Monthly Archives: August 2011

Interesting hedge pictures wanted…

I’m just in the final stages of getting Hedge Britannia ready for publication.

I spent a lot of time in the last couple of years taking pictures of interesting hedges, topiary, weird hedgelike objects, hedge mazes, hedgelaying, hedges made of unusual species and so on. And now I am whittling down the results to choose the photos that will go in the book.

But I could still do with a few more, especially of eccentric topiaries, rural hedgerows, leylandii monstrosities and unusual hedges in general – so if anyone has an interesting hedge (or a nice picture of someone else’s hedge) and wouldn’t mind me sending me a photo to use in the book, you can contact me at hughbarker@live.co.uk – all contributions gratefully accepted and will of course be properly credited.

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Greek hedges and trees

I was recently in Kefalonia for a week’s holiday. Inevitably a few of my holiday pictures ended up being of hedges and trees, so here are a few thoughts, based on entirely unscientific observations of the immediate area I was staying in (near Argostoli).

The range of trees in Greece is pretty spectacular, with lots of the obvious species like lemon, fig and olive: here’s one of each of those.

(There were plenty of big fig trees, but this one amused me because it was just growing in a crack in the pavement).

When it comes to hedges. the Greek climate mostly doesn’t encourage a dense British-style hedge, so you get two main types of hedge. Firstly you get slightly flimsy flowering hedges like these ones:

This shrub is quite common in the flimsy style of hedge (not sure what it is called)

Secondly you get denser, low hedges, more like an ornamental border. For instance this one at the airport, complete with “Keep of the grass” sign (sic).

And this one, which amuses me because of the symmetry of the hedges containing a garden with nothing in it. (I suspect the British owners of these apartments can be blamed for the slightly neurotic design of this):

Finally, there were plenty of trees I couldn’t identify. I’m not sure whether this triffid is technically a tree or not, but it is definitely pretty weird and a bit scary. It was growing almost horizontally out of the roadside bank, which was also full of strange little cacti:

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Hedges, house price bubbles and rioting kids

Hedge Britannia is partly about the way that hedges represent the division of property, land and wealth in society.

Like most people I’m disgusted by the rioting and firstly want the police, parents and politicians to get a grip on the situation. But when the time comes to reflect on the root causes, it’s worth thinking about the role house prices have played in our current economic mess.

Banks lending excessively against property drove a huge boom in house prices and rent. At the same time, the government bill for benefits rocketed. But the largest part of the increase was in the housing benefit bill.

This means that the real beneficiaries of the increase in benefits payments weren’t the claimants themselves, but the banks (via interest) and the landlords (who got their mortgages paid).  It also increased the severity of the poverty gap – rents in London and many other cities have reached ludicrous levels, largely because of the bubble, and it is now harder than ever for someone on housing benefit to find a job which will pay those rents.

So the housing bubble represented a wealth transfer from the many to the few. But now it has imploded, this process has been cemented because, rather than let house prices collapse (which would bankrupt the banks and hurt property owners), the government and Bank of England are trying to inflate the debt away via near-zero rates. It is the stated policy of the BOE to allow inflation to continue at high levels so long as real wage levels don’t rise. In other words, our currency is being debased, and we are all being impoverished to bail out the bankers and those who borrowed heavily against property.

At the same time, the idea has taken hold that the national debt should be blamed on benefits claimants rather than the bankers. Many of the poorest kids have already lost EMA, which gave them £35 a week or so spending money. Their families are being targeted by housing benefit caps (while the landlords are not threatened with rent controls, which would be a far more direct way to limit the flow of money from taxpayers to banks and landlords via housing benefit). And in addition, real wage levels are falling as prices increase faster than wages or benefits, so everyone is worse off, whether on the dole, minimum wage or whatever.

In a dimwitted, criminalised way, going out robbing and rioting is partly a response to these pressures and the perception that the system is rigged against the poorest.

So maybe we should spare a thought for those kids from poor areas who aren’t rioting. They are the ones who are being made ever poorer to save the wealthiest in society. They are also the ones who tend to be the victims of knife crime and gang culture, and who get bullied by the criminal minority on a daily basis. And now their communities are being worst hit by the looting and arson.

The fact that the criminal minority have been behaving like complete morons shouldn’t allow us to forget that there are others out there who have a genuine right to be angry. And those in the media, political class and elsewhere who believed HOUSE PRICES UP and BANK LENDING RISES are always good news stories should remember that their cheerleading for the bankers’ debt bubble helped create this situation.

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Adrian Mitchell, riots and firefighters

Nothing to do with hedges, just wanted to link to this post on Jen’s blog with a lovely quote from a letter by Adrian Mitchell…

http://jen-campbell.blogspot.com/2011/08/i-heart-london.html

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