Blog News

1. Comments are still disabled though I am thinking of enabling them again.

2. There are now several extra pages - Poetry Index, Travel, Education, Childish Things - accessible at the top of the page. They index entires before October 2013.

3. I will, in the next few weeks, be adding new pages with other indexes.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Things I Miss About England #1 Grass

You remember my series of posts with the generic title "To Put Away Chidish Things"?
This is your first time here?
OK. No worries, go and look them up. I'll wait.

(drums fingers)

Well, I haven't done any for ages and I can't think of any new ones so I've decided to start a new series about the things I miss about England. Some will be obvious, some maybe not so obvious.
For those who came in late, I now live in Baiyin, a city you may never have heard of in Gansu province in the north of China. I've been here for almost two years now and (though you may not believe it from these posts) I love living here. I do miss some things about England though. So, without further ado, here's the first one.


I thought that what I missed was the colour green. Baiyin is in the middle of a desert and the predominant colours around here are grey and brown. I remember, when I first got here, walking around one of the city's many parks and looking at the bare trees with their jagged naked branches and thinking how bleak and barren it all was.
Well we are at the end of spring now, gradually shading into summer and last week, as I often do, I took another walk. The trees in the park are now mostly green. Some of them were just losing the last of the blossom which a slight breeze was blowing through the air like gentle snowflakes.
I can look from my window at the trees that line the streets or the curious little allotments that go with some of the apartment blocks and I can definitely see green.
In the park I realised what the difference is. It's grass. If I walk around a park in England the trees are surrounded by grass, neatly trimmed, beautifully turned out lawns. Here, apart from one very small area in the centre of the park the ground is grey. There are plenty of trees but they are surrounded by hard, dry, grey ground. Even on the very rare occasions that it rains, the ground is so hard that the water may make the surface slippery but doesn't penetrate far enough for actual mud.
There is no grass.
And those trees outside my apartment? Well in suburban England if you walk around the streets most houses will have a garden of some sort in front and for most of them the predominant feature is grass. Even city dwellers don't usually have to go far to find streets where the houses have gardens.
Here in Baiyin there are no houses as such. Everyone in the whole city lives in apartments and the apartments don't have gardens. The spaces between them are either more of that bone hard earth or actual concrete. Shades of grey. The trees in the streets are each planted in a two foot square where the concrete paving has been left out so that the tree can be put into the earth. The earth is the same colour as the concrete.

So I've decided that what I really miss isn't green - at least not at this time of year - it's grass. Short, nice lawns; overgrown, untidy masses; long grass that brushes moisture onto your legs when you walk through it; buttercup-covered grassy meadows; bluebell-covered grassy forest floors.

I don't want to be a gardener, I've always hated gardening (though I like sitting in a garden) but I wonder if I could get one of those allotments and a large sack of grass seed and just water it and watch it grow.