My grandfather Sidney Albert lived simply. He lived in a small house in the country, grew his own vegetables, kept a few chickens and all his food was cooked at home in the kitchen. His house had no electricity or gas; it was kept warm by a wood-burning stove and lit by oil lamps and candles. I was very young when he died, but I do remember him wearing a collarless shirt, black worsted trousers, braces (that’s suspenders in North America) and a waistcoat. He never ever went out without a hat and only went out when he had something important to do. Each day he tended his garden, ate his home-cooked supper, read by his oil lamp and finally went to bed. My sister and I were always fascinated by his outside lavatory which consisted of a very small shed built around a deep hole over which was a shelf, with a large hole in it to sit on!

Before you leap to conclusions about my grandfather, let me clear up a few points; he was not Amish, neither was he Quaker (although I am), he was not a member of some austere socialist ‘back to the land’ movement, nor a hermit-like transcendental philosopher. In fact, he was a retired stonemason who voted Conservative and read the Daily Telegraph. Those ‘important’ outings I mentioned were usually to the village store or, more rarely, to the local Anglican Church. This was not too long ago either, the early 1960s, before the small group of cottages in which his home was situated was connected to mains water or the electricity grid. And geographically he was not, as you will have guessed by now, in rural Ohio; rather he lived in Berkshire in the UK. A noisy motorway now runs not far away from where his simple and tranquil retirement took place.

The big difference between simplicity now and simplicity then is that in his day, rural living just was simple! He didn’t choose a simple life, he just accepted it. Today, the complexity of life is the ‘norm’ which we are all expected to accept; a simple life is a choice that we make and an aspiration that we work towards. Living simply today is voluntary - it is also an act of nonconformity and may even be seen as a radical act of passive resistance – it’s really up to you!.....

Continued at Live Simple, Live Full

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