Thoughts in a Garden. Ah, sod it!

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This is to an extent, an accidental garden. There was never a grand plan. The pond is the result of moving a diseased plum tree. We had to fill the hole some way. The stones were once our neighbour’s roadside wall, one of the very ancient field walls, typical of this region. When the road was widened the wall had to go. He very kindly let me take as many stones as I wanted. You couldn’t throw them away. I was younger then and relished the task. We have moved those stones from rockery to paving, to kerbs and walls, to front garden and back again to the back garden. They are staying where they are. Definitely.

We planted a vegetable patch. The eel worms and caterpillars had a field day, as it were. They turned cabbages into lace work. They eradicated our radishes. A young Spanish student demolished all our raspberry canes with a hurley. He was looking for a ball. What could we say?  He thought they were weeds. Swings and roundabouts gouged scars into the lawn. What you lose on the swings you also lose on the roundabouts. The children enjoyed them. We grew cherry trees and strawberries for the blackbirds. We had a great pear tree. We had to wear helmets when picking the fruit.  A strange canker took hold of it. Its time ran out.

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We have a great plum tree. Long may it prosper.

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It’s a long story. What do you do when the children have grown up and left? You dig up your accidental garden and extend the house. People ask why? What the hell are you extending your house for at your age? You don’t need the space. Downsize, you eejits. That’s precisely why we extended. We craved the space, the decompression chamber. Daft, I’m sure. Not good economics. There is the matter of the post-builder garden. The damaged lawn to be dug up and raked and seeded and watered and tended and fed.  All that back-breaking work…… Ah, sod it.

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At a time when the world has gone mad and unspeakable things are done to innocent people, a garden gives some sense of continuity and stability.It may appear to be a trivial preoccupation but it keeps you relatively sane. It tells a part of our story. It does no harm. It keeps us going.

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Donald Trump and Small Potatoes.

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Donald Trump in his characteristically dismissive way, described his Irish golf club venture as ‘small potatoes.’ While I have no knowledge of golf, I happen to love small potatoes. ‘Hazards’ was the name for them in days gone by. I wonder if Donald is suggesting that greens will be dug up, water hazards drained for cultivation, bunkers filled with compost and crops of spuds planted on the Doonbeg fairways. Chipping would take on a new significance. A mashie-niblick could be used to produce the creamy mash so beloved of the Irish diner. Wedge potatoes, perhaps? ‘Potatoes Augusta’, in (green) jackets. Never underestimate Donald. There is big money in spuds.

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A noisy blighter.

This unprepossessing Andean tuber is inextricably linked with Irish history. The survival of eight million Irish came to depend on the potato crop. Potato blight impelled the first great wave of Irish emigration to the United States, a tradition that has continued into modern times. Almost everyone in Ireland has a relative in America. The Irish contributed to their new home and benefited from it. Our stories and songs are shot through with the adventure and heartbreak of emigration. There was no wall. It is sad to hear presidential candidates speaking of the Secret Service raiding homes to round up undocumented Irish and other immigrants with a view to deporting them. “You better believe it.” The language is that of aggression….’Them and Us’. I noticed in one of Michael Moore’s films, that the Secret Service wear jackets with Secret Service written on them. You will know who they are if they knock on your door early in the morning. At what point will french fries turn again to the absurdity of freedom fries?  The Statue of Liberty must blush metaphorically, to hear such un-American ranting.

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A quiet and unassuming Skerries man and former school companion of ours, Bernie Rice, was instrumental in developing the blight-resistant rooster  potato, named for its red skin, not for any strutting flamboyance or arrogance. Subconsciously, it laid the ghost of the Great Famine and that atavistic fear of blight. I can see Bernie’s family farm from my window. The walls  and gate pillars of The Lane Farm are invariably white-washed. They catch the morning sunrise. Bernie’s achievement did not make him a millionaire. He didn’t rant or threaten from behind his white walls. He was a benefactor, an exemplary public servant, using his talents for the benefit of others.  Besides its other attributes and advantages, the rooster tastes good too.

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Anyway, we went here to see how the other half lives. We cleared immigration. ‘No, we were never members of the Nazi party; never charged with or convicted of terrorist crimes; had no intention of committing any acts of terrorism; were not carrying any foodstuffs or snails, etc. etc.’ Fair enough. A strong man armed, keepeth his house. We were free to roam. When I grow up I want to drive at speed up and down Rodeo Drive in a red convertible, with a sun tan, an open-top shirt and a medallion on my chest. I want to mingle with the beautiful people and have doormen tip their top hats to me. I want to browse in the jewellery shops and pick up some bargains. 2007_0708daffs0518

We dined with friends in a steak-house on Beverley Drive/Street/Boulevarde.  Can’t remember. The wine was excellent. The steaks were great. The company was superb. The atmosphere… well the joint was jumpin,’ as we say in Hollywood. The exchange rate was kind to us at the time. I noticed that my baked potato cost $8. 50c, but what the hell! That was three week’s wages when I picked spuds for Bernie Healy a century ago. We strolled back to our hotel in the balmy night air. There was a young Latina mother shining the towering glass doors of a locked office building. Her baby slept in a buggy in the lobby. It was nearly midnight.

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I always enjoyed Anthony Quinn’s work. He was the ultimate Greek, Mexican bandido, wild desert tribesman or whatever you needed. I gather that he was half Mexican and half Irish. His inscription reads: ‘Dreams do come true.’ How many millions have followed their dreams to America. What did that young mother dream of as she cleaned those glass doors in the dead of night?

Every twenty years or so, I watch The Magnificent Seven. It never palls. The Mexican farmers work and fight to survive. The bandidos are magnificently evil. It is an idealised fable. The good guys defeat the bad guys to defend freedom. My young grandson was engrossed. “Are they the people Donald Trump hates?” he asked. “Are they the reason he wants to build a wall?”  Out of the mouths of babes and innocents etc.

The aran banner is a huge blond potato. It impresses with its, bulk, but there is a void at its heart. It is unpleasant to the taste. It rots from the inside.