It has been a busy week in the Holme Valley. Summer continues, after a fashion, and one half of this year’s plant order from Jersey Plants Direct has finally arrived. Some marigolds. The ground cover roses which I ordered are, however, still in transit somewhere. As with last year’s order, Jersey Plants Direct’s idea of “direct” seems to be “direct via Oslo after being despatched on a three-legged donkey with no sense of direction.”
Still, these are first world problems, but I would like to put some sort of effort into the garden this year. The gardener who was supposed to be coming back to do part two of the great clean-up and prune is currently missing in action, but since I had to explain to him what ground elder was the first time he came, it’s probably no great loss. Meanwhile, Debbie, fuelled by the consumption of a bottle of Old Rosie cloudy cider, cleared off half the overgrown flags in the front garden, with the result that at least now when the ground cover roses do get here, they will have somewhere to go.
The trees down the valley are a glorious green, now, and teeming with birds and squirrels. The badger, too, is still an occasional visitor. She missed a couple of nights when it was really hot, but since then she seems to have been most nights, though we don’t always see her. There are flowers coming on the magnolia and the clematis. So, provided it doesn’t snow in June or something crazy like that, perhaps winter really is behind us.
Matilda has now got into something of a summer routine, especially on mornings when Debbie goes off teaching for the day. Deb lets her out onto the decking first thing, and this results in her “morning patrol”, whereby she stalks up and down on the decking and sits glaring into the garden. The squirrels, undeterred, come and steal the bird food anyway, while her back is turned. Then she will come to the door to be let in/go to the door to be let back out again throughout the morning.
Afternoons are spent snoozing, either out on the decking in a patch of sun, if it’s a hot day, or in the kitchen in the armchair near me while I’m working. Then she wakes up about teatime, has some Felix, and goes out for another stalking/patrolling session until she gets fed up, usually about 9.30pm, comes to the door to be let in, and, after having supper, curls up either in the kitchen chair or on the settee in Colin’s, and that’s it for the night. Oddly regular for a cat, since cats are by nature contrary and capricious little creatures who delight in doing the unexpected and sometimes even the unwanted, but then that’s what litter trays are for!
Still, she’s a simple enough little soul, and seems quite happy with her life. It’s hard to think sometimes that we’ve had her nearly four years, but four years it is. It’ll be three years on July 3rd since we got Misty Muttkins. Some days it feels like it was only yesterday, some days it seems like they have been here forever.
Deb’s counting down the hours till the end of term, and I am still mired in the same 17 intractable problems, apart from that one of them was (sort of) solved this week when the wheelchair repair man came on Monday and changed over my tyres. For two pneumatic ones. The previous ones were solid, and it seems odd going back to rolling through life on a cushion of air. The problem is, though, that air-filled tyres are more generally prone to disaster, and originally the powers that be decreed I should have solid tyres because they got fed up of having to come out and fix punctures! So, we shall see. The only other odd thing which has happened this week is that my thumb has swollen up, all around the joint. Until you develop a big, hurty thumb, you don’t realise how many of life’s daily tasks you need an opposable thumb for. It hurts to hold a pen, or a paintbrush, and it sort of hurts to type, although I only use my thumb for the space bar. If it doesn’t go down soon, I may have to involve the NHS, perish the thought.
All this talk of the end of term serves to highlight, as well, that it is only about six weeks to the end of term, and to midsummer, when the nights start drawing in again, and to the dreaded Brexit poll that seems to be dominating the news everywhere we look these days. You can’t turn on the TV without seeing Boorish Johnson blundering about in a shopping centre somewhere, brandishing a Cornish pasty and wittering on about taking back control, whatever that means.
The level of utter drivel and appalling meaningless crap being uttered by both sides in the Great Confusion surrounding the referendum is truly staggering. Cameron compounded his tactical error in calling the referendum in the first place, by using some really stupid scare tactics at the outset, which now means that when the Bank of England and the IMF make some actually quite serious statements about the possible economic downturn that will follow when we vote to leave, the impact of these are blunted, because the Brexiteers simply label it as more of “project fear”.
Actually, much as it sticks in my craw to say it, and much as I am no great fan of the EU in its present state, I am afraid the Bank of England and the IMF statements both seemed to make sense. By losing this referendum the Tories could finally kill off the stuttering, patchy and unsatisfactory little shoots of growth that began to appear when Osborne abandoned “austerity” briefly and stopped carpet-bombing the economy. The world’s trade is slowing down anyway, China is tanking, the US is up to its goolies in debt, manufacturing here is slowing, and it is positively the worst time to be going out on a limb and setting off into the economic unknown. What is needed is a prolonged period of government investment on much-needed public projects to get real jobs for real people earning real money and putting it back into the economy to grow it and grow the tax-take.
The level of debate in the Brexit campaign is equally dire. In fact it’s sometimes worse! A typical example of this is the press headlines about the EU seeking to “ban” the British cuppa and the British slice of toast. It turns out that there was a draft EU proposal in 2014, which was leaked at the time, and which is currently stalled anyway, to restrict the power of some domestic electrical items such as kettles and toasters, in at attempt to cut electricity usage as part of the battle against global warming. Nobody was talking about “banning” the cuppa, or the slice of toast, they were talking about making a proposal which could go a small way to meaning that your child didn’t have to wear a smog mask to go to school in summer. There is nothing to stop people using a less powerful kettle to make a cup of tea, or indeed a less powerful toaster to toast their bread. Or do it on a toasting fork in front of the fire, and put the kettle on the gas stove, if you have one. The entire story is, to put it bluntly, bollocks, yet somehow it’s being shared on social media as if it was gospel, along with the straight bananas, baa baa ethnic sheep, and all the other crap that never was, but which comes gargling out of the mouths of various scary-eyed zealots who are continually frothing on about “taking back control”.
Sadly, a simple lie is much easier to put across than a detailed unpicking of the actual issues, which is how the Tories won the 2015 election by lying about the economy, and how they are going to lose this referendum because of the likes of UKIP lying to people that in some undefined way, which you won’t hear either Farage or Boorish Johnson explain, because they can’t, because it’s bollocks, see above, voting to leave will somehow rid the country of brown people, restore cricket on the green and spinsters cycling to matins, and bring back clipped privet hedges, clipped British accents, and the casual racism of the 1950s. As Oscar Wilde makes Lady Bracknell say in The Importance of Being Ernest, “ignorance is such a delicate, exotic flower; touch it, and the bloom is gone…”
It really is enough to make you start seriously checking out those disused air raid shelters on the Isle of Arran that were for sale the other year. When you look at well, basically any political statement these days, 90% of it is utter crap. Sadiq Khan, London’s new Labour mayor, chose to attack his party leader instead of concentrating on the victories Labour has achieved since Corbyn was elected. Mind you, he is not alone in this, in the Labour party and the BBC. Cameron, meanwhile, was caught on camera telling the Queen how fantastically corrupt Nigeria and Afghanistan were, on the eve of those very countries attending an, er, anti-corruption conference in London. This is the same David Cameron, in case you were wondering, whose party is now under investigation or at least being proposed for investigation, in about ten, or is it fourteen, constituencies, for election fraud. Taxi for Mr Kettle!
Living in this corrupt, xenophobic, narrow, nasty, semi-derelict country is enough to make you want to turn into a contemplative, and coincidentally, today is the feast of St Bertha, who did just that, giving away all her possessions and becoming a hermit near Bingen, on the Rhine, in Germany, following a visit to Rome, after she founded several hospices for the poor after her pagan husband was killed in battle and she devoted herself to raising her son Rupert as a Christian. Rupert died when he was twenty, and Bertha spent the remaining 25 years of her own life there as a hermit. She is not to be confused with St Bertha of Kent, who was a different St Bertha, or indeed with Big Bertha, which was a WW1 German artillery piece mounted on a railway truck.
Certainly, the more life goes on like it has been doing the more the thought of going off to live in a hut in the woods and bake my own curtains and weave my own bread becomes more and more appealing. Even if my premonition doesn’t come true, I can’t have that much time left, and do I really want to spend it adding up accounts to see how far behind the line we are when everybody else is outside in the sunshine enjoying themselves. The reason why this blog is so late today is because it’s Deb’s birthday and, instead of writing a blog, I spent the evening cooking a celebration meal for Deb, and her Mum, the guest of honour, and yes, I had some of it too, and very nice it was, to say I’d cooked it.
Today has been a long (and badger-less) day, though, and I am clearly no more spiritually developed than I was last week, or even last month. I wish I could write you a blog one day that says I have seen it all, and it is true, a bit like Henry Vaughan, and that I understand it, and this is how it works.
I saw eternity the other night
Like a great ring of pure and endless light
But these days are largely empty and void. As I have said before, I don’t think that I am having a dark night of the soul, but right now, with my aches and pains and my constant, nagging tiredness, it seems definitely like a dark night of the body. Even the voluptuary sweetness of the May time – loveliest of trees, the cherry, now – seems devoid of any spiritual aspect this year. In the words of W B Yeats, too long a sacrifice makes a stone of the heart. Still, as the old Zen saying has it, a blossom, falls whether or not there is anyone there to see it.
A flower falls whether we love it or not, and weeds grow whether we love them or not, and the peach blossom smells gorgeous, even when we are not around to smell it.
I’m obviously not helping anyone with this blog, least of all me, and I don’t know why I am still doing it, to be honest, when I look at how much the last five years has stripped from my already shaky belief-system and faith. So I apologise, dear reader, if I have led you up the garden path, or you came here seeking some solace I was unable to provide today. The fault is definitely mine, not yours. Whatever you are looking for, stop looking for it, then you will probably find it. I wish I could follow my own advice, sometimes!
The only good “external” news this week really has been that my petition topped 10,000 signatures, and thus is now guaranteed a response from the government, which will be interesting, although I could probably write it now, myself… blah blah blah existing legislation is sufficient blah blah blah. Well, we’ll see.
Meanwhile, it’s gone midnight already and another week of work beckons to my hands. We have heard the chimes of midnight, Justice Shallow. Jesus, the days that we have seen. Thank you for reading the quasi-religious ramblings of a tired old hairbag. I’m not about to become an atheist or anything, not just yet, because to be honest the universe is far too big and mysterious a place for there not to be something behind it, and there is so much that atheism would leave unexplained. But I do wish Big G would stop being so bloody opaque. Just tell me what you want me to do, and I will have a crack at doing it. Just tell me.