Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Ivy & Zeppo & Me

I still haven't shaken the disgust fatigue that brought on the long hiatus. I thought I might be on the road to recovery, but recent events in the news brought on a relapse. It started with Paul McGeogh's report in Saturday's Age of the allegations that the new Iraqi Prime minister had personally topped six prisoners to demonstrate the sort of procedural fairness he expected from the police force in the new Iraq. Then there was the report in Monday's Age of Martha Stepford's little chat with Barbara Walters over the weekend, where Martha had a good whine about the injustice that's been done to her by the American legal system.

The Martha Stepford thing looked promising as blog material, until I mentioned it to Zeppo Bakunin; he was taken by Ms Stepford's remark that "Many good people have gone to prison. Look at Nelson Mandela.". It didn't take him long to develop a completely new theory of why Nelson Mandela got jailed in the first place; it was for insider trading in apartheid futures. Where Mandela went wrong wasn't in opposing the apartheid regime, it was in going short on apartheid on the Johannesburg futures exchange, then setting out to wreck the regime so that he could cash in big-time. And getting caught at it, of course. Had things gone according to plan, Mandela would have been a national hero years earlier and a rich man into the bargain.

That's more or less Zeppo's take on it; personally, I think he got done for growing hydrangeas, rather than an acceptable South African native plant like the Protea. Life in prison for growing hydrangeas does seem a bit harsh; although if he was fart-arsing about treating the soil with lime or potash to manipulate the flower colour, I can understand that being considered an aggravating circumstance warranting a more severe sentence. Particularly if the hydrangeas are in pots, set out in a row of with the pink and blue flowering bushes alternating. Call me soft-hearted, but I wouldn't even call that criminal; more like an unconscious cry for the sort of help that the Backyard Blitz crew inflict on hapless suburbanites at the behest of friends, neighbours or family. The real criminals, here in the Great Southern Land at least, are those stupid bastards who plant ivy in their gardens.

The ivy in "our" garden is coming along quite nicely; that cold snap over the weekend did for the stuff clinging to the big date palm in the south-west corner of the yard. The ivy dropped enough leaves that you can see the twelve to sixteen year old vines wrapped around the trunk of the tree and the branches up around the roof-line of the house. You can also see all the dead palm fronds that fell into the ivy and got stuck. It's a very left-wing garden feature; it's been thoroughly undercut up to a little above fence height leaving the bulk of the overgrowth to wither away and die until we can borrow a ladder from somewhere. If we ever do, we can add the ivy from the date palm to our other main garden feature, the big pile of ivy cuttings under the back bedroom window.

I suppose, in our own small way, we've been doing our bit for our land, as featured in the latest series of government advertisements which have nothing at all to do with any upcoming election, in the same way that a big bank of cumulo-nimbus on the western horizon has nothing to do with an impending piss-down of rain. But the work on the ivy had nothing to do with a patriotic attachment to the golden soil of our whale foot oiled land girt by sea, nor was it motivated by a desire to garden - well not in my case anyway. And for Mr Bakunin, clearing up accumulated garden waste doesn't count as gardening; it's what you do so that you can start gardening, in the same way that I regard measuring out ingredients as what you do so that you can start cooking and John Howard regards running a lot of government announcements as what you do before you actually call the election and start the real campaigning (which by my reckoning won't happen until someone comes up with a good photo of Mark Latham wearing gum-boots in the vicinity of a flock of ewes). Our big motivation to get rid of the ivy was to get rid of the bloody wasps that came with it.

Apparently, the little buggers love the stuff - at least that's what this site says. So do several others. I have found nursery sites around the place where ivy is proudly offered for sale, and sites listing ivy as a suitable plant for low-allergy gardens, on the strength that it's not a big pollen producer. I guess it's not very common for people who are allergic to pollen, like some asthmatics, to also be allergic to wasp stings, like some asthmatics. But not necessarily the same asthmatics. So that's alright then.

I was going to segue into the cooking section of the post around about now, with a consideration of Tarte Tatin, the classic French upside down apple tart. I now know at least three versions. Jacques Pepin offers one in La Technique of which he says:

There are many interpretations of [Tarte Tatin] which are quite simple and satisfactory. The one below is a little more involved, but the result is quite distinctive.

Then there's Jenny Sheard's version, featured in last Saturday's Good Weekend, which makes Pepin's version look like a quick roadhouse cafe knock up. And there's the one I might try later this week, which ought to provide a simple and satisfactory test of what the new oven can do. But I think we'll skip the details for now and finish off this week's home hints from Gummo with a couple of tips on surviving a wasp infestation in your backyard:

  • If you must go out into the backyard for a morning heart-starter cigarette, leave washing your hair until afterwards. Especially if you use a herbal shampoo, like Clairol Herbal Essences for Receding or Thinning Hair.

  • Never wear a brightly coloured machine fairisle jumper in the backyard during daylight hours.

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