It’s that time again; when we get so far into the season it’s hard to think of “interesting” things to write about where vegetables are concerned, that I haven’t already mentioned at least half a dozen times. The weather fails to improve for any length of time, meaning what few tomatoes have survived the earlier cataclysm continue to be slow to ripen, although they taste fine. Usually, by now, I’ll have a couple of freezer drawers full of soup and several bags of cooked tomato pulp but this year, so far, I have none. Still, it’s no use fretting over what might have been, time to concentrate on what is. The “envy of the world” that is our sainted and much lauded NHS has cut me adrift again. It’s a long and dreary saga, but I believe the recent visits to a physiotherapist were more about statistics than offering me any serious or long term solutions. The short version? Surgery (which would add me to an increasingly long waiting list) for both my neck and hip are currently out of the question. According to the experts the neck surgery would be too dangerous, given the “minor” levels of pain, discomfort and inconvenience I suffer on a daily basis. As to the hip, having spent a half dozen sessions or so, trying to convince me the osteoarthritis in my hip is caused by a “bad back”, the physio now says it isn’t bad enough to recommend surgery. The cynic in me sees this as a game. They’ve seen me and assessed me, so I’m now out of the system. In a couple of years, when I inevitably go back into it (private isn’t really an option) they’ll reassess and start from scratch, meantime I’m no longer “waiting” on that interminably long list. How very convenient.
I thought I’d foxed the old cabbage whites, by (through necessity) planting a couple of brassica in pots, just to see how things went. I’d netted around the young plants and, to be honest, I’d seen little evidence of activity, but, small as they are and as fixated as they are on reproduction, they found a way past my defences. Over last weekend and into the start of the week, when I was distracted by a recurrence of my chest problem (I’m actually falling to bits) which necessitated me asking someone else to open & close the vents and do a bit of watering, at least one of the little blighters must have got through the net and left me a present. Although not the easiest things to spot on a green leaf, being green themselves, the voracious little buggers give themselves away generally in short order and end up squished, but not before, as you can see, they’ve had a decent, but ultimately pointless feed. First job, every morning, is to check for more and the next job is to plant more winter veg. I have a feeling, if I can keep it out of the clutches of predators, I’m going to need it.
Whatever happens before next year, unless I can find out precisely what I’m doing wrong (unlikely) I won’t be growing tomatoes in pots again. The problems are there for all to see. Watering has become a chore rather than an enjoyable once a day task. Feeding, which I was able to tailor (within broad parameters) when I had a long row of plants and lots of earth for the feed to dissipate into has become more of a precise science that I don’t really seem to have the hang of and, no matter what the size of the pot, the root of each plant had grown to fit the space available to it, meaning they’ve all become pot-bound,which I’m guessing is stressing them almost as much as herbicide drift would have done. Oddly enough, three plants which I left in the ground seem to have ridden out the problem to a large extent and new growth seems to be more as I’d normally expect. Hope springs eternal. Ignore the weeds, I do.
One of the positive things about having at least a few ripe tomatoes is my favourite Sunday morning “brunch”. A simple enough affair, packed with goodness and flavour and ready in no time. Chop as many tomatoes as you fancy eating,I don’t peel, there’s goodness in those skins (discarding some of the seeds and any “woody” or under-ripe middle bits) , along with a chili if you have one and stew down in a little bit of oil and butter, adding salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. Let them cook for 10 minutes or so, until they start to thicken and stick to the pan a little. Chuck in a couple of ounces of diced cooked sausage or bacon (I use spicy chorizo most often) and serve up on a couple of slices of hot buttered toast. Wipe out the pan with half a crust of bread, saving the other half to wipe the plate clean. Perfect for the “morning after”, it’ll put lead in your pencil!
This is more or less (apart from winning prizes in the village show) what the growing is all about. Another favourite dish at this time of year is the vegetable frittata, cooked potatoes, yellow courgette, cooked purple climbing beans & red onion fried off and then covered in seasoned “cheesy” egg mix which firms up on the hob before being topped with sliced tomato, another sprinkle of cheese and finished under the grill. I’m not turning into a vegetarian, but I’m also conscious of the rising cost of good quality meat and eggs are a kind of meat anyway, aren’t they?
Where one type of plant seems to struggle in pots (at least for me), the finger aubergines, although late blooming, seem to be in the rudest of health. Not the best picture, but the flower is a nice purple colour and there seem to be a plenty sprouting on each of the four plants. These (I’ve probably mentioned this before) are another “second go” after the first planting proved highly susceptible to the contamination in the soil. As an aside, there is some research that suggests drenching the contaminated soil, once it’s been turned over, with nitrogen rich water may encourage micro organisms to actively bio-degrade any glysophate type binding in the soil. I have a large drum of water, into which I’m putting my steeped tea nettles. Hopefully, by next February I’ll have enough to do the job (if it works). As indolent a gardener as I am, this particular problem is neither going to go away or sort itself out. Research needed, possibly nematodes, too.
In May 2020 a serial criminal, recidivist and long time drug and alcohol abuser called George Floyd was “murdered” by a policeman called Derek Chauvin, during the course of Floyd being arrested for allegedly passing a forged $20 bill. Much has been written and said about this death; it sparked the global “Black Lives Matter” movement which ostensibly set out to highlight police brutality in America but which ended up seeing policemen kneeling before angry crowds in Britain and several prominent figures within the movement doing very nicely from it, thank you very much. As a result of Floyd’s death and the brouhaha surrounding it much of America turned in on itself again. Whole cities, already moving towards a state of radical “socialism” became battlegrounds, businesses were robbed and the police were (and continue to be) undermined in many Democrat run cities. Antifa ran riot (and still does) and the money kept (keeps) rolling in to BLM coffers (it raised over $90 million in 2020 alone). Around 21,500 people were murdered in the US in 2020, 1,000 people were killed by Law Enforcement officer, 264 officers died in the line of duty (estimated figures). A question I’d have loved an answer to, what made the death of George Floyd so special?
The annual murder rate in the US, in recent years, has been between 5 and 7 people per 100,000 of the population.
The UK murder rate, thankfully, is nowhere near that number, but it’s still significant. London is becoming an increasingly violent city, in the countries capital there have been 66 homicides this year and over 11,000 incidences of “knife crime” recorded during the period 2021/22. Some violent incidents and murders stick in the mind, either through dint of publicity, political exploitation, the levels of depravity involved or, more often than not, especially in the UK, sheer pointlessness. In March 2021 a young woman called Sarah Everard was kidnapped, raped and brutally murdered by a serving Metropolitan police office and known sexual degenerate called Wayne Couzens, over half a million pounds was raised in her memory, all of it (so far as I can tell) being distributed to grass roots charities by groups who have the best of intentions. It’s a sad indictment of modern life that such groups have to exist at all. Peaceful vigils were held for Sarah and her death shocked the nation.
On Tuesday 16th August Thomas O’Halloran, an 87 year old man on a mobility scooter was savagely knifed to death in Greenford, for no apparent reason (allegedly) by a man believed to be called Lee Byer, who has since been charged with murder. Mr O’Halloran was a well known character in the area and was well liked, he often played his piano accordion on the streets near where he live, raising money for charity. As yet there appears to be no motive for this brutal and senseless attack. Byer, although currently remanded in custody, has said nothing in court, beyond giving his name and stating he has no fixed abode.
These three tragic deaths are unrelated but they do give us an insight into both our collective human morality and the values put on different lives, for seemingly different reasons. George Floyd became a martyr and “cause celebre” for the radical left in the USA (and around the western world), his death has enriched lots of people, many of whom have used it simply to make money. Sarah Everard died at the hands of a serving policeman who, although many of his colleagues and superiors apparently knew of his sexual degeneracy, was allowed to continue in post until he murdered. The Metropolitan Police has lost its way, another victim of “Progressive Liberalism”. Her death, if nothing else, has served to raise awareness of the dangers posed to some women by some men who have no control over their desires, fuelled, possibly, by readily available pornography and an “anything goes” society. Thomas O’Halloran died (so it seems) at the hands of a known violent criminal, possibly simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. His death will be mourned, but the media will soon move on. I don’t think we’ve come as far as we think we have and I fear there’s far more of the same ahead of us. In some ways, although we progress technologically, civilisation is passing many of us by.
© Colin Cross 2022