of the tension in the group caused by Ugh Oh, which was getting seriously difficult by then, the day had just about finished us off. So I tweeted @thevicarswife. ‘Help hating KL need authentic place to eat’. Within 30 minutes she had contacted her friends in KL and had a recommendation. Koon Kee’s Great Wonton on Petaling street. When we eventually found the place, and that is another story for another day, we had some wonderful food and the Carling Girl had never been so busy. That night, Two Dinners Sean, Phil and I began our baby saving mission in South East Asia. Thanks to @thevicarswife.

So how does @JDEntreneur fit in to all this. He intrigued me as a then 19 year ol entrepreneur. He said some daft things sometimes (who doesn’t) and I often picked him up on his grammar and spelling, yet one couldn’t deny that he was a hard worker, inspiring young people to set up businesses. This is his blog about social media. I would urge you to read his others, too.

And this is the conversation between us on twitter.

Jamie Dunn ‏@JDEntrepreneur

Got to write my next column for @Birminghammail tonight… listing some topics to cover. Anything you think should be added?!

Expand

@JDEntrepreneur @birminghammail supporting independent retailers, stalking tweeters? marketing and social media

@travellingcoral done. Have a read as I’ve mentioned our brief meeting!

5:37 PM – 14 Oct 12 · Details
I was that stalker person. Regular readers will know I like indie coffee shops with WiFi. I was visiting Brewsmiths near Snow Hill Station. It was the first time I had been there. Had no idea that Jamie Dunn ‏@JDEntrepreneur would be there. Turns out it was his first visit too. I recognised him from his blog and as he sat down I tweeted that he had just walked in, as you do. It was pure coincidence that we were both there on the same day. If you believe in coincidence. If nothing else it gave him inspiration for his blog about social media. And it was very funny to seem him looking around the cafe trying to work out who I was.
So who have you met first through twitter and then in real life? How did it go?

Friends. The one about Social Media

Over a year ago I blogged about how social media is a useful tool to keep in touch with friends. I was in Fowey and had hosted lunch for Cornish friends we had met in Turkey. Social media was the way we had kept in touch for a couple of years. Also at the lunch that day was a friend of my mom, then aged 77, had also met in Turkey and yes, kept in touch with via Facebook.

When I was travelling, being able to chat to my son on Christmas day via Facebook was one of the things that helped combat a rare, but extremely painful bout of homesickness. Indeed the iPad  was passed around the table and he had random conversations from our hosts family and friends.

Now back in the UK  Phil and I have stayed in contact with a few of the people we met on our travels. Through Facebook.

Barb and Pet who were brilliant hosts on Christmas day in Melbourne, who completely scuppered my Skipping Christmas plans.

Tim and Jo Ann in Wellington who we met in Northlands taking photos of this view. They casually suggested we could park on their property when were in Wellington before we crossed to the south Island. What they meant was, stay in our beautiful home and we will treat you to a slap up meal at Cocos, a film at The Roxy Cinema and a glimpse of all things Hobbiton, and a  few Oscars.  We are still pinching ourselves!

And of course the wonderfully warm and funny Sean and Kelly from the USA. Musical theatre as therapy in Thailand. Who knew? We saved a lot of babies on that trip and I did my fist duet in a karaoke bar because that Sean he is bad!

And now I am reflecting a lot on what I was doing this time last year and how my life is now.

All the friends I have made since retuning home have all been via social media. Through twitter I met people living in my neighbourhood via #BearBeers. Though Facebook I met so many lovely people on The Bearwood Page, mainly because of the bid to become a Portas Pilot.  These are not just Facebook friends. They are real friends. I have been out for meals and drinks  with them, had fabulous dinner parties in their homes. Even had one to stay at my house during renovations in her own home.

I would not have met any of these people if it were not for Facebook.

The downside is that I have encountered some trolls. They are not my Facebook friends, just keyboard cowards with narrow lives who will never be at my dinner table.  Interestingly the ones who are now in my life have all travelled further than the end of the road. Taken risks with their lives. Have a bigger picture of the world. And like good food. A bit like me really.

And that is why I guess they are my friends.