HOLLY MIRANDA SMALE

Writer, photographer, "rapper" and general technophobe takes on the internet in what could be a very, very messy fight. But it's alright: she's harder than she looks, and she's wearing every single ring she could get her hands on.







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Sunday, 10 May 2009

Weeding and writing

In my final step towards being a teenager (who says you can't turn time backwards?), I am currently earning my pocket money by gardening. I didn't enjoy it, at first: all that fresh air and dirty hands, when I quite like warm pillows and lots of soap and water. Then I found it marginally therapeutic - a little like knitting (which, luckily, I won't be doing for many, many years, because I'm currently growing in the opposite direction) - and now I'm finding it almost compulsive. That's the great thing about me, you see. If I do anything enough times, I'll get addicted to it. It doesn't even have to be very nice: it just has to be regular. Hence some of my choices in ex boyfriend.

'Weeding again?' my dad said as I donned my increasingly disgusting 'house' clothes (I no longer have many other options, because moths have eaten all the rest) and headed out into the garden with my iPod.
'Uhuh,' I said, holding up my little garden trowel so that he could see it. (To be honest, I was mainly holding it up so that he could see that I knew what a 'trowel' was. This is a new finding: up until last week I called it 'that spoony thing covered in mud'.)
'Done much writing?' he said, nodding at me from the backdoor.
'Mmm,' I said, scrolling through my musical options and not really listening.
Dad cleared his throat.
'So,' he said, and then he waited for me to look up. 'Would it be fair to say that you are pretty good at weeding and writing?'
And then he laughed for about six minutes without stopping.
'Dad,' I said when he eventually stopped. 'Have you sent me out into the garden just so you could make that joke?'
'Well nooo,' dad said. 'But I have been waiting all morning to say it.'
So I told him to go back into the house and hang his head in shame, and then I turned my music up so he wouldn't try and make jokes at me while I was trying to concentrate.

Weeds are strange things, though: largely because they're entirely subjective. I tried to find out what I was supposed to pull up and what I was supposed to leave behind - I am not a born gardener - and dad looked at me like I was mad. 'Pull up the weeds,' he said slowly: 'and leave in the flowers.' And then I heard him mutter 'Jesus' as he walked away. 

The problem is, however, that the definition of a weed is simply a plant you don't want: and some of them are very pretty. Some of our weeds, in fact, are prettier than the flowers they're trying to kill. Much of weeding is therefore a little like playing God: I have to choose which ones deserve to live, and which ones deserve to be pulled out and then sprayed with poison just to make sure they die twice.

They're tricksy old buggers, though. One thing I've learnt in the last week is that the pretty ones are easy to pull up; a quick tug and they give up the ghost and barely make a peep in the process. The ugly ones, however, tend to be much stronger, with thicker roots and some kind of thorn or sting or spike as a double layer of protection. Which made me angry with both types, to be honest. I was angry with the pretty ones, for thinking that being pretty was enough to make sure that nobody would pull them out, and I was angry with the ugly ones for being so damn obstinate even though nobody could possibly ever want them there in the first place. And then, just for good measure, I was angry at the flowers too, because a lot of them had been completely overshadowed by weeds, and weren't even bothering to fight for their own space on the patch; possibly because they thought they had an inherent right to it, and so were trusting that somebody would come along and save them. 

Which was, I thought, a lot like people. They're either too busy growing flowers or too busy growing roots, and none of them seem to be able to focus on doing both properly. (Apart from, that is, the hideous, smelly blue ones that have both flowers and roots, take over everything and can't be pulled out properly, so I have to just kind of chop them off and spray them and hope they go away. And I know people like that too.)

I think, though, that - after my irritation with the garden had died down - my overriding emotion was one of respect. I could shout at them as much as I liked, but these plants had put themselves there - out of nowhere - and they were merrily doing their best to keep growing and prioritising whatever it was they preferred: flowers or roots. They were giving it their best, even if we didn't want them there in the slightest. Which was something to be admired, I thought. And possibly inspired by, as well: if you can be inspired by a weed.

Flowers or roots, though, they're all coming out by the end of the week. I'm bigger, and I'm stronger, and I get to choose. Which is something else to learn from, I guess. You can grow however you like, and wherever you like, but there's still a chance you'll end up pulled up either way.