Thursday, 15 December 2011

From Greer on gardening to the blessing of a cake. Ah, London life!



Life in London is becoming as intriguingly unpredictable as Sydney, which is nice.

On Monday night Lynda and I listened to Germaine Greer tell us how to suck eggs - her words. What she actually did was show us how her property in south-eastern Queensland has been converted back into a self-sustaining rainforest. She also gave an interesting summary of vicariance biogeography, using the only the first of these words, and only once, thankfully. 

Greer has (good) form as a commentator on plants and gardens. In 1979 she wrote a gardening column for the magazine Private Eye under the pseudonym of Rose Blight, and she's been know to drop the occasional contribution into a newspaper on this topic.

Greer got into plants when she attempted to get closer to her sister, a trained botanist. All this did was cast Germaine's giant public shadow on her sister in her one area of specialism.

More productively, Greer bought some land - for the price of a London flat - in the headwaters of the Nerang River, near to Mount Warning, and upstream of Surfers Paradise. This is her Cave Creek property.

The talk was a mix of facts and a little fiction. As always Greer didn't let the facts stand in the way of a grand sweeping statement, or bother too much with consistency from one end of the talk to the other. For example weeds are welcome...except Lantana. Insect pests are welcome....except when they eat a seed you want to plant.  National Parks are bad because they don't lock up the forest...Cave Creek works because they don't just lock up the forest.

But I quibble. Greer was willing to stretch herself, to talk passionately about a subject that means a lot to her and is making a real difference. For that I can put up with some unscientific thinking. And I was on side with her dismissal of always worrying about rare species about to go extinct.

Greer finished by reminding us that if we see her doing things that seem odd and we wonder 'how could you' - such as Big Brother (picture above) - it's all in a good cause, for the rainforest restoration.

So that was the entrĂ©e. The main course, today, was cake. A large square cake with mostly light blue icing and the State of Tasmania floating on top. I was invited to the Annual Christmas Cake Ceremony at The Royal Hospital, Chelsea (the location of the annual Chelsea Flower Show).


This 61st cake ceremony was the responsibility of the Tasmanian people of Australia but because they don't have a consulate in London (it's interesting who does - WA - and who doesn't - NSW) it was handled by Australian Defence Staff in London assisted by the Hobart Branch of the RSL.

After a welcoming speech the cake was blessed, in rhyming couplets, by the Hospital Chaplain. Later we shared drinks and nibbles with the 'in-pensioners' - ex servicemen (and one woman that I noticed) who live in the hospital. You may have seen them featuring in a fascinating documentary on Australian television a year or so back.

The in-pensioners have to be over 65 years old, single and without dependants. The few we spoke to were charming and fun company. They are clearly proud of their home.


In the end we didn't get cake. That's for the in-pensioners later in the day, according to my source. We sang some songs (including the national anthem I don't know the words to and the one I was taught at primary school...) and then for us it was back to Kew and to wonder what would be next. Another cake (see Hooker)?

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