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Sectarians, right and wrong

Wednesday 25th April, rain and wind. I put my big citrus tree out for a fresh water bathe, but the pot blew over so I brought it in. Let the rains continue, but it's so cold! It's hard to believe I should be beginning to look for the swifts again. Funny thing, I remember thinking, just as that "chaotic" hot summery weather in March came to an end, actually this probably IS the summer...

The anti-fascist protest was worse than I'd thought. Approximately 100 fascists, "marching for England", guarded by approximately 1,000 police, and I'm not exagerrating by much. Bussed in from Sussex from Surrey from Kent, the forces of law and order lined the Queens Rd, facing the troublemakers who lined the pavements. The vanguard of the marchers, mainly young men (what? you'd guessed?), had all the glum truculence of football hooligans, who know they are hated and just soak it up. In the rear, one poor little girl "marched" sobbing between her parents. The more respectable protesters, among whom I was standing to be counted, shouted "Fascist Scum!" "We don't want your vile ideas in Brighton", "St George was Syrian, you ignorant nutters!". I felt we were for all the world like purely partisan "Catholics", indignant at a "Protestant" march unwisely allowed to pass through their territory. I've no doubt, by the way, that the puny "March for England" is a racist, Islamophobe, extreme right wing event, but though I'm still glad I turned out, it's always better to know, where was that justified fear? Lost, completely lost, so the protesters seemed to have no right to their right reason, and the marchers seemed merely stubborn and bewildered hobbyists.

Peter and I left long before the violence, and didn't go near the speeches, if there were any. Down in the town, the police had helpfully arranged two corrals, one for the Marchers and one for the Protesters... and of course the lads in the yellow gilets and very sensible shoes were forced to pitch in and sort stuff out. It was a good old ruck, apparently. Shocking. Obviously this Fascist march thing ought to be banned, as being a deliberate provocation of sectarian violence, in this fair city of righteous, volatile Utopians.

And then what shall we ban next?

Reading fiction: The Father Of Locks, Andrew Killeen Very entertaining, erudite Thousand-And-One-Nights themed detection, set in C7 (?8) CE Baghdad in the Caliphate. Killeen acknowledges his debt to Robert Irwin's Arabian anthology Night and Horses and the Desert (if you can get hold of it) Both highly recommended, and apparently Killeen has a sequel out (did I need to tell you that), this March. & then the Amazon page for The Father Of Locks recommended I read The Memory Of Love, Aminatta Forna, and I don't know what the connection is, since The Memory of Love is set in Sierra Leone, partly in the sixties, partly "now", but I'm grateful for the tip off. Serious, emotionally engaging, top literary writing, and really good. I think I'll now read everything she's written.

The keynote picture is of St Edmund, King and Martyr, a credible alternative for patron of England, who at least lived here (see Inspired championing of this notion in last week's Private Eye), until his team came second in a scrap with the Danes, and Edmund ended up tied to a tree, shot so full of arrows he resembled a hedgehog. There's a tree in the picture, I'm not sure what kind. Maybe an oak? His feast day is apparently 20th November.

I'm getting onto the Council now. I reckon we should have street-parties.

Headhunters and Standing Up To Be Counted

Friday 20th April, clear skies, less chilly. Promise of more rain tomorrow. This lone birch is such a generic picture, every tree photographer must have one, it seems unecessary to give it a location. It's on a hill.

Went to see Headhunters last night at the Dukes. Fantastic! So much fun! I really couldn't fault it, except, maybe, Crazy Lotte's plot dump. But what's a thriller writer to do? Slow down the breakneck pace by explaining what's going on? Nah, just get it all over with in one little burst, well, all right, one huge babbling unlikely blurt, but I didn't care. So many neat twists and hugely entertaining moments, but I feel many will agree that the passage involving the Vicious White Attack Dog, and the Venal Farmer's Horrible Old Tractor, had a special and glorious charm.

Have ordered live mealworm feeder. Think I'll wait until its turned up and been installed before ordering the worms. Have cleared it with Peter that the live worms have to live in the fridge (but not the freezer nb). Have not discussed issue with Gabriel as yet.

Ginger is much improved. The green slime attack seems to be over.

So now, on Wednesday night Maude came round to eat, and laid on us her stickers for the Stand Against March for England thing, centre of Brighton on Sunday. I try to avoid thinking about the EDL. The whole situation there (remember Liam Fox's exit? Try to figure out our lovely Prime Minister's position visavis Atlantic Bridge?), makes me feel the world has become so Nineteen Thirties I can't stand it. My position, eroded as it may be, remains as stated in the Bold As Love sequence. You're rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic*, mates! We are a world at war, sure, and we need to get on that footing, but it's against no human enemy, for although humanity's inexorable growth is the root of all the problems, the brilliant successes of that growth also show the only ways forward, the only ways we can save ourselves and the living world.

I'm not a Communist (read, Islamist) or a Fascist (well, if the name still fits, why change it?) either, and given what I can't help knowing about the past, anyone trying to convince me I should become a fellow-traveller with one of those cunning and implacable plans for world domination, because the other is Pure Evil, has a hill to climb. How many notches on Joe Stalin's gun?

Rant over. Sorry. A reminder of why I prefer to talk about my garden on here (Voltaire reference intended) But I think I'm going to be up there in the town centre, Sunday lunchtime, slinking around in the back row or something, muttering, I don't want to be here. Needs must.

*Uk readers, don't you think there's something eerie about all the Remember the Titanic madness? I suppose the craze is giving people employment, but still...Hundred year old shipwreck of a luxury liner, rich folks' excess machine that went down taking the poor with it? Uncanny thing to have a passion for.

Wind And Rain: Ginger Is Poorly

Wednesday 18th April. Back at my desk, after the Easter break. The wind howls, the sparse rain raps my window. The 2012 bird action much reduced again, in line with the RSPB's early survey results. The starlings have once more failed to breed in next door's gutter, the herring gull colony on our rooftops that used to be such a torment is much diminished; one goldfinch remains faithful to our finch-feeder, the blue tits and the (very tame) garden warbler can be seen. So many populations are failing, it's inexorable, and will there ever be an upturn? I can't see it happening. But yesterday I saw the sparrowhawk dart across our gardens, and she's probably responsible for the storm of collared-dove-feathers, sans corpse, on the lower lawn. And I hear a blackbird singing around the close of the afternoon & that's nice.

Peter has totally cleared out and cleaned the little pool, which was very dirty and glistened nastily. Four healthy young frogs seen. No sign of spawn or tadpoles, but the two fish that live in there can now be seen playing together in crystal clear shade, scale rubbing scale where light is dim; but on Sunday the newt (or one of the newts, we hope) was sighted calmly basking in the algae fronds that thickly coat the wall of the larger pool. So, we probably won't give that murky basin the same treatment. My tadpole nursery tub is blooming, and the pet tadpole bowl has been instituted indoors.

Saw The Hunger Games for our Wet Bank Holiday Treat, & we all loved it. Remarkably true to the book (naturally, since book already huge success) and much better than the book, for my taste, despite whacky implications of that virtual-reality control room thing. There's Jennifer Laurence, to start with, & Katniss's internal monologue is no loss. But give Suzanne Collins credit, as a novel, The Hunger Games was made for cinema. Everything that became mildly tedious in print (like the endless grooming of Katniss) gets established on screen in a couple of shots, including the relationships, & the pace benefits enormously. Shame they've lost their director. Also seen: Once Upon A Time In Anatolia Interminable, mythical, daring to bore me into submission; murder without mystery, in an intensely patriarchal society, deconstructed by relentless real-time realism (almost the mirror opposite of The Hunger Games, in ways). That shot of the bright apple, falling from the tree and rolling aimlessly along the dark rivulet, that was wonderful.

I'm reading popular science again, for fun, first time in a long time. So far consumed, Why Beauty Is Truth, Ian Stewart on symmetry. Ian Stewart is patently just as much a teacher as he is a mathematician. Even I could follow his argument, and understand (to some extent!) where he was going with his equations, every step of the way; while also following the pleasingly inclusive historical asides, and any time I got lost, I could follow the thread backwards, and pick it up again. Execellent. But why is truth beauty? That's the hard problem.

God's Philosophers James Hannam. Now this is more like historical science journalism. Very enjoyable, and persuasive. The Mediaeval Scientists rescued from determined, ruthless, albeit well-meaning efforts of a century or two of anti-clerical propaganda. Myth debunking #n: When I was a lass I was always taught (okay, I admit, Koestler's The Sleepwalkers etc taken as gospel, so to speak), that the heliocentric view of the solar system had to win out, because the need for better navigational tables made the drive for accurate, rational readings of planetary movements an economic (& therefore invincible) imperative. Wrong! It was Astrology, the desire of Popes and Kings to have their fortunes read 'accurately' that protected the funding and the tolerance for astronomers and their research. & once I think about it, and see the references, I'm forced to believe this. Oh no! A whole edifice of fear not, the truth will out, for the real facts are of superior practical use demolished.

Critical Mass Philip Ball. I really liked Philip Ball's Bright Earth, all about colours, and their evolution in human society, even though it's a bit all over the place compared eg to anything by Ian Stewart. Critical Mass, about applying the statistical tools of physics to society, from phase transitions and power laws to the Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma, is good too, esp the catch-up provided on the history and nature of the internet, but isn't impressing me as much, even though it starts with William Petty, a name to which I'm sentimentally attached (which is why I bought the book), simply because I 'studied' his Politickal Arithmetic for about a fortnight as an undergraduate. The chapters on the statistical tools are interesting, but not well taught. The main argument of the book is doomed to be all about imaginary spherical cows, and how they've signally failed to move "us" towards a better place. (Depends on your point of view, of course).

Ginger is poorly with diarrhoea. It's not affecting her mood or behaviour. Just the furnishings, mainly. We've put her on a bland diet, and kaolin-for-cats. Hope it clears up soon.

That huge hollow sycamore tree, the biggest I've ever seen, is near Torver, Cumbria