In Barnes people crowd next to each other all the way down the river wall. I am sent videos from Brighton of thousands of people on the beaches. Hampstead Heath is infested with people, young and old, sitting in groups, booze and stories and laughter. “Nature is the only show.” Maybe that’s a good thing? Huge groups of fashionable young people are scattered over the grassy patches on the heath
These kids, when they might have been revising for their exams (or celebrating the end of them.) They’re outside, plugged into what nature they can find, the sun on their skin, the ground beneath their feet, experiencing reality with bugs and flies and plants, rather than a curated sanitised version of reality sold to them by cruel billionaires.
A normal summer would find them all packed into plasticated basements and buildings made up to look the same whether they’re in London or in Lima, buying painburgers, or £7 pints of chemically treated lager, or £12 glasses of headache wine, or munged up chickens that never saw daylight. Now at least they’re under the sun, even if it’s a plastic packet of ground up pig bits they’re faceshoving.
At least the places look different and there aren’t screens constantly bombarding them with information and a sense of relative unimportance. The call to the familiar won’t be so hardwired in them as they grow older, perhaps. Maybe they won’t be so afraid of things that they haven’t experienced already by the time they reach what passes for adulthood. “Shall we go to the park?” might be a suggestion that is met with approval. Maybe they’ll be slightly wider angle than the adults we seem to have at the moment who are looking for a single reason to dismiss each other’s entire argument so they can carry on being self-preserving garbage grinders.
The downside to it is, in the pub, in the stadium, the fast food outlet, the cinema – in the usual indoor haunts, there is frequently somebody whose job it is to pick up the crap we drop. Not in the park. Not on the beach.
We are descending on these gorgeous outdoor spaces, enjoying a few hours of connection with them and each other through them, and coating every inch of them with tiny bits of plastic and packets and bags and cans and tissues and bottle caps. It’s worse on the beach where the sea will take them quickly and add to the mess of suffocating plastic that, if nothing else does, will eventually be enough to trigger a proper extinction event. But even on the Heath I tend to come home with a bag full of other people’s crap, (when I can be bothered to and have remembered a bag).
It might only be a few weeks before all the London parks are stinking flyblown dumpgrounds. If we are the custodians of this planet we are doing a spectacularly awful job of it. Pick your own stuff up, and why not take more than just what you made? It’s so beautiful here and this is a glorious summer where many of us can rest for a change. Let’s set some intentions. But let’s do it in a way that isn’t judgemental or passive aggressive. People are looking for any excuse to dismiss things that don’t fit their convenience.
Lazy buggers. But we can only do what we can do. Enjoy the sunshine!