Saturday, 20 June 2015

Blooming Anxieties

I feel as if my geraniums are deliberately teasing me. Weeks ago they threw up vigorous-looking flower-stems yet only today, as the summer solstice approaches, are the buds beginning to reveal the secret colour within. On recent journeys 200 miles south of here I have trampled on the discarded pink, red and white petals of blooms past their prime, then had my expectations of a colourful homecoming dashed by my own stubbornly green specimens.

Mindful of the theory that a watched kettle seems never to boil, I've tried a number of distractions, the latest of which was a visit to the cinema to see The Look of Silence  - essential viewing for those who need reminding that human beings are easily persuaded to be cruel to each other. Documentary films such as this are harrowing to watch but I do think a case can be made for introducing them into school curricula via history lessons. How many of us know why - and in what manner - one million Indonesians came to be murdered by their neighbours in 1965-66? No such horror has happened in England since disembowelling heretics came to be considered an unnecessarily harsh method of government. Mind you, our current Home Secretary, keen as she is to ensure that the monitoring of phones should be at the discretion of Ministers of State rather than an independent judiciary, can hardly be trusted to defend the ground gained. She may claim it is necessary for our protection but, as William Pitt long ago explained, "Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."

Not all my distractions have been cerebral: the white-water rafting session for example. My old friend persuaded me to make up the numbers in his party of reckless adventurers at the National Water Sports Centre for a mid-week splash. It began with a chance to ride around on Segways - those two-wheeled, gyroscopically balanced vehicles you stand on. Yes, there was fun to be had whooshing around in an upright position but, after a while, it began to feel a little bit pointless (and silly) and I was eager to get to the rafting. I should have known, however, that white-water rafting is also pointless and silly: it's just more dangerous, that's all. Our instructor was an earnest lad in his twenties who must have been exasperated by having to nanny men three times his age but he did it with good grace -“Cool, guys!” - and looked genuinely crestfallen when, about two-thirds of the way through the session and after a couple of us had gone overboard; we older members of the crew mutinied and jumped ship. But - “Hey, cool, guys!”  - he carried on with the younger ones while we, taking an early shower, complained to each other of being knackered.

More relaxing was a walk with friends in and around the Ribble Valley - Lancashire's affirmation of England's "green and pleasant" reputation - during which I contemplated a news item which struck a chord with my geranium anxiety: we've always known that spring occurs earlier in the south of England, but now we have research data which indicates that its northward progress averages a speed of 1.9 mph. With this in mind, I am formulating a plan for next year which would free me from bothersome - and sometimes dangerous - distractions: I will walk slowly from the first blooms in Portsmouth to my own in Manchester. If I time it just right my serene progress will be celebrated by an unfurling carpet of blooming geraniums, while my phone would be quietly transmitting geo-location data for the benefit of researchers - and the befuddlement of the Home Secretary.

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