Spuds, Stats, Hope & Despair in Holy Week

Maundy Thursday leads to Good Friday and this year it wasn’t only most Western Christians in the UK who found it sombre. For those of us who are at all sensitive, as the Victorian spiritualists put it so delicately, these shutdown lockdown days can be difficult, because there’s just so much anguish in the atmosphere. Out with Ben my dog today was like running a gauntlet of ghosts substantial enough to give you a spectral body-blow. “What’s wrong?!!” I asked Ben as he sniffed the undergrowth along the Forth and Clyde Canal philosophically. Back home I checked on the usual suspects but, no, this seemed more general.

It was.

Nipping out for essentials up the (local) shop – not enough folk to queue outside, thank God – I could hardly think straight and came away without the Radio Times. I know! (But read on cos that is important.) This omnipresent F.E.A.R – it’s like a fog! Or smog, really. From London, a hundred years ago. Or Wuhan, 100 days ago. No, I’m not being facetious. I have many good friends from there and they are lovely people. No, I don’t have the virus thank-you. I’m vegan. We don’t get as sick or as often as milk and body snatchers. And if we do get a rare cold or mild flu, it burns through us in a couple of days. Without all that phlegm! [Ditch meat and dairy folks!]

So when I’d planted the potatoes (hold on, I’m getting there) I looked up the news and, sure enough, BIG FEAR! Why? Because today was, apparently, the worse day for Death-by-Covid-19 in the UK.

Apparently. Even though we know that hospitals release their mortality stats once a week on different days – so not when the deaths occur. Even though we know that the overwhelming majority of deaths from this ubiquitous virus (it’s on screens everywhere) occur in hospitals (92.9% in Week 13 of this year). Even though we know that the list of things they do to you in Intensive Care Units now would kill a bull elephant – and how our PM survived that, God only knows, but I’m sincerely glad he did. Even though we know that countries where they don’t have the money to do all those expensive things to you in expensive ICUs are basically unaffected by all this viral panic. Even though we know that the various global reckonings of rates are incommensurable (they don’t add up cos they can’t cos they’re not in the same units) and that the less you test the higher the apparent ratio of cases and the more you test (based on that shockingly high ratio) the more it comes down – no matter if you’re killing a few in ICUs.

Even though we know that large pharmaceutical companies are fuelling and revving and steering this narrative and racing each other to see who can profit most by it. Trump is a red herring. All that anti-malaria malarkey. He’s a capitalist. He’s capitalising. That’s what they do. That’s what they are all doing. Some are just less subtle about it.

So I set up the Good Friday service for my mother on the iPad (gifted to us by my niece) in the little plastic framed greenhouse in the back garden. Then tipped it onto the concrete slabs and smashed the screen as I was placing the wee speakers. And promptly blamed my mother for speaking to me and distracting me. Cos that’s what men do when we break things in gardens. We blame women. I was incandescent. Fortunately, so was the iPad – even with a shattered screen – and I pressed Play and stomped off to plant potatoes.

Earth is a grounding element and, measuring and planning, dibbing holes and making them wider and deeper, I had calmed down sufficiently to hear the sound of the Carmelite nuns’ singing (floating over the hedges to our amicable neighbours’ houses) and to realise that our cheap and cheerful wee greenhouse had become an oratory.

At this point, I did what British people (even us separating Scots) do by way of apology: I made tea. Earl Grey actually, with a squeeze of lime. And a hot cross bun. A caramel chocolate hot cross bun. Mum graciously accepted the peace offering. She went back to the service and I went back to the seedlings.

hot cross buns
4 caramel chocolate hot cross buns in a packet

Plants, like us, get along with each other to different degrees. Unlike us, they aren’t fickle. If they don’t like you today, they won’t tomorrow. If they do, they will. Plants are faithful creatures. Laudato si’!

So I’d been studying companion planting. The way people study things nowadays. And having garnered various contradictory opinions off the internet, I proceeded to make it up as I went along. And decided to plant Brussels sprouts and cabbages with the potatoes. And to move those chives, and do something with that thyme. Or sage. Or whatever it is.

watered 1
Cabbage seedlings planted too and chives moved to centre

So I did. The potatoes are organic, by the way, because those ones aren’t sprayed with chemicals to stop the eyes growing. Then I trimmed that nearby herb thing and (after I’d cycled back from the closed computer repair shop) tied up the leaves into bundles. They should smell nice dried. (Although Ben may have peed on them.) I snipped a few twigs into an old can for our Easter Dawn Fire. If that occurs. I’m not just being pious – one should expect the unexpected.

Green twine with wavy strands knotted at intervals criss-crossing the raised bed with seedlings and chives underneath

So what’s the upbeat ending to this blogpost? There isn’t one. It’s not that kind of day. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Photos © Alan McManus





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