Travels inspired by the Wombles

Monday, 10 August 2009

Guerrilla gardening

I promised in a previous post to talk about the guerrilla gardener we met in Hastings.

We found out about Chris in a Co-operative Society magazine, where he cited the Wombles and Blue Peter as childhood influences on his life, career and outlook. Chris is a freelance gardener and, in his spare time, a guerrilla gardener. Guerrilla gardeners target an abandoned piece of land which they don’t own to grow crops or plants, in order to reclaim land from what they see as neglect or misuse and to assign a new purpose to it. Some guerrilla gardeners carry out their actions at night, in relative secrecy, to sow and tend a new vegetable patch or flower garden. Others work more openly, seeking to engage with members of the local community.

In Chris's case, this has meant planting fruit trees, or sowing seeds, in unloved gardens and other public spaces. The fruit trees are usually apples or pears, not from any Cockney connection but because the trees bear fruit quickly.

New uses for neglected land, fruit everyone can share and new plants everyone can enjoy. That sounds good to me.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Orwell that ends well

A comment has flooded in from someone who (I can only speculate) scans the internet for any mention of George Orwell. They must have been disappointed to find that this blog isn't about Orwell, but related to the Wombles. Disappointment might explain why their lengthy comment was a cocktail of hyperbolic bile and factual error. Maybe they'll be even more disappointed if their sophisticated software directs them here again now. If it does: you know who you are...and please bear in mind:

1. I didn't say my life or career has been inspired by the Wombles
2. Nor did I compare my writings to Orwell's
3. Anger management courses are available to help you:-)

Said correspondent's comments won't be featuring on here (the combination of arrogance, ignorance and rudeness didn't appeal), but yours could do. Feel free to send in a comment about your memories of the Wombles, or if you live in, or have visited, any of the places after which they were named.

UPDATE MON 10 AUG: said (sad) bilious, anonymous correspondent has responded. It's clear they have had a successful irony bypass (my reference to a comment 'flooding' in was ironic) and they have nothing constructive to say. They've also asserted that they have a right to be rude and unpleasant if they want to be. That's true... but it doesn't entitle their rudeness to be featured here, and it won't be. Their attitude is typical of some cowardly people on the internet who (as a writer in today's Guardian puts it) "spout things they would consider unacceptable if they were standing in the room and couldn't hide behind the cloak of anonymity".

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Sheer egoism

Ahem...guilty as charged. In the same slim volume of essays I mentioned the other day, George Orwell gives four general motives for writing, of which the first is:-

"Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on grownups who snubbed you in childhood, etc etc."

An article about Granada, which I wrote some time ago, has now been published in Optima, a lifestyle magazine for south Herts and north Middlesex. It is also available online.

Orwell defined the other three motives as aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse and political purpose - but my initial reaction to seeing my work in print and online owed more to egoism. Next time, perhaps the novelty will fade...

Sunday, 2 August 2009

A timeless reminder

Yesterday, for no particular reason, I picked up a small book of articles by George Orwell, from Penguin's Great Ideas series. It includes Politics and the English Language, a passionate attempt to nail a link between the use of English in politics and the decline of the language. There is also a list of points for writers to follow:

"i. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
ii. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
iii. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
iv. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
v. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
vi. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous."

Elsewhere in the article, Orwell admits that he often breaks the rules he advocates...but he has a point. I think business should take some of the blame, too, having spent many hours in meetings which turn into games of buzzword Bingo. I'll try to bear Orwell's advice in mind for the book and this blog...