If I’m the fool then what does that make you?

I heard this line in a BBC audio adaptation of King Lear for kids. “If I’m the fool, then what does that make you?” It struck a chord. For me this question captures the power of fooling around as a clown.

Fooling is playful and at the same time powerfully subversive stuff. The clown owns their foolishness, but in doing so raises a mirror the audience. I may be foolish, but in what ways are you unwittingly foolish too?

(The play also included the line ‘I hate living a thousand years ago’ – which I am also noting down here for future reference).

Universal Cycle Flyover

Diagram of Universal Cycle Flyover, an attachment for cars to enable vehicles in traffic jams to connect together to form a continuous cycle path

The daily traffic jam on my local high street has inspired me to think about a way to turn a traffic jam into an opportunity to a way to create safer cycling. This solution is win-win: car drivers get to stay in their cars while facilitating the creation of more traffic-free cycle routes in and out of our cities.

The concept is for all cars to be fitted with a light-weight section of Universal Cycle Flyover, designed to fit most any vehicle. Cars approaching a traffic jam simply park close enough to the next car to to enable a continuous connection for the cycle deck.

(The scheme shows a cyclist on a racing bicycle. Of course other types of bicycle would be encouraged, I just started the sketch too close to the top of the page to fit a more upright riding position.)

Great idea – terrible font

Don’t spoil your idea with a terrible font.

The environmental movement seems to be particularly prone this affliction. Once upon a time, people with the mindset that was willing to challenge mainstream military-industrial thinking also challenged the strictures of modern fonts. Gone sans serif, in its place, curly whirly.

Thankfully, the times are indeed a-changin. And what were once wacky ideas are increasingly appealing to the mainstream: renewable energy; whole-system design; zero-waste systems.

I just don’t think the mainstream is ready for curly-whirly fonts yet.

Revaluing weeds in the biodiversity emergency

Yesterday a council contractor rode up and down our street spraying weed killer on the pavements, grass and tree pits. I was dumbstruck. This is the biodiversity crisis manifesting literally on my doorstep. And at the same time double standards. Here you have a council that has led the way in the UK in declaring both climate and ecological emergencies. All the while its contractors are spraying weedkiller on its streets. For me this encapsulates the fundamental challenge of the ecological crisis: we understand at some high level that something must be done but we can’t translate that into what a thriving ecosystem looks like.

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Human-scale chalk stream restoration.

Image of Letcombe brook chalk steam

On this afternoon’s walk we had the joy of arriving at a chalk stream. We had started high on the Ridgeway and descended quickly down through the Devil’s Punchbowl, a dry valley. And it was at the lowest point on our walk that we came upon Letcombe Brook. At this site, conservationist are working to recreate the natural conditions of a chalk stream to enable wildlife to thrive.

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Connection with nature through drawing

Pencil sketch of an ash tree at Hazel Hill wood to illustrate a post about connection with nature through drawing

I drew this ash tree at Hazel Hill Wood last weekend. Though it rises opposite a bench where I like to have a morning coffee, I have never paid it much attention. But doing a twenty-minute sketch I am discovering the tree. Climbing the trunk that rises without foothold for a third of its height. Noticing for the first time its rhythm – the trees spatial ordering. How one trunk becomes a thousand twigs, like a trachea transitioning to countless alveoli.

As I draw I see a space in the canopy to the left, one that I would not have noticed otherwise. I presume it is a space left by another tree that is now fallen, on the ground but leaving its imprint in the sky.

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Planting parking spaces is a dismal affair

Oliver Broadbent holding a watering can in a carpark to illustrate his post Planting Parking Spaces

Planting parking spaces is a dismal affair.

When you water them, the water just drains away.

The rich soil underneath is capped.

Parking spaces don’t flower; don’t make nectar, don’t produce fruit that we can eat.

Insects stay away; birds fly over.

Never do they grow, rise up from the ground, spread their branches to oxygenate the air.

No one returns in 30 years time and says I planted that parking space.

No generation thanked the last for planting more.

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