I took the photo on the left a few days ago. Had I taken it the day before, you’d not have been able to see the squares of veggies (the wooden frames) for the height of the grass surrounding them. We went away for a couple of weeks and like Time and Tide, Nature (and grass) waits neither for man nor woman.
Since I took this photo the grass has been further trimmed, using a petrol-fuelled trimmer. It still took all day to restore order and control.
The spaces around the squares make it easier to move around the plot and weed inside the squares. Without these negative spaces around the wooden-framed squares – their boundary-markers – chaos would reign, resulting in fewer veggies. Less food. And our survival relies on food production, it’s not just nice to have these squares and spaces, but necessary.
The greater world is an arrangement of activated spaces contained within boundaries. I recall my first assigned project in my first year at university, when I was doing my fine art degree. I was to go out into the town and make some drawings. The project sheet referred to the process as activating a space; the briefing made mention of the urge one gets, standing on the edge of a cliff, of wanting to throw oneself off. I’d not experienced this desire, as far as I knew and I wondered at that point whether I had what it takes to be an artist. I ventured out into the town, however and by the end of the week I had a decent charcoal drawing of a set of winding stone stairs belonging to what remained of the town’s castle; this, despite the fact I hadn’t felt the urge to throw myself down them. I think the drawing was mysterious. I guess I was drawn more to mystery than suicide.
It was not until a few years after finishing my degree that I had my first artistic insight. We had bought a terraced house – one of 16 erstwhile miners’ cottages set in the moors in the region of Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland. I was doing a drawing from an upstairs window of the terrace’s gardens below, strips for growing food each fenced from the other and the whole fenced off from moor. I found myself pondering fences and boundaries and how breaches of these caused so much trouble; of the relationship between humankind and boundaries. And it came to me that all of the world’s wars stem from boundary disputes in one form or another. Wars cause death on a grand scale, so boundaries are important.
I have a One World view. There’s only one planet available to humankind for its sustenance. Yet millions starve to death each year. I am well-fed. I’m very unhappy indeed with that inequality. This doesn’t mean I don’t believe in boundaries. On the contrary, like the boundaries in place at the allotment, it was the collapse of the management of the boundaries that caused the chaos. And threatened the food production line.
There are always boundaries to tend. Even if there are no fences, the boundary is there. I seem to be forever defending mine from folks who are not aware of them (even where there are fences and walls) or don’t care beyond their own wants (as opposed to needs). There have been, there are and there will always be, boundary wars in my life. I’m weary of them. But they have made me sensitive to the importance of boundaries and I take great pains to respect the boundaries of my neighbours, in every sense of the word, so as not to start a war. The compliment is not always returned and so I must act in one way or another, to protect the spaces I have the right to activate.
The second photo here is of a bench in a park I pass through. This bench is invariably surrounded by litter. I had my thumb partly over the lens (doh!) when I took the photo so I made the scene more picturesque than it is with the aid of my new friend, Adobe Photoshop Elements 14. There’s irony in that, somewhere. Teenage schoolkids congregate at this bench most evenings. They are the source of the litter, mostly empty pop bottles, and the wrappings from other junk foods. It is clear they have no notion of boundary, are blind and deaf to their environment and the other folks and critters who share it. They don’t know where they are.
Knowing where we are requires a knowledge of who we are. That’s an important part of education. Or should be. If education, both at home and in school, doesn’t address who and where we are, we can’t know where we are going. The result is the breakdown of boundaries; wars ensue and food production decreases; so people are killed or starve.
P S Britain recently voted to leave the EU, largely because of a perceived problem of uncontrolled immigration. The real problem is ill-managed boundaries. The boundaries are still there. Still mismanaged. Barricading oneself in doesn’t work and gave birth to the development of Total War. Arising from the philosophy of Total War, is Scorch Earth policy – leave nothing behind that can be of use to the enemy, which includes food and the ability to grow it.
The grass around my food production squares is scorched, but that’s by the sun. And I’m including a few other photos of what’s growing at the lottie right now, just to raise the tone of my conversation.
We just ate half of the first marrow of the season. Stuffed. It’s actually the first marrow I’ve ever grown. The other half has been stuffed, cooked and frozen for consumption in the autumn.