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"Why do you know the names of things"? I was asked, again, this time in relation to Plane Trees, because I knew the name of the big trees that had shielded our offices, that were cut down last week. Or possibly pollarded (there's a tall stump left, about ten feet high - but that's not how you pollard a London Plane, they're cut back to a framework of branches, although it is how you pollard a willow, which are the only currently maintained pollards in Oxford). I like trees, I said, and she replied, I like trees, but that doesn't mean I know the names of all of them. I think it's safe to say that we all liked those trees, not least because they were part of the temperature management for our building; but looking out onto green leaves, or a lattice of twigs, or hearing the clatter of the pigeons in the branches, or the squirrel... "What about the squirrel? Where will that go now?" It's homeless. And that's frowned on in Oxford.

I'm rattling through my coursework at the moment. Resilient daughters of battered women, twelve-year olds caring for depressed parents, reintegration of orphans after the Rwandan genocide. It's a world of misery, albeit very well described misery. Also, at some point in almost every paper, there's a paragraph of pure poetry as the statistical methods used in the paper are described, and you get to discover whether this particular suffering population passes Bartlett's test of sphericity, etc. Definitions, drifting terminologies. Each time I look up from a day of study I can feel my functional vocabulary expanding, like a blast wave.

Speaking of which, I followed a reference from a puzzling sentence and discovered Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed, which is facilitated (but never guided) by a Difficultator and has no actors or audience, only Spect-actors. It sounded simultaneously horrible and fabulous, like the bleeding of bureaucratic architecture through from another (maybe better) world. In the usual way of the internet (written on wind and water*) that Wikipedia page seems to have been edited since yesterday, and now no longer includes Boal's quote "only the oppressed are able to free the oppressed" which must in any case have been translated from the original Portuguese - ah, no it's on this page. My mistake.

Speaking of mistakes, my urge to name everything does drive me to put marker names on things when I don't remember the name. Pepper Jasmine, for example. I'd scored - implausibly - two bare-root Daphne Mezereum rammed into a pot and sold as a decorative pot plant from a local greengrocer (the one in Cowley Centre). I couldn't remember its name for a week, so I called it Pepper Jasmine, because flowers and fruit grow straight from the stem, like pepper, and it's a Jasmine. That's a terrible name for it - it's poisonous. But when I did look up a common name for it, it was called Spurge Laurel (also a terrible name).

Speaking of extraordinary things, I found a reference to a ballerina drinking tea "Russian Style" - black and sweetened with spoonfuls of blueberry jam. Tea with jam? Yep, and also a fifteen minute brewtime! I think this has to be tried. But what flavour jam? So far I see the ballerina voting for blueberry and the Russian tea shop saying strawberry. Any more suggestions?

* in vento et rapida scribere oportet aqua - Catullus


( 10 worms — Feed the birds )
17th Apr, 2015 08:38 (UTC)

There is tea with jam in Tolstoy. I like it with apricot or plum. Forest fruits would make sense.

18th Apr, 2015 21:09 (UTC)
apricot sounds like a good idea?
Do you need smooth jam, or can you make it with jam with bits?
19th Apr, 2015 17:26 (UTC)
Re: apricot sounds like a good idea?
Well apricot is usually pretty smooth. But I've done it with jam with bits too. You get bits at the bottom of the cup which need to be scooped out with a spoon in order to be enjoyed.
20th Apr, 2015 06:02 (UTC)
Re: apricot sounds like a good idea?
OK! Experimentation awaits!
17th Apr, 2015 20:45 (UTC)
You do see much more aggressively pollarded planes in NL and Belgium, but yeah, I think still not that aggressively, without developing them that way all along. Then again I have a feeling there were some near my flat in Brighton that got very aggressive things done to them on account of being next to a bus stop, that came back to more life than I was expecting.
17th Apr, 2015 20:50 (UTC)
(*rummages further*) Hmm. This suggests you can do a pretty drastic job even on mature trees. It'll be interesting to see what happens.
18th Apr, 2015 21:18 (UTC)
Ah, I have discovered what's happening there. Back when the redevelopment was first proposed, and then successfully halted by direct action, the protestors either actually "spiked" all the trees or just put a graffitied "S" on them (the signal of a spiked tree,). So the trees have been chopped off at stepladder height, and are full of small, exploratory chops, looking for the spikes. I'm guessing they didn't find them before they ran out of time/budget.

Spiking was always more of a big deal in fiction than reality (probably because spiking a tree is actually dangerous, damaging and usually doesn't save the tree - just makes removing it a slower and more expensive process) but Oxford is a city much given to living its fictions.
18th Apr, 2015 21:20 (UTC)
Wow, those pollards are beautiful!
19th Apr, 2015 21:03 (UTC)
A test of Sphericity? This sounded intriguing. I imagined gigantic callipers to gauge general bulbousness. Unfortunately, when I attempted to read the link, I was forced to flee or risk being pitched into a coma.
20th Apr, 2015 06:07 (UTC)
socsci coma
If I'm taking this course to Phd level, then that's part of the field. It's not the only kind of research, of course - but the qualitative researchers too have their own methods, madness and extraordinary terminology...
( 10 worms — Feed the birds )