Thursday 3 July 2008

PS: Bacteria Gardens - not as bad as it looks

Forgot to add that the wheelie bins (see below) were photographed after a night of gales; our admittedly rather squalid back lanes usually have neat rows of upright bins left permanently outside just to annoy the council, inviting would-be burglars to climb on them to test which yard contains a ferocious dog or a vulnerable-looking back door. The bins, also prone to being moved about by the wind or by footballing students, mostly sport heavily indented lids as a result, but there seems to be deep unspoken resistance to the idea of keeping this large green monstrosity inside the yard, especially if that's what our preachy council wants us to do. Civil disobedience in miniature.

When I first moved to Newcastle in 1977, I was horrified in a frankly snobbish sort of way to find that these back lanes were everywhere, all looking much the same, many still cobbled then, in poor repair, and matching the rather poky yards (many still with coalhouse and outside loo) that even the most well-heeled homes sported instead of back gardens. There have been many proposals submitted over the years to do something, anything, to improve the look of these back lanes, but nothing seems to be feasible; the most affordable means of obtaining a garden in this city would be to live in a council property. But then you probably wouldn't get a GP surgery or a dentist within daylight travelling distance. Even the street names, e.g. our own Bacteria Gardens, are a historical reference to the previous existence of allotments where our sober Edwardian homes now stand; evidently the concreting/tarmacing-over of our streets was well underway in 1900.

Despite all this, a short stroll up and down Bacteria Gardens in the evening can yield memorable sights: a large owl pausing on a chimney; a pair of pipistrelles hunting up and down the hydrangea outside my window; swallows shrieking and whirling over the rooftops; masonry bees and a solitary wasp, all building busily, and two years ago, a wonderful hummingbird hawkshead moth staking out the valerian that has become the street's most thuggish pavement-sprouting plant. Early mornings can reveal a fox trotting nimbly round the streets looking for handy fallen bins and last night's discarded fast food boxes. And, of course, the snails, the snails; they just love it round here, and demonstrate this by sheer force of numbers. What it would be like if we actually had real gardens is beyond imagining, but I bet the council would be writing new rules and regulations about them, and we would just as energetically ignore them.

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