Below the line – day 2 

Into my second day of living below the line and thinking that I am going pretty well, that is until about 3pm when I feel the sugar and coffee withdrawal hit me like a tonne of bricks. I literally could not focus on the books in front of me for a little while. I was irritable, short tempered and think it distracted me from feeling hungry.

I’ve been conscious of the amounts of sugar in our food for some time, numerous documentaries have flirted with the issue but most recently it was the blog Running on Clean which highlighted the depths of the problem. Sugar in our food is a privilege that many living in chronic hunger could not even begin to imagine.

People often talk about privilege in developed countries as though it relates only to people who are born into vast wealth, that is to say those living in mansions, driving flash cars or drinking £30,000 worth of champagne in nightclubs; but privilege extends to people like myself, lucky enough to be born into a family that could afford to put food on my plate and a roof over my head when I was growing up. We were by no means rich, in the mainstream definition of the term, but we were significantly richer than the millions of people living in chronic hunger I saw on television growing up, or the billions that I read about today and am doing this project for. Unfortunately so many of us take for granted our place in the world. 

Privilege is about more than just colour or riches. It is about the very food and water we eat and drink.
We are fortunate only through our birth rights that we have access to clean drinking water, food, fuel and shelter. That so many go without because they lack the necessary purchasing power, in a world of so much excess, is a poor reflection on our societies. That ‘check your privilege’ saying can swing round and round for us all. The absurd thing is that though chronic hunger is stated by the World Bank as people living in less than £1 a day, there are children in developed countries, rich economies such as the UK, going to school hungry and malnourished to the point rickets is back. This is something we surely cannot continue to abide?!

My bowls of plain porridge and rice have certainly not been appetising, I was struggling with my sugar withdrawal and possibly hungry but unable to tell the difference between the two but I knew two things; I was uncomfortable and I wasn’t going to die – so I carried on into day 3, hoping I was going to feel better the next day.

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Empathy is stronger than sympathy

In a world of excess, where half the food we buy away is thrown away and half that is grown feeds livestock, millions of people live in chronic hunger. I have often thought, whilst sat drinking my coffee, that I’ve just spent on a couple of hot drinks what some people have to live on a week (including health costs etc). So with time being my closest friend at the moment, I am getting on with trying to live below the line.

I’m late but better late than never they say. I get $10 Australian (or about five of your English pounds) to go shopping and eat for five days.

According to the Oxford dictionary:  Hunger is a term which has three meanings (Oxford English Dictionary 1971)

  • the uneasy or painful sensation caused by want of food; craving appetite. Also the exhausted condition caused by want of food
  • the want or scarcity of food in a country
  • a strong desire or craving

Of these three definitions, I will not want for the scarcity of food in Melbourne but may face exhaustion or cravings. Initially I will be doing this for five days but may increase the duration as the end approaches. I have the luxury of being able to go back to my life where excess is the norm for most of us, but for over 1 billion people, that is a dream beyond their comprehension.

I went to a popular local supermarket and bought the following:

  • Bread
  • Rice – 1kg
  • Oats – 900g
  • Banana
  • Cannellini beans – 1 tin
  • Unsalted butter

For a total of $9.60. I will try to upload a daily video and blog, you’ll be able to follow the video on my YouTube channel. A lot of people do this challenge to raise money for poverty awareness, I do not have an account for that but if you would like to support the below the line projects then you could sponsor someone who has recently completed their below the line fundraiser on the link provided here.

For more info on below the line events see the links below.

https://www.livebelowtheline.com/uk/the_cause
http://www.thehungerproject.co.uk/getinvolved/live-below-the-line/

Be bored and see what’s inside

Something I have been thinking about during my travels is about photography and art. I have been pondering whether or not technology has dimmed some of our creative talents. I believe that we are all born artists but that it is drummed out of us throughout our childhood as we grow up. This has been exacerbated by the relatively cheap entry models into the world of digital cameras and the standard of modern camera phones, phablets etc, it has never been easier to be distracted. This boom in technology has stolen from us one of our greatest requirements for creativity – boredom.

All out of ideas

Comedian, Aaron Barschak, once said that all you need for creativity is a certain level of boredom, and some alcohol. The latter we have plenty of but with the technological advancements at our disposal, I wonder if we are no longer able to feel bored?

Even now I am sat on the train, on my phone, writing this blog, along with a hundred other souls all plugged into their multi-functional devices. Okay I might be creating something right now by writing this blog, or surfing the news for something of interest but, like many others, I am not ‘bored’ but distracted. If it were not for our phones, kindles and phablets, would we be instead gazing out of the train window and imagining a song or poem, inspired by the sweeping landscapes that turn to urban industrial sprawl? I don’t know, maybe not, but the opportunity is taken from us by our reliance on technology to distract us.

I’ve been thinking about this distraction culture a lot, more so since I started my Peasant Life UK project back in September 2014. I went around the UK for several weeks, taking photographs of people living on the streets, people often ignored or forgotten by the public. On my journey I found myself talking to more people than I took pictures of and it was that human connection I found they valued more than a pound in their cup. To look beyond the lens and draw closer to the people who made up my compositions, made for a much more enriching experience than merely freezing a moment in time.

This makes me wonder what role our cameras and camera phones have played in eliminating our boredom and thus taking away our creativity.

Go to any landmark or monument in the world and you will see hordes of people with their phones or latest Gucci DSLR, snapping that ‘selfie’ moment, or recreating that silhouette or perspective photo they saw on Instagram. We are capable of so much more. Instead of pointing our devices at the sails of the Opera house, or gazing up at the towers and monuments, erected to inspire us and freezing them in a moment, we should take a moment and be inspired – to allow ourselves the time to get bored. Travel is about inspiration and with it has come great art but without boredom, what chance for it to arrive?

Is boredom a catalyst for creativity, I don’t know but I guess I should practice what I preach and for the time being, put down my tech, and allow boredom to set in – listen to the sounds of the streets I walk, the trains I ride and see what happens. I might have a sonnet or drawing inside me waiting to be released and so might you.