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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Tuesday, May 09, 2006
    A suggestion of cruelty in the English countryside
     
    Following up yesterday's theme because of a great email from Adrian who observes how brutal is the environment created by the new transportation systems: "As someone who regularly voyages along the A14 I can associate ... with the giant rectangular warehouses which line them - for anyone who thinks an Ikea store is BIG, they should see the Ikea distribution centre near Kettering!"

    This brutality is not 'pure' architecture but is the product of "the force of commerce which took (overtook) natural estuaries and shelter like Southampton Water and the Mersey and made them into those great acre-gobbling ports we used to know (and indeed the Manchester ship canal which I have recently been reading about on your blogs). Now the brutality seems indeed to be inflicted upon those motorway/A road laybys you can't get into 'cos of the artics and on the landscape of, for example, Northampton.

    "Maybe it is simply a different way of commerce and the benefits are on everyone's tables ... but, looked at a different way, there is a replication going on - the dangerous, back-breaking, low-paid work of the dockers replaced by the dangerous (often to other road users), back pain enducing - long hours-take the fuse out to kill the tachograph - culture of the long distance hauliers - and the low paid and family threatening lives of the Southampton and Liverpool sailors replaced by the low paid, family threatening lives of today's sailors now from China, Malasia, and all places much poorer than us."

    All this chimes with Patrick Keiller's observations. It's a truthful, if different way of looking at the country:

    In the rural landscape ... the atmosphere is disconcerting. The windowless sheds of the logistics industry, recent and continuing road construction, spiky mobile 'phone aerials, a proliferation of new fencing of various types, security guards, police helicopters and cameras, new prisons, agribusiness (BSE, genetic engineering, organophosphates, declining wildlife), UK and U.S. military bases (microwaves, radioactivity), mysterious research and training centres, 'independent' schools, eerie commuter villages, rural poverty and the country houses of rich and powerful men of unrestrained habits are visible features of a landscape in which the suggestion of cruelty is never far away.