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Wildness through the DecadesEvelyn Waters

Evelyn Waters
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It’s 1993. I am six. Outside my window, the crumbling mills of Blackburn stretch to the horizon. Grass verges paint broken lines down the edges of tarmac pavements. Mr. Barlow’s hedge stands boxy and prim. The occasional battered old car hums its way up the street from the CD factory, where the grown-ups work.

Sometimes, grandma and I search for ladybirds in her garden. They’re friends of the fairies, she says, and if we’re quiet, they’ll lead us to fairyland. I find one sitting on a broad leaf and hold out a finger. Her tiny feet tickle my hand, and I ask her to give up her secrets. She flies towards the back of the garden but before I can follow her, grandma points out a Red Admiral that has landed nearby. She tells me that it’s great-grandad, watching over us and we are quiet, aware of something bigger than us.

It’s 2003. I am sixteen. I stare out of the classroom window at the plastic astroturf, and the vast beige council estate beyond. The air smells of damp blazers. I crane my neck to see more of the world outside. Suddenly, I am up and running out of the classroom and along the corridor. Outside, I lean against the back of the Esso garage and spark up. Bracken pokes through the concrete. The air reeks of diesel. My feet are damp, and I am shivering as I breathe in smoke, fumes, and dust. A dandelion grows through the pavement cracks, and I feel the world moving away from me.

Ten years later I gaze out at the concrete backyards. My neighbours’ dog is tied to a post; he stands dejected, surrounded by his own faeces. A pigeon pecks at the moss on our back wall. All is quiet except for the occasional yell of neighbours fighting – the chaos of a street where the only thing that grows is the stench of uncollected rubbish. Yesterday, somebody was shot, and I sat, frozen, listening for police sirens.

Next day, a member of the mental health team comes round for our appointment. She asks how I have been. I say I’ve been looking for fairies and not finding them. She notes the word “delusions” and recommends mindfulness. She doesn’t seem to notice the bars on all the windows, the triple locks on all the doors.


It’s 2023. I am thirty-six. Three years ago, I left Manchester for a town near the Peak District, looking for what I’d lost. Every day I look to the hills. My yard is messy, green and brown, bright pink and yellow. I have planted strawberries in raised beds: they push runners into every available space, providing tubs full of sweet berries each summer. I can hear bumble bees fumbling in the Welsh poppies, which sprout from an old bathtub of wildflowers. Jackdaws nest on the rooftops. A felled ash tree is regrowing, its spindly fingers reaching for the sky. I’ve seen three ladybirds so far this year, and I haven’t tried to kill myself once.

Recently, I protested at the offices of Probitas*, which insures the railway for the Adani Carmichael coal mine in Australia, carved from indigenous peoples’ lands. As I stood in the early morning sunshine, placard in hand, a flash of red and black caught my eye: a Red Admiral butterfly. It landed on the wall near my head, and I recognised him. We had found each other; still watching over each others’ lives, still searching, still here. As he readied himself to fly away, we made a pact: to carry on our search for food and fairies, for mud and magic, for the tangible and the sacred, for life and for love.


*Due to a series of protests such as this one, Probitas have now withdrawn their support of the Adani Carmichael coal mine.


Evelyn Waters is working hard to survive late-stage capitalism and trying to take as many people with her as possible. She co-founded Women’s Climate Strike, which is now a part of Women’s Climate Action, earns a living cleaning and gardening, and is a bus campaigner and climate activist in her local community. 


Call to action: Several groups are involved in protesting outside insurance companies who have not yet ruled out insuring the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (running through Tanzania and Uganda) and the Whitehaven Coal Mine (Cumbria, UK). There are also regular phone-ins to the offices of these companies, to coincide with in-person protests.

These new fossil fuel projects are further examples of land being taken and enclosed for the benefit of the rich, at the cost of us all. If they are not insured, they cannot operate.

If you would like to be involved, contact:

Money Rebellion, Insure Our Future, Stop EACOP, and South Lakes Action on Climate Change.