10 March 2008

nature raw

Nature asserted itself today with high winds and rain blowing down trees, turning umbrellas inside out and making my hair curl. In Trafalgar Square, hawks were paraded to scare off the pigeons. But in Cable Street, nature was working more subtly. The street runs east to west, more or less following the railway line from Limehouse to Tower Hill and Fenchurch Street. It featured as a location in "Children of Men" in a scene showing the desolation of London in an infertile future (no props needed, that made us laugh). And in this not particularly inspiring street, nature has insinuated itself, tagged along to the trains coming from Southend and Tilbury to seed a long bank of alexanders on a strip of empty land.

These tall umbelliferous plants are lush and glossy. They are ususally found in damp places, by ditches, in leafy lanes. I'm told that they are edible and used to be eaten as greens at the end of winter to see people through to the time when more appetising vegetables would be available, so fitting that they are here to see us through the last days of winter.

Down at the other end of Cable Street you can see a rather more exotic planting if you look out of the train window. These agaves were brought home from West Mersea WI in nine inch pots some while ago. Here in London, they are perfect for growing in the brick filled aggregate that passes for soil in a south facing school garden - and perfect for keeping rowdy school girls on the path to righteousness rather than running riot through the plants.

It just helps to know they're there when you're insulted on the District Line for being unhappy about intrusive personal stereos, trying not to throw back insults, trying to remind yourself that it isn't as bad as it seems.

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