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In Boring fields

In Boring fields the suburbs grow
In Council houses row on row,
A cozy place; and in the sky
The plastic bags still bravely fly
Used once by urbanites below.

We paved the Dead. Short days ago
It lived, sank roots, let seedpods blow,
Ten thousand years, but bid goodbye
to Boring fields.

Dig up the squirrel with backhoe:
On us, the moneyed hands bestow
A coin, a handshake and school tie.
You’ll do no good to wonder why.
We shall not sleep till leaseholds grow
In Boring fields.

Comments

  1. says

    I wonder why you’d think Chris doesn’t know “In Flanders Fields”, David?

    anyway, this reminds me of “barren wasteland” in regard to ANWR

  2. chigau (aaarrgh) says

    jeez, Chris.
    you’re in a mood

    David Hirst
    Did you click Chris’s link?

  3. Amphiox says

    You know that this is a tweak of John McCrae’s ‘In Flanders Fields’?

    What? You think Chris wrote a poem that directly paralleled in cadence and meter and structure one of the most famous poems ever written by accident?

  4. bad Jim says

    Bravo, Mr. Clarke.

    The “boring” bit bites home. Chaparral is what we have where I live, and people dismiss it as “coastal scrub” which would be improved by replacing it with houses and landscaping, trees and lawns. Rather miraculously Laguna Beach managed to preserve a substantial swath of it as a greenbelt. It takes some getting used to, it’s not quite as inviting as the woods that bordered my childhood home back east, but a lot of us learn to love it.

  5. David Hirst says

    Hi all. Yep, I realised Chris knew his source material – my handwave in the direction of In Flanders Fields was intended as a nanoservice to the reader, especially the non-UK one, who might not know the original. By ‘you’ I meant the reader, not Chris, and I’m now red.

    Nice poem, Chris. Apologies to all for looking like a dick.

  6. Ichthyic says

    What? You think Chris wrote a poem that directly paralleled in cadence and meter and structure one of the most famous poems ever written by accident?

    I would actually have been quite impressed if he had, and be recommending he compete with Cuttlefish for poet laureate of FtB.

  7. Lofty says

    The practice of building housing estates on productive farmland is what I call Brick Veneereal Disease, after the favourite Aussie construction method.

  8. Gen, Uppity Ingrate. says

    That’s really nice. Rob, I also got a distinct Wilfred Owen / W.H. Auden feeling from it that I didn’t get from the original so much. That’s why I wanted to post :)

  9. regcheeseman says

    Council houses and old school ties in a poetic retort to a British minister’s crass comment? I didn’t realise you were a Brit, Chris.

  10. unclefrogy says

    as I was reading I was thinking of fields in which they bored a lot of holes as well as a field that was boring.

    there are no fields that bore me only people.
    uncle frogy

  11. says

    According to the “About Nick” page on Boles’ website:

    My parents live on the family sheep farm in Devon. 300 hundred [sic] acres of heavy clay soil divided into small fields by high banks with hedges on top. It’s a far cry from big fields of Lincolnshire silt that are a modern tractor driver’s dream. But, like so much of the English countryside, it owes its preservation to the dedication and commitment of generations of English farmers.

    Hokey-dokey. I think I know where I can find 300 (or possibly 30,000?) acres of land just crying out for a council estate…

  12. says

    Oh gawd. And the very next paragraph:

    After school, I spent nearly a year teaching English and Bible Studies in a small Methodist secondary school in the middle of the bush in Zimbabwe. It is heart-breaking to see what Robert Mugabe’s brutal leadership has done to a country that I remember as beautiful, fertile and full of potential.

    Yep, Bible studies. It’s nice to see the essential stuff being given priority.

  13. Moggie says

    David Hirst:

    You know that this is a tweak of John McCrae’s ‘In Flanders Fields’?

    Oh really? I thought it was ‘In Dillman’s Grove’.
    /rolleyes

    Incidentally, David, McCrae was Canadian, and the poem is probably better known in Canada than in the UK.

  14. Richard Smith says

    Reminds me somewhat of “Little Boxes” by Malvina Reynolds…

    Little boxes on the hillside,
    Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
    Little boxes on the hillside,
    Little boxes all the same.
    There’s a green one and a pink one
    And a blue one and a yellow one,
    And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
    And they all look just the same.

    And the people in the houses
    All went to the university,
    Where they were put in boxes
    And they came out all the same,
    And there’s doctors and lawyers,
    And business executives,
    And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
    And they all look just the same.

    And they all play on the golf course
    And drink their martinis dry,
    And they all have pretty children
    And the children go to school,
    And the children go to summer camp
    And then to the university,
    Where they are put in boxes
    And they come out all the same.

    And the boys go into business
    And marry and raise a family
    In boxes made of ticky tacky
    And they all look just the same.
    There’s a green one and a pink one
    And a blue one and a yellow one,
    And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
    And they all look just the same.

  15. randay says

    Younger readers may not know Joni Mitchell. Here is her song, “Big Yellow Taxi”, “You take paradise and put up a parking lot.”

  16. Rob Grigjanis says

    randay @23:

    Younger readers may not know Joni Mitchell.

    I’d have said that was unthinkable until I learned that some thirty-something friends couldn’t name the Beatles. Kids these days.

    Recent interview with JM here.

  17. says

    The practice of building housing estates on productive farmland is what I call Brick Veneereal Disease

    What do you call the place where I grew up? The Green River Valley — gorgeous rich farmland, beautiful steelhead river, one of those lovely flood plains that used to get fresh silt and soil deposited every year until they dammed up the river. There were places I spent my childhood wandering through swamps and fields and forests, and I watched them disappear. But it wasn’t housing. It was Boeing. It was warehouses — there are amazing long stretches of faceless dull warehouses along there. It was commercial properties — strip malls and gas stations and banks. And worst of all, parking lots. Endless acres of parking lots.

    There are places I knew as lovely green patches with meandering streams and duck ponds and thickets of blackberries, maybe abutting a cornfield or a dilapidated turn of the century barn, the kind of scenic and rustic vista that gets turned into painting that goes up in a Republican senator’s office…that I watched get leveled and dredged and covered in asphalt.

  18. sundiver says

    Rob: 15 years ago I heard a friend’s guitar student refer to the Beatles as “Paul McCartney’s 1st back-up band”.

  19. Trebuchet says

    @PZ:

    What do you call the place where I grew up? The Green River Valley…

    I was thinking about that valley as I read the thread. My first real job was at a place on the northeastern margin of it and I drove through it often, watching the development start even then, forty years ago. I was encouraged when the voters passed a farmland preservation act not too long after but there was a limit on interest rates that could be paid on bonds for buying up and preserving farmlands. Interest rates almost immediately spiked and the act was ineffective.

    The southern end of the valley isn’t too terrible even now, but man, that north end around Southcenter!

  20. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    I’d have said that was unthinkable until I learned that some thirty-something friends couldn’t name the Beatles. Kids these days.

    I had a college student a few months ago looking for materials on politics & music. She said, “I can’t think of anyone to talk about from the 60s!” I said, “Oh, what about Bob Dylan?” She said, “Who’s Bob Dylan?”

    /dies a little inside.

  21. tariqata says

    Pointed and moving to this budding urban planner (and I work on housing policy issues, no less).

  22. cm's changeable moniker (quaint, if not charming) says

    To me there’s something not quite right about this post. It’s a Conservative MP complaining to Conservative HQ that the Labour/Libdem coalition that runs the local authority is allowing this development, and she’s getting pushback from the Conservative/Libdem coalition at HQ that it should be allowed.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-nottinghamshire-18099881

    Also, “Ten thousand years”. More likely less than a thousand, probably no more than 300-400. This is Nottinghamshire: Robin Hood, Sherwood Forest … It’s not virgin prairie; that green belt they’re talking about is actually the result of fairly catastrophic deforestation; woodland converted to intensive mechanised agriculture.

    Seems to me they’re peeling some unproductive bits off round the edges for housing. Are houses (gardens, bird feeders, flower beds, ornamental fruit trees) better or worse than a field of oilseed rape or a disused barn and a stack of tractor tyres? *don’t know*

    Oh, and, Louis?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOEIRI5HSuQ

    .

  23. cm's changeable moniker (quaint, if not charming) says

    Sorry, I am also in a mood today, too. A quibbly mood! ;-)

  24. magistramarla says

    The bit about the plastic bags makes me think about my shopping trip today.
    We’ve been living on the coast of California, where several towns have banned plastic bags.
    We’ve gotten used to carrying reusable bags in the boot of the Prius and automatically using them.
    We’re now living in Texas, where we get dirty looks for driving a Prius and for using the reusable bags.
    (It’s not supporting the Texas oil companies, don’tcha’ know?)
    The cashier and the bagger at the commissary didn’t quite know what to make of someone who actually cares about the environment.
    I really, really want to return to California!

  25. randay says

    Re: Green River Valley. When I was growing up in San Diego, CA in the sixties there was a river running through a valley north of the downtown area. Mission Valley was a wide flood plain(and still floods from time to time)with a few farms and various trees, reeds, and other plants. A two lane highway led from the interior to the sea.

    Then they built SD’s first shopping mall there followed by housing developments. Then more shopping malls, housing, and what is now an eight-lane freeway on the south and a six-lane road on the north. It is almost entirely filled up. Mission Valley could have been SD’s more wild Central Park. There is the smaller and beautiful Balboa Park near the center, but it was cut through by SD’s first freeway leading to downtown. Before all this, new development had been made on rather barren flat hills around the valley..

    Here is a report on England’s greenbelts: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-45ZfKLamg

  26. =8)-DX says

    I’m not big on the environmental aspects of municipal development, but it’s always seemed to me that the cycle of urban sprawl remains the same:

    1. Find “ugly” land near urban sprawl.
    2. Cut down trees, fill in ponds, flatten land.
    3. Build more buildings and roads and utilities.
    4. Look at land near the new buildings and roads.
    5. Oh surprise! Go to 1.

  27. Thumper; Atheist mate says

    Wow, Chris, that’s pretty hard hitting. I like it :)

    And I totally agree with the message too. I hate the idea that fields and wilderness are “boring”. They’re not, they’re fucking brilliant! Grey concrete, black tarmac, and identical terraced housing? Now that’s boring. The cities have their charms, but the look of the place is not one of them.