This time of year, two distinct species of flying insects suddenly seem to be in abundance, one welcome, one not so. The welcome one is the butterfly, the incredibly lovely benign flutterers that make those holes in your brassicas forgivable. Apparently in decline, these ridiculously floaty, lighter than air creatures are never an unwelcome sight as they flit around in the sun, drinking flowers and shagging, liberated from their slovenly caterpillar past-life in a manner that defines all that is good about this season.
The bad guy here, however is the wasp. Nasty, insistently belligerant creatures, designed to annoy and ruin any alfresco event. The male wasp’s summer is a microsm of the average male’s life: after being fertile and fun, they then become pointless, turning to booze in the form of the fermenting fruit windfalls they feed off, then drunk, turn towards misanthropy, chiding anyone they stumble across with impotent rage, and resorting to empty headed violence with the minimum of provocation. Kill them. Even if you are the most dedicated Jainist, the most committed vegan, kill them. They give all other black and yellow-attired beasties a bad name, and for every dead wasp a cute fluffy bumble bee gets a little more oxygen.
Earlier this week, Im at Beeston bus station, and Ive got ten minutes before that rare beast, the 18 to Stabbo is due to arrive. I’m a restless type, and didn’t fancy just standing by the shelter, although its probably the best bus stop to do so if you have to. The travellers are 95% pensioners from Stapleford ‘up’ for the day, and their camarederie, conversation and general good humour shows that retirement brings out the best in a human. Compared to the 8am Indigo to Nottingham, where the atmosphere is a fog of resentment and insularity, this is a brilliant thing, and god speed my 60th birthday and its treasure of a bus pass. Yet this particular day, I’m hot and restless, so decide to stroll around towards the derelict wasteland that once was hidden by the dole office, Pet Mart and Beeston Lad’s Club (two out of three of my one- time most frequented buildings). I look over at the little hillocks of debris, now once again coated in lush wild flowers and weeds, and suddenly-blame the sun, blame the fact Im a bit of a frustrated country-boy at heart-suddenly, I was struck by a sight of something I’d never noticed before.
The area, long ran down by the future developers of the sight, looks in more fallow months like a bomb site, all rubble and grey. But right then, I looked over, and saw it as a beautiful testament to the power of nature over its environment, and how when we have successfully screwed the planet so badly we choke ourselves into extinction, nature just carries on. In my long ago days hitching round the country, I’d often come across slip-roads long abandoned, and marvel at how weeds had pushed through the hardcore and asphalt as if it was a mere temporal distraction towards its determination. The whole off Britain is scored with thousands of redundant, post-Beeching train-tracks that have now been eaten up with greenery, in many cases disappearing altogether as chlorophyll usurps steel. And right then, I saw it…
In a few months, Beeston will be witness to Tescofication, whereby a huge Lego-brick of a store will be efficiently, ruthlessly, built on the land it has long held ambition for. The whole saga of how it acquired the land, how it manipulated planning laws and beguiled the planning authorities with the ease only the most blindly greedy monopolistic empires can muster is a tale much told, and as a Beestonian I wont patronise you with rehashing it here. Yes, the town council erred in its attempts to stop it, but Tesco are experts at this, so I’m not going to throw accusations of incompetancy, or indeed corruption towards the civic chambers. Tesco are pros, and could probably knock down Windy Miller’s Windmill should they ever wish to Tescofy fictional areas and have a crack at Trumpton. I imagine that Satan is probably right now trying to make sense of an application they have for a Mega Store just across from the Styx, handy for doing your shop before an eternity in damnation. Hands are tied in ways unimaginably complex. Have an (sadly soon to disappear independent family) butchers at this: http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2009/08/10/tesco-opted/ to see how they work.
But what I saw, what I heard…even what I smelt in that serendipitous moment by the bus stop gave me a sudden rush of inspiration. I looked over, and I saw, at first just one, then gradually dozens of butterflies, free to flirt and flap and dive and drink in a beautiful little nature reserve, right in the middle of Beeston. The perfume of the flowers drifted over, a fresh yet heady odour, in contrast to the diesel stench of the bus stop. The sun shone down on this accidental idyll, and seeds long planted began to sprout within my mind.
There is no need to Tesco, absolutely none. Can’t find something at Sainsbury’s, Lidl, the high-street shops? Please tell, cos I don’t believe you. Would like to do all your shopping in one go, being the busy fellow you are? I don’t need to post a link to GoogleEarth to show you your nearest megaultracollosalstore. So why Tesco?
Because we have ran out of imagination. Why not use this land to develop into a park? Or some affordable housing? Or, why not just leave it to wild? Let it be to grow feral and free, let it flourish . Because that seems the most butterfly idea. Tesco is the wasp, nasty, persistant, destuctive and anti-social. Yet we don’t swot it away, cos we feel it will only sting again. But Beestonians, we can, and we should. Our town is under attack, and I know this might err on the side of over-dramatic, but when a wasp flies too close to you, you will act accordingly.
If a stand is not made, then this time next year those summery scents, those beautiful fluttering insects will be replaced by a nasty, inhuman lump of mediocraty. Where will we go to see the butterflies? Well, give it five years and the high-street will be empty enough for them to fly freely. The wasps will be found in abundance at Tesco, picking off the bins round the back.
Feedback, support, and ideas as always most welcome.