Tuesday, January 1, 2013



As a writer, I wish I knew the names of more things. For instance, my friend, Niall Fallon, could identify just about every plant and living creature as we walked—whereas  I come from the generic school. I know the difference between a tree and a shrub—and between a snake and a worm (a matter of scale and lethality) but if you asked me to identify the species, I might well fail.

I would recognize an oak if it hit me—and we had two beautiful chestnut trees in the garden—but you would soon catch me out. I would recognize a weeping willow, because we had one in our front garden which I loved; but after a poplar and a eucalyptus, you might well have drained my base of  arboreal knowledge. For some reason, I do much better with weapons, tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs—a military term). What can I say! I’m a thriller writer brought up on books of high adventure.

My aunts Fanny and Kitty used to speak of their garden as if the Latin names of plants were the vocabulary of normal life—and, of course, for them they were. They loved gardening as much as I love writing—and they excelled at it. Their herbaceous border in Birr, County Offaly, Ireland was a thing of wonder. It looked and smelled gorgeous. It was long and deep and rich—and lined the drive on the left hand side.  In the center, there was a long, vee shaped grassy area and on the right another herbacious border—but much shallower. The totality was awesome and visitors would often pause as they drove down the drive just to look. Drives set the tone as you arrived at a typical Anglo-Irish Big House.

I deeply regret my ignorance. I believe we really should know vastly more about nature and our environment in general—so I regret the fact that many of us have never even seen a live cow; or even been chased by a bull. The latter gets the adrenalin going in a way you have to experience to understand. However, if you really want to have a run-in with an aggressive animal capable of inflicting serious injury, try a sow who is still looking after her piglets. I had such an encounter in Wales on one occasion, and have never forgotten it.

Why am I thinking about all this good stuff? Probably because it is a beautiful day—albeit cold—and I seem unable to described the sky adequately. The sky is bright and blue; and overlaid with cirrus clouds.

Will it remain that way? In your dreams! This is Seattle.

Sometimes life, even when difficult, is pretty damn wonderful.


Orso Clip Art

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