Sunday, 2 November 2008

a rare thing, fine as a beeswing

I said that we should settle down
And get a few acres dug
A fire burning in the hearth and babies on the rug.
She said, young man, you’re a foolish man
That surely sounds like hell,
You might be lord of half the world but you’ll not own me as well…

Beeswing, Richard Thompson

Seems a group of designers in Denmark, and some engineering whizz at MIT, might’ve come up with the solution for all those who are ‘so fine a breath of wind might blow ’em away’. The Walking House is essentially a 21st-century Romany caravan – grass-powered horse replaced by solar-powered cells, and lo – your house gets up and walks wheresoever the whim might take you.

It’s a hexagonal tube thing of 3.5 metres diameter, on six individually moving, electrically-powered legs. Doesn't it look like a giant version of those walking robots on Robot Wars that always got the crap beaten out of them by the whizzy engine-powered things with spinning blades? For the die-hard romantics - and in a bit of a weird contradiction of the environmental aspect - the walking house even has a wood stove, though, in an even nicer bit of bizarre, it also has a ‘mainframe computer’ to control the legs.

This whole idea is really interesting to me, as someone who can’t be said to have really ‘settled’ anywhere or anyhow. I guess we’re all about ownership in modern society – getting our few acres dug, more or less – which is the whole reason why the 21st century is so hostile to travellers in general. There’s no place for ‘em. What’re you going to do, make your way between Caravan Club Certified Locations?

But really, as the world becomes an ever-smaller place and we all move about a lot more than our parents and grandparents ever did, I reckon the walking house’s time could’ve come. We’re not tied to our people by location any more. Conversely, it’s 21st-century technology that enables that, of course – free internet phoning, webcams and all that keeping us close to our people without physically being near them.

Incidentally, the only place you should listen to the song Beeswing is on this record (if you click on the track, you can hear the teeniest of snippets). Roy Bailey, for my money, is one of only two men on the planet whose voice could do justice to a song this beautiful. (And the other one isn’t Richard Thompson. It is truth absolute that he is one of the most brilliant and inspired and inspiring songwriters there is, but it cannot be only me that wants to reach up into his throat and pull his voice down from up his nose.)

I digress.

And I heard she even married one time,
A man named Romany Brown
But even a gypsy caravan was too much settling down…

Well. There’ll always be some of us who you’ll never get to commit even to the walking house – and we wouldn’t want them any other way. Me? I might start saving…


Anonymous said...

Hmm, a walking house... you'd need wide roads for a start...

How fast does it walk? I wonder. I am also assuming that you would have to tie everything down before moving or your cup of tea would just slide off the table.

Interesting idea but I expect there are a lot of wrinkles to be ironed out.

Anonymous said...

That last post was me - G by the way

Lynette said...

you are one talented chica AND you make me smile!

Amber said...

G: Top speed = 60 metres per hour. That's probably not enough to interfere with your tea. If I'd been on the team, wobbly tea would have been the first concern on the design table.

Sugar: If there's anyone out there fine as a beeswing it's you. How long from QC to SK at 60 metres an hour? Probably best stick with a plane for now.