Category Archives: Vegetable

You epigone, you

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Starting a new subject with a reader is more difficult than picking up an introductory text written with novices in mind.  It does, however, have the advantage of offering a full technical vocabulary, and introducing significant writers in the discipline through their own words.

Sadly, the ‘own words’ of cultural theorists (up to Part 3) seem to be quite remarkably dreary – an uglification of English which is hard to forgive, and there are 450 pages still to go.  Some of the content is moderately interesting, but Oh! if only we could have it better said!  One honourable but momentary exception:  Laclau and Mouffe describing their critics as ‘fading epigones’.  I had to look ‘epigone’ up in Chambers, and joyed in it, a word at once compendious and splendidly disdainful.  Then it was back to uglification for fifteen pages.

This is going to be a long, long, long, long, long, long read.

Thoughts and shades

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I carefully consulted the forecast to travel on the coolest day this week, and then the Met Office sneakily turned it into a hot one instead.

I came home with eight; a limit imposed not by the librarian, but by my powers of traction.

Things to do when you can’t sleep: lxviii

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lxviii   :   Read about a hopeless case

Richard Savage was obviously a disaster of a man.

His claims to be a neglected (indeed persecuted) illegitimate child of the Countess of Macclesfield and Earl Rivers seem to have been accepted whole by Samuel Johnson, though posterity sees a possible case of fraud and blackmail.  Even allowing the dubious circumstances of his birth, it is painful to read of Savage’s appalling behaviour to his friends and acquaintances, and his extraordinary fecklessness.

Johnson treads a complicated path through his personal knowledge of Savage’s worst behaviour; a delicate hint or two of his own attempts to support Savage; his affection for Savage as his own charming friend; his awareness of other friends’ attempts to help; and his tenderness towards Savage’s failure to cope with life, which amounted almost to a disability.  I walked with Johnson through concern, disgust, pity, contempt, regret, and, like Savage’s friends, at last you can only throw your hands in the air, and declare him beyond helping.

But I couldn’t quite join Johnson in his tenderness towards this utterly selfish and infuriating man; which is why I love Samuel Johnson, especially in the middle of the night.

Mostly horticultural

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On any list of Silly Things To Do, potting on dozens of plants while wearing a white dress must be fairly high up.  But it is my loosest and airiest dress, and at eight this morning it was already hot.  Smears might come out in the wash – maybe.

Meantime, the tide of plant pots rose and rose, filling the garden tables, obstructing the paving, covering the coal bin, overflowing down the steps, and lapping at the doors.  Plant after plant, knocked out of its small pot, was tucked briskly into the new litre pot with nice fresh compost; I was amused to detect in myself the manner of an old-fashioned nurse doing her hospital corners.  If I can fend the slugs off, I trust most of my patients will survive.

This is a table.  I haven’t seen it for several years as it has been covered with guinea pigs and seedlings in trays and plants in pots.  Look:  still shiny!

Round and round the agapanthus

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When not shrieking with horror, I am interested in invertebrates, and was curious about a tiny white crab spider.  Turns out that female Misumena vatia are able to change colour from white to yellow to green, in order to match the flower or plant on which they are currently sitting.  Like all crab spiders, they are active hunters, not web-builders.

I did wonder what this one will do when the pale buds open and become blue flowers; but perhaps there will be enough residual whiteness to accommodate her.

And I fully subscribe to the active habit label; she was well aware of me near her flower, and as I approached she nipped instantly round the back of the bud to put it between her and me.  After making multiple circuits of the agapanthus in pursuit, snapping photos of her bottom as I went, I conceded, and sulked hotly off for an ice lolly.

So: spider bottom.  This was the best I could do.

Abject crawling

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was required to get under the inconvenient pipe work.  But we are ok to crawl in a good cause, and a set of cavities this elegant was irresistible.

The horned frog isn’t my photo.  But I held the torch.

All on a summer’s day

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Well it was about 80° by 9 o’clock again, so I went to water the plants before it became intolerable.  While on this placid duty, the

biggest

blackest

hugest

enormous

VASTACEOUS

WALLUMPING

bumblebee flew straight down the neck of my shirt.

Having in this compendious manner tried to achieve heat stroke and heart attack in the same encounter, I treated myself for shock and proceeded with the day.

At 10 o’clock we headed to a convenient beach.  There was a ruffling breeze and on the fairly steep-to shingle the waves made aggressive dashes at our knees.  Wet skirts were not a problem in the circumstances …

At noon the curtains were pulled against the sun and with local old-fashioned milk (full of old-fashioned top-of-the-milk) we made raspberry ice cream – yum, zingy.

And having run out of tosh for the moment, another book at 1 pm:

 

Wendy Moore has written an interesting double biography of Thomas Day and Sabrina Sidney/Bicknell.  The key narrative element is that Day, a dogmatic, wealthy and eccentric 18th century bachelor, tried to create a wife to his own specifications by acquiring and educating his own personal orphan, naming her Sabrina Sidney.  The morality of this is more complex than at first appears – less obnoxious because it did not in fact seem to cloak sexual abuse or pædophilia, and did in fact benefit his protégé in terms of prosperity and education; and more obnoxious, because the bald description of ‘apprenticeship’ barely indicates the mental manipulation, ownership, occasional physical cruelty and minute control he expected to exert over Sidney.  What could possibly go wrong?  Quite a lot, but again, no simple moral to be drawn.

It seems that the story was too good to waste, its afterlife leaking into several novels, and perhaps eventually into Shaw’s Pygmalion.  Having read this account of Day’s experiment (and also Pygmalion), I can well believe it.

And now at another 9 o’clock, it’s time to water the frazzled pot plants again.  Dare I brave the invertebrates?

Tosh

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It’s hot.  And I’m not very good at hot.  After trying to keep going yesterday, I slept eleven hours out of eighteen, so I’ve taken the hint.  Productive work has tailed off to minimal, and tosh rules.  I always feel some residual guilt at finding tales of murder diverting, but for the next day or two this is going to be the schedule.

 

Oh – and did I mention the whiff of death by the back door?  Luckily only a minor whiff, so I trust it is only a minor corpse. Perhaps it accounts for the blowfly plague, though the timing seems off.   Can’t find the body yet, so I do hope that mummification will be swift.

Making

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It’s fun to watch the young blackbirds bathing; not as funny as the blue tits, however, which are so tiny they are up to their necks when they get in.  Look at me swimming … glug …

Not much throwing lately; time to rectify this, but all spaces in this house have to multi-task, so first I had to remove from the wheel about forty agastache, bergamot and aquilegia seedlings, a tray of pricked-out snapdragons, an ounce or so of escaped potting compost, and some curly lettuce.  (Obviously didn’t move them far enough, as I then trod in the lettuce.  Never mind, they were annoying anyway.)

Some of the beach clay I collected last time was so fine it seemed worth trying to throw with it – most of the beach clays go for hand-building, as the coarse texture would sandpaper your fingers if it was whizzing on the wheel.  This fine one is very unspringy, and, being out of practice, the first thing I made was a splot, and another effort was destroyed by an undetected small stone in the clay ball.  However, there are now a few grey basics sitting on the side to play with and decorate later.  I’ve no idea how this will fire.

Then it was time to exercise my civic responsibilities.  Many compatriots will understand when I say that I came home with a large chocolate bar, and feeling glum.

I wonder if coloured paper and scissors and glue will make things better … and tea in a proper cup and saucer … and space opera?

Definitely space opera.