Sunday, 25 November 2012

Turbulent Pools

Standing in a doorway I looked out into the night sky. The stars and moon were obscured by heavy cloud and a torrent rain drops shone for the shortest moment as they hurtled past a street light and smashed into the growing pool of water on the car park floor. The autumn rain strayed slightly on a gust of wind and my hands and face became dappled with its cool touch as I stood motionless in the door. While the tactile experience was pleasant for the briefest moment, the coldness it carried served as a reminder of the falling temperatures and vulnerable nature of the human form against the elements and the turning of the seasons.

My eyes were drawn to the shifting patterns of light and water at the base of the street light. In my travels that evening I had seen the same forms in many locations. Pedestrians scurried around the pools before passing vehicles sent the water erupting into the air and crashing onto the pavements. Within the woodlands and wilder areas the rain would be battering onto the fallen leaves and low grasses before seeping into the ground to sustain the flora & fauna, but in the urban realm it builds, waiting for overloaded drains and sewers to carry it to the low lands to pass on the flooding problem or filtering to a soft verge where the ground quickly becomes waterlogged and the vegetation sits stranded keeping its leaves and blades held aloft as its roots become drenched.

The turbulent pools serve me a reminder of the overcrowding we are subject to in these lands. Swathes of nature are replaced by tarmac and roof. The run off swamps the soft grounds (or a part Sustainable Urban Drainage System as developers like to call them) and fill the rivers. The power and wealth of these lands is its rainfall, but the only way to manage and harness it is to understand nature, landscape, geology and ecology. Still, we grow and we build in the hope of economic revival. It seems overcrowding is like an elephant in the room, an unwanted and unpopular word while politically minded people talk about growing the economy, building more roads and houses.

I wonder how long before we are drowning in our own wealth.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Past Grace

A creeping sense of inevitability found its way into my mind as I walked my way down a country lane within the early darkening hours. Ahead of me I could see approaching headlights flickering a white light through the roadside hedgerows. I had with me a small lantern and I brought it to life in the hope of the cars occupants recognising another traveller in the quiet lands. The car sped around the corner in front of me and did me little more courtesy than remain on their side of the road. The driver made no attempt to slow down or take their headlights from the full beam. Blinded by the light I was forced to stop before I stumbled on the verge or tripped within one of the potholes festooning the poorly maintained roads.
As the car raced by me I was left muttering a few curses. It would appear I will be needing to remember to bring with me a lantern I refer to as a light cannon. The beam is extremely powerful and is often used to serve a reminder to the cocooned motorist to at least dip their lights for those of us who are more vulnerable on the roads.
Once I had regained something of my night vision I carried on with the little lantern spilling a gentle pool of light around my feet. I brought to my thoughts a sight I enjoyed a few weeks ago to add a little reason and peace of mind. For a time I stood within the early autumn sunshine and cast my eyes on an old MG sports car. The car seemed to resonate with both the care of the craftsman who made it and the care of the owner who clearly spent time and effort looking after the machine. Even to a layman such as I, it was obvious the MG allowed a sense of connection on a number of levels. It did not cocoon the driver from the elements or the road. It also held a beauty beyond many of its modern counterparts. It would struggle to match even a modest modern car with its performance and statistics. I imagined it would not be the best vehicle to sit in the traffic or travel at night in, but for those times when its owner took it for a spin on a warm afternoon it would probably be a true pleasure.

It seems to fill in many of the blanks many modern designers miss as they strive to hit enforced targets and economies. Sitting humans within a safe little bubble is understandable, but to encourage a connection, an empathy and a sense of joy is something of a far greater achievement. Perhaps if people could begin to feel that connection again, the value of things can be measured in more than facts and figures, but with emotions.