Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Wilma Cruise - The Alice Diaries
Circa on Jellico, Johannesburg, July 2012
Austerity's not new to me. The most I earned was shortly before my first child was born more than 20 years ago. Yesterday, I accepted work at half my daily rate. I asked friends what they'd do - almost everyone said take it.

Austerity's rules are familiar to anyone over the age of 50, to most people on the planet.

1. Buy secondhand at charity shops, car boots, jumble sales
2. Cut down on meat and fish (I'm vegetarian but agreed this with the kids)
3. Make your own bread, jam, cake, chutney
4. No ready meals, no takeaways, no meals out, other than at friends' houses
5. No drinks out, ditto
6. No theatre - unless it's free
7. No cinema - iPlayer or 4OD
8. No live music - unless it's free
9. Grow food, especially greens, salad, soft fruit
10. Mend, repair, maintain
11. Avoid big supermarkets and town centres, shop local, little and often.
12. Park the car
13. Time the heating - an hour a day. Put up winter curtains.
14. Make sandwiches for days out, take a flask
15. No newspapers, magazines, sweets

Making the list reminds me of wartime cookbooks I've accumulated and growing up in the early sixties, 15 years after the end of WW2. China was looked after, glasses preserved, shoes polished and tables waxed. My mother  cut my father's old shirts down for my youngest brother. She remembers making slippers out of an old coat.

I embark on my new work hoping austerity is a shared state of mind, that it will bring change. The relationship between those in full-time, secure work and those of us in casual, insecure work is at the heart of this. Can you come in earlier for a meeting? means a casual works for nothing when you're paid. When you knock a freelance rate down, remember your holiday and sick pay, other benefits. Austerity may be what we need. It may be positive.

Wilma Cruise, more of the Alice Diaries
at Circa on Jellicoe, Johannesburg, July 2012