“all these clocks and no time”

Imagine a world where people have managed to overcome the need for sleep.

In her short story Disappearance 1 Jeanette Winterson has imagined such a world. In this world sleep is seen as expensive, antisocial and a waste of time.

Sleeping is dirty, unhygienic, wasteful and disrespectful to others. All public spaces are designated ‘Non-Sleeping’ and even a quick nap on a park bench carries a $50 fine. You can sleep in your own home but all new beds are required by law to have a personal alarm clock built into the mattress. If you get caught on a bed-check with a dead alarm, that’s another $50 fine. Three fines and you are disqualified from sleeping for another year.

So what else do people lose when they lose sleep?

People lose their dreams.

In my city of dreams the roads lead nowhere; that is, they lead off the edge of the world into infinite space.

People lose the intimacy of sleeping together.

Let me sleep with you. Let me hear the things you cannot say.

People lose their relationship to nature.

…I decided to go to the park and feed the rubber ducks. The real ducks died because so many people were feeding them in the new 24-hour working day that not a drake nor a duck had a moment to itself. Some sank under the weight of soggy bread, others exploded. The rubber variety are much more adaptable.

So what has this to do with gardens?

Using data derived from Google Maps, academic Tony Hall discovered a relationship between the shrinking of the Australian suburban backyard garden and increased working hours.

In the last ten years the outer suburban landscape in all Australian cities has changed dramatically. It no longer consists of large gardens and large trees. Instead there is a sea of MacMansions - large houses that cover the whole block right up to the boundary. This change coincides with the increase in working hours and the corresponding decline in leisure time.

In a time-poor society, gardens are expensive to maintain so are no longer valued.

All these clocks and no time.


  1. Love my sleep / dream time, an important concept especially in Australia. We are too concerned with clocks.

  2. We moved from Camps Bay. Fifty years ago there were lots of (invasive) stone pines, relatively few houses. A green suburb, that felt like a village, at the foot of the end of Table Mountain. When we left, concrete MacMansions, bit of roll on lawn and a few potted trees as the MacGarden to go with it.

  3. Dear Catmint, The pressure on green space for building has never been greater than it is currently in the UK. People in general do not want gardens of any size - a paved area for the barbecue [ which is never used as it is generally too wet and cold]to sit on is all that is required. It is so very sad that so many gardens and green spaces are being concreted over with flooding becoming a regular problem throught the country.

  4. What a horrible idea. I adore my sleep.

    I too feel disconcerted by the acres of Mcmansions as I drive around Sydney for work. I've always felt that a house is what is put in the middle of a garden, not that a garden is what is put around a house.

    I also think people delude themselves that less work in the garden means more leisure and sleep. The act of gardening is mentally calming and can be tiring in a healthy way. I always sleep better after a days outdoor work.

  5. Those poor deprived people. There ought to be a law about the percentage of a lot that a house can occupy! There is a trend here = a good one, I think- to turn lawns into edible landscaping.

    When people don't dream, they start to go crazy, don't they?

  6. Hi Hermes, yes it is interesting, that we are concerned with measuring time but are always short of time.

    Hi Diana, the changes are so sad, the same in South Africa as here.

    Hi Edith, we need to educate people about the consequences of losing green spaces. As you say more flooding and also more carbon in the air and more heat and need for airconditioning.

    Hi Paul,I agree gardening is therapeutic and hopefully in time this will be more widely recognized.

    Hi JGH, maybe that is why our world has gone crazy - no dreams only advertisements.

    cheers, catmint

  7. When I was working full time I didn't do much gardening. So I must agree to the findings.

    Urbanisation builds a lot of concrete by taking up green space ;-)

  8. What an awful world where people cannot sleep. It would add to hours to get things done but not in a good way that's for sure!

  9. Nice posts. Tall buildings too effect things to grow. You don't received many direct sunlight because tall building will give you lots of shade. When I was a student I saw in Japan news that they were this neighbourhood in Japan people were opposing a plan of tall building that was about to be built. They tried so many ways to make the proposed tall building not to be built because the place they live will always be shaded by the plan tall building.

  10. Hi Stephanie, I have never gardened regularly - it was always important to be able to leave it for weeks at a time if I was busy with other things, and still is. Maybe it's about priorities more than time?

    Hi Tina, thanks for your comment. It made me think about what we want time for - being or doing.

    Hi MKZ, thanks for the interesting comment. It must be awful to be in the shade all the time, but if the only alternative to tall buildings is to build sprawling cities I don't know what the solution is.

    Cheers, catmint

  11. Wow! What a concept. There were times this summer with lyme dis ease . . . I hardly slept at all. I would not wish it on anyone. Of course that is not the point here. You are such a deep thinker and very creative and brilliant in your ways of sharing ideas. It is too bad our world cares more about working and expanding houses rather than connecting to nature and those we love. Our world could be so different . . . if only. Your title is perfect. Our world is covered in black top and focussed on all the wrong goals . . . at least a huge part of it. This is why I love connecting with people like you Catmint. Well Done! Great post! ;>)


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