Tag Archives: Home and Garden

It’s a Fine Line between Politeness and Progress

I am English so naturally I struggle with this fine line.

The problem I have is that, when erring on the side of politeness, there is always a little voice in my head shouting, “Hypocrite! You’re a bloody hypocrite! Don’t let them go away with that view unchallenged – whilst you’ll put yourself in a vulnerable position, how can you live with yourself knowing that person is going to loudly perpetuate that complete tosh to anyone who’ll listen???”

I’d really rather not get into debates with everyone I encounter… but then I find the most narrow-minded to be the ones who incite discussion on controversial subjects. As if to assert themselves from the start and strong-arm me into automatic concurrence.

I think it could be argued that they are spoiling for a fight.

Etiquette vs Education

Yesterday an older gentleman came round to tune the piano. Firstly, he denigrated digital keyboards as a replacement for instrumental pianos which, I must admit, I could wholeheartedly agree with… after all, digital has it’s place but is no replacement! But he “hates” it.

Then he spied my bottles on the side table… and began to harp on about how he doesn’t drink and that drink is terrible stuff and so on, and that he “hates” people who drink. Again, can’t massively argue with the negatives of the demon drink although I see no need to nobble someone in their own home. I can’t drink anyway so he was barking up the wrong tree… it’s there for my “terrible” friends!

Next it was smoking. Again, completely agree but decided at this point to say, “Actually i enjoy the occasional cigarette…”, to which he began harping on about how he hates” smokers and that he knew some old lady who had smoked like a chimney and how she was a bad person for that… and, “…she died! Ha!!” WTF??? I should have kept quiet but felt imposed upon in my own home by that point, which is just unreasonable. This conversation had only started after he had finished the job for goodness sake and my precious time was being wasted on ranting and it wasn’t constructive.

Next he mentioned a call he had to make to tune a piano, back in the 70’s. He had arrived to a group of people all smoking “that weed”. “It’s really bad that stuff – if you smoke it once it damages your brain for the rest of your life.” “You’re never the same again.” “It’s evil dangerous stuff people who smoke it are weird and bad.” “I’ve met them, there’s something wrong with them!” “It’s illegal too isn’t it?” “I hate people who do that.”

Now I have to admit that I am a defender of the medicinal properties of said weed.  I am all too aware of the issues – mainly restricted to teenage boys and folk with pre-existing conditions – but far more frequently, I have seen too many adult people benefit immeasurably to be able to accept alcohol as fine and cannabis as not. I’m yet to see anyone tangibly physiologically benefit from drinking alcohol. Relaxation and loss of inhibition don’t count.

But

I couldn’t bring myself to educate this man. However hard the little voice in my head tried, my mouth would not commit to the noose in that way. I find that the narrow minds of the loudly judgemental ignorant are what poison and destroy sense, free social discourse and progress. I mean, the guy had just told me in no uncertain terms that he hated me on 3 counts!

I find myself often in this dilemma: Educate or Assimilate?

You see this gentleman is completely entitled to his opinion and to voice it… I just feel that he should be in hand of actual facts and evidence before he makes his judgement and goes out proclaiming aggressively to anyone within earshot. I also think “hate” is a very strong word.

Progress, in my opinion, is not related to the obvious – building big shiny things, converting every daily task to technology, searching the universe… no, I believe progress only continues where folk are prepared to question daily what they have believed all their lives. We need to always question ourselves and everything around us… double check it makes sense and we’re not just regurgitating false information provided by another biased and fallible human.

He continued on, as I walked him to his car, “They are letting them in left right and centre, they are taking all the jobs they aren’t learning the language”…. If I’m honest, racism makes me mental and I didn’t want him to stay the length of time it would have taken to debate that subject and so distracted him with a bird sighting!

You would have thought that admiring native fauna would have softened him, but his finale, and I jest you not, was the following;

“Well and of course those nature shows, they really shouldn’t show any of those bits that are unpleasant. I think they should censor when animals kill other animals or when something dies, I hate it. We shouldn’t have to see that, it’s horrible and it’s not right. Not right at all.”

Goodness, we really do have a long way to go with rational thinking.

I must confess that with his final flourish he had induced a burning inferno within me that would not have allowed a rational response had I indulged it. I know I shouldn’t get so angry and frustrated but my first response (of 5 billion that were queuing up in my head) would have been – “So you’re a vegetarian then are you??????” (I know he wasn’t because he’d mentioned meat earlier.) Followed swiftly by, “Do you have any inkling of how fortunate you are to be able to hate so loudly, liberally and ignorantly???”

The problem is that all my responses become swathed in a mire of, “You bloody moron. How can a person live on this planet for over 60 years and come out with such utter drivel? Forget nature programmes, it’s folk like you who should be bloody censored – you’re a danger to a rational and reasonable society, a threat to the environment and a blockade in the way of progress!!”

Instead of course, I smiled through gritted teeth as I waved him off to spread his very assured lunacy-fuelled hatred elsewhere, where folk might actually listen and take it as fact. Scary.

When he’d left, I genuinely couldn’t get my head round what he’d said. I may seem just as judgemental but it’s been a while since I’ve met anyone so entirely closed-minded, shallow and quite so vehement with no provocation. There’s some really serious sh$* going on around the world at the moment and this guy felt he should take up an hour of my life spouting crap that doesn’t even make the scale. He left me feeling frustrated and flabbergasted, guilty and doom-laden. How can he have visited such a wide variety of homes, schools, venues and locations over the course of his entire working career and not realise that people are people, you can’t pigeon-hole them or condemn and if they’re not hurting you and yours then really what’s the problem? Where’s all this hate coming from?

Ignorance breeds Fear. Fear breeds Contempt. Contempt creates Division. Division becomes Factional. Factions just Fight.

I avoided the fight but I feel like a coward. Not only did I judge a book by it’s cover – nice old gentleman, lifelong local piano tuner, moderate and polite – I had also allowed him off my turf to perpetuate his unchallenged, ignorant dogma. The media is rife with tales of horrendous evil Muslims and BNP idiots inciting racial hatred but I would like to mention the insidious, irrational, fear-induced inciting of racial hatred that goes on in all sorts of unassuming places and can even seep into your own home if you’re not careful, leaving a bad taste and staining the view for a while.

It’s a good thing really that he came across as such a throwback – I guess the fewer and further between these dogmatic and hate-fuelled individuals become… the better for us all.

I dread his return in 6 months but I suppose I could be out… or fully prepared with a Power Point presentation and an hour to spare!

evil bug

evil bug (Photo credit: acidpix)

A Different Mindset for Consistently Successful Veg Gardening

I grow vegetables every year. I have grown at 1000ft with winters of sub minus 20 and also at sea level with drought and long hot summers. I have to live a stress-free and mainly physically undemanding lifestyle. I cannot afford staff!!

These are my canny, tried and tested, tips for virtually guaranteeing success when growing your own food…

Remove Rigidity and Relax: Gardening is about working with nature… not against it or with it under tight control… if you try to control it too much, you live in a perpetual state of angst when you do and guilt when you don’t… have the time and energy to devote. I’ve been there and it can be quite soul-destroying… I realised I was setting myself up for disappointment and failure.

Go Old School when planting your seeds:

One for the mouse, One for the Crow, One to Rot and One to Grow – it is rare for all four to fail. I always aim for a quarter of my seeds to go on and produce vegetables. If I end up with surplus, which I usually do, I give, swap, sell and save and on bad years I normally end up with just enough for the household. I’ve never had total failure unless the seeds were dud in the first place… and that is rectifiable early in the season.

I believe that the word “weed” was coined by a weedkiller producer. We all automatically hate and worry about them but unless they are literally vying for root space with your plants they are usually more beneficial than detrimental…. other than purely aesthetically…. but even that is up to you – I pull mine in a design to look purposeful!

Nettles are necessary so try and embrace them: I pull nettles like the next person but only selectively. Nettles provide important habitat for animals and insects that are garden helpers…e.g. butterflies. I find they also protect from rabbits eating my leaves for some reason…. they provide shelter from wind, rain and cold and they provide shade from the sun. They also help hold the moisture in the ground and prevent erosion and bare patches. You can eat em and brew em and soak em to make a great liquid feed. I let them grow around my beds and pots and containers as protection. You can even broaden this embrace to include other native wild plants… the more you provide for your pests the better…

Immaculation breeds contempt: We all love a neat and tidy garden that looks beautiful and well tended… the thing is, the garden doesn’t really like that so much. Welcome a bit of organised chaos and disorder and you remove the metaphorical neon arrows pointing to your tender young morsels that are exposed for any hungry being to spot and steal. Remember, the birds, beasts and insects were all doing fine before you showed up with your fancy foodstuffs… leave them some of their own scran and they’ll leave yours alone. If you embrace the plants that thrive naturally – please note I tend not to use the negative word “weeds” – you’ll find that they put on a magnificent display when their flowers appear.

Spread Bet: Staggered multiple sowings ensure a longer season and a higher percentage of success. Don’t plant all the same seedlings in the same bed – spread them around a bit. Put some in containers too. All sorts of silly things can cause crop failure – from bad positioning to dodgy soil and pests. If you have a few here and a few there you should always get some whatever the season throws. Pests usually won’t be in 5 places at once if you’re canny with positioning.

Cram them in: I plant seedlings quite close together. After years of panicking about exact measurements, I now cram them in and thin (and eat!) regularly – most veg seedlings and young plants are perfectly delicious.

Squat don’t bend: For weeding, and all the other ground based jobs, don’t kneel or bend and constantly strain your back…. squat – preferably with flat feet if you can. It’s simple – it keeps your back aligned, straight and supported. Don’t be self-conscious, that doesn’t help anything, squat and work between your legs… if you are female just wear something appropriate.

Let it go to seed if it wants to: Things go to seed, that’s just the natural cycle. If your veggies are turning to seed, do something about the ones that haven’t yet… if you want…. but let the others continue to full term. So you have slightly less food this year… next year you’ll have no seed outlay or more seed – one in the bank for the future, as they say, and many plants produce tasty edible seeds anyway.

Plants have a drive to survive too: If you are growing native plants… or those that are generally happy in your climate and soil… they will work hard to look after themselves. You can over-Mother plants to the point of expiration. Quite a few veggies, I find, thrive when left to their own devices. Obviously growing extreme produce in the opposite climate is a different matter and requires precision and care and skill on the whole… then again someone grew a lemon outside here, through neglect!

Water is the primary concern: Too much or too little, water is the deciding factor. That’s what I’ve found. We humans are comprised of over 70% water… most veggies have a higher content than that… I’ve never yet managed to overwater anything… although I find that most herbs don’t like to sleep with wet feet – particularly Basil – so water them before midday. Nuff said.

I put in the hard graft in early Spring – if everything has a good start then I can potter and gently maintain the garden, consume the produce and divide my time, throughout the rest of the year. A bit of focus again in Autumn to make sure everything is snug for the Winter and the ground has a good feed in preparation for the Spring… and so on. Once you have your old faithfuls identified you can use the extra time to experiment with more exotic delights, safe in the knowledge that the bread and butter will reliably continue.

Books are useful for reference… but not the law! Enjoy learning on the job: Watch your garden grow. See what is happy where. Identify where the worst pests lurk or live. Adapt, Adapt, Adapt.

We don’t have to work at making the weather or the seasons… they aren’t always ideal but in extremis is the point where our human intervention should come in, in the form of sun protection or watering or whatever is required.

The planet is designed for us to feed ourselves – Don’t insist on making it so impossible for yourself

The Mastery of the Universe

Perseid meteor shower in Austin Texas.

Perseid meteor shower in Austin Texas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I lay in bed on Saturday night happy and exhausted…. then something caught my eye. I knew there was a meteor shower predicted for Sunday night/Monday morn but the visual spectacular that greeted me on Saturday was soo good that it felt like the astronomers had purposefully misled the wider public so they could enjoy it all to themselves or somesuchthing! The streaks were huge and long and bright bright bright. I must have seen a dozen in half an hour!! I had the optimum location too…. lying on my back in my bed, watching the show. These weren’t the little zip zip type shooting stars, no we’re talking huge, long fireworks…. I was a little surprised I couldn’t hear a whoosh! There was a ‘Star Wars battle’ style to the whole show.

I love how spectacles of this kind bring out the imagination, superstition and awestruck child in me. For a few minutes it is easy to understand how all the beliefs in the world could have arisen. During that time I feel as if I can connect with ancestors and gain a fraction of understanding. To have encountered visions such as these with no scientific understanding or prior warning? That surely would have induced a feeling of insignificance, fear…and wonder, in humans far beyond that when facing a dangerous wild animal or other earthly surprise. Part of me wants to maintain the night skies in a similar vein to Father Christmas for my future children, if I’m lucky enough to have any. “I don’t know what it is darling… what do you think?” I don’t want to just plunge into scientific explanations.

I believe wholeheartedly in education. I also believe wholeheartedly in ignorant wonder.

Learning everything from books and teachers is efficient and important but learning from experience is joy.

I truly hope the generation of kids growing up in front of screens are able to foster an imagination and enjoy mystery and surprise. I hope the world is still full of wonder for them even if they are able to access seemingly everything in that world from their bedrooms. Imagination is what removes the ties that bind, the rules that govern and the facts that restrict. For a few hours I indulged in ignorant wonder… then the next day it was all written down in the news: Science science complicated words statistics blah blah

No wonder none of my friends seemed to give a toss. I tried to enthuse them! They weren’t intrigued or delighted at the prospect because some drivelling expert had removed all the wonder. No disrespect but it’s all in the delivery.

My headline would have read: Rare and mind-blowing experience available tonight: Strange and wonderful light display in the sky…. set in the most stunning and infinite HD backdrop ever witnessed! Stop everything and view the majestic freebie!

The whole world should have been on it’s back looking heavenwards. Floored by the enormity. Except of course most folk were either tucked up in bed, zombified in front of the tv or computer, or inebriated and incapable.

Well, I saw it. It was mind-expanding, surprising, inspiring and highly memorable. It was also impossible to capture on a phone or digicam or anything else. No, you had to use your own eyes and just enjoy it… well apart from the techno-supremes of the star-gazing community… but it is never the same reproduced, never the same at all.

No amount of technology will offer the depth or breadth of definition that human eyes can offer after 20 minutes or so in the dark looking skywards. I don’t care what anyone says.

I feel refreshed, reinvigorated, rejuvenated, inspired and humbled… and as if my world has expanded once more. I feel that frisson of ‘there’s bigger things in life than war, politics, corruption and dictatorship… more powerful than financial markets and latest tech… more awe-inspiring than million pound artworks and purpose-built mansions…’ Thank Goodness!!! We live in a global village, yes, but we are arrogant not to remember that it is one microscopic hamlet in the infinite sprawling metropolis of galaxies.

The universe has cleaned my palate for life… and put me in my place

Truly, the most wonderful things in life are (or should be – Monsanto) free to us all.

My only little niggle is that I met a lad recently who has never seen the stars. What a magnificent opportunity that would have been…

Get Out and Do Look Back

English: Antique Tabriz Persian Rug

English: Antique Tabriz Persian Rug (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I see Bug in a Rug syndrome all about me, everywhere I look.

I love this little slice of wisdom. It comes from a quality tune on a Headz (Mowax) album… but could have originated anywhere. I cannot find the track anywhere, don’t even know it’s name, and my brother stole my copy years ago, so here it is roughly paraphrased:

Once there was a Bug that lived in the most beautiful Persian Rug

But he didn’t know it

All about him were his problems and he was miserable

One day he climbed up to the highest point on the rug and looked down

He gasped!

For there, stretching out below him was the most beautiful Persian Rug

What he thought were his problems were in fact the thick pile, exquisite weaving, intricate patterns and thick sumptuous tassels…

He cheered right up and realised life was beautiful even with it’s problems… which only make it all the more rich and vibrant

Take a moment to step back and appreciate your own beautiful Persian Rug whenever you can, from even a little distance or a slightly different perspective it can be taken in fully. It also makes more sense as a whole, looks more beautiful… and feels more manageable!

Get Out and Do Look Back