Wednesday, 24 July 2019

The loss of distant horizons – almost, but not quite, a literature review…

On my way to school pickup one smoggy, sweltering summer afternoon, I heard an older woman just ahead of me telling two small boys they’d have to go straight home that day. “It’s good to be outside,” she said, “but sometimes the air is not good air.”
– Beth Gardiner: Choked

As soon as I had gotten out of the heavy air of Rome and from the stink of the smoky chimneys thereof, which being stirred, poured forth whatever pestilential vapours and soot they had enclosed in them, I felt an alteration of my disposition.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger

Some describe sixteenth-century Bolivia, where the Potosí silver mine was the largest in the world at the time, as the start of the Anthropocene – the geological era in which human activity began to have a significant impact on the natural world. The air would never be the same.
– Tim Smedley: Clearing the Air

The last act when life comes to a close is the letting out of the breath. And hence, its admission must have been the beginning.
– Aristotle: On Youth and Old Age, On Life and Death, On Breathing

When I originally started researching the subject of air pollution, at the beginning of March 2019 – driven by personal health issues to produce something in-depth for my blog that would, hopefully, also heighten awareness of this worrying subject (especially in this rural Elysium that is Warwickshire’s Feldon: where defilement of any kind probably seems at its most improbable), I had aimed to put the resultant article to bed in time for World Environment Day on 5 June 2019 (whose theme, this year, was, fittingly, #BeatAirPollution).

Thursday, 27 June 2019

My answers to the Neighbourhood Development Plan questionnaire (with a handful of minor edits…)

Lower and Middle Tysoe have already met their targets under Stratford District Council’s Local Plan; and yet the village is blanketed with active house building: none of which is affordable to our (meaning the majority of residents’) children: who have therefore to move out of the village (a heartbreaking process that I have sadly witnessed several times).

What I would really like to know is why the Neighbourhood Plan that was proposed (and seen as a good idea by most inhabitants) has transmogrified into a Neighbourhood Development Plan. Is it because those involved are keen on increasing the prices of the houses in Lower Tysoe; or simply wish to fill the pockets of our local property dealers (i.e. estate agents)?

Also: it is claimed that the NDP involved a great deal of public/inhabitant consultation: it “reflects the views and aspirations of Tysoe Residents” you stat(ed). But, as most of this involved writing “disagreed” against the majority of responses (which obviously made the NDP committee, and especially its chair, uneasy), surely the opposite is the case? Why?

[As my comments above are mostly questions, it seems to me that writing “disagreed” against them provides no sort of answer – in which case you have not only not ‘listened’ to me (as in all previous drafts); but have provided the politician’s usual defective reply: which is obviously a case of failed linguistic logic. I would like real answers, please.]

There seems to be an absence of sustainability: a property which I would have hoped ran through the document like a glistening thread of gold.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

I find myself again with my dear old friend, William Shakespeare…

I never thought to hear you speak again.
Shakespeare: Henry IV, part II (IV.v.90)

I was walking back into the arms of a lifelong friend – sadly, one not seen for quite some time. Hence the ferocity, sincerity, and length of the resulting hug. I wasn’t quite sure why I was there, though, to be honest. Although I had enjoyed the plays I had (relatively) recently seen him perform in – Henry IV, part I, Henry IV, part II, and Death of a Salesman – I was not a major fan of Antony Sher; and his presence on stage is therefore usually not enough to pull me in.

This is not why I had avoided his King Lear, though: that was because Michael Pennington’s incredible inhabitation of the role had ‘spoiled’ the play for me: in much the same way as Pippa Nixon’s perfection (in 2013, goodness me!) had ‘ruined’ the RSC’s current production of As You Like It. Which is one reason why a short run of a new two-hander was the occasion for my re-entry into the RSC’s hallowed headquarters – particularly to be enfolded in the arms of my favourite theatre, the Swan – rather than one of Will’s very, very best, in the main auditorium.

With being away from the place for so long, physically and mentally – I had bought too many tickets in the interim, only to cancel them again and again at the last moment because of my health… – I wasn’t aware that Kunene and the King (directed by Janice Honeyman) even existed. However, Michael Billington’s perspicacious review lit a spark deep inside me. Although it would take a while for the kindling to fully ignite.

Monday, 25 June 2018

For going out, I found, was really going in…

Yesterday – coupled with a developing desire to prove my brittle body once more able – the weather beckoned me far beyond the longing windows of home: with the high-cloud-shrouded sun at my back, and a sluggish breeze easing its surging heat. My first thought upon fastening the garden gate was of the church as objective; but primal instinct pushed me further – to revisit last year’s iterative ascent through Tysoe Hangings, and onwards to Upton House. With every initially uncertain step taken with conscious pain and caution, I crossed the main road close to Church Farm Court; eased my rucksacked self through the metal gate; and prayed that my body (and resolve) would be resilient enough. All I could do was walk, and discover if I could also achieve my heart’s desire….

Where, last year, there had been wheat, was now linseed (and where there was linseed – on the plateau beyond Sugarswell Cottages – I would find wheat): a four- to five-year rotation that seems increasingly fashionable and profitable. Sandy soil under this brilliant cobalt crop was beginning to fissure, though; and the meadow’s margins were dune-like in their desiccation. (Even in so sparse a crop, skylarks nested: their sweet purling such a soothing soundtrack.)

Friday, 22 June 2018

Eat, prey, fluff…

It is an overwhelming and life-affirming privilege to share the existence of another sentient creature: one devoted to you, and dependent on you, to such a large extent that the alliance rapidly becomes symbiotic. Such a relationship has to be based on mutual trust, as well as love, though; and both parties have to be frank as to what to expect from each other; what they will need; and how much time and affection they are able and willing to give. That so much of this goes (and has to go) unsaid should be no impediment (in fact, to some, this may seem to strengthen the bond…) – even though many would preach the value of constant open communication in cementing any such connection.

For those who respect and love animals there can be no bigger thrill than one coming to you of its own free will, understanding what you are trying to communicate, and trusting you not to harm it.
– Claire Bessant: The Cat Whisperer

That I am writing about the association of human and feline may well prompt derision from some quarters; but the majority, I hope, will innately grasp the truth at the heart of this hypothesis. [As I type, Felix, the characterful dark tabby who prompted the above, is curled up tightly next to me, dreaming: as genial and graceful a proof of vulnerability, faith, and commitment, as I think you may find. He knows no hurt will come to him here; and his credence and company, in return, both comfort and calm me – despite the plethora of hairs wisping over my keyboard and screen…. He is therefore the ideal companion for someone as disabled as myself: especially as I am currently confined to home (even) more than what passes for usual, fighting (and perhaps finally starting to subdue) a variety of maladies….]