Walking the Wild

Walking the Broomway

Living in the city during a pandemic often feels claustrophobic. And yet wild, empty places exist not too far away. Including this ancient causeway I visited a few years back….

The sound of the Broomway
Photo: BC Downer

It was a hazy Sunday afternoon, and my sister and I were tramping along one of the most dangerous pathways in Britain. Beneath us, the wattle lathes over the mud had soon petered out, and the old markers of the ancient causeway no longer existed. There was still a safe path for a few hours between tides, but its route was invisible to all but a trained eye.

Not only that, but the tides here disobeyed the timetables. All it took was a patch of low pressure, combined with the strange sloping geography, and stealthy tides would creep in on either side to cut you off. Then there were the sudden mists which could come in off the sea, concealing both the mainland you’d left and the island to which you were headed.

Although the mud looked uniform, underneath lurked the infamous Black Grounds. If you put a foot wrong and trod in this quicksand, it could suck you in down to your knees and keep you there. Over the centuries many had died that way, caught out by the tides, mist and mud. To add to the odds, since World War 1 the Ministry of Defence had sequestered the site as a defence firing range and testing site; the ground around us was littered with unexploded ordinance. Bombs, to you and me.

BC Downer

My sister and I were not on a joint suicide mission on this Sunday afternoon. We had taken some precautions, and found a former sailor who knew the way. Our plan was to learn the route and return later, on our own.

We were here to honour our father, who had indirectly led us here. For me, it was also a search for wild nature, a temporary escape from predictability and control. And I’d found this here in Essex; the place I couldn’t wait to leave behind as a teenager, the place I’d long despised for its ribbon development, bungalows and embrace of Thatcherism.

For we were walking the Broomway, which runs from Wakering Stairs to the island of Foulness, a path at least 600 years old, possibly even pre-Roman. Less than a mile from my home town of Southend lies one of the oldest and least tamed places I’ve found in all my years of wilderness-seeking. It had taken me 43 years to discover it.

The land we walked upon was once part of the Doggerland landbridge joining eastern Britain to the continent. The island’s name comes from the old English fugla-næss meaning ‘headland of birds’ and it still hosts hundreds of thousands of overwintering birds.

As we walked, we remembered an old story, now passed into folklore, of the last Broomway victim. He was a shepherd, named William Harvey, and his body was found washed up on the Maplin Sands nearby in 1857. His cart was found separately, upside down, along with his poor drowned horse, still connected to the cart by one trace. 

The story of his death varied, depending on whom you spoke to. According to some Foulness islanders he’d been drunk and hot-headed, disobeying warnings not to ride out when he did. My sister had a different version. This one saw him as a crime victim; he’d just been paid his wages and was set upon as he rode back home across the Sands. 

I was enjoying the sensation of the lug-wormed mud on my booted feet; warm and rich, it made satisfying sucking sounds with each step. But as we headed further and further out from land, a peculiar disorientation seeped in. The horizontal landscape was an endless terrain of white, silver, steel-grey and charcoal. Made from water, sharing the featureless monotony of desert. The light behind the white haze made it hard to see where the land ended and sky began; what was solid and what was reflection. The wet silt, an off-white mirror to the off-white sky. Distant oil tankers shimmered blackly, more solid, but appeared to be floating in sky. And when my sister and I looked at each other, metres apart, we couldn’t immediately tell where our bodies ended and our silhouettes began. It would be very easy to see mirages here, tricked by light, space and a disoriented mind. 

The wind tore away in our ears. The alien silt stretched out endlessly to the south and east, out to the North Sea, addling our brains and reducing us to tiny actors on a vast stage. We couldn’t linger; there was less than two hours before the tide turned. 

BC Downer
BC Downer

Foulness and the Broomway had been staring me in the face for most of my life. So close, and yet closed to me. Growing up, all I knew of the island were the strange sounds it made. Regular soft, puffy explosions that sounded like a vast cake being smashed; sometimes a huge detonation making the whole estuary sky a reverb pedal. ‘Oh, that’s just Foulness,’ people would say. ‘The MOD doing their tests.’ As if it was all perfectly normal. Years later, I learned that there had been plans for nuclear research on the island. To this day, no-one outside Quinetic, the private company running the island on behalf of the MOD, knows what tests go on there. 

There was only one way onto the island of Foulness we were aware of –  the military bridge and checkpoint. As the whole island was owned by the Ministry of Defence, you could only get through the checkpoint with a special permit. To get it, you needed to have business on the island or friends there, and I had neither. It was a closed, secret world existing less than a mile away.

Perhaps that’s why my father’s stories of visiting the island lingered, hardening into a determination to find a way to get onto it myself. Once, my father told us, when he had walked into a Foulness pub, everyone had turned round at once to stare at him, like the scene in An American Werewolf in London – because on Foulness, everyone knows everyone, with no outsiders to confuse things. What must it be like, to live in a place like that?

Then, after my father died, someone told me about the Broomway. I was sceptical at first, but an internet search confirmed its existence. I found some photographs of it on a blog written by a couple undertaking a coastal walk around Britain. They had attempted it but given up after an hour, realising the danger. The early images they took were tranquil, picturesque even, with a visible path. Later photos showed the path starting to disappear and the surrounding mudscape more desolate. The last photograph was menacing. No path, black rivulets in the mud. It looked like a landscape that could kill you. I spent more months searching for a guide who could keep us to the path and keep us safe. 

The Broomway’s last victim shares a surname with my brother in law, but I didn’t pay much attention to that as my sister and I walked along. It wasn’t until later that we realised that William Harvey was his direct blood relative, five generations back. We came across old records, which confirmed his family connection and deepened the mystery of his death. The newspaper report said that one hundred pounds was found on his body. As a shepherd, this would have been a vast sum, equivalent to three times his annual salary. So much for the robbery theory. We also found an old letter, written by Charles Miller, a local doctor and the last person to see him alive. The rumours that Harvey was drunk and driving must have begun even then, because Miller, writing to his widow, is at pains to point that Harvey had been perfectly sober that evening. In ornate Victorian lettering, he writes: ‘as I believe my House was the last one he called at before he took the Sands, whoever said that he was then intoxicated certainly told a deliberate and a wilful Falsehood.’

We remembered something else because of that walk. As a young girl, my sister had gone down to the beach in Southend, clutching an empty plastic bottle. Empty, except for her child’s message inside, giving her address and asking for a letter back. Months later, she received one, from a lady saying she lived on an island. Aged seven, she was thrilled at first, until my father broke the news that the island was Foulness, there on the horizon, a long stone’s throw away.

Her message had traversed the muds, escaped the ordnance and ridden the tides. A little girl on the mainland had inadvertently got past the Ministry of Defence checkpoints and bridged two parallel worlds.

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Walls come tumbling down

‘But it’s got no zip!’

I’m staring down at a limp piece of khaki-coloured plastic, laid out on a darkening woodland floor.

It’s a bivvy bag, but not like the one I used last time, which was thick and had a zip around the head which meant you could seal yourself in against the elements.

This one is open at the top. It can fit a sleeping bag, a sleep mat and then your head pops out at the top in a kind of plastic hood.

‘There’s no..seal! It’s open!’

‘Yeah- that makes it so much better than the one you used before. With this one you can breathe much better and it’s way more comfortable,’ says my wild camping mentor, puzzled at my panic.

Comfortable? The ground is thick, rich with rotten leaf litter and wet from earlier rain. Berries, mud, decaying wood, brimful of dead and rotting things. Full of insects. Detrivores. Invertebrates. Millions of them.

spider in shadow

Wondrous beings but not my choice in bedfellows. Not creatures I want crawling onto my face. Or into my sleeping mouth.

‘I didn’t realise the bivvy would be open! This is….I’m not sure I…I’m out of my comfort zone!’ I stand aimlessly in the woodland, fixed to the spot.

woodland at dusk

My friend is irritated. It’s getting dark and I’m having a meltdown about a piece of plastic. He suggests a grassy spot further on, but it’s overlooked by houses and not as secret and sheltered as this. I lie down on the bivvy and stare up at the sky through the canopy. It’s a beautiful thing to do. And it’s really soft underneath me.

I take a few deep breaths and decide to go for it. I need to know whether I’m up for hardcore bivvying, and I might as well find out tonight. If it all goes Indiana Jones at 3 am, and I find insects crawling over my face, then I’ll stagger to the bench on the grassy spot and perch there til it gets light.

Sleep in a bivvy and you cross a threshold. With a tent you’ve got a very visible barrier between you and the elements, albeit a thin one. With a zipped, thick bivvy you’re making yourself that bit more vulnerable – but there’s still a barrier. With an open bivvy like this one you’re no longer separated from all that nature. You’re in it.

Amidst the death, birth, fecundity, slime, crawling things, stalking things, singing things. Bring it.

I put up my super light mini tarp with my friend’s help. If it rains in the night, I’ll be protected from above. But the land and I are one. I raise my head up with my rucksack, draw the bivvy hood around me and take great care NOT to use my torch when tucking myself in. I know I will see things moving.

It’s so dark that I can’t tell if my eyes are closed or not. After an hour or so, I fall asleep. In the night I hear a flutey duet at a distance. Owls? And then: joy. The male owl comes to us. I know, because his screeching song is so loud and so harsh, his claws and beak flash in my mind’s eye. I’ve never had a wild animal so close to me.

I wake refreshed, despite the wind, the wet tarp, the owl calls. Thank God, the insects were discreet. I get dressed in a shaft of sun, my naked skin drinking in its warmth. The sea roars faintly below. I’m blissed out by nature’s gifts. And I realise that a woodland makes a great walk-in wardrobe: plenty of hooks to hang underwear and clothes. My initiation is complete.

The next evening we camp in a high cliff meadow to the east of Sidmouth. A shelter belt of trees behind, sandmartins granting us exclusive flybys, a faint smell of cannabis from teenagers congregating at a nearby viewing spot. The falling sun throws golden light on the grass, the ultimate light technician.

I walk away to pee and then gaze at the final remnants of sunset. Devon falls away to the west in folds of purple, indigo, blue and black. The nearly-full moon is like a soft lamp, throwing a honeyed shaft of light onto the blue sea.  If an Arthurian knight came riding on a white horse towards me right now on that shaft of light, it would not look out of place.

On the path, patches of stone start glowing; crystals in the granite reflecting back the moonlight.  Our moonshadows walk back to the bivvies with us. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen my moonshadow. The gratitude, the joy in being alive, comes easily on evenings like this.

My final night of bivvying takes me out of my comfort zone in a different way. A packed campsite, our bivvies and tiny tarps perched right next to other campers playing amplified music and watching TV. Earplugs and a small wall of tarp are my only protections. I feel really vulnerable. In the night, when the wind blows my tarp into me, I jump – it almost feels like a large hand grabbing my shoulder.

I only lived like this for four days. But for those four days I lived entirely outside, and when we got back to my mate’s flat in Exeter both of us felt disoriented to be inside a building. Ecopsychologists reckon that civilisation is only four days deep and that after about 72 hours of being out in nature, profound internal changes start to happen. You don’t need to travel to Papua New Guinea to experience the so-called Wilderness Effect. This was just the South West coastal path. And now it felt strange to be under a ceiling. Protected by walls. To have no wind on our faces. It felt like luxury and like something important was missing. Maybe the insects?

Yours truly modelling the open bivvy bag: this season’s must have


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Extinction Rebellion: activism is an anti-depressant

As a group of Extinction Rebellion activists glued themselves to a DLR train at Canary Wharf three Fridays ago, a message popped up on the group’s Facebook livestream: Activism is an anti-depressant.

Eighty-two-year-old Phil Kingston was among those up on the train roof to draw attention to the fact that the financial sector is driving the climate crisis, which is already displacing and killing people. And that without urgent action, billions of human beings will die by 2050.

There’s something about witnessing an octagenarian sacrificing his comfort and liberty for the benefit of other human beings which reaffirms ‘something I thought I’d lost’ to quote another message on the Facebook live stream. And of course it’s not just Phil Kingston – more than 1100 people peacefully got themselves arrested this April, in order to cause maximum disruption and push our society to save itself. Among them was Hanna, seven months pregnant, the last person to be removed from the Oxford Circus XR site.

Alongside the so-called ‘arrestables’ thousands more hearts, minds and hands created and supported the Extinction Rebellion phenomenon, whether by offering meditation on Waterloo Bridge, acting as independent legal observers, cooking and serving free vegetarian food for participants, or holding up colourful, witty banners at road junctions.

Waterloo Bridge, photo by Jamie Tarlton

We did this not for direct personal benefit, but for children living today and their children, and for the millions of people in the global South already suffering the impacts of climate change. XR is not perfect; the movement needs to work harder to involve BAME groups and keep highlighting the way structural inequalities drive climate change.

But in our actions we embodied something which our society denies, telling us that we’re apathetic and selfish: Love.  A reverence for life, common to all spiritual traditions across the world. And an instinctual understanding of interbeing – a Buddhist wisdom recognising that all is one and one is all. We are ourselves, but we are also all each other.

photo by Extinction Rebellion

We live in a society which denies this truth and actively works against it. No wonder we have an epidemic of anxiety and depression.  So I agree with the Facebook comment: activism can be a practice which feeds us. When we act non-violently and collectively, we embody the interbeing principle and this feeling of connection gives me delight, freedom, and fresh energy.

Peaceful activism is not just about sacrifice – you can feel adventure and purpose when (non-violently) breaking oppressive societal norms.  When we’re all one, I am you and you are me, it means you can let creativity and nature flow through you. It’s a huge relief to know it’s not all down to you, your ego and your mind. And being part of something so vast and creative means that things which looked absolutely impossible start to look more achievable. If this isn’t an antidote for depression, I don’t know what is.

Waterloo Bridge photo by Jamie Tarlton

In his book The Miracle of Mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh wrote that because people cut reality into compartments, they are unable to see the interdependence of all phenomena. But deep down it seems we all know it.

It was there as I approached Oxford Circus, and a complete stranger walked up to me, beaming, offering me one of her home-made flapjacks. It was there as arrestees were carried off into police vans while other participants yelled ‘We love you’. It was there in the woman serving me food at Marble Arch: ‘How did you get involved? Oh, I was just walking past earlier today.’ And the 71-year-old bearded man doing legal observing through the night at Oxford Circus, who’d travelled all the way from Wales to help out.

‘This Way to Save the Planet’ photo by Jamie Tarlton

It was there in all the passersby who thanked us, and the Oxford Street shop-worker who told me that although it made it harder for him to get to work, he agreed with the action because it was ‘for a good cause’ and that inconvenience was needed. It was there in the stories I heard of kids who no longer needed their asthma inhalers. And it was there in the woman who thanked the campers at Marble Arch: ‘I haven’t heard birdsong here in thirty years. Now I can.’

I laughed very hard many times during XR. And I witnessed many beautiful things. Spontaneous, deep conversations between strangers; dancing on Waterloo Bridge under a huge pink moon.  While there will no doubt be tensions and conflict within such a huge movement, during the week I began to believe that collectively, humans are capable of solving huge problems – if we’re just given the space and power to get on with it.

‘How did they manage all this?’ a couple asked me, taking in the solar panels, trees, stage, singing, musicians, performance, meditation, conviviality. ‘Hive mind’ was my answer. As ‘Being Mortal’ author Atul Gawande says: ‘We’re all so limited as individual human beings, and yet magic happens when we all string together. When that happens, we are almost unlimited.’

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New Year Intentions: Being while Doing

Is it possible to feel good at the same time as getting shit done?


My New Year Intention

This New Year I stood round a bonfire at a wonderful Buddhist retreat in the English countryside and made an intention to ‘combine doing with love’ in 2019.

While I can tap into a great sense of love and well-being when I meditate on the cushion or dance to a great piece of music, I tend to separate my ‘love and goodwill’ time from my ‘get shit done’ time. There’s ‘work’ which needs to be got through, and then there’s ‘pleasure’ which is all too often, deferred.

A split-personality society

There’s a long tradition of this kind of split in our world, no doubt based on hundreds of years of capitalism and Puritan work ethic. We’ve all heard stories of ruthless business people and politicians who go to church on a Sunday and save up their love and compassion for those two hours a week. Bertolt Brecht’s Good Woman of Setzuan features a woman forced to adopt a split personality by the ruthless pressures of the capitalist system. But even those working for social good can split off those parts of themselves, getting so caught up in the urgency of the cause that they sacrifice their own well-being and that of those around them.

But if we can only be truly nice to ourselves and others on the days a week when we’re not busy working, what kind of society does that entail?

Breaking free of the split

I don’t want to follow this long destructive tradition. I’m beginning to believe that being able to breathe and love myself and others in the midst of life’s fire-fighting is potentially one of the most radical things I can do to make a better world – for me and those around me, and hopefully wider afield.

But it’s a long-ingrained habit to defer love and joy. Because I’m curious and engaged in the world, I always have a list of shit that needs doing. All too often, as my time gets squeezed and I’m trying to get through the list, the love element disappears.

I defer it – I’ll be nice to myself or allow myself to feel good once this job’s done. Sometimes, I even make my bladder wait until I get the damn thing done. My determination and focus helps me achieve, but at what cost to my well-being and those around me?

It sounds so simple and obvious a change to make but it can be very hard for me to do, especially when I have pressing deadlines and too much work in my day job. And outside work, I’m involved in many different activities.

Ways to escape

I know that in order to ‘do’ with love I’m going to have to find a way to be more aware in the moment; to say ‘no’ more often; to delegate more often; to trust more often; and to get better at reclaiming my time so I feel I have more of it.

I came across this wonderful quote by David Whyte (his book Consolations) that nails the conundrum:

“Rest is the conversation between what we love to do and how we love to be”

Feeling irritable and joyless is going to be my cue to remember a great ‘mantra’ for myself:

  • Right task? (Does this task really need doing?)
  • Right person? (Am I the right person for this task? Would it be better done by someone else?)
  • Right time? (Is this the right time to do it?)
  • Right place? (Is this the best location to do this task?)

I came across this ‘mantra’ years ago and it’s just popped back into my mind as a useful tool. I’m now trying to use my mindfulness practice to be more aware of: what does my body and soul need in this moment and can I give it that, if only in some small way?

It’s working

One month in, I’m already noticing a difference. While it still seems counter-intuitive and inefficient to pause right in the heat of trying to solve a problem, I’m noticing that by cutting myself some slack (giving myself some love) I’ve often been able to find a better and more satisfying solution.


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Screw you, Facebook: Why I’m joining the monthly digital detox revolution

Forget Christmas Day and Black Friday – will you be marking Moonstruck Day? The next one falls on Saturday December 22, just after winter solstice.

It’s the day of the full moon, and for 24 hours we’re invited to join a mass digital detox. Organised by brilliant culture-jammers Adbusters, Moonstruck Day happens on the day of the full moon each month.

December’s full moon is known as Cold Moon, or Long Nights Moon, an ancient name used by native American tribes, among others. Ancient people had a strong connection with the moon, using it to keep track of things like planting, hunting, harvesting.

Moonstruck Day aims to harness the moon to help us keep track in a different way – to reclaim our mental space and attention by getting off  ‘Big Tech’ and instead ”reconnect with our communities, nature, and ourselves…log out of social media, turn off our phones, refrain from shopping online, and google nothing. For one day stop feeding Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook the precious data they need to fuel their perfect consumerist machines.”

Sometimes I go for a day or several days without looking at my phone, but in an ad hoc, unplanned way. There’s something about doing it deliberately and regularly each month, while knowing that thousands of others are doing the same thing, which makes Moonstruck Day a powerful cultural event. Even if you don’t do it perfectly.

My initiation was Occupy Silicon Valley/Do Nothing Day this autumn, which took the Occupy movement and Buy Nothing Day (Black Friday’s antidote) as inspiration. For one day, thousands of people including me, boycotted Amazon, Google and Facebook, or got off the internet altogether. For the mischievous, there was the option of heaping up items on the Amazon trolley, then checking out, or for doing only one Google search that day: ‘Does Google do evil?’

Although I had to use the internet for work that day, I joined in as best I could. Not only did I discover some search machine alternatives to Google which don’t capture your data (DuckDuckGo;  Qwant; Ecosia ) my digital detox gave me that rarest of rare things; an epiphany on the commute.

As I filed onto the platform, waiting for the train, my hand went to my coat pocket for my phone. This was dead time – time I usually fill by scrolling, looking over old messages, sending a message to someone. And then I remembered – it was Occupy Silicon Valley Day and therefore my phone would remain off.  Almost immediately I felt a sense of irritation and frustration, followed by boredom. Here I was, stuck on this shitty platform with nothing to do.

The platform I stood on was on a raised piece of land opposite some houses. The roof of one was right opposite.  Between me and them were trees and some Virginia creeper. As I stood there, gazing with no agenda, I began to see these things for the first time. I’d never really paid attention to them before, just labelling them in my mind: ‘roof’ ‘building’ house’ ‘railway line’.

As I looked, I noticed that the roof was not just a roof, but a pattern of different colours and surfaces; dark blue slate, bright yellow lichen, and a darker green moss.  In fact, there were colours everywhere, and sound. The birch trees were whispering in the wind. The Virginia creeper was beginning to turn orange. Autumn was creeping in, right under my nose, but I hadn’t seen it til this particular morning.

And the roof was alive. Several pigeons were bobbing up and down it, bending their heads down to the lichen and moss. A whole ecosystem was on that roof. First lichen had colonised the slate, then moss. Tiny insects would live in that moss, which in turn fed the pigeons and other birds, which would in turn be eaten by peregrines. Life on earth playing out right in front of me, with David Attenborough nowhere in sight.

As I rode the train into town I saw ripe autumn colours everywhere from the window. Gold, green, red, yellow. If it hadn’t had that reminder to keep my phone off, I would have missed all of that.

I’m looking forward to discovering more hidden worlds on Saturday December 22. I wonder how many others will be joining me.




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The colour’s coming back in

Like post-war technicolour movies, colour has come back to the landscape, despite a winter which wouldn’t let go.

A Matter of Life and Death 2

In another throwback to the 1950s, the 2018 Doomsday Clock is now at two minutes to midnight, where it last was in 1953 during the height of the Cold War. This is the closest it’s been to midnight, and for me it’s a wake up call to live in the moment as much as I can. Not to escape from my responsibility as a citizen to work for peace and justice, but as a way to recharge.

There’s a long tradition of engaged people and activists taking medicine from nature, and it looks like we’re going to need this resilience more than ever this year. Noticing nature all around us is one of the best ways to do this, even in the city.

Spring comes early in urban environments, and not just because of the warmer micro-climate. Our street, garden and park trees provide some of the first good blasts of colour: cherries, magnolias and camelias.

There’s a cherry tree near where I live which is positioned right next to a street lamp, and before the clocks went forward I would always walk past it in darkness on my way home from work. It was like walking under an incandescent wedding gown.

But I love the strange Magnolias (the most common garden sub species is Magnolia grandiflora) the best. When I used to teach kids I would describe them as ‘dinosaur trees’ because the genus is so ancient. A bare tree with huge flowers does look kind of weird, if you stop to think about it, and the Magnolia genus appeared on the planet so early it was before bees had arrived and the flowers evolved to encourage beetles to pollinate them, instead.


Fossilised specimens from the Magnoliaceae family have been found dating back to 95 million years ago, so this is a plant that can blow your mind as well as look pretty and weird simultaneously.

You can stroke it, too: before the flowers unfurl, they are held together by velvet bracts which look and feel like furry velvet purses. (The kids loved doing that, but why let them have all the fun?) Once opened, the petals feel and look different to many other flowers; pink fleshy tongues which feel stiff to the touch, like they’ve been ironed. The carpels at the base of the flower are tough, and they probably evolved this way to avoid damage from the pollinating beetles.


What’s more, you can eat the petals  – though they’re peppery and pungent and too strong for some people. I can still remember walking through the glorious Golders Green Park on the western side of Hampstead Heath and popping a spicy petal in my mouth, guided by Kym of Handmadeapothecary.co.uk. This is a generous plant for sensory satisfaction.

And once we’ve recharged our well-being batteries, let’s all keep doing our best to move that Doomsday clock further away from midnight.

A Matter of Life and Death 1

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Getting through January: with a little help from the starlings

8am on a gloriously bright January morning. The storm last night has washed the sky clean of cloud and the light is strong and clear, purged of dust. I should be getting ready for work but instead I’m lying up against my pillows, watching the starlings on the television aerials opposite.

It’s just hit me that these black shapes on the aerials are my first ‘nature encounter’ of the day. And that it’s up to me to make the most of these crumbs of nature connection, which are painfully few in a day spent mainly under strip lighting in an office with no windows.

Nature deficit disorder

I used to work outdoors a lot as an environmental educator, working out of wonderful green spaces such as Hampstead Heath. It was rewarding and fun. But it didn’t pay the bills, and I missed writing for a living.

I like my job now, but by the end of the week I often feel a subtle, scratchy sensation that I only recognise as mild ill-being when I get back outdoors. When I walk in a woodland, or by a river, I feel my whole being sigh with relief and I realise how much my mind and body has missed natural sights, smells, textures and sounds.

Starling soap opera

So I delay my morning routine and decide to inhabit this moment with the birds. As I watch, I realise there’s a whole starling soap opera unfolding opposite – and that if I pay enough attention, I might work out some of the plot.

There are about four metal TV aerials on the roofs of the 80’s housing estate opposite me. Each consists of a horizontal steel bar, mounted on a vertical bar, with a small horizontal bar a little lower down. They all terminate in metal ‘arrows’ pointing north for some reason.

The starlings always gather on the aerials in the mornings, but rarely later on. I’ve never really considered why they gather, but I guess they’re using them as they might use trees if the city wasn’t here. The aerials provide the highest vantage point for scouring the local area and watching out for predators.

What are they looking for? Food, presumably, but what would they eat in January? I speculate. It’s too cold for insects, so it has to be worms, fruit, berries and anything they can scavenge. Maybe, just maybe, they’re already looking for potential nesting sites.

The language of starlings

Do they share that information with each other? If not, why bother to fly off in small groups and then come back? I’m sure if I was nearer I would hear a din of starling chatter – that busy, bubbling, mischievous sound – they’re definitely communicating.

If you want to know what starling speech sounds like, here’s a clip.

Starlings are great vocal mimics and Mozart even taught one the opening bars of his Piano Concerto No. 17 in G.

Have a listen next time you visit the supermarket and you’re in the car park. They’re often there, on the make, having realised it’s a great source of dropped and crushed food. Look out for a blackbird-sized bird with dark foliage dotted with spots, gleaming green and purple in places. Head high, it will be boldly sauntering about the car park as if it owns the place – and it won’t be on its own. Its mates will be nearby. If these birds were humans, I imagine them like a rough urban family, noisy and sharp, relying on each other to survive in tough conditions. I love their intelligence and the way they’ve adapted to living alongside us. Some of them do great impressions of car alarms.


Starling by Pierre Selim Wikipedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18506598


Shift work

As I watch the birds, I realise they never gather for long, and never all at once. It’s almost as if they’re working in shifts. A few fly off at a time, do a circuit of the estate, and then return.

And I notice that even when they alight, they’re rarely still. One of them keeps edging away from another bird down the aerial, but at each move he’s being stalked by his buddy. Then he gives up and flies away and his stalker takes off after him. Is that courtship? Aggression? Does the starling stalker just want to be friends,  vainly trying to ingratiate itself?

Starlings: #forthemany not the few?

The top of the aerial arrow is the favoured position. I see them vie with each other for the spot, even though it’s only a tiny bit higher than the rest of the structure, so the advantage is purely symbolic. I notice one starling repeatedly fly at the top of the aerial, trying to dislodge the incumbent. Perhaps the height displays a kind of pecking order and starlings are like cats – the individual with the highest spot in any group is the ‘king’. If that’s the case, the king changes frequently, I notice – so it seems starlings might be considered egalitarian?

Starling therapy

8.20. Time to get ready for work. But I notice that twenty minutes watching those birds and not thinking about myself and my to-do list, has lifted my spirits and cleared the crap from my mind, like the blue sky washed by last night’s storm.


Postscript: New study just out reveals that watching birds near your home is good for you! “Birds around the home, and nature in general, show great promise in preventative health care, making cities healthier, happier places to live”
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Inner city mindfulness


The kernel of this blog is simplicity. If we could only move our lives back into simplicity, so many of our contemporary problems would diminish or depart entirely.

And I find it ridiculously hard to do sometimes. The ‘things to do list’ only seems to grow, and the economics of living in London in 2016 seem so pressing. The pressures to ‘not fall behind’, ‘to keep up’ weigh on me mightily at times, when I feel a sense of panic at the sand pouring through the hourglass.


But then there are other times, where I drop back into the flow again, moving with the stream, tuning into the myriad ways it nourishes me. Last Sunday was one of those times, and it was all delightfully, gloriously, radically simple.

I was participating in a day of mindfulness in Kennington at the small beautiful Jamyang Buddhist monastery organised by the Heart of London group which follows the wonderful Vietnamese Zen tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh,

Over seven hours we ate, walked, spoke, listened, and meditated together – all things I might do in an average day anyway – but this time all these things were drenched in mindfulness.

What do I mean by mindfulness? Simply being aware in the present moment of what is actually happening – physically,  emotionally and cognitively.

Mindful typing

As I type this article, my fingers are flying across the keypad and the pads of all my fingers are feeling the plastic of the letters as they hit the right key. It’s like a little massage for the fingers, and as I tune in I notice that sometimes it’s the nails that are touching the keys and sometimes it’s more towards the centre of the fingertip. And now I’m tuning in further, I’m aware that my wrist is involved and my two arms, and as I notice this, my whole posture changes, I’m more upright and simply enjoying the wonderful physical and mental experience of turning thoughts into words.

Wow! That increased sense of wellbeing came from just three minutes of mindful typing.

Elusive simplicity

Of course, although it’s a simple practice, it can also be difficult because it runs so counter to the way we’re encouraged to run our lives today. Busy, busy, busy; we are all so caught up in our own heads, thinking about the past, the future, the looming deadlines. Even the way we ‘consume’ our ‘leisure’ can come from that same driven, grasping place, that sense of urgency and box-ticking.

That’s why attending a day of mindfulness is such a good idea. In the company of others you remember, yet again, the basics. How good it feels to come home to your own physical body and feel what it feels, see what it sees, hear what it hears. You become more aware of the thought clouds passing through the sky of your mind. It’s easier with other people to encourage you. Some of your calmness passes to them, and vice versa. Through giving gentle attention to your body as it takes an in-breath and an out-breath, or feeling it move through space in the process of walking, you come to a much more solid place. It’s not a magic wand of happiness: if you are dealing with difficult things in your life then you may feel that sadness or anger more consciously. But I tend to find that if I allow myself to feel these, then relief and peace come in their wake. And I always become far more aware of the simple things in life which bring me joy.

Mindful eating

And so it was on Sunday, when I had my first proper experience of eating mindfully. Usually I bolt down my food quickly, with gusto, like a happy tail-wagging dog. I am dimly aware of the taste and texture, I enjoy it, but it’s not mindful – (apart from when I’m eating something I’ve cooked outside in the open air for some reason).  This time I noticed my sensations of  hunger and impatience, as I watched the steam spiralling up from the hot plate in front of me,  and felt the juices in my mouth rising. We were made to wait a short time until everyone sat down, and I realise now that the wait was really important. Because when I finally started eating, it was a revelation.

I was struck by the wonderful texture of the rice – the way it had bite and firmness, cooked to just the right point. The flavour of the cashew nuts in the stew came and went, teasing me, sometimes right there, sometimes evading me. The salad was like a wonderful mystery – one minute biting into the nuttiness of a sprout, the sweetness of a pomegranate seed – there was a roasted seed in the mix that I just couldn’t quite identify, which imparted a wonderful extra taste and texture to the whole thing.

Healing urban sounds – really?

As my awareness of sensations increased during the day, I became more aware of the city sounds in the distance. The train’s two note hooting was jaunty, cheerful, like a friendly wave. One riff even sounded like a huge saxophone.

I also became aware that planes were flying overhead more or less constantly, with a new one every five minutes. But this didn’t bother me – instead I found I enjoyed the noise when I really listened to it. I rediscovered, again, that it has a musicality to it – a blend of notes moving down a scale from high to low, like a strange wind instrument, driven along by its engines’ rhythmic roar. It even seemed that I could feel its vibration as well as hear it – the way it rumpled the atmosphere through which it moved.

And it didn’t stop there. On the way home I paid attention to the sound of a car accelerating and slowing down repeatedly as it moved over speed bumps on my road. Normally the sound would annoy me and I’d try to block it out. Now I sang along to it – high, low, then high again.

car in street


When I switched on the radio later it just so happened to play the Ultimate Care album by electronic duo Matmos, constructed entirely out of  sounds generated by a Whirlpool Ultimate Care II model washing machine. Mindfulness makes art, too.

washing machine

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A better life is possible – I’ve seen it


This blog started out as a record of my attempts to ‘escape the system’ and live more lightly and simply on the planet. Over time it’s become more focused on nature as a theme, and I’ve posted poetry as well as prose. The concept of fairness and equality has become more and more important to me in the wake of cumulative austerity policies, and the lack of challenge to them in mainstream media or political parties – until very recently.


So perhaps it’s not surprising that nearly three months ago I escaped the dismal political situation in Britain and moved temporarily to Sweden, attracted by its egalitarian reputation and large areas of wilderness. This post explores what it was like there, and what I’ve learned….


I’m travelling back to the UK after nearly three months in Sweden. My Blah Blah Car lift lands me in Brussels, the home of the European project. In one single afternoon, I hear and see more mentally-ill, aggressive, desperate and borderline criminal people than in the whole three months I’ve just spent in Sweden. I’m perplexed by the Metro, with its lack of staff, and overwhelmed by the city’s noise, cars, graffiti, smell of piss and the excrement in the streets. But it’s good, in a way, because I know this will toughen me up for returning to London.


Most of my adult life I’ve heard about the higher levels of income and gender equality in Scandinavia, as well as its cleaner environment, lower crime rates and higher levels of trust. I wanted to experience the reality behind the statistics and find out what is it really like to live there.  And, perhaps more importantly for a person coming from England: how do you create a fairer, better society? Does it have to cost more, does it entail losing a creative, competitive edge?

A parallel life


Over the past few months, helped by the disorienting effects of the midnight sun and the northern lights, I’ve played with having a parallel, Swedish life. Through the volunteering website Workaway.com I found myself several ‘jobs’ in different parts of Sweden – which gave me the chance to experience life in the north as well as the south of the country, both the countryside and the city. I lived with Swedish families, and I met some wonderful and less wonderful people. I embedded myself in local Swedish communities in a way no tourist ever can. I spent much of my time in the city of Luleå, not far from the Arctic Circle, but also spent time in Stockholm and the Uppsala area.


No paradise yet, but closer..

I didn’t find the perfect egalitarian idyll. Sweden shares some of England’s (and other European countries) issues, such as widening social inequality, refugees, obesity, race segregation, and unemployment. Like the UK, corporates have too much power, and the market culture has deformed public services (such as the state water company near-bankrupting itself by buying stakes in German nuclear power stations without bothering to tell anyone). On the whole though, I found the symptoms of these problems to be far less extreme than in the UK. So although I’ve noticed some examples of excessive wealth – such as Swedes parading themselves on huge expensive yachts, and a family where every child had its own speedboat – I found it possible to have a great quality of life here with little money.

High quality of life with little money

Sweden has a reputation for being expensive, but as far as I can see it’s mainly the alcohol, and apartments in Stockholm, that deserve this reputation. Don’t come here if you want to have a boozy holiday, that’s for sure. Accommodation is getting more expensive and harder to come by but it’s nowhere near the ridiculous levels in Britain. Nearly everything else which one relies on to navigate life- buses, trains, somewhere to study, places to relax, spend time with family – are affordable, subsidised, clean and accessible.

 You can have a life here which is near impossible in Britain

What this means is that if you’re a student, creative person, or a parent, or a woman, or even a refugee (Sweden takes more refugees per capita than any other European country apart from Germany) – your life here will be completely different from that in the UK. Think about that. You’ll be able to do things, create things, that you’ll never be able to in Britain. I saw examples of this all the time.


inspiring view from KKV, a fantastic artist studio collective in Lulea



one of the artworks in the  sculpture park surrounding KKV

Support for creativity and families

For instance, an artist couple I met in Luleå are able to combine being part-time artists with bringing up their son. The fact that they are artists, and part-time ones, means they do not have a lot of money. But thanks to a rent-subsidised apartment (roughly £320 per month) and an incredibly cheap, stunning cooperative art studio containing state of the art facilities (less than £100 per year) and subsidised child care (£53 per month) they can practice what they are good at, look after their son, and even have time and energy to enjoy themselves.


The large studio space available for hire at KKV – looking out onto forest


printing room at KKV

Compare that situation with Britain. I know so many parents where one partner finds that they have to work longer hours or take on a more stressful job to cover the cost of losing an entire income whilst the other parent looks after the child. Or mothers who go back to work and find that a huge proportion of their salary goes straight out again to cover the childcare costs. This creates stress. Stress on the person having to work harder (usually the man) and therefore see less of their children, and stress for the person sacrificing their career to look after them (usually the woman). Stress for the child, whose parents are too tired to enjoy them. It’s sad for all of them, and it probably leads to a few marital breakdowns along the way.


Another affordable great art coop in Lulea with affordable artist studios


Another artist coop with beautiful affordable studios

Even those artists or writers I know in Britain who don’t have children often have to work in other jobs part-time just to ensure they have enough money to live on. They have to find a way to fit the creativity in around their job. And of course that means they’re often too tired or busy to develop their art.

 Gender equality

One of the things I noticed in Brussels on my return were huge advertising posters of women’s breasts, not even bothering to include a head. This kind of image was entirely absent in Sweden, where there are three women party leaders in parliament, two of whom have had babies this year and are sharing their parental leave.


Swedish fathers can take months off work to look after their children or leave the office at 4pm to pick them up from school, Maddy Savage points out, editor of the Local Sweden, an English language news website. And because sharing childcare is normalised, so is the idea of having both men and women in senior jobs, regardless of whether they have kids.

Most Swedish women I met seemed very practical, confident, grounded people. We all know how to get a fire going and forage for food, they told me – at least in the north of Sweden. And travelling at night on public transport felt very safe as I noticed lots of other single women doing the same.  I also noticed the widespread coverage of women’s sport in local newspapers and on TV; it’s taken seriously, unlike in Britain.


Swedish women doing their practical thing!


Foraging for wild raspberries

Free education

Although I already have a degree, I’d love to take another high level course of study – but I know that doing so will involve a large sum of money, which makes me think twice, and delay while I find ways to save the cash. But if I lived in Sweden, I’d get to study for free.

In my parallel life as a Swedish citizen I would be much more highly skilled and better-educated than I am now. And it shows – Swedes have a track record for innovation. I  didn’t realise til I came here that Skype and Spotify are Swedish inventions, and that the country produces more patents a year than any other.  The World Economic Forum recently voted them the seventh most innovative economy in the world due to the amount Sweden spends on education, alongside infrastructure and R and D.

Sweden gives the lie to austerity

This shows how the austerity policies in Britain have nothing to do with economics and everything to do with ideology. Sweden invests in its public sector, its infrastructure and yet has weathered the recession better than the UK. Whereas in England we’re told that if we want to be competitive we have to hammer the public sector and cut costs.

Sweden’s large public sector and high taxes doesn’t seem to have put off business- Facebook has its only data storage facility outside of the US in Luleå. The public sector in Luleå employs over 7,000 people, according to its tourist handbook (numbers like this wouldn’t even make it into an English tourist handbook) for a population of 75,000. I googled the numbers of public sector employees for Lewisham, where I live in London. With its population of 286,000, over three times the size, they employed under 3,000 employees. Where would you rather work?

Disposable income not needed

If you’re a student, or a creative person in Sweden, or a lower-paid worker, you likely won’t have a lot of disposable income, but that doesn’t matter so much here, because so many great, well-maintained facilities are free, or subsidised. That’s partly why Swedes who’ve previously lived in India or London tell me that they mix more with people from different backgrounds now – in Sweden there’s less of a social divide between a hairdresser and someone with a pHd. Greater income quality, less consumerism and shared, appreciated, public resources make this happen, but underlying this are the Scandinavian concepts of ‘Lagom’ and ‘Jantelagen’.

Lagom- Just enough

Folk myth says that the Lagom ‘just enough’ concept came from the Viking practice of sharing out mead fairly among the crew, but whatever its origins it underpins the Swedish psyche, behaviour and what I felt in Sweden – a sense of cohesion, of things working well, and working for everybody. ‘Just enough’ offers a sustainable alternative to the hoarding  ‘more, more’ pressures of consumerism. In Sweden it is still considered ideal to be modest and avoid extremes, a welcome change from the prevailing competitive culture of the individual which, post-war, has spread throughout the Western world (see NYT Bestseller Quiet by Susan Cain for more on this).


Jantelagen – it’s ugly to think you’re better than anyone else

I have never heard anyone in Sweden bragging at length about their accomplishments. And I met a lot of people who were very good at listening. Even when I attended a party to launch a new book, the hosts who’d written the book spent much of their speech thanking their guests and those who’d helped them write it.

Jantelagen is a Scandinavian concept advocating societally-enforced humility. It discourages people from promoting their own achievements over those of others. Viewed negatively, it discourages individual effort, but viewed positively, it keeps egos in place, boosts self-esteem and reduces stress. I certainly didn’t notice it hampering the individual creativity of many of the many artists I met and worked with in Luleå. Perhaps it just means you can spend more time creating and less time having to market and sell yourself – a relief, if you ask me.

The Swedish Commons

So what are these great well-maintained facilities? I booked a night train at the last minute all the way from Stockholm to the Arctic Circle, with a nice bed for the night – for about €60. The trains are safe, and clean. Free wi-fi at every railway station meant I could surf the net for free most of the time. Buses were fairly cheap in Luleå; and best of all I found I could cycle everywhere, without risking life and limb, thanks to ubiquitous cycle lanes. It also felt far more pedestrian-friendly.





In Luleå, when it got too cold to swim outside, I went to the beautiful state of the art swimming pool and super-hot sauna – it cost me 40 SEK, which is less than four English pounds.


The concept of the ‘commons’ is important. Even relatively expensive apartment blocks have communal washing machines, freeing up space and saving money. Yes, this can lead to arguments between neighbours, but it also means Swedes get good practice in finding consensus. My friend in Stockholm, who owns her own flat, tells me that she and all the other residents make all the communal decisions about the block – they have to work cooperatively to get things done, rather than farming out these decisions through an external housing association, like where I live in London. Her resident association agreed to install a communal sauna in the block, which meant I could enjoy a free sauna during my stay.



you get paid to recycle some items in sweden – another example of swedish pragmatism


But the UK is fairer in some ways

I don’t want to suggest that everything in Sweden is perfect. The far right Swedish Democrats are doing well in the polls. One thing I’ve noticed where Sweden is less egalitarian than the UK is going to see the doctor and getting free access to museums and art galleries. Although it only costs a nominal fee to see the doctor ( approx £16) this was enough to deter me making a follow-up visit towards the end of my stay when funds were low. Sweden started charging for doctor´s visits when it carried out its programme of cuts in the 90s, and I suspect has created widening health inequalities. Most of the art galleries and museums in Stockholm charged for entry, I also noticed, which meant I didn’t visit as many. However, Lulea’s impressive Kulturhus had many free exhibitions, events and affordable concerts, so the picture is mixed.

Still a cohesive community

Despite the recent popularity of the Right wing party, most Swedes I’ve spoken to are proud of the fact that it’s possible for anyone in Sweden to have a great quality of life, irrespective of income. They don’t moan about paying their taxes to support people who work supposedly less hard, like I hear in Britain – they feel that they share in the bounty their taxes provide, like free education.

No long hours culture

Maybe they’re more community-minded because they don’t have to work so hard. Here, people tell me it’s unusual for people to work more than 40 hours a week – working more doesn’t earn you brownie points, it’s more likely to make people think you’re anti-social. Taking regular fika breaks for tea and coffee with your work colleagues is important social glue.

Some companies in Sweden are now experimenting with a six-hour working day, reporting greater efficiency, less conflict, happier staff. Then there’s the generous maternal and paternity leave – parents are entitled to 480 days of parental leave when a child is born or adopted, getting the equivalent of 105 euros a day. Imagine how much easier life would be if we had that, combined with the Swedish virtually free child care, in Britain.


Fences still low

There was talk a few years ago about Swedes emulating the US and UK and embracing the concept of ‘gated communities’ but I’m pleased to report I haven’t yet found one. What I have found is that the fences around properties are still really low, and that even in rich areas it’s common for the main back doors of apartment blocks to be unlocked.


Surveys show that Swedes have one of the highest levels of trust in the world, and I think this attitude permeates all the positive things I notice here. Trust has enabled the generous welfare state to work, and the ensuing great quality of life encourages more trust –  a virtuous circle. Everywhere I see examples of this trust; for example municipally-maintained fire pits in densely wooded areas, or in the middle of towns. In Luleå on a Friday night by the docks, I enjoyed glowing lights of fires, manned by groups of teenagers. They were expected to light fires, encouraged to do so and trusted to look after them.


these glowing lights are from cosy fires tended by groups of teenagers


Another thing I noticed was axes left everywhere. People would totally freak about this in the UK. An axe had permanent residence beside the ubiquitous fire pit in the back garden of my friend’s place, an apartment block where several children lived. I remember watching a five-year-old carve her likeness out of a branch using a sharp Mora knife, her mother barely supervising – this was obviously something she did regularly and could be trusted with.


My Swedish friend allowed her kids, aged 5 and 7, to roam independently in the local area, and said this was a fairly common attitude ( British children have far less personal freedom to roam independently than their European peers, largely due to traffic and stranger-danger fears). A Stockholm metro worker loaned me his state-of-the-art Apple Mac laptop when I needed to book a hostel.

Come and sleep in our cathedral

When I got to Stockholm and visited the famous church in Gammelstan I was very tired, having taken the night-train (cĺean, safe, well-used) from down south. So with what I see now as typical Swedish pragmatism, the woman on the desk and the priest tour guide invited me to sleep in the church. Can you imagine that happening in Westminster Abbey? They’d probably call the police. The pew was a bit hard, but I had a great nap that afternoon, awaking refreshed and able to enjoy the tower tour and fantastic views over the city.

pragmatic statue

An example of the swedish relaxed attitude: am I imagining it, or has this guy got his hands in his pockets ?

Life is less of a struggle

Statistics tell me that Sweden has lower crime rates, but I saw that for myself, at least low-level crime –  Swedes have no truck with large cumbersome bike locks. Many bikes come with a built-in, small mechanism on the wheel which takes a second to lock and unlock, and some people don’t bother even using those.


All these things add up, and affect your quality of life. Here life seems far less of a struggle, even down to the small detail of not having to carry a heavy lock around with you and spend unnecessary amounts of time locking and unlocking your bike.

The Natural Commons

But I’ve saved the best, accessible, affordable, communal ‘resource’ til last – nature. This is where I spent most of my time, walking, swimming, boating, picking berries, star-gazing, cooking over fires, watching the Northern Lights. Even in Stockholm, I went for an early morning swim naked off one of the islands, yards from a petrol station, and picked wild mushrooms from nearby woods. And when you’re cooling off from a wood-fired sauna naked as a baby in a crystal clear sea, the world of consumerism just pales into insignificance. ( I want to write more about Swedish nature in my next blog post).


Swedes have codified their love of nature into law through the Allemansrätt. Unlike Britain, this means you can walk, swim, boat and pitch a tent anywhere, even on private land, so long as you can’t be seen from the house. Picking berries and fungi are important seasonal pastimes for many Swedes, and I got involved in mushrooming, blueberry picking and searching for elusive cloudberries. And I think this love of nature, as well as the welfare state, is what roots the trust and the pragmatism I saw all around me.




All in all I’ve seen a society which is still working well, despite the privatisations and cuts which took place here in the 90s. I’ve not found a panacea for climate change, unsustainable growth, corporate dominance, the end of cheap oil; but I can see that Sweden, like other Nordic countries, is managing the transition to the new order much more gracefully. Next time, I want to visit Norway and Finland. Norway consistently tops social equality polls and Finland has even mooted the idea of Basic Income.


My experience has invigorated my belief that a better life is possible for people living in Britain (and Sweden), if we can finally overthrow the poisonous neo-liberal legacy of Thatcher. What kind of life would you like you and your children to lead? Ask for it. Demand it. Because, not so many miles away, I’ve seen that it’s still possible.


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On time and patterns

for ‘our pictures, your words’ event at the fantastic Made in Greenwich gallery May 2015.

Inspired by Nicola White’s fish, Deborah Larne’s Signs of Serendipity (and accompanying music) and David Weekes’ Greenwich railway station painting, all part of a Made in Greenwich current exhibition.  And also the wonderful book Journey of the Universe! With thanks to Adrian Harris for telling me about this exhibition…

Tonight my lucky numbers might come up
Or I might go out and take the train
And if I do, who knew – I’d end up bumping into you
Under a Greenwich street lamp in driving rain.

Seven notes describe a pattern
Just as rigorously random
As time and tides, our loves and lives,
From Seven seas came scales and eyes.

We climbed up and out and onto land
Had dinner parties, shopped, got tanned
Plates got made and glasses smashed
Promises were broken, the planet trashed.

And now fish watch the busy street
The buses, tourists, ‘Subway’ sign
Blue green glass, unblinking eyes
Swimming silently outside of time.

Thrown up, cast off, smashed up and glued together
Welded, forged, destroyed and made
By human hands and weather.

They watch me hurtle down the street
In peace they watch the planet turn
They know that from the sea we came
And to the sea we will return.


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