Green Shoots


Could it be? Is Spring really on the way? The snowdrops have been decapitated in the recent winds, the daffs are nestling in their fat, papery cocoons, waiting for the whistle, and the begonia my sister sent me for Christmas is displaying new leaves. It’s quite an event when I don’t, by default, kill off a plant. I was sure it wouldn’t last, but here it is, Lent’s begun, and it’s still alive, shooting up, as they say of adolescent boys and drug addicts, though not with the same optics.

I love Spring. You can see where you are, for one thing. I could never live in Sweden, even though I worship Agnetha and Anni-Frid. And Bjorn Borg. Can you imagine anything worse, six months of near-total darkness? Or am I thinking of the Arctic circle? Could be, though the thought of cold and ice would probably drum out any worries re darkness. Never mind, here in jolly old Albion we have the proper four seasons, lucky us. Each has its own joys and wonders. Spring can be truly delightful, with crocus fields, bluebell woods and an end to your drippy nose.

Summer often results in the odd sunny day, the occasional butterfly, ladybird and even a bee or two. Not so hot that you have to leave your vest off, or anything, but pleasant, good for attempting a little weeding and washing winter’s smears off the windows. Don’t make the mistake of doing that in Spring, as it’s only too likely that winter hasn’t really gone away.

Autumn is lovely, with chestnuts and mushrooms and crunchy leaves to stamp on and the magnificent colours of tree foliage. That’s if the trees haven’t all been removed from the local avenues by the council, as ours recently were, to keep down the cost of renovating the roads. Such nonsense. Use my council tax to maintain the trees and start subsidising public transport again, you cretins. I will not start a rant about trees combatting air pollution, but I expect you know where I’m coming from.

Winter, I’m afraid, isn’t much fun. We don’t often get ‘proper’ snow, the kind you can build snowmen from, the kind that allows you to stay off school or work because all the roads are blocked by mountainous drifts. We get cold, wet weather in winter these days, with icy roads and pavements in the mornings, just to upset people who are already upset because they have to go to school and work, instead of tobogganing and throwing snowballs at the neighbours.

Still, at least they’re not in Malmo.


Never too late to save the planet

Okay, so he could have done it earlier. But that’s history, so let’s not revisit it. I’m just delighted, in this most awful of awful years, that Barack Obama has called a ban on further oil exploration in the Arctic. Perhaps now the polar bear will have a fighting chance, the northern ocean will not suffer devastating pollution from oil leaks and spills. Perhaps the native american people who live in the cold zone will not be harried and persecuted by Big Oil’s relentless march for ever more profit. Perhaps, I hope so.

Yes, of course I know that America is not the only nation that pursues oil, non-stop and without care for the consequences. And of course I know that there will be attempts to overturn any banning legislation, and soon, far too soon. But it’s Christmas, a difficult time of year, any year, and I’m trying to look for reasons to be positive about the future.

Thanks, Barack. May you, Michelle and the girls enjoy the holidays and move on to even greater things. Some might say you could have done more: I say, you tried, and none of us has walked in your shoes.

Quo Vadis, Planet Earth?

Mustn’t be too dramatic. After all, we’ve had neo-fascists in power before and, no doubt, will again. But… just take a look around.

Tory PM May in the UK, now Trump president-elect in the US, a big ? over Europe and the EU, the ever worsening middle-east, Putin keeping careful watch overall, the economic rise of China. No effective or respected UK political opposition, Hillary Clinton edged out of the US leadership by an archaic electoral college voting system, Farage and the continuing dog’s breakfast that is Ukip, what a fuck-up. You have to wonder, even if you were a right-winger, would you be rejoicing? And if so, why, for God’s sake? I just cannot see it, myself.

And all this before even considering the most important issue, the planet. I watched a documentary last week, broadcast live from Churchill, a recently expanded fuel exploratory settlement on the edge of Hudson Bay, in Northern Manitoba. This is a cold place, home to polar bears and the Inuit, but now full of structures reminiscent of a present-day Klondike that will, presumably, be abandoned as quickly, once the land has been desecrated in the search for gas and oil. It was all so familiar, the presenters waxing lyrical about the majestic and dangerous polar bears, the Inuit desperately trying to keep some of their traditions alive, meeting to share a bounty of whale blubber. Unlike those raping the stunning frozen land for fuel, the natives took what they needed, and left the rest for another day. Isn’t this the way we should all live?

Haven’t read it yet – I’m saving the experience for when I’m really pissed-off – but one of my heroes, Michael Moore, is predicting that Trump’s presidency may not even last four years. We can live in hope, but surely there must be more that we can do?