I’ve been reading Richard Mabey’s new book, Weeds. ‘Plants become weeds when they obstruct our plans, or our tidy maps of the world,’ he writes. ‘If you have no such plans or maps, they can appear as innocents, without stigma or blame … I’m inclined to offer them a second opinion, to wonder what positive features we might glimpse in their florid energy.’
Mabey is in distinguished company. John Clare was the great poet of weeds and Darwin was fascinated by them as examples of accelerated evolution.
Naturally, I can't help drawing parallels between the common dismissal of mundane vegetation - except, I suppose, for the narcotic variety of weed - and our dismissive attitude to the human-made everyday. For buddleia and fat hen, read roundabouts and bus shelters.
I’ve also been reading Ronald Blythe’s new collection and found this in Mabey’s introduction, which summed up why I like Blythe’s writing so much, even if I occasionally find the lack of self-revelation tantalising:
‘Over the past half century we have been slavered with self-indulgent memoirs and egotistical confessionals, the literature of the “me” generation. Ronnie’s personal writing offers something far more valuable and noble: the literature of “us”, where the “I”, so to speak, becomes the eye, fascinated with the world beyond itself.’