New Year Thoughts

Our New Year’s Day lunch is over, and we’re switching gears to preparing for our imminent departure for two months in the UK. I’m not a resolution-maker (at least, not just because it’s January 1st), but a couple of things together have made me think.

First was the meal planning for these last few days. Inevitably we had food left over from our lunch. Some of it went home with guests, with me doing quick calculations about what we needed to feed ourselves until Tuesday afternoon. Once everyone had gone, I did some planning.

A handful of raw veggies and some roasted red peppers, plus the half-box of chicken broth in the fridge? Those became roasted red pepper soup, which, along with the last of the baguette, became Friday’s light supper.

Lunch today and tomorrow will be the rest of the cheese, crackers and fruit for me, and the left-over hummus for BD. Tonight’s dinner will be the rest of the mini-quiches, with some frozen veggies. Sunday I’ll use the chicken pieces and jar of broth in the freezer, both the last remnants of a roast chicken from a few weeks ago. Monday we’re out with friends, and Tuesday brunch will be the last of the eggs, scrambled, with a small package of smoked salmon brought as a hostess gift. I have enough milk for cereal and coffee to last to Tuesday. The apple cider will be drunk. Nothing opened will be wasted; the unopened- beer, wine, a box of crackers, a box of chocolates – will wait for our return.

At the same time, I’m doing the last loads of laundry and planning the packing. We’re simply moving houses, to our little rental cottage in Norfolk, our second home by virtue of us returning to the same cottage time after time. But we don’t own it, which means we can’t leave clothes behind. (It comes with everything else you could possibly need, except for personal electronics and toiletries.) How many clothes do I need, for two months? How many can I take (along with my binoculars and scope, my laptop, my art supplies, my maps for my course…) without paying for more luggage?

What do I need? We’ll be spending our time walking and birding, and I’ll be continuing to work with my writing, reviewing and editorial work. So. Half-a-dozen pairs of socks and underwear, two bras. Four t-shirts, four long-sleeved t-shirts, to cover the possible range of temperatures – which will be roughly 0 C to 12 C over the two months. Two sweatshirts, two corduroy shirts. Two pairs of jeans. My hiking boots, my canvas Tom’s that double as slippers. A nightdress, and a pair or two of yoga pants to lounge around in. One set of decent clothes for dinner out. A quilted vest, a rain jacket and rain pants, gloves, hat, scarf. That’s it. (So, nags the little voice at the back of my mind….why do I need more than this at home?)

And it is a good question. OK, I need grubbies to paint the attic in, and to garden in. I need another, warmer coat because it isn’t going to be -20 C in Norfolk, and it is here; same with winter boots. But even given that, and the need for a summer wardrobe as well, why do I own so many more clothes than this?

I’m satisfied with my approach to food: I plan meals, including potential left overs, and very little gets thrown away. I can find ways to incorporate almost any left-over into a soup or a casserole or a curry, or as a scheduled lunch. But even after my major clothing purge in the spring, it will be time, when we get home, to do another. I’ll keep my favourites, figure out what I might have actually missed having while I’m away, and take the rest of the fall and winter clothes to the charity shop. Because I no longer live a life that needs a closet full of clothes. My work lives in electronic form in the cloud and is completely and totally portable: I talk to all but one of my clients only by email or by editing notes in the manuscript, and I talk to those who edit or review my writing, or interview me, in the same way. They don’t know what I’m wearing, nor do they care. Other than the odd dinner out to celebrate something significant, and the rites of passage of weddings and funerals, there is nothing in my life that needs more than comfortable jeans and shirts.

I’m going to watch myself, in these next two months. The cottage, as I said, is fully, even extensively, equipped. What do I use? What toiletries do I really need? What do I buy? I have a local library card. The cottage has excellent WiFi: that’s a must, now, for me. My goal is to buy nothing except food, toiletries if I run out, and the occasional cup of coffee to warm up after cold hours birding on the North Sea coast. Oh, and a movie or two…because there is immense value to me in seeing a film at the Majestic Cinema in King’s Lynn: after the first time we went there, several years ago, and I was telling my father about it, back in Canada, he said “Oh, yes, I remember that cinema: I saw Ben Hur there in 1929.” Some things are, truly, priceless.

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