the day of the triffids and a visit to bamford quaker community

the day of the triffids

far better than i expected (i’d grabbed it from a friend’s shelves in a oh-i-haven’t-read-that-and-really-should-have mood) (though i had enjoyed the midwich cuckoos) – a dark, sober, and believable evocation of london as it might be if 98% of people awoke one morning blind; it’s a mix of on the one hand despairing, isolated, suicides and, on the other, more positive people forming groups to work out their survival – some of which are hidebound, by their social conditioning, to fail

the triffids are plausibly explained, and, because wyndham’s pace is careful and sparing, genuinely scary; it’s easy to accept that, months after the blinding, thousands of these slow-moving carnivorous plants are besieging the last outposts of humanity

but the real success of the book lies in the character of its narrator – cynical, self-interested, but brave and serious-minded – a risk-taking hero we can admire, and like

at one level it’s the story of one man struggling against the society of his time to forge a workable future for him and ‘his girl’ – a kind of everyman applicable to all situations, not just those of science fiction

a visit to bamford quaker community

a weekend ‘trying out’ community, in a large house near sheffield, built as offices by the derwent water authority; less than a dozen individuals choosing to share their lives, partly as a positive choice of something they think they will ‘enjoy’, ‘get something out of’, ‘find better than what they’ve got at the moment’, yet partly also as a brave experiment in quaker living – the paradox of communal silence: living together, quasi-monastically, in a kind of idyll, but having to cope with everyone else (‘Hell is other people’)

the main message to aspirant community members was: ‘be careful – it’s great here, but the others can be a pain’; when asked how they decide who can join them, we were told it wasn’t down to whether the applicant was liked, or nice, but the result of proper quaker discernment: whether or not the proposed arrival would be the ‘right’ thing for all – for both applicant and existing members; and ‘right’ doesn’t at all require ‘pleasant’

how they are related

Forming – no, ‘forging’ (a word I used earlier) is better – communities from contrary and incompatible elements seems to be the common thread. Wyndham’s hero is doing what Bamford members do. It’s interesting how Wyndham shows us flawed attempts at community-building, before what (we assume, but are not shown) is a relatively more successful one on the Isle of Wight – the sea is the protection they need to get things going again, and it’s big enough. Bamford is not self-sufficient, nor as isolated, but it doesn’t have thousands of triffids massing on its borders. Yet.

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