In Praise of Patience & Democracy

I first published this ‘Patience’ post early in March this year. Now, here in mid-April, I’m publishing this revised edition for two good reasons: To update you on how the garden is going, and because, while gardening, I’ve been thinking about democracy.

I’ve never been a particularly patient person, quite the opposite in fact. Often acting as if there is a virtue in getting things finished over and done with as soon as possible, if not sooner. Other people will often irritate me with such half hearted promises that they’ll try and do such and such a thing by some time soon that I’ll be driven into doing whatever it might be, in a storm of impatience, before they’ve even had the chance to start. Driven, that’s been me for a lot of my life.

Recently though I’ve been learning some patience in a place that simply refuses to be driven, on Sarah’s allotment.

I’ve been helping her to restructure her place for a few months now. Clearing, demolishing, burning, building and, particularly, digging up long overgrown grasses she’d decided to be rid of. I’ve written about some of this on here before and most of them are gone now. Except for the cordyline.

Methods have been researched, tools bought, trenches dug and a fair amount of swearing has happened as tall things I didn’t used to know the names of have left the landscape, creating space for whatever gets planted next. Much of this has been hard work and all of it has taught me the value of patience and of having the right tools for the job. Except for the cordyline.

How it was. The cordyline, spiky, and, at the front, one of several miscanthus clumps. The miscanthus, at least now gone.

This is the last of the exotic grasses Sarah wants to remove, and so far my own work in helping to get rid of it has tested my new found patience so much that I’m feeling as driven as ever I was to see it replaced by a great big hole in the ground by the end of each of the several days I’ve now been working on it. But so far, battered and reduced though it may be, the cordyline is refusing to be removed.

It began its life with us small enough to live in a medium sized red pot in our back yard. We’re talking the late days of the last century here. Then when Sarah got her new allotment it was pronounced ‘pot-bound’ and transplanted to there to do what it would. Which it did, rejoicing in its new light and space by growing tall and thriving there for a decade or so. Until it died, or so we thought.

In the bad winter of 2009, evergreen though it is, all of its leaves dropped off, I helped Sarah chop its rotting trunk down, and the cordyline ended its days as a bench by the fire. Or we thought that’s how it had ended its days.

But over the succeeding decade of springtimes little shoots, suckers really, at the base of the original trunk refused to believe that the cordyline had ended its days, as they grew into an eight stemmed monster version of the original plant. Each of them twelve feet high, by Sarah’s estimate, and crowding out the light and space from everything around them. They, or rather it, had to go.

‘It’ being the problem, once Sarah had asked me to see what I might do about it. With some sawing and battering the eight trunks themselves weren’t too much of a problem to get rid of, and that mid-winter end of the allotment flooded with new light as we enjoyed ourselves over the Christmas days.

By Christmas just gone, the cordyline stumps.

Since when, not much. Because under the eight trunks there is one massive root. Smaller, chipped at, trenched around and beginning to split in two since then. But still there.

By this morning, the cordyline root.

As well as learning patience from all this I’ve been taking advice from my phone. Searching and researching on ‘How to dig up cordyline.’ Finding out about side roots and even an ‘anchor root’ that I’ll need to dig under the thing to eventually break it, free it and somehow get it out of the ground.

This plant that lived in a pot in our back yard.

Today, ice in the water butt.

Today there was some movement. More than before. The root’s two halves may yet split. Though I do know I’m probably going to have to dig even deeper that the two foot or more I’ve got down so far, to get to that anchor root I now know about. But today the soil was still frozen from our Siberian winter of this week and I couldn’t dig very much.

So I’m having to be patient, there’s no other option.

By the end of today. More of a split, some movement…
But still there.
Oh well.

Meanwhile spring is coming, most of our restructuring is done and it’s been good to spend so much time there together. So life at Plot 44 is good, really it is. Apart from that cordyline.

All suggestions welcome. Patience being the only other option.

Right then, here we are on a Sunday in mid-April. Having spent much of yesterday on the allotment I thought I’d let you know how everything’s going. But first those thoughts about democracy, another kind of patience. Because for much of yesterday, while I was gardening with Sarah, I was thinking about democracy.

Yesterday morning the country I’m a citizen of bombed Syria without asking me or my elected representative, Luciana Berger, what we thought. Luciana is the elected Member of Parliament for Liverpool Wavertree and one of the tasks we’ve all entrusted her with is having a say and a vote on matters of national importance. We don’t of course direct her how to vote, but trust in her judgment and intelligence. It’s how democracy works.

Except in this case, this important case, in what’s arguably an act of war, parliament and democracy were ignored. Not because our country was being actively and aggressively threatened, which I’d have understood, but because that’s what the high-handed government decided to do.

As soon a I found out I had my say in the most immediate place I have, my Twitter account:

‘I am physically & emotionally hard-wired to democracy & the days I see it bypassed like this I feel abused & like I count for nothing. But we do count, all of us. And democracy will not forget.’

I also retweeted what my own party leader, Jeremy Corbyn had to say about it:

‘Britain should be playing a leadership role to bring about a ceasefire in the conflict, not taking instructions from Washington…Theresa May should have sought parliamentary approval, not trailed after Trump’

I was not alone in expressing and supporting these opinions. Even a veteran Conservative MP and democrat got retweeted in support of my annoyance:

‘Eloquent Ken Clarke in absolute defence of democracy here on Channel 4 News. We’d have voted opposite ways if we’d got a vote. But that of course was avoided by the PM’s ‘dictatorial position’.

None of which has anything to do with gardening, but everything to do with patience, intelligence, diplomacy and the care for and consideration of others that I’d thought was enshrined in our democracy.

And it’s what I thought about much of the day while an English springtime happened all around us and our bombs fell on Syria:

Yes, the magnolia tree is in flower and Sarah is getting on with maintaining her shed. Re-staining it in ‘Forest Green’ in case you were wondering

And me? Piece by piece and mostly with the aid of a 7lb mattock I’ve nearly completed digging up and removing the accursed cordyline from the moat its now surrounded by. Patently, mostly.

Democracy, as I said yesterday, won’t forget what’s been done in our name. We have never and will never tolerate dictators.

7 Replies to “In Praise of Patience & Democracy”

  1. Hi Ronnie, I understand that sour milk can kill tree roots.
    If you Google “Can sour milk kill tree roots” there’s some info there.
    The allotment is looking great. Good job there! x

  2. Your paving looks a bit suspect Ronnie. As the farmers of Lydiate would say “Owd Jack Rabbit would break his leg running down there!”

  3. Sadly I have no suggestions. Like you, I can only help with the positive outlook. We can marvel at its persistence, practice that patience and enjoy, what now must surely become a series ‘The Killing of the Cordyline’.

    1. The series is a good idea! We went to the allotment yesterday and found last week’s snows and heavy rains have formed a flooded moat round the damned thing. I drained it, but the water table there is so high right now that it immediately filled up again.

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