Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Mixed Bag

A bonus of the recent fine mornings has been dew-spangled spider-webs. As the sun warms up the moisture evaporates. But for a spell the garden is draped with the glittering evidence of effort.

Yesterday I watched a sparrow through my bedroom window. It was obviously pecking spiders from under the guttering. I’d seen either it or one of its mates at a similar task a few weeks back. Nature’s checks and balances.

During the Cultural Revolution the Chinese went on an anti-sparrow campaign. They got rid of them in millions. And the insects multiplied. Sparrows are like rats and dogs, the co-existence with humans is built into their societies.

Yesterday, they put in the vinyl for my wet shower. Anne took this "outdoor toilet" photo, the bowl which they'd temporarily removed looking forlorn on the shady side of the garage. The tap looming over it suggests temporary plumbing. Close examination reveals the garden seat facing east, a good spot to sit on a sunny morning.

But yesterday I waited to go outside until later in the day. Anne had been gardening most of the afternoon. Ali had given her some herbs for transplanting, sorrel, lemon balm, lovage and chervil. As well she put in lettuce and rocket seedlings. We're now having a green salad daily as a result of her labour. The smell of crushed coriander leaves dominated the scene. On the table beside me was some mint she'd saved for use after pulling it out. I ate some of the succlent top shoots, a hangover from my gardening days. I was always crushing rosemary or nibbling lemon balm or chives.

I sat with my pre-dinner whisky savouring the scene. The two lavender bushes she'd potted are in full flower - to the delight of bees, bumble and honey. Pansies and petunias are magnificent. Roses everywhere. One of my contributions, foxgloves, add their unique shape to the area. I'd planted their forebears under the two tree-ferns in the NE corner. Self-sown progeny now sway colourfully in that territory. a mixture of white or pink spears.

We dined well. Anne made watercress and potato soup for starters and then lovely lamb cutlets - just the right shade of pink - for mains. A bottle of French bordeaux - a splash out, all the better for being rare - added a touch to a good meal for the last Saturday in November.

I then watched 'Hobson's Choice', a DVD of a David Lean movie from the 1950s. I'd seen it then but didn't appreciate it. The English class system was beyond my ken then as was life in Salford, Manchester. I think too the concept of an offer of a choice when there really is no choice was too complicated for an unphilosophical young man. I can see now why the critics raved about it.

Charles Laughton and John Mills were superb. But it was Hobson's daughter Brenda De Banzie who stole the show. Described by her father 'as a bit on the ripe side' for marriage she sets out to show him how wrong he is. The other delight was to see a young Prunella Scales who later made her name in 'Fawlty Towers'.

It was a good day after a rugged week. I understood Voltaire's desire to work in his own garden while the world goes on its restless way. But welfare reform concerns me - co-inciding with the Pike Creek tragedy occupying the nation's attention, the working group's latest report has slipped under the radar.

Dependency-bashing is easy. I accept a dilemma. Too small a mesh in the safety-net and the lazy, cunning, cheating people get supported. But if the mesh is too wide some who deserve assistance slip through. I would prefer to live in a society that errs on the side of compassion. But these issues are mighty - they need rigorous and careful consideration rather than adversial and pre-judged dogma. I fear the timelines are too tight for any satisfactory resolution.

Also concerning is the Korean Peninsula. I don't take heart from Sarah Palin's comment that the North Koreans are our allies. All politicians make slips of the tongue. She makes them all the time. Gung ho on top of ignorance does not inspire confidence.

But America faces a dilemma. North Korea is acting confrontational. Why? That is my question. But America will have to act. Can it afford another war. Especially one with China waiting in the wings. If the North is not careful it'll find itself on the slippery slope of no return and so heaven help the poor people caught up in the conflagration.

I sat in the restful lawn last evening and considered these things.

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