Can't see the wood for the feckin trees

 Hello m' old  fruit gums,

long mizzle 25-07-21
 

I love sharing my garden with you in my weekly correspondence. Some of you I know in person, others I feel I have come to know from your blogs and comments.  It is silly of me to say the garden really feels part of my existence? In a world that can be hard to navigate, it is a space of solace, at least something I can control, or rather work together with at ease. Creating it and watching it grow brings me a huge amount of satisfaction and joy. But there have been some issues troubling me this week that have led to this delayed post. 

Usually I stray away from issues. When my eldest daughter asks if I can read her some of her latest Jacqueline Wilson book, I roll me eyes, as I know it will involve social issues. Let's not forget the annoying characters Wilson aptly describes... TV's Tracey Beaker being the best known. In 'Lily Alone', the misled, single, teenage mum has time and money for new clothes, makeup, and takeout food, but has never once taken any of her four children to the beautiful park beyond the council estate. Lily can see the shimmering green promise of trees from their high rise flat window.

Above: A celestial high - five in the clouds

Imagine my utter astonishment when this week a news article appeared on BBC One claiming that some children from the Barrowcliff estate in Scarborough have never visited the beach that is just one mile away because they are too poor. The 'too poor' phrase is also echoed on the Yorkshire Live website. One mile - that equates approximately to a twenty minute walk. Looking at forums online, there has been a bit of a backlash against this. Firstly there are people on the Barrowcliff estate that say there are good hardworking people that live there and despite some problems, there's a good sense of community. 

 

Most commenting on the Barrowcliff story are amazed both by the laziness of the 'non story' journalism and the parents in question:  How many children have not been outside the estate? Why can't the parents just get off their fat arses, walk the twenty minutes to the beach, take a packed lunch.  The vox pop of the mum saying "it can be can be expensive with all the icecreams" probably did not help. The more curious minded recognise that the article does say it is children from homes with issues, which means they could for example, be young carers, their parents could have disabilities, or there may be drug dependencies. 

 

For me it is the phrase 'too poor' that grates. The idea that with a bit of money, they'd be able to walk the 20 minutes to the beach, buy the icecream that they don't really need. Maybe 'deprived' or  'under- privileged', 'socially restricted' or 'parked' might be a better phrase (?). The holistic view would surely be that is it not just a lack of money, but a lack of physical mobility, mental agility, imagination, organisation, confidence, freedom, nurture, time... 

 

For the children that do find themselves restricted there is thankfully the Gallows Close Community Centre, taking them on trips and providing role models. This runs ironically on...money. The generous donations on the GoFundMe crowd page show that some people believe this is one positive way to break the cycle of behaviour. Break the mindset. When those children grow up, the hope is they will then be able to take their own children down to the beach.

When did access to nature become a privilege? When did it acquire a price tag?  These are some ideas I've been thinking about since attending, in a non-academic capacity,  the 'Dark Economies' conference at Falmouth University. 

In a fascinating talk called 'There's No Place Like Home'  Elizabeth Parker looked at the unnerving packaging of life, simplistic tick boxes to a fulfilled life and alien view of human habitat in the film Virarium (Finnegan, 2020). When did we feel the need to 'get back to nature' when we have been part of it all along? 

Can you see the alien face in the clouds?

The biologist and BBC Spring Watch wildlife presenter Gillian Burke,  did an incredible, thought provoking talk called 'F*ck optimism'.  Starting with a rousing piece of gospel music, she went on to say, if something bad was coming, she would want to know about it. Only then could she try to do something about it. 


Gillian argued that simply marveling at the natural world via feel good television was not enough. That holistic,  simultaneous action is required right now by governments and large corporations to bend the curve on our climate disaster and loss of natural habitats. Most importantly, a change in human mindset is what's needed most.

Gillian gave the example of bird feeders as providing false optimism. So we all agree that feeding the birds in the winter is a good, positive thing to do. It is a multi-million pound industry in the UK, with an estimated £200 - £300 million pound spent on bird feeding products. Now, Gillian said, please do not stop feeding the birds (that would be a funny quote from a BBC Springwatch presenter) BUT we need to be aware of why we are having to feed the birds. This is the real issue that is being glossed over: birds have lost their habitats and access to their wild food supplies (insects and seeds).

Kitchen shadows formed from cut flowers

For a little while I have been following on YouTube a lady called Collete O'Neil from Bealtaine Cottage in Western Ireland. Her mission: to 'plant, plant, plant'... plant trees to create a woodland from three acres of bare, rushy land.  I chose to follow her channel initially because I found her voice and videos soothing. But looking at the comments, it appeared that some people were anticipating a good old fashioned celtic rant (the celts are known for doing the best rants). Well, a couple of weeks ago a rant appeared, and corr blimey,  it was a good one. 

 

In her video 'Trees and Corporate Greed', Collette highlights 'greenwashing'. 'Greenwashing' is when companies make us believe they're doing more for the environment than they actually are. The example she gives is the Ecosia search engine that promises to plant trees if you use their services. Collete says she tried to find out what type of trees they were planting, exactly where they were planting them, for what purpose they were the planting them, to no avail. 


Here is just part of her rant -

'Yeah I see trees. I see trees in straight lines. That's not woodland, that's not forest...Trees in straight lines are all about harvesting, they're all about getting something from them. They're all the mindset again, we come back to this mindset of greed. This mindset of "Well, I'll only do it if I get something from it' .... People should be planting trees in total desperation! because that's the only thing that is going to solve any of the issues we are having on mother earth!!! ... Tree planting has now become a corporate badge of honour... The mindset for planting simply for mother earth doesn't seem  to be in their consciousness'.  

Source: Bealtaine Cottage, Trees and Corporate Greed

 


So, there you go. Lots of questions for me this week, and not very many answers. It has certainly made me think about what I can personally do beyond the little bubble of my beloved garden.

I hope I haven't done the equivalent of playing Radiohead's latest single to you father ! Here's a clip from the very last episode of Father Ted. I laughed and laughed my face off when I saw this.  Father Ted successfully cheers up a suicidal vicar by playing him the 'theme from shaft' by Isaac Hayes, but then this happens on his bus ride home -


As someone who had to sit through Radiohead's 1997 Glastonbury performance in torrential rain alongside my then dick head boyfriend, I really feel his pain. Amusingly, a group of Irish fans made some Father Ted inspired banners here for their 2017 Glasto performance -

 
 
I'll be back with a proper garden update next week. 
Hope you are grand.
 
Lulu xXx 

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Comments

  1. Sadly, for whatever reason there are also children in Cornwall who haven't been to the beach. Very interesting about Ecosia. Food for thought here.

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    1. I have heard that Sally, from local teachers. Very sad. Thankfully some schools set up walks/ mini bus trips to the beaches and parks. The TV portrays a very glossy image of Cornwall, but there are a lot of social issues here too, like anywhere else. Lulu xXx

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  2. We watched that piece about the kids in Scarboro too. What a load of tosh it was. I'm sick to death of people wining about what they don't have instead of taking a good hard look at what they do have. I've been a single parent and walked my kids (and those of the neighbours) for miles for picnics in the park. We shared a small bag of sweets and made up games as we walked. Not once did we feel underprivileged, I couldn't afford a car but didn't miss it.. We were grateful to have a roof over our heads and food in the cupboards.

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    1. Yes I agree Cherie, as a society we are often far to preoccupied with what we don't have, rather than what we have. I think the news article could have done more to explain some of the real issues going on here, but may have skated over this for the purpose of safeguarding the children on film (?)

      A work colleague of mine told me a funny story of how he and his friends use to think nothing of walking from Redruth to Portreath every day of the school holidays. One day they did the walk three times in one day. On the first arrival they discovered they had forgotten their swimming trunks, on the second arrival their water bottles and snacks. They eventually made it on the third! Lulu xXx

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  3. lulu - i totally agree with you!!
    about the garden - naturally - and about "poor children", greenwashing and most people having a rose tinted view of the world.
    and no - you´r not depressing me with this post! in the opposide i do think that we should write more in this tone actually. optimism is just a lack of information.....
    our world is hanging very wrong and precarious in its hinges - and every little bit we can do to wake awereness for the bad situation is good.
    i know WHY i read your blog :-D
    gorgeous photos - saw the alien face!
    xxxxx

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    1. Thank you Beate, that means a lot to me for you to say this. An online attendee following Gilian's talk raised a very interesting point. They thought that individuals who deliver bad news are marginalised through clinical / pseudo-phycological strategies (e.g. mindfulness, counseling) and that other individuals / work places tell them to think positively and try to cure their 'catastrophizing'. There were a few faces out in the clouds that day. I even saw the 'dark mark' of Lord Voldamort at one point :0 :) Lulu xXx

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    2. the kassandra syndrome.
      btw: did you read the book "kassandra" from christa wolf? very eyeopening.
      xx

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    3. This is so interesting Beate. I am going to look out for Kassandra .... x

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  4. Very thought provoking, Lulu. The world can be a beautiful place but we all need to do more to ensure there is a future.
    Best wishes
    Ellie

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    1. Thank you dear Ellie. Yes, we have a beautiful world and we all need to play our parts as mere guardians. Collette (Bealtaine Cottage) made me darkly laugh when she referred to the two knobs racing into space this week ('battle of who has the biggest ****'), so they could look down from above and watch the earth burn! :0 Lulu xXx

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  5. I agree with everything you said here. I visited Collette's Beltaine Cottage when she began creating her garden - not been there for a long time so will have to nip over.. I honestly don't think there is any reason why a child 20 mins from the beach can't go - without ice cream which is a luxury not a necessity, unless as you say, they are a carer and have nobody to enable them. I am very tired of hearing about how difficult it is for people in various benefit situations to provide for their children when their parents smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol and don't seem able to prioritise. It is very worrying about the tree situation and how we are not giving back to this planet and sadly much of what we try to do now is too little too late but better late than never.

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    1. How amazing Betty that you got to visit Bealtaine Cottage and at a time when Colette was first starting to create it. It must have been lovely to have a walk around the growing woodland. I wonder if you saw her old dog? I knocked around with a lovely lad from Cork years ago. What I discovered from this experience was that Father Ted is not a comedy programme.... it is actually a documentary! :0 :)

      I think prioritising is all about mindset. Often we have the wrong priorities due to our poor mindset. I've certainly had a change of mindest this week and it has been hurting my head a little! Lulu xXx

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  6. I've got four girls and a tight budget. The older two arrange their own entertainment now but when they were younger we managed a trip out most days. The beach is about 3 miles from us, so I drive over and park in a side road for free. Everyone carries something and I take drinks and a packed lunch. We can spend hours having fun on the beach or just quiet time reading, and then we call into the Co-Op on the walk home and buy a box of ice creams for a £1. We also rotate around different parks, again all free.

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    1. I too am big fan of parks! Thank goodness for these wonderful, 'free' spaces (I use 'free' as a nod to the fact that we pay for everything in one way or another, e.g. council tax). School holidays needn't be expensive. We go to all the free places we can, always with armed with packed lunch / snacks (admittedly that does required organisation and money). I think it is hard to comprehend a story when the phrase 'too poor' is used for a free activity. There must be bigger issues at play here. That's not to say that poverty doesn't exist - it is all too real. Lulu xXx

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  7. Oh bloody hell, Radiohead, the most depressing band known to (wo)man! Thank goodness you ditched that bloke - I thought I was hard done by having to endure a two and a half hour set by Gong - and I'm still with Jon!
    People are so quick to judge and don't look beyond the headlines. Like you point out, those parents who don't take their kids to a beach are those with "issues", disabilities, addictions or poor mental health. Thank goodness for that community centre and big-hearted people who fund causes like it.
    Very interesting about Ecosia, one of my friends is always nagging me to use it and I was feeling a bit guilty for not investigating further.
    Thank you for being you, Lulu! xxx

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    1. Haha, two and a half hours of Gong!!! I do actually think Radiohead are brilliant but I will not, and cannot ever again listen to OK Computer! Said bloke ditched me. It was the kindest thing he ever did for me. By the next Glasto, I had a new boyfriend with a beautiful mind, wonderful sense of humour and hidden talents ;)

      Community Centres do a great job. There's one down here that runs a toy library, baby/ toddler group, summer sessions for bored kids from the local estate, get togethers for careers and disabled adults. It is a pleasant for us to visit the community cafe there, have a natter and runabout on the playing field, but I get the feeling it really is a lifeline for some people. Lulu xXx

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  8. That's a lot of information in one post. Suffice to say, I'm relieved I'm still reading Milly Molly Mandy books with Lily ;) Very rarely do our days out cost me anything at all, other than a small amount of petrol. And I'm aware even owning my battered old car is a privilege. X

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    1. Well you can't beat a bit of Milly Molly Mandy Jules :) Sorry, that was a bit of a info / issues dump :0 I like to get things off my chest in one go. Lulu xXx

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  9. Hi Lulu, Great post! Gillian's message is spot on isn't it? But it's definitely not getting out there at present. The Barrowcliff story is interesting. Those early experiences and role model messages are key aren't they? Simple pleasures. I must seek out Collette. She sounds interesting. We have a huge campaign locally to try and stop developers favouring local land over Brownfield sites, which has in turn, opened up much debate about the environment and what actions are deemed to be "green." A crop of pines were harvested from the woodland behind our property.
    They have re-planted, but yes, of course, in neat rows. Politicians have seized on the whole idea of planting trees everywhere. It's really not always the answer, but standing with a shovel in your hand makes for a great photo opportunity. Your Glasto experience sounds grim. I've recently developed a new appreciation for Radiohead, but it's definitely mood music. Great in small doses when I'm feeling introspective. :D On a lighter note, I too love Father Ted - never tire of those characters. Dermot Morgan left us too soon. xxx

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    1. Thanks Claire! Gillian is a very savvy lady. Interesting that the trees in your woodland have been planted in rows. I wonder also if they're fast growing trees, which would further suggest future felling. Yes, the politicians are too fond of the shovel-in-hand look. We have the same arguments down here over the choice of local land for building. The houses that go up with the sea views are not for locals - more often than not they are purchased as second homes for wealthier up'countriers. The builders are choosing sites for maximum profit, not to solve the housing crisis or aid the community.

      I think Radiohead's OK Computer is an absolute work of art. But so is Edvard Munch's The Scream ... doesn't mean I want to look at it / listen to it. I do however love 'In Rainbows'. Do you know, I'd never seen the very last Father Ted until a couple of weeks ago. Very sad that Dermot Morgan died the day after filming it. The episode that got me hooked was the one where all the Fathers get lost in a department store, and accidentally gather by the ladies undies section :0 :) Lulu xXx

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    2. It's a true corker Claire :) :) :) x

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  10. Gosh, a lot of issues mentioned in your excellent post. I can't comprehend the Barrowcliff estate story of not visiting a beach which is only one mile away - but there are many issues I don't fully understand nowadays, shows I'm getting old! We all have a part to play, of course, and the answer isn't simply money.

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    1. Yes, it is hard to understand when we don't know the complexities of all the issues. I have been to Scarborough and the North Bay is beautiful (less commercial than the south side beach with the pier and usual tacky amusements). Looks like there is a nice council run park and secret garden en route too. I find it very sad. Lulu xXx

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  11. I watched that video, what a load of rubbish, I grew up on different army bases in different countries and some were worse than what those people were going on about, but you know what we made the best of it, hardly seeing my dad for months on end wondering if he would ever come home alive especially from the faulklands war. But we didn’t moan or complain.
    And some of the accommodations my mum had to put up with was bad, we had something called imagination and my brother and sisters and we had great fun getting into all kinds of trouble. Having parties in the naffi and hiding in the old bunkers when we were not meant to be there.
    Kids now and parents are far to entitled and it angers me, I blame this go fund me generation for the least little thing. It’s out of control now.

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    1. Ah, you get the BBC news over there Allie. I agree, imagination is the key. By having freedom, playing outside, using you imagination, you developed coping mechanisms. My dad often says "kids have everything these days". I point out to him that yes, they have more material items than he did as a kid, growing up in post-war Britain... but they don't have the freedom to play out anymore. Kids used to play out on the streets, go on adventures, spend all day out. It is sad that we are too scared - and for real reasons - to allow them to do this. It would be interesting to cross compare children's play activities from the Estate thirty years ago to those today. I'd be surprised if residents claimed to have any more money back then. Lulu xXx

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  12. It's really incredible to cite being 'too poor' as a reason for not visiting a beach that is a twenty minute walk away. Half an hour of walking is a minimal amount of walking everyone should do. At least that is what posters in my country are always emphasizing. Strange how some parents never take their kids anywhere (expect maybe to the mall). It's really bizarre. Wouldn't it be easier for them if kids spent some time outdoors? Besides, spending time outdoors is kind of important for developing an immune system and all. I understand that not everyone is a museum fan or whatever, but exploring the area you live in seems like a bare minimum. I'm often surprised when I hear that school children almost never go anywhere these days. There are too many papers to file or too many worried parents....I'm afraid some find it easier to put a screen in front of them.
    I was forever exploring my surroundings as a kid. Once I ran away from home and went to visit museums in the city centre. I was five years old, they didn't let me in...but anyhow, I'm sure it did me more good than harm.

    Your garden photos are lovely. Your palm tree is a beauty.

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    1. Thank you Ivana :) Interesting that your country has posters to promote a minimal amount of walking. I saw something on the UK news the other day about promoting sports in the same way that 'five a day' vegetables are. What a funny story about you trying to hack into the museum as a five year old! :) Reminds me of the Roald Dahl story 'Matilda', where she walks herself to the library and back every day. Lulu xXx

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  13. This was a super interesting post!! It makes me SO sad there are families out there that, for whatever reason, do not walk to places and visit places, even free ones. Children that haven't ever gone anywhere. We have lots of kids like that in my school and I feel so sad about that.
    We have a middle Class background but money really was tight through my childhood but my mum's background meant that she was able to cook with limited resources and took us to free places.. We are veg stew from our allotment, we weeded on our weekend. I remember walking 5 miles home in the dark from my orchestra rehearsal because I didn't have any money for the bus. I think a lot of parents lack the skills and knowledge to make the best of their resources and it is a perpetual cycle of deprivation of parent to child, to parent to child unless there is some way of intervening and helping, like that community group you mentioned.

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