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Dark Corner

Thursday, 13th February 2003, West Yorkshire

compost binDon't we all have lost dreams, abandoned ambitions and once fresh, blossoming projects that have withered in the tempests and frosts of the passing seasons of our lives?

That description certainly applies to this corner behind the compost bin and the greenhouse! - a dark corner that, I'm ashamed to say, is hardly touched from year to year. A corner that needs the useless clutter clearing and some light and warmth letting in.


Celebrity Frogs

bucketsfrogWe're spring-cleaning the garden today and it's time for some of those 'really useful' materials to be consigned to the bin;

The old tile cement buckets need to go. Occasionally in the summer a frog sits in them, in the soupy green water, like a celebrity in its private pool.

plastic sheetThose offcuts of pond liner which I've saved to spread on the veg beds to keep the weeds down need to go too; for all my green intentions in using a plastic sheet mulch instead of herbicide to control weeds these tattered remnants will end up in a landfill site. They'll still be there in hundreds of years.

peat potA crumbling peat pot is now completely covered in feathery moss. Peat is extracted from a diminishing habitat, so that was a mistake from the green point of view, but at least it crumbles and I can spread it in the hedge bottom where it will 'moulder away and be like other loam'.


Historical Frogs

snowdropsA teetering pile of old bricks the size of a refrigerator has become the focal point of the garden down in the meadow area, surrounded by snowdrops. I move them into the corner I've just cleared. I haven't a use for them just now but I feel that they're worth saving. Besides, they make interesting reading - some have the names of long vanished collieries and brick works stamped in their frogs (the hollows) - 'KIRKHEATON BRICK WORKS' and 'WARMFIELD', for instance.

bricksI was once leading a walk at Chapelthorpe and we came across a small pile of rubble at the side of a field track. As usual, I read the bricks.

'This is a rarity,' I said 'it's a 'Grimethorpe Colliery' brick.'

When I tell my group something like this most them either smile politely or get a glazed look on their faces but there was a retired couple on this walk who were surprisingly enthusiastic;barrow

'We collect bricks,' the wife said, 'but we haven’t got that one!'

They wrapped the brick in a plastic bag, put it in the hedge bottom and came back for it later!

Grimethorpe Colliery was where my father spent the last ten years of his working life, in the offices there. The Colliery, and members of Grimethorpe Colliery brass band, appeared in the film Brassed Off.


Dark Corners of the Soul

compost bins

I feel as if I've got dark corners in my psyche that are in need of spring-cleaning. Dark corners in need of some warmth and light. There's a lot of clutter to clear, a lot of tattered dreams to consign to the dump.

An enthusiastic Labour Party member and sometime Rural Ward councillor, Maureen Cummings, phones for my advice on saving a field from a housing development in the village of Calder Grove which lies in the shadow of the motorway to the south-west of Wakefield. With my abysmal record in environmental battles I can't imagine how anyone can think I can be of any use! But it does me good to talk to her, she's got such innocent zeal; 'I'll never stop campaigning', she enthuses.

I try to persuade her that she ought to stand for the Green Party and that she shouldn't associate herself with the rum lot of lovable (and some of them decidedly unlovable) rogues on the local council who grace the pages of our local paper at regular intervals.

Blair and Baghdad

I've had an e-mail from Jill, a friend from art college days, asking me to write to Tony Blair to protest - if I'm against it - about the proposed war in Iraq.

'We can't let this happen,' she says, 'it will be too awful for everyone'. A plea from the heart.

I ask Maureen about it. She's always been a campaigner for nuclear disarmament. She's written to protest and suggests that I should too, if I feel strongly about it. By an odd coincidence the Prime Minister was in Calder Grove today – within a few hundred yards of the threatened field. Maureen, who was there, tells me that at a question and answer session in the Cedar Court hotel he was asked a couple of times about the threat of war and once about Israel and Egypt. He talked about the thousand a year he says are killed in Iraq because they oppose Saddam Hussein and the 60% of the population who are on food aid in this oil-rich country. He suggests that the people of Iraq would be better off if a war removed their oppressor.

One and a half a million children are now in back in education in Afghanistan, he explains, including girls who would have received no education at all under the Taliban.

Backyard Battles, Global Wars

So much for the arguably beneficial side effects of war, but the trigger for the action isn't to provide a better life for the people of Iraq, it's those weapons of mass destruction that are at the heart of the matter. As yet there are no definitive answers about the extent of Saddam's arsenal.

Coxley BeckSo here I am; I can't even stand up and speak at a public meeting in defence of Coxley Valley, which I know like the back of my hand, without being threatened (by our Labour controlled council) with financial extinction and being told that I'm a liar (correction; that the information I was presenting was 'unbelievable') and yet here I am trying to avert a war I know so little about.

Maureen, then a councillor, stood beside us at the public inquiry, and was similarly threatened, and similarly ridiculed for her defence of Coxley Valley. I've retired into my dark corner. She's still out there fighting. There's a lesson for me there, I think.

With that urgent, heartfelt plea from Jill and Maureen's relentless optimism that the world can be made a better place, both locally and globally, I can see I'm not going to win! If some of us believe there might be a better solution to the world's problems than going to war we've got to keep on suggesting it.

My Dad fought in a desert war, against Rommel in 1940. He described the desert as an ideal place to fight a war because there are so few civilians around to get caught in the crossfire. In Iraq the lives of millions would be at risk.

I had better get writing! next page

Related Link

miner's wheel Crigglestone - local information about the Crigglestone/Calder Grove area including Ryan Platten's website on the Betty Eastwood Park an area of planted woodland on an old colliery site.

Richard Bell