I was interested to read that Nigel Farage made a statement that we should allow refugees in from the Syrian conflict. It raised an underlying question I have about the distant future. Say we are lucky enough to only lose chunks of the south downs and Anglia in the UK to sea-level rise and flooding in the next few decades. Will we close the borders and guard our Isle, or will we hold out a hand of help to those less fortunate around the world?

I have to admit that neither option really fills me with joy.

Say we close the borders. I have to admit that is where I thought those further on the right were going with the increased support for UKIP. Or maybe Nigel Farage is a lefty. Unfortunately, we are at the moment almost totally dependent on the rest of the world for food. And plastic tat, electronic devices and wine. Could that mean we are held to ransom, like a medieval castle under siege? Or if not, we will at least find that there is less to go around and more demand as the world population peaks, and so we will find our sterling doesn’t go as far.

Or we open shop, help out and allow climate refugees in. We are already very crowded. The green and pleasant land will be crowded out with new house building and farming.

The_grass_is_greener_on_this_side..._(4218600060)No, I think we should avoid catastrophic climate change.

John Bell

Ordinary Bloke

PS – you may think that Syria hasn’t got much to do with climate change. You may be right. You may be wrong.

PPS – One of the upsides of a free-market capitalist society is that we are able to choose who benefits from our philanthropy. The victims of the inhumanity of Syria need our help.

Glimpse of the future on a Welsh mountainside

Could this be my future?  Do I want it to be?  We passed via a Welsh mountain settlement on the way up to see my folks for Halloween (some ghostly pictures below – brace yourself).

A few weeks ago I bumped into a good friend Rachel in the local Waitrose.  Yes, I was buying a few things, I hate to admit it.  Rachel introduced me to a couple she has known for years – Mandy and Adrian.  We only spoke for a minute or two, trying to resist the gently urgent tide of people going about their shopping chores.  In that short time we realised we shared life ambitions.

And so it was that I was driving my family up a winding lane in the mountains of North Wales, with my mother behind, following the complicated instructions Adrian had just given me over the phone as to how to get to Ty Newydd from Bodelwyddan.  We parked up hopefully at the bottom of a muddy, rock strewn drive in the hope I’d managed to break a habit and follow some directions.
Ty NewyddAfter a few minutes of comfort breaks for the little ones and debates about footwear, we trudged up the hill, and were relieved to be met by our hosts.  We were invited into their welcoming, rustic house for a welcome mug of tea.  After distracting little baby James with a box of dominoes, which he decided to deliver to me one by one, we got on to their life story.
Mum and MandiOver 20 years ago the couple moved into a shell of an old farm house on the Welsh mountainside.  They set to work covering up the open windows and fitting a ramshackle Rayburn stove to cook and keep warm.  They had little money, less paperwork and no experience.  But with determination and the help of the wooded mountainside, they slowly turned their inhospitable abode into the idyllic place to live that it is now, bringing up their family into adulthood at the same time.

They built their wood timber home and barn themselves.  It’s completely off-grid, with power generated in the main from solar panels – they have a room full of batteries.  They do have a back-up petrol generator in case, with the tensions that brings when the grown kids want to use that little extra electricity.  Most of their food is grown on site.

Adrian has built up a business managing the wood, with his own saw mill.  He has designed a house that can be built truly affordably – no more than £40,000 – in a way that doesn’t compromise the future.  He works hard to keep costs as low as he possibly can.  Mandy and her daughter weave the most exquisite baskets from willow.  Their two sons carve beautiful objects from the trees, in their barn workshop.

They are now looking to expand the settlement.  The idea is that they build a number of these low cost houses across the valley, again off-grid and with food grown on-site.  They are in the process of looking for planning permission from the council.
Ty ElwyAt times, this life can be difficult.  When the sun is covered and there is little wind, the battery power can start to wane they can struggle to get enough electricity.  They can run into problems with other local people who have a different value system.  They also had the ordinary, day-to-day issues to deal with such as squabbling kids.

They see the future as being one where people migrate back to the country from the cities and are looking to help get it started.

I agree.  When we can no longer rely on fossil fuels to run our farm machinery, fertilise our crops and transport the results to our door, we will need to find another way to feed ourselves.  Small scale, high yielding, low machinery food growing methods such as permaculture become the way forward.  That will mean a lot more people growing food.

Either way, I am interested in the lifestyle.  Even if a mass migration to the country isn’t part of the future, my family doing so would mean that we would further reduce our impact and would be sheltered from the coming storm.  I’m not necessarily sure my wife would agree, but that’s a different story.

We finished the visit with a tour of the managed woodland and a look at the saw mill and the designs for the houses, before heading to my childhood home on Anglesey with my mother.  Thank you very much to the wonderful Mandy and Adrian for showing so much hospitality to a vague acquaintance.

A few days later we were in a Halloween party in the Canolfan, organised by said mother.  Maddie looked very realistically ghost-like.  I wonder if you can guess what I am dressed up as? (and, yes, that is Maddie getting more ethereal by the minute in the foreground).
Maddie Ghost
John Bell,

Ordinary bloke