I have lived in Machynlleth Housing Coop for six years and its time to share what I know about coop living. Join me for a Wales Co-operative Centre Learning Together webinar on Friday May 29th between 10am and 11.30. I’ll talk about how we got started and grew, how we work together and some of the pros and cons of cooperative living, and how to manage them. I’m happy to answer any questions about housing coops as well as about our coop specifically. Book through Eventbrite.
I turned 50 in April and my house mates in the housing coop I live in bought me a moth trap for my birthday. This was an incredibly special moment for me as fifteen years ago I wrote a book about moths called Curious Incidents in the Garden at Night-time. Yes, I was under the influence of Mark Haddon at the time. I got completely obsessed with the glorious detail of moths and the mystery of night-time gardens. The book was about climate change and extinction. It was also about coming to terms with loss. At the time we were only beginning to realise the full impact of climate change and I wanted to write about what that meant for our humanity. How the knowledge of such loss could cause us to experience trauma. I was going through an extended period of depression myself, which I sometimes compare to being in Lincolnshire. Everything was flat and I found it very hard to get out of. The moths allowed me to retreat into my imagination and give myself to words and worlds I didn’t really understand too well. A macroscopic destiny. Since then the world has moved ever closer to the brink of a mass extinction event, the consequences of which will be devastating. Most of the world’s human inhabitants barely notice. But those people who do look know what is coming. How do they bear this knowledge I ask myself? They can see that individual species on a mass scale are running out of life. The lockdown has given the natural world some relief from frenetic human activity but we are starting to climb back into our cars and resume our industrious behaviour. I do hope we don’t lose our opportunity to reassess and reflect on where we’re heading. Counting moths in a moth trap is one thing most of us with a a garden can do. Recording the data and letting scientists know helps them understand how the natural world is doing. Moths are an important species to many other species of fauna and flora. We need them, just as we need the bee. But they are often forgotten or despised. Most humans think that moths are just there for eating their clothes or damaging crops, but there are many hundreds of species of moth and only a few are troublesome. Most are pollinating our plants. The technology of a moth trap is simple. Moths are attracted to a light on the trap and make their way inside where they nestle on upturned cardboard egg boxes until they are released in the morning, safe and sound. It’s completely harmless to the moths. I’m not a scientist but this is a great bit of citizen science I can easily contribute to. It has also been a perfect lockdown present. Moths are usually calm in the morning and happy to sit in your hand. Looking at them makes me feel calmer, and helps me to slow down and put the busy garden chores to one side. It is a daily habit that we’re all starting to appreciate. Opening up the moth trap is an event, and each day we seem to find a new species. Here are a few of our favourites so far. I’ll post more pics with extracts from my book as the summer goes on.
On this special day I wanted to share a short film I made during the second day of my first cycle tour of Europe, which started along the Liberation Coast of Normandy. This seemed to me the right place to start an exploration of our relationship with Europe and I spent many subsequent days exploring that relationship visiting numerous World War memorial sites as well as many other points of conflict, as well as those places that brought cooperation and celebration. I heard the last post in Ypres and cycled along the retreat route to Dunkirk, rode the liberation route through Holland to Arnhem, cycled through the Rhineland and Bavaria, visited the birthplace of Adolph Hitler and the death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau. I cycled to Maastricht and Strasbourg, Brussels and Schengen (a tiny village which borders three countries). This is an important day to celebrate the end of that war but also to remember the decision that people made next. To vote for something better. Returning soldiers and those who had suffered on the home front gave the Labour Party a mandate to revolutionise Britain, to create a more equal, fairer society. They did it, and it changed the lives of millions of people, many of them like me who would not have had the access to opportunity we subsequently enjoyed. So I thank the soldiers who fought for all our freedoms, including my Grandad, who crossed the deserts of Northern Africa and the dusty soils of Southern Europe and survived to be a father to my mum. I thank all those who used that courage at home and voted to change our world. And I thank the politicians like Clement Atlee, Aneurin Bevan and Ellen Wilkinson who took their patriotic socialism and delivered radical imperfect change
The UK Cohousing Network have started up an online cafe and are going to be serving up some food for thought every Monday lunchtime during May. First one will be on Monday 11th at 12.30pm. Details on their website. I’ll be there excited to hear what Simon Bayly from Copper Lane Cohousing has to say.
Everyone is saying the world will never be quite the same again after Lockdown but its still up to us to make the changes we want to see. I’ve written a blog for the RSA about the role community housing can play in the new reality. You can find it here.
I live in a housing co-op in Machynlleth, mid-Wales and work as a community housing enabler for the Wales Co-operative Centre. Usually I travel around Wales meeting different community groups who want to create their own housing projects. Now that we’re in lockdown I’m learning how to deliver what I do through other mediums. So over the next few months I’ll be creating some on-line webinars and video content to help people understand what community housing is and how they can do it for themselves. Starting off with this video from my back garden on youtube. Looking forward to meeting you on a zoom webinar sometime soon!
Pleased to say that my blog Ten days that took the world has now been published by the Institute of Welsh Affairs. I wanted to write about the rural experience of Covid-19, community and leadership. I live in the small town of Machynlleth mid-Wales and the community was very quick to act, creating an inspiring mutual aid network that provided information and help for thousands of people in our area. We can navigate the future better with stronger communities but we must ensure our policies, structures and networks are there for everyone.