23 November, 2012

My West Beach

Yesterday was Thanksgiving - an American tradition that takes place on the fourth Thursday of November each year. Apparently it's also a Canadian holiday (in October) and an English one (?) but don't quote me on that.

My first Thanksgiving in America (four years ago) was the first time I saw snow; my brothers went running outside in their pajamas and bare feet while I watched from the window and sipped my tea. At 40 degrees Fahrenheit, however, the weather of yesterday's Thanksgiving permitted a morning run on the beach.
And I'm taking advantage of every non-freezing day to enjoy that beach before the temperature plunges to hideous depths.

I've always loved the ocean - maybe because I'm from a landlocked country and associate the sea with childhood holidays in South Africa and Mozambique, or because it's feels like an enormous, unpredictable and beautiful monster. And even though my little beach has smelly brown seaweed, a 6.30am dog called Max that isn't my favourite being in the world, a sad lack of shells, and seagulls that try to end my life by dropping oysters on my head (ok, slight exaggeration...it was just one gull), I'm still becoming fondly possessive of it. And of the early mornings we share. It's my beach.

Each morning on West Beach is different. Sometimes the sun takes-over the sky and smears it with colour. Last month there was a sunrise so shocking I didn't bother watching where I was going and stared sideways across the water as I ran. That day the sun elicited more than the regular "'morning" from me and my walking buddies as we passed each other;
"Isn't it beautiful!?"
"It's gorgeous!"

Another day, the beach was foggy and eerie, the seagulls standing in silence on the sand, watching me. I saw a single headlight zigzagging across the beach in front of me. When it finally passed me the middle-aged man on the bicycle gave me a sheepish grin.

Yesterday was another special morning, with large waves that seemed particularly antsy and restless. It was a high tide, forcing me to run higher up on the small width of the beach than I usually do. My track was a narrow band of hard-ish sand (I avoid the soft sand) between the water, the brown weeds of yesterday's waves and the forbidden territory beyond the beach's edge - territory of those who possess a beachfront home. I felt like I was racing those loud waves, like they were throwing themselves onto the beach and reaching for my feet grey, wet hands.

Mornings like that always make me feel obliged, pushed, left with no choice but to thank God for His beauty.  Sometimes I think, "gosh, thank goodness I'm here to see this! Otherwise no one would appreciate this beauty". But then I realize, the waves, the sunrise, the seagulls, the fog - they're already praising Him, just by being. If I wasn't there, His beauty would still be there. It's always there. It's huge.

So, thanks Lord, for the sea and the beach. For giving me a glimpse of your huge beauty. 

01 November, 2012

Texting Girls

I love working at an American Christian College – it’s amazing the conversations you overhear. Take this morning for example:

Two friends, both male, sitting just inside my office, waiting for an appointment. Both have their phones out.

Eli: So, there’s this girl and –
Mike: wait, stop. Did you just say girl?
Eli: yeah. Girl.
Mike: oh. Thought so.
Eli: So there’s this girl and she’s been texting me.
                She’s been texting me -
Mike: You should reply.
Eli:  - but it’s, like, really weird. I think someone’s using my phone to text her and then deleting the messages and then she’s replying. (reads from his phone) “OMG. You hungry? Come get my ID card from MacDonald.”
Mike: you know her?
Eli: yeah but…
Mike: Maybe she’s just into tall, gangly, hickville kinda guys.
Eli: Maybe.
ok, I said, “which Macdonald, the auditorium or the building?”
Mike: You texted her?
Eli: Yeah.
Mike: that’s like...weird.
Eli: What?
Mike: Yeah man, that’s like, mean.
Eli: Well you told me to.
Mike: I feel like there’s so many times where I’ve told you to do stupid things and you’ve done them.
Eli: Really?
Mike: Nah.

26 October, 2012

Going 'pink' not about the green

Here's a piece I did this week for the Salem News. I'd love to say I came up with the headline (the title above) but I did not. Sadly. I wrote the article though - and took the pictures!

Local businesses mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month

They are there for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and are one way that owner Hoang “Ritchie” Phan, 37, is connecting to the local community through his dry-cleaning store.

“This is not about business,” Phan said, “it’s about smiling. It’s about helping someone who has breast cancer look nice and feel good. That’s normal.”

Phan is one of a few local business owners who, during the month of October, purchase unique “pink” products from their regular suppliers to sell or display to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For small businesses like Beverly Cleaners, the reasons have little to do with making money.
“I don’t think it necessarily helps business,” said Bruce Kahn, 54. “It just helps dry cleaners show their customers they care.”

Kahn is a sales consultant with AristoCraft Supply, the dry-cleaning, laundry and tailoring company that sells its products (which in October includes pink bracelets, pink hangers and pink-ribbon polyester bags) to Phan. Aristocraft donates the proceeds of these sales to the American Breast Cancer Foundation and is one of the 40 sponsors listed on ABCF’s website.

“During our first year, about 75 percent of our customers were involved with it,” Khan said.
AristoCraft donated $5,000 to the ABCF in its first year and $7,500 in its second. This will be its third, with approximately 100 New England customers having bought into the program.
One of those customers is Phan.

Other businesses are showing their support in similar ways. Paul Danehy, 37, manager of Curran Brothers Florist in Danvers, says that when his regular vendor offered him a new product containing a pink breast cancer awareness ribbon, he made an impulse decision to buy it.

“It was sort of spontaneous,” he said. “I thought it would be a great way to participate.”
Danehy purchased a stock of wooden plant boxes with a photo cube on each side, one of which contains a pink ribbon. For $19.95, customers can buy pink cyclamen flowers in these pots, $5 of which will be donated to breast cancer research.

“It’s a nice, uplifting gift,” Danehy said. “It touches everyone; we all one way or another know someone who is affected by breast cancer.”

According to statistics from the American Cancer Society, 1 in 8 women in America will develop breast cancer during her lifetime. It is the most common form of cancer among women. With individuals, schools and businesses becoming more aware and supportive of the fight against breast cancer, it is no surprise that the pink ribbon has become so widely used.

However, some people are wary of the current pink trend. The advocacy organization Breast Cancer Action tells people to “Think Before You Pink,” warning consumers about “pinkwashing,” when a company or organization uses the pink ribbon on its merchandise but continues to use chemicals or sell products that are linked to breast cancer. The companies might do this to help increase their bottom line.

On the local level, however, supporting breast cancer awareness is not necessarily a business-motivated decision, as in the case of Beverly Cleaners and Curran Brothers.

After buying the pink ribbon flower pots for around $12 each, offering free delivery in Danvers and donating $5 to breast cancer research, Danehy says he just about breaks even with his pink product.
“We don’t make anything off it,” Danehy said. “But I don’t know if that’s really what it’s designed to do.”

Phan would agree with him. He says that his business is not about making money, it’s about making friends. And supporting the fight against breast cancer is just one way of doing that.

Ritchie Pham (left) and Paul Danahy (right) with their "pink" products

16 October, 2012

Getting in touch with my inner-hippie

I watched a movie the other night that inspired me to be more old fashioned and homey.

The movie (Miss Potter) is the story of British author and illustrator, Beatrix Potter. It's basically about her journey to become published; her quirks and fancies as a children’s-book writer, how she overcome all social and family obstacles and of course got engaged to the man of her dreams. (As a side note, Beatrix Potter was also a natural scientist and conservationist but for some reason the movie-makers decided to focus on her love life...go figure.)

It was a touching, warm and idyllic story and it sent me into a period-drama-frenzy. Over the last week I've watched Pride and Prejudice (new version), Persuasion and all four episodes of Wives and Daughters. 

The effect of all these heart-warming stories, as I said, has been to make me long for old-fashioned, homey, romantic...things. I want to draw portraits and write letters, to pick flowers, make bread (which I did on Sunday), go for long walks in the country-side (hmmm, not much countryside here, and it will all be covered in snow in a few weeks…rats), to read and drink tea (I've had that one pretty well covered since I was seven), have thoughtful conversations with friends over coffee, take long train rides and so on. 
I have the urge to quit my job (and get away from these darn computer screens), live artistically and simply, and devote my days to discovering my inner-hippie.

Sounds beautiful.

But. Unfortunately for my inner-hippie, we have this silly thing called money (and rent and bills and loan payments). Talk about messed up values. 

As a senior in college (last year) I was special. I was told I was smart, going great places, doing great things, an amazing person. Graduation week, I felt on top of the world. Buuut, I didn’t stay there. I’m back at my college as a staff member (Administrative Assistant) and no longer feel special. I didn't go places, haven’t done great things, I’m not even an intelligent student anymore.

Ok, ok, I’m pouting and feeling sorry for myself.

But it’s made me think about societal values. We (me included) are forever looking to the future – to the next big step in life, to what we’ll do when we grow up, to who we'll be when we can say “ I've made it”. And people (me included) are disappointed when we don’t “make it” – when we aren't performing on Broadway, going to grad school, working for peace in Africa, teaching English in Korea, building planes or networking with CEOs in DC.

Do I have to be “making a difference” before my work, my daily life, my existence, can be thought of as meaningful?

I've just started the ambitious project of making a quilt by hand (I don’t have a sewing machine or know how to use one and they sort of terrify me).So far, I’m thoroughly enjoying it; each night when it takes me an hour to tack and stitch two 4”x 4” squares carefully together, I feel creative and accomplished. I feel content.

And I’m learning that this time is not wasted. Just because I take immense pleasure in making simple, beautiful things, and taking time to do it – whether it’s a loaf of cinnamon bread or a nine-block square for a quilt - doesn't mean I’m wasting time. I don't have to return home exhausted from the office or the classroom each day and work late into the night to be 'fulfilled'. And just because I’m no longer a student and don’t really know what I want to be when I grow up doesn't mean I can’t keep learning, be intellectually challenged, be bold and proud of what I do. I can be an Austen-inspired hippie and a student and a romantic all at once!

So tonight I’m going to happily, and without feelings of guilt , sew a few more patches on my quilt while I watch the 2nd round of the American Presidential Debates.

I feel excited and content just thinking about it.

Oh and in case you want to see, here's my bread and the 'progress' on my quilt :)

03 October, 2012

Running: a cultural education in canine-care

This one made it into the Salem News last week. Woo hoo! Pity they don't pay for Op Eds...

I've discovered that you can learn quite a bit about a country's culture when you're a runner. For example, I've recently been struck by the two extremes of dog-care: the non-interference, leave them alone, sometimes leave out scraps of food attitude of people in Thailand, and the take them to doggie-daycare, wrap up their poop in little, blue plastic bags, hire a dog-sitter/walker protectiveness of people in America.

If you're a morning runner - like me - you get to see all sorts of things that the late-risers don't. Like the people who walk their dogs on West Beach despite the "Absolutely No Dogs Year Round" sign at the entrance. In fact, I've become nodding-hello-as-we-pass friends with a brown-haired woman who walks her highly-energetic collie on the beach every morning. The collie's name is Max.

Max races up and down the beach, sniffing and panting as though each morning is his first time there, barking with ecstatic urgency at the gulls and plovers. Max doesn't find me very exciting. Thank goodness.

Dogs can be a runner's nightmare. They bite, they chase, they bark. They're unpredictable. And unlike the gulls and plovers, I can't fly away when I'm chased, an ability that would have come in very handy during the six months I lived in Thailand.

Chiang Mai, a beautiful, modern city on Northern Thailand is full of dogs and there's no pound or animal shelter to keep them in check. They roam the streets in packs, sleep inside people's doorways, live in temple grounds where monks (and tourists) won't chase them away. Unlike the dogs here in the U.S., those dogs aren't pets; they're mangy, scrawny street dogs. Some Thais do keep dogs as pets in their homes but most of the canine population lives on the streets.

I had to be on hyper-alert mode when I ran in the mornings in Thailand, crossing over to the other side of the street whenever I saw a pack of dogs ahead of me. Most of the time they were docile or sleepy and completely ignored me. But not always.

One morning just before sunrise I was running around what's known as "the old city"  - a square block in the middle of Chiang Ma that is surrounded by an ancient moat and remnants of stone walls. I turned a corner, my MP3 music pumping in my ears, sweating in the lovely Asian humidity, when a small part of my consciousness registered a faint shout somewhere (some kind soul taking pity of the poor farang girl was about to be attacked).

I took out my earphones and turned around to see a large, white dog running straight for me. And it wasn't 'oh-look-someone-to-play-with' running, it was 'I'm-gonna-bite-this-girl-in-the-leg' running.

Now, I'm certainly not brave. But I can be immensely practical, and in that moment - as this strange dog raced towards me - my practical mind pushed the cowardly, heart-racing, petrified girl inside of me aside and took control.

I ran forward towards the dog, clapped my hands hard and shouted, "EY!!"
The dog stopped, completely surprised and stared at me in confusion.
"Don't!" I yelled.

Then I did something that made the the cowardly, heart-racing, petrified girl faint inside me. I turned around, and kept running. Thank heaven the dog didn't follow.

Jogging on the beach in Beverly, watching Max yap at the gulls, I am constantly reminded of that dog-chase in Thailand. I've realized that jogging is something of a cultural education, it requires not only physical but also mental energy. You have to abide by the unspoken cultural, social, every-day  rules around you and accept that they are necessary. You have to learn the flow of the country and ride along with it in order to survive. Or avoid being bitten in the leg by dogs.

13 September, 2012

Lessons with Kisha

I've started tutoring.

That's quite surprising for two reasons. One, I'm not really qualified and particularly strong in subjects that kids usually seem to need help with; maths, chemistry, biology, french. My strengths are reading and writing. Not particularly practical.
And two, I'm rather intimidated by kids. Especially the American kind.

But I'm not good at saying no, so when one of my favourite professors called up and asked if I'd tutor her daughter because the tutor she'd arranged previously had left her suddenly, I said yes.

Luckily, the girl I'm tutoring is very good at math and doesn't really enjoy writing - so I'd actually be a useful tutor. And though she's grown up and been educated in America, she isn't really American. She's Indian. Sort of.
More importantly, though, her mom - a tiny, intense, inspiring, sometimes terrifying professor of sociology - is Indian, and has ensured her daughter has something that most American children do not; respect for elders.

Last week was my first tutoring session with Kisha* and before I picked her up from choir practice, Dr. Samuel* came to me with instructions.
"I've told her she's to listen to you, you're the boss, ok?"
"No, this will work out wonderfully. I'm glad it's you, you know. You can be hard on her, none of this American nonsense."
She was especially delighted that I came from a country and family that is fairly strict with it's children. She obviously has greater belief in my backbone than I do.

Despite my fears, the tutoring session went well. I managed to be helpful, not too boring (I hope) and made the effort to be more conversant than I usually am with strangers, even little kid strangers. And Kisha is easy to be with; she's bright (in intellect and personality) and brimming with confidence. Quite the opposite of me. Actually, I think our different personalities and working styles will complement each other in this situation. She is quick, clever and sometimes careless, with a ready answer to any question, a propensity to distraction (even in the library) and the ability to whiz through math problems at break-neck speed. Not to mention she knows how to operate a Mac computer. I am slow, thoughtful, quiet and freakishly-neat, and I revert to three-year old ignorance when confronted with a Mac. I'm not too gifted in the mathematics area either; I was still double-checking my mental answer to number 2 when she was starting number six, the pencil-numbers scrawling speedily across the page.

The only place I was able to catch a mistake of hers was in the word problems, where she didn't read a question carefully enough to understand what it was asking. I was secretly exultant when I corrected her mistake (after I'd read through it 3 times while she was doing number 35). Then I remembered it was grade 7 math and she was 12-years-old. It's quite humbling to be beaten by a 12-year-old in math.

I have another lesson with Kisha this weekend. By the end of the year I expect both of us will have grown a little; Kisha will be neater and more organized and able to express herself more clearly in writing assignments. I probably won't be any better at math, but I'll learn all sorts of things about Macs. And I'll be kept humble every step of the way.

*I'm not using real names here, just out of respect, not because I'm saying anything I think should be kept private

02 September, 2012

Good guys and bad guys

For several months I have been a volunteer blogger for Amirah Boston, a safe house for girls who were once trafficked in the sex-trade industry. About six weeks ago I wrote an article for Amirah entitled "Good guys and bad guys". I've re-worked that post and would like to share it here. I know that's kind of cheating - re-using an old blogpost - but I liked the post, I worked hard on it, I think it's relevant outside of Amirah...and recycling is good, right?

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about war. Not a very cheery subject, I know, but one that has been pecking away at my mind, provoking some interesting questions. The most probing of which has gone something like this; is it possible for someone to believe so strongly that ‘I am right’ and ‘they are wrong’ that they’d go to war over it? That they’d kill, or tell others to kill for it?

Last week my dad and I took a 10-hour drive together and had the time and privacy to talk about all sorts of things. I asked him about his days on the national police force and what it was like to fight in the Rhodesian war. Back then (the 1970s) national service was required of all Rhodesian males and at 18-years-old, dad was leading squads of men, firing guns, transporting convoys of civilians through the bush, and watching for ambushes and landmines. I asked him what they were fighting for.

“Smith (Prime Minister at the time) was afraid of what the country would become,” he said. “The rebels in Mozambique were backed by China, the rebels in Zambia were backed by communist Russia.”

I struggled to reconcile this with the fact that my dad’s ‘side’ lost the war – the ‘rebels’ won. And today he sits in church, plays squash, has coffee and works alongside men who fought on both sides of that war – with and against him. ‘So,’ I thought, ‘what was the point of all that fighting? Who are the bad guys and the good guys and the victims?’

But war isn’t that simple.

I’ve just started a book called Dancing in the Glory of Monsters about the war in central Africa. In it the author, Jason Stearns, interviews a Rwandan army commander and asks him about his role in the exiled government that opposed Paul Kagame.  The commander’s response to Stearns made me reevaluate my questions:

“You are being too logical about this!” said the commander, “We were in the middle of a war. We didn’t have time to think whether we were complicit in a genocide – we were just trying to survive.”

Now, I realize that this sounds like a pretty flimsy, even horrific excuse in light of the awful massacre that occurred and I’m not at all dismissing the actions of this or any other person who participated in the genocide. My point is that I can’t make a judgment either way; I wasn’t there. I didn’t feel the fear, didn’t live in the climate or context of those tribe’s histories, I wasn’t born in Rwanda. I didn’t live through that war. So why do I feel free to make judgments from a distance, comfortable and safe in my moral superiority over ‘those people’?

It's the same way I feel about human trafficking but it isn't that simple either. It's not about helpless victims and evil traffickers, it's about people. It's about human beings with histories, men and women that come from specific contexts, needs, fears and situations.  

In things like war and human trafficking we have a tendency to seek out the ‘evil person’ – the one who caused all this suffering – and we want to find him as soon as possible. Then we can heap hordes of blame and judgment on his or her head. It’s a tendency encouraged by today’s sound-bite media and our own short attention spans – we want the problem simplified, digestible, easy to solve, and easy to blame. It’s encouraged by movies like The Avengers where the good guys are always right and heroic, never make mistakes and always save the day, while the bad guys are so obviously and totally evil that no one doubts the necessity of their destruction. Of course they have to be taken out.

But in real life we can’t just separate everyone into heroes and villains, victims and killers. In real life, war, poverty and governments are made up of human beings that do both good and bad things.
The problem with my question is that it’s too simple; it takes only one reason for war – individual belief – and ignores other factors such as country history, economic context, social situation, political climate, family influence and so on. My dad helped me learn this lesson on that 10-hour car ride.

As I sat mulling over his words, over the picture of him as a young man holding a gun, over the question of what I’d do if I had to choose a side in a war, I voiced the thought that was bouncing around in my head.

“I can’t imagine anyone being so sure that they are right, that they’d send their whole country to war over it.”

He glanced at me, then back at the road. “The only way to declare war,” he said, “is with tears in your eyes and a heart that’s broken.” 

25 August, 2012

Just me and the spiders

This week I've been learning the joys, and the loneliness, of solitude.

I recently moved into a new apartment and I have the whole place - a kitchen, lounge, flatscreen TV (not much on besides summer re-runs of The Mentalist) , spacious bedroom (my favourite feature being the light in the closet...genius!), cute little bathroom and a small porch complete with couches and candles - all to myself! I can keep the space neat and clean and clutter-free, I can cook and bake at any time of night or day, I can read, sleep, sit and think without interruption or housework or school work.

The peace and quiet is lovely!

But it's also surprisingly lonely.

In college I lived with 3 other girls...on a campus containing about 1500 chattering, sleep-evading, caffeine-loaded students. There were always people around, always someone to see, always someone to see you, seldom a moment alone. It was fun. And frustrating.

In Zim home is also crowded and loud, but in a different way. There's usually 6 to 9 other people in the house and that amount of people takes quite a bit of maintenance. The cooking, cleaning, driving, organizing, tea-making, eating, planning and talking seldom stops. There's always something needing to be done. Solitude requires a deliberate and determined effort at separation, something I didn't find very easy.

Now that I'm living by myself, I appreciate the chance for solitude. But the alone-ness will take getting used to.

One of the features of my new apartment is the abundance of spiders. They live on the ceiling, in the closets, above the doors and under the lamps. I'm not a huge fan of bugs but I don't really like killing them, spiders especially. It seems rather arrogant and thoughtless to kill bugs for the sake of it, simply because we humans are bigger and think they're yucky. After all, they got here first and they're useful in getting rid of the ugly bugs and stinging mosquitoes. And they're company. But they aren't the nicest roommates - they build their webs in new places each night so I get a faceful of fluffy web each time I walk onto the porch, they leave empty bug carcasses on the floor and sometimes (I admit) I find them a little creepy. But more than that, their presence makes me feel like my house isn't lived in (by humans, I mean. Or at least a human). So. There's my conundrum. The presence of the spiders goes against my clean, neat, house-motherly feelings but they're not really hurting me, they're useful creatures and they're company.

It's sort of the same way I feel about my solitude; I both appreciate it and I'm afraid of it.

I've taken to turning on BBC Radio in the mornings before work because I'm unnerved by the lack of people-presence. When I wake up now there's no hum of voices coming from behind the kitchen door at 6.30 in the morning, no warm pot of tea sitting on the counter or bowls of porridge steaming on the table. There's no yellow glow of light under bedroom doors in the hallway at night, no loud conversations and laughter over big suppers, no crowding around the kitchen table for tea and discussions, no one to eat my baking, not even the sticky slobber of dogs to greet me when I walk outside in the garden. I have the solitude that I've craved so often over the past 5 years but I'm not sure how I feel about it. I'm sometimes thrilled and embrace it wholeheartedly, but I'm sometimes uneasy and want to flee to find people, noise, and conversation.

So...what do I do with the solitude, and what do I do with the spiders?

For now, I think I'll let them stay. But every now and then I might just chase them both away to embrace a little more noise, a little humanness, and a little companionship.

23 August, 2012

Seeded fridgecake

I just made the best fridgecake I've ever tasted! And I just sort of threw it together with whatever I had in my kitchen. Here's how...

4 oz (1/2cup) butter
3T cocoa powder
2T honey
3T maple syrup
250g vanilla wafers
1/3C raisins
2T sunflower seeds
2T sesame seeds

Melt the butter on the stove, add the cocoa, honey, and syrup.
Crush the wafers. Add the raisins and seeds.
Combine the butter mixture with the wafer mixture until well-coated. Press into a small brownie pan and refrigerate for 2 hours. Annnndddd....voila! the seeds just make it yummo!

18 March, 2012

Wheaten Bread for St. Patrick's Day

I know it's a day late but in honour of St. Patrick's Day (and just because I wanted to) I decided to make Irish wheaten bread.

I've wanted to go to Ireland since I was a little girl. I think the initial reason had something to do with a movie I saw about fairies (or faeries...I'm not sure what the difference is) and leprechauns. Ireland seemed to be a magical place with the sea and the fisherman that lived by the sea, with women that had thick red hair and with mysterious, dark men that spoke in lilting accents.... Whatever the initial reason, Ireland has been the place that comes to mind when people ask, "if you could go to one place in the world, where would it be?"
Well, this December I finally got to visit Ireland with my siblings. We stayed in Dublin and then in Lisbon, just outside of Belfast. It was beautiful, over and above my expectations, and this brief description could never do it justice! I got to experience the windiest day of my life when we traveled to the coast and saw Giant's Causeway, I felt the amazing warmth and hospitality of the Irish, discovered their teasing humour and tasted their amazing food! But my appetite for the country has not been satisfied, only whetted and teased; I am determined to go back! I want to see the country in the Summer, to learn more about its history, about the division between north and south, to spend time with the people who showed me such love.

One thing I enjoyed in Northern Ireland is wheaten bread - a hearty, grainy bread. Here's Mrs Bittle's (our hostess in Lisbon) recipe...enjoy a little taste of Ireland!

Wheaten Bread

2 C wholewheat flour (actually its wheaten meal flour but I assume wholewheat is the American equivalent)
3/4 C plain flour
1/3 C rolled oats (heaped)
1/4 C sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter/margarine softened
1 C buttermilk

Mix all the dry ingredients. Bind with the marg and buttermilk. (dough will be dry-ish...I found mixing it with me hands easier) Place into greased and floured loaf pan and cook on 150 C/ 300 F for about an hour. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes then remove and cover with a cloth.
Tastes great hot with butter - eat for breakfast or afternoon tea!