Pity the Life of Grey


Watching other people walk on grass whilst they themselves are stuck with concrete and tarmac has aroused an envy in Britain’s urbanites. Lock-downed townies have convinced themselves that it is the life of concrete and tarmac that we should pity. Those living under the hypnosis of concrete melancholy – for whom Nature must seem a distant stranger and urban sprawl a relentless force – are increasingly annoyed that those in the countryside can stretch their legs and soak up the rays amidst acres of greenery. Weren’t we told before this plague reared its ugly head that the countryside was for the thick peasants and yokels who gave Britain Brexit?

Britons consistently overestimate just how much of their land has been paved over. In truth, the urban areas amount to just a few graphite smudges on an otherwise green map, but it’s easy for city dwellers to believe the reverse when any trace of nature arrives to them in some way distorted, not least in its reporting.

We exurbanites know how it is in the cities and towns. The morning sees urbanites synthesise synthetic Vitamin D from cereal just as pale as the milk that drenches it. Their streets are a plague of charity shops and tawdry fast food venues, their platters of grease-drenched polystyrene bearing no resemblance to the animal from which it came. Their only visual reference to the countryside heralds from the commissioned propaganda of the BBC and Channel 4 – programmes not devised to inform city folk of where their meat comes from but to demonise the farmers who supply it.

Of course, few people in the cities are ever architects of their own misery. Many would no doubt prefer a life of hedgerows, local ales, a parson’s guidance and the novelty of road signs read in their own language. But it was decided for workers in the large cities by know-best egalitarians that they should be crowded into concrete enclaves built with little more ambition than for a battery farmed hen. Paid to ‘breed and feed’ on the assumption that they would thank their rearers at the ballot box.

We are told that our cities are bastions of progress, as if they haven’t only conquered the countryside but so too the old prejudices assumed to lie in the minds of its yokels. An assertion reinforced by the metropolitan elite hammering that ubiquitous word ‘diverse’ into its citizenry. How does this diversity now manifest itself? Its people are told that to be killed in some monstrous way is somehow a ‘part and parcel’ of them living there – a contract most don’t recall signing.

To reconnect with the true meaning of the word ‘diverse’, before it was reappropriated by Marxists, one need only look to the abstract canvas of Nature painted with a palette of over four million species of flower. The insipid differences of people’s sexual interests or melanin count cannot hope to compete with Nature’s epic tapestry. Far from diverse, our major cities are remarkably uniform in their greyness. Moreover, studies show that to spend too much time in them can even lead to a ‘greying of the grey matter’.

If one of these greys becomes in danger of raising their spirits, then they need only look skyward to the concrete cadavers of failed Utopia to be disabused of their optimism. It was hoped that tower blocks would act as ‘streets in the sky’, as Trellic Tower architect Erno Goldfinger put it. But how quickly those sky streets began to mirror the urine-mired crime alleys of those beneath them. It was inconceivable to Goldfinger that his Utopia could need security, so to venture the corridors put one at risk of rape or robbery. Brutalism was an expression of human hubris: a rejection of Nature.

This battle between Man and Nature reached an important epoch in 2008 when the World Health Organisation reported for the first time in history more people lived in urbanised areas than in rural. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that an American study which began that same year and ended in 2017 showed that suicide rates in young adults had increased 47 percent during that period.

Can this greying of the mind be remedied? In his poem ‘The Tables Have Turned’, Wordsworth implored us to ‘let nature be our teacher’. As yet more research will show, these weren’t just words of romantic whimsy. Steven Kaplan conducted the study that found cognitive functioning is improved in people who spend their time in rural areas as opposed to their city compatriots.

That depression rates are higher in areas where the spectres of 60s brutalism still loom suggests that progress isn’t an inherent good. But still the progressives march on with their myopic calls for turning the countryside into rewilded parkland for townies. They insist on yet more scores of migrants and yet more concrete squalor with which to contain them – threatening to encroach their grey even further onto God’s green land. Nature may be hierarchical, and its only equality of outcome for now is that we all end in its soil, but even that seems preferable right now to the locked-down graphite labyrinths of egalitarian misery.

James Bembridge is Deputy Editor of Country Squire Magazine.