June 12th, 2021

Still On Course

My project to read Dickens' major novels, straight through, in order of publication, nearly foundered on Barnaby Rudge, but I turned the final page yesterday- six months after turning the first- and next up will be A Christmas Carol. Barnaby took Dickens six years to write. He started it around the time he was finishing off The Pickwick Papers then kept shoving it back in the drawer and writing other things instead- until it finally appeared as the second story to be serialized in his- by then faltering- miscellany Master Humphrey's Clock. It's a bad book, but you can't entirely ignore it because it has passages of brilliant writing- and some unforgettable characters- like Miggs the sycophantic maid who runs on at the mouth like a nastier version of Mrs Nickleby and Denis the hangman with his devotion to his craft - and best of all- Grip the Raven- with his voluble stream of unconsciousness, "Never say die, bow wow, keep up your spirits, Grip Grip Grip. Holloa! We'll all have tea, I'm a Protestant kettle, No popery!"


One of the things I do when I'm walking round the garden is pull up bindweed. I feel a little bad about this because bindweed is also a living thing, has as much right to the space as anything else- and its flowers are rather lovely, but if you're going to have a garden there are things you can allow and things you can't- and the proliferation of bindweed is one of the latter. Left to itself it would spread and spread and smother everything in its path- including the house itself.

I once had tenancy of a garden that was over-run with bindweed- and decided to eradicate it. I didn't just pull but also dug- and realized as I soldiered on that I'd taken on an impossible task. Bindweed grows fast, has a root system that is easily as far-reaching as its growth above ground, can regenerate from the smallest scrap and is essentially unkillable. All one can really hope to do is make it feel unwelcome...

I suppose poison might do the job, but poison is unselective, gets into the ecosystem and eventually works its way round to us- and I refuse to use it on anything.