One of the things I like most about rural living is the ‘can do’ resilience that comes from being far away from the urban support system of 24hr solutions to a problem – whether it’s a lack of croissants, or a leaking pipe.
We’ve come a long way from the days when an avocado was exotic, and everyone walked to school, but living in the countryside for twenty-five years has made me more resilient. It sounds quaint today, but many of us old blow-ins came to live in West Cork because we wanted to be ‘self sufficient’ (that and the fact that property was cheap-imagine that!). It was less about not needing other people, and more about learning to do things for ourselves. I knew very little about fixing or making-do, when I came here. Though my brain was chocka-block with knowledge I was neither handy, nor hardy. I’ve seriously toughened up from the days when my major life skill was hailing a taxi. Some skills, like baking croissants, I learnt. Others were just a question of having no other option than to sort it out myself.
I remember the legendary Chuck Kruger, who lived on Cape Clear, proudly telling me how he fixed his washing machine by fashioning the needed parts using an old wellie and a coat hanger. Life hacks, as they are called, have become an internet sensation. Back in the days before wifi, it was just called ‘getting things sorted’.
Over the years, I have had some proud life hack moments. Most of them involve duct tape, or expanding foam. In fact the house is, at any given point in time, a carefully managed balance between life hacks, and calling in an expert for a big costly job. Sometimes the expert is far away. Sometimes a lack of funds necessitates a more original approach. My proudest life hack came last Christmas when the immersion tank started leaking the day before Christmas Eve. The diagnosis was dire: it needed to be replaced and nothing could be done until after the New Year. The advice I got was to cut of the immersion, drain the tank, and to shut down the Aga. This was sound and reasonable advice, but totally unacceptable with a houseful of family looking forward to hot showers, and a Christmas dinner. I am proud to say that Huggies DRYNITES mattress protectors kept the leak from shutting down the hot water and cooking facilities over Christmas. I highly recommend them for all your seepage needs.
This hands-on attitude to problems permeates our communities from the tremendous Rapid Response initiative to ambulance cutbacks, to the Clonakilty Mayoral council solution to losing the town council, or the compassionate Friends of Aylum seekers and their community garden; to name but a few. Rather than mope about complaining, people have found solutions, taken initiatives and rounded up the troops to sort things out – even if it’s only a partial, or temporary solution. It’s what people do in rural communities. It’s reflected in our young people and our pensioners. It seems to me that living in the countryside is empowering, which is different from just enabling. It reminds people that the power to find a solution is in their hands. The buck stops here when a gale is raging, and the electrics are off. Or as one frazzled mother once put it: It’s amazing what you can get done when you have no choice.
I’m not saying that people in cities are helpless, in fact I detect a changing tide all around the world. 2016 was frightful. 2017 had us down in the dumps. 2018 is starting to look like a lot of people have got themselves up, dusted themselves off and decided to do something – anything, no matter how small – to make things better.
Whether its picking up three pieces of litter on a walk, or avoiding plastic packaging, or getting involved in a grassroots political campaign; I feel the tide of change building. I call it the Rise of the Reasonable.
Power to the People!