Thursday, 13 November 2008

Blooming Britain.

Here is part of my garden in the summer. Today it still looks green, but if you walk on the lawn the water will squelch into your shoes. You will need to wear something warm and water-proof, and your hands will turn blue with cold if you try to do any proper gardening.

Today I sat in a Town Council Committee room. The rain was crashing against the sky-light and streaming down the windows. We all kept our coats on because (hopefully as part of the Council's economic and green policies) the heating was off. I have absolutely no objection to wearing a coat indoors. It's part of my economic and green policy, too. We were plenty warm enough, in that Council Chamber. What was keeping us all warm was mental energy and (in most cases) enthusiasm.

I felt deeply British, deeply patriotic, honoured to be there. To be sitting in a cold room on a dank November day discussing, with some passion, next summer's floral schemes for our town's part in 'Britain in Bloom'. It's the stuff of Rule Britannia, the spirit of Elgar. It's what (once) made Britain great.
It's also pretty competitive!

We were not just discussing the colour schemes, of course. It's much more about involving people. Involving schools and youth clubs, Retirement Homes and the local hospital. About all of us picking up the litter, lovingly tending the town's hanging baskets, making the station look welcoming.

We forgot the rain and the cold. We could see our town glowing with care and pride. We could see happy visitors relaxing in sunny parks, admiring the jewel-glow of the flower beds (we will not be sure about the colours until the next meeting). We saw colour and beauty and warmth and productivity.
Best of all, we saw communities coming together.

What a way to spend a November morning.
If we're not careful we'll be inviting each other into our sheds next!

(Mine is just behind that squareish looking bush (it's a camellia) if anyone is interested.)


pohanginapete said...

It's hugely encouraging to hear about communities focusing on making their environments better. Communities exist in other senses, of course, and it's easy to let virtual communities (like the blogosphere) supplant geographically based communities. Each has its virtues. I can offer some of today's glorious warmth and sunshine — but only virtually. I'm not sure whether that's a virtue or not.

Zhoen said...

I followed pohanginapete over here. Can you keep me?

mm said...

Fascinating. And how cheering.

You have managed to put your finger on the deep rewards of working with and for the community. There are downs as well as ups, I am sure, but my guess is the latter outweigh the former.

Good to see the garden!

Relatively Retiring said...

PPete: Thank you - virtual sunshine is good, and I'm learning that virtual communities are fascinating, too!

Zhoen: Thank you - it's an honour. See the above comment.

MM: Since my retirement I've missed the passions engendered by the complexities of group decision making. I can see that Britain in Bloom meeting will restore that element.

herhimnbryn said...

Here via mm's place. Can send some sunshine, but what rain we have we must treasure. I feel you may have sufficient!

Our Shire council gives away up to 30 native seedlings p.a. to anyone who requests them. So we plant up our verges and fencelines.

I remember seaside towns in the UK with floral clocks, such precision planting.

Relatively Retiring said...

herhimnbryn: thank you. It's great to see a real live web developing.
How good that you get free seedlings from your Shire. We do lots of swopping and sharing in the neighbourhood, and there's a move afoot to engage local schoolchildren more actively. 'Urban Seed Bombing' is a technique likely to appeal especially to small boys.'Bombs' of compost and flower seeds can be thrown at waste sites, verges and other untended patches - but it won't result in the manicured floral displays you remember!

peregrina said...

Give or take twelve hours or so, while you were sitting in the Committee Room wearing a coat inside while torrential rain crashed outside, I was wearing shorts and summer shirt and walking unsteadily against the strong, blustery nor'wester (a foehn wind) which roared down the flat, wide river valley between the mountains. In spite of a temperature in the higher-eighties fahrenheit, sweat was not a problem. It evaporated instantly in the warm, dry wind. Half the world away and what a contrast!

I love the idea of urban seed bombing on waste sites, especially allowing small boys in on it. The only time I've seen something similar was along a narrow strip beside street footpaths in Berkeley, C.A. The colour and randomness of the flowering annuals delighted me. Hooray for a bit of chaos in addition to planned floral displays. In any case, deep within, even chaos has been discovered to have structure. Maybe those waste sites will blossom with disorderly order.

Blooming best wishes for next year's blooming!

Relatively Retiring said...

Thank you, Peregrina - glad you survived the journey! It's so good to imagine one another's worlds. I can feel the earth move as it tips towards the warmth of New Zealand!

Yes, I'm sure you are right.
There's no such thing as chaos, in the sense of the absence of structure - it's just that we don't know enough.

Julie said...

Your garden's lovely!
It reminds me of a picture I saw in one of those gardening books once. In fact it's how I always tried to make my old garden look but it defied my best intentions and insisted on going ferral