Monday, 1 September 2014

You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone

It's a sign of age that random song lyrics from decades ago keep popping up in my mind as I read the online news. However, just sometimes, instead of this being random mental noise it means something. Or so I'd like to think. 

And so reading Boris' appeal for for a Thames estuary airport, those lines from Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi popped up. I know those bleak, uninhabited waters well, between Medway and London. Thousands of acres of glutinous, stinking mud where only little islands of grass as tough as Kevlar can live, littered with the rusting hulks of dead ships, and the collapsing skeletal remains of piers and jetties where man has failed to establish life on those hostile, cold and desolate shores. Even the first Thames shelter - Gravesend - is locked behind twisting, treacherous mudbanks and offers scant welcome. It's the land of the dead, of secret murders, will-o-the-wisps and nameless evils, where no decent person would moor after dark. So perfect then, for a new London airport, you'd think.

Except that once it's built, we'll wax rhapsodic about Europe's last unspoilt wilderness, now lost; the beauty of the quiet marshes where only the haunting cry of the curlew moved the air, the joy of a sail from the little Hobbiton shire town of Leigh-on-Sea across the sunlit waters to a deserted eyot for a Summer's picnic, then back for the blazing inglenook of an ancient pub. We'll mourn the loss of such an extensive area of natural beauty so close to London, the vast skies kissing a flat horizon, and discover tiny bright flowers and viridian mosses that have been lost. The ancient wood of dead ships is smooth and silver and somehow living, and even the rough pitted chestnut-brown of rusted hull plates sparkling in the Sun offers a vivid chromacity in contrast to the colours of earth and sky. We will have desecrated something irreplaceable. 

Such of course was the case with Dungerness marshes - as bleak, hostile and ugly as above until Derek Jarman found a beauty and a value there, and today his little cottage stands sentinel over a much-loved landscape.

Just saying. 

 

13 comments:

G. Tingey said...

Like the strange country of the Dengie, you mean?
Where somewhere out there, especially on a misty Autumn day, you know there's sky & land & sea ( & marsh) but where each stops & begins is by no means clear.
A strange & lovely place indeed.
[ Superb pubs, too! ]

Sebastian Weetabix said...

It won't be built, because it cannot be built there. The basic problem is that their proposed site is too close to Schipol - aircraft will not be able to reach cruising altitude before hitting the Schipol ATC area with attendant chaos (alternatively they could turn back towards London to gain altitude, but that rather defeats the object, does it not?). Additionally there is too much fog, the likelihood of birdstrikes due to the huge numbers of birds in the marshes nearby, and the wreck of the SS Richard Montgomery which could still blow up and destroy everything in a 3 mile radius.

If Boris or his team had spent 30 seconds on the phone to the CAA, or anyone else with even cursory knowledge of aviation, they would know this idea was a mad as a box of frogs. But of course being Eton/Oxbridge essay writers without a numerate bone in their heads, they don't. Their chums in the media are no better.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, Team Boris. A toxic bunch of chancers, there. Watch out, Tory Party, if they ever take over the reins.

Anonymous said...

Raedwald and Greg; you've sold it to me! I'm on my way; especially to the "Inglenook" style pub!

Coney Island

Anonymous said...

Aye, I remember the day I bought the Genesis album 'Selling England by the Pound' - only because it had the hit single 'You Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)' on it. I was a little too young for prog rock but I liked the English folk influences which permeated the genre.

England is more than five times smaller than Texas - you could easily fit the whole of the South West into San Bernardino County, California.

And still they come - which is a line from another song by a different group of the same genre.

Steve

Demetrius said...

Another blogger mentions the fog. When there is a long blocking "high" it can be bad for weeks, not hours. Also, there is the occasional big storm to worry about in that part of the coast. If we did want a mega hub new built one of the flatter bits of mid Oxfordshire would be best for a variety of reasons. Now I wonder why nobody has thought of that?

Anonymous said...

That 'hut' is next to a super little railway, I like Dungeness a good spot for nuclear power too, until the green idiots decreed no new power station because of rising sea levels..............with transmission lines in place FFS.

mikebravo said...

Looks like Boris has thrown the towel in. And his teddies out of the pram!

Ian Hills said...

"A pile of stinking mud that is forever England" has a certain, if less than bucolic, ring to it.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

Nice post R, thank you.

I have similar feelings about the Blackwater/Crouch marshes slightly further North, where I spent many happy hours as a boy dinghy-sailing, birdwatching, just walking along the seawalls, and in rather later years, enjoying those wonderful black-tarred pubs, many of them Ridleys or Greene King houses.

Mostly spoiled already, of course, by over-development and the loss of almost all the pubs, but the magic is still there if you look and listen.

Not for much longer perhaps...

Anonymous said...

Just concrete over the isle of Sheppey. No one would notice.

G. Tingey said...

WY
I already mentioned the Dengie ....
Burnham (on Crouch) is at the bottom edge of that.
I think you are mistaken - the last time I looked, the Cap & Feathers @ Tillingham was doing a good trade ....

Braqueish said...

Nicely witten, as always. The English have always veered between a fear of the wilderness and an irrational desire for it. The Wash is currently in vogue, but the wastes of Sheppey are out.

Seriously, though, the Boris plan is nonsense for the reasons elucidated by your other well-informed commenters. Bird strikes, air congestion, frequent fogginess, and so on.

Whether that terminally-congested corner of Middlesex can support another Heathrow runway is a different question.