Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Another insular reflection

With the water operating again, Massachusetts is indulging its favourite sport, second-guessing.

I'm second-guessing myself.

There's an element of comfort activity for me in this fetching and carrying, because it's so much like the island life that formed a big part of my childhood. The store I visited Sunday for our H2O was no further than we used to go for groceries. In reality, groceries meant a trip that was long to a seven-year old, in a usually hot car, to a usually hot and smelly store. In addition, island provisioning involves a lot of materials handling, more than I did last Sunday, and being a kid was not an excuse for goofing off. Our water trips, to the always-cool pump house on the mainland, were more fun, despite the materials handling. Save for the walk to the pump house, we never left the lake. On return, there was the business of loading up the four-gallon water crock. Anyone who thinks water has no flavour hasn't had it straight from the pump, or out of the spigot in a big stoneware jug.

I digress. For us, water wasn't really the emergency: Running out of toilet paper was. From our earliest potty-trained moments, my brother and I were lectured on the importance of rationing toilet paper in the privy. (Yes: a privy, delicately called yn ty bach —the little house— in Welsh.) When my parents built a house outside the capital, we were already well trained for the rationing required to appease its cranky septic system.

The importance of the subject was emphasised by a little appliance in the little house: a box with a glass front and a wooden hammer hanging below it. In the box were three corncobs. Over it was a sign, "in case of emergency, break the glass." The corncobs had been in there for a very long time, and this was a constant, alarming reminder that the management was in earnest. By and by, the little house supplies came to include last year's Sears catalogue, which was a somewhat more practical backup plan. However, a page from the Sears catalogue was a stern reminder in itself of the need to ration the island's most important external resource.

It's doubtful whether it's better to indulge in fits of nostalgia than fits of panic, but I do indulge the former. Now that I have this start on the inventory, it's harder to indulge in procrastination about building up the hurricane inventory. That has a little more practical grounding. The last time our town caught even a modest piece of a hurricane, all the utilities were out for three days and the streets were more of a mess than in the blizzard of '78 (which I also enjoyed). Common sense says one should lay in goods for what then becomes a mandatory holiday.

With the demise of mail-order catalogues, I'll be extra sure to have enough toilet paper.


Blogger massmarrier said...

So, did/do the Welsh have a chuckle at "The Little House on the Prairie" book and series? What other English terms have built-in giggles?

Your catalog-page mention reminds me of the Boy Scout handbook and other nature guides that suggested leaves for that purpose. They didn't read, "Hey, dummy, be sure to bring toilet paper on your camping trip." Rather they noted that you should be sure you didn't use poison oak or ivy as your cleaning aid. Well enough, but they also didn't mention nature doesn't provide facial-quality toilet leaves.

10:45 am  
Blogger Uncle said...

I must ask around about the humour Ms Wilder may have given the Welsh. I admit my eyebrows went up the first time I heard of the books.

The pages of the Boy Scout Handbook are a bit small for the purpose ;) but I was thinking of that advice just yesterday. Mother Nature was asserting herself with me during a hike in Willowdale State Forest, and there's nothing available at this season except pine needles and old leaves (both harsh) and new ferns (smaller than the Boy Scout handbook). I walked briskly.

12:13 pm  

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