Share Sunshine

It’s an unseasonally warm day here on the south east coast. I left the house this morning in boots, a hooded jacket and a warm coat, wishing I’d thought to find my woolly hat. By lunchtime I was carrying my coat over my arm, jacket unzipped, and wondering whether I might need to find my sunglasses instead.

I’m more aware of the weather these days, because I’m outside in it every morning, walking the dog. We’ve walked through thick fog, in depressing drizzle, in bright sunshine and on dull grey days. If it’s been raining lately, I make sure I wear boots instead of my thin-soled pumps, and if it’s really hot I carry water for both of us.

Nevertheless, the weather is more of a footnote to my day than a major issue. Even really bad weather isn’t often life-threatening here. A typical British drought means brown lawns and unwashed cars, and most British storms just damage trees and distrupt broadband connections. When it’s really cold outside, I make cups of tea and huddle over them for warmth, or warm myself up with a hot bath. On hot summer days I freeze diluted fruit squash to make home-made ice lollies, and take a lukewarm shower to cool down.

Water is so mundane and everyday, but it’s critically important. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that when we can so easily turn on a tap and get clean, safe drinking water. I first began supporting WaterAid at the height of the Ebola crisis, because I suddenly realised how essential it must be to be able to properly wash when you’re caring for someone with such an infectious virus. I couldn’t invent a vaccine or manufacture cheap diagnostic tests, but I could help people to wash their hands. Continue reading

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Live Below the Line Challenge

I’m cross-posting today from my food blog because I want as many people as possible to see this post.

Now that National Vegetarian Week is over, I’m looking ahead to next month. Specifically, to the 23rd-27th June. During these five days I will be taking part in the Live Below the Line challenge, spending no more than £5 on food in total with a maximum budget of £1 per day.

It was quite hard choosing the right time to do the challenge. I heard about it in early May through A Girl Called Jack and was interested, but knew I needed to wait until after my exams. When I flicked through my diary, I was horrified to discover that after the end of my exams I didn’t have a single stretch of five days without a scheduled dinner, ball, garden party, wedding or other meal until after the end of June. The challenge officially ends on June 30th, but even if it didn’t my summer job requires me to eat in the dining hall with the summer school participants every day, so the earliest I could take part would be August. Eventually I worked out that if I took a packed breakfast with me to the wedding, for the morning after, I could fit it in between that and my graduation dinner.

How awful, to “fit in” a challenge to raise money for a food poverty-related charity (I have chosen Health Poverty Action due to their focus on health and sustainability) between extravagent dinners and events which will waste far more food that some families see in a month. It was that realisation more than anything else that made me determined to do this. And how incredibly fortunate I am that my regular, day-to-day life includes so much easily accessible, healthy, delicious food.

I have already drawn up a shopping list, attempting to balance nutrition with cost in a way that won’t leave me climbing the walls for something sweet (I’ve accounted for my dessert-cravings with some fruit yoghurts and a jar of jam). It wasn’t easy to make the list either – I had a perfectly balanced shopping basket on Sainsbury’s Online and I was feeling a little smug, until I realised that I hadn’t got any kind of fat to cook my vegetables with, or to fry or scramble eggs in, or to spread on my toast. Even the cheapest butter cost £1.20, way more than the 21p I had left over in my budget. Back to the drawing board.

In the end I sacrificed vegetable stock cubes, natural yoghurt and pasta in order to have butter. It seems almost inconceivable that I would have to ditch a 15p packet of stock cubes so that I could fry an onion but that’s the sort of decision that people have to make every day.

Please, help me to actually have an impact through this challenge by sponsoring me. A few people pretending to be living in poverty for a few days isn’t going to solve anyone’s genuine poverty, but donating to Health Poverty Action will have a real impact.