Pip Pip: A Sideways Look At Time. – Review

Pip Pip: A Sideways Look At Time. – Review – book review

Hugh Warwick


Flamingo Books'[pounds]12.99

ISBN 0-00-257077-7

A revolutionary text is rarely readable. It might be worthy, it might make you angry, it might be a source of sound insight — but rarely will it make you giggle. Jay Griffiths’ new book — Pip Pip, A Sideways Look at Time — manages to be both revolutionary and readable. As well as making me angry it has also been a real pleasure to read.

Most of the people I know have been sucked into a very narrow appreciation of time. Griffiths indicates how there is just one group of people in western society which still has an ability to view time as something more complex than the linear artefact created for us. Children — the force that can humanise even the most inhumane — also have the power to ignore our ludicrous dictates as to the value of time.

And children are one of the few people who manage to resist perhaps the most odious distortion of time: the mantra that time is money. It was this equation that justified the destruction of Twyford Down by the M3 in Hampshire, England — the time of the slightly delayed motorist could be accorded a figure while the time of the walkers and kite-flyers was quite literally ‘priceless’.

One of the most fascinating insights was the nature of ‘time’s gender’. To be honest I had rarely given time much thought, apart from a general criticism as to its apparently accelerating demise around my desk. But time has far more character than just this linear evaporation that I have grown up to know. The cyclical natures of the natural world, of women, of other cultures are all at odds with the narrow definition of time as I have been used to accepting. While the building of Canary Wharf tower in London can be seen as a very masculine assertion — phallic, done the once — the work of cleaning the offices, to be carried out by poorly-paid women and always to be repeated, is more feminine in its relationship to time. And the analogy can be taken further: crops, once an integral part of the cycles of life are now threatened by our bastardisation of time; just the once will they be planted, and no seed to save.

Pip Pip would have been a great solace to those living at the road protest camps Griffiths visited. It provides a political and tangible foundation to much of the mystical power which always seemed to imbue the less alcohol-ravaged gatherings. And while much of the research that has created this powerful book has come from reading, the practical has been by no means ignored.

The first time I met Jay Griffiths was at the Newbury anti-road protest in Berkshire, and since then I can think of no journalist who has spent so much time up the trees and down the tunnels of protest camps around the country. She is a campaigning writer whose commitment is not to be measured in blood, mud and arrest, but in the vitality of her writing. Certainly this must become one of the principal texts of anyone campaigning for social or environmental justice.

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