9 September 2121
Politics of Gardens
by J.R. Thomas
It’s becoming very dangerous to accompany a civilised breakfast by reading even the most recondite of quality newspapers. The coffee pot, the marmalade jar, the milk jug are all in extreme peril of being knocked from the table as the pages are turned, and by the end of brekkers the paper of record has hit the table so many times that it is a soggy and crumpled confection of porridge, butter, ink, and coffee.
What are modern editors about? The elegant pages that used to calmly record the interesting and important events that had occurred the previous day, draw attention to Her Majesty’s intended daily doings, summarise yesterday’s play at Lords (full consideration of this key matter would of course come later, perhaps on the 8.40am to Waterloo), have a stab at the weather (sunny with cloudy intervals or cloudy with sunny intervals), and list sadly all those chums who would no longer figure on the Christmas card list (not always via the obit route; jail has the same deleterious effect.) But no more this informative and reassuring routine. The role of the Daily Read seems to be to cause anger, angst, and apoplexy. Each page is a montage of what surely must be lies and nonsense. Even the cricket, alas, where players, dressed in distractingly bright colours, play 10 ball overs limited to ten times, and the bowlers will maximise the outs while the batters….oh stop stop stop, some of the batters are actually going to be women chaps. Too much, too much.
But still, daily rolls on this farrago of nonsense. Each day more unbelievable, more upsetting, more credulity straining. Big stuff – the Taliban flying around Kabul in American Black Hawk helicopters. The small stuff – the Prince of Wales’ valet, promoted to be head of The Princes Foundation, now having to step aside (as royal reporters like to put it) because he is said to have promised honours for generous donations (isn’t that standard practice in such matters?). And the downright mad stuff. A government minister wants us to give up gardening and grow weeds instead. For a moment your correspondent though she had said “Weed” which at least would bring a little pleasure to many. But no, weeds; nettles, brambles, bindweed, convolvulus. Proper weeds. Is she having a laugh, as they say now on the BBC? Or is this a new way to capture the Red Wall vote, by showing that we are all as one now; that Surrey is no finer than Salford, that the uncultivated yards of Cleckheaton are equal to the verdant lawns of Cheam? That wild buddleia whether on a Knightsbridge penthouse balcony or in a Kilbride snicket makes us all as one? When your correspondent realised that this was apparently a serious statement of government policy, well, never mind the coffee cup and the butter dish; the whole dashed breakfast cloth was swept to the floor.
And this is getting expensive; only two weeks ago a setting of Wedgwood was destroyed (a setting for one, let’s be clear) when page 3 of the Daily Bugler revealed that the government had come up with a whizzo wheeze for making us more green at the petrol pumps. Now you may think as you pump the smelly stuff into your tank, at a price not far off that of fine claret, that petrol is just petrol. No it isn’t. It is, or was, 95% petrol and 5% rotten cabbage mixed with crushed bananas, or some such. But now it is to be adjusted. The rotten veg stuff is going up to 10%. Look at the pump next time you are filling up the two seater. It used to have on it a discreet label which said “E5”. Next time you are there it will say E10. And a jolly good thing too, you may think, save the planet and all, that, small price to pay. Roll on E20. But not so fast. Literally, not so fast. Because putting this fruit juice E10 in your tank is not very good for your engine. You will do less miles to the gallon, kilometres to the litre for the more sophisticated reader. And your engine will tend to wear out quicker, because whilst a breakfast juice may be good for your internal arrangements, it’s bad for the lubrication of your car engine at any time. If your car engine was made before 2011 it will be very bad for it, as the tolerances and so on were less forgiving. But worry not, cry our ministers from the comfy rear seats of their chauffeur driven limos. Premium petrol – the expensive stuff that comes with bonus points and all that – will continue to be E5. It’s called premium for a reason of course – because it costs more.
So, let’s get a grip on this new policy, if we can. Old cars are generally driven by poor people and now their engines are going to wear out faster and go wrong sooner. Newer cars tend to be driven by richer folks who can afford to put the premium petrol in anyway. Here, ladies and gentlemen, is the Tory policy for levelling up when it comes to motoring. The poor will be back on the bus when their car coughs and will go no further. The rich will have emptier roads when those pesky old bangers have smoked into the scrap yard. And ministers will be driven around by chauffeurs (as before).
But back to the garden. It may be that weeds are all the poor can afford to grow when they have to take on a loan to replace their broken old bangers. And that, says Rebecca Pow, a junior environment minister and MP for Taunton Deane, is a GOOD THING. A weed is just a plant in the wrong place. Well so it is, Ms Pow. But the point of gardening to us all (and Taunton Deane we note, is an especially noted place for gardens; Cothelstone and the Jekyll delight at Hestercombe and the romantic Poundisford just for starters) is to take the weeds out of the wrong place and put them in the right place – generally the garden dump; then put the correct plant in the weeds’ former dwelling place. Ms Jekyll when providing the planting plans for Hestercombe did not scribble in her spidery handwriting “just leave this part to be overrun by bindweed and nettles”. She specified roses and pinks and hydrangeas, their roots soaked in a formula to make them flower the desired colour.
Nor did Ms Jekyll say: “Cut the lawn a couple of times if you have time each year.” Ms Pow says cutting the lawn just for four weeks each year will do. She does not specify which four weeks, but we all know what the result of that will be. No more fine sward, no more lying in the moonlight picking daisies, no more croquet on Sunday afternoons. What is the woman smoking! Does she think the new blue north will respond in a positive way to this rubbish? Look out of the limo window Minister Pow, next time you head into the northern wilderness, and look at those beautiful proudly maintained gardens and at the splendid allotments. Read up on the leek contests, the gooseberry fairs, the giant parsnips. No brambles there, no dandelions to be seen.
And soon, at this rate no more Tories to be seen either. Criticise a Brit’s love of gardening and you’ll be truly in the compost.