2019 has been the year of bamboo. No, not for the Chinese, just for myself, since I’ve just finished digging out the last clump of highly invasive bamboo in the garden. It’s a pleasure to see it go, and, of course, there are still some bits hidden under the soil, the lawn, the flowerbeds. But I’ve got most of the ‘runners’ and there are few remaining. Since I’m gardening organically, I couldn’t use any of the weedkillers that might have done the trick, and in any case they don’t really do the difficult bit which is to reclaim the soil from the bamboo – you’d still have to dig it out even when it’s dead and the clumps go down two feet. I had five clumps, of which three medium and two large (several metres long – three or four I guess). Altogether I think it’s taken about two weeks of full time work per clump – including disposing of the roots at the dump (aptly enough, via a Fiat Panda!), buying new forks (I got through about six – the last one has lost a prong but it carried on to the end), and, mostly, the hard labour of digging. It means I’ve now got a lot of areas where planting can occur, though not before Spring since I’m sure I’ll get a few surprise bamboo shoots here and there. Why was it planted? Bamboo was at one time thought to be a great screening plant – and like Leylandii – we are now older and wiser. I’m sure with the right variety and the right setting it might well work, but not invasive bamboo in the damp and mild climate of Pembrokeshire.
2019 has been a pretty good year for getting through books – I’ve just finished Roger Scruton’s News from Somewhere – which I read after reading the diametrically opposite, more or less, News from Nowhere, William Morris’s utopia. Roger Scruton’s book is an enjoyable read, a philosophically engaging account of settling in Wiltshire. The argument against Morris, that good human communities (indeed, a good human life in community) emerges out of settled human community, and that revolutions as envisaged by Morris, have failed time and again, since lacking a well trodden tradition of ‘the good’, only abstract notions of liberty, what good could possibly be realised in a revolution? Well, such arguments go back to Burke and no doubt beyond. Scruton might be described as a conservative with a small ‘c’ rather than as a political identity, though he slides to Conservatism rather quickly. And it’s easy to think of types of Conservative identity that are anything but conservative – climate denying radical free marketeers. It’s quite interesting to consider what would conservative Labour identity be? Something like old methodist socialism perhaps? There could surely be an anti-revolutionary labour identity that valued place and history? That seems to be the sort of socialist Scruton’s dad was….
Some other books read include various Gutenberg free books – Thoreau on Walking (a short and enjoyable book, though he wanders a bit off topic), John Henry Newman On the Idea of a University – just as he was canonised and very relevant to the contemporary commodification of education – Richard Jeffries The Story of My Heart, a curious blend of nature mysticism and weird speculation, and from the local library Scruton’s Green Philosophy - mostly reasonable, but unable to see that though the local community is certainly crucial to solving our ecological nightmare, and that’s the book’s excellent core, it doesn’t mean that Greenpeace and Surfers Against Sewage and the like haven’t been crucial, in a world of globalised polluters, in holding the polluters to account. I read various less known articles by and about Jacques Ellul – there is a decent level of publishing about Ellul now, after rather a neglect. And I read a fair bit of Jean Giono – Les Grands Chemins is a wonderful tale, more for the atmosphere of rural Provence a hundred years ago. A story taken from a tramp’s life, saying a lot, by the wayside, about good and evil and the enticing winding road, well known to touring cyclists, that leads between the fields, through the wood, over the horizon.