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Tuesday, 8 June 2010

From Concretia to Hannibal

Some may recall that in the northern grounds of Large Mansions, we caused, in an Ozymandian gesture of grandiosity, a great lake to be created. Surrounded by stone edifice, cascading gardens, and hewn from the bare rock, with an area cast at a full two cubits by one, it has become a marvel of the locale, boasting not one, but two fully grown dragons - Diego, who arrived last year, and Lilly, who made an appearance a few weeks ago.The success of the front lake led to an enthusiasm for ponds, so as previously described, we proceeded to install one in the southern reaches of our estate. Prior to our occupancy, the lands here were a barren waste, subject to the tyranny of Concretia, but after a titanic struggle, she was overthrown and the ongoing attempt to reclaim the territory commenced.
With the formalities of history described, I can now introduce you to the new ruler of the Southern Estates. I would like to formally present Hannibal, Benevolent Dictator.

Hannibal is not alone. We have a magnificent collection of beautiful snails, most of which are called Brian. Here's a few pictures of Brian in action.The first picture may well be a little blurred, but Brian was moving at quite the pace when I took this, and it was only later when he settled down that I got the chance to take a better shot. As you can see, Brian is quite the poser. The black spot on the end of the stalk is his eye and he's looking right at the camera here.

In truth, its inaccurate to call Brian "he" as snails are hermaphrodite.

This rear garden also includes about six species of bees. Residents include a burrowing bee that has a next under the apple tree, several bumble bee nests and a smaller variety of what I think are honey bees. There's birds too that regularly visit Hannibal's pond, bathing in the shallows. And every day, there's an incredible variety of new buds from brightly coloured ones to balls of fluff that look like seeds floating on the wind.

This enthusiastic endorsement of gardening might sound like the ramblings of someone preparing for retirement, and there might be something in that, but I realised the other day, when I was watching one of the neighbour hood kids pulling up our tulips that for me, this garden is more a return to childhood. As a kid, I would trap caterpillars in jars, scrounge some lettuce from my mum, then place the jar on the windowsill where the caterpillars inevitably fried in the magnified sun, or died of asphyxiation. My dad disapproved strongly of this as cruelty and insisted that we should leave the caterpillars alone and just watch them, so attention then turned to tracking the cycle of the caterpillars. I would return to the same hedge every day, find the caterpillar, pick it carefully off the leaf and measure it. I say "the" caterpillar, because I was convinced that the one I measured every day was the same one. The mysterious fluctuations in size, apparent fatness and colour that I observed were explained by how "happy" the caterpillar was that day, which of course depended on the weather.

Of course, we continually get congratulated by passing adults on how environmnetally friendly our garden is, and what a "marvellous" thing it is we are doing creating a wildlife habitat. Such readings of our attempts are all very nice and everything, but are totally misplaced. Of course, its a very good thing to encourage wildlife and biodiversity and have natural gardens, there is no question of that, but it is not our motive. It is also very fashionable, unlike the clothes of many of those who stroke their beards or play with their dreadlocks as they stand chatting to us about hemp and composting and honey bee decline, to be ecologically aware - to garden "green". But the earnestness gets tiring pretty quickly. In fact, given all of this, plus the attempts by the corporate world to convince "us" to "do our bit for the planet" by purchasing a "native" British weed from their air-conditioned, oil-heated, plastic filled, road haulage supplied warehouse, the cognitively dissonant part of my left brain wants to tell me to lay down a load of concrete and park a hog in the front. The truth is, the garden is a far as I can get from being politically aware. The garden is a place where six year old boys can crawl round measuring caterpillars, talking to snails and watching, with as little understanding as possible, a small world change.

Add to this at least five spe

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