I love to receive contributions from readers. The end of 2014 brought a flourish of musings from Catherine, which I’m afraid I sat on for a little while, having taken a break from the blog for Christmas. So, here it is now; better late than never!
“’Tis the year’s midnight, and it is the day’s……….
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;
The world’s whole sap is sunk;
The general balm th’ hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed’s feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr’d; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compar’d with me, who am their epitaph.”
This time of year invariably calls Donne’s “Nocturnal upon St Lucy’s day” to my mind. It portrays the whole earth as completely dead, buried in winter. The park, at the moment, seems like this, dank and lifeless. Like many of Donne’s poems, it is difficult to understand. He is comparing the debility of the earth and sun in winter with his own desolation. It is an exhausting statement of worthlessness and purposelessness, the kind of text we studied extensively in deeply religious Irish schools.
And so one tries to fight back, looking for green shoots, good things and cheer, even at the end of a year which has been remarkable for the press and television spectacles of cold and calculated savagery across the globe, the march of killer viruses in resource poor countries, the baffling ubiquity of beer-and-fags-politicians/buffoons, the “militants” who claim they are carrying out God’s will, but feel the need to cover their faces………… The year when we are told that the poor don’t know how to cook, when I should reflect that I’ve not been in the Cabinet, I’m not an award-winning broadcaster, I’m not a Queen’s Counsel……………. One fights back by thinking of the kindness of friends, the boisterous energy of the park dogs, the gloss on the fur of a stray cat who now eats lots and sleeps on a warm blanket.
Some comfort can be had from the certainty that the park will soon be green and fecund again. And there are some resilient and hopeful groups in various places who are planning impressive innovation and even metamorphosis in the concept of the public park.
I very much hope that the Liverpool flyover plan comes to fruition. Its website states:
We want to turn a concrete flyover into an amazing urban park for Liverpool – a vibrant place full of life, trees, shops, exhibitions & joy. Help us bring our vision to life!
The Flyover is the ultimate in urban re-purposing & regeneration, delivered by citizens coming together to conceive, develop & implement.
We will take an existing structure and create an urban walkway/park that costs less than its proposed demolition. Our vision will deliver a public space of benefit to residents & visitors, connecting neighbourhoods & civic buildings with the rest of the city & world famous waterfront.
Rather than spend a lot on demolishing a brutal concrete flyover, the idea is to repurpose it as a vibrant and flourishing urban park. The plan has similarities to the Promenade Plantee in Paris, and the lovely High Line in New York. Money needs to be raised and the proposal to include cyclists is controversial, as this would affect the quality of the walking experience on the flyover. Enough seems to have been raised so far to fund a feasibility study. Good luck, Liverpool.
The inspiration of the High Line is spreading far and wide. The Kulbroens Venner Assocation in Aarhus, Denmark, hope to renovate an old coal bridge and make a flourishing urban park. The bridge is an eyesore which has been derelict for years. Hopefully a beautiful park will open there in 2017. Godt gået Danmark!
In London, there are hopes for a development with homes and a raised garden in the old and derelict Bishopsgate Goods Yard. There is ample room for a park on the existing Braithwaite viaduct. However, proposals also include residential tower blocks and these are controversial, with considerable animated discussion about what actually constitutes “affordable”. http://thegoodsyardlondon.co.uk/about/
Even more inventive is the proposal for a “Low Line” in New York. Green space in the city is naturally precious, so why not go underground? As the project explains:
“The Lowline is a plan to use innovative solar technology to illuminate an historic trolley terminal on the Lower East Side of New York City. Our vision is a stunning underground park, providing a beautiful respite and a cultural attraction in one of the world’s most dense, exciting urban environments.”
Apparently there is an 116 year old abandoned trolley terminal beneath the Lower East Side. Theoretically, sunlight could be filtered down to create a subterranean oasis. This can be done through fibre optic cabling. Its proponents say, phlegmatically, that technical challenges will have to be faced. Go, Delancey Street, go.
And there is music to the ears of those of us who pick up discarded plastic bottles by the dozen in the park on sunny days. An ingenious plan in Rotterdam is to retrieve plastic pollution from the New Meuse river, just before it reaches the sea. This retrieved plastic can then be recycled into floating blocks which will be configured into new nature landscapes; a floating park. Its website explains:
“The blocks are designed in such a way, that not only nature can grow on top, but also the bottom should accommodate new life. In this way nature should benefit from the new landscape in its optimum form.”
This is a bold vision which has been well researched and is now being crowdfunded; more details available at http://recycledpark.com/introduction.html. Didn’t Erasmus say that fortune favours the bold, the audacious?
No such grandiose visions are forthcoming for Heaton Moor park. But there will be croci, tulips, daffodils, green leaves roiling on the trees. Even today there are cheeky squirrels in the star tree and sparrows by the hundred twittering around the Buckingham Road gate, waiting for cake. Some of the dogs are wearing elegant new coats………
“Earth cares for her own ruins, naught for ours.
Nothing is certain, only the certain spring.”