Archive for the ‘home’ Category

Larger than life with a small ‘l’ – ant colonies and the big mind

Friday, March 19, 2010

I don’t know how this can be explained purely by the neo-Darwinian idea that the purpose of life is to propagate one’s genes. (Could such architecture be programmed within the genes of a single ant???)  And I don’t know how this can be explained without some notion of supra-organism intelligence or mind. Watch and wonder at our world –

– and consider the supra-human mind of which we must be a part. Might there be a dimension to Life with a capital ‘L’ that we forget in our ‘own’, individual lives?


The most significant movement sweeping across the UK, and gathering interest beyond

Sunday, March 16, 2008

You may or may not have heard about the Transition Town movement, which is gathering momentum in the UK and catching people’s attention abroad as well. A place that I consider my spiritual home, for example – Forest Row in East Sussex – officially ‘unleashed’ itself as a Transition Town last Wednesday, on the back of year-long planning. One of the principal speakers at the official unleashing, Mike Grenville, closed his talk

with the oft-cited quote, “if not now, when, if not here, where, and if not us, then who?”

Here is Dr Caroline Lucas, Member of the European Parliament, about the subject of the book, The Transition Handbook

Courtesy of Treehugger.

Amazing London flat for sale…

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

… on a quiet, tree-lined street in the north-central district of Islington. The oasis that is the Barnsbury Conservation Area of Islington is just the kind of place you’d want to be.

It’s close to excellent public transport links, including St Pancras’ much vaunted, new Eurostar rail terminal.

Wonderfully, it’s only five minutes walk from the very happening hive of cafe, restaurant, bar, shop and cinema culture that is Upper Street.

(And the flat is also 46metres above sea level – find Stonefield Street on by tapping in these coordinates: 51.5383°N 0.108°W – which will come in very handy when sea levels rise. Don’t worry, the substantial hill that Islington is on is not going to erode away that quickly.)

Check out the dedicated website here. [Website now disabled.]


I’m happy to report that the flat is now under offer.

Update (15.5.08)

The flat has now been sold.

A First Spouse fit for the Washington White House

Saturday, February 2, 2008

If it is going to be a battle of the spouses, the Obamas win. Michelle Obama’s beautiful soul, intelligence, honesty, composure and humanity trounces, I think, the politics (and dysfunctional psychologies) of the old that, for better or worse, is bound up in the flesh and blood of Bill Clinton. Watch and listen to this interview with Barack Obama’s wife.

The Isles Project is go!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

isles-project-logo.jpg(The title for this post, by the way, is a take on that iconic line, ‘Thunderbirds are go!’, from the 1960s tv puppet series made more recently into a film; which is an all-good and fun – albeit technologised – omen: Wikipedia’s summary –

The series followed the adventures of International Rescue, an organisation created to help those in grave danger using technically advanced equipment and machinery.)

I launched a website for The Isles Project at the weekend (see this previous post). The idea for the project has been bubbling for six or so years, and friends have said I’ve talked about it for almost as long. Now seems a suitable time to progress it with more concerted activity – which means, at the moment, the posting and archiving of entries initially, and gradual ‘pattern recognition’ of themes and threads. Click here for the site.

Kitchen apple

Saturday, September 29, 2007

When I bought my flat, there was very little to dance with joy about regarding its kitchen, save the light, airy space (for an idea, see here). So I set to the drawing board with a little help, arrived at a scheme, and had it completed just in time for a family, Christmas Eve meal – they liked it (the kitchen, that is). It’s turned out to be a jewel in the crown of my property-development career. A friend visiting said, if ever you need a job, invite your future employer here and ’nuff said’ – the flat would be sufficient as an interview. Nice of him…

Well, I’ve at last got round to installing a picture above my cooker – a print-out (on multiple sheets of A4) from a scanned-in postcard of a painting by Sir Terry Frost. Having ordered some toughened glass to put it behind, and the glazier providing some silicon-gel glue free of charge to stick it, I needed a way of holding the picture in place against the wall whilst it dried – I had to rush out so couldn’t stand there holding it myself.

This is the solution I arrived at: table leg secures ladder; ladder wedges in bread board; bread board weighs against glass –

Et voilà: one nice apple picture to complete what was an empty space. (The kitchen scheme was based on the green out- and white in-side of an apple.)

The camera lens, by the way, has distorted the straight lines of the wall-mounted shelves.

The Isles Project – what and why – the how’s another question

Saturday, September 29, 2007

I’ve always found the world of the rock-loving geologist difficult to relate to; I don’t know what it is about the discipline of geology that has made it so for me – may be something to do with so much jargon, terminology and a regular lack of poetics in their use of language – and I don’t necessarily mean grand gestures of dramatic metaphor, or the sublime visions of the Romantics.

To give an idea, I love this piece of writing – coming from Robert Macfarlane’s The Wild Places – about the British Isles, with its subdued, gentle overtones of genesis.

At the height of the last glacial period, the ice had been so dense and extensive that its weight depressed the land beneath it into the earth’s mantle. Think of that: it caused an entire country to sink down into the earth. Conversely, so it was that when the ice melted and its weight was lifted from the land, the bones of the earth rose – in some places by hundreds of feet. Geologists call this effect ‘isostatic rebound’. The rebound was most pronounced in the north of Britain, where the ice had been most massive; on the south coast, by way of counteraction, the coastline dipped.

As the ice melted, and the land tilted, the oceans grew. For glaciation had stored a significant proportion of the word’s water. The run-off from the melting ice across the northern hemisphere joined the oceans, raising sea-levels by nearly 400 feet in places, and transforming the map of the world. Among those transformations was the cutting, sluicing and filling of the channel between what is now England and what is now France. The ancient land-bridge of chalk, weald sands and clay was gouged over thousands of years by rivers. As the sea levels continued to rise, the water flooded up the river valleys, ate at the hills, and eventually overran the bridge entirely. Britain was islanded: the archipelago was made.

The ice retreated up through the land – lobes, fingers, sheets, reversing irregularly, northering. The land it left behind was at first entirely barren. Bare drifts of till, comminuted earth, a glittering domain of boulders, pebbles, sand and clay, rich in metals that had been filtered and sorted by the ice’s latticework. Pools of silver water gleaming in the hollows.

It was in those pools that the deepwood began to found itself. Sphagnum bogs thickened there, the bogs became stew-pots for floating mats of heath, and on those heaths grew dwarf forests of decidous trees: willows, briches and pine, relatively arctic trees, easily dispersed, finding shelter from the glacial winds in depressions and niches.

The wood deepened, keeping a steady distance from the ice: alders in thick stands along the river valleys, willow on the boggy ground, oak, lime, hazel, ash and hornbeam, and through it all a scrub, filling the aisles of the wood and thronging its borders.

In this way, there emerged a youthful, supple forest, new-born out of the glaciers. The blue ice gave to the green wood. Where the wood caught fire and burned, as it did at times, the energy of suns was returned to the air.

– from Robert Macfarlane’s The Wild Places (pp.93-4)

This is the kind of ‘more-than-human’ history I wrote about before at Sumptuous World – ‘New ways of doing history’ parts I & II. I love it because I believe those of us in the developed world need more than ever a sensibility of place such that we can more easily see and feel where we are, where we’ve come from, and what possibilities we have for what’s increasingly appearing to be a fairly rocky road ahead. It’s the orientation in this kind of writing that has led me to the idea for what I have called the Isles Project. isles-project-logo.jpg

It amazes me that, with all its history and influence, there is no generic, situated (in London?) introduction to the British Isles on the cultural landscape; the British Museum, after all, is in the main a reflection (an inspiring reflection? A celebration of empire?) of most other places but here and has little about Britain or the British.

It’s my contention that the time is ripe for a mark on the cultural landscape that does just this: tells the story of these lands, and the relations between people and the lands, from a weaving of human and more-than-human, and poetic, standpoints. I can think of few better ways to adjust the cultural landscape to the socio-economic and political priorities posed by the profound – and potentially deeply disorientating and upsetting – challenges of sustainability.

Robert Macfarlane, incidentally, was a friend of Roger Deakin (see previous here), is a Cambridge University fellow and an instigator of the conference on nature and literature and the eco-literature Archipelago publication.

Make a wish, have a dream…

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Have you ever blown out birthday cake candles, or tossed a coin into a pool of water, and made a wish?! Even just a little wish? Well, here’s your chance to revisit your wish-making urge and do just that. I’ve created an online portal, a ‘wish-making website‘, that enables you to make a wish!

The site was set up in order to create a ‘wishing woodland’ art installation – consisting of wishes contributed by anybody (that’s you) tied to trees in a growing woodland. (Set up with database expertise provided by Chris Mewton at PC In Our Time.) The only cost to making a wish is the thought and time involved.

The installation, which goes live next spring, will be part of a rural sculpture trail in the village of Bergh Apton, Norfolk: the village’s fifth, with previous ones having taken place in 2005, 2002, 1999 and 1997. The last trail in 2005 attracted over 10,000 people over six days (three weekends), and raised over £50,000 (c.$100,000 at today’s exchange rate) for charity; here are some pics –


You can see more photos by some of the previous trail’s visitors here, uploaded to flickr.

The sculpture trail has been one of many initiatives in the village. Despite being a post-agricultural rural community – and being a small village of 400 inhabitants, separated and spread out by over twenty miles of road – something ensures its people come together and do lots of stuff. Alongside their Arts Committee, they have a conservation and wildlife trust; amateur dramatics and visiting professional performers; a rolling programme of creative workshops; regular yoga clases; a history society; a committed church congregation; concerts; quiz and chips evenings – you name it and they will almost have it! The village’s sense of community is tangible and so I wasn’t surprised to encounter this photo on flickr –

There’s lots going on in Bergh Apton‘, originally uploaded by Pigsaw – whoever ‘Pigsaw’ (great name) is.

The theme of the 2008 sculpture trail is Balance. Here’s the village’s website blurb –

The theme of Bergh Apton’s next Sculpture Trail is the concern, all over the world, that man’s hand is behind the changing climate of our mother Earth. What mankind thinks he wants, rather than what he needs, is bringing us perilously close to what environmentalists call ‘the tipping point’ – think of a pair of scales or a seesaw – even the smallest extra weight will cause it to tip.

In twelve garden locations in the village, we shall encourage sculptors to show works that ask how we balance the needs of mankind against those of the other species with which we share this Earth, and the needs of the planet itself.

This small country community and its sculptor friends do not have solutions to the problem. But, together, we and visitors to the Sculpture Trail have voices that may be heard by those who do!

Nice, eh?! My woodland installation idea plays on the ‘suspicion’ that there could exist a reciprocal connection between our deepest yearnings, desires and wishes and the wider (what some call the ‘more-than-human’) world. Is there something you most desire? If so, take a short ‘click trip‘. And if you’re wanting a really worthwhile day out or weekend away (my experience has been that there’s something a bit Field of Dreams about the trails), Balance is being held on

  • Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th May
  • Saturday 31st May and Sunday 1st June
  • Saturday 7th & Sunday 8th June

in 2008, and is open 10.30am to 6.00pm each day.

Remembering Roger Deakin

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

In case you’re new to the blog, I’ve been quoting from Roger Deakin’s book, Wildwood, published this year a few months after his death – various, small excerpts (I, II, III, IV, VI, VII, VIII, IX, and X) and a review (V).

Wanting to find out a bit more about the man, I rooted around the net. There’s a small archive of memories at the website of Deakin’s publisher, Hamish Hamilton, with some links to various articles. (Other stuff can be found through google.) I particularly liked the article by his friend, Robert Macfarlane. Deakin was a one-off who lived a magical life, and here are a couple of excerpts, beginning with one about his Suffolk home:

The fields, well tended but unfarmed, were also busy with life. Sparrow-hawks busked for custom overhead, deer picked their way through the hornbeam wood and tawny owls hooted from big ash trees. The land was separated into fields by a mile of massive old hedgerow, in places five metres high and five wide. Deakin had a habit of driving his cars until they were about to give out, then backing them into a particularly deep area of hedge and abandoning them, to be grown through by the briars and nested in by birds. Walking the fields with him, you would come across old Citroëns with their frog-eye headlights, peeping from the brambles. “All that needs is a new engine, and we could drive it to France,” he said, hopefully, as we passed one of these.

Deakin wrote as idiosyncratically as he did everything. Thinking my way through his house now, I can count at least five different desks, between which he would migrate according to his different moods. His sleeping-places changed, too. Over the years he had established in his meadows a variety of outlying structures, including two shepherd’s huts, an old wooden caravan with a cracked window and a railway wagon that he had painted Pullman-purple. He once emailed me happily about having been out in the wagon with the rain whacking on the roof. “An amazing thunderstorm last night as I lay listening. Like being inside a kettledrum with a whole symphony going on out there and with thunder in wraparound quadraphonic!” When he wasn’t writing, he was usually swimming, most often in his moat, or wallowing in the massive cast-iron bath that lived at the back of the house.

[…] Trees to him were herd creatures, best understood when considered in their relationships with one another (he loved the way that oak trees, for instance, would share nutrients via their root systems when one of their number was under stress). Trees were human to Deakin, and humans tree-like, in hundreds of complicated and deeply felt ways.