Homes of Desire – Part six

homes of desireSo, ok, this home would be a little difficult to sit down in but what’s not to love in a thatched dunny?

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Inside Outside

The woods around Canterbury are dotted with the tents of people sleeping rough but BBC One’s Inside Out programme chose to visit two really interesting examples of enterprising people living outdoors. Homeless is a label that covers a huge range of circumstances but this report shows that, for some people, outdoor living is a life choice.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b095h4jz

Homes of Desire – Part 5

vishs-home.jpg

This week I visited Dr Vish, in the woodland home shared with his partner and experienced home envy once again.

I was envious at the woodland turning to autumn and the deer coming to visit. Envious at the pattern on the canvas sides as I sat on the bed made of pallets and foam and Vish obligingly danced around outside showering the tent with handfuls of leaves and a kaleidoscope of woodland life played across the walls and made me laugh. Envious that that they had found a spot to live this life and I had not.

I was envious of their youth and energy. That they could hack three months in a tent, chop wood, cycle miles to work, survive on a diet of foraged apples and, in Vish’s own words, “crotch washes.”

Mostly I was envious that they were doing it, living a life close to nature in the woods. That he had dreamed it up one weekend on a camping trip in Devon, had a partner who wanted it too, had asked around, taken the risk, made it a reality.

Over green tea and satsumas we dreamed some more, of owning land, of creating a place of peace where others could connect back with the earth. Our own personal dreams feeding off each other.

Vish said my life in the caravan had inspired them, that he and his girlfriend Prag had hope in the fact that someone almost 20 years older than them had not succumbed to expectations but still attempted to live a life true to their values but really the admiration was all mine.

Their youth, their energy, their ideals, their dreams made mine a bit closer to being fulfilled.

The Peculiar People

May you live in interesting times

Essex, my home county. To many the word Essex is a byline for tacky; footballers wives, x factor contestants, white van men and girls with spray tans. What few people know is that Essex has long been a county where radicals dreamt of creating a new utopia, where, hidden away among the creeks and saltmarshes and on isolated islands, traditional ways of living were challenged.

The Peculiar People exhibition, on until the 2nd July at the Focal Point Gallery in Southend on Sea, brings together a collection of art, literature, correspondence and film footage that documents the various communities that sprung up along the Essex coast.

From the plotlands of Dunton, where Eastenders tried to create a home in the country away from the city smogs, to religious groups like the Peculiar People and Othona where people created communities based on sustainability, acceptance and humility to the Hadleigh Farm Colony where William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army dreamt that the ‘submerged tenth’ of the urban population in danger of drug and alcohol abuse or falling into prostitution could return to a more natural way of life, tending the land and receiving free education.

The exhibition was both inspiring and relevant in a world where so many people seem disillusioned with the dominant ideology of our time to make money and buy more stuff. Communities like Othona where people could escape the rat run and regain some sense of what is real and important by living simply and working the land seem like a jolly good idea.

There seems that there was a time in this country when people  still felt that an alternative was possible. Maybe the 100 years before Margaret Thatcher came and squashed out hope and ideology. Now, as we are told that the pursuit of profit is the only God worth serving, we seem stuck on a conveyor belt leading to the destruction of the planet and a loss of our own humanity.

But increasingly it seems that I meet people who just can’t follow this line. Who are falling, or jumping off the conveyor belt and saying ‘there has got to be some alternative to this.’ Maybe in the radical living experiments carried out in Essex we can find some hope that there is an alternative, that just by saying ‘no’ and living differently we can regain some sense of self and some sense of the divine.

As the poster says, we living in interesting times.

http://www.focalpoint.org.uk/exhibitions/current/63/