With the technological advances of the last twenty or so years (measured by the parental yardstick of “what it was like before the kids were born”) the world has shrunk beyond belief. News footage that used to take at least 24 hours to reach our shores can now be here in the blink of an eye. Through facebook, we can see what the Dover Division, 19,000 kilometres away, are having for tea or be with the Spanish Branch as they celebrate a birthday. Hell, we can stand in the goat paddock and take a photo that can be viewed and commented on by someone on the other side of the globe in the time it takes to us to walk the five metres to, and unlatch the, paddock gate! It’s truly a global village but we’re still trying to work out whether the pros of this outweigh the cons.
The happenings of this week serve as good a case study as any.
This week Christchurch was hit by a big storm. A really big storm. A humongously large storm which flooded houses and brought down trees and caused a lot of misery. Our collective Homestead heart goes out to all those people effected by it.
Here, we blithely got on with what needed doing. Admittedly, those heading off Homestead were faced with the task of negotiating roads closed by flooding and the Kingdom of Nova was, at the height of the tides, an island nation, but this is not a rare occurrence in our fair city, especially on the East Side. So, we donned the wet weather gear and dove out into the torrential rain to feed the animals; the goats were milked, eggs collected, and zucchini, pumpkin and squash vines encouraged to detour around the lake forming in the front yard.
The “Wet Day List” was consulted. We lit the fire and got on with cheese making, baking, mending, horrid cleaning that you usually put off (the fridge – erk!), and kept an eye on the tide times. In our little industrious cocoon, we only realised how bad it was when the texts, emails, facebook messages and phone calls started bleeping, blipping and tweedling in. The Farmer, who opted to stay home, then decided to check out the internet. Suddenly, what had been just an awfully wet, blimmin’ windy day, unpleasant to be outside in, was escalated into THE WORST STORM IN A HUNDRED YEARS!
Relatives and friends on the other side of the city, opposite ends of the country, and other side of the world saw photos of our suburb on facebook etc and were worried about us. When we didn’t answer their queries as to our wellbeing immediately (because it’s hard to hear the tinkle of an incoming message above rain, wind and a goat protesting being hauled out of her cosy chalet for milking) their concern escalated. While we feel incredibly lucky to have people who care so deeply for us, we wonder whether their ability to view the worst extreme of suffering the storm caused whilst we sat geographically high, mostly dry and wholly ignorant of it all is beneficial. As an aside, after tea that night we flicked through a plethora of photos uploaded to facebook. “That fence looks familiar,” The Goat Herd commented. It should have, it was our neighbours two doors down and, whilst it looked terrible surrounded by water surging from the overloaded stormwater drain, they, like us, were holed up inside, warm, dry and safe. A picture certainly speaks a thousand words, but sometimes they bear little relevance to the reality.
So our community in effect is massive: the entire world. We can search out something we like online, purchase it from another suburb, town or country, and have it delivered to us; we can shop without leaving our homes. Personally, we think this a tragedy. Friday is, for the Homestead, shopping day; the day we get on our bikes, attach the trailers and pedal the kilometre or so down the road to our actual, physical community heart.
There we catch up with the gossip, learn of triumphs and disasters, and revel in the minutiae of everyday, community living. When you see the same people week in week out you strike up relationships. It’s the stuff of proper, in the now living.
Our first stop has always been The Funky Pumpkin, who in the last five years have filled the gap our limited garden can’t. As we ticked the fruit, vege and, after the quake which closed down the butchery, meat requirements off the shopping list, we also learned heaps about those people working there, and they about us. They watched Farm Girl grow from the chubby, smiley toddler she was on our arrival in Christchurch, to the long legged, slightly shy schoolgirl she is now. But today was the last day for The Funky Pumpkin as lack of profit has forced it to be closed by its out of suburb owners. Hey, it’s the way of the world. Money makes the world go round and all that.
We’re not blaming the internet for that. That would be ignorant and, let’s face it, stupid. What we do wonder, however, is that if people’s communities were still geographically rather than technologically determined, The Funky Pumpkin would have survived the glitch of 10,000 people moving out of our suburb because those of us left would have chosen to shop locally. We will very much miss the laughs, banter, swapped anecdotes and fun of our weekly Funky Pumpkin shop and wish all of you wonderful folk all the best in life.
Okay, call us dreamers, idealists, ignorant Pollyannas’ or whatever, even if it is slightly more expensive to shop locally (something we would heatedly debate), even if the stock is not exactly what we’re after (for goodness sake, just ask them to get in what you want), we’ll continue to shop right here in New Brighton. Because those shops and the people in them are part of our life now.
So if you are ever in New Brighton and it’s a Friday, look for us. We’ll be leaning up against a counter somewhere; maybe the Bin Inn, Mitre 10, Harringtons, Honey or Countdown, or partaking of a leisurely lunch in Crema or Pierside. Shopping in the faceless nameless rat race maybe faster, but shopping locally feeds your soul.