Monday, October 17, 2005

Gardening At Night 17th October 2005

Gardening At Night
Back home in New Zealand its now spring.Back home before coming to Nagoya I rented half a house which came with a sizable backyard and a vegetable patch.
I was reminded of my veggie garden as I meandered through the streets to work today.Here and there wedged between houses are small plots of cultivated land.

Back home I grew tomatoes,lettuces,various other vegetables and at last count 10 varieties of sunflowers.Spring was a busy time after the inactivity of winter.Different seeds and plants had to be selected and purchased.Fallow earth had to be tilled,turned over and fertilised.None of this chemical fertiliser.All natural leaf mold,grass clippings,blood and bone,chicken shit and seaweed were dug in.
A huge pear tree which provided shade over the garden produced an abundance of pears.The surplus I also dug in .Greedily devoured by worms,insects,birds and a resident family of hedgehogs who earned their keep as pest control agents.Often you could hear and see them at work their raspy,asthmatic breathing at dusk.
There were three main plots in which I rotated the crops as per my battered Yates Gardening bible.Along the fenceline I grew sunflowers of various hues and heights.
Ranging from the dwarf pompom types to the 2-3 metre regal Russian specimens with their large seed bearing heads providing food for the local sparrow population.

I also recall getting home after work and spending an hour or so each night weeding ,
watering,staking trimming and the numerous tasks required maintaining a garden.
Towards summer after the initial crops had been sown Id anticipate which kind of lettuces to sow for summer salads.Would it be the flashy frilly red green breed or a more reliable older conservative type.One summer I even tried to grow the yellow oval shaped low acid Italian tomatoes ...with mixed results.
Gardening is a very contemplative dare I say hands on interest.I envy the old men and women I saw today bent double in their plots.Here in Nagoya I only have a small balcony populated by a few desultory cacti and a listless rubber plant.Hardly enough challenge to keep my gardening skills up to par.
The Dictators
With its 165 or so pages of references and notes to say Richard Overys "The Dictators Hitlers Germany, Stalins Russia" is impressive is both an injustice and an understatement.The book is his attempt to put both regimes into their historical,political and social context.
Chapters deal with the ideas,political,social and cultural ambitions.Its an engrossing read.I just wonder how long it took him to assemble all the sources and then distill the results of such scholarship into such a compelling and coherent read.
One of the more interesting chapters deals with the relationship the dictatorships had with the existing social organisations such as the churches,trade unions and the legal systems.The use of terror,periodic purges and control of public opinion is described in some detail.
I never realised the extent to which the ideas of eugenics and biological engineering were used and subverted to murder ,castrate and sterlise not only Jews but other "asocials" or deviants such as gypsies,mentally ill,handicapped children and sexual offenders ....all in the pursuit of a superrace.
The sheer detail and density can be overwhelming at times I glazed over the chapter on controlling the economy.
Overall though, one of the weighty works of my year and thought provoking.How its possible for a regime or cliche to gain control then change and establish its own mindset and inculcate the younger members of its society.
The author also tackles the problematic idea of dissent.An ordinary citizen may baulk at some of the regimes policies yet happily comply with others when there is pressure from your conscience, fear for your job,family and reputation as well as state coercion in the form of concentration camps.
As he puts it however both systems didnt arise from some alien visitation but were populist dictatorships fed by mass participation and accepted by significant fractions of the population.
All in all it took me a month or so to read which in my opinion seems a fair trade off given the quality ,depth and wealth of detail in this 651 page book.
Bagels and a Blue Monday
One of the small joys and consolations of Mondays as I make my one and a half hour trek to deepest ,darkest Nagoyas suburbs is the thought of having bagels for lunch produced at the shopping centre bakery.When I first was assigned this task some 3 months ago there were three types baked...plain,blueberry and cheese.Proudly displayed.
Slowly but surely the display shrunk along with the disapperance of the cheese bagels.Imagine my horror today when I arrived to find the display completely gone and only the plain stodgy bagels hidden in the corner.Seems bagels havent been selling like hotcakes and their popularity has faded due to the fickleness of customers.
As if to compound matters ColdPlays new album was being played on our schools sound system.The predictable repeated rise and fall in each melody seems sure to induce either sea sickness or insanity caused by frequent exposure.....

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