Derek – Friday 26th August 2022

Forest Gate had 12 hours of rain yesterday, from fierce downpour to drizzle, almost filling the metre cube that collects water from our pergola. It has the largest roof area and we take advantage of that in water collection. Other barrels filled but to a lesser extent, as they are supplied by smaller roofs. The drought is not yet over, as the days ahead are forecast to be dry, but we are over the worst. The days are cooling as we head into autumn.

A corner of the pond has been repaired, with stout new timbers replacing rotting wood. The pond is six years old, constructed in 2016, the year the garden opened. The pond’s low level meant we lost little water in the repair. The rain has made little noticeable difference to the water level. It needs sustained rain to fill it again, hopefully over the winter. Painted wooden panels were put on the top edges today, remnants of the old fence. Good reuse, giving us decoration as well as giving the timber more life.

I look around the garden for spiders, as this time of year is spider time. In most years, all round the garden are garden crucifix spiders (Araneus diadematus) in their webs, but today I find none at all. The long summer drought has culled them. Such a pity as I admire the intricacy of their webs, standing out like nature’s necklaces festooned with dewdrops in the early morning.

The garden crucifix spider is known to eat its suitors, not all of them, but the smaller ones, who never get to mate. The larger ones she doesn’t add to her menu, as they can fight back. The adult female doesn’t see the smaller male spiders as the same species, but as food. There are many more males than are necessary for procreation, as we know from farms where just a few bulls can service hundreds of cows, so the female spider eating some of the surplus makes sense. The process adds to the diet, of the soon-to-be-pregnant female, the perfect supplement of proteins.

Cannibalism is not unusual in the animal kingdom. Some only turn to it when there’s food shortage, others routinely. Maturing tadpoles will eat slow developers without compunction. The water boatman is another eager cannibal. These are garden examples in amphibians and insects, but mammals often eat their young. A male lion when he takes over a pride will kill and eat the cubs. Male polar bears will eat cubs that are not their own, which is why a female mother must keep her brood out of the way of marauding males. It’s a brutal world.

We had theatre in the garden last Sunday, when Arcola Participation gave us their show Outside. All the actors came together to devise a show highlighting mental health issues out of their own experiences. The play was half an hour long and was a collage of society’s pressures on individuals. Through family, peer pressure, sexual relationships, the streets, through work and unemployment, the attack on us is relentless. No wonder so many succumb. On the positive side, there is help, sympathetic individuals and projects like this show, which was both therapy for the participants and a message to the audience to be more understanding of those with mental health problems.

There were 14 in the cast and they made good use of the space, the area of synthetic grass bounded by the container and the stage. A busy, enjoyable, fast-moving drama, with each in their role as the good, the bad and the ugly in our too often self-serving daily lives.

This was their third show over the weekend, and we were their biggest audience. Let’s hope they come again.

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