Hazel McHaffie

frugal eating

Below the Line

Well, that’s Christian Aid week over for another year. I can’t believe how quickly it comes round.

The highlight for me at a personal level is always, of course, the massive book sale in Edinburgh’s St Andrew’s and St George’s Church.St Andrews and St Georges

I must confess I bought more books than I donated – not good news for my already groaning bookshelves! In fact the new collection is currently just lying about in piles awaiting a home. But each time I visited the sale I found myself just standing staring at this amazing spectacle – literally thousands of books and not a Kindle in sight! For any author it has to be a brilliant affirmation of the appeal of the written word. And what reassurance to know there’s a huge crowd of folk out there hungry for more.

Customers were repeatedly dodging others in order not to miss a single gem in the rows of boxes. As the novels were snapped up volunteers quickly filled the gaps, and I overheard some of them discussing the relative merits of certain authors, clearly avid readers themselves. On one occasion I even saw a couple of venerable white-haired gentlemen on their knees under tables trawling through some ancient tomes.

The buzz spurred me on through the annual door-to-door collecting – it can be daunting at times. Particularly in times of austerity. Did the dog really eat their envelope? Does ‘the wife’ (absent today) always decide where the money goes in their household and take the envelope away with her in case hubby sneakily fills it? Have the whole family actually gone out leaving the TV blaring and the windows wide open? No, no, no!  I hasten to add that most of the householders on my particular stamping ground are exemplary citizens, giving generously and with a smile.

Oh, by the way, did you hear about this year’s Live Below the Line project? An octogenarian friend of ours brought it to our attention, setting a shining example by doing it herself. It’s a challenge to the general public to live on just £1 a day for 5 days to help raise £500,000 for some of the world’s poorest people. Apparently they’ve calculated that about 1.4 billion live on less than that all the time, not just for 5 days. How could we not respond to that appeal?

Actually chez nous the challenge has proved much more enjoyable than anticipated – easy to say when we live in the luxury of UK wealth the rest of the year, I know. But to be positive – I’ve had fun experimenting with dishes that eke out the rations but still provide enough fuel to get us through busy days. And king-size pots of soup and stews mean less hours actually preparing and shopping, more hours for writing, reading, proof-checking, etc. Has to be good! In fact we’re extending this particular project beyond 5 days. I can’t imagine Christian Aid would turn down latecomers.

Because of course, poverty, oppression and hunger aren’t confined to one week in the year; even a crammed-full bright red collecting bag is a drop in a bottomless ocean. But ‘mony a mickle maks a muckle’. We can all do our little bit and I’m sure you do. I know our fellow church members come up with the most amazing initiatives to keep money coming in for worthy causes; I’m constantly impressed by their unflagging commitment. Although we haven’t tried walking on red hot coals yet as I see MND Scotland have!

OK, let’s see how far a bowl of porridge will take me today … The theory is that the brain is sharper when the body is fasting. And I could certainly do with sharper.

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