A sceptic's take on being human – or should that be virtuous?
It’s been – frankly – the crappest winter I can remember. After the last equinox in September I wrote something about the capacity of language to speak about realities beyond concepts, and I finished up by describing the change in season as a crisis. I had no idea at the time that the rather smartass description failed to grasp that the coming crisis would render me almost speechless. If I’ve written very little in the last couple of months it’s because words felt like dust in my mouth. I could go on but I won’t. Most people with any grasp of the steep slope we’re collectively tottering down will understand.
So one thing I could do, I found, was to go through the hundreds of photos I took last year, to try to identify plants and fungi. Most of them were either fairly straightforward or beyond identification – cue for a return visit.
Today we’re back in Lleyn looking towards a grey and bad tempered Irish Sea. Cold, miserable and damp we stayed indoors and I spent the day botanising the garden. I love ferns – I love any group that gives itself up so slowly and after intense study, and today I embraced the challenge that not all ferns are bracken. After photos, close inspection with a x20 magnifier; surrounded with books and hunting furiously on the new BSBI Flora, I can definitively identify the Soft Shield Fern. If that sounds like a small achievement (and it may well be) it felt like a big one to me.
I’ve spent most of the winter in a state of despair but now the allotment is going again, and I’ve a welcome sense of direction and purpose – no thanks to our appalling government.
I've spent my life doing a lot of things, all of them interesting and many of them great fun.
When most people see my CV they probably think I'm making things up because it includes being a rather bad welder and engineering dogsbody, a potter, a groundsman and bus driver. I taught in a prison and in one of those ghastly old mental institutions as an art therapist and I spent ten years as a community artist. I was one of the founding members of Spike Island, which began life as Artspace Bristol. ! wrote a column for Bristol Evening Post (I got sacked three times, in which I take some pride) and I worked in local and network radio and then finally became an Anglican parish priest for 25 years, retiring at 68 when I realised that the institutional church and me were on different paths.
What interests me? It would be easier to list what doesn't, but I love cooking and baking with our home grown ingredients. I'm fascinated by botany and wildlife in general, and botanical illustration. We have a camper van that takes us to the wild places, we love walking, especially in the hills, and we take too many photographs.
But what really animates me is the question "what does it mean to be human?". I've spent my life exploring it in every possible way and the answer is ..... well, today it's sitting in the van in the rain and looking across Ramsey Sound towards Ramsey Island. But it might as easily be digging potatoes or making pickle, singing or finding an orchid or just sitting. But it sure as hell doesn't mean getting a promotion, beasting your co-workers or being obsequious to power, which ensured that my rise to greatness in the Church of England flatlined 30 years ago after about 2 days. But I'm still here and still searching for that elusive sweet spot, and I don't have to please anyone any more.
Over the last 50 or so years we've had a succession of gardens, some more like wildernesses when we were both working full-time, but now we're back in the game with our two allotments in Bath.
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