“The Relief of Relief”

"When this old world starts getting me down..."

“When this old world starts getting me down…”

If you love human diversity, Barcelona ain’t a bad place to be, particularly as much of that diversity can be spanned in an evening’s walk, slipping through neighbourhoods of various affluence, textures, smells, noise and colour. But this is enabled by apartment-living and jeek-by-jowl population density. Here, a house with a garden arouses curiousity. And you occasionally see where a long-term resident has acheived an abundance of mature greenery in a balcony-sized biosphere. Otherwise, the trees that line the neighbourhood streets and arterial avenues are a mere distraction; an ambience creator shot through by the metal menace, noise and fumes of a vast colony of motorists that thread in, out and around this city incessantly, daily. Which is why, when I walk up into the very hills we could blame for Barcelona’s urban intensity, I so clearly recognise Robert MacFarlane’s sentiment, “the relief of relief” (in The Wild Places).

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“We all need space”

“We all need space; unless we have it we cannot reach that sense of quiet in which whispers of better things come to us gently.”

This quote comes from Octavia Hill, writing in 1875, in Homes of the London Poor:

“There is a small, square, green churchyard in Drury Lane, and even the sight of its fresh bright verdure through the railings is a blessing; but if the gates could be opened on a hot summer evening, and seats placed there for the people, I am sure the dwellers about Drury Lane would be all the better for it.”

Octavia Hill’s legacy may well serve as inspiration for those seeking to enable better places for people to live in (as well as visit)–places meaning inclusive, shared places; people meaning the wider community.  Small-scale, thoughtful changes can sometimes have profound consequences.


Immigrant home gardens and socialising future generations

As an English immigrant to this Mediterranean metropolis, whose “garden” consists of a few plastic and earthenware pots on a small balcony in view of a dozen similar balconies, I found myself relating to this research article whilst at the same time envying its subjects, i.e. immigrants who have private gardens in which to develop a sense of place that blends “the old place back home” with their new environment.

It’s not that I haven’t had space to enact similar practices to those described by the researcher.  Last summer a heavily-scented pink rose bloomed for a few days on this humble balcony, and in a private moment I dedicated it to my late grandmother–she would call me wherever I was living in the world, and this was my way of imaginatively, perhaps even spiritually, reviving that connection.

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