Archive for the ‘Did’ Category

Quick email I’ve just sent to a friend in Australia. Made me reflect for a moment on some of the better parts of life at the moment:

“Just receiving a few seeds and seed potatoes from the organicgardening catalogue – beetroot; cabbage x2; dwarf beans; onion sets and lettuce. 
The company are a bit ramshackle for ordering online but they get there in the end. You ring up to sort out an inaccurate e-mail  and it’s like interrupting an old dear in her potting shed with a scrap of paper and a stub of a pencil which she licks occasionally – very warm and comforting. They’ve just been taken over by a big seed company so we’ll see how that works out.
Going to a concert at the Victoria Hall tomorrow night, looks good:
Looking forward to getting through February and some warmer days; nevertheless, I got out in the garden the other sunny day and it was very pleasant to get some tidying up done, filling the “garden-waste” brown bin with leaves and dead foliage from last year’s plants. Even hung some laundry out on the line today but the wind was so strong I collected some of it later from the flower beds.
Six Nations Rugby starts this weekend.
Supper-time and bed beckons.

Results of tests show coronary artery disease and I’ve received an appointment to have an angiogram and probable angioplasty at Royal Stoke Hospital on 17th January 2018. Looking forward to meeting the pre-op nurse on 11th and the cardiology team on 17th, when I shall have lots of questions prepared. In the meantime, all Christmas festivities went well, decorations are now down and today Barbara and I visited our allotment aka Alice (first time we have been able since early November) where we found a great deal of weed suppressant cover had been laid down on the crop beds – by my plot neighbour Ian. That’s what real friends of Ian January 2018

My log of my allotment activities. She’s called Alice.

See also from September 17 2013 which I’ve just noticed!

Encouraged by my partner Barbara, I enquired about an allotment on Saturday 14 September 2013 at the Rotary Charity stall at Alsager Civic Centre; after a chat with Derek Hough, the President of Alsager Gardens Association, he gave me the Secretary’s phone number. I arranged to meet Mel Buckingham at Alsager Gardens Association shed in Cedar Avenue on Sunday 15 September. He showed me round part of the whole site and allocated me a quarter plot at 26-A2, see below. It was totally overgrown with waist high weeds but Mel reassured me that they were of a type that pulled up easily! There were signs of a plastic box, some raspberry canes and fruit bushes. It is a long walk from the entrance gate and is adjacent to the wire fence bordering the site and the playing field.

On Tuesday 17 Sep Mel, accompanied by his sheepdog Floss, delivered my key.

This is the view through the boundary fence on Cedar Avenue playing field, before I started or could visit:

Here endeth Chapter One


My allotment

on September 17, 2013 in Diary, Did 2 Comments »

Last Sunday, 15 September 2013, I met Melvyn the Secretary and joined the Alsager Gardens Association so that he could allocate me an allotment on the site round the corner from our house. This is it. I’ve inherited it from someone who said last year they were going to grow asparagus all over it and then never came back. Evidently.

Melvyn hasn’t got me a site key yet [1] so I took this picture today through the boundary fence, from the Council football ground side. It’s a quarter plot, 15 metres by 5 metres. Looks like there’s an assortment of detritus among the waist high weeds including numerous plastic bottles and the beginnings of a frame for a compost heap. We shall see. All anticipation here, as we still have a month or two before the weather may deter me from getting down there much or for too long when I do go. Making something of this jungle should be very satisfying.

Just before I left one of my teaching jobs, about this time of year in 1977, I once remarked to a colleague, a music teacher, that I was tired of  trying my best to work with some pretty wild teenage truants and enjoying small successes daily, only to find that most of any “progress” was wiped out by their overnight or over weekend experience of the impact of their social environment at home.  I must have been pretty tired, and because of this I said I’d rather work with trees as a forester maybe, so that when I worked and came back the next day, my work would still be intact and not interfered with, barring natural events. That music teacher responded on my leaving card some time later, “May you find your trees”, which I thought was wonderful. Now, thirty six years later, I don’t have a forest or even a wood or a spinney, just some quasi-virgin (those two words can’t go together really, but you know what I mean) territory and with luck I may return to work on it to find it as I left it.

1. A few minutes after posting this Melvyn delivered a key!

The work chosen from the first decade of the 20th Century by my Wednesday history & literature group this ‘semester’ was The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad.

Joseph Conrad (3.12.1857 – 3.8.1924)


As with all the works we have looked at over the years, the novel was found to be a delight for some, an ordeal for others and impenetrable for yet others. Obviously, then, a ‘suitable’ case for treatment’. I am in the first camp, finding in Conrad such a genius for sentence making as to rival my all-time favorite William Faulkner.

William Faulkner (25.9.1897 – 6.7.1962) photo by Alfred Eriss in Hollywood

Plots in novels have never been the main attraction for me, indeed it would be difficult for me to recount many plots from anything I’ve read over 60 years. The Secret Agent is recent enough in memory at the moment that I do know what happens in outline.

The historical background is hinted at here regarding the Greenwich Observatory as a target of an alleged anarchist attack. A wealth of sites for the background to anarchism as a political theory and methodology most of which would not have been available to Conrad is here and would be the subject of a quite different post were I to be inspired to write it. My own politics come closest to anarcho-syndicalism, but this did not interfere with my enjoyment of this novel.

Conrad wrote in his Author’s Note to the novel that the actual bombing and the death of the bomber Martial Bourdin was “all for nothing even remotely resembling an idea, anarchistic or other” (p.9). Some insight into Conrad’s stance towards anarchism can be gleaned from some of the quotations that follow, though most are included as brief but memorable examples of what I consider to be his literary genius. (Page references are to my rather battered Penguin Modern Classics paperback reprinted edition of 1969  bought second-hand many years ago and only just read, having resided in at least 5 houses and previously owned by Caroline Marsden. I hope she enjoyed reading it as much as I did.) The characterisation of political radicals in the novel reminded me very much of some of the characters in  The Spiral Ascent a trilogy by Edward Upward made up of In the Thirties, The Rotten Elements and No Home but the Struggle.

 Edward Upward (9.9.1903-13.2.2009)

Perhaps the first extract from The Secret Agent that stopped me in my tracks occured as Mr Verloc, shopkeeper and erstwhile anarchist, is berated by the scornful and condescending First Secretary of ‘the Embassy’- “He listened in a stillness of dread which resembled the immobility of profound attention” (p.34). It turns out that Conrad quite likes the word (or the concept of?) immobility (pp. 160, 174).

As the Assistant Commissioner of Police, appalled by the futility of office work, looks out of his office window at the rain,  to him, “..the lofty pretentions of a mankind oppressed by the miserable indignities of the weather appeared as a colossal and hopeless vanity deserving of scorn, wonder and compassion” (p.88).

Even in desribing a minor character such as a cab driver, Conrad impresses with a respectful insight into the character’s viewpoint: “..his intellect, though it had lost its pristine vivacity in the benumbing years of sedentary exposure to the weather, lacked not independence or sanity” (p.132-3). For me this just escapes the accusation of verbosity from some other members of the group.

In creating an atmosphere Conrad sometims uses inanimate objects: “ of two gas burners, which, being defective, first whistled as if astonished, and then went on purring comfortably like a cat” (p.157).

and in the final sentence of the wonderfully written chapter when Mrs. Verloc murders her husband: ” A round hat disclosed in the middle of the floor by the moving of the table rocked slightly on its crown in the wind of her flight “ (p.214).  

In the final sentences of the book, we see Conrad’s imagining of an anarchist and anarchism: “He had no future. He disdained it. He was a force. His thoughts caressed the images of ruin and destruction. He walked frail, insignificant, shabby, miserable – and terrible in the simplicity of his idea calling madness and despair to the regeneration of the world. Nobody looked at him. He passed on unsuspected and deadly, like a pest in the street full of men”  (p.249).

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