Hitler, vegetable plots, macho embroidery and a new look at hope.

Monday found me surrounded by tanks, war memorabilia, lots of rain, and not a few school children: My first visit to the Imperial War Museum with the hubster. I can’t say as I was overly impressed by much of the obvious, while Rob enjoyed reading about the machines that blew people and homes to smithereens. I did enjoy bits of the history I saw however.

We headed to the lower level after viewing all the bombs and planes, the submarine experience, and buses turned war transport. After visiting the shelter reinactment, which was a bit dull, but at least one of the old timers that sat with us sang along with the old tunes being piped through the speakers, performed by actors… something about a barrel… one can safely assume a barrel of something malted? Anyways, we walked through the section that presented what was going on during the war on British soil in people’s every day lives away from most of the immediate action. The first few things that held my attention were posters appealing to mainly housewives to recycle nearly everything imaginable- from newspapers to rubber to food to metal. People during that time no doubt did their absolute best to turn everything salvagable into something that would sustain their communities and their loved ones fighting for a cause they believed in. Nothing went to waste. Posters implored people to turn their gardens into vegetable plots so that ships could be used to support the war rather than wasting time, supplies and energy to import food items. Public parks, playing fields and greens were turned into farmland that was cultivated by local people. Other posters cautioned folks against spending unnecessarily, advising that it would actually help Hitler.

There were posters teaching children left behind how to mend clothing, repair leaky taps, and other easy things that we are just too lazy most days to bother with today. We just buy something new or call someone to fix it for us.

Scraps of food that weren’t left to rot in a bin. They were turned into food for the pigs that people kept in their back yards for food. People- regular people, not farmers- kept chickens and pigs in their back yards for food.

Being a bit of a craft fanatic I was really taken in by the amount of embroidery and cross stitch that I saw. Most was either patriotic or had a message of social action to it. Art and craft meets activism. And that’s something I’m really intrigued by at present- craftivism. It’s nothing new! Another element of the embroidery/craft thing that hit me was a display of Christmas cards created by World War I frontliners, items sent back home to loved ones. Cards that were actually embroidered with lovely designs… by men- soldiers! How incredible the way gender notions of craft get turned on their heads when convenience is fleeting and desperate times are with us. I wonder if some day during the present ‘economic downturn’ if Rob will sew a hankie for me with my initials or something.

Why does it take something like war or catastrophy to make us strip back to the basic necessities? Why do we feel that in times of ‘prosperity’ we can rape the system and the world around us? Why can’t we live under the same premise of providing local produce grown with our own hands to sustain our families and communities? Why can’t we patch up a hole in our socks instead of buying a new pair? Sure, we may have the money to afford new items or to splurge on something imported from the third world, but what we all know or should know (we’ve all got access to the info if we’d care to look and acknowledge it’s out there) that there are desperate times everywhere. That country that provided you with that banana is more than likely offering its own citizens with half rotting bananas for their own tables- if they’re that lucky. That cocoa in your valentine’s chocolate could well have been harvested by a child that should be going to school.

I found my visit to the museum to be mostly boring, a bit sad, but I am inspired by what I saw. People who got the message that things must change. And so they did. Too bad things went back to the same ol’, or even worse. I hope and pray that some day I can have a vegetable garden to feed my own family with. And that I can make some kind of a difference in our convenience-laden society that’s inconvenient to most of the developing world.

Hitler, vegetable plots, macho embroidery and a new look at hope.

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