Unless otherwise credited, all words and photographs are © David Ritchie and may not be used without permission.
July 5 No surrender. In June 2018 I wrote about an attack by the dreaded Viburnum Beetle on my snowball shrub. An invasive species with no native predators, they stripped the large shrubs of leaves shortly after blossoming. The shrubs fought back in full leaf a second time, only to be eaten by the pests again.
That cycle was repeated last year and again this past month. I am amazed that the shrubs can survive the repeated onslaughts, but somehow they do, refusing to give up.
This year I have another unidentified pest, the target a lovely yellow Lilly of unknown species. I first noticed the leaves were being devoured shortly before blossom time and had doubts it would flower, let alone survive. The Lilly won round one.
© David Ritchie 2020
A closer look reveals the severe damage to the leaves.
© David Ritchie 2020
Despite attacks by pests, plants somehow survive. The will to flower and propagate is strong. They teach a lesson in perseverance that we can certainly use, particularly in this stressful era of viral attack. Wonder if the birth rate will go up this year?
“Nature does nothing uselessly.” Aristotle
June 24 Beautiful imperfection. Are you a perfectionist? Do you look for flaws in food, people, art, whatever and point them out? Do you look for the fly shit in the pepper or can you accept things as they are, warts and all?
I accept flaws as part of the natural process and have actively encouraged them on occasion. When I rebuilt a motorcycle to a pristine condition I intentionally left one small flaw, knowing that some wanker would point it out with, “Ah-ha, that’s not right!” and subsequently was not surprised. At first, I tried to explain my reason for leaving the flaw there, with the predictable stunned reaction. Then I just smiled and said nothing.
It takes talent to perfect imperfection, especially in art. A master of imperfection is the potter Tony Clennell. Classically trained, Tony can no doubt create formal bowls, mugs, jugs, plates and more but he is an artist, not a machine. I met him many years at a show of his work where he explained his ideas. A major concern to potters was the ash from wood-fired kilns ‘flawing’ the glaze, consequently fleeing to the safety of a gas-fired kiln.
Tony Clennell encourages those flaws and fires his work in his wood kiln, encouraging the smoke and ash to work their magic. “I have embraced the forces of nature+chance+luck against my knowledge, skill, willpower and stubbornness.” TC
That he is a skilled potter/artist cannot be denied, but Tony is more than that, he is a master of imperfection. Has an entertaining blog too.
I purchased this jug nearly 30 years ago and it still appeals to me. I’ve called it Jabberwocky. In this light, I sense a strong woman, hand on her hip, confident.
© David Ritchie 2020
View more of Clennell’s perfectly imperfect creations here.
Why I don’t comment on political matters. The best explanation that I can offer is found in the following quote by John Le Carre in his excellent novel “Absolute Friends” that I used to illustrate the next piece:
“Why leap on his soapbox and rant uselessly against the same things that have been going on since the first politician on earth lisped his first hypocrisy, lied, wrapped himself in the flag, put on God’s armour and said he never said it in the first place?” John LeCarre′
June 17 On books and reading. With all the restrictions imposed by Covid-19, the greatest loss to me is the closing of the library. Move on right now if you’re not a book reader, a breed that I realize is moving closer to rare, if not extinct, by each succeeding generation. But if you’re a book reader you might relate.
I’m a life-long book junkie and always have a book on loan from the library. My first library card was the intro to being a ‘big kid’. That led to stealing cigarettes from my aunt’s purse, sneaking beers at home, and at 16 getting my motorcycle license. Mama, don’t let your son get a library card, it won’t end well.
Yes, I can download books but I’m not a fan of reading a novel on a screen- more screentime is the last thing I need. I like the feel of a book, the portability, the solidity of it.
With no fresh books available from the library, I returned to my own small library. Although there are unread books, I turn to my favourite author John LeCarre′. All of his novels are in the bookcase and I’ve read each at least twice. It’s like a favourite film, how many times have you viewed it? I’ve watched Pulp Fiction three times.
I’m reading this for the third time. A gem of a writer, I’ve followed him from his first novel.
©David Ritchie 2020
Quote from Absolute Friends. The scene: Mundy finds a photo of his mother who died giving birth to him. This is what he sees.
“…there’s something of the wild spirit about you, something spontaneous and trusting and joyful. Something that is actually a great deal more to my taste than the stuck-up, tight-arsed aristocrat of dignity and erudition that I’ve had shoved down my throat from the day I was old enough to be lied to.” John LeCarre’
June 14. Another brick in the wall.
Feeling overwhelmed, insignificant, isolated? If you feel like “just another brick in the wall,” perhaps it’s time to take a look at those bricks.
My house is a very old Ontario red brick farmhouse, more weathered and worn than myself. A close look at the bricks reveals details not apparent from a distance. Time, weather, people and even animals have all left marks.
Relaxing on the porch many years ago, my mind wandering in a summer daze when a brick in the wall comes slowly into focus revealing the signature of a brickyard cat, signed on a fresh wet brick and preserved for over a hundred years and counting in the fired brick.
Cat Print in Brick ©David Ritchie
Searching further I found some historic information.
1880 ©David Ritchie
Texture and imperfection.
This message raises questions. Was the writer tired of farm life? running away? or perhaps it was the first vacation ever.
Remember, you’re not just another brick in the wall. All bricks differ.
Some of my early years were spent in Streetsville when it was a town of perhaps 2000 people. I loved to ride my bicycle and explore. One place I remember was the Canada Brickyard just outside of town. We ventured there on Sundays when we only had the watchman to avoid, hiding between the stacks of bricks. It was our own adventure-fantasy, we were commandos on a mission, and each was a success- we were never captured.
Canada Brick Ltd, Streetsville circa 1955.
June 2 More reflections on words and names. Today I take a look at a corporate name switch: why and how did Personnel become Human Resources?
Who decides such things? I’m curious to know the name of the top gonzo that came up with yet another unnecessary change. And why did all the corporate lemmings follow that cretin’s lead?
Who benefits other than plaque, letterhead and sign printers? It’s more of a mouthful to say than the old name, although the acronym loving military-type likely swooned at the thought of a department they could reduce the name of to HR. It pairs nicely with CEO, CAO, CFO and the other fun-filled titles.
Perhaps someone thought that Personnel was worn out, like an old shoe that cannot be resoled- as if there were still shoemakers. I expect the next change will be the switch from Washroom to Ablutions Retreat Station. That could be nicely abbreviated to ARSe, it has a nice ring to it, eh?
I do concede on one point: Human Resources would have been a fine name for an 18th-century slave trade business.
“The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.” George Orwell
May 24 (Victoria Day) Rage against…dandelions?
Those truly obsessed with lawn care attack leaves and ‘weeds’- meaning everything but grass- with a full arsenal of weapons and the watchful gaze of a guard dog.
A turbo leaf blower for the errant leaf that encroaches on the lawn, followed up by a long, cold stare at the house across the street where the attack tree stands.
Vicious edgers suitable for a Viking warrior to fight back the creeping charlie, razor-sharp fork cutters deal with taproots and if the enemy forces appear to be overwhelming, tool up with chemical warfare. Spray them into submission.
The grass shall be maintained at a height of not less than 3 cm by in-ground irrigation, or more than 5 cm by mower maintenance. Daily, if conditions require it.
The non-obsessed, such as myself, mow the lawn occasionally and never water unless trying to establish new grass from seed. The lawn can appear dead in a drought but it comes back after a rain.
Weeds? Ok, if you’re facing phragmites, giant hogweed, garlic mustard, poison ivy and many more nasty or invasive species, then go ahead and destroy them. And don’t forget the one with the name that makes Wilson growl: dog strangling vine.
But dandelions and creeping charlie are here to stay on my lawn along with yarrow and thyme. A friend said, “They’re green too.” Plus the diversity is a good environment for insects, toads, birds, unlike a monoculture lawn of designer fantasy golf-green grass.
The splash of purple of creeping charlie flowers and the later yarrow, plus the pleasing yellow-on-green colour scheme of dandelions in flower.
Photo by David Ritchie 2020. A hint of purple creeping charlie flower appears below the stem of the dandelion.
“I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.” E.B. White
May 16 Time travels.
May 24 is a long weekend holiday in Canada, originally a celebration of Queen Victoria’s birthday. Few people remember that fact, or in the case of some youth, are even aware of the old bird’s b’day. It has evolved into a celebration of spring and the warm days ahead. Camping is big (it traditionally rains) as are trips to open the cottage, plant the vegetable garden, wash the car or just get pissed for three days and top it all off with fireworks.
What is the explanation for the May 24 holiday being celebrated this weekend beginning May 16, when May 24 is clearly next weekend?
May 11 If asked to name the largest manufacturer of motorcycles in the world, many would answer Honda, or if of the belief that motorcycles only come in one flavour, Harley Davidson. Both are incorrect answers.
If asked which country produces the most motorcycles, many would answer Japan, or maybe China. Once again, the wrong answer. The manufacturer that produces the most motorcycles is Hero Motocorp, from the country that builds more bikes than any other, India. Talk about best-kept secrets.
The Brits and, strangely enough, Honda are largely responsible for the birth of a powerhouse country of motorcycle production, for the same reason that led to China becoming an industrial giant: cheap labour.
Royal Enfield, a very old firm from England, shifted production of the 350cc Bullet to India. Enfield India eventually became a wholly-owned Indian company. They modernized, sending engineers to top universities in the UK and built a new modern factory.
Hero Motocorp began as a collaboration with Honda Japan that ended ten years ago. Hero now makes 7.6 million motorcycles per year.
Even Harley Davidson has joined the party, building the very capable and affordable Street model in 500 and 750cc configurations in India. Although they are well-built, stylish, modern, and well-reviewed by critics, due to snobbish attitudes of American HD fans (‘they’re not real Harleys’), they aren’t large sellers. Dealers are somewhat responsible too, rumoured to keep them at the back of showrooms and discouraging buyers. There is hope, young riders take a more practical view.
I wrote recently about the shameful demise of Norton Motorcycles and how the brand will hopefully be saved by TVS Motors of India. Royal Enfield of India has been very successful in building modern, quality bikes that enjoy good sales, perhaps TVS will follow the same path with Norton.
Western countries have a lot to learn about 21st-century manufacturing realities. Ironically, those lessons are being taught by what we long considered to be inferior nations.