And so the third year of my online Journal draws to a close.
For us December is our month of celebrations, as it holds all our personal anniversaries as well as Christmas and Hogmanay. But this year there are both personal and less personal reasons to stop and look back … to pause and take stock before we move into the new year that lies before us.
The national (UK wide) situation is the worst it has been since the Tories took over the government in 2010. It has been 13 years of wage freezes, savage cuts to infrastructure spending, a widening of the gap between the deprived north and the well-funded south of the country, and the creation of more millionaires and billionaires than ever. Rich and poor now live in separate universes.
Overt and covert government policies have intentionally widened the gap. And Brexit, Covid and the war in Ukraine have together turned the gap into a growing chasm. When you have highly qualified teachers and nurses dependant on food banks, you are fools if you can’t see that you have led the country into disaster!
There is so much more to say about this past 13 years, but maybe this is not the place to contemplate the grim realities of 21st century Tory Britain. This is a more personal space ….
So how are we coping?
We find ourselves doing daily checks of electricity usage, and cutting back on using the dishwasher, oven, hobs … using slow cookers and the Instant Pot (pressure cooker) and microwave. Both washing machine and baths are closely monitored too. It feel like a return to the 1950s, something I never imagined!
Of course for us the bulk of our heating and hot water is oil-fired, and that has not been capped or controlled at all. Our last 6-monthly bill was 50% more expensive than the one before. That usage we cannot control, as winter started here in October, and 24/7 heating is essential in northern Scotland.
Food bills are ever increasing too. Regular grocery shopping costs roughly double what it cost a year ago. Petrol for the car too. There is nothing that has not seen a huge cost increase. And as pensioners we cannot add to our income to compensate. The picture is bleak as we survey the month that should see us celebrating.
Together Mike and I keep ourselves alert to the outside world, and engaged with world and national events … but try to keep a perspective that will allow for us to laugh and enjoy our time together living in such a quiet, rural and beautiful part of the world. Every sunrise and sunset, seen from a garden that is full of plants, bushes, and trees … and equally full of birds and insects. A regular shopping trip that takes through beautiful countryside. There is much to value and enjoy!
For me it is the creative world of photography and painting that keeps me optimistic and gives me most enjoyment. If I can create an image that makes me smile, that takes skill and thoughtfulness, and reflects the world around me … then I am content.
The month began with us remembering last December, when Storm Arwen devastated large swathes of Aberdeenshire. We learnt valuable lessons from 6 days without power in the freezing cold.
This December we checked our emergency generator, power banks, stores of calor gas, coal and logs … we were determined not to be caught out again! This year it was a 10-day deep freeze that we were treated to! Temperatures down to -10c, and sunshine that melted the surface snow enough to freeze solid again overnight. Eventually we decided we had to fight our way into the cars, to run the engines for a while. Two days of chipping away at the ice got us into them … and we have kept them as frost free as we can ever since!
December was also a time to remember our losses. The funeral for David, my brother, was held in the middle of the month. We could only attend remotely, but modern connectivity allowed to watch the service. Even at a distance it was moving.
And so the year ends, and we turn our eyes towards the new year. This year I admit to feelings of anxiety, and even dread, as I wonder what lies in store for us in 2023. With a government hanging on with a deadly grip, doing nothing to improve the situation that they have created, yet stubbornly refusing to call a general election … things look to get worse!
And so on to 2023, and the year turns
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