14. How can I leave my comfort zone and this culture?

I feel as though I am moving out of my own culture, not just my home and regular life. In reality I may actually do so as I’m not entirely sure where we will end up in either the short or longer term. Whilst we want to be able to sustain this adventure for a number of years the assumption is that we will return at some point in the future, either when the money runs out or this mortal form no longer obeys command. It is not inconceivable that we find somewhere we like so much that we could settle there into our dotage but unfortunately the reality of old age is that it does bring deteriorating function and a need for support for a, sometimes protracted, period before death. In the twenty first century we rarely experience a short burst of illness and die unexpectedly quickly, unless you live in less developed countries which, may possibly be where we will find ourselves. I have just been reading about the emergence of a drug resistant strain of TB.

If we are away in foreign climes for say, 10 years, how much and in what ways will our society and its social norms have changed by the time we return? How will we fit back in? Will we want to? I have become so much more aware recently of aspects from which I feel I will become detached and remote. I have been attempting to ascertain whether it will concern me if I lose track of trends. The popular culture which surrounds us operates on an almost subliminal level although I am actually aware of commercial pressures; we cannot escape them in a capitalist society. However, I do not consider myself a slave or even much of an apprentice to fashion whether it be clothing, interior design, food or other. I have managed to avoid makeover TV, grand-designs and cookery programmes – so far.

I loathe shopping with a vengeance, just about tolerating food purchases. That is not to say that I don’t like to have some decent and reasonably acceptable items in my wardrobe to have available for social occasions. I just hate the process of acquiring them and really can’t be bothered to shop on-line and return surplus. I do keep these articles to a minimum, carefully trying to remember who has seen me in which and can even keep to two or three pieces each season. On that basis my wardrobe is currently full of out-dated clothes so I’m not sure why I’m worried but they will be considerably more dated by our return, perhaps even retro?

Clothes do define our ‘gang’, our group, identify our PLUs, this is not just the prerogative of youth. However we are about to join a different fraternity with their own uniform which, if we want to integrate, we will need to adopt to assimilate if everyone is as judgmental as me. I am perhaps still shallow and insecure enough to feel this need, he however, has never concerned himself with sartorial fripperies which can be quite enviable, at times but not always. We will be travelling relatively light so will have to adopt a much more limited and functional wardrobe, hopefully resulting in a degree of distain for the superficiality of clothes versus the depth of someone’s soul. Wow! Really?

As mentioned, interior and even exterior design has become on trend. Items which were previously purchased and valued for their reliability and longevity have become disposable; white (or any other colour) goods, lounge furniture, kitchen units, bathrooms and decking are all temporary, to be changed with the whim of designers and profit accounts of producers. Any municipal civic amenity site (dump) will endorse this waste. Fortunately this is not an aspect I have ever bought in to and am proud of my solid oak furniture. It may be difficult and heavy to move for occasional vacuuming (because it is so heavy) but it suits the character of my cottage and many pieces have a story to tell, which relative, some long deceased, was the previous owner, where the piece used to live, who was having a clear out or downsizing or even exceptionally, how extravagant I felt when purchasing an occasional object to which I felt so drawn. These cannot date as they are already in that category and I venerate them more for being so.

It is quite surprising, when looking back 10 or 20 years, to consider how much has changed in that time and it is alarming to consider how quickly this rate of change is increasing. Food is now a fashion item, when did that start? Are celebrity chefs to be held responsible or the media companies who promote them? Cookery books have existed for decades but they were elaborate instruction manuals for new wives in a pre-feminist world; when did portrait photos start appearing on the front cover? What did Mrs Beaton look like? Is our lack of basic knowledge about cookery to blame for the need for TV programmes to show us how? Is the availability of almost any produce at any time of year giving us too many options? Is the access to any product from anywhere in the world necessitating instructions for usage? Do we need to be able to produce the latest food fad to impress dinner party invitees? If so, are they really friends if they are going to judge us by our offerings? I have to confess to not particularly noticing the food on some of my best nights with friends as the company has been so engaging. Did we receive coffee from the pioneering gizmo cluttering the work surface? Would we have considered them less hospitable if a cafetiere had been deployed in the centre of the table? I have not adopted this trend for fashionable food either but I would prefer to not have to wander round a supermarket, if they will still exist in their current form, wondering what each of these weird items in the fruit and veg section could possibly be, as can be observed even today. Worse still, what if I can’t obtain my staple items as they are no longer stocked. Currently, when asking where my particular requirement is, if absent from its allotted position, I can get quite irate when informed that there is no demand – I’m demanding it!

I struggle with my mobile phone for months each time I receive and upgrade, usually just about mastering it by the time I receive a new one. The 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web highlights the leap in common technology. My conversation with my 20 year old son about this very subject was met with almost incomprehension that one could manage to exist without being connected electronically to the rest of the world and all the details and material of modern life. This technology will continue to advance at frightening speeds but hopefully will be something to which we preserve a degree of attachment in order to maintain contact with kith and kin. Perhaps our disassociation from the vagaries of irrelevant commercialisation will enable us to identify the truly important and significant factors in life and appreciate what we have rather than desiring what we don’t need.

Nov 2013

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