I’m not Preseli voice anymore folks. I’m Pembroke voice. I have moved. Elvis has left the building.
This time last year, which seems such a short yet also such a long time ago, I was writing a Christmas column about being homeless. Now, with a new place in town, I can go into this Christmas a little more optimistically. Let’s not forget though, that there are plenty of homeless people that don’t have a column in the local paper, and so you never get to hear about them. They are there, though. And it wouldn’t hurt us to have a think about why they’re there, in the sixth richest country in the world.
Anyhoo. I digress.
A lot has happened in Pembroke since I last lived round here. In many ways, much is the same. Golden Park Chinese takeaway is still there, praise be. But Cromwell’s is a pizza place. And Gateway is gone, although I see there is planning for three retail units. I hope one of them sells dustpans and brushes. When I was moving in last weekend, I took a wander looking for stuff that I needed. Pembroke. Full of art. Not one mop. In some ways that’s a good thing. But in others, it’s a bit sad that the big superstores in the Dock like Tescos and B&M have completely monopolised the domestic implement market. Luckily, going back and forward to the land I’ve just moved from, collecting stuff and cats, I was able to take full advantage of CKs in Narberth and avoid the traffic light palaver of the Dock for an extended time, although I know I can’t avoid it forever. It’s too convenient.
It’s weird being back. I feel like I’ve come home. I met my neighbour, and it turns out I already know him. Met some other neighbours, and they’re really nice. That in itself is a major culture shock.
Getting back on the grid was of course not without its teething problems. Ever moved into a place with token meters? Wot a laff. When the lights and the heating and the hot water came on, I could have cried. I don’t know how I managed to live so roughly for so long. I feel like I’ve come out of prison.
I used a tenner’s worth of gas in two days by jacking the heating right to the top and having constant baths, so now I have to slow that down a bit. But not yet. The luxury is too much to handle. The hot running water. The warmth. The big rooms. The multiple rooms! I’ve lived in such a tiny space for so long, that here I feel I need roller skates just to get from one end of the house to the other.
To be in a building again, to not even hear the rain, or notice the wind, to have an inside toilet and not to be constantly damp and cold, is weird, and wonderful. There is space for my sewing machine, and my lace making stuff, and I am writing this at an actual table and not on my lap on the rickety caravan bed. I’m not panicking about getting this written before the solar power runs out and all goes dark.
So. My off-grid adventure is finally over. Five and a half winters of varying degrees of hell. Since sleeping indoors, my face has gone puffy when I wake up. But the stress wrinkles are fading away already. Swings and roundabouts.
I’m glad I did it. I’m glad I tried. If I hadn’t I would never have known. The dream of getting land and living on it only works if you have plenty of resources. I realise now that it’s not the poor man’s way of getting a farm. It’s just another rich man’s way of doing it. They already have plenty of ways to do it. And now they have another with OPD.
They fool themselves that they’re saving the planet, but with such an impossible task to set it up, in that only 30-odd families have actually achieved it in ten years, tells me that there needs to be another way of doing it. A way that is accessible to all, not just to the moneyed classes. A social housing solution where everyone is off grid, and the infrastructure exists to support that. Basically, a complete overhaul; of society itself and of the housing situation in this country, in order to provide for our most vulnerable, and give them the bare necessity of somewhere to live, which I am lucky enough to now have.
To buy a place is, ironically, the only way to make it affordable. Rent for this property is twice the amount of the mortgage. That’s insane. And it’s unsustainable. And it’s why people try and live in fields. But a word to the wise. It’s not how they make it out to be. When hippies try to sell you a dream, remember, that’s all it is. A sell. It’s all about the money. The dream of a comfortable home should be achievable for all. Not allocated to the lucky few. In my new life as a house dwelling activist, I can fight for that. Fight to provide for all and not just myself. Remember. There are no individual solutions to social problems. But there is an individual need to be warm to fight. I’m warm now. And I’m ready for the new fight.
So Merry Christmas everyone. Wherever you are. Stay warm if you can, so that next year, we can buddy up, and help the ones who aren’t warm this Christmas. I was one of the cold ones last year. People have helped me. My life has been full of angels recently. We can all be an angel for someone else. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? 😊