A moment of reflection in tunnel 2

I couldn’t resist photographing this lovely moment on the Kennet and Avon canal this afternoon, just a few yards from the iron bridge where we saw the heron which provided the opening paragraph for my post – “Hiding in Plain Sight” – a couple of days ago.

Tunnel 2 is just about the most unromantic name you could think of – perfect for a Soviet era love story involving two people and a shovel, possibly a broken shovel – come to think of it – but that’s one for another day. The reason for the existence of two tunnels and the deep cutting really is is profoundly unromantic. It came about because owner of the the Sidney Gardens – Regency pleasure gardens and knocking shop according to the historical accounts – refused to allow his patrons to be assailed by the nauseating smells and sounds of the same bargees who were day by day making many of them wealthier. The canal builders had to build two expensive tunnels to hide their work. Nowadays the biggest hazard on the canal is the lycra clad cyclists who race by looking intently at their instruments.

Our walk today was a long, almost eight mile loop through the allotment, past Royal Crescent, the Circus and the Assembly Rooms and past the top of Walcot Street down to Cleveland Bridge which is being repaired and is only open to walkers and cyclists, and therefore blissfully quiet aside from the raucous laughter of a gang of builders who were enjoying their lunch break by cracking jokes at each others’ expense; it sounded a lot of fun. Then we found a way through the housing estate bordering the river; rejoined the canal and the railway line next to the Cleveland Pool which is being restored and then on along the canal to Bathampton where we took the road towards the toll bridge and left it for the footpath back towards town and which runs alongside the river and continues under the monstrous concrete pillars of the bypass. It’s been a warm and occasionally sunny day – perfect for a walk and a catch up with the canal and riverside flora.

The changing seasons are a strong reminder that nothing hangs around for long in nature. The hedge parsley is long gone; replaced by the hogweed which is itself flowering and setting seed. The battered leaves are all that remains of the winter heliotropes that flowered in profusion during late winter. The spring flowers are gone and now the summer visitors are appearing and I could have clapped for sheer pleasure at finding a clump of white musk mallow on the towpath. It could be a garden escape, who knows? they’re more commonly purple like their cousins in the Malva family – but they were there and looking lovely – pristine even – a fleeting moment.

I had a few responses to my earlier post, an old school friend on Facebook, a helpful comment from Carolee a reader and virtual friend in the US and a phone call from another old friend to make sure I was still alive. My heart problem (Afib) seems to have got better on its own (I bet they all say that!) and with a couple of doses of filthy tasting valerian each day I’m feeling steadier; but the walk on the canal reminded me that the essence of the natural world is that its pleasures are both gifted and fugitive – not to be captured or pinned down – we simply have to accept – that’s the deal.

And if that sounds a bit glum it’s not meant to be. Life might be a helter skelter ride to oblivion but that’s no excuse for shutting my eyes and refusing to enjoy it while it lasts.

-4C then almost springlike sunshine

Henrietta Park this morning with patches of yesterday’s unmelted snow and young daffodils bursting through the ground. We’ve got a radio thermometer installed outside at the back of the flat and early this morning it was showing -4C some twenty feet above ground level. The sun shone brightly all day but even so it didn’t get much above 4C. I’ve said this before, but every season seems to bear signs of the next, and the daffodils – even just in leaf – were a cheering sight in the depth of winter. Given the temperature and the very light traffic outside, we decided to try our morning 9k walk along the river and canal and although there were one or two more crowded spots, by and large we walked alone. Tomorrow and for the next couple of weeks it looks like we’ll be back to south westerlies and showers – which isn’t going to be particularly good for erecting a polytunnel.

There’s really no room for doubt that we’re experiencing increasingly severe weather variations; certainly more storms are bringing ever larger falls of rain and we seem to have had a succession of wet winters followed by hot spells in the wrong (that’s to say early) part of summer with consequent effects on ripening crops. August was always a wetter month, but severe downpours and storms are a menace. The winter period since the new year began has seen a reversion to more typical cold weather but even so it’s felt odd – interspersed with storms that turn the river brown with topsoil. Of course we know, or at least we have every reason to know, that the cause of all this is global climate change; but there are very few signs that politicians are taking the threat seriously. My heart sinks when I read the latest and daftest ever techno-wheeze for sequestering carbon, and this week’s crop of suggestions should be nominated for the Darwin Award, not least because they promise that we’ll all be able to drive our 5 litre SUV’s around without feeling guilty.

I’ve been reading Vandana Shiva’s “Soil not Oil” and it breaks my heart to contemplate the missed targets since 2008. It’s like watching your mother drink herself to death; and the question that’s shouting at me is why? – why are we so powerless to effect political change the face of this addiction to endless growth and its consequent degradation of the environment and our quality of life? Why do politicians reward agro industrialists with the opportunity to write government policy through political gifts and lobbying, whilst describing peaceful environmental protesters as terrorists?

The tragedy is that we know what the danger is, and we also know what general shape the remedy will have to take, and we know that if no progress is made, very soon we will be facing an environmental catastrophe – no ifs, no buts and no more delays while they wait for a scaleable, saleable and monopolistic solution to turn up. What else is there to say?