Saturday 7 August 2021

Small Economies

Today let us meditate upon the Gospel according to Matthew, Matthew 6:25-29 (King James Version), to be precise:

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body more than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air; for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your Heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say until you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  

What I find fascinating about this today is that my own maternal culture, in which you can participate by reading Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne novels*, has all this off by heart (and according to the KJV) but also thought a good deal about eating (without waste), drinking (without drunkenness),  raiment (no sparkling gems before 5 PM), toiling (Protestant work ethic), spinning (as it were) and putting money by for a rainy day. 

Summoning to mind my paternal culture, I can see only approved way of living to the letter of Matthew 6:25-29, and that is in a monastery. If you're trying to do this outside of a monastery, you may be a dirty hippie, not that we would ever be so rude as to say so. 

I'm amused by the contrast between Matthew 6:25-29 and my money-haunted devoutly Christian cultural backgrounds. It is one of the interesting tensions of life---although, admittedly, it is more painful than interesting when I burst into tears because I have to buy something costing £29.99 for work and I won't be paid back until September. It's not even because we'll be in the red at the end of the month (I think); it's that there will be less green. 

That's the downside of getting so tremendously excited about household accounts. 

There are rewards, though. Yesterday I enjoyed a quiet and relaxing quarter-of-an-hour sewing up the holes in the toes of my blue striped socks. Then I shined my navy blue granny shoes, to make them look newer to the physio. In the evening, my heart rejoiced when Benedict Ambrose, after scouring Gumtree for a bargain on ergonomic chairs, illustrated that the one I bought four years ago is not, in fact, broken. 

"You fixed it," I cried, delighted to have saved a minimum of £60.

'I didn't fix it; I used it," he grumbled. 

I am currently saving more money by writing on a desk that is too large for our dining-room but turns out to have (as I had forgotten) a drawer that folds out into a typing table. I would like to rid myself of the behemoth, but then I would have to buy a new one, and it would cost more than free.  

Such small economies warm my descended-from-several-generations-of-Scots-Presbyterian-women-and-a-1969-Catholic-convert heart. My parents are, naturally, also good at small economies, and the photograph illustrates one of them. 

I cannot remember on what occasion I cravenly suggested to the earthly authors of my being that they  give me an iconic Hudson's Bay Company blanket. Perhaps I suggested it as a hostess present: what a stinker. The HBC blanket, white wool with those stripes, is evocative of the Canadian Dream, which is to own a cedar-smelling cottage in the woods by a lake. It costs a bomb, which is to say, $325-$450, but in my defence I didn't know that when I hopefully asked my Aged Parents to bring us one.

The Aged Parents cleverly divined that the Canadian nostalgia I was looking for was contained not in the white wool but in the stripes. They therefore sent or brought us a tall ceramic coffee mug emblazoned with the HBC stripes. It is too lovely to shut away with the other coffee mugs, so we use it for our everyday silverware.  

It stands on the kitchen counter, not only an evocative symbol of Canadiana, but also a tribute to my parents' good sense. If we had to flee with only 100 possession in a suitcase, I would certainly pack that mug.

This may be as good a time as any to admit that the Made-in-Scotland fine wool blue cardigan my mother gave me for Christmas has worn a hole in the left elbow. Benedict Ambrose, who keeps his clothes pristine for decades, says this is because fine wool cardigans are not suited to everyday use. He suggested I buy smart leather patches to cover the elbows, but I have saved us £4.50 or so by simply sewing up the hole with blue thread. 

*I'm not even kidding about the Anne books, the literary distillation of Scots-Canadian Presbyterianism. And I will now once again indulge myself by repeating that the Woke generation, like my own PC generation, will never be able to write The Great Canadian Novel, for it has already been written and it is Anne of Green Gables

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!


  1. As a fellow lover of Anne since childhood who is now closer in age to Marilla, I certainly agree with your footnote! The Highland Catholics of Nova Scotia from whom I'm descended weren't too different from the Presbyterians of PEI in some ways, particularly where thrift is concerned. There's a part of a song from the recent Anne and Gilbert musical that sums the outlook up quite well: "There's wax on the floor and jam in the pantry; company has to have tea. We won't go to bed till the dishes are done and we've no time for fiddle-de-dee!"

    From the monastic side of things, today's reading from the Rule of St Benedict seems quite apt, including, "For it is enough for a monk to have two tunics and two cowls, for the necessities of night wear as well as for washing them. Anything more than this is superfluous and must be forbidden."

    Glad that you are back to more regular blogging!


    1. The Rule of St Benedict is very sensible. Imagine everyone had just two outfits at a time! (Okay, two more for gym, as our daily tasks aren't enough to keep us fit.) And I am greatly cheered to hear that of the Catholics of Nova Scotia, presumably descended from Clearance-era Scottish Highlanders.

  2. Canadian literature is caught halfway between L.M Montgomery and Margaret Laurence, both Presbyterians.

  3. Oh gosh, yes. If I had to argue against my own point I would say that the Great Canadian Novel for the rest of the world (especially Japan) is Anne of Green Gables, but that the Great Canadian Novel within Canada (at least from 1945 to 1990 or so) is/was Hugh MacLennan's Two Solitudes. But we sure had to read a lot of Margaret Laurence in high school. Man, I am so grateful for pre-1990 Canadian literature, for it has preserved my maternal culture in the face of its deliberate (and yet inevitable) replacement/fragmentation.

  4. Indeed. Yet - I am so irritated with Americans who do not realise that Margaret Atwood is first and foremost a Canadian nationalist, not a feminist. They keep ludicrously misreading her as a result of this. I don't think she minds, though, as I've never seen her complain about it. (I haven't looked very far, I confess.)

    1. It's presumably because they've read/seen only The Handmaid's Tale, and they treat it as though it were an allegory about the American pro-life movement.