Oil or Nothing

On the face of it to us proles, it seems like a wonderful, unexpected gift that oil prices have fallen to such an extent. We take our vehicles to the pumps and Whoopee! The price of filling up to the brim has dropped like a brick in a mine shaft.

It doesn’t stop there. Prices of things, dependent on transport costs are also down. Hoorah! Rejoice! This leaves more cash in the pocket. We can travel further, travel more often, buy more stuff, throw old stuff away, make journeys we don’t need to, buy new, bigger vehicles and use more fuel. This is all marvellous…isn’t it?

Actually, while I am as pleased as anyone else at how cheap it has become to fuel the car, I have to confess to feeling uneasy about the falling petrol prices. Yes, we are all enjoying the benefits, but when the price of petrol and oil was prohibitive who didn’t rein in accordingly? There can be few ordinary people who didn’t count the cost of superfluous journeys or make other, thriftier arrangements for regular travel. During a particularly expensive period of fuel prices and shortages when I was still travelling for work I car-shared. Since then I’ve made every attempt to get to places by bike or on foot.

During the recession people bought less ‘stuff’. They made do. They decided they didn’t need the gargantuan flat-screen TV, the new Land Rover or the bespoke kitchen. They could fling a colourful throw over the tired sofa, buy a cheerful rug to cover the worn carpet and make the ten-year-old hatchback do the school run a bit longer. It was bad news for the retailers of course, but if it had continued, wouldn’t new, re-conditioning industries have sprung up? Years ago appliances could be repaired. Now there is no one who will mend a washing machine or a vacuum cleaner.

I’m not saying I want to go back fifty years in time. Heaven forbid! But isn’t it time we progressed past the ‘petrol-head’ stage? The car manufacturers ran out of inspiration for their ads years ago. It is time to make green, clean and mean on fuel sexy, not fast, enormous and petrol-glugging.

I know I’ve banged on about the odious ‘Top Gear’ and its moronic presenters before, but it is dispiriting that it should be one of the best-selling TV shows around the world. If the BBC can’t ditch it because of the revenue, surely it could be given a more eco-friendly slant? But now that oil is cheap this is even less likely to happen.

It has been proposed that the view that our house faces, the English Channel, should house an extensive wind farm. The forest of turbines would be visible like a distant swarm of insects from our decked balcony. It is a scenario that many cannot contemplate but myself, I would welcome the construction of the plant. We are all accustomed to electricity pylons-why not wind turbines? And after all, what alternatives are there?

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Are you a hoarder or a shedder?

                Whilst it does not do to become too introspective, from time to time I have been conducting an assessment of such changes as I may be undergoing as I plunge down through the floors in the elevator [de-elevator? Reverse thrust?] of increasing maturity.

                Something I have noticed is the tendency towards minimalism, which is interesting because it appears that many people become more inclined towards clutter as they age. This is true of several friends. They have accumulated ‘stuff’. It is understandable, this acquiring of objects without shedding others. It might perhaps provide a psychological barrier between solid, dependable life and the unknown that is getting snuffed out-especially as the snuffing comes ever closer.

                ‘You can’t take it with you!’ and ‘You don’t want to be the richest person in the graveyard!’ These are often quoted as we age and feel guilty about spending or acquiring. Often, the objects we have surrounded ourselves with, that we feel the most valuable are the very artefacts that will be unceremoniously trashed once we have slipped off the mortal coil. My mother became anxious as her denouement approached, cataloguing various items of furniture even as she lay in her hospital bed, exhorting us to have this table valued or that china figurine taken to a dealer. “We’ll get a skip” interjected my brother, in a bid to inject some levity into the conversation. But in fact, his statement proved almost prophetic, since the ultimate valuation of their house contents barely covered the cost of clearing it. ‘The bottom has fallen out of the antiques market’, we were told, and I believe the ‘bottom’ may still be absent today.

                Whilst nobody likes the idea of contemplating their demise, there is a certain, pleasing purity about leaving the planet with nothing, just as you came. This makes me wonder if that is the very reason why I prefer an uncluttered space. It may be subconscious preparation. Oh not that I’m expecting or planning to expire any time soon [I still have time to be a best-selling novelist!], but the natural progression of ageing is that we ‘downsize’, with the inevitable need to have fewer belongings in the smaller area.

                As regular readers know, we, [that is myself and the significant other known as Husband] spend much of our time in the tiny, cramped space that is our camper van, using a capsule kitchen and living out of luggage. When we return it is to the vast area that is our house. ‘What a long way it is to the toilet!’ I say, and always experience some difficulty in adjusting to sleep in a bedroom that feels enclosed and stuffy.

                As Christmas approaches we deck the halls, filling the house with glittery, sparkly objects, greenery, candles, cards, tinsel. As soon as the revelries have subsided I cannot wait to clear it all out. In fact, so wonderful is the feeling of purging at trashing it all it is almost worth the initial effort of decorating to experience the soothing, peaceful, restorative sensation that is minimalism.