By 2025, one-third of us will live in cities. By 2050. mega-cities will be commonplace, as compared to 1975 when there were three. What images this conjures depends on the films one sees. Great, howling tower blocks with crawling, seething gutters where the poor and dispossessed scrabble for a living springs to mind. When I arrived in St Julien last week, I supposed myself to be ‘in the country’. Put another way, ‘in the middle of nowhere’. This is, of course. substantially true; there’s twenty seven acres of land and the sound of human habitation is pretty much confined to a train passing in the distance – surprising how loud, intrusive and mechanical it is – and whatever sounds are being made indoors.
And yet, I found myself in the middle of a city, or better, a republic. Not populated by human beings, but by a menagerie of teeming, seething life. I counted at least ten different butterfly species flitting amidst the wild lavender, visiting, revisiting, moving on. Cleverly camouflaged moths waited on lichen-clad tree trunks, bees hummed industriously, their landings like airport arrivals, almost systematic on the pollination factory floor. Worker ants marched like infantry, collecting leaves and discarded peach pits – as if they intended building a pyramid. A cacophony of cicadas would have drowned out the traffic, were there any, ceasing promptly at sunset, as if regulated by an unseen shop steward. Later in the evening, the birdsong communication systems came online and the long wild grasses whispered and shimmered as small mammals went about their business.
I was left with an overwhelming sense of order – as communities are ordered, with rules, traffic regulations, penalties for jaywalking. I had hoped to find an image is of a hornets’ nest found abandoned in a high crevice of the house, or pictures of long walkways with bamboo on either side. Instead, to maintain a theme of peace and tranquillity, this – a five minute drive away – was too good not to include.