Monday, 11 August 2008

Dots before my eyes

I've been noticing that the street has been very quiet these last few days. I don't live on a main road. I live very close to the town centre on a street where there is usually a bit of traffic and people coming and going. Anyway, given the current ghost town mood, what I am wanting to know is, have most of the neighbours gone away en masse all of a sudden? Are they all staying indoors watching the Olympic Games?

Coming back into town, we got caught up in a huge unmoving traffic jam. Suddenly, the streets were packed with stationary cars full of people going nowhere. After gazing out of the window at home earlier wondering where everyone was, I now discovered that they were all right here with me on this road. After forty minutes still in the same spot, I was tempted to abandon the car on the kerb and walk home. 

Internally, I screamed with full fury and instantly felt better. That bit of catharsis over and done with, I started to think about this overcrowded corner of England, and how many of us live in its towns and cities. Drought measures so easily come into play here. Gridlock ceases up the roads. More and more new buildings are heading skyward just a street of two away from the centre of town.

I was imagining a large scale map that showed us all as an individual dot or a oddly shaped blob where we live. My street would be obscenely covered as most of the houses now hold four or more flats -in fact, the whole of Brighton would be. There would be few surprises if you looked at the blobs across the UK. 

But what I was also thinking is, if there is a only certain amount of the land on this earth that is reasonable to inhabit - meaning not a volcano or an ice flow - then how much of the earth's land do we as a world population take up? And also, miraculously, if overcrowding and bad housing and shanty towns and refugee camps were banned by world decree and we all contentedly lived a reasonable distance apart, would there be any room left? Would there be any vast expanses of wild land?

Dots before my weary eyes, speckling shadows from the trees overhead, the shimmer of heat from the car bonnet, behind us the gut thudding of a bass line without the rest of the song. Five minutes from home felt like way too far.