Today on the blog is another fab blog tour post! This time it comes from the lovely Bren MacDibble who’s book, How To Bee, was simply fantastic. A real darling of a story and will hopefully get some notice because of its important message about the environment and how human beings are changing the state of things.
For years friends have said, ‘You should write a book about your childhood,’ but I could never figure out how to make being a naïve ragamuffin farm kid into an interesting story. Plus I love to write future fiction, not reality fiction. But finally I stumbled on the sub-genre of climate fiction, and things fell into place. I could write a farm story set in an environmentally-challenged future! How to Bee was a book I’d been waiting to write for so long, and it flowed in a way that made me feel I knew exactly what I was doing. That’s a rare, rare, thing!
My family were farm workers around the central North Island, New Zealand. Housing was provided, and if it was rough, we moved on more quickly, but my father’s income was low and the rest of us pretty much worked for free. Clothes were second-hand, barefoot was normal, and food was mostly what we could grow or was given to us from the landowner. Usually mutton. We were sent out with buckets for blackberries, mushrooms, shellfish, eels, or to convince passing crop trucks to stop and fill our buckets with peas or beans. The last option was our favourite because it involved a whole lot less work! We milked cows, kept pigs and chickens, made our own butter, bought potatoes by the 5kg sack, and squawked constantly about being hungry so were sent out with buckets to pick apples to fill the gaps. Farm life involves a lot of buckets!
I don’t know that we thought we were badly off, because everyone around us was living the same kinds of lives. Landowners had swimming pools and fancy houses and new clothes, and kids who ate junk food and looked down on us, but we all got the same education at school, and there were plenty of kids like us and many worse off. This was life, and we got on with it, because there was still a lot of fun to be had. A trait I built into Peony in How to Bee. She adores and embraces her life, even though, to us, it can seem that Peony has it really rough.
I guess I’m lucky to have grown up without much, because it has become increasingly apparent that we (people who live in modern societies) consume far too much, more than our planet can actually bear, in fact. We are unconscious buyers of stuff and creators of waste. The golden years of consumerism and all its fine trappings are drawing to a close and in the future, if there is to be one, and I think young people are smart enough to pull this off, they will look back at our societies from the 1950s to the 2020s in awe and wonder at our decadence.
I have at times since I was a child lived with very little, including almost two years backpacking around the world, as well as motorbike tours across the US. Recently, prompted by a house fire, I sold off the remaining unburned furniture and the rebuilt house as well. Now I’m embarking on a journey of minimalist living in a bus travelling across Australia. Owning less has always made me feel more free, and less stressed. This recent downsize has resulted in me dropping one of my three jobs, giving me more time to write, and allowed me to see this amazing country. Who knows if I’d have had the courage to break out of city life and give this a try, if not for a fire showing me how fragile and cluttered our lives were, and a childhood of making do?
How To Bee by Bren MacDibble is published by Old Barn Books and is available from May 2018. Check out this site for more information about Bren and her books.