• Vol. 09
  • Chapter 07
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Wilderness tamed (again)

I used to love the abandoned quayside, with its iron bollards, cobbles disappearing beneath wild thyme and creeping plants, the tram lines, vibrations silent but not a speck of rust. I loved the shrubs that covered mysterious heaps, ivy heaving itself through open windows and over the rotten teeth of broken walls.

There were still a few empty sheds and boat houses, and a boatbuilder still working. In the river, green and water-black, were the poles and posts, the wooden framework of old jetties, and at low tide, the skeletons of shallow-draughted river craft.

It was a place between worlds, caught in a fold of time, between industrial decay and natural thriving. It was birds and insects, wild honeysuckle and garden flowers run wild. We too ran wild there in the quiet, dog and I, when such an undecided place was of no interest to anyone else.

We ran wild there until a group of bohos from the city took over a big chunk of the greenest and leafiest part. They moved in with their caravans and trailers and fenced off a ‘living’ site. They strewed the trees and bushes with plastic bottle scares for the pigeons and filled others with stickiness to kill pests. They raised vegetable beds on old newspaper and car tyres and filled them with straggly tomato plants and runner beans. They built pens out of old pallets for chickens and goats.

The abandoned sheds, filling up with silence and stagnant water and things that lived in the dark were cleared out and turned into skate circuits and bicycle repair shops. Lurid graffiti art covered the walls. Dogs were no longer allowed to roam because of the chickens. People were no longer allowed to roam because of the vegetable gardens.

I wondered then and still do, why even well-meaning human beings create such ordered ugliness out of random beauty.