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City Living 1 - Tales from London 8-9th November 2010

My relationship with London has changed.

Those who know me well know how much I have struggled with this relationship. The act of walking through it back in April shifted my perceptions somewhat; rather than popping up mole like and quite blind from an Underground experience, as has been the way I have always arrived, I had physically moved myself about the city, from Kingston in the west to Tooting in the central south and Belsize Park and Hampstead in the north, and begun to know for myself what London truly is, a conglomerate of villages, each one tacked onto the next in a ceaseless stream of road and building; of living, sprawling urban life. Yet each village lives still, and I begin to feel as a small plant that wheedles its way up through a crack in the tarmac, that there is a way of living beyond the enormity, of living a village life within the whole, something probably every Londoner could have told me if I had only been able to hear.

What has changed then? Not London, at least not in its relating to me, no: I have changed. No longer overwhelmed by the sheer size, I am firmly and clearly myself, and that has made all the difference. I am myself in this place, so now the nature of the relationship has changed. I am not subsumed by the city, and therefore resenting it for encroaching. I am meeting it as an equal, another entity, and being willing to look in this way, have discovered that it is not one, but many, each a very distinct identity, and there is in me now, growing hour by hour, as I sit in SE London, in Westcombe, in the borough of Greenwich, a curiosity about this place, this piece of earth that has become a mighty human stronghold, its history, its tales, its collective identity. How did it get this way? What roots need following to their beginnings, what threads to follow to take us to a bright and healthy resilient city?

Maybe it is there already, I have a sense it is; bubbling away in each and every settlement are the voices and actions of those who can see, can see the beauty and the pain of their place, can see the possibility and potential, and who have the energy and the belief to work for love of their place. 

Transition Cities

So today I bring tales, fresh tales, from the Place of Tota’s People, from the Farm of Heoruwulf, and from the Grassy Place by a bend in the Dark River; tales that couldn’t be more different, and yet similar. How do we transition a city? I have thought almost endlessly about this question since the Transition Cities Conference in Nottingham exactly two years ago. And, I think maybe we have been asking the wrong question;

What we really want to know is how do we all live together on our earth in a resilient way that ensures the well being of all who inhabit it, don’t we?

The answer to that is perhaps, simply, for each of us look at a size that is manageable, and I don’t for one second mean by this that a city is too large, not at all, but what I do suggest is that we each ask ourselves a question;

“What size of place feels manageable to me, personally?”

This question brings the scale of things right back to where it counts, for we none of us are able to imagine that which we cannot see the boundaries for. Would we build a house without knowing where the walls should be, draw a picture without the size of paper visible, cook a soup without seeing the size of the pan we have? We all know what would happen if we cook too much soup for the pan, add too many ingredients, and watch the liquid spill out all over the cooker, we know too what happens when a child draws off the paper and onto the table, how much trouble we would be in if in our house building we built one of the walls on our neighbour’s land, and what happens when we build a settlement on a river’s floodplain...

We transition a city just as we transition everywhere else. We first establish our own sense of place. This might mean many things; our old stomping ground from childhood if we are fortunate enough to have a good relationship with our hometown and have stayed put, it might be the bioregion that makes sense to us, where the river flows and the hillsides slope, it could be the people that make up our sense of place and if they went  away we’d feel lost, it might be a familiar commuting route and all the landmarks we see each day and have become part of the fabric of our daily life. It may well mean different things to different people.

Whatever it is that connects us to the place where we live is the key to transition.  It is essential.

As I walked I met many people transitioning many sizes of place. What I invariably found was that people had started big and gone smaller. This feels logical, makes sense to me on all levels. Ask a big question and we tend to look for BIG answers. We seek big answers, and more often than not retreat, overwhelmed. If we are serious about the question though we are soon right back with it, asking again, but with a little more humility this time round, we bring it back to ourselves;

“What can I do?”

Not, what would I do if I were omnipotent and the whole world would do my bidding, but simply, what am I personally, physically, emotionally, mentally, able to do right now? People in transition recognised symptoms of burn out, withdrew to lick their wounds, and then started, cautiously, to look around them again. They had narrowed their vision, and could see a new perspective; their home, their street, their immediate neighbourhood. They started again, this time thinking small. Narrow, small? I can hear the whirring of doubt, how can small and narrow be good? Well, if all we saw was small and narrow we might well not answer our question, and therein the paradox of Transition and our times. An often quoted statement “Think Global, Act Local” sums this up well.

How do we transition a city? "Think City, Act Village".

There is something incredibly and endlessly empowering about working in this way. The clearer the identity of the place the more can be achieved, the people are in relationship with the place, working together on three levels, as an individual, as a community, and as an integral part of the place. From this way of working the components, the cells, the villages of the city, each bring their own unique flavour and identity to the whole, bring of their best, their talents, skills, and experiences, and an acknowledgement too of their weaknesses, their difficulties, and their needs too. Only then can the city begin to function as a healthy whole. Working at city level is only echoing the Top Down structures that already exist. Working at village level, at street level, brings the power right back to where it belongs, in everybody’s hands, and heads, and hearts.

Tooting – the place of Tota’s People

I told tales of transition in Malvern in the summer, and last week I received an email from a woman called Helen Jolly. She’d a tale to share; it had been living in her ever since she’d heard the tales of the summer. It was a tale of Tooting.

 It is a tale of Tooting that has its seeds in Swaziland. A woman went to Africa; such an easily spoken statement. I wonder how that will sound to those born in 2030? The woman learnt much from her experience, she saw the poverty, more acute perhaps than anything we have experienced, but she saw something else too; she saw solutions; local solutions, she saw community gardens producing local food. She returned to Tooting, she was a medical student, she returned to St George’s Hospital. She saw the lack of well being in the patients, the lack of knowledge around the importance of good food for healthy bodies. She talked to fellow students, they found spare ground, they got permission to clear it; they started an allotment, an allotment that now supplies some of the food that is served in the hospital. The name George means farmer, how fitting that this hospital should honour its namesake by tilling the ground.

Harledsen - Heoruwulf’s Farm

 I am invited to visit Heoruwulf’s Farm by journalist Rose Rouse. She has spent the past year whenever she can walking about her part of London, Harlesden, meeting the people who live around her, dipping into its history, delving into the change of use of the buildings, and inviting others to join her to talk as they walked. Rose came across me and Transition in an article in the magazine “Kindred Spirit” and was struck by the story walk similarity. We agree to meet to talk about Harlesden and about transition.

I have been promising London another visit for a while. As I walked through it in May I met Irena & Edward Hill.

“Are you coming to Greenwich?” they asked

And I had to say that I wasn’t, not then. We met in Covent Garden and agreed I would come back, in the Autumn, and tell the tales I had gathered.

So it was that I found myself on a train headed east yesterday; headed to the great city of London. When we were within an hour or so of the station the train decided to make its discomforts plain, one engine shut down first, and when that wasn’t sufficient warning that enough was enough, the brakes came on and they wouldn’t budge. I was going to be late, funny that, I wasn’t usually late when I walked. The frustration felt by the passengers served to make the driver do all he could and we limped into Paddington station one hour late. My travel companion said there was always a fault with this train – it was a trip she made every week. Poor train, struggling to be heard, much as our bodies do, a cold first, then flu, a viral infection, chronic fatigue, thyroid problems, chronic disease... paralysis. What is it that is inherent in our system that we don’t know how to listen, and if we do, we feel compelled to ignore the messages; desperately seeking continuation; at any cost.

Meanwhile the delay had made community happen, we were all talking with our neighbours, Mine learnt I was writing a book, and was off to meet a journalist. I heard how she would have no hot water or heating if she didn’t get to her home in time for the plumber’s visit. The women behind us shared stories of an important job interview, and of a meeting. When we arrived in Paddington we parted with wishes of

“Good Luck”

And the irritations of the delay melted away on a sea of goodwill.

Although late, Rose and I were still able to meet, and I came up from Willesden Junction station to a long wet road; Harlesden in November. We walked along together, along the streets. It was quiet. There was traffic, but it was the level of traffic I remember from my childhood, safe to cross the roads, no one in a hurry, many on foot, or waiting for a bus. Rose pointed out the buildings, above their often shabby facades, many of them sporting a seventies look, in peeling paintwork, and faded plastic signs, they were magnificent; the architecture of the Georgians, and the Victorians, rising proudly to the skies.

Time warp; multi faceted; Harlesden through the ages. The faces in the street, and the wares sold, multi faceted too; each and every glimpse, a smile or a grimace, a curly lock, or a stout wet weather jacket, a shiny cut glass bowl, or a golden swan; a tale to be told. A part of me longed for a day of my life to spend with each and every one of those glimpses, to delve into that life, that story, that piece of humanity; what riches to be had here, treasures untold, heroes unsung.

Rose tells me of a hunt she once went on, to find the old Harlesden Hippodrome, she didn’t find it first time, but she knows where it is now, she points it out, or at least the site of it, it’s a brash seventies three storey block of Job Centre on the High Street. A sign of the times for sure; Victorian pleasure palace to functional soulless bureaucrat’s place of work. What will Harlesden in 2030 look like I wonder?

Reggae music sounds cheerily out of one shop doorway, and I feel my feet change rhythm of their own accord, and through a big shop window we look in on three or four large male hairdressers gazing out into the street from their rodeo themed salon.

We take a kind of survey of the shops we pass; there are more hair shops than anything else, selling real hair, imported from all over the world. We enter an emporium; it sells pans, washing up liquid... and giant animal sculptures. Rose asks where the glitzy golden swans and giant polar bears come from; Germany, and who buys them; mainly the Turkish. As we are leaving a young and beautiful Turkish matriarch, magnificently large in her black burkah, eyes a-flashing, manfolk trailing beside her, sweeps inside and demands her money back...

 

There are fish shops too, dead fish beautifully laid out in intricate rows amongst the ice. We dip into one to ask where the fish comes from.

“All over the world” says the owner proudly, “Nigeria, India...”

We see blue parrot fish, red mullet, and so many varieties I have never seen before. It brings things home somewhat; here there is a community of fish eaters, but they are far from the fishing villages. I remember Brighton, playground to princes; would that once have served London with its fish? Rose points out the fishes’ eye; they are dead and old, curved inwards, how long dead?

Many shops look like colourful market stalls, inside they are butchers, and grocers, outside they are vibrant with fresh fruit and vegetables. We try asking where the yams are brought in from but the young salesman doesn’t have enough English to help us; he keeps repeating a name we don’t understand, whether he’s correcting our use of “yam” to describe the vegetable, or telling us its providence it is hard to say.

It may be difficult in the future for those that have become accustomed to receiving foods from their faraway places of origin, but there are those that have been part of the fabric of Harlesden for so long that they have found the timeless way to provide food and well being to their life. Rose takes me to JJ’s. JJ is Jamaican, 68 years old, bushy white hair in Rasta locks down his back, he came here following his parents who arrived in the sixties.

He has a fast food joint serving Jamaican delicacies, beef jerky and coconut cakes; the faded seventies signs say “jus enouf” and “a likkle bit more”. Next door he owns the smooth blue sophisticated smoked glass wine bar, and behind the two businesses? His allotment.

He’s had it four or five years he says. Its empty right now, all been harvested for the year. We are invited back to see it in the summer. He grows cabbage, carrots, spring onions, tomatoes; he reels off a list of the things he grew this season. What does he do with it all, does it feed him? Absolutely; him and his friends and family both.

It seems that, whatever our environment, not all of us have forgotten what all our ancestors once took for granted, that food comes from the land around us, and that we can all grow it very easily.

Rose and JJ talk local politics; it seems the political borders were moved around at the last election putting here in Harlesden two well liked female vocational candidates in competition with one another. There was a Labour MP and now there is a Liberal. Rose and JJ talk familiarly about Sarah and of Jane. I am warmed by the knowledge that this town (for townlike it feels, not city at all) is cared for, cared about. Rose asks JJ if he gets involved with youth work, if they help him in his allotment. Not as such he replies, though they are welcome if they come along, but he does his bit talking at the local schools as an Elder.

Both Rose and I delight at the way in which he uses this term. It’s spoken as naturally as if he had said

“I’m a postman”

No shame, no disempowerment here, this is a man who is comfortable with his age, his position in society, what is more understands his role in the community, and is a positive pleasure to spend time with.

“How long have you been here?” I ask.

“too ooo long” he drawls.

Too long, and yet even with this as his feeling, as a man born into sunshine stares out into the grey English afternoon, he is committed. Committed in a way that is a model for us all; growing vegetables in a yard he’s turned over to allotment,

“it’s therapeutic,” he grins

taking his role as an Elder seriously, taking active interest in the goings on in the place where he lives. Maybe commitment to place is about more than attachment to a place, maybe it’s about a commitment to life; being all of oneself no matter the circumstance, living our life fully, taking care of our own well being first and foremost, then that of those around us, and also that of our environment. This is surely no moral stance, but common sense.

We take our leave and amble along the streets some more, we sneak down an alleyway following a gaggle of men so that Rose can show me a mosque in a garage next to a mechanic’s. Next on her list of adventures; a friendly bouncer to take her on the Harlesden club trail to take in the nightlife scene.

We have tea and pastel de nata in the Portuguese cafe, Tamiza,  that leaves traces of nostalgia pulling at my heartstrings long after our departure. I could be in Lisbon, every nuance of the small corner cafe is Portuguese from its best of all sweets, tartlet like tiny round cases of browned genuine vanilla slice filling, to its smiley- serious proprietor and its Portuguese speaking customers, and yet I felt its Portuguese-ness long before we entered it; what is it I wonder, that indefinable something that gives a place a stamp of origin though it might be far from where it physically sits?

We talk of Transition, Rose has tried hard to do her homework and feels she’s failed; she still doesn’t have a clear sense of what Transition is from looking at our website, finding it impenetrable. I try in bits as we walk to tell the tale of Rob’s revelation in Kinsale, of the viral spread of initiatives across the world and across our land, and come back to the phrase that always works:

“It’s about Having Fun together”

We talk of community, local food, and sense of place, and I feel that Rose has got it more than most. It’s in her very bones, it’s in her every move as she weaves together the people, places, and past of Harlesden, invites others in to share it, to comment on it, and to learn from it. I feel deeply touched that she has invited me in to explore this place, and though neither of us managed to find any signs of a transition movement in the neighbourhood, my sense it is happening just the same. As Rose weaves those tales, as she meets the people and asks the questions, the community of Irish, Jamaican, Trinidadian, Afghan, and Somalian incomers will find a way to bring in all of their native knowledge and meet the challenges of our times. Rose’s blog of her adventures is here http://roserouse.wordpress.com/about-harlesden.

I think it’s over, my little foray into Harlesden, and then Rose walks me back to the station, past the red clock tower that is the town’s landmark,

 

 by another way, and we come to the Brazilian quarter. It’s visible from afar, the yellow and green paint work vibrant against the grey skies.

 A little cluster of Brazilian businesses, hot food from Minas Gerais, region famed for the best home cooking in the land, and an acougue and merceria (butchers and grocers) – I look into the window, spot havavianas and regular readers of my blog will know what those mean to me... the bright coloured rubber flip flops which took me all round the country!

In we go to investigate. I find the flop flops expensive compared to the prices in Brazil (£13.50 a pair) but I soon get into conversation with the young female manageress and we work out they are the same price here once the currency change from Real to Sterling has been made. We fall into easy conversation, a two way exchange of mutual pleasure to share our experience of the world through the medium of Portuguese. With an invitation to come back and visit anytime, and a moment of laughter as Rose points out that whilst my feet are adorned in bright red flip flops the Brazilian girl’s feet are encased in fur lined boots, we leave, and Rose bids me farewell at the entrance to the train station. It has been a lovely afternoon well spent, I feel as though I have had a journey through time, space, and culture all within a couple of hours. London has taken on new meaning for me, and, with a vow made to fly no more, here is the world, laid out before me, in my very own capital city.

The Green Place by a bend in the Dark River (Greenwich)

It is not over yet, my experience of the city’s diversity. I take the train to Baker Street and emerge from the Underground at North Greenwich to come face to face with O2.

O2, I discover, is the renamed Millenium Dome. It is the first time I have been so close to the controversial monument, and against the greying half light of a late November afternoon, through a filter of autumnal rain and garish orange street lights, its immense white light topped antennae and Las Vegas style advertising cylinders give it altogether the air of belonging on some distant alien Star Trek planet. Red double-decker buses ply between the various station bus stops and in the distance the already lit towers of neighbouring Canary Wharf rise space age like above the horizon in an eerily lit sky behind a petrol blue fence with ivy creeping over it. The future predicted by countless sci fi novels is here. I stand in wonder, two feet strong on the concrete floor of a bus shelter, awaiting Irena, at the juxtaposition between past and future, as indeed we ever stand.

Irena arrives, apologetic, the traffic is backed up to beyond the Blackheath tunnel and she has been sitting in a traffic jam. Yet again I recall the simplicity of the walking.

It is lovely to see Irena and Edward again. We chat about plans for the evening storytelling, and the school visit the next day. We have dinner and walk down the hill to the Vanbrugh pub.

We are in a side room to ourselves till Quiz Night begins. It is a cosy circle of transitioners and storytellers, from Greenwich and from nearby New Cross. I hear tales of beekeeping happening now in Greenwich, and the Chorlton honey now being produced, of new orchards that have just been acquired and plans being hatched for the types of trees to be planted and Cynthia, local vicar as well as transitioner, offers hazel and walnut saplings from her garden. She also laments the annual battle with the squirrels which she lost this year, getting none of the walnuts from her tree. Another of the circle suggests the squirrels’ avarice may well have to do with hunger, as she has seen troupes of people stripping trees bare, collecting up bagfuls of the squirrels’ usual fare; the chestnuts.

Community building is happening in all sorts of inventive ways; Guerrilla Golf is played along one street, with each participating household providing a hole, from pieces of turf laid on the pavement outside their gate, to ingenious contraptions for the ball to roll into. The Equestrian element of the Olympic Games are to be held in Greenwich Park, much to the disgust of local residents who have already lost access to parts of their public green space, 2 years in advance of the Games, as preparations are made. The greatly treasured ancient site of the Celtic and then Roman temple to Minerva has been cordoned off and being turned into a horse jump. Public consultation has not happened and opinion has been disregarded and Transition Westcombe have decided to hold a Winter Pantomime Horse Event in the park, engaging the local dog walkers to participate as well. If nothing else they intend to have some fun together.

The tale reminds Rich of the time he dressed up as a giant panda for an event and to practice the walking through water element of his performance he got into the pond in the park and was reprimanded by park officials and evicted! It seems fun in the park for the locals is not given the priority that fun for wealthy international visitors is by those who are charged with its care.

Everyone is thrilled with the visitor from New Cross, excited at having transition neighbours, and even more delighted by news of their latest project. One of their number has the skill of Opera. Opera, you may well ask, how is that a Transition Skill? Aha, well perhaps when you have had the pleasure of seeing their performance; “The Climate Chronicles” in your area, you will understand. Transition Greenwich book the company to come to them and perform; they are very excited. Andy tells us about the other things New Cross have been doing including a series of up cycling workshops where unwanted garments and household fabrics are given a new lease of life, as a bag, or new garment.

I am given gifts of the Transition Westcombe logo, a photosphere of an ancient local tree, and a cartoon of a future man, breathing with the aid of a tree in his oxygen mask.

Storyteller Rich Sylvester comes up to me and presents me with a copy of the map of Greenwich he and Greenwich school children compiled (www.EastGreenwichHistoryMap.co.uk ). It is full of local history; a wonderful reminder that the key to a healthy future lies in the past.

As we leave the pub the Quiz Night has begun, we creep past full tables of eager locals, and acknowledge the part these events play in community cohesion.

Next morning Edward takes me on a tour of his photospheres; he is the artist who created the 360 degree circular photographs that enable us to see a familiar view from every angle of perception (www.glartists.com ). He presents me with the one I have admired most; a limited edition of Wells Cathedral, it reminds me of my walk, and is for me the most beautiful of the circular landscapes on display, the sturdy cathedral blending with its watery spring and the misty day in a most unusual fashion.

We go to the John Roan School where I am to spend an hour with a class of year 9s. I enter the room with the head of year, and meet the teacher and the PGCE teaching assistant. Some of the class are already in place, I am shocked by the way there are only 6 of them here yet but they are sitting as far away from one another as possible.

I ask for the tables to be brought together and chairs brought round. By the time we start we have 14 students, two teachers, and me, all sitting around a big table together. That feels better!

I start off with a “how are you feeling” activity and can almost feel some of the children drinking in the opportunity to be treated as individuals with separate feelings going on inside. I look round the faces at the table, barely a one similar to the other; there are African, Indian, and Caucasian types. There are blondes, head dressed ones, tall, short, shy and cheeky, the usual mix of any classroom and yet for me the diversity of ethnicity is a total delight. How refreshing, how many opportunities for learning from one another, and yet no, the children, though they are clearly interested, fascinated by the tale of my walk, and intrigued by transition, are unable to hold their attention for more than a couple of minutes at a time.

 My heart reaches out to them, what have we done that our children no longer have the capacity to take in anything new, and give it their full attention. It is no surprise, how could we expect anything else, these children are sent from place to place, home to school, classroom to classroom, adult to adult, and where is the reflection time? Where is the time to be with their own company to know how it is to be themselves in their own skin, from moment to moment, how does it feel when dad is made redundant, another baby is born, when a parent leaves home, how does it feel when huge changes are happening inside their bodies, when their emotions are in turmoil, when there is no quiet undemanding time in which to rest, to puzzle it out, to feel comfortable with self.  When too the time to spend quality time with peers, without peer pressure to perform in a certain way. All of this time stolen from them as we desperately educate them for a world that no longer even makes sense to us.

The temptation to allow the children to simply be is almost irresistible and we get through only a small part of my plan. They have learnt what Transition is, that grass roots means they have the power to make things happen, and that the well being of everyone, including themselves, is important. They have had a bit of time to be, to laugh, to ask questions, to wonder, they have been noisy, but not wilfully so, lacking in attention, but not through boredom, and hyper, but then they are 13 years old and cooped up in a small room in a building that does not look out over fields and the voice that has just come over the tannoy American style and has eaten into 5 minutes of our time together has just informed us that outside it is raining so there will be no going out at break, but all will be herded into the sports hall.

“Shut up” mutters a blonde girl in exasperation as the voice drones on and on.

In the midst of all of this, an Afro Caribbean boy, Bobby, let us call him, says, as I ask the class to stand up and stretch, to yawn, and wriggle, to stretch their bodies, and notice how they are feeling

“I was feeling angry about something a few minutes ago, but it has gone now and I feel fine”

It is lovely to hear; this young boy has understood that feelings are not fixed, but pass through us like the weather. A lesson many adults seem loath to learn.

The children are amazed by my walk; they cannot comprehend the distances involved. When I show them on a map where Devon is, I have to explain it is 3 hours by train, but it still doesn’t register. For some, it seems, barely leave their home-school route, haven’t heard of Mount Pleasance, the local park where the Transition Westcombe Orchard is to be along with an eco cafe, and just one boy knows where it is. The concept of locale, sense of place, seems even more pertinent than ever before. Reaching out into my resources I ask myself how best to engage these children in a way that would be meaningful.

“Would you like to do a community walk around Greenwich?” I ask, and finish my session by talking about the collective 2012 walk around Britain I have begun to vision. I ask for a volunteer to be class spokesman to share information as soon as it is ready with the others. At the end of the class an earnest Indian boy comes up and gives me his e mail address.

When asked what tales of Greenwich they want to contribute to the tale there is silence, the kind of silence that is not pregnant with yet to be expressed contributions, but the kind that is fearful, full of the expectation of being forced to answer something you do not know how to respond to.

Then Bobby says

“Your tale, the tale of you coming all this way to visit us”

 I feel embarrassed, and then I realise that it is true, for these children who have barely left their neighbourhood a visitor from across the country is a tale to tell! It awakens me to a piece of truth I have not been looking closely enough at. Not only is sense of place the crucial piece of this puzzle, it is only by accessing, acknowledging, and valuing each and every person’s sense of place that we can truly be said to be inclusive.

As the children leave and we adults tidy up the maelstrom of discarded books; the session has run over and the kids have to be elsewhere, we share our observations; the students had been interested, the glimmer of something outside of their own lives had shone through the layers. I found myself wishing I could come back and get to know them more. Later I talk with Rahima, the head of year, and we establish that the liaising with the walk will have to happen through members of staff; we are not allowed to have the children’s e mail addresses. The doors are open though, and I feel welcome to come back.

Later Ed and I walk through the park to the train station, past the preparations for the forthcoming Games, areas of fenced off grass full of machinery and workers. Saddened by the impact the Games are already having on the landscape I wonder if this disregard for the local community always happens when a country hosts the Games and Ed says yes, he has been researching the impact they have, often felt for years afterwards as the chemically injected and concrete topped ground struggles to regenerate, the landscape changed forever by externally imposed structures that never had any sense of blending into their local environment, but were branded, homogenised pieces of a 4 yearly world that sought familiarity no matter what land it found as its host. Parasitic.  Isn’t it time we asked ourselves a few deeper questions about the nature of this relationship; is the parasite in healthy symbiosis with its hosts, or does it kill them over time?

I catch my train and for the first time in the 35 years in which I have been paying London brief visits, I feel I have left a piece of my heart there. For the very first time I catch myself wondering when the next visit might be, what new wonders I will see, and how I can make time to explore this living, breathing organism that is our capital city. I think of those multi coloured, multi cultural children, and the land they are inheriting, and I grieve for the damage the Games will cause their parkland. Suddenly it matters. It deeply matters. Each and every place on our earth matters, and each and every person finding their way in the environment they find themselves in matter. I can feel that the most important thing of all, for me, is to continue collecting, and sharing, stories; real stories, the stories of our times.

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