Friday, 22 January 2010

The People In The Room

the people in the room the people in the street the people
hold everything dear

from Hold Everything Dear by Gareth Evans

We met at Tully and Angie's for our Strangers' Circle meeting last week and the subject was Food. What we ate, where we bought it and how we cooked it.

I baked a sourdough loaf for the supper. The flour was a mix: rye and spelt from Maple Farm in Suffolk and strong white untreated from Garboldisham mill in Norfolk, all organic. The bread was delicious. Tully and William tasted the strong white flour from the bag I'd brought with me to show everyone. "It's unlikely to be totally local," said Tully tactfully. And he is in the Bread, Beans, Oats group after all.

I'd assumed that everything was grown, harvested, milled and packed in Garboldisham. Doesn't it say that on the bag? Well no, not quite.

"I've just discovered you're easy to dupe," laughed Naomi.

So I called Adrian the miller the next day and told him I was part of a Transition group committed to bringing our personal carbon emissions down to half the national average by June and we'd been looking at food and was his strong white organic untreated flour local? It turns out that it isn't but that his supplier sources from as near as possible whenever possible and 70-80% of the wheat in the flour is British and much of that from Essex, Norfolk and Lincolnshire, where it is also milled. Was the rest Canadian (the flour makes very good bread)? No, but some came from Norway and Turkestan.

So what about my organic oats? A similar situation. I felt the twinge of disappointment you feel when cherished beliefs turn out to be untrue. Suddenly my totally sustainable low food miles bread and breakfast was looking less than one hundred percent perfect. But I wasn't going to diss the whole outfit just because of that. And I wasn't going to stop going to the local health store in Beccles where I like the people and want them to keep in business. So unless Garboldisham mill becomes a supermaket chain, I shall keep eating their oats.


"What's at the centre of permaculture?" asked Graham, pointing to a diagram of three overlapping circles.
"Life," I called out.
Mmmhh, kind of.
"The cosmos," said Jenny.
"The earth," that was Paul.
"Us," said Netta.
"That's right, it begins with you, said Graham."
"I said that right at the beginning," Gemma whispered to me. "No one heard me."

It used to be that permaculture started at one, our immediate environment, the 'end of your nose' as co-originator Bill Mollison says, and moved out from there in concentric circles. Then the zero was introduced and it began with the individual. Recently in some circles (sic) this has become zero zero or the group. For our final exercise last weekend we formed groups of four and began to design the library courtyard in Bungay based on what we'd learned in the last two days, together.

But beyond learning new skills and ways of doing things what are we all doing meeting up in these rooms? If real sustainability starts with us that means building sustainable relationships. It means we begin with the people in the room. The small changes we make, the small gestures that don't appear on flip charts or diagrams and yet mean everything. The moment when Gemma gave me the key to her house so I wouldn't have to wait around between the end of the day and supper there that evening, when Josiah shared his lunch with me (cheese sandwiches from bread he'd baked with Ellie's homemade damson chutney - delicious!) so I didn't have to go to the shops for it. The moment a smile takes.

Tonight all the bloggers on the TN blog are meeting up for our first 'blog-in'. I'm looking forward to going up with Charlotte on the train and seeing Jane who's picking us up with Andy at the station. And meeting everyone at John's house in Little Melton including his cat (and his woodburning stove!) and sharing supper. We're going to be talking about everything that happened in this blog since it first began four months ago. Zero Zero. Holding Everything Dear.

(And all the best to Tully who starts his first full blogging week on Monday).

William, Mark, Charlotte, Elena, Tully and Naomi in Shotesham, with 'Garboldisham' flour and Elena's Christmas cake, photo by Angie Wakeman

Gemma, Mark and Josiah in Bungay, photo by Nick Watts

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