Friday, November 17, 2006

Re-post: Dry stone walls - Mar 05

From Friday, March 11, 2005

A long ramble, vaguely related to dry stone walls

I slept last night from 10pm until 8am this morning and am feeling much better for it. Still full of cold, sneezing etc., but the sun's shining and Blogger comments are working again! So I'm a lot happier. I'm wondering how best to spend my day today. There's so much that needs doing.

Ideally I'd like to work out in the field. The dry stone walls all around the field are broken, and I noticed something really interesting last week. A little band of boys had come up the hill to grass-sledge down the public footpath. I had a chat with them, told them about the deer. They seemed like really nice kids. The eldest (about 8) was doing a bit of a tough-boy routine, but when I told him about the deer he said he'd be frightened of them! How far away from natural living have we come, when strapping young lads are frightened of deer? I put him straight: "Oh no! The deer are much more frightened of us. They'll run away and hide as soon as they hear or see you."

Eventually I got back to my path-digging and the boys sledged a bit more, then started to wander back to their homes again, through the top fields this time. They were a bored-looking, straggly group, kicking grass and bickering a bit as they went. Some of the walls around the top fields are in need of repair too, though these fields are owned by the dairy farm and hence, not my problem. But as they went past a broken bit of wall the boys, in their boredom, started breaking more off it and throwing the stones around. They soon tired of this too and carried on their journey without having caused a lot of extra damage, but it started me thinking about a couple of things:

Chaos attracts chaos and decay attracts decay. The boys weren't interested in damaging the walls that were intact. It just wouldn't have occurred to them. But if something's damaged, it appeals to bored young minds to speed the process up, by adding their own bit of damage. Why? I think I've got some tentative reasons. Young lads are full of physical creative energy. If they can't put it to productive use, they'll put it to destructive use instead. That kind of energy has to go somewhere.

Once upon a time they'd have been employed, quite legally, to labour for stone-wallers at their age. They'd have been well-supervised by the adult, taught how to repair the walls and they'd have gained satisfaction and pride in the end results. Nowadays, we have to pay someone £500 per week to repair stone walls (not that I can afford to) and about as much again for the amount of new stone they'd get through in that time. It's highly-skilled labour. Children are of no use to us except to sit in classrooms 5 days a week and be 'taught' how to read and write. What are they supposed to do at the weekends? Not society's problem. Except that it is society's problem, because society is having its walls and everything else wrecked by bored, frustrated kids.

My walls will stay broken for now, because there's no-one to look after my children for the 200 hours it would take me to fix them. And there's an interesting thing. I've got 3 potential workers here myself: one to babysit, and 2 to help me wall-build. I haven't asked them to help because I don't like to influence their decisions about how they spend their time. I'd much rather one of them thought: those walls are collapsing: I'll fix them. Why doesn't that happen? 2 reasons: it probably doesn't occur to them they CAN fix them, and they actually don't care whether they're broken or not.

I recently asked Ali what he'd do with the field if it was his. The answer? "Sell it." I was stunned! "You can't sell land! It's for your children, your grandchildren! You can't sell it!" He just shrugged and walked away.

What's the point in keeping land for your children if they don't even want it? Maybe it's a teenage thing. Or maybe the landowning instinct has had its day, and the way of the future is virtual living, in virtual space.

There are proper answers to all this somewhere, that will make it all make sense and fall into place - just waiting for me to work them out.

posted by Gill at 8:22 AM 7 comments


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