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Barleycup

14 June 2005

When I was young in Newcastle, a quarter of a century back, a lot of my friends were vegetarian or vegan; hell, I was veggie myself. I never went this far, but some of íem preserved the sanctity of their bodies by spurning caffeine and other stimulants. Their hot beverage-of-choice was a thing called Barleycup, the sort of coffee-substitute that gives wartime ersatz a bad name. Bring back acorns, thatís what I say. Anyway: we who didnít drink the muck renamed it Blandeycup, on the grounds that it had almost no taste whatsoever.

Iíve been reliving those days a little since Joeís death, which is why it comes to mind, but really I was only looking for a simile. I have spent much of these days watching the televisual equivalent of Barleycup: nothing challenging, nothing edgy. Nature programmes - but not your regular big-cat-red-in-tooth-and-claw type of programme, which are the staples in this house. These have been British nature programmes, where the meanest carnivore is a hedgehog eating slugs, and the whole thing is a celebration of how lovely is the spring. Bland, unchallenging, nice happy viewing for the whole family. It serves my purpose.

But several times this last week - and itís been on the radio as well as the TV, it is the theme whose time has come - people, alleged experts have been talking about climate change and the threat to British trees and such, and the one thing they keep coming back to is Ďnow that summers will be longer and hotter...í

Uh, hullo? Have you guys actually looked outside this week? Itís mid-June, and we have a north wind blowing, and itís so damn cold Iíve got the heating on. I moved some more chillies out into the mini-greenhouse ten days back, and I really wish I hadnít. Iím leaving them there, though, because I need to get my head around the way it works, and I can only do that by watching what happens. The chillies that I put out a couple of months back have really not done well, compared to their brothers who stayed on the windowsill indoors. Scrawny little things they are; which could seem odd, because when the sun shines the greenhouse gets seriously hot and steamy, far more so than the windowsill. My guess is that what they donít like is significant fluctuations in temperature, and that it must get pretty cold out there at night. I donít suppose a sheet of plastic offers much insulation, compared to glass and brick. Thoí people lived in benders quite happily, down at Greenham Common (and thereís that nostalgia trip again. Memo to self: donít fight it). Maybe what the greenhouse needs is somebody to sleep in it, exuding warmth. Not Misha, though, she is a sponge, she absorbs heat, she doesnít give it out; and not me, for I am too long and thin. And, these days, unpliable.


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© Chaz Brenchley 2005
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.