Atelier 88 Galicia

Newsletter 3. What is Basic?

The dogs are waiting by the front door to come into the house, they are excited, their tails wagging, got to love the optimism of dogs. I had been collecting kindling in the field before the race to be back to be in front of the fire. In the field Wilma and Baggy had been ragging whilst Colin keeps to himself to himself in Colin world, and our mother cat Puddha regularly accompanies our walks, often with much to say.

Usually Lottie is the main forager for this valuable material, a handful of kindling can get the day off to a great start when the the Esse is fired up. Recently we have been making the fire in the front room, a fireplace out of an old storybook, with the old bread oven behind it. In the summer we have less need of the fires of course so we use the table top oven, the twin gas rings on what was our sole means of cooking when we arrived two years ago this month.

Two years has gone by, the tribulations of those first years replaced by new ones. Whilst the sun shines on much of our endeavour its the small impositions that are vexations, bureaucracy and control. But that’s life, cars breakdown, computers and other electrical goods have built in self destruct and companies pick your pockets daily with various invitations to upgrade to ‘Pro’! Or for just a small charge a month we can add to your debts over the year considerably! The ‘big’ art exhibitions charge a fee to enter, a masquerade called administration costs, money not art!

How do we function around these bleak reminders of a failing system? For us the need for a simpler life, a return to some basic living. But what is basic? Basic is often presented as a lack of something, a negative. Yet a lack of what? There is one currency that has disappeared, that is the ability to ‘see’, to ‘feel’, to empathise with the everyday. The challenges that arise are often about the things we gather round us that we could do without.

What is basic? A basic need?  We just bought a TV for the first time in twelve years, is that a basic?  A need? We saw it as a distraction in the past, relying on the computer for the ‘Nordic Noir’ evenings. Yet we now enjoy curling up in front of a movie and use the computer mainly for work. It is crucial to rest, switch off, relax, take the time to stop, and stare, repose is vital for mental health. The computer is a key basic, a vital part of our well being is the ability to stay in touch, communicate with friends and family, from this isolated haven.

All is in the interpretation of what we call the basics, basic needs, food security, access to health care, community and support networks, love and understanding. We share our world with the pack, animals are basic needs, for companionship, for work. It is empathy that defines our humanness. In his book ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Philip K Dick explores empathy, do animals in the dreams of androids make them human? That being human is investigated through animals and androids. Authentic and inauthentic worlds ‘For the people of a ravaged earth who cannot afford animals purchase artificial ones’. We share our world with other creatures, our contact, and interaction is a basic need for us.

Marx terms this as Species Being: ‘Man is directly a natural being. As a natural being and as a living natural being he is on the one hand endowed with natural powers, vital powers – he is an active natural being. These forces exist in him as tendencies and abilities – as instincts. On the other hand, as a natural, corporeal, sensuous objective being he is a suffering, conditioned and limited creature, like animals and plants. That is to say, the objects of his instincts exist outside him, as objects independent of him; yet these objects are objects that he needs – essential objects, indispensable to the manifestation and confirmation of his essential powers’ Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy in General

Thomas Berry (1914–2009) called for new forms of ecological education, law, and spirituality and the creation of resilient agricultural systems, bioregions, and ecocities.  Berry articulated the principles and philosophy of Earth Jurisprudence. That every being had rights. If you are interested in more I can put up a reading list and others can also submit books. Check it out.

Our goat arrived last week and she took a little while to feel at home here with the Red House Tribe. ‘Su Su Star’, as Lottie calls her is friendly, inquisitive, and Wilma our smallest dog has started playing with her as if she is a large new dog, the goat loves the game. Why is a goat a basic for a simpler life? The lockdown taught us that we use the car too much, that we buy necessities when we could grow more of our own. Lottie in her past life had an organic farm with a Goat herd in the wilds of Yorkshire so we have a resident expert.


Today the rain has come, a drifting drizzle, the mist snakes along the river below, the goat is out in the field with the turkeys and our king protector Baggy is sleeping by the big fire so let’s hope that the wolf we saw yesterday does not relish the rain!