I said I would continue my post on Dorset. I often don't continue posts, but here it is! You'll remember that we went west to Dorset for a family celebration but decided to stay on because the weather was so perfect.... But I'll write about it all in a minute because I'm wondering what happened to a large folder of research material which I took with me to read on the trip. It's gone. I've looked everywhere, checked with everyone.
I've just sent up a prayer to St. Anthony, who finds lost things. If he directs me to my folder, I'll give some money to charity. I don't consider myself to be a religious person, but I have to say that things usually do turn up, sometimes in the weirdest places, after consulting this saint. So I'll let you know next post.
So, this big house above is Monkton Wyld Court, in west Dorset. I found it quite by chance when researching bed and breakfasts in the area. As you'll see if you click the link, it's a sustainable community which runs a smallholding of several acres, and welcomes volunteers to work on the farm, and it also offers hostel and bed-and-breakfast accommodation to overnight visitors who just want somewhere to stay. It was built as a parsonage in the late 1830s, and has a matching church across the road, now mostly obscured by trees. I was astonished to learn that the vicar who lived here for years did so all by himself. His wife supposedly "did not like the country" and if there were any children, perhaps they didn't like it either. What the poor man did with a ten bedroomed house, I'm not too sure. I would like to think he housed the poor in it, but I bet he didn't.
This is is my idea of a living room ...I might have a little more furniture in it if it was mine, but actually you can't see the beautiful and colourful pictures on the walls, and can only just catch a glimpse of the big fireplace on the right.
And this is a nice music room, a good size for parties if you move the sofas around.
As you can see, there is a lot of natural stone and in fact the main corridor of the house has stone pillars and archways, a little like an abbey.
There's a vast garden outside, in which they've opened a licensed pub. Yes, that's it, seen through the window - it looks like a summer house, and in fact it is one. It's hung with fairy lights and is a great place for the residents to hang out and drink draught beer from a barrel - there's also local pressed apple juice. I believe the Monkton Wyld villagers also come there too. It was like heaven on a hot summer's evening, but I'm not sure what happens in the winter when sitting outside drinking beer doesn't sound quite so idyllic. Since the whole place is run on sustainable low emission lines, (translation: not much heating), I suspect the answer would lots of sweaters and gloves. We plan to go back, probably before Spring, and may then find out.
The house has a large kitchen garden of several acres. I can't help thinking of that vicar. Did he let his servants cultivate the garden and send the produce home to their families? Did he sell it to supplement his income? Did he let it get overgrown? Anyway the garden is now maintained by the community, who grow the fruit and veg that they eat. T and I really enjoyed wandering around it in the late afternoon sunshine, eating a (windfall) apple or two and peeping into the greenhouses. Here are beans and grapes, the latter not quite ready when we visited.
Lots of apple trees, mostly of old and unfamiliar varieties.
The area is networked with really tiny, narrow lanes which are also extremely steep and with hedges at least fifteen feet high. This makes driving quite challenging, and we didn't go much above second gear. This means, of course, that there is not much traffic, and there really is a most rural atmosphere. Here's a photo T took when we went for a walk in the woods and reached a tiny stream.
One day I got up before the sun rose and went out to look over the countryside. It was completely quiet except for birds.
Milk was from their Jersey cows and delivered up to the house each morning by bike both for use in cooking and to make cheese.
We met several interesting people staying there, ranging from someone who made TV commercials for a living, and wanted peace and quiet to write a book about the music scene on Ibiza; a couple of women who had written a book on the uses and folklore of wild plants and were preparing a course on making herb gardens, and an elderly and very genteel pair who looked as if they belonged in their local Rotary Club or but were actually planning to travel to London for two weeks to take part in the Extinction Rebellion climate protest.
"I've been worried about the environment for decades, and nothing I've ever said or done has had any effect. Now I'm going to make people notice!" said the gentleman, fiercely.
"And we are retired, so it doesn't matter if we get criminal records if we glue ourselves to lamp posts or anything like that," added his wife.
If we hadn't met them, T and I might not have decided to visit Extinction Rebellion when they arrived in London shortly afterwards. But when we learned it was encamped in central London we went down to see if we could spot our acquaintances from Monkton Wyld, and perhaps bring them some sandwiches.
We didn't see them. It was far, far too crowded. This pair below are NOT them, but you can see from the lady's posters that that she and her partner are there on behalf of the older generation, who have presided over the crisis. I loved them (and the many other elderly folk there) for not being part of that group of oldies that sits at home complaining about protestors they've seen on TV that they don't like the look of.
The movement is not centrally coordinated, but it was well organised, with open air kitchens and free food, and all kinds of activities, as well as a tented First Aid post for those who find the whole experience a bit hard.
There were people of all ages, all types and all backgrounds. Looks like this lad and his baby sibling might have been here with grandparents, but I didn't ask.
Here's someone who described herself as an ordinary mum who cares about children's futures.
The reason that they all came is to make everyone aware of climate change, and urge action to contain it. As I've been researching my book, I've talked to many professionals, and can now understand why action does need taking, and fast. It's not exactly that the world is getting hotter. It is actually ecosystem breakdown, which happens when the globe's average temperature is too different from what it should be.
The early symptoms have been showing for only a few years, so it's still possible to deal with it. The mistiming of plant flowering, so that their usual insects can't eat them or pollinate them, loss of familiar birds and animals who can't find the wild food they normally eat, melting icecaps, and unusually hot, cold, wet or stormy weather which is baking, freezing or drowning more animals (and humans) than ever before. It's not much at the moment, but it's the equivalent of ignoring a few cracks forcing their way through crumbling bricks in a dam. When something big starts going wrong, there's a domino effect as one failure triggers off another, until it gets very hard or impossible to fix the whole thing.
Some of the protestors mentioned science and wildlife, though not as many as I expected.
and this, at a stand aimed at medical professionals, is about climate change and human health.
But this gloom and doom does repel people, and makes them turn away, so I was actually quite pleased to see so many people spreading the word positively in the way that appeals to them. You need carrot as well as stick. Maybe by talking, persuading...or possibly planning future protest....
By making music.... this was the leader of a large circle of drummers outside Downing Street. I don't suppose our PM was sitting back and enjoying it in his lair, but I'd have paid to hear them - they were world class. (I was glad they were using earplugs, and wished I'd had some)
Some people staged elaborate set pieces. This, in the tent encampment in Trafalgar Square.
I found these figures disturbing as they wound their way silently around Trafalgar Square. They had something of the feeling of a Greek chorus.
Here's a picture of the sort of protestors who seem have particularly annoyed the elderly telly watchers. This lot built a construction, sat on top of it in their colourful hippy clothes, and sang soppy sounding protest songs. The police had to dismantle their framework around them, and stand by in case their supporters objected. I just wonder what it cost. The bobble-hatted ones might not have done anyone any harm, but must have cost a fortune in public money, because they attract so much attention and so many police are needed to keep order and take them away. So actually they do make the point very effectively that climate change will strain public resources and public order, and I was glad they did such a good job in such a peaceful way.
These old fellas have a tambourine on their walker, thankfully they did not beat it when I was in earshot. Not quite sure what the EU flag has to do with it, except that conservation charities are now uniting in alarm at the deliberate alteration and weakening of much of our environmental legislation under cover of Brexit. Yes, maybe that's it.
Some countries, like Trump's America and Bolsonaro's Brazil, are not interested in the future, they want the money now. Boris Johnson's government is promising real action, but when I saw they'd refused to give BBC's "Panorama" an interview about just what they were doing, I reckoned that we're better off looking at this to get the real story on the government plans. Some of the other parties are taking it seriously, though, so I am pinning my hopes on them if and when Britain is free of the black hole fiasco of Brexit.
Going down this route can be sombre, so maybe on reflection I'm glad there wasn't too much of it at Extinction Rebellion. It was better to be there and see people celebrating life and love, creating art, music, happiness and wise ideas, all the good things, to see them having fun and relaxing in the sun, while making their point all the same.