Thursday 7 May 2020

The Radish Sprout

Yesterday was a "healthy" day, meaning that I took a lunch break, did some gardening, and went for an evening walk with B.A. This time we took the golf course route, only with extended roaming along the golf course itself, as B.A. had found secret entrances. We could see other people in the distance (it is a vast, beautiful, rolling green course) also taking advantage of the lockdown.

"Anarchy in the UK," I remarked.

B.A., increasingly anarchistic, had taken a walk there that morning and seen a deer lolloping across the course and into the woods. I didn't see any deer, but I saw some lovely songbirds--the unfortunately named great tits. I took many photographs, but unfortunately my laptop doesn't want to access my phone anymore.

On our way home by the river path, we were accosted by a middle-aged lout on a bicycle, frustrated that he couldn't get past us without stopping. He had no bell, so when B.A. suddenly moved right, I moved left, which is where the lout had decided to go. B.A. and I stood warily on either side of the path while the lout thought about what he wanted to say, and then he started complaining while I thought, and B.A. said, that he could used a bell.

I had my phone ready to call 999, but I didn't think to take the lout's photo until he had pedalled to a distance. I was quite furious, and I discovered that I had come to the edge of my refusal to call the police on my neighbours for minor infractions of the distancing protocol. He might not have been a geographical neighbour, of course. I'm reminded of the hoards of Leithers who take busses and cars to Portobello Beach and leave meadows of rubbish behind in the sand for the "Council" to remove.

My pots of new bean seeds and courgette seeds were waiting for me on the stoop (which the internet tells me is really spelled stoep and is not British). I have a hypothesis that their siblings didn't germinate because they weren't in "full sun" on the windowsill for the requisite number of hours of the day. Thus I am going to keep them in the windowsill only until the sun moves around the the back of the building, and then I will put them on the ... I'll ask B.A.

"Landing," said B.A.

The landing! My mother says "landing." Why don't I? I must have in the past. Anyway, that is where I am putting my little pots in the hopes that the last of the so far disappointing "Scarlet Emperor" beans will germinate.

I hope all this gardening talk isn't dull, but yesterday when I was contemplating What Actually Makes Me Happy as opposed to What I Always Think Will Make Me Happy But Doesn't, the first thing I thought of was my utter thrill at seeing the first radish sprout in the dark compost in the Trug on Tuesday. Yesterday there was an entire row of radish spouts and two lettuce sprouts. It is very exciting to see dead seeds come alive when you're the one who planted them.

In the evening BA and I watched Steve Martin and Darryl Hannah in 1987's Roxanne, and it was not as funny or charming as I remembered. Instead it was rather embarrassing and seemed rather cavalier about  using deception to get sex. My brother Nulli and I loved this film as teens, but I think we must have seen it, slightly censored, on TV or not have understood the handsome-but-dumb hero's intentions.

"It was the Eighties," I said, embarrassed, to the embarrassed B.A.

This brings me once again to Wendell Berry who writes quite a lot about freedom of speech, art and artistic representations of sexual love in his essay "Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community." He was very cutting about artists who come out to the "provinces" or rural areas to teach them to be sorry that they are "backward and provincial." Berry's example is a Mr Kopit, a playwright who is hoping very much to offend his new audience in Louisville, Kentucky. I was instantly reminded, of course, of Drag Queen Story Hour, and all films and shows about Drag Queens travelling to rural areas or small towns to "bring them joy."

Naturally instead of bringing joy, DQSH brings sympathetic outsiders to swell the tiny minority in the town who wish to expose their children to this kind of "diversity." Thus the local community (the real, geographical community) finds itself divided: private citizens protesting outside the library their taxes (or their ancestors' taxes) paid for are astonished to see police snipers (for whom they are also paying) watching them from  nearby rooves.

Berry is in favour of communities' right to protest artists' attempts to offend them (and, indeed, to be offended and to defend themselves from offence)--I don't think he anticipated the move from the desire to offend people to the desire to force them to accept the "joy" strangers offer them.

Berry, by the way, is always talking about a geographical community, which is interesting because our 21st century life is riven by rivalries between competing "communities" joined not by geographical location but by shared ideas, languages or ethnicity.

In the 20th century the divorce between geography and "community" was less obvious, at least in the urban USA, because people sharing the same religious or ethnic loyalties tended to live in the same neighbourhoods. The danger was when, say, a black member of one New York neighbourhood entered into a white (e.g. Italian) New York neighbourhood or a white guy from Evanston, Illinois for some insane reason decided to visit Cabrini Green, Chicago. (Incidentally, I notice that the Drag Queens of the DQSH I've reported on have always emerged alive and unharmed.)

However, in the 21st century, whenever anyone talks about a community it is not usually about the physical place in which they live but in the conceptual space in which they think. There is the black community, the Asian community (which somewhat overlaps the "Muslim community"), the LGBTQ+ community, the "Eastern European" community, as the Scottish papers call everyone in Scotland originating east of the Spree.

There is also, and I admit this freely, the Catholic Church and the "traditionalist community" within it, which is I can see is problematic for the bishops because they want us all to be one happy and unified flock---although I would point out the "national churches" within the Church across Canada and the United States which flourished throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. There is also, in the Church in the USA, a still-flourishing "Hispanic community."

The Catholic "traditionalist community" is nothing to sneeze at, for we are so counter-cultural, it can be difficult for us to feel at home anywhere outside it. We are also happy to welcome fellow traditionalists from across the world into our gin-quaffing circles. Therefore, thinking about my own geographical community, neighbours to our left and right and downstairs, is rather a new thing for me. So far what joins us, besides being compelled by the state to remain near each other (or pretend to) 23 hours of the day, is that we put each other's bins out. Putting each other's bins out is like the seed of geographical community showing its first sprout.

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