Wednesday, 4 January 2012
Fighting the Cuts
Some Wensleydale-and-honey sandwiches are more dangerous than others. Putting together this particular individual had necessitated opening a half-used jar of honey whose lid just...wouldn't...budge. But it didn't slip in my hands either, so rather than just grabbing a tea-towel I went straight for the Nuclear Option: one of those things that look like giant nut-crackers and hold the lid while you twist the jar. But instead of opening, the jar just imploded, taking what looked like a chunk of my hand with it.
Fast-fowarding through three hours spent at A&E, I am now two weeks into the stage of the self-made repair job. A body sends, or makes on the spot, items whose job it is to bridge gaps and prevent invasions or further damage. So, new skin and muscle cells start to assemble, white blood cells gather to fend off infection, and any potentially disruptive movement is minimised by a rapid message to HQ telling me that moving my hand hurts! My only conscious job in all this, in other words, is to leave the site well alone, free of outside interference, and let a body get on with it.
Sadly, this is rather inconvenient for my ambitions of digging the Plot.
Suppose, though, that instead of remaining un-dug for a couple of weeks, the Plot and its neighbours were simply abandonned altogether. How would they look if a visitor were to come back in ten, twenty, a hundred years' time?
Of course the bindweed would have a riot this summer, and doubtless the same the year after, aided and abetted by the brambles. But then, assuming nobody tries to graze animals on them, the Plots would start to do something new. You wouldn't see the self-seeded birch, horse-chestnut and hazel trees at first, they'd be shielded by the undergrowth, which by a happy coincidence is just how they like it. Left to grow undisturbed, long strands of fungi would thread through the soil, somehow coming to an arrangement whereby goods are swapped with any plants they encounter. Going by what has happened in other bits of abandonned land nearby, I'd guess the birches would start to show above the brambles in about ten years, followed by trees with heavier shade, which would put paid to the bindweed's ambitions. Ever seen bindweed growing in a forest?
Meanwhile some more shade-tolerant characters would colonise the ground: perhaps descendents of that sorrel I planted. Snowdrops and other early-flowering plants might get a hold. In twenty years' time, the Plots might be a good place to hunt for blackberries, hazelnuts and mushrooms. And of course, for squirrels.
Birch trees tend to expire after fifty years or so of hard work bringing minerals up from the subsoil and leaving them lying about on the ground for everything else to enjoy. So would anybody. Eventually, then, the Plots would become home to slow-growing trees of the type found in Britain's oldest forests, but perhaps interspersed with a few fruit and nut trees left over or descended from today's individuals. The Plots, then, would be the Ancient Forests of 2112.
And all we would have had to do to achieve this would be to leave the site well alone, free of outside interference, and let the earth get on with it.
Sadly, this would be rather inconvenient for our ambitions...