RHYMES&REASONS

Observations, Thoughts and Reflections on 21st Century Life

Tag: Economy

The Building that Changed the Face of the World!

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“It is one of those rare structures that changed the world of construction and design.  With it’s revolutionary iron frame it was the predecessor of the modern sky-scrapper.”  These are the words of Sir Neil Cossons, former chairman of English Heritage about the Flaxmill in Shrewsbury, UK.

  Described as the ‘grandfather of skyscrappers’ although it is no taller than a modern five storey building, the Flaxmill was designed as a ‘manufactory’ for the processing of flax into fine linen, by architect and amateur engineer Charles Bage in 1796.  Influenced by his friend Thomas Telford and Abraham Darby’s now infamous Ironbridge just 15 031 miles down the road, it was the first time a building had been constructed with an internal iron frame.  The fireproof combination of cast iron columns and cast iron beams was a system which later developed into the modern steel frame making modern skyscrappers possible.  The success of the Shrewsbury Flaxmill quickly spread to a series of other iron frame mills in Britain reducing fire risk but fuelling the industrial revolution.

   047   That is quite a CV for one a building!  But there is so much more to The Flaxmill’s heritage than just facts.  It’s impact was not only on the development of architecture but on the progress of industry, economy and wealth, population, housing and lives.  It has touched four centuries, crossing the threshold of three.  At the time of construction of the main mill building America had not long since won it’s independence, the dust was still settling after the Storming of the Bastille in France and Shrewsbury’s most famous son Charles Darwin had yet to be born.

This sense of encompassing history is palpable.  The collection of buildings radiate an imposing heaviness, weary of having witnessed too much but it’s iron skeleton provides not just a frame but an iron will to keep standing when gravity and time would have it otherwise.  Woven into it’s walls are the stories of all who have lived and worked within them – the blood, the sweat, the tears, the deaths. Two hundred and twenty years spinning, twisting, weaving their threads and stories from the 18th to the 21st century.  The iron frame soars with dignity above your head, the warp and the weft of the architects pen waiting patiently for the next plan to be drawn.

Through the Mill 2015

‘The Iron and The Flax’ and ‘The Linen and The Dye’ by Rebecca Pells

038I have passed by this building hundreds of times but it has only been recently when I had the opportunity to exhibit a couple of my paintings during the Flaxmill Heritage Open days  that I have taken any real notice of it.  Researching it’s history in preparation for my work it is only now that I have come, with some guilt, to appreciate the influence it has had in the development of the modern world.  Imagine the 21st century without skyscrappers – where would all the businesses go, where would all the people live?  London, New York, Tokyo would not be the places they are today.  Things could have taken a very different path.  But they didn’t – thanks to one Charles Bage and his iron framed Flaxmill.

It was to be a further twelve years before another Shrewsbury man named Charles would also change the world.  Charles Darwin.  But that’s a whole other story!

For further information about Shrewsbury Flaxmill visit Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings

For my artwork visit Rebecca Pells Artist

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One Marshmallow or Two? The Lost Art of Delayed Gratification

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A desire indulged spontaneously offers little more than momentary, fleeting pleasure – a treat, whose value is briefly inflated before it melts with a small sigh across our memory.

That which has been anticipated, struggled over and procrastinated against carries within it our best efforts in the shape of an earned understanding.  The resulting fulfillment is part of us, radiating a deep and lasting satisfaction that the sugary goosebumps of a treat can never hope to imitate.

It is more than 5o years since Walter Mischel’s social experiment with four year olds, in which they could enjoy the instant pleasure of eating a single marshmallow or wait twenty minutes and have two. Each child was left alone to make the choice. It was a battle between desire and self-control; gratification and delay.  A seemingly simple tussle and yet the ability to resist impulse is a fundamental emotional skill, the foundation stone of self-control.  The children who managed to wait did so by distracting themselves, demonstrating perseverance towards fulfillment of a future goal.  Follow up studies showed that those who managed to resist temptation went on to lead happier and more successful lives than those who gave into it.

Our capacity to resist is under threat.  Modern life teases, tempts and torments, seducing us into believing that not only must we have the latest phone, the most exotic holiday or the best job, we need to be the first.  We expect to achieve with limited effort on our part – because we deserve it, don’t we?  We have conformed to – and now embrace – an era of instant gratification and our ability to satiate our constant demands has become the currency by which we value ourselves and judge others, the scale by which we perceive our success.  It is the market by which our economy thrives or dives, the treadmill updated from industrial 20th to digital 21st century. Gone are the days when saving up for, or working towards the object of our desire was not only necessary but character building, strengthening resolve, patience and the ability to endure discomfort and disappointment.

 Patience is a word out of sync with our modern society.  We are so used to our desires being  instantly met, that a certain complacency sets in and we struggle to endure the discordant sensations of wanting and lack.  Waiting feels an unreasonable request, we expect it not of ourselves but of others;  so we complain and demand like a two year old whose needs are not attended to.  The planning and  anticipation of fulfillment has become the new addiction, the skin deep ‘high’ satisfying little more than a momentary whim before we’re seeking the next fix.  Lasting satisfaction comes from striving, embedding our heart and soul within our endeavours, elevating the pleasure and value way beyond the instantaneous.

The art of balancing treat and toil is fast disappearing. Let’s refuse to settle for indulgent underachievement and strive for the infinitely more satisfying depths of delayed gratification.

And then enjoy a treat!  One marshmallow or two . . . .

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