Archive for December, 2007

Angels over Africa

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

I’e just been given a lovely present which pleases on several fronts. Firstly, because it’s from a friend who I’ve not seen for 6 years because she lives in South Africa and I don’t and secondly because it is a pretty thing which is designed for a Christmas tree. This means that after its festive outing it will go back in the box with all my Christmas baubles for a year until next time when I will bring it out and say ‘ah ha – Cornia’s angel’. Which will remind me of the person who gave it to me, just as many other tree adornments remind of friends.

The third thing about it is that it is recycled from a drinks can -in this case as so often in Africa, Coca Cola. As I’ve said before I am keen on wasting not in the hopes of wanting not (still to be fully realized unfortunately) and so I like the way that Africans use what it is to hand to make new things. I understand that the Cubans are way ahead on this sort of thing and can keep a 1940 Singer sewing machine in fine order as well as never allowing a little thing like a complete absence of replacement parts stop them keeping a 50 year old chevvy on the road.

My angel is called an Angel with Attitude and is sponsored by Angels against Crime. It was made by a Zulu school child living in Zululand and is part of a project to help AIDs orphans. So it comes with a story and I like that too.
Angel and Dish


It occurs to me that given the consuming nations are going to have to stop consuming so much we could do better than looking at how the ‘make do’ nations manage. Recycling and inventiveness are obviously thriving and they will have skills that we have lost because we have discarded them as technology has made them redundant.

For instance, midwives of my generation were taught to listen to fetal hearts through a kind of trumpet which was placed on the abdomen. The midwives could tell by palpation and listening to that heart how the baby was lying and if there were any gross disorders, a skill that I suspect is almost gone now. And, of course, it was nothing like as efficient or effective as the technology which replaced it, but if the batteries all failed I’m not certain who could do the next best thing with the old ways.

I think that map reading is about to go the same way as GPS systems improve and get cheaper – although as my son found out a week or so ago, if they do fail, it can be quite a problem finding the motorway, especially in a snow storm. That’s the problem with efficient technology – it really is efficient and there’s quite enough for people to know about without keeping a load of unused skills, just in case. Perhaps it’s another aspect of not wanting to waste things -after all some redundant skills are quite hard come by – technical drawing or printing or map reading accurately and it does seem a shame not to use them. I bet the Cubans do. And when the environmental big bang comes, I hope they can remind us.