One of our Community Champions, Ankhra, reflects on what being environmental means to her…
Memoirs of another age
Winter was different when I was growing up, not to be dreaded for the cold but almost celebrated. My grandparents started to prepare for it in the late summer by gathering apples from their orchard and storing them in the darkness and cold of the garden shed. Root vegetables were stored there too. They grew most of their own vegetables and fruit. Organic was the normal way things were then. The generation who’d lived through war knew how to make do and mend. Wartime rationing, after all, didn’t cease until around 1955.
I used to go round to my grandparents house several times a week. When October came with it’s blustery promise of the winter ahead the big back room in their house would be closed off and houseplants moved to warmer rooms. An open coal fire heated the front room, which was smaller, and granny had a range in the kitchen where most conversations took place. The kitchen table was a wonderful place to put life’s problems in perspective with the aid of granny’s wisdom. Food was home cooked and I remember sneaking in to the kitchen for an extra morsel of plum pie trying not to get caught. Food was stored in a pantry, as we didn’t have a fridge or a freezer. Jam was home made and delicious. There were corner shops where you got your groceries, meat and fish. Supermarkets in their current form didn’t exist. There were no plastic bags or food wrapped in plastic and you simply took your own basket to the grocers. It was a gentler age and one where consuming was less important.
At Christmas the big back room would be opened for two days and grandfather would light a huge coal and wood fire to heat it. I used to decorate the Christmas tree with granny on Christmas eve. We all used to stay at my grandparents house for Christmas. If I pleaded and was good I got to stay in the big pink room, which looked on to the garden, and a stone hot water bottle was put in my bed to heat it up. I used to love waking up in that room as it was so light and grown up with it’s beautiful and ornate dressing table in the corner and satin bedspread. It was the bedspread my granny had been given as a wedding gift from an uncle. Thick and warm I snuggled under it and drifted off to sleep. The bedrooms weren’t heated but I never felt cold.
While I don’t long for that past age, I’m glad I experienced it. Today we consume more and more and the impact on the earth is concerning. Indeed in the West we consume enough for three planets not one! Our love of pre-packed and plastic is killing many species. Our ecosystem, which is like a spiders web of support for the earth, and us, is breaking down. In the reality poisoning food and water with chemicals is impacting on us.
What can we do? As individuals we can take a step back to some of the ways of a past age and still have our technology. We can be mindful of what we buy and the waste we produce. Using less pre-packed and plastic products and cooking more fresh food will help. We can produce less waste, compost and recycle what we can. We can start to buy products that don’t harm the earth or us. We can use garden space to grow vegetables. If we buy new electrical products we can choose those that save energy. We can walk more and drive less, which is better for our health. We can switch off lights in empty rooms and ensure dripping taps are fixed. We can insulate our homes to conserve energy and look at the grants available. Little things do matter. Will you join us and help the earth?
Ankhra is one of the Himalayan Centre for Art & Culture’s Community Champions. This team raises awareness about climate change in Leith. Ankhra joined the project in order to help make Leith a greener and healthier place for all to enjoy. She will be leading healthy walks in Leith for community members and running Home Energy Drop in sessions in Leith as well. She has also created an ECO Game for the project which will soon be available as an engagement tool, to help people become more aware of their carbon footprints.