Springtime for Loony

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No one could like gorse. It proliferates like, well, gorse, and chokes whole hillsides into barren nothing and not even goats will eat it.

Goats chomp cheerfully on clothing but gorse defeats them. Gorse has mean prickles and a verminous, vertiginous rate of growth. Yet the flowers of the gorse bush smell sweeter than roses. I know no better smell. As a rule I am not big on smell. All it does for me normally is to take me back to bad things... like the smell of a certain disinfectant which reminds me of school corridors, and of cabbage which reminds me of workplace cafeterias... but the smell of gorse flowers fills me with a sort of ineffable yearning. And yet the plant is pestilential.

Contrary and incoherent seem to be the words for this time of year when winter tries to cling on with skinny talons while spring is thrusting through in the form of lambs and eggs and sometimes brilliant mornings. Nothing coheres. It is hard to make sense of anything, to try to pull a strand out of all the incoherence and construct a something which holds together. When the world seems bitty and random, when devil gorse smells like heaven, when the seasons are uncertain and the washing machine is on the blink and my friend smokes too much (she's giving up tomorrow), nothing seems to make any sense.

Every day I seem to acquire hard nuggets of information which don't fit with anything else, which are like pieces from a different jigsaw from the one I am doing. I am told, for example, that half the adult population of Sweden sings in amateur choirs. What am I supposed to think about that? The Swedes who, in New Zealand, have a reputation for blonde Nordic gloom, expensive booze and sexual enthusiasm, spend much of their long winter nights bashing out the Hallelujah Chorus to the Baltic Sea. Why? I don't know. I really don't. They just do it. It just is.

Then there's a friend's student son who has just been burgled. From the evidence, the burglars toured both the bedroom and the living room of his flat... but not, perhaps wisely, the bathroom... and then they left having stolen, well, nothing. The owner of the flat feels humiliated. I suggested that perhaps it had been a couple of gloomy Swedes bunking a choir rehearsal and, since they couldn't go home without meeting disgrace for letting the nation down, they just broke in for fun and then got cold feet... not that you would think that they would, given their climate, get cold feet. But it didn't cheeer him up.

None of it makes any sense. It just is. World, said Louis MacNeice, is suddener than we imagine it. It is incorrigibly plural. MacNeice was subject to dreadful fits of depression and you can see why. If nothing hangs together, if the jigsaw remains perpetually scattered on the kitchen table with some of the pieces upside down and others skulking in the dust under the fridge and with no one ever going to start to put it together, no wonder MacNeice got gloomy and headed for the grog cabinet.

Whenever I start thinking about oddity I remember a story about some Mexicans in a desert. A friend had taken a party of schoolkids to Mexico to have their pockets picked, scan a few ruins, watch a bullfight and sneak into bars to drink elaborate cheap cocktails, and they were crossing the desert by bus, somewhere between Mexico City and somewhere else, and there was nothing for miles except heat, when the bus suddenly slowed and stopped.

The bus driver opened the doors and invited them to step out. There, beside the road, under a single straggly tree, stood several women and children in rags. Each of the children had an iguana on a string. For a few pesos you could have your photograph taken with an iguana on your head. The iguanans were dying. The children caught fresh ones every day. The kids took the photos, paid money, got back on the bus and left the women, children and lizards in the desert waiting for another bus. There were no houses for miles, nothing but hard-baked desert. What were they doing there? They were waiting for buses. They were poor as could be.

Call it economics. Call it anything you like. It won't make any difference. They were there and may still be there and it just is and there's the sad end of it. It fits with nothing, which is to say that it fits with the Swedish singers and the phantom burglary and the sweetness of gorse and the depression of MacNeice.

Impose a pattern on it all if you wish, but it would be false to do so. Tough to take, this incoherence. Hard to be burdened with a consciousness in an unconscious world that just happens and does not cohere. The human condition, I suppose.


Loonytunes, who enjoys the company of people from Sweden. Truly. I really do. Stop hitting me. Ouch.

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