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30 April 2008

The grey goose has gone

May’s about to arrive. I’m looking forward to it. April’s been fun but I’ve been left with sadness. Three of my favourite people died in March and I’ve been coming to terms with this loss.

On March 18th Anthony Minghella died. I couldn’t believe my ears. I was eagerly awaiting the screening of his latest film (set in Botswana) so he was already on my mind. Africa was also on my mind. I’ve hitch-hiked through Botswana and so I wanted to see the film and how the land and people were portrayed. Also, the English Patient is one of my favourite book/film duets. Okay, so you can criticise the film, and perhaps the book’s sweeping romanticism, but wow, what rich multi-layered mapping, and what a base map to operate with – desert Africa.

The desert could not be claimed or owned – it was a piece of cloth carried by winds, never held down by stones, and given a hundred shifting names long before Canterbury existed, long before battles and treaties quilted Europe and the East. Its caravans, those strange rambling feasts and cultures, left nothing behind, not an ember (Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient 1993: 150).

When I went to sleep on this news, I was thinking about embers and sand, the early death of Minghella and what might have been. What amazing film/book duets I dreamt of. When I awoke on March 19th, I was orbited into star dust. Arthur C. Clarke had died. How I would have liked to dive with him. Whereas Ondaatje and Minghella took me on a temporary visit to Africa, and let me explore it through literacy, love and landscape, Arthur C. Clarke, it felt, was taking me on this never-ending journey – an outer, inner and world space safari. His 90th birthday wishes say it all: ‘for ET to call, for man to kick his oil habit and for peace in Sri Lanka’ ( : March 18, 2008).

A critical – the adjective is important here – reading of science fiction is essential for anyone wishing to look more than ten years ahead. The facts of the future can hardly be imagined abinito by those who are unfamiliar with the fantasies of the past (Arthur C. Clarke Profiles of the Future 1973: p15).

Reading science fiction is important to my work, for sustainability is also futurology. You have to read it, you have to project when you set about designing. Looking through my home window on a daily basis is also important. March 22nd saw the death of my grey goose. He was 22, not old for a goose. How I miss him in the garden. He shaped the garden. He had different parts of the garden for different parts of the day and to handle the different weathers. His mapping is one of the home. He shaped where I put the herbs. I had to leave a place for him beneath the window so he could listen to the radio. Watching him and his habits, inspired me as much as the worldly work of Clarke and Minghella.