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Thursday, 18 February 2016

The Return of the Giant Hogweed - a Faceless Dread

Many foul creatures have disturbed the rest of humans. Fenris wolf; the sea-monster Rahab; Daleks; the Wild Hunt (featuring Gabble Ratchetts); and the demoness Lilith. And then there's.....

"Beware - Giant Hogweed in this area"
Heracleum mantegazzianum - what a wonder that thing is. Tall, stately umbelliferous bracts. If you know what "umbelliferous" means, you've got more chance of spotting it than the poor, innocent Tauntonians who saw this sign on the towpath last year.

The thing about putting up a sign saying "Beware - Giant Hogweed in this area" is - if you don't include a picture, what are people thinking they are bewaring?


It's a common problem for Bertie Wooster - a "nameless dread". Normally in Bertie's case the problem is that there is a young, intelligent woman looking to mould him into something more suitable. But we have here, on the banks of the River Tone, a Faceless Dread. You and I. dear intelligent Reader, know what we have to look out for. Something like a giant species of what the people of the Beds and Northants countryside still occasionally call "ceck" - or cow parsley. But if you don't know what you're looking out for, you may decide the biggest thing on the river bank - a willow, perhaps, or ash tree - is the Giant Hogweed. And, bewaring as fast as you can, you run down towards some friendly-looking herbaceous perennials, just eight or nine feet high and....
Mighty Hogweed is avenged.
Human bodies soon will know our anger.
Kill them with your Hogweed hairs
HERACLEUM MANTEGAZZIANI
We all occasionally have a faceless (or nameless) dread. Something we can't quite put our finger on, that tells us things aren't quite right. Sometimes we can mythologise them - into hypochondria, or fear of global warming, nuclear doom or the next scary virus.

But maybe that's because we know that lurking behind these faceless dreads, we are just catching glimpses of the real dread. The fear that we are not quite in line with this world. That we just do stuff that is wrong. That we can't drag ourselves out of this ourselves. That we are constantly at the mercy of stuff we can't control.

That's being human. You can despair, or create your own imaginary safety, or have a few and run recklessly through the hogweed pretending it doesn't really matter. Or look for something to hold on to.

Careful with the thing you're holding onto though. Make sure it's not a hairy umbellifer. Or, if you do grasp the hogweed, strike by night. They need the sun to photo-sensitize their venom.



1 comment :

  1. ...but anyone who "plants or otherwise causes to grow in the wild" [whatever that means] is guilty of an offence under the 1981 Act! There were plenty of warning signs and photographs when the Jubilee Line Extension was being constructed.

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