Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Firewood and other thoughts

Oh dear, still coughing gunk. I have had to do a steady 20 minutes of kow-tow (to let this sinus stuff penetrate - not so I can spend 20 minutes with my head flat on the floor, and my bum up in the air - a situation which causes much hilariarity. I have made sure not to cause religious offense by facing carefully to pot-boil shoal. This means I face directly away from the Arabian peninsula, with my face, anyway.)

I've just re-read an old Neville Shute favorite -The Far Country. It contains some very accurate observations about refugees and those who are far from the place they came from, which are as true now (for me, anyway) as then, as well as some things which make it very very dated. The characters all smoke. Our Heroine feels Australia is not so far... because ten days will see a letter to-and-fro from England. The UK is still on rationing. Food is available but meat isn't really. Coal is rationed, everywhere is cold. And on the farms in Australia mutton is threepence a pound as much as you want to those who work there. Wood - for cooking or heat - was plentiful and even if you bought it, cheap. It was kind the difference between poverty with as much food and warmth as you needed, and poverty where those -not other goods or entertainment - were hard to come by. The former can be tough, but the latter... Anyway, I was amused (because the rest of Australia is not like this) that we were still here in that situation. We have, realistically, a surfeit of fish or meat. And there is more wood - available for the labour of cutting it up and hauling it in, than we can ever possibly use. With the cheap chainsaws of today, cutting a few weeks firewood in an hour is not even a challenge for anyone who can afford to buy a load of wood (basically to BUY wood is pricy -well to me - around $120-$150 a load. It's all nicely split and cut to length. But you can buy a Chinese chainsaw for that. And even a rubbish saw will give you more than one load... if you have some way of transporting it. This in a way is the poverty trap. If you don't have internet access and a credit card, you can't buy a chainsaw on-island for less than about $650 - which will pay for itself quite fast, but it's a capital outlay. If you don't have something to transport wood, you have to get it delivered. And thus - for a small amount of capital - your cost living increases many-fold). And 1 tank will more or less give me a 1 ton load, if the saw is good and sharp. We may have many other problems but freezing and starving are low on the list. And yet in the UK people die every year of fuel poverty.

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