They went to the Gnome Reserve last weekend whilst I stayed at home mucking about with my website, long overdue for an overhaul.
I wish I had gone. Apparently it is the only one in the world, here right on our doorstep in North Devon! Upon entry, you get given a badge and a gnome hat, and a clipboard and pencil for noting down the number of fairies you see in the woods.
Sorting out the website was a tedious job, and of course I got distracted …
The first thing I looked at was Creative Museums , a fascinating site, where you can browse the collections of nine national museums and galleries. It works a little bit like Facebook : you can leave comments, start groups, and build and share personal collections with others. I spent a happy time drifting around the V & A and the Tate – then I discovered School Tube and their video: ‘Environmental Art Around Google Earth’. How could I resist that!
I had to download the latest version of Google Earth, but couldn’t manage it, so downloaded the previous one, and looked around not only at all the places I have been, but all the places I am planning to visit in the next year or so.
‘The internet is wonderful’, I thought, ‘You can explore the whole world without ever leaving your seat. In fact you can explore the entire known universe…’ I remembered it was the Year of Astronomy and clicked over to spend some time on the Jodrell Bank site and its amazing images. ‘Not only that, but you can communicate with vast numbers of people all over the world!’ So I had a look to see who was around on my social networking sites, and made a comment or two.
Before long I found myself lost in a maze of links and sites – fascinating stuff, but I had completely forgotten how I got there, and what I was supposed to be doing in the first place. I began to get an uneasy feeling (which I ignored) that there was something not quite right about spending one’s life mediated by a screen – especially for someone who is supposed to be interested in the earth.
I had been excited to find so much interesting information on a Sunday afternoon, yet somehow everything had now become flat, homogenised, and mildly dissatisfying, and I couldn’t really take any of it in. What had started out as curiosity had gradually turned into a sense of irritation and general angst.
But I couldn’t tear myself away. And even though my eyes were growing blurry and my neck stiff and painful, I kept on searching for some other bit of fascinating information in the hope it would make me feel a bit better – but it didn’t, and the best I could find were some over-sugared Earth and Spirit sites.
After that, as a sort of antidote, I dived into the great looming environmental disasters: awful stuff about melting glaciers, dying bees, rising sea levels, you name it… It stirred my resolve to do something about it, but not for very long. By now I felt far too depressed.
‘Where will it all end?’ I asked myself, ‘Over the years, I have consumed so many horror stories of environmental catastrophe, and listened to so many apparently well-meaning people exhorting me to ‘do my bit’, that I really can’t decide whether I am scared witless or bored out of my skull.’
At that point my husband came in, beaming all over his face and proudly displaying his Gnome badge. I only wish I had gone with them.