Sunday, 4 March 2018

Life in the open air.

Hopefully, by the time you read this, it will be a bit warmer. But goodness, hasn’t it been cold! Like almost everyone else, I’ve stayed indoors. Not only because that is the official advice (I’m not one for official advice, but not putting my life and the lives of those who might have to rescue me at risk seems common sense to me.). There was an eerie hush outside. Even the birds stopped twittering. My lovely town seemed to be holding its breath waiting for warmer weather. 

We in the UK make a fuss about weather. I’ve just come back from Nepal (as many of you know) where people respond more pragmatically. It’s hot ... wear something light and flimsy that keeps your skin covered from the burning fire. It’s chilly ... wear more clothes (I learned to wear a blanket while I was there), and join your neighbours round a fire.

And maybe it’s the neighbours that make such a difference. For most of life in rural Nepal is lived outside. Rooms are for cooking or sleeping in. Everything else happens in the open air. Lives are lived in public. Women sit in their doorways to pick over the rice to find stones.  Children flit from family to family. Young people do their homework on the kerbside. 

Which means that if anyone has a problem the street or the village knows - not via any gossipy grapevine, but simply by concerned word of mouth. The ups and downs of family life spill out into the street and become everyone’s concern. And everyone chips in to help find a solution.

The Nepali don’t need official advice when the weather is challenging. They don’t need a government to remind them to look in on vulnerable neighbours to make sure they are warm enough and haven’t run out of bread. It is simply second nature to take care of each other.

I know our climate, in the UK, makes outdoor living impossible for much of the year. But, as we hide behind our locked doors, or even grow huge hedges to ensure the privacy of our gardens, we also shut ourselves off from the possibility of communal nurturing that keeps the show on the road in so many developing countries. It is, I think, our loss.


  1. It is true, Jo, but I think it is more than it used to be. My parents spoke of a much more communal life when they were young. We in the west have developed our individualism to the point where community means less than our personal wellbeing.

    1. Agreed, Val - although many of our Asian communities in the UK are still good at it. It’s a balance - individual v family and community, and, in my own view, the legacy of Thatcher is an epidemic of individualism that harms us all.