People and Connections - David Fleming
It is the most glorious Autumn day – on fire with colour and crispness and golden light. I am walking across Hampstead Heath and stop to look up at a rather special roof top flat. Overlooking the middle of three ponds, this was the former home of the late David Fleming, and for a short while this year, my home too.
As I look up I notice that the windows of the flat are wide open and I can see that the new owners have begun work tearing out its present arrangement to turn it into a more ‘suitable’ 21st century living space – whatever that may be…
For all who had the opportunity of visiting David’s former home, they may agree that it had a unique and special energy – which was not only because of the incredible views over the Heath, or looking west to an array of astonishing sunsets, it felt as if David’s own energy and being were woven into the fabric of the space, etching their presence into the very atmosphere itself. And perhaps it was also the legacy of the many life changing and life enhancing conversations that occurred there, and the great work and ideas that found form under its eaves. The Ecology Party, now the Green Party, started its life there, and the original Steering Group of Transition Belsize, of whom David was a founder member, also had the great pleasure of meeting in the wonderful rug smothered living room, to plot and plan, and enjoy David’s legendary hospitality, his wise eldership and his home baked bread.
David was a familiar local figure, a sort of hovering gentle giant, who could regularly be spotted rolling his suitcase on wheels to and from Mr Mistry’s - a place of wholefood promise in South End Green. I would often bump into him there or on the Heath, clutching a handful of wilted and illegible notes for his elusively forthcoming book. He would enthusiastically ask how I was and what I’d been up to, and his reply would be along the lines of, “Sarah that sounds like the most spectacular weekend!” and I would think, ‘wow, I hadn’t thought of my weekend as being ‘spectacular’ but now I come to think about it!’ And so it was, the complete joy of bumping into David, a friend, a neighbour, a confidant, and experiencing his unique capacity for turning the ordinary into something extraordinary, and finding the positively optimistic in the seemingly unremarkable.
I was very fortunate to live at number 104 from Spring through to Autumn this year. I shared the flat with a mouse, probably more, many moths, a couple of waifs and strays, and an exorbitant selection of dead and dying wasps. The mice first made their presence known some time around July – presumably clearing away the smorgasbord of crumbs and food debris that had long lived on the kitchen floor left them a little bereft of easily available snacks, so they then started on my seedlings and pumpkin seeds instead. Living in the flat provided me not only with a home, but also with a breathing space. And somewhere to reflect on the depth of David’s astounding contributions to the world, to Transition, to his very many friends and family, and his impact on my life too.
David was an exceptional thinker and environmentalist, and one of the very first people to highlight the imminent risks of Peak Oil. He was the author of ‘The Lean Guide to Nuclear Energy – a life cycle in trouble’ and was the creator of ‘TEQ’s’ (Tradable Energy Quota’s) and posthumously the author of the much anticipated ‘Lean Logic, a Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive It.’ The publishing of this elusive book unintentionally but happily coincided with the July 2011 Transition Conference, which meant that David’s presence at the Conference was assured, and several of us carried his heavy books hot off the press up to Liverpool!
He was an inspirer of ideas and a nurturer of people and the potential he saw within them. He was incredibly supportive and generous, and would always make time to listen to any concerns I may have, offer support, as well as question, challenge and gently, but persuasively give me a push. An evening spent with David in a local pub, with a pint and a packet of peanuts would always be an animated, stimulating, often hilarious, and certainly a life-affirming event. As Ben Brangwyn noted, “I'm aware that an evening with Mr Fleming puts someone in a good mood for at least 24 hours, and it seems you're no exception..”
Living at 104 also entailed an enormous amount of clearing and packing, and unpacking, and much recycling and giving away of the very many papers and items one leaves behind when one leaves life behind so suddenly. As a consequence of all that recycling, there was an almost permanent smash and grab display of items finding themselves outside on the gate post, to be freely taken by neighbours and all who passed by. This strange selection of random things, included a horse’s bit, about 100 cardboard storage boxes, beaten up files, shelves, rusty pans, pieces of dusty driftwood, various glasses, an assortment of wires and plugs etc. and more often than not, these items would vanish in seconds flat!
When I reflect on the last few years and living in this part of North London, I know that it has been intimately affected by knowing neighbours and friends such as David, who energised and inhabited this special place. Being involved with Transition Belsize continues to be deeply connected to him and there is a permanent space cut out in his memory. For many months after David died I found myself seeing someone with a flat cap and for a few seconds mistaking them for David. It’s a curious thing when someone carves out so definite a space for themselves that somehow it can appear to remain inhabited by them long after they’ve gone.
The theme of this post - People and Connections – was set a couple of months ago and was originally intended to be posted at an earlier date in November, however, due to a slight alteration in the line up of the posts this date was changed to Sunday 27th November, which, as synchronicity would have it, is exactly one year to the day since the unexpected death of our friend David Fleming on the evening of Sunday 28th November 2010. Sarah Nicholl
To purchase copies of David’s book please visit: http://www.leanlogic.net
To download or buy the 2011 TEQ’s report from the Lean Economy Connection please visit: http://www.teqs.net
For a beautiful tribute by David’s good friend and colleague Shaun Chamberlin please visit: http://www.darkoptimism.org
David Fleming in Hampstead, 2010; Rob Hopkins with Lean Logic at the Transition Conference: woodcut from Lean Logic; view from the flat. All photos by Sarah Nicholl