Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Model of a charmless town.

We live in a town which on the surface looks like quite a lovely, woodsy sort of place full of niches to explore and what appears to be a community.  It has a nice population size of about 10,000.  People can be seen cycling, jogging and walking on the many many many paths that riddle dozens of parks and woodlands. There is an area with a man made series of streams and ponds and the whole town is surrounded on three sides by woodlands then fields.

Before we lived here (and M. just travelled here to work) M. called it Teletubbie Land because of the manufactured pond and hills that form the heart of the town. Really that should have given us ample warning about the real nature of the place we decided to move to- however temporarily. Now M. just calls it Unfriendly.

It has a smallish chain supermarket, a Dominoes Pizza, Subway, several hairdressers/beauticians, estate agents and a corner store which also hosts the Post office. There are a few cafes which cater to the lunch time needs of white collar workers.

If you were to wander through this town the first clue comes in the fact that Teletubbie Land falls in the middle of an area which consumes half the town and is just office blocks, headquarters and car parks (which you can see lit up all night long from inside). Next you will see the huge building project which is an enormous (for British standards) shopping center. Another clue comes when you realize that you practically have to accost people on the street to have your "hello", "good afternoon" or smile returned by the numerous cycling/jogging/walking people you pass.
 Next you realize none of the woodlands are managed- even the ones owned by the forestry commission have almost no undergrowth due to over crowding and lack of good husbandry. You cross only the occasional dog walker in the woodlands and when you look around only the squirrels appear to be thriving in this nature riddled countryside.
If you were to wander slightly further into the fields you would see... nothing. They are not grazed, or plowed or ostensibly used for any purpose whatsoever. 
That's not to say it has no charms or benefits at all: we see a lot of deer, practically daily, and there is apparently a LOT of hedgehogs as this autumn I've seen at least 4x more than I've ever seen in the rest of my 15 years living in England.

But how is it that a town perched in such a brilliant location with an abundance of resources and possibilities can remain so very charmless?
I believe it has a lot to do with the town's history and is a symptom of our times and follies.

When we tell people where we live the universal reply is "Oh yes- we always liked to go shopping there." The story is this: Whiteley's one claim to fame was an outlet center which drew shoppers and was poorly managed. The outlets were demolished in 2011ish and over the last year a new shopping center has been growing in its place with a lot of signs announcing its opening in the Spring of 2013.

I recently overheard a woman looking at the building works telling her son who was about 4 years old. "I'm so excited! I'm going to go [to the shopping center] every Saturday once it opens!" when the boy asked the obvious "Why?" the woman said with great conviction "Because that's what you do for FUN on Saturdays!"
An acquaintance told me "Oh we are so excited we can't wait for the shopping center to open this spring!"

We were astonished when we learned from a farmer at an agricultural show that a few decades ago Whiteley was a large Dexter cattle farm which has since been developed into the ghastly waiting room it is now. There are no chickens in the yards, no chimneys smoking from roofs and no farmers markets in the area. Sadly I believe we temporarily live in a community whose purpose and ethos is based on convenience and consumerism which is wholly dependant on nonrenewable sources of energy and lacks the simple human interactions which make a place a home.

What will we be left with in 50 years if this is the world we are grooming for our children?

xx Jo

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Yarn along and Here we go again...

At present it is a daily struggle not to hyperventilate or allow my head to explode.  I'm not too worried about the head-explosion because the mess will just blend in with the carpets but I am a bit of a whiner when I pass out and get a bruise.

This is our living room as of this morning:

M. has gotten a job in California and is headed out tomorrow for his medical and to hammer out the details of starting dates etc (breath, breath, breath) and he will- God willing- be moving all our life across the ocean sometime around the end of December. I will follow with the children mid January (breath in, and out, breath, breath, breath).
Knitting at the moment is doubly important to me. I use it as a kind of  meditation: I'm not a fast knitter. When I sit and knit with my mother-in-law she has basically been knitting like a machine and has finished her project within a week and I am gently click clicking away on my project month after month. It means that I am forever growing my projects until I get bored and start another one. So I don't finish nearly as many as I start but I'm sure it keeps my blood pressure down and my brains off the carpet.
Growing on my needles at present is Delphine in a lovely golden-mustard coloured Rowan yarn. I own the book French Girl Knits which I ordered off Amazon on the weight of Delphine alone. In all honesty there are only three patterns in it I would wear so it was a bit of a wasted purchase but I adored  Delphine and Paloma so much I kept the book.
The yarn is Rowan Pima cotton DK in Dijon. Its so beautifully soft and has a lovely drape you don't always get from 100% cotton yarns. Delphine works up really fast. I had 10 cm on the needles (its knitted in the round) after just two days of picking it up when I had the chance. As lace patterns go it is super duper easy- a 4 row repeat with rows 2 and 4 being the same. The only hitch really was figuring out what the UK equivalent of 'Sportweight' yarn is which the lovely and very knowledgeable ladies in the knitting department of John Lewis were able to help with.

So here is me- going onward with my wonderful and terrifying adventure. Knitting in one hand and packing tape in the other.

Xx Jo