Miracles, like beauty, exist in the eye of the beholder. What is awesome to one goes unnoticed by another. I have witnessed miracles in the last seven days. All germinating from the same source. A house.
The first miracle, running water. From a tap. You turn the tap head and water, cold, clear and safe, flows. It would flow until the last reservoir was drained dry, should I choose. Right next door, another miracle waits. Hot water, Hot running water. I know that to you this is obvious. However after several months without either, I stand astonished.
The feats of these twin taps, the Castor and Pollux of the home, are endless. I wash instantly in hot water. No longer required the structured routine, of boiling a kettle for morning coffee, with an egg inside for breakfast, and a little extra water to be used to wash with.
Each action finds its own place. And not just simple washing. I sit and think,’ I’m in the mood for some fancy washing’. A bath. A shower. Clean as a whistle. All this water would be enough to make Noah nervous. In a house, anew, it is to be worshiped.
Water is the Yang of utilities, Electricity the Yin. Unlike water, it is not a necessity. For thousands of years ancestors survived, built civilisations, without electricity. It is though, a true wonder. A cloak of invisibility adding extra charm to its powers. With anticipation I stand, flick a switch.
And there is light. And it is good. Miraculously, the day is expanded. One week ago days stepped in time to a different beat. Early autumn fell like sleep. Days snatched away with the sun by 8 pm. Now, trapped, the sun does not set. Its flame held within a light bulb.
Electricities power stretches far and wide. Responsibility is withered. Recklessness takes hold. So what if the mobile phone will run out, just plug it in for a quick turn. The computers low on charge? Stick it in too, the more the merrier. Keep it coming.
It even helps us eat. Summer days sifting food, based on durability without refrigeration, are forgotten. Trip to the shops no longer hold the meticulously planned necessity of Captain Scott. Stocking up, heading for the Antarctic. We even buy extra. Something just in case. Not needed really, but you know, just in case we fancy it. Later.
The third in the trinity of miracles, the flushing lavatory. Although water based, this instrument of genius deserves its own words of praise. Where would we be without Thomas Crapper and his flush? I know exactly where. We would be scratching around for a suitable place amongst our neighbours roses and flower beds.
The toilet, like water and electricity, holds the key element of being there, waiting. The need to go to the loo can of course emerge at any moment. Now, in a house, it comes and go as it likes. Going to the loo whilst wild camping has is charms, but this is balanced by the hardships when no suitable place can be found. Blessed be the toilet seats.
Be careful though. There is a mirage in these miracles. A price to be paid. Swiftly they become taken for granted, commonplace. However an absence of access to each, if only for a few months, reinstalls your wonder at them. It reminds you that water, electricity, toilets, are indeed miracles to many people in the world. 1.1 billion people live without access to safe water. 1.6 billion without electricity.
It is good to wonder at our ease of access to utilities. To accept and embrace them anew. Like most things, balance is important in all of this. The presence of mod cons is inspiring because it has been absent. What they bring in their wake is inertia. In making our lives easier utilities can go to far. Living becomes devoid of hardship and appreciation.
They hold a further price. Real, financial. All utilities cost money. To meet ever spiralling prices we work harder, longer, just to keep them flowing, ablaze, flushing. Wild camping is useful in redressing the balance. It introduces an element of fear to life. Where shall I sleep, eat, find water, tonight? This fear is a chosen one, but it helps you to appreciate even more security, home comforts. Miracles.
A house also brings more possessions. An abundance of riches awaits. Yet, even unpacking the limited items that remain brings hostility. The new found space of an empty building is slowly swamped. Clothes feel pointless. Siting in piles. Waiting. Never worn.
Even blasphemously, the books. My books. I hold strongly to the belief that your bookcase is ‘a map of your soul.’ The stages and moods of life. Now? Now I am in doubt. I look at them. I love them. But, I know I can live without them. As a better person than me recently said,’ you do not ever truly own books anyway’.
An answer awaits. In Exeter I discover the greatest book shop in the world. One were every book is free, if you choose it to be. Alternatively you can pay as much as you wish, its your choice. You may think a book shop of free books a strange answer to an excessive bookcase. Method awaits in the madness.
The Book Cycle is a charity funded through donations of books. It sells these and uses money raised to fund literacy programmes in Ghana and Tanzania. It also helps towards the planting of trees to replace the ones lost in making books. A true cycle. I can now donate books to a great cause, and replace my own empty shelves when the book addiction needs feeding.
Glory be to the miracles. But know your price. The twenty-first century home in England is abundant with wonder. The resources we have are just a dream to many in our world. True miracles. The price of each is a high one. To the environment, to our bank accounts. To our souls. What you can not put a price on is freedom and friendship. On the road or at home. Some things we can live without. All the same, you never know what you’ve got till its gone.