Sowthistle – Sunday 18th June, 2023

Sauvages de ma rue, wild things in my road, or in our case: plants just outside the fence. They are in the little soil that slips out of the garden into the gap between the paving stones and the fence. We have sow thistle, hedge mustard, various grasses, white campion, purple toadflax, nettle and chickweed.

The Sauvages de ma Rue campaign began in Paris in 1920. They began chalking the names of wild plants growing through the gaps in the pavement. Those plants, we are too ready to call weeds, and simply scrapping, without contemplating their botany.

The Guardian (May 2020) said:

‘French botanist and campaigner Sophie Leguil, who lives in London, set up the More Than Weeds campaign to change perceptions of urban plants in the UK after helping to spread the Sauvages de ma rue chalking campaign in France led by Tela Botanica. She has won permission to chalk up Hackney’s highways and make chalk trails to highlight the forgotten flora at our feet.’

Our wildflower bed has taken quite a beating in the dry, hot weather. Mid week, the bed was alive with red poppies, white campion, and scentless mayweed, with bumble bees darting about the poppies for nectar. Then, on Friday, the wildflowers were languid, as if suddenly the last of April rain of had evaporated, and the plants were almost giving up.

Thames Water came last week. To fix the water meter, we hoped, so we could put in a standpipe. But no, they came to inspect and decide what piping needs to be changed, going out into the road. They will need Council permission to close the road before they can get working.

I am reminded of Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett. The two tramps Estragon and Vladimir are waiting for Godot. A boy comes and says Mr Godot can’t come today but he’ll definitely be here tomorrow.

VLADIMIR: All right, you may go.

BOY: What am I to tell Mr. Godot, Sir?

VLADIMIR: Tell him… (he hesitates)… tell him you saw us. (Pause.) You did see us, didn’t you?

BOY: Yes Sir.

He steps back, hesitates, turns and exits running. The light suddenly fails. In a moment it is night.

 Take what you will from this extract, but (spoiler!) Godot never comes. It feels like that with Thames Water, but I hope I am wrong.

In the pond, we have a bulrush, though it shouldn’t be called a bulrush, I learn, but a reed mace. For some time, I thought it was a much taller pond iris. But I see the sausage on top, still green but it will go brown. The sausage is the female flowers, and seeming to grow out of it is a spike of male flowers. Welcome, reed mace, how you got here I really don’t know, but you are a towering plant, reminding me of country streams and lakes.

I look around the pond for Peter Pan tadpoles. I note the damselflies and the yellow monkey flowers, and how the water level is dropping. And yes, quite a few Peter Pan tadpoles, their brothers and sisters have hopped out of the pond as froglets. These left-behinds may yet grow up, but certainly not this year.



Comments 1

  1. I need to correct the date for Sauvages de ma rue. It says above 1920, but no, it’s 2020. I’ve lost my proofreader, but I hope very little slips by.

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