Right then. Another week, another appalling clusterfukc of decade-defining events crashing into each other like horny bulls in the crockery department of a soon-to-be-shuttered Debenhams. So much noise. So much mess.
You know what state the news is in. Let’s kick back, crack open the first of several bottles and slide into a different state of mind. Here is the place, now is the time. This is The Cut.
Let’s start with a basic, inalienable truth—I am no gardener. For proof, look no further than the green spaces over which TLC and I have control. The main bulk of our long, slender garden is in my wife’s tender care. It is a lush, endlessly variant display, embracing accident and the joyful understanding of plants being plants and growing where they will. There is a sense of order, but also spontaneity.
About two-thirds down, we reach the area I call Copse End in my rare charitable moments, but more often Hell’s Half Acre. The end of our garden is backed onto by a stand of trees bordering the local school. Home to all sorts of wildlife, but also brambles, ivy, nettles and bindweed. To keep it under control requires tenacity and the understanding that plants are plants and once a week down there just ain’t gonna cut it.
Readership, Hell’s Half Acre is my responsibility. It is and has always been an abject failure. To be honest, that end of the garden has been a struggle from day one. When we bought the house it was home to a bunch of concrete raised beds, a slumping shed and a skeletal greenhouse. I tried growing veg down there for a while, but the work needed to keep things shipshape proved to be beyond my limited talents and incredibly limited patience. I love gardens. I find gardening to be dull, hard work with no lasting sense of gratification. If I paint a wall, I know I won’t need to do it again for several years. If I do some weeding, I’ll have to do it again next week. Ugh.
The thing is, Copse End is the sunny bit of the garden. In summer you can bask in sunshine down there until 8 in the evening. It seems like a waste to let it devolve into chaos. So we pulled out all the beds, laid lawn, put up a summerhouse. It was lovely down there for a while. But Copse End does not wish to be tamed. At least, not by someone with my limited sense of purpose.
We have now decided to ‘rewild’ Copse End to an extent, embracing the wildlife and making it something of a meadow garden. We planted apple trees, let the grass grow. It still looks like shit, don’t get me wrong. But for now, at least, we’re a bit more relaxed about it. Who knows, if the finances allow we may have to go full suburbanite and get a gardener in to keep things at a low rumble. Gods know, I’ve had enough.
We’ve therefore staged a tactical retreat. The veg growing operation has moved to the top end of the garden. Potatoes in bags. A veg trug for beetroot, carrots and garlic. Pots of chili and cucumbers. A big herb planter keeping us well supplied in mint and parsley. We even snagged some tomato plants from a neighbour. Having this activity close to the house erases the excuse that it’s too hard to get out and do a little watering, or keep an eye on how things are growing. Everything is two steps from the front door. Much easier. I’m actually starting to feel more in control.
Sensing my increased confidence, TLC set me an honest-to-god gardening project. I retasked an old pallet into an upright planter. Honestly, a very simple job. Take your pallet, paint it (we had fashionable black, but use what you like) and flip it on edge so what would be the bottom is facing out with the slats horizontal.
Get hold of some weed-suppressant membrane, and measure to four times the height of each trough. Double it over, and staple firmly to create the base into which your plants will go. This may take longer than expected if your stapler, like mine, won’t fit into the gap properly.
Then the fun and easy bit. Pick your plants, add a layer of dirt to the bottom of each trough, fill as you see fit and add more compost to cover the gaps. See? So easy even a fucknuckled dolt like me can do it!
Meanwhile, we’ve also been adding green to the inside of the house. TLC has garnered an interest in house plants. When she gets a notion in motion, I find it’s best to step back and let it happen. Subsequently, a procession of plant deliveries has rolled through the front door. And you know what, I’m enjoying the new additions to the family a lot. TLC’s eye is always excellent, and she knows I like succulents and cacti. So we have some of each. Cheeky little lads and lasses, with distinct personalities. She declared the Chinese Money Plant was called Polly (something to do with the plant’s taxonomic name) while I christened the trio of pals on the front room table Snake-locks, Catlick and Spiny Joe.
I may have been on furlough too long.
However, there really is something about a house plant. They seem to generate an aura of calm and peace. It’s difficult to be angry around an aloe. Much apart from the benefit of oxygenating plants in the house, they do make us both smile. They ask very little, and give a great deal. Millie the cat could learn something from them.
And yes, we do talk to the plants. I mean it would be impolite not to wish them good morning, right? No harm in a little gentle conversation.
Let’s return to the simple truth with which we began. I am no gardener. I still feel like a dunce before TLC’s knowledge, vision and enthusiasm. I seem to spend a lot of my time in mortal combat with stinging bastards that want to do me harm. But it’s exercise and fresh air and I can always reward myself with a beer at the end of a day’s hard slog down Copse End.
It’s Friday, and the world is changing faster than we can keep up. Thank goodness The Cut is here to help you through the confusion, right?
(There is a distinct possibility increased confusion may result from reading this despatch. We refer you to the terms and conditions in the sidebar.)
Let’s begin by addressing the obvious main story of the week. I could fill the whole issue with links and stories relating to the murder of George Floyd and the fury it sparked. The thing is, we here at The Cut are working from a position where lack of knowledge stands in the way of being able to comment constructively. Instead, we intend to quietly learn more, leaving space open for other more appropriate voices to be heard. There are many resources out there if you want to educate yourself. We found this freely-distributed Google Doc to be of use.
That being said, we feel with our food remit we can at least bring more light onto the ongoing danger to a major BAME community resource in the UK. Nour Cash And Carry has served the people of Brixton for twenty years, occupying a prime spot that allows customers in from both Market Row and Electric Avenue. The market’s landlord, property developer and EDM artist (yes, really) Taylor McWilliams, claims the site is needed for a new electricity sub-station and intends to close it, despite input from the power company that other sites are available. To the community who depend on Nour, this seems like just another example of outside money muscling in where it’s not wanted. More on the story from Brixton Blog—
Moving on. Art crit site Exmilitary have dropped a set of four free-to-stream films on the theme of the Eastern European Apocalypse. If, like us, you have a penchant for slow, surreal Soviet-bloc SF, you’re in for a treat. The star of the group is obviously Tarkovsky’s Stalker, but we’d also tag Żuławski’s On The Silver Globe. Dense, chewy and very good for you.
This article from Film School Rejects on the colour palette of director Michael Mann is full of fascinating detail on how he achieved his signature look. We have particular interest in the art of colour grading for film and this ticked a lot of our boxes very hard indeed.
Small town America seems to be the place where surreal crime and dark secrets are hiding around every corner on Main Street. Seems to us the following list would be of use if you’re ever going to get the chance to do that iconic road trip—just so you know which places are really not safe to pull in for a refreshment break…
We finish this section with a tale of experimentation in the furthest realms of the human experience, a particular kind of toad and an actor with a very niche side-hustle. The headline is a work of journalistic art all by itself.
Time to raise the tone. Here’s the literary portion of our program. A genuinely fascinating look at how The Situation is affecting upcoming book releases, from plot ideas to the simple facts of a changed social landscape. Popular thinking currently believes dystopian fiction is on its way out, as we’re living a slow-motion collapse on a daily basis. We at The Cut are reading more SF than ever, reveling in the notion of characters not having to social distance or chatting in a space tavern over a foaming pint of Arcturus ale. Of course, as ever, we’re living in William Gibson’s world.
We were talking last week about vertically-scrolling web comics. There are many good ones out there, but we particularly recommend My Giant Nerd Boyfriend. Written and drawn in a pleasingly loose Kate Beaton-esque style by a tiny Malaysian cartoonist who calls herself Fishball, it’s a slice-of-life journal finding humour in the life she shares with The Giant Nerd Boyfriend of the title. It’s funny, touching, occasional moving but eminently scrollable. We think once you start you won’t be able to stop.
And finally. This fun cartoony overview of the economics and marketing of yer actual high-seas piracy gets the balance of humour to information smack on, and therefore makes you feel like you’re learning while laughing. Do check them both. You’ll feel smarter for it.
Oh, finally finally. A new WROB show went up yesterday, in which host Rob talks about his life as an introvert while providing a themed soundtrack. He put a lot of heart in on this one, Readership. Tilt the guy an ear.
The Exit Music this week comes courtesy of The Raconteurs. This hour doco of a day spent at the legendary Electric Lady studios has lots of fun moments, as the band work up a cover of Blank Generation before a short gig in the evening. Hosted by that most rock and roll of film directors Jim Jarmusch, it’s a fun insight into the process of covering an iconic record. If you’d rather cut straight to the live stuff, skip to 20 minutes in.
That’s all from us this week. Stay safe, keep your head straight and, to quote Jim J from the music link above, don’t let the fuckers get ya.
Here is your weekly reminder that it is Friday, just in case you’re losing track of time. Gods know, I am. But hey, good news! Friday means it’s time for another issue of your favourite* interwub digest—The Cut!
Breakfast—the most difficult meal of the day. If, like me and my foodie hero Nigel Slater, you find the prospect of a drippy fried egg or a moist omelette a source of nausea, then breakfast can be tricky. How do you like your eggs in the morning? As far away as possible, please.
I’m in the process of figuring out a few things about this site and what I do with it. There are a lot of clever people out there who see the humble blog making something of a comeback. I guess that’s something of a kickback against social media platforms and their restrictions. On a blog you can say what you want, how you want.
I’ve been going back through the archives of the site (and there are a lot of them—I’ve been on WordPress since 2005, and Blogger for a few years before that). It’s interesting to see how X&HT started as a ‘web log’ in the truest sense of the word. That is, a way of sharing what you’d been up to on the web. To a point, early X&HT looked a lot like my Twitter stream—links, snarks and short-form thoughts.
I think there’s some benefit to that format. Once a week, therefore, I’m going to try and post out some of the things I’ve found of interest in my travels through the aetherscape. I hope you find it of benefit. Call it a kind of cuttings collection.
About eighteen months ago, I stopped washing my hair. OK, let’s walk that statement back slightly—I stopped using any sort of soap or shampoo. Instead, I made do with a daily swoosh under the shower, trusting the old saw about the natural oils in the scalp balancing things out.
I would love to be able to tell you how the extended time at home has led to an outpouring of creativity, a flood of new writing and art and music from my head meats through my skilful fingers and out, fluttering like glittering butterflies of the imagination, into the world.