Sunday, 16 March 2014


I used to have a big, deep pond in the back garden.  It was there when we bought the house, and over the years it evolved – fountains and waterfalls were added, various aquatic plants were introduced, the fish (which had come with the deeds to the house, it seemed) bred and multiplied and died and got taken by passing herons.  Blanket weed grew, was raked out, thrown into the compost.  It was an ecosystem of sorts, I suppose, but not a properly sustainable one.  Ecosystems, especially micro- ones, don’t thrive on neglect.

One day, about ten years ago, I looked at the nasty green swamp and said: “Let’s fill it in.”  Viv agreed, but was compassionately concerned for the fish.  As luck would have it, providence was on our side – a friend had just moved into a new home which had a pond, and was keen to stock it with goldfish.  And so it came to pass.  Our fish got fished out, well most of them, and somehow found their way to Caro’s pond, where they thrived.  (Until recently, when she decided to fill hers in; but that’s another story.)

At the time, I remember feeling some concern for the frogs.  Some years earlier, we’d been sitting out late on a warm humid evening enjoying the tail end of a bottle or two, when suddenly about twenty-five frogs leapt out of the pond and scuttled off into the undergrowth.  Half a minute later lightning flashed, thunder clapped, and a deluge descended.  “Those frogs know something,” I thought (and said, to anyone who’d listen, for months afterwards).

So when the Great Pond Fill-in started, I worried a bit about how they’d fare without their swamp.  Viv reassured me: “They’ve been around longer than us.  They’ll survive.”


This evening, about an hour ago, I wandered out into the garden for a ciggie, and heard an unmistakeable sound from the undergrowth.   I came in, started to write this, went out again just now (I wanted to be sure), and heard it again. 

Hope spring’s eternal.  

Friday, 7 March 2014

How Dare They!

The BBC, that is.  I was a bit perturbed by the announcement that BBC3 will sometime soon cease to be a television channel – but the suggestion by Danny Cohen (head of television) that BBC4 could follow it has me chewing the carpet.

Now, I don’t watch much television, and none of what I do watch is on BBC3; most of it is on BBC4.  (There are two main reasons for my admittedly atypical viewing patterns: firstly, I follow the quality; secondly, I refuse to watch adverts.)  But that’s just me.  What’s truly important here operates at a much more basic level. 

The BBC’s charter, as I understand it, obliges them to be a ‘public service broadcaster’.  The clue is in the last word.  I don’t think streaming a channel exclusively on iPlayer can truly be described as ‘broadcasting’.

What about people who don’t have internet access?  Or don’t happen to own an internet-ready television?  Or who would rather watch on their antique TV set than on their laptop, but (like me) lack the technology to join the two together?

I just about accepted, a few years ago, that I’d have to spend money once digital, without consultation or compensation, became mandatory.  (It meant I had to buy a new set, but the old one was nearly done for anyway, and it was a welcome boost to South Korea’s economy and the U.K. imports industry, not to mention John Lewis.)

But the doublethink that will lead me, in the future, to being unable to watch television on a television – well really!  Public service? 

Thursday, 6 March 2014

History of the Universe, Part III: Towards Civilisation

Now that you’ve learnt how to think (see Part II), here’s how to become civilised:

Hunt and gather until you’ve used it all up.

Move somewhere else and repeat.  Invent nomadism.

Notice that when a seed drops from a plant, sometimes it sprouts.  Invent agriculture.

Invent tools, and pay people to make them for you.  Gather together and invent towns.

When other towns grow too close, merge with them, share skills and resources, and invent nations.

When other nations grow too close, subdue them.  Invent war.

Conquer enough other nations to form a civilisation. 

Believe that your civilisation will last forever.  Wait.


‘Fail again.  Fail better.’