Thursday 28 June 2012

Gardening - Love it or Hate it?

I used to think I was bad at gardening.  Just like I was bad a drawing.  But now I have realised that I'm not bad at gardening.  I just don't like it all that much.  Oh sure, I like the end result of a well tended, much loved garden that blooms at different times of the year and offers a multi-sensory experience treating the noise, the eyes the fingers.  I yearn for a perfect little English country cottage garden that I can meander through and ponder the state of the universe.  I long for perfect raised vegetable beds that will fill  our table and pantry the whole year round.

Instead I get weeds.  Relentless, immortal, soul destroying weeds.

Every spring I approach our garden with the optimism of a 5 year old on Christmas morning.  I draw plans with careful consideration for crop rotation.  I covet the photographs of dream gardens.  I buy seed packets and spend a packet at the local gardening centres on small, struggling stems.

But the optimism soon gives way to life.  A hot April is followed by a freezing May and anything I did then is frozen.

I start again with a heavier heart, holes in my gardening gloves and creaks in my knees. Once the freezing temperatures of spring have gone, May brings showers.  Not the kind of showers we should have had in April but monsoon showers that you should only have in a rainforest.  It rains for days.  The grass looks like a mud bath.

By the middle of June, despair sets in, I still haven't planted half my seed packets and most of my gardening tools have broken.  My potted herb garden has downed although the weeds don't seem to have minded and have taken over.  Half of one of my beautiful trees had died and I don't know if I should just let the dead part hang there because the other half looks really pretty.  The avids and other rapid insects are eating away at my pansies and my roses.

Gardening is not for the impatient.  I planted poppy seeds with visions of beautiful red poppies taking over the bed next to our driveway.  What I failed to appreciate was that poppies planted from seeds may take a few years to bloom.  I very nearly dug out the poppy plants that are growing thinking they were weeds.  Honestly, what is the point of plants that don't flower?

Gardening is not for those with control issues either.  Mother nature has a way of laughing at those of us with delusions of control.  It is this high pitched, migraine inducing laughter of wind, flood, drought all in the space of 2 weeks.

I try to appease her.  I've planted that endless cycle of annuals.  I religiously plant my hanging baskets and terracotta patio pots with pansies in the spring.  They are inevitably limp and bedraggled by August. Or the slugs have gotten to them and all that is left are the stems poking up out of the ground looking like Armageddon.

I've planted perennials that have never flowered and eventually been pulled up by errant gardeners who thought they were weeds.

My lawn is tortured by too much rain or too little rain.  Some weeks it doesn't grow at all and some weeks it grows enough for the entire summer.  My dog shits all over it and despite our daily poo patrol there is always one little turd that escapes my evil eye only to be found by my foot as I'm hanging up the laundry.

Oh, how I wish I liked gardening. I want to have a serene outdoor space where I can lie in my hammock smelling its abundance.  I will continue the struggle though because gardening to me is a bit like my golf game.

Everytime I play golf, I swear I am never going to play golf again.  Until, I make a perfect chip shot in for birdie.  I then approach the game with renewed commitment.

This year my garden has given me a birdie.  Our front rose bush is heavy with roses where it has always been insect ridden.  Our back rose (planted 5 years ago) has flowered for the first time ever (see photo above).  Our cherry tree produced its first cherry.  Our jasmine is finally blossoming.  Some days my hanging basket look stunning and some days they look like they are weeping but that is gonna be good enough for me.

Maybe I don't have to love gardening.  Maybe we can come to a compromise.  It will give me a few birdies and I will give it water when mother nature doesn't.

Thursday 14 June 2012

Boycott Launch of London Olympics 2012

I remember being so excited when London was awarded the opportunity to host the Summer Olympics in 2012.  That was in 2004 and 2012 seemed like ages away.  I was soooooo excited.  I mean, How many times in a person's life do they get to see the Olympics staged in their hometown?  I remember calculating how old my children would be, how old I would be and it seemed like forever away.  I swore that we would attend every event and that all of my family would come to visit.  I planned on pitching tents in both the front and back gardens just to make sure we had enough room.

The Olympics are expensive to put on and not a single capital city that has hosted the summer or winter Olympics has EVER recouped their costs of building the infrastructure to support the games.  But in this age of obesity and sloth, I bought into the promise that the Olympics would be accessible to all providing an activity rich environment where all would be encouraged to take part.

Well, here it is 2012 and we are roughly 6 weeks away from the Opening Ceremony, although I don't actually know when the Opening Ceremony is.  I know very little about what is going on with the Olympics.  I read no news about it any longer.  In fact, we have planned to be far, far, far away from London when the Olympics are held in this great capital city.

You are probably asking yourself so how did I get from being the most excited person in the country to being the most disengaged person?  The answer is simple:  GREED!

The first encounter was a year ago when I went to book tickets for a couple events.  The process was laborious.  First off, you had to have a VISA card.  Not Mastercard, VISA.  If your bank had not issued you with a VISA card as part of their standard banking practises you had to apply for a VISA and use it to pay for your tickets.  VISA being an Olympic sponsored had banned all other forms of payment.  What?  Are you kidding me?  We are in a credit crunch and you want me to go apply for a new credit card?  I shouldn't be complaining because I was one of the lucky whose bank does provide VISA.  But I knew instantly access to a VISA credit card was going to provide the first of many insurmountable hurdles for many in our society.

Once I got to grips with the difficult to navigate website, I encountered the vast array of events to attend.  The rowing is taking place in a lake not more than 5 miles from our house so I went to the rowing events.  I nearly fell out of my chair at the prices.  For a family of 4 to attend for a few hours in a non-medal event was going to cost my family over £200.  A medal event, ie a final, was going to cost us in excess of £400.  Worse, even if I decided that I was willing to hand over that cash there was no guarantee I would get the tickets.  You see, I was entering a lottery for the tickets, not actually purchasing the tickets.  The lottery for the tickets would be held a few months later.  So if you wanted to see an Olympic event you needed to select a few different events on different days.  So I went to the sailing and picked an event there.  Even though the cost was in excess of £300 I figured one or the other would be fine and hey, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity that my children would never forget so don't be such a grump. 

Tickets for the Opening Ceremony started at £1000/seat.  Are you kidding me?  Who bought those tickets?  It sure as hell ain't those millions of people that the games were supposed to be being staged for.  The more popular events, such as beach volleyball (seriously?), I decided to ignore all together since I figured everyone and their brother (because it is going to be an all male audience, right?) is going to apply for those tickets.

I started to get a little carried away, fearful I wouldn't get any tickets to any event in the lottery.  By the time I was finished making my selections (including gymnastics both male and female of course)and navigated to the checkout, I was informed that if I was successful in the ticket lottery the Olympic Committee would kindly remove roughly £7,000 from my bank account.  Well, they wouldn't remove that amount from my bank account because there was no way in hell I would have that much money in my bank account for them to remove.

I tried to calculate the odds of actually getting all the tickets that I had applied for.  I realised that this was a fruitless exercise as I didn't know how many tickets were available and I had no idea how many people were applying for the same tickets I was applying for.  A logical approach was not going to work here.

So I became completely illogical.  I removed everything except those events which I felt we would all as a family really enjoy.  I ended up with £2500 worth of tickets.  Then I added the cost of transportation, parking, food, drinks and actual time spent at the event.  A one day event of roughly in East London at the Olympic Park was going to take us 6 hours to get to an event that was going to last maximum 3 hours assuming that nothing in the transportation link went wrong, which if you have ever commuted in London you will know that this is the most foolish assumption one can ever make.

And it was going to cost us nearly £500 in incidentals.  And that was just for one event.  Fortunately, we are not one of the unfortunates who have to pay for accommodation.  We would have to consider a second mortgage if we were to do that.

VISA has struck a deal that states that all cash points within a radius of the Olympic Park must be removed if they are not VISA.  They will be replaced with 1/3 of the number and only VISA cards will be taken at all Olympic venues.

When I had considered all of this and was ready to click the pay button, I was further informed that the if I was one of the fortunate few to win the ticket lottery, the money would be removed from my account 1 year before the event.  That's right!  They were going to earn the interest on my money for a full year before the event.

At this point, I left the website without buying a single ticket to a single event.  I thought ok we will just watch this one from the television and soak up the ambient atmosphere.

Anyone who was just about anywhere in the British Isles during the Diamond Jubilee celebration will tell you that it was hard not to get wrapped up in all the hope and glory of the 60 year reign of Her Majesty the Queen.  Bunting sprung up in the most unlikely of places.  Union Jacks quivered in the winds.  the National Anthem, God Save our Queen, rattled the stained glass in churches all over the country.  For 4 days everyone enjoyed street parties, flotillas, pop concerts, beacon lightings, jubilee church services and carriage rides.  All too catch a glimpse of an 86 year old woman undoubtedly wearing a brightly coloured hat perfectly coordinated with her outfit and white gloves. And if you were lucky enough to see her smile you giggled like a child and told everyone about it.

AND IT WAS ALL FREE!!!!!!!! Now before y'all go attacking me by saying but we paid for it with our taxes, I know we did but we didn't pay anymore than normal taxes, ok?

That's right, none of this cost us a pound, pence or shilling.  OK, we paid £8 for parking in London on the Monday but I think just about anyone could handle that.

The events of the Diamond Jubilee were available to one and all.  It lifted the spirits of a nation and made everyone proud to be British (even if you aren't you were wishing you were).

Unlike the Olympics.  The privileged and moneyed will be able to attend and watch it live after they have fought the nightmare of the transportation chaos and road closures (for VIPs only, eg company directors of VISA).  The rest of us will watch it from our sofas on the television watching whatever the BBC deems is the most popular event at that time (Let's hope they do that better than they did the Jubilee Flotilla!).

Then I realised, hey, I can watch the Olympics on television anywhere in the world.  And we won't have to deal with the traffic. 

So, adios, auf weidersein, au revoir, ciao, see you later alligators, we are outta here.  You won't catch me supporting this capitalistic, money grabbing, greedy extravaganza that has done absolutely nothing to bring sports to the masses.

Now, let;s just hope it doesn't bankrupt our great city.