Tinkers Bubble is a 42-acre organic smallholding in the heart of Somerset. Over ten years a handful of permanent residents have built low impact environmentally friendly dwellings and use the amenities which nature provides to sustain their lifestyle. Nestled amongst the trees a variety of homes emerge like mushrooms from the forest floor. Built from recycled material each dwelling reflects the personalities and aspirations of their architects. Some are little more than hazel twigs lashed together with canvas to protect from the elements or relics of long diseased garden sheds, while others are carefully constructed from bales of straw and daubed with mud in place of plaster, and fully fitted with wood-burning stoves.
Tinkers Bubble takes its name from the sound of the stream running through the woodland and the travellers from a bygone age who used to congregate each autumn to work as apple pickers. Each year the tradition is upheld and the extensive orchards are harvested of their fruit to produce organic apple juice and cider. As well as vegetables grown in the communal and individual allotments, two Jersey cows provide milk for cheese and yoghurt. Management of the surrounding woodland mainly comprising of Douglas Fir and Laurel provides material for building and fuel and the production of timber for trade.
Low Impact living at Tinkers Bubble is by no means an easy life, labour is manual due to their non-fossil fuel policy, work is carried out by hand, which includes felling trees and haymaking. Rain, mud and cold are a common feature and despite the fairy tail location, such living is not for the faint-hearted. However, if so-called conventional modern living with all its trials and tribulations is what we perceive to be a more convenient existence, then all we have to do is consider our daily routine. Industry and technology mean that we work longer and harder than ever before, our average working week consists of 40 hours or more. Cars enable us to drive to work so that we can spend more time there to make more money, that way we can afford labour saving devises such as washing machines, and in doing so we support other industries by creating a demand. Our leisure time is spent at the gym to work off excess fat gained by driving everywhere. However, despite recent reports by the Environment Agency suggesting air pollution will lead to the premature deaths of over 24,000 people, together with countless other news items in the media relating to global warming issues, it seems we are content to endure the destruction of the environment for the sake of our modern conveniences.
Alexander Smith 1829-67, Scottish poet said .........“Nature never quite goes with us. She is sombre at weddings, sunny at funerals, and she frowns on ninety out of a hundred picnics.” At the moment we can only hope for this to be true, in the meantime, we must trust in the resilience of nature and its ability to adapt. We must give more credit to the eco-warriors and environmental agencies who campaign against global warming on behalf of the otherwise complacent masses.
Manenberg is a coloured township outside Cape Town and was constructed as a social experiment by the apartheid government during the 1960s as part of the group areas act, a political project based on ideas of racial separation.
Today, after the breakdown of apartheid and the transition into a democratic society, the consequences of these racial policies are still unmistakable on the streets of Manenberg.
Life in Manenberg is hard for the young, violence and crime plays a central role in day-to-day life. Unemployment
is high and the frustration amongst the young people of Manenberg affects the local community resulting in a high rate of domestic and sexual violence, teenage pregnancies and drug abuse. Gangs with names such as the American’s, Clever Kids, Jesters, Hard Living, Dixie Boys, and Vikings command territories are notorious for
serious criminal acts. The gangs start recruiting kids from the age of 11, with most becoming active gang members at the age of 14. With well-paid employment difficult to come by for coloured South Africans, drug smuggling, theft and other illicit activities are a lucrative alternative to regular employment.
Evidence of neediness is rife in the community, queues form outside the local charity feeding stations offering one meal a week on a first-come-first-served basis. Both local primary and secondary schools also offer a free meals service for children who are disadvantaged either through neglect or poverty.
Racism is still very much an issue in South Africa, but prejudice is now directed towards the coloured communities. The most frequently heard complaint amongst coloured people of Manenberg is, not ‘white enough’ under apartheid and are not ‘black enough’ in the new democracy.
The Kids Need Shoes
In the town of Bamenda, North West Cameroon is a co-operative of women beekeepers. Its founder member is Marianna Fumsi who became interested in beekeeping when she volunteered in a honey shop to gain work experience.
With a passion for women’s issues, Mariana recognised the potential for training women to keep bees as a means of generating income. Through the sale of honey, women can provide food and purchase seeds for the ongoing harvest, but most importantly they can pay for their children's education and medical treatment.
In Cameroon, as with many African countries, families must pay fees for each child to attend school, but with approximately 40% of the population in the country living below the poverty line some parents find it extremely hard to provide for even the most basic needs. No child is allowed to attend class without shoes or school uniform. With this degree of deprivation, children have little or no hope or accessing healthcare and education which ultimately makes all the difference to the future development of the children, their families and the wider community.
Networking between grassroots women's organisations means there are now several similar women’s cooperatives in the North West region including beekeeping cooperatives in the towns of Belo, Fundong and Bamendankwe. While each offers training for those who want to learn about apiary craft, they also aim to address gender-based issues such as violence in the family home and education drop-out; this is a country where teenage pregnancies are common and the cycle of dropout, illiteracy and poverty are self-perpetuating.
The women of such cooperatives have long recognised the need to support each other and work together to enrich their lives and live in harmony with nature.