Archive for April, 2021

Alan Dean z’l

April 25, 2021

To me, Alan was peculiar, unique, an enigma or, maybe, more of a catalyst than anyone I have ever met. Recognising that how we perceive a person says more about us than them, nevertheless, I have to pursue my thinking and feeling in these somewhat strange directions without having any idea where they will lead.

I would like, please, to have a photo of Alan to keep by me and to remember him. That face, those eyes with their twinkle, their eagerness and intelligence. But – why has he died? His work was not complete, and never will be. He embodied ‘appreciative enquiry’. Every now and then he would phone to ask ‘how was I doing’ and, more often than not would end by telling me to look after myself. And I took his words very seriously and so have, in appearance, withdrawn (at least for the time being) from PivotProjects.

So much always appeared to be going on within him at every moment. His brain whirred and worked at incredible speed so that he would listen carefully and ask the simplest of questions, which always ensured that a whole new raft or slew of material would be forthcoming.

It seemed that his appetite and capacity were endless. His ability to formulate and draw upon his experience to illustrate was formidable. Like Puck, he was a will o’ the wisp, popping up here, there and everywhere and wherever he appeared, he would stimulate growth, understanding, engagement. 

We had one long drive together, a few years ago and it was the foundation for all I am writing here because it was then, in some depth, that we got to know one another. I have no idea, no memory of what was revealed and it is entirely unimportant. As Wittgenstein said, in the Tractatus, ‘Not how the world is, is the mystical but that it is.’ That was and will remain, for me, the essence, of Alan. He was a manifestation of Wittgenstein, which is high praise indeed.

It is worth reading this short and entirely comprehensible article about Wittgenstein https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/was-wittgenstein-a-mystic/ because it also describes my Alan. 

‘My’ Alan? He did not belong to me; maybe he belonged to no-one, or to the world, the spirit of the world. Recently, I quoted another phrase from the same book by Wittgenstein, ‘The world of the happy man is a different one from the world of the unhappy man.’ Alan always appeared the same, immutable, unchanging.

But – that surely was me and my limitations, unable to see below the surface. It makes Alan seem inhuman, less than human when he was the very expression of the human, human in its best, very highest form. Inexpressible, inexhaustible, the tsimtzum of being – that was Alan, the mystic withdrawal that allowed and encouraged everyone around, everyone he met, to be in his or her own, particular, peculiar form. 

To say ‘he will be missed’ is the supreme understatement.

Extinction Rebellion Solemn Intention

April 20, 2021

Let us take a moment, this moment, to consider why we are here.

Let us remember our love for this beautiful planet that feeds, nourishes and sustains us.

Let’s remember our love for the whole of humanity, in all corners of the world.

Let’s recollect our sincere desire to protect all this, for ourselves, for all living beings, and for generations to come.

As we act today, may we find the courage to bring this sense of peace, love and appreciation to everyone we encounter, to every word we speak and to every action we make.

We are here for all of us. So may it be.

DollisBrookers – Beginnings

April 14, 2021

DollisBrookers were born initially from three coincidences: a move from North Finchley (where a walk to the Brook was an occasional outing) to Finchley Central – where it could easily take place every day; watching a short video on Rivers as Teachers https://vimeo.com/501219183 (there are also longer versions) and a meeting of the Barnet Climate Action group, which supported the idea.

Surely, however, such a ‘friends of’ already existed? It seemed not. There is the well, long established (1997) Friends of Windsor Open Space (https://fowos.wordpress.com/about/) and the more recent https://darlandsconservationtrust.org.uk, but no group cares for the whole length of the stream, from its source in Moat Mount until it merges with Mutton Brook to become the River Brent.

As an inveterate Twitterer, the place to begin was with tweets and quickly others followed (100 now). A note in NextDoor also caught people’s attention and another 60 joined. But what were we actually going to do? 

Litter and dog fouling were obviously immediate concerns and a group of us, with Tony Sarchet in the forefront, began to plan when and how our first litter-pick might take place. But there were obviously immediate issues: where do the tools come from – bin bags, litter-pickers, ring holders? And though such an expedition should be relatively simple, perhaps a little experience would help. How could we learn? 

Three groups appeared almost instantaneously when they ‘followed’ in the Twitter feed: the SilkStreamers, who had been doing exactly that work on the other side of the Borough (Edgware, Colindale) for two years; the WelshHarpies, who’d been working on the giant and sometimes beautiful (but rubbish infested) reservoir by the North Circular for a similar length of time and https://www.thames21.org.uk

This latter charity emerged out of the first UN Earth Summit of 1992, which set up Agenda21 (hence the name) and its aim was to support the river catchments which fed into the Thames and so help cleanse London’s river. The knowledge and experience of Thames21 was invaluable especially as it ran training courses “Leading Action for Healthy Rivers: Thames21’s flagship training course”. This provides all the necessary theoretical knowledge and once accredited insurance cover is provided for all registered ‘litter-picks’.

But the training also ensures that the litter-pick is transformed. It becomes, for those who are seeking it, a way into the life and health of the river and the life dependent upon it – plants, insects, birds, and wild-life as well as human beings, since we are made up of around 60% water ourselves and depend upon it every day for our lives.

Almost instantaneously, one contact led to another. Barnet Borough Council’ Matt Gunyon, Open Spaces and Leisure Officer, was extremely helpful and supportive and agreed to provide all necessary equipment.

Of course, even from the beginning there were challenges – a particularly disturbing one was the understandable distress of a family whose neighbour in Hendon was renting out a large strip of land that he owned bordering the Brook and behind their house as a car, caravan and children’s party double decker bus park – entirely unsuitable for the area and an eyesore. Would we assist in the interests of nature preservation? At this stage, it seemed a worthy cause but one that could sap all our energy, however sympathetic we might be. First, we needed to build our strength.

In this regard, Feargal Sharkey, once lead vocalist of the punk rock band the Undertones and a keen angler, played a key role. He had long been a fervent national advocate of cleaning our rivers and lived locally. Walking with him along the Brook and meeting together at Darlands with the chair of  https://darlandsconservationtrust.org.uk made it clear that this was an exciting long term project – ten years, just as a start! 

Fortunately, generous help was all around! Andy Savage, once Chair of Stephen’s House and Gardens, knew all about funding and revenue. He’d raised a substantial amount from the Heritage Lottery fund but warned we’d need a proper business plan. It became obvious that a small steering group with a variety of skills would be essential, from looking after social media, to PR and leaflets, admin and finance, as well as botany and biology teachers who could spark our enthusiasms to learn more and more about every aspect of this wonderful world of Dollis Brook which the lockdown was bringing to the forefront of attention of so many of us for the first time. And so we began to put together what we hoped might be the beginnings of a group.

Jeffrey Newman

12 April 2021