The I.S.S.

So, let’s kind of agree that allotments began in medieval times. The feudal strip farming systems that gave the serfs and villeins a place to produce their own food.

At a time when mankind was concerned with the ground and making it work to sustain life … and wild birds were a source of food – if they weren’t the exclusive preserve of the landed gentry and poaching (with blunt ended arrows for example) would have you outlawed or having your fingers removed.


Or, just sometimes a source of wonder: just how did they fly? Where do they go? What can they do, that we, the earth-bound cannot?

And, earlier this week Major Tim Peake, former military test pilot, became the first Briton to spacewalk, early in his six month stay on the International Space Station.

Image result for tim peake 

This is, indeed, progress. The whole sale long-term big picture conquering not only of terrestrial flight, powered, faster, further and more comfortable … but that of space beyond our atmosphere.

Seeing the physical world, in all its entirety, as it really exists. Not as in an atlas; with political boundaries: pure and precious. A world that could not be imagined by any human back in the days of European strip-farming.

And food production has changed too, the range of crops, the methodologies, the morals and the abundance for some and lack for others.

But even as he was spinning around in orbit at prodigious speeds; my allotment, invisible but vibrant is below. I can look up – if I pick the correct times and skies are clear and see his passage. But he can see neither me nor my tiny plot. The piece of ground that has been rented and fed the local community in all of its evolutions, glories and misdemeanours since 1892 (and who was flying then?). The piece of ground that is my therapy, challenge and cheer. Things go well; I learn a little, talk a little, work out a little and wonder a lot.

Travel has widened horizons, made the world smaller (if not always better). The people who toiled here in 1892 laboured long and hard for money, then worked the ground for themselves: life is easier in those respects it can be argued – though modern life has its tensions.

They would have marvelled at some of the crops I grow I guess, at technology and the pace of life. But I also guess they had the ability to roll up sleeves and come to terms with it too; the new countries, fashions, customs, foods so readily available …

Meanwhile the Earth still spins and the I.S.S, wonderful symbol of cooperation orbits us all. And Tim Peake is the first Briton, flying the flag at a new frontier.

Progress, though it brings fits and starts, is undeniable, but the survival of allotments is no bad thing; although they are, necessarily far removed from the subsistence days of the Dark Ages. Flying weightless in the heavens just had to be beyond the ken of those feudal gardeners.

Didn’t it?


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