Wednesday, 21 January 2015

other people's gardens: the weed boxes at the burlesque club

Vacillating between two locations, Oxford's strip/burlesque/lap-dancing club (what it is called depends very much on who is talking) is locked in long-term disputes with all kinds of people from what I've seen in the papers. Certainly their neighbours at location #1, who are a rather nice church. Down here, at location #2, their neighbours are a car park and an MOT centre, which you would think would produce fewer complaints, but it's also a very visible location, on one of the main routes through town, and very close to two of the main teen destinations in town, the ice rink and a big sixth form college. The club itself used to a be a sticky-floored rock/trance/dance/rave/metal club* with a popular gay night. I have fond memories of the mock-rock walls and the notorious toilets. But (as befits its underground nature) it was never, ever the most salubrious venue.

Possibly in an attempt to boost salubricity, possibly to give the clientele something to duck behind, the new owners have decorated the all-over black and bully lettering with wall boxes and planting. The middle of winter is not the best time to judge a windowbox, admittedly, but I think the initial enthusiasm probably faded quite fast.  Those Box Balls up top (ho ho ho) are browning but not dead yet. The herby balls (I didn't sniff them to check what they were) have taken unevenly, and the rest has gone to trailing sere grass, with the occasional bedding survivor showing a pale face (a twitch of lobelia here, a straggle of Bacopa there) and pallid, sickly-looking dandelions thrusting out through every crack and corner.


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It's a bit of a shame, as these are good-looking boxes; deep, spacious, big enough for small shrubs or a decent height of annuals, and in a bit of a bleak, tarmac-and-concrete area where the passers-by would like a little colour and the bees would appreciate a stop-and-feed. I am not at all sure about the sombre, subtle box and herbs look, though, even if it was fresh and maintained. On a tailors, or a nice restaurant, it would look tidy, but here it has a tweedy, creepy, raincoaty feel, like someone insisting on their respectability with glassy-eyed determination. Especially now it has faded and overgrown.

No, flowers are what are called for her. The bigger and blousier, the better. Neon-bright cyclamen at this time of year, with a trail of golden ivy to soften the sharp edges and some dark, shiny glossy foilage (bay perhaps) instead of all those slightly glaucous herb balls. For that side box nail in a trellis and put some Jasmine or Clematis in, so people really have something to duck behind. And that one at the top there? You can keep the box if you want, but topiary is way better than balls. Something curvy, perhaps, like a penguin.

*Not all at once. Those are the nights I can remember. I seem to have forgotten one. Happy Hardcore? Reggae? Not Indie. They never had an indie night. ETA I have been informed that classic Oxford Indie night Panic spent some of its many years there, so I apologise unreservedly to the Lodge's Indie heritage.

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