I don’t know if there’s such a thing as predictivity: I know predictability isn’t what I want, because that’s something that you can predict – whereas I mean when an entity – human or otherwise – is able to able to predict something. So when, for example, I think about voting in the Referendum, I know that the relevant arguments are being driven by people who can predict things, and who on the basis of their predictions will tell me how to vote. And, by the way, having listened to all – well, some – of the predictuve and other stuff, I’ve now decided how I’m going to be voting. I’ll divulge at the end of this blog…..
But in the meantime, hurrah it’s time for haymaking! How does one know when this happy time has come round again? Well, various people have various markers, like how many swallows you can put your foot on as you stride across the grass (I may have got that wrong), or how many slugs are devouring your cauliflowers, and so on. My marker is when I start to see stretches of poisoned herbage at the gates of various rural properties.
Of course I know and admire that tidying-up instinct, so much a part of the north-east make-up; I know it kicks in as soon as the grass gets long and people can’t stop themselves reaching for the Roundup or whatever poison is deemed most suitable to drive back the menace of wild plants at the roadside and along the walls of buildings. What I find a bit odd, considering this commendable desire to be tidy, is how people appear to be satisfied with the twisted, contorted, sickly green and pale-dun spectres of once-living things that now haunt their gateways. I suppose the ideal of neatness overrides aesthetic considerations and such an obvious signal as blasted greenery tells a person’s neighbours that here at least is someone who cares about not letting Nature have things all her own way.
Some, of course, go for the grass-cutting option, so at least one can’t accuse them of being devoid of any aesthetic sense, but I wonder more and more how did we get by in days before power-mowers and herbicides if we were upstanding householders or farmers who wanted the neighbourhood to know that at least the entrance to our holding was kept in its Sunday best throughout the summer. Scything? I suppose: and then the trick would be to show how beautifully cropped we could have our verges looking with nothing more than a sharp blade and a bit of basic skill, how short and how fine – and I suppose the shorter and finer they were the more time it made it look like we had on our hands, therefore the less we were having to struggle against the overwhelming tides of summer jobs, therefore the more affluent we must be, and for a farmer at least the message of affluence is crucial to commercial success. So I suppose the message of the well-trimmed verge outside the farm-gate would be “yes, we’re doing all right, we’ve got time to keep things nice”. In that case, the poisoned-ground look favoured by some probably sends the message: “no, we don’t care how things look, but thieves, vagrants, weeds and loafers – this is the treatment you can expect here, mate.”
There was a time when local authorities set great store by cutting all the roadside verges two, three or more times a summer. I presume the fact that they’re lucky to get it done once in some places now means that local authorities are feeling the pressure and the pinch and are unable to post the desired message of affluence by trumpeting their ability to keep wild Nature under control. At the risk of sounding like a loafer, I might as well add that I find the uncut verges around us a lot easier on the eye and more uplifting for the spirit, even when one does occasionally have to dive into the jungle, prickles, stings and all, to survive the passage of a vehicle driven by someone for whom Time is Money.
As a well-brought-up sort of chap I’ve always liked the neatness of a patch of tended grass, don’t get me wrong; but I do find that, the more of the long un-tended herbage I see, the more a like it that way. You should see Coldhome! I still do get hot and bothered by the cross-grained brown skeletons of last years’ docken-stems, which offend my aesthetic sense amidst the lush green growth and are a damned nuisance for the scythe, but against that – and assuming I don’t actually need to do any scything on that particular piece of ground – I don’t have much heart for cutting short their magnificence when in full flower and when the autumn comes the dry seed-heads clearly provide a bit of fun for finches and other light-bodied creatures. So I guess they’re a necessary nuisance, a bit like politicians.
Anyway, as to predictivity. What a crop of grass there is this year! Which means there may be a good hay harvest to come – ah, but the sun is by no means bound by contract to shine….. Blossom too, everyone’s noticed this year: apple-blossom, mayblossom, broom, and now the Queen Anne’s Lace, which sent me off to dig out a poem I have about that, seeing as I haven’t been adding much to my literary pages of late; but like everything else in my life that I actually look for (screwdrivers, clothes-pegs, candles – booze is an exception – headtorches, music scores, books) it was the one poem I couldn’t find in my still mouldering heap.
Back to predictivity. You frequently hear sage comments by country worthies when you get a spring of extra-heavy blossom or a summer of extra-heavy wild fruit or indeed of hay, about what the phenomenon “means”: ie, generally something along the lines of how hard the next winter is going to be. But I don’t believe plants, or any wild things, or even tame ones, are actually much good at prediction: they’re simply reacting to what happened before, in this case a benign winter and not too much cold winds this spring.
So I think I’m going to spend the rest of the summer in a similar blissful ignorance. And when the autumn comes (as I predict it will) I’m going to vote, reactively, for whichever guys have behaved better while promulgating their particular campaign. If neither side behaves very well, I shall vote for neither. As my support for Scottish Independence has always been because I’m a devolutionist not a nationalist, I don’t particularly mind how the vote goes as I think either way it may advance the cause of Devolution a little. But who I choose to send a kiss to had better have won my respect, and they won’t do that by shouting at me, or each other.