from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Saturday, 24 March 2012

fingernail moon and chip oil dilemmas

Oh the joy of having a camera again! This is a picture of jubilation:


Slim hammock moon slung in Aries in the west. Jupiter and Venus are dancing further apart now. It's dimpsey, and Dog and I are strolling along the footpath by the brook. Spring scents the air. There's a metallic clamour of pheasant as the cock who picks his way delicately up our track to peck around beneath the bird-seeder every morning is caught out in a low roosting spot; drops to the ground and repeatedly throws himself at the squares of the sheep mesh, as the young lambs were doing the wrong side of the fence earlier today. Ash and I drop back (not her instigation – she's very interested in pheasant) to give him a chance to collect what wits he might have and finally remember he can fly.

Below on the brook I'm in time to catch a splash and ripple, but not in time to see in the dusk what's caused the splash, and the vees of the bow-wave and wake – not a bird and too big for a water vole. I so hope it's an otter – I do on occasion see what I think is otter spraint (spelling?) beside the path.

An hour or two ago a couple of miles away the seagulls on a newly-ploughed red-soil field had been joined by a flock of birds I couldn't identify. I was driving past and they were at a distance, but they were small-goose/large-duck sized, but entirely white bar some black on their heads (and definitely neither gulls nor lapwings/plovers). I can't think what they could have been. Any ideas?

So many flowers. Marsh marigolds on Simon's little pond. White and lilac periwinkles. Thousands of primroses and celandines. The first bluebells, the first windflowers (wood anemones). White and purple violets.

I could tell without even opening the blinds this morning that the wind was in the east. There's a very particular quality of light to an easterly – both sharp and glittery, and hazy at the same time. The moors were eclipsed by a haze-veil, and the light this afternoon, as the sun was setting, was exquisite: diffuse, rosy-apricot.


So satisfying, eating a meal made almost entirely from ingredients grown, foraged for or baked by oneself: home-made spelt bread with nuts (bought flour and nuts), and a thick soup made from wild garlic, wild sorrel, nettle, our leeks and potatoes, and the very last of our dried flageolet beans ('Soissons', I think, in case you're interested). Completely delicious.


Dilemma. Horns of. I live in the sticks; I've always lived in the sticks; I intend to continue doing so. Until very recently I was only ever a tenant, and that suited me well – living in astonishing and beautiful places that I could never afford to buy (now I live in the barn converted by TM). 
     Pluses: I don't get dragged into what my sister calls the 'noise and the nonsense'; nor the fads and trends; nor the whole thing of 'retail therapy' (grim phrase and concept). Peace, silence from machines, rushrushrush. From smog and light pollution. From the continual sense that there is somewhere to get to and it's not here. From being caught up in that psychic projection of collective babbling (got enough of my own, thanks). What a privilege. Can grow own food, and do. Can simply walk out of door and be amongst wild things. 
     Minuses: no public transport. Have to have a car – next to industry perhaps the greatest contribution to environmental degradation. Freedom of access to whatever whenever wherever comes at a cost: wrecking the earth. Plus there's a cost to our psychological wellbeing: restlessness and dissatisfaction with where one is, with the simplicity of staying home and making one's own entertainment, with the fact that we know our world doesn't stop at the next village and we demand the right to make sure it doesn't. Expectations. 
     BIG struggle for me: cause of continual chronic low-level guilt and concern, recently brought to acute by the fact that my old green workhorse of a Peugeot has been burning vast quantities of oil and belching thick blue smoke. I'm an environmentalist, a Green Party candidate this time last year, a champion of the unadulterated unspoilt unpolluted wild places etc. – makes me want to wear a paperbag over my head each time I drive out so no one can identify the driver as me – she who fights pollution etc. I do try to use my car absolutely minimally and combine everything into one hit, but since I have an ailing father plus a daughter the other side of the moor to visit, and though much of my work takes place at home some doesn't, it seems impossible to get by without one.
     So the last few weeks I have been going over the diesel versus petrol argument (there's not the slightest chance, now or in the imaginable future, that I could afford a hybrid car to plug into our green energy supply). 
     We've been running in great measure on recycled chip oil, filtered and thinned with a turps equivalent. I haven't had the Peugeot converted, which means that in the winter the chip oil is too thick and viscous to ignite properly, so I run usually 50/50, with 75/25 in the summer. Chip oil has not been grown for fuel, is not of course contributing to fossil fuel extraction, and creates apparently no more emissions than the original plant material degrading would do. However, it's probably the use of chip oil that's responsible for the seals having blown (and the fact that the car has done over 200,000 miles). TM has had a conversion, but nonetheless he's recently had a lot of trouble with the chip oil, resulting in a very expensive clean-out of the tank and replacement expensive glow-plugs.
     Thing is, Mr Diesel built the engine to run on corn oil. Should be OK; but it ain't. So: back to diesel which, even more modern cleaner diesel, is a particulate pollutant, and it's that that's partly responsible for the FPP – fine particle pollution – or smog – one sees hanging over our cities as a low belt of cloud in fine weather. It's also responsible, at least in part, for ill health, such as asthma. But if you buy a diesel car you comsume less fossil fuel per mile, or km; but your emissions are worse. On the other hand, you can run – illegally – on straight veg oil plucked from the supermarket shelves – unless the car is newer than about 12 years old. 
     Then there's the argument about biofuel – crops grown specifically for powering diesel engines – which is also not a sustainable answer, as it uses land that could produce food, not fuel cars.
     But the petrol engine can only run on fossil fuel; and does less to the gallon, or litre – depending on the engine capacity.
     The only green answer is to not own a car, not see family, not travel anywhere to work without the major hassle of getting non-existent or partial public transport to link up – usually an impossibility from here.
     So you can see my dilemma. 
     However, I have broken into my meagre savings and am now the owner of a petrol, low-cc, ten-year-old Golf which is cleanish, in terms of emissions, and looks like it should do a reasonable mpg. 
     And a pushbike. I have a pair of legs, too.


And that's worn my braincell out. So not this time for the issue of sex trafficking, predominantly of Asian and African women, in Ireland (did you know that prostitution is illegal in Norway and Sweden?); nor for the insidious, increasing and highly repressive/regressive infringements on civil liberties in terms of criminalisation of groups of people gathering in peaceful protest in the UK – this was a significant clause slipped in, like the illegality of living in your own mobile home on your own land, amongst hundreds of clauses in the Criminal Justice Bill in the mid-90s – no one seemed to notice at the time, though many of us attending meetings at Glastonbury Festival in 1994 tried our best to shout about it; and now it is truly upon us. But you could check out Laurie Penny in; and Robert Webb, ditto.

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