?

Log in

September 2016

S M T W T F S
    123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930 

Syndicate

RSS Atom
Powered by LiveJournal.com

Previous 10

Sep. 14th, 2016

Ripples in the sunset

Walking on the Old Port back from my flamenco lesson threw me back to the last time I saw my brother in person: the same milky water with the bare hint of motion of the ships, the same smell of tar, but none of the hugs and tears and receding violin as the ship sailed away. Six months already, and more to come. My brother is in Brazil now, just back on the ship after exploring the Amazonian forest. Here, the first rains of autumn are already coming, although as always, summer clings as long as it can.

They did meet with whales, eventually. But the only one that collided with their ship was a newborn calf which had just emerged from a cloud of blood in the water, and it swam away unhurt. Although the hull is painted bright red, it must still look like a mother whale, somehow. That is a sight I would like to see before I die.

Last time I dreamed of my brother, we were walking together on an iced-over bridge, hanging over a cold, white torrent. I stayed safely inside of the railing, but he stepped outside on the ice with his camera, to get a better picture of the deathly cold landscape. I kept walking, afraid that he would lose his footing, and panicked when I heard the loud crack of ice falling off the bridge and into the river. But when I looked up, I saw that my brother had safely reached the bank, and was taking pictures of the ice in the water.

Sep. 10th, 2016

Back to school

Summer is over: mornings and late evenings actually feel a little chilly now (lace-shawl-chilly, not jumper-chilly). Also, we're back to work.

In the first week of school, students are, as a rule, uncharacteristically nice. So far I would be tempted to say that mine are abnormaly so. They are smiling, polite, they raise their hands before speaking, hardly ever speak out of turn, and with the exception of one particularly challenging group, they've been making faster progress than I'm used to. If it goes on like this, this year is going to feel like a holiday.

Marseilles is its usual stinky self. The smell of piss in the stairs leading to the bus station is a bit overpowering. At the same time, dirt, eviscerated rats crushed under passing cars and litter dotting the streets are such a normal part of life here that I struggle to imagine it as a clean city. I don't mean I wouldn't like it to be clean. 'Gritty' is not something I particularly value, and I'm certain Marseilles would manage to remain fascinating even if you could walk through its streets for half an hour without stepping into something nasty, being almost run over by a car or getting cat-called by someone with too much alcohol in his system.

So many things we haven't tried. I avoid the bakery across from the bus station even if they make delicious, extremely cheap pizzas, and have since I tried eating at the counter and saw sparrows happily feeding off the pizza slices with their little feet firmly planted in their food (has no one ever told them it's rude to put your feet on the table, I wonder?). Now, however, I'd rather see sparrows defiling my prospective pizza than no sparrows at all, as sparrows slowly disappear from our cities. Maybe we could install pizza counters in the streets with nesting boxes underneath, so sparrows will find shelter and food. I'd love to work in a city with sparrows and redstarts sharing terraces with humans at cafés, and gulls keeping to the port instead of coming to feed off food leftovers tossed on the street by people who don't care what the city looks like. Although if gulls find themselves out of work cleaning off the streets, they could always be taught to swoop from the sky on people who let their dogs crap in random places and give them the scare of their life. Maybe we could also place buckets in strategic spots so that human waste can be processed for nitrogen fertiliser, instead of, well, going to waste (if people insist on viewing the city as a giant public toilet, why not make the most of it). We can always grow rosemary or mint nearby. As for the cat-calls, perhaps we could train actual cats to respond and come rub themselves frantically in the legs of anyone trying to annoy a woman in the public space, long enough to give the woman time to escape if she wants to (of course we'd have to build extensive cat shelters in every underground station, but I'd love to pet a cat while I wait for public transports).

Didn't we say we were going to imagine solutions?

Aug. 24th, 2016

Get naked. It's an order.

Since the latest terrorist attacks have been driving much of France crazy, we seem to wait every week for the newest controversy, outrageous statement or ridiculous debate, with varying degrees of anxiety. In the past two weeks, some seaside towns have decided to take a completely unnecessary and possibly quite illegal step, as you've probably read in international media: they have forbidden bathers to wear burkini, a type of swimwear used by some Muslim women to hide their bodies while they bathe.

My first reaction was to feel a little bit more exhausted than usual. I'm not the target of those regulations, I'm not part of a religious minority, and I won't pretend I'm the victim of anything here. But I still have to live in this country. Most of my students are Muslims. Part of what makes my job so complicated is the wedge that these politics are driving, day after day, between 'people like me' and 'people like them'. I'm using quotation marks because that's how my students see it. I'm not part of their world, so why should they listen to me? Once again, I have to thank some clueless politicians for making my job a little bit harder. Great. I can't way for the first school days.

I want to be completely honest about one thing, even though it may not be the safest admission to make. I have very little sympathy for women who insist on dressing 'modestly'. I think women's modesty is a very loaded issue, and I don't feel very comfortable around people who insist that coverig your body is a sign of moral virtue. What does it mean, then--am I a bad person for not wanting to hide my body? I'm certain that lots of people would reply that obviously, women who cover themselves up do not do it for or against me, they do it for their own personal reasons and it has no implications about my personal virtue or lack thereof. They would certainly be right, although that doesn't make me more comfortable. When I walk around Marseilles, I get more or less unpleasant comments from men on a regular basis. The idea that I deserve less respect because I wear short skirts doesn't seem so foreign to them. That's why I'm not comfortable around people who parade female modesty as a sign of virtue. Like it or not, it does impact my life.

But there's one thing this does not change: I'd rather have a real conversation about this, rather than see people toss humiliating regulations around. I know I'll never get to discuss the implications of female modesty and the presence of the female body in the public space with my students, because one question will always come back to pollute the debate: if women should be able to wear whatever they want without being judged, why are religious clothes prohibited? And I know I can't answer that question, becuse there's no good answer. Yes, France is supposed to guarantee freedom of religion, and yet some religions should not be seen in public... Also, I don't believe that the purpose of law is to make people comfortable, and it's certainly not to make me comfortable. I'm fine with being uncomfortable as long as I can discuss why. The only thing we've gained is that now, there will be no discussion. Only hurt.

There's another thing. Earlier this year, I considered shopping for a burkini myself. Not for religious reasons, but for a very simple practical one: my skin is extremely fair, burns very easily, and I want to stop using sunscreen on the beach as much as possible, because sunscreen is very damaging for marine wildlife (just imagine that blanket of clouds that blocks out all sunlight in The Matrix, only the blanket is made of sunscreen particles diluted in the water--you get the idea). I didn't, because burkinis are not form-fitting and I assumed it would be a pain in the arse to swim around wearing one. But there was one thing I couldn't help noticing: apparently, when you're on the beach, you're supposed to be as naked as possible. Long-sleeved swimwear is almost non-existant, and I found nothing that could cover my legs. Seriously, am I the only person in this continent whose skin is prone to burning? If I want to take a swim while protecting my skin, what is the fucking problem with that?

It's summer. Go naked. Wear a bikini even if you're a little girl with no breasts. Bare your legs even if you're a self-conscious teenager who'd rather stay in her bedroom. If you can't be bothered to shave, face the judgement that will inevitably come, you don't simply have the option of wearing something on top of your unsightly legs. Groom that skin cancer or hide in the shade, there's no alternative for you. It sucks. A lot. That's why I raised an eyebrow today, when reading an article by a famous French (female) polemist, who argued that yes, of course banning burkinis is probably illegal, but that's a shame because 'people go to the beach to relax, not to collide head first with other people's convictions or ideologies'. Fair enough, but who are these mysterious 'people'? Apparently not women who would like to wear burkinis, because they will definitely have to confront other people's ideologies (and have to disrobe) instead of just being able to enjoy a nice day in the sun. Not people like me either, because life's a bitch and now it makes me so sad to put on sunscreen and realise how I'm contributing to killing off the sea I love more than so many things in the world, and so I don't always get to relax either. It must be nice to feel so important you imagine that the purpose of your society's laws and organisation must be to help you relax. Don't worry, the police are here to make sure that just the right people are publicly humiliated and that 'other people's convictions' won't hurt your nice day on the beach.

Jul. 11th, 2016

(no subject)

In the Mediterranean, there are special kinds of reefs covered in long, tough leaves called posidonia. From above, they look like waving pillows, or particularly coarse hair. From further away, they make wide, dark spots on the sea floor. Underwater, they look like prairies, with myriads of grazing fish.

Posidonia are the Amazon of the Mediterranea sea floor. Stumbling on a reef underwater feels like crashing a party. Coloured fish swim all around you, others burrow in the sand and dry leaves, waving their barbels and tails, others flee in schools when they see you approach. Starfish and anemones make bright spots on the bottom. Clams as wide as two hands gape at you, covered in hair-like seaweed. Every now and then an octopus hides from sight. If the sun is bright above you, its rays will make milky curtains in the water. It's an exceptional sight, a few dozen metres away from the beach.

I can't really explain why, however, but for a few years now, the thought of swimming over posidonia has filled me with dread. If I feel long leaves brushing my legs as I swim by, I feel close to panicking. Especially if they're really close, which makes no sense because if the water is so shallow, there would be absolutely no risk of drowning, and stepping on posidonia is much like stepping on a bed of dry leaves in the forest. And yet, somehow, they're frightening. Not just to me, either: I was a little relieved to discover that a lot of people I know share this fear. Why, I have no idea.

So I recently decided to fight the fear, put on a snorkel and diving mask, and go swimming above the reefs. And it was wonderful. I stopped there for a moment, trying not to disturb the fish, hearing nothing but my breath amplified by the mask, watching schools of fish swim all around me, paying no attention at all. The sun was high in the sky and the water crystal-clear. It was beautiful, peaceful beyond saying. And yet... I still felt ill at ease. I swam away and came back every now and then, so I wouldn't stay for too long above the sea grass.

There is something about those reefs which cannot make one entirely comfortable. However warm the water, however long you spend getting acquainted with breams and giant clams, this is not your home. You're not truly supposed to be there and you know it. You're disturbing something, and you're only safe as long as that something tolerates you. This is not your geography, not even your geometry. Spend too long swimming from reef to reef and you won't know where you are. Well, you will know if you raise your head above the water, but once it's down again, you've crossed the line back into that world that isn't yours. There are no sounds aside from your breath, no feelings except from the water, and as for sight, you have to choose between the familiar surface, or the depths of the sea. It is beautiful, beyond compare. But it is not your home.
Tags: ,

Jun. 29th, 2016

Doghouse in the tree

I met my neighbours (mother and daughter) juste outside our building a little while ago. I was trying to set up a nest box for blue tits in the chestnut tree just under our window. Because I like blue tits and also why not. So, my neighbours saw me perched in a precarious position on a tiny stool (somehow evolution failed to calculate that I would end up being one metre sixty and that's really not practical when tits refuse to nest in places lower than two metres).

Their very natural reaction was to lose it. But they're too polite to show it, so they just watched me with aghast faces.

'You shouldn't do that, you know,' the mother said. 'We don't mind, but people are going to be very unhappy.'

'They have no reason to be. And then if someone really dislikes it, I'll take it down.'

'It's going to attract pigeons.'

'The hole is tiny. It's for blue tits. Pigeons won't even notice it.'

'It's very... visible.'

'Once the leaves have finished growing, nobody will see a thing, I promise.'

'Well, if you must. But people are going to disagree. You know how people are around here.'

Side note: I just love it when someone uses 'people' as an excuse for telling you off while trying not to sound too close-minded. 'People' are such bastards.

The daughter watched me with obvious disapproval, while I did my best not to land on my backside with a massive nest box embedded in my chest (did you know how heavy these things are? Because bloody hell, they are heavy).

'Well, I think it's very big,' she said with pursed lips. 'And I say that if people start doing whatever they want around here, then I'll just come down and put my dog's house up in the tree, and let's see what people will say!'

So here's the moral of the story:

You know the famous 'slippery slope' argument? Aka. when people tell you that if you take some ever so slightly progressive steps in society, then everything is going to magically descend into chaos because there will be no limits anymore, and that's why doing something perfectly logical and reasonable like allowing everyone to marry whoever they like (or hanging a nest box in a tree that's regularly visited by birds) is for some reason going to cause people to do all sorts of ugly things like committing incest and starting the apocalypse that will wipe out mankind?

As far as I'm concerned, this argument is now known as the 'doghouse in the tree' argument.

And if you're curious about what became of the nest box: it's still there, but I put it up too late and no bird took residence in it yet. In any case, incredibly enough... 'people' have failed to complain.

Jun. 16th, 2016

Creatures by the side of the road

Recently I came across a number of beasts I had not, or rarely, seen before. They were all somewhere by the side of a road. They were all striking enough to pause.

A badger, its black fur bristly and coarse.

A grass snake, probably a Montpellier snake, its back greenish and glistening, almost a metre long.

A green lizard with sparkling scales.

A rare species of kestrel (unless I misidentified it).

A boar.

It could be a lovely thing: so many creatures living next to us, in so little space. It could be wonderful, if three of these five creatures had not been dead. The badger was probably poisoned; its tongue hung out of its mouth, but it bore no trace of wound on its body. The grass snake's head had been either run over or smashed with a bottle (there were fragments of broken glass around it). The lizard was crushed on the side of the road.

Of course they would be dead. It's a road. It's noisy, and it's dangerous. I suppose most animals steer clear of it, and that's why the dead ones are easier to spot. Humans should probably steer clear of it too; last time we went biking, we narrowly escaped being hit by a careening Prsche, whose owner probably wanted to prove the already fairly solid point that people who drive expensive cars tend to be slightly more despicable than the rest of the population (but since this has been scientifically proven already, I'm not sure what killing us would have accomplished). Still, its a bit depressing to find yourself face to face with just how murderous the things that allow us to move faster are. Killing something every now and then is unavoidable. That's the toll we have to pay for... um... being able to afford living forty-five minutes away from work but at least you have a house with a swimming pool?

Jun. 11th, 2016

Last school day

Getting off the bus in Marseilles, very late for work, I heard voices call me from the other side of the street: 'Madame! Madame!' Turning around, I saw a group of students waving at me, the very same students I was supposed to be in class with at that moment. They were smiling and waving happily. I suppose I wasn't such an appalling teacher to them, even though adjusting to high school was a massive challenge...

We exchanged news. I congratulated some of them on the documentaries they shot for their cinema class. We talked very little about the upcoming baccalauréat, which they will be thinking about soon enough. We didn't mention the fact that all of us were supposed to be in class together; it was the last day of the school year after all. It made me smile to remember that the exact same thing happened to me during the last year of high school--I was taking a walk in the city during a history class, when I was greeted by none other that my history teacher, which triggered a very short moment of panic ('Oh crap, he's caught me skipping class--Wait a minute, what is he doing here?'). I left them to go to school, where, in a completely unsusprising turn, I spent the rest of the day in front of a computer, waiting for students who I suppose comfortably sat out Ramadan at home.

They're right. It was much too warm to study anyway.

May. 28th, 2016

Digging up lasagna

Quarter to ten in the morning; we've just arrived in front of a neat wooden fence, at the foot of a slightly run-down, unsusprisingly hideous 1970's building nested between two motorways, in one of the least attractive parts of the city. There are three or four people already there. We apologise for being early.

'Oh no, not at all! Come on in. You must be Cécile... Cristo...?'

Introductions are made as we take in the little haven we've just walked into. Straw and mulch cover the ground; vegetables and flowers grow everywhere in tidy little bunches, although rarely in rows. Permaculture is the keyword here. A pergola has been built near the wicket gate, but the trumpet vines still barely grow high enough to cover the main posts, let alone provide some real shade. At ten o'clock in the morning, we're already sweating.

We all gather around a table with coffee and biscuits, and introductions begin, everyone explaining what we're doing in this little haven, the shared garden of Lou Grillet, a subsidised housing complex. Some leave nearby and come everyday to tend their little plot of land, others supervise gardens in other places and have come for a chat, others, like me, are complete novices wishoug to set up their own garden one day. When my turn comes, I explain that I don't have the slightest idea how to do it (I don't disclose that so far, my greatest gardening success has been to keep a little sage bush for almost a whole year without seeing it die), or where to do it for that matter, the only sizeable piece of land in my neighbourhood being reputedly unavailable, but I want to try anyway and I have three million questions (the lady in charge soberly tells me that three million is a lot, but if I start now, yes, she will answer them all).

And questions we all have. The morning is a fascinating moment, especially for someone with absolutely everything to learn: how people made the garden together, with successes and failures, the bumps along the way, and we end up digging up all over the place to make a water-retention system using buried wood, and to build a lasagna of cardboard, wood, freshly-cut grass, compost, earth and straw (in that order: it's a sophisticated device used to filter the pollution out of the groud you will plant your crops on, and retain water as well). We all sit together for lunch and share approximately five tons of food between the twenty-or-so of us. We exchange addresses, tricks for making homemade mint cordial and telling wild spinach apart from poisonous mini-tomato-something (nobody was sure what that particular plant was, only that it's a solanacea, and that it makes fruit that look like tiny tomatoes and are extremely toxic, so I'm going with killer-mini-tomato for the time being). We rub on litres of sunscreen and taste omelettes made from chards grown in the garden. Above all, we talk.

The people who have come to the meeting are mostly women. And I notice a very special thing: everybody waits for their turn to talk, without needing anyone to remind them that they've been taking up a lot of space in the discussion and now it's time to listen to others. Opinions are voiced, ideas exchanged, but no one talks louder than the others, no one tries to drown others in their knowledge. When time comes to take up spades and garden forks to break up the ground, women start digging without making a fuss. All right, a couple of jokes are exchanged when it becomes apparent that only women are digging while men watch, but they soon stop. The men go back to ripping out weeds and wheeling them to the compost heap, the rest get to work on the lasagna. And that's all. No pathetic jokes about men and women and football and shopping. No one taking the load out of anyone else's hands because it's 'too heavy' for them. No awkwardness. Everything seems taken straight out of a little feminist paradise.

I have no idea why that is. All right, perhaps I do have an idea, maybe a silly one but I'll say it anyway. Sometimes there are things that men and women will do differently, because of their bodies of because they've been taught to, and then that will be the object of endless attention and comments, about men being stronger or women being better at noticing things, and it will be established that there has to be a gender difference. Sometimes there are things that men and women can do exactly as well as each other, like video games or playing flamenco guitar, and then some men will feel threatened and won't rest until they've managed to harass every woman out of their playground, and what could have been an enjoyable activity for everyone becomes a boys' club for absolutely no good reason. But perhaps you can't harass women out of a garden. First of all, more often than not, women are the ones building it. Secondly, those beans won't grow themselves, and if it's a woman telling you how to water them so they stop dying, you can't really afford to pretend she's not entitled to knowing how things work. Thirdly, if her plot overflows with produce while you struggle to get a single ripe tomato, maybe it's just going to become obvious to everyone that she knows what she's doing.

Or maybe this is simply because gardening is one of those very necessary, and yet entirely disregarded activities that we're taught have no value because they don't make money. We disregard housework because most of the time it's not paid for, even though taking care of the house is essential to our sanity if not our direct survival. What society disregards it has left to women. Growing vegetables for the family's everyday use brings no money either, it might as well be just another kind of housework, to be done while the men take care of important things. Yet when you sit in a garden nested between two motorways, in a drab, unappealing part of town, and you realise that you feel like you're taking a lungful of fresh air in the countryside and that makes you want to smile so hard it hurts, you suddenly see that, in the most litteral sense of the phrase, gardening has just changed a part of the word.

Am I dreaming, or are we just now understanding that things that are not bought have the most power?

May. 21st, 2016

The last butterflies

Cycling around Aix is a breath of fresh air, on so many more levels than the litteral one. The fields alternate with groves of pines and white oaks, there are few sounds aside from birds, and one just has to glance at the side of the road to see more plants than in a whole week working in Marseilles. Then there are the smells, too, those smells of early summer you could spend hours picking apart: wet leaves, drier leaves, earth, elderflowers, rosemary, wheat fields. One hour out there and it feels like the part of you that got the best workout was not your legs, but your brain. There is so much going on: a jay taking flight from a cherry tree, a bid of prey soaring up with a snake in its talons, willow pollen tormenting your eyes, the sweet, sudden smell of elderflowers, unknown plants pricking at your legs, roots working their way under the roads and making them bumpy, the temptation to snach almonds from a branch leaning out of a garden, tiny streams that would barely have registered as rivulets back in Québec, but that are dignified with a name and a signpost here, the red assault of a cluster of poppies, your whole body feeling the change when you leave the side of the field and enter the drier regions of pine woods, with their dry warmth and deep aromatic scent, the changing silhouettes of trees, sinuous for oaks, straight for pines, mangled for plane trees, bushy for elders...

There is an ongoing debate about whether spending your time on a computer is likely to make you less intelligent in the long run, and I'm not going to voice an opinion on it, but I wonder if we are not missing something crucial from that debate. The point is, perhaps spending your time online may allow you to reach more information, or perhaps it only allows you to memorise paths to that information and cripples your capacity to remember things by yourself, I have no idea. But what about all the information that cannot be found online? The smells, the feelings, and the dizzying diversity that remains there even though we have done an awe-inspiring job so far at destroying as much as you can? Half of the butterflies are now gone from European fields. Yet when you cycle through the countryside for a couple of hours, you come across half a dozen species, at least. There is more diversity in the last of the butterflies than in what the average person browses online in a week--and for that matter, in what could be found in most libraries of the world. There is a certain type of knowledge we have learned to conveive as all-important, and that is knowledge that can be expressed through words on a page. I'm not denying the importance of that knowledge. But what about all the information we are depriving our brains of, the sound of a lizard in the grass, the prickly touch of weeds, the way the smells change in the spring?

I recently read about a species of ants that evolved to live underground, then came back to the surface after a few thousand years. While living underground, their brains adapted to their new conditions. But they did not simply become different; they became atrophied. Life underground is much simpler than life overground. There is almost no light, there are fewer sounds, the touches and smells are mostly all the same. With so little information to process, brains can become lazy. They simply stop being ready for an overload of information that will never come.

We couldn't turn into ants underground, could we? I hope not. I hope that there is something I've failed to notice in the videos and online conversations my student spend their lives following on their smartphones. I sincerely hope so, because if there's not, our descendants will know the fate of the ants underground. Their brains will be shut to the flutter of a butterfly's wings. And so much will be lost to us. 

Apr. 16th, 2016

Home-making

The holidays are almost over. There's one very funny thing with teaching: how much it exhausts you greatly varies with the seasons. While it can be physically and emotionally shattering in winter, it's much easier to teach in the spring, when students, colleagues and yourself are in a better mood and you don't have to rise too long before the sun. I don't know how many jobs remain so strongly tied to seasonal rhythms. It certainly didn't feel the same doing research in Québec, even if the seasonal changes were far more dramatic than they are here.

Now spring has come back, it was time for us to do a few small jobs we had left aside. Learning how to use lime and whitewash rooms was much more interesting than it sounds. It's messy, time-consuming and particularly fickle depending on the materials you're trying to paint, and I really understand why people invented ready-made acrylic paints for that sort of job, but I still like knowing that I can now paint my home any colour I like without depending on whatever mysterious chemicals paint-makers will choose to mix in their wares, and for a quarter of the price. Plus, the ochre we used came from fifty kilometres away, and it looks gorgeous. It was well worth the hours spent mixing lime and plaster and scrubbing white stains off the floor. All right, maybe we could have done it all just as well without forgetting that we had bought plastic covers for the floor (I'm not certain what I was thinking, splashing paint all over and thinking it would be easy to clean afterwards), but it was very satisfying nonetheless.

Shopping around to find potted plants for the balcony, I noticed one particular thing. Gardens today are not gardens anymore. They're outdoors dining rooms with a splatter of living-room if you have enough space. Taking care of your garden, terrace or balcony seems to imply that you'll cram as many tables and chairs as you can in there, plus a barbecue and a pizza oven if you have enough space, and don't forget the swimming-pool. It's nothing new, I know. But when you pause to think about it, it raises questions that are not all that comfortable. Having a garden in South-East France today is an incredible luxury, given how over-populated the area is. You'd think possessing a little bit of nature, or an outdoor space wide enough to recreate it, would be precious. Instead, the only value of a garden seems to be the extra space, that you can colonise little by little to make it as similar to an indoor space as you can, only with a little more sun and fresh air. Is that the best we can do? People pour concrete or gravel over the ground to have a stable surface on which to place their lounging chairs, they dig hole and line them with ceramic to swim in chlorinated water a few days a year, and what's really unique to nature, the smell of grass and the shade of trees, they relegate in narrow borders bounded by more concrete, to make sure nothing will grow outside the meagre designated area. Is that really the best we can wish for? Is that all the luxury nature can afford us: to be beaten back even outside, so we can get the sun but none of those pesky living things?

Every year in South-East France, we get torrential rains, and at least a couple of people (sometimes a couple dozens) die in the subsequent floods. It is common knowledge now that these are not natural catastrophes. The contemporary tendency to plaster concrete or asphalt over open ground is largely responsible: there is nowhere left where water can seep into the ground. The heat in summer gets close to unbearable, because instead of being absorbed by plants and subdued by evaporating water from the leaves, it is reflected by the stone tiles that make up most of today's gardens, and there is no shade anymore to counter it. What a luxury indeed, to choke in the heat and, for the unlucky, to drown in water that couldn't find any earth to peacefully sink in.

Some of my neighbours want to turn the greenery below our building into extra parking spaces. The sixties don't want to die, it seems. I hope the twenty-first century will eventually wake up and fight back. Living, growing things are our only way out.

Previous 10