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Violence & planting in a window box

Every so often I decide it’s time for me to do my bit to make our shabby estate more beautiful by attempting to plant some flowers in the planter on our balcony. (Don’t be fooled by the pictures in the link. Most of the estate does not look like that!)

Many of you who know me will be laughing at this point. I’m not at all green-fingered, and when I plant things and nurture them they tend to die.

In the times that I have attempted this before, the plants in question have been:

1) Choked to death by the most voracious weeds I’ve ever come across.

2) Massacred by some form of greenfly that clings to the stalks of any plant that’s planted there.

3) Dug out and shat upon by the cat from downstairs.

However, this time around I have attempted again and learnt a few things in the process…

I do want to be able to plant a few herbs to use for cooking. (Boring bit: I’d heard that begonias are good for diverting the greenfly away from things, plus they have a lovely colour that should look great when they grow. So I planted some parsley in the middle of the planter, and two begonias either side.)

Well, the voracious weeds are back. It’s astonishing – I always pull the little buggers out by the root, but they start growing out again, sometimes with little green leaves within the space of 12 hours.

And for some reason, the two begonias on the right are flourishing, but the two on the left are dying! Why?!? I treat them exactly the same!

At the risk of sounding like some rubbishy “Thought for the Day” monologue, this does feel like a bit of a metaphor for estate life and perhaps life in general.

To try and establish a bit of creativity and beauty, to push back the ugliness, is immensely hard, especially when outside forces are so intent on destroying it. Where did these weeds come from?!? There’s hardly any greenery round here! Is it from other people’s un-tended flower boxes (every flat has one)? Did it drift in on the wind? Who knows. All I know is that within about 3 days, if I don’t do weeding, it’s virtually unmanageable.

Also – to establish a critical mass of change in a place requires an effort from everyone. My one window box is not going to change the world, and certainly not going to reign in the daily anti-social behaviour that is a feature of our lives here. If all 13 flats made the effort, we might stand a chance of at least looking a bit nice. We might even get a bit of community spirit.

I’ve been thinking about the lad who was stabbed at Victoria station in rush hour 2 years ago. He’d fled into the ticket hall, as you should, thinking that being in a crowded space would somehow protect him. This is the advice that is generally given. But there was just too many of them. A big crowd of tooled up kids did what they did, and there was nothing anyone could do.

So here I am. Against the critical mass. Just me and my window box. Will there be an army of people come to establish something beautiful? Can my example of a beautiful window box make a difference? Will other people follow suit, in the face of rampant anti-social behaviour and a housing association that couldn’t care less, to try to make the place at least pleasant to look at? Or is the critical mass with those who like to smash things up? Or are too depressed to even try? Or can’t see what the point of trying is?


What do you think?


I think sometimes all you can do is pray.

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