Apparently lots of people in the UK sacrifice floorspace to have a garden. Some people don’t have the choice. If you live in a flat, chances are you might not have any outside space at all, or if you do it is tiny or communal. Previously, we lived in a tiny flat with no outdoor space on a busy high street. On the 2 hot days a year (the so called British summer) we used to climb through the window onto our downstairs neighbour’s roof. If we needed anything from inside the flat we had to squeeze back through the window again to retrieve whatever it was (probably water, sunglasses and a fan- it was boiling out there some days- the combination of no shade, lots of pollution and the roofing felt melting underneath our feet). It was a real palaver, and certainly wouldn’t have been suitable if we had kids. Living there made us realise the value of easily accessible outdoor space, whatever form that may take.
We are lucky to have both a balcony (which we are in the process of pimping up) and access to a communal garden. We also live near a park.
There are advantages to not having your own garden:
1.I love that we never have to mow the grass. I tried using a lawnmower when I was a teenager- it scared the shit out of me and I cried as I thought I was going to cut through the power cord and die.
2.I don’t feel under pressure to have barbecues. As a vegetarian I feel barbecues are overated and often a disappointment (putting food on a stick does not make food interesting or delicious).
3.I see kids playing out in the communal space and it makes me feel like we live in a community that, contrary to popular belief, does still include children who play outdoors. In Lewisham! One of the most poverty-stricken, least green, least peaceful boroughs in London! I see children of all ages and backgrounds playing together and I know that this is because my neighbours and I don’t have our own separate gardens.
Don’t get me wrong- it isn’t some kind of utopia, the kids are often playing in amongst dog shit and chicken bones, jumping on old pissy mattresses, making obstacle courses out of bits of wood with nails sticking out and maybe some broken glass to add to the excitement/danger. There is also nothing to stop my son running out onto the road behind, so when he is out there he needs constant close supervision. I expect that we will find this space a lot more useful when he is older and has a bit more awareness of safety. At the moment we mostly split our time between the pimped up balcony and the park.
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