In our recent brief island Spring (one week of sun and then the rain and wind started again) Tiddler made the most of the back yard. We strung up a new bird feeder (new to us- Digger was given it to throw away with some garden rubbish but found a new home for it instead), we filled up the larger-than-my-hand scallop shell that I brought back years ago from a beach in beautiful Skye that serves us as a birdbath, we watered the beginnings of our strawberry crop and generally spuddled about. When there is a warmth on our skin, we uncoil ourselves from our wintery armour-plated self defences, and so everything becomes more soft and vivid somehow.
Tiddler wanted to paint, so we took inspiration from Curitiba and set to. If you want a really detailed insight into this beacon of sustainable urban planning read here, but for those of us with small children and lots of jobs to do, read on. Despite all evidence elsewhere in South America and further afield for the sometimes appalling consequences of mass rural-urban migration, rapid economic transition and the resulting brown agenda, the Brazilian city of Curitiba has managed to show amazing success in the ‘green’ and community based arenas. From greening the city with parks, that double (or triple?) as flood protection and urban sheep paddocks, to bi-articulated Alcool (that’s not a spelling error before you tip me the wink) buses, to the trading of surplus agricultural products in return for garbage collection and recycling, the former mayor Jamie Lerner made some major and profound links and decision making in the built and living infrastructures of the city. So much so, that Curitiba is still rated, years on, as one of the happiest places to live in South America.
Anyway, I digress. Back to the painting. One scheme to prevent cars driving over a newly pedestrianised area was to bring in children to take part in art classes in the street, a habit that still continues to this day despite the mall being well and truly established by now. In our yard, Tiddler got the paints out and started splattering away, but then seemed to lose confidence and instead rolled out a list of instructions of dinosaurs, snakes, viking and other such fierce and roar-y creatures that I was required to paint. We went down Seurat’s route and opted for a little bit of post-impressionism on the fearful creature front.
I suppose my philosophising today is really about vision, leadership and goals. Visualising that Curitiba’s congested central urban network of roads could be transformed into a paved mall was a huge concept in itself. Jamie Lerner’s team suggested it could be done in four months. He responded that to prevent any of the shops and business taking an injunction before completion it was be done in 48 hours. And so it was.
Sometimes the ‘impossible’ is perhaps attainable, if we determine that it will be so.