Thursday, May 05, 2016

Sepia Saturday #329: Feeling Crowded...

The prompt: If I could gather my flock around me for a moment, I would like to reveal the theme image for Sepia Saturday 329. Look at that calm and gentle stance, look at all that wool - and I am only talking about the shepherd! In addition you have a sheep, a dog, a crook (I can think of several of my relatives who could fit into that as a theme) and a rustic fence. As usual, Sepia Saturday is bounteous with its potential themes. The theme image is from the collection of the National Media Museum on Flickr and was taken in the 1890s by the photographer Joseph Gale. It is entitled "Ninely and Nine" and if you want to know why you can read more about the image HERE. As always, all you need to do is to post your post on or around Saturday 7th May 2016 and add a link to the list below.
I have nothing in my albums for a match this week, but I did remember this event in Spain. Looking at the picture of the sheep made me sweat.

By The Associated Press 
on October 25, 2015 at 4:13 PM, updated October 26, 2015 at 7:17 AM
MADRID (AP) — Spanish shepherds have led 2,000 sheep through the streets of Madrid in defense of age-old droving, grazing and migration rights that are increasingly threatened by urban sprawl and fenced-in pastures.
Tourists and children were surprised to see wide avenues blocked off in the Spanish capital to let the woolly parade — bleating loudly and clanking bells — cross the city, accompanied by sheepdogs.
Government agriculture spokesman Carlos Cabanas says the tradition is essential to "maintain native breeds that are in danger of extinction."
Shepherds have held the right since at least 1273 to use droving routes across land that used to be open fields before Madrid became a sprawling metropolis.
A shepherd handed over 150 maravedies — coins minted in the 11th century — to city officials for the crossing.

Crowds bother me. The largest I've been in was at sporting events years ago and while somewhat unsettling just because of the numbers, the events were cheerful and positive; there was nothing menacing going on back then, short of one's team losing. Back in the good old days, losing was not a reason to go out and trash your community. Now I avoid all kinds of crowds fearing that unexpected violence can erupt anywhere. Even at Walmart on the day after Thanksgiving. 

The greatest hazard involved with crowding is the danger of stampede. During the Jubilee year 2000 I was in Rome and decided to go through the Holy Doors at St. Peters (unlocked for the year) - there was a plenary indulgence involved. I picked the wrong time on the last open day and arrived with crowds of nuns from all over the world. Everyone decided to go through that door at the same time and a stampede almost broke out. I can remember thinking of the irony involved in being killed by stampeding nuns trying to get into St. Peters. Most of the deadly stampedes throughout history are
at religious events. 
Haj crowds from Photo by Muhammad Hamed/Rutgers

2016 is another Jubilee year, the Holy Year of Mercy, and the Pope opened the doors again in December last year. 

A nice orderly line waiting to go through the Holy Doors, but wait until November as the closing date nears. 

Stampedes are terrifying because of the unpredictability. Here’s how John Seabrook described them in a harrowing 2011 article in The New Yorker:
The transition from fraternal smooshing to suffocating pressure—a “crowd crush”—often occurs almost imperceptibly; one doesn’t realize what’s happening until it’s too late to escape. Something interrupts the flow of pedestrians—a blocked exit, say, while an escalator continues to feed people into a closed-off space. ... At a certain point, you feel pressure on all sides of your body, and realize that you can’t raise your arms. You are pulled off your feet, and welded into a block of people. The crowd force squeezes the air out of your lungs, and you struggle to take another breath.

A story that has always fascinated me is "My Petition for More Space" by John Hersey. I myself have suffered attacks of line sickness at times in my life - waiting to get into the Bolshoi Ballet when Rudy Nureyev was dancing, I experienced it - the jamming and cramming and pressure of the crowds behind. Here's a summary of the story by David Hoftas in

"The tale takes place in a waiting line. It is the near future, when couples have to apply to have a child and are allowed only one. (Patriotic teen males can agree to get a vasectomy.) Personal space for individuals is limited to an 8x12-foot painted square in a large warehouse dorm, and the only area in New Haven with grass and trees is walled off -- the mayor gets to mow it but others can only look at it through a window after waiting long hours in line. Thirty-seven-year-old Sam Poynter, who writes reports and is getting divorced, is in a line, four abreast, to get to the petition windows where he will ask the authorities for the unheard-of favor of a slightly larger living space. Crushed around him are people petitioning for more protein, to change their residence or job, to get Havana cigars, to have a child. An elderly woman is petitioning to have her dear grandson not to be taught to read, so he can learn something more useful. Moving a block every 15-20 minutes for several hours, Sam grows to like some of the strangers around him (especially the young blonde in the blue dress against whom he is pressed from behind, who seems to respond to his verbal and physical overtures) and dislikes others. A woman faints and is passed over heads; several people suffer "line sickness" and go screaming mad. An unhappy gent starts up a chant to get Sam thrown out of line." 

I like this book cover design - sardine cans. Says it all. 

I'm so grateful to live in the 182nd most densely populated country in the world at 85.24 persons per square mile. There's plenty of room here for us and for lots and lots more sheep. 

I was in Macau a couple of times in the 90's and it didn't feel so crowded then, but now it's the most densely populated country on earth at 54,970 people per square mile. The sheep and I have crossed Macau off our visitation list. No self-respecting shepherd would be comfortable in Macau either.

Having grown up in Canada, 230th most densely populated, with 9.44 persons per square mile I got used to having a little space. I guess if it gets too crowded here, we can move to Greenland, the 244th and least populated spot on the planet at .08 persons per square mile. Any shepherd out there feeling a bit pinched would be
welcome to come along. 

I realize this population clock has been around forever, but it's very sobering to take a look at it every once in a while. Makes you want to scream "STOP."

Grab your hook or your crook and visit Sepia Saturday. 


  1. I agree with you about crowds. I hate that feeling of not being able to get away if I need to. I sometimes feel the urge to go up to London for the day, but I’m always happy to get home. We sometimes complain that everything we need is a car journey away, but we never regret being surrounded by fields.
    Thank you for such an interesting read.

    1. We do the same complaining and have the same feeling about getting back out into the avocado groves.

    2. Having never seen an avocado grove I was curious enough to Google it. I don’t know what they are like to work in, but they certainly look pretty. Growing up on a farm, I was used to fields full of corn and wheat but a lot of that has gone now. Farmers do still grow those crops of course, but more and more acres are being dedicated to Rapeseed. It looks beautiful at this time of the year, but hay fever sufferers hate it. This article in the mail shows how it looked from the air in 2012, there is a lot more of it now, but I’ve been unable to find a more up to date aerial shot.

  2. A very interesting interpretation of this week's theme, and some of the pictures of crowds you featured were frightening. I am like Barbara I enjoy a visit to the city (Edinburgh), but I t is a relief to set out on the journey home and get into the Borders hill country.

  3. I love to visit big cities for a few days too. That's what our vacations are for. Everyday life is so much easier and more relaxed in our small town.

  4. I love to visit big cities for a few days too. That's what our vacations are for. Everyday life is so much easier and more relaxed in our small town.

  5. The picture of the Haj crowd made me shudder. I'm somewhat claustrophobic & would be frantic if I found myself in the middle of something like that.

  6. I have definitely got worse with age and large crowds (and noise) unsettle me hugely. The English newspapers are currently remembering the anniversary of Hillsborough, where football fans were crushed to death, and I don’t think I could ever attend a large sporting event or concert.

  7. I feel the same sense of rising panic if I'm stuck in a moving crowd, and certainly wouldn't fancy trying to make my way through those sheep;-)

  8. When you watch mobs of sheep you sometimes see the odd one jumping up and climbing over others, so maybe they don't enjoy being in a crowd either.

  9. The shot of all those sheep is incredible -- all of them newly-shorn, it seems; I'd rather be in a crowd of sheep than a crowd of people...

  10. An excellent and thought provoking post. I was once trapped in a crowd crush following a football match at Wembley Stadium. It was very frightening and not unlike the force of an ocean riptide. An example of force multiplied and beyond our individual control. I suspect animals dislike it too.

  11. The last time I remember that pushing crowd feeling was in a line at the airport in Beijing. I was really tired and had already had it so I turned around and yelled at everyone to quit shoving. I'm sure they didn't know that this was very unusual for me and they probably couldn't understand what I said. But miraculously they quit shoving!
    Maybe it would have worked with the nuns!

  12. Thanks for a thoughtful post, and I loved looking at the population clock...sobering! Me too, crowd-aphobia...having heard of people being trampled on those ramps following games, and I've only been part of a few of them - more than enough for a lifetime!

  13. I do not like crowds; never go near them. I am very much used to a lot of space. I love the outback, far and wide, just land, no people, no houses. That book is scary. Indonesia had a population of 140 million in 1974 now 2016 they are counting 258 million this is up 110 million, scary. Australia had around 13 million in 1974 now 24'309 million. The planet is getting more crowded.

  14. I have never liked the type of crowd where you feel the physical pressure and can't move other than to follow the direction in which the crowd is moving. The crowd of sheep is much more manageable.