When the telos gets broken ….


I didn’t post yesterday because it was one of those energy sapping days.  I foolishly read an overheated news piece involving millions of pounds of investment into developing a new kind of nitrogen fertiliser that will contain GM bacteria that allow cereal crops to make their own nitrogen – marvellous (I’m kidding – it’s potentially disastrous). And so it went on.  I tried to write using the new and greatly improved Project Gutenberg editing interface but I simply couldn’t get the hang of it and in the end a whole chunk of yesterday’s post disappeared into the ether. I spent hours on the allotment with Madame, planting out, and then more hours trying to make the diverter on the water storage system work properly instead of sending most of the rainwater under the shed. After more hours today I ripped out the old system and installed (bodged) a new one that looks messy but at least captures all the rainwater. Nothing went disastrously wrong and yet nothing went well either.

It’s not that I feel depressed – I know what that feels like and it’s horrible and disabling; but thinking about it today, I reckon I’ve nailed the cause for my sense of unrest.  There are many things that I think we need, to flourish as humans, but among them are two that are particularly under threat in the present pandemic. The first is telos – the sense of where we’re going and what we’re for – what we’re intended to become; and the second is agency – the capacity to direct our energies towards objects that we choose freely.  When things are going well the first – telos – gives us a sense of what it is we’re growing towards, and the second – agency – allows us the freedom to conduct our lives in the way that leads to our goal. When these are broken or denied to us we lose any sense of belonging and it feels as if we’re in a tunnel that may emerge somewhere we didn’t choose and don’t want to be, and that’s when we lose any sense of delight in things that normally fill us with joy.

Without being too dramatic about it, the flow of life has turned into a torrent and the lies, evasions and incompetence of some of our elected leaders suggests that they took a wrong turn some while back and are actually taking us towards the rapids instead of away from them.  Cue dramatic music but also a huge sense of disappointment and loss.

The hedgerows are full of flowers, cow parsley, mayflowers, dandelions and all the early risers.  The horse chestnuts are laden with blossom  and when the sun shines the earth seems to embrace it.  This should be one of the peak moments of the year and yet it’s tinged with loss and bereavement. We plod on, missing our families and friends; missing our normal textured lives and hoping  – some of us may even be praying – that we can wrestle a blessing out of this darkness.


Two swallows don’t make a summer

– but they certainly show that summer’s on the way. Sorry, by the way, for the lamentable joke but I’m cheering myself up because I’ve just discovered that we’re about to be subjected to house arrest for no greater crime than being over 60.  Even worse, we’re being told that we’ll probably be ‘let go’ by the NHS in favour of the more economically active. They say it’s for our own good that we’re being sequestered, but I’m suspicious.  Being made to feel lonely, marginalized and unwanted isn’t that great, but I think I’ll be alright because I’m so angry I’ll survive anything just for the pleasure of being there when the day of reckoning comes for this government, and meanwhile I’ll spend the time studying plants in the concentrated sabbatical I’ve always longed for.

The biggest worry is that we’ll be unable to maintain the allotment unless someone among the brain dead realizes that growing our own food is like going on a very lengthy shopping trip. Otherwise I’ll buy some night-sight goggles, put on my darkest clothes and garden secretly, in the dark – there are only a handful of police left on duty now in the whole city (post austerity) so it’ll probably be alright and I’ll be able to defend the allotment against the people who see a bit of illegal grazing as perfectly reasonable under the circumstances. Our neighbour once had all his pumpkins stolen a few days before hallowe’en.

The good news is in the photo – the asparagus is coming up. Actually, there’s been something to eat every day – not enough to keep us alive, but enough to keep us cheerful. There are still broccoli, leeks and chard and the hotbed is charging along so we’ll soon have some salad veg. I don’t think I’ve seen mention of this, but the complex reaction that keeps a hotbed going does need keeping moist, and we find that occasional watering invariably sends the temperature up by a few degrees 24 hours later.

Having time to calibrate the greenhouse drippers will pay off I’m sure, and by the time the warm spring weather comes and the plants are moved out of the flat, the whole system should work without too much intervention from us.  We’ve got food deliveries booked three weeks ahead and our youngest lives near enough to pick up fresh food and keep an eye on things; our middle son is an allotmenteer (on another site), our neighbours are a great bunch and our oldest son has got the whole family connected for video calls, so we’re very fortunate.

George Peterken’s nook “Meadows” is a delight as well. I have to read it with the laptop, a couple of floras and a notebook to hand because it’s that rich, but every chapter feels like a long rewarding walk and brings back happy memories of botanical expeditions we’ve enjoyed and intend to enjoy again when we get parole.

I had a colleague who was once involved in a deadful car crash.  He was driving on a dual carriageway when he suddenly saw a BMW upside down and in the air, flying towards him. He said it was so completely unexpected he simply couldn’t process the information and try to take evasive action. That’s what this coronavirus outbreak is beginning to feel like here in the UK.  The absence of any compassion, intellectual heft or even basic organisation by the government is terrifying.

%d bloggers like this: