Starcat 1 by my favourite artist

Friday, 19 October 2012


If memory serves me right, thus ends Voltaire’s ‘Candide’. In general terms, I tend to avoid philosophical thinkers like the Peste[1], or plague. Here, however, Voltaire has hit the nail on the head if your aim in life is to live as happily as possible – and perhaps with only one buttock – both on an individual level and with those who surround you

I take Voltaire’s garden to mean all that surrounds the central core of your life. If that core is your home and you and yours, then the garden is everyone and everything else that revolve around this precious nucleus.

In terms of real estate, maybe your physical garden is nothing more than a window box; perhaps it is 300 acres or more of parkland. No matter. Everything contained therein is your concern and responsibility. If properly maintained, your garden will bring beauty and happiness to you and those who see it and who know how to appreciate it.

As in your garden, it is in life. Once the decision has been taken, weeds and infestations must be ruthelessly dealt with – even if it means sacrificing a once-favourite plant to save the rest. Such a sacrifice may be a wrench as we pull it from the earth, but long-term, both its surroundings and your own peace of mind will be the better for it.

Obviously, I am not advocating the wholesale permanent eradication of annoying neighbours, night-barking dogs, workmates etc., although some gun-owning lunatics, mainly American, do indeed regard this as a feasible, indeed logical, option. Before acting we should be careful. We all fall into someone else’s ‘needs-to-be eradicated’ category. As Donne said, ‘no man is an island’. What I am advocating is that we should not hesitate to grasp the literal and figurative nettle when it starts to sting. At least we should try as much as possible to distance ourselves from sources of frustration and anger. For our good and for that of the source.

Quite soon I hope to start my yearly tidy-up of the land[2] behind my house. This year I plan to plant some espalier fruit trees along the wall. Quinces are quite thorny and prevent neighbour’s dogs (and even neighbours!) from entering.

I will also be lopping off of some branches from my beloved almond trees. Perhaps I might also chop down an olive tree prior to planting a cherry in its place. These decisions are not taken lightly. No such decision should be. Trees are living beings and should be respected. It is, however, great fun when the cutting and chopping is over and feeding the waste into the shredder for composting begins.

Obviously the larger logs are cut into 2-foot lengths and dried for the fire. Olive wood burns beautifully due to the fact that the whole tree is full of oil. Sometimes beautiful patterns in the grain emerge and can be quite captivating. I often wonder if I could put this wood to better use. Ironically, I sarcasticaly suggested in an earlier post , that maybe all degree courses should include a carpentry course. Now, as I think of it, it does not seem such a silly idea. Hoist by my own petard!

When the rains finally fall consistently and the brown earth begins to turn green - even as the trees shed their leaves, I will upload some photos of my efforts.

[1] A-Level French; where would we be without it?
[2] It sounds grand, but is in fact about the same size as a good back garden in an English semi. Garden, however, does not describe the steep, wild, rocky piece of mountain that is my – literal – lot.


  1. I have never been an avid gardener though I like a well tended garden. Am I any better at gardening in the euphemistic sense? I suspect not and that I am more the hunter gatherer type, collecting fruits, roots, berries and shiny things as I go.

    I think that to be a good gardener you need to put down roots, both literally and figuratively, whereas I have always had the talent of walking away from my last place of sojourn without a backward glance.

  2. Hoom Hum! I think perhaps that I am a bit more like an ent. I put down the roots but on occasion can bestir myself pull them up and shamble off. Actually, I can feel my roots begining to itch a bit now that my halflings are growing up.