Friday, 22 June 2012

The Rape of Bath


Cro has just said that - in his part of the world - it is perfect growing weather.  All I can say is well fuck you then, because around here, everything is trying not to drown or be blown away - or both.

This is about as far as my night-scented stock has got since I was waxing (droning) lyrically about it, quite a few posts ago.  It should be about 8 inches high now, and coming into flower.  In case you are wondering, those sticks in the pot are to keep the feral pigeons off - they find a nice soft bed of stunted stock very cosy to lie on if not deterred by a sharp stick up the backside.

But wait - what's that flourishing yellow flower on the flat roof of the building opposite?  If my eyes don't deceive, it is Rape - the lemon-yellow flowered, seed-bearing crop which has become part of the southern British summer landscape for many years now.  How the hell did it sow itself on the infertile tarmac and chips of the flat roof?

I think the answer lies with the birdies.  In the ten or so years since the roof was re-surfaced, the gulls and pigeons have dropped various rich detritus all over it, including undigested seeds from the rape-fields they have pillaged, and this is the result.  The species of plant that comes and goes according to the season is varied indeed, though I have not counted or catalogued any except the obvious.

For a few nights of good weather recently, a small team of people have been on the roof from dusk until darkness, whispering to each other and holding up recording equipment.  It took me a while to understand what they were up to, but I now believe that they are conducting a survey of the bat population which flits about on a warm summer's evening, and trying to ascertain where our locals are coming from.

This is a good thing, because the whole complex of buildings is about to get a radical make-over by a local property developer, and I would hate to see Bath's rich and varied bat population suffer as a result.

Beneath that flat roof is the medieval street that I have told you about and promised to show you photos of, but - so far - the developer has been less than generous in providing me access to it.  The feintly unsettling Lib Dem 'leader' of Bath City Council who I recently met at the Sir William Beckford party, snootily said to me,  "Oh, I have been down there TWO times."  Well fuck you too.

We got back from Dorset yesterday to find a notification from the Planning Office stating the intention of the developer to make alterations to the external as well as internal fabric of the structure, so I had better go down to look at the drawings to see what nasty surprises they have in store for both us and the bats.

There is an open-grilled, 17th century window down there which must have been the portals to a decent-sized bat-roost for well over 200 years now, and if they intend to block it in, I hope that they meet with the stern disapproval of the bat-monitors.  They will certainly meet with mine.

I really do not mind if and when they convert the medieval street into 'retail premises', just so long as they don't destroy it at the same time, by covering the uglier parts of it with neat cement or DPM.  As far as I am concerned, it would be good to get the public down there to buy junk, because in doing so, they could have the opportunity to see what this part of Bath was like before the Georgians got hold of it.

I will let you know if there is any threat of danger to this large part of Bath's secret heritage, well in time  for you to arm yourselves for a revolt.  I may be jumping to conclusions, but - for lack of information - I am reverting to default mode in my attitude toward town planning and property development.

Oh, and do you know what Rape is called when in it's initial sprouting stage?  'Cress'.  Yes, it is the same thing we make egg sandwiches with, when not using it for bio-oil or cattle-cake.

12 comments:

  1. Would one of you girls bring the Ambre Solaire over.... I want a bit on my back, a bit on my front...

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    1. ... and the whole bottle rammed up your jacksie if you're not careful...

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  2. I'm with you, Tom. The wind in these parts is so bad I can't go out as I'll be blown off the steps, into bits and come out if it soaked to the bones.

    I for one, would love to see medieval Bath and I hope you can make those city planners see the light.

    You know, you really are quite endearing for a grumpy old man?

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  3. I never knew that rape and cress were the same thing! We have field after field after field of it round here. I'm going to pinch some next time I'm out and about and plant it in a pot in my garden. Darn near impossible to find at in the stores and I love cress! Thanks Tom!

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  4. I drove thrugh farmlands recently with a friend, a farmer's daughter, who said "There's a field of canola." I tried to correct the farmer's daughter, to no avail. "So and so planted fields of canola!" I got up the internet, the last word on some things. It's a little joke, now. Canola moments. I did not know it cress. Thanks.

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    1. I have Canola every morning for breakfast... don't I?

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  5. Cheer up Tom - when that stock does get going - as it will if the weather ever warms up (which I begin to doubt) - it will smell delightul. Unlike rape, which I think smells awful.
    Interesting that you say in its infancy it is the cress which we buy to put in sandwiches with our hard-boiled eggs. In my young days we used to call those little boxes 'mustard and cress' and as rape is a close relation of mustard then it has probably always resided in those little packs.

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    1. Yes, I don't know where the 'mustard' came into it - maybe it was a lot more peppery in our childhood, summer days?

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  6. I learn something nearly every time i read your blog. I, too, didn't realize cress was immature rape. I planted some seeds in the back part of our yard, very near the stream. The cress grew a bit, i think, but the deer ate it to nothing before i had chance to see any of it.

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    ReplyDelete