Tag Archives: being green

Vegetable Plot

For most of our history we Irish were a tiny, poor country on the very periphery both of Europe and of life, though we did have a reputation for punching above our weight in literature, in corrupt US politics and in, well, punching people.

And we were happy with our lot. We knew our place, tugged our forelock (no, it’s your fringe) and accepted that the good life was not for us. When Irish eyes were smiling, it was usually because we knew that all other Irish people were doing as badly as we were.

Then, over the last decade, it all changed. We became the success story of the world, had more TVs than people and more traffic than both, and basically lost the run of ourselves in our determination to fill our lives with anything, so long as it was gaudy, garish, and over-priced.

Many people have tried to pinpoint the origins of this madness. They have blamed politicians, lawyers, the media, the banks.

I blame broccoli.

evil, evil, evil

evil, evil, evil

When we were young our mothers would yell at us to “eat our greens”, and would warn us that if we didn’t we’d catch scurvy or rickets. None of us knew what scruvy or rickets were (for the very good reason that neither exists except in stories where people say “pieces of eight” and Aaarrrr!”), but both sounded so terrifying that we duly did eat our greens, and indeed small boys would eat their own bogeys in a desperate attempt to boost their greenery intake. Greens, basically, came in two varieties – peas, which we got six days a week, and cabbage, which we got on Sunday. (There was a third, served just once a year. The Brussels Sprout, a bollock-shaped flavour-bomb with a taste that was not so much mouth-watering as eye-watering, was eaten on Jesus’s birthday, as a bitter (in all its senses) reminder that Jesus suffered for our sins).

BroccoliAnyway, Irish ricket-&-scurvy prevention thrived for many years on a bi-vegetable basis, and we were a contented lot. Then the birth of the chartered flight brought the first, newly wealthy, Irish to Continental Europe, from whence they returned with new ideas, among them a new green that looked like a collection of chef’s hats. And although our traditional Irish greens were superior in every way (try & recall the taste of broccoli – you can’t, can you, because it doesn’t have one), the intruder had the advantage of being “exotic” so, like a kind-of vegetable grey squirrel, it overwhelmed the incumbents. Ireland had met the word “brassica”, discovered that it is not, apparently, a Yorkshire colliery heavy-metal band, and embraced it. Soon words like “hummus”, “decking” and “tracker-mortgage” were creeping into our everyday conversation, and from then on we were fecked.

Our madness reached its Zenith with the opening in Dublin of our first branch of “the Sunglass Hut”. In the wettest, most dreary country in Europe a store could open which sold nothing but sunglasses, at two hundred quid a go, and could survive.

Eventually, of course, we copped on to ourselves, and have returned to the life of poverty and mass emigration with which we feel more at home (is being “at home” with mass emigration not a contradiction? Not if you’re Irish). The humble pea and cabbage are back, and if we feel like something different, well National Sprout Christmas Day is just three months away.

The simple fun of watching your kids take their first-ever mouthful of Brussels Sprout is one of the great joys of parenthood.

Batteries Not Included

My post earlier this week about the battery in my pacemaker has reminded me of a topic that is (literally) close to my heart.

Every now and again I read about proposals to get rid of disposable, non-rechargeable batteries and replace them all with rechargeable batteries by such-and-such a date. The arguments for this course of action always refer to the environment, cost in the long term, and how disposable batteries add to landfill. Laudable sentiments all.

However, when you are part battery-operated, as I am (and might otherwise be landfill yourself), then such pleas on behalf of our planet carry a little less weight than they otherwise might. The battery which runs my pacemaker will last about eight years, and will then have to be removed and replaced. It is, in other words, both disposable and non-rechargeable, and I would have it no other way. When I try to imagine having a rechargeable one I get a disturbing mental image Wile E Coyotein my head. This involves my nipples, a pair of jump-leads and the motor from a Moulinex Food Processor (the pacemaker is quite small, after all, and anything stronger might have a Wile E Coyote effect).

Clearly, then, the only other answer is to come up with some method of powering me without a battery at all. A small nuclear device might work, though just writing that sentence aroused NIMBY feelings in me that I hadn’t realised were there. Just as people will support nuclear energy till they discover the plant is being built in their village, I think a nuclear battery is a good idea as long as it’s not wearing me as a dinner jacket.

I would be reluctant to eat anything that might make me burp, plus I’d have an afterlife longer than Jacob Marley. Also, I have enough problems at airport X-Rays as it is without being a person carrying an internal bomb.

The Greens’ three main alternative suggestions all have their merits. I could be wind-powered (I’d have to eat beans – great, now I’m doing fart jokes), I could be wave-powered (they might give me a grant towards a jacuzzi) or I could be solar-powered (three trips a year to the Canaries, paid for on my Medical Card).

I’ve just looked up “alternative energy” in Wikipedia (the fount of all wisdom) and met for the first time the phrase “bug excrement”.  Apparently scientists are altering the DNA of bugs (seriously, guys, do you never watch Science Fiction movies? They should form one whole module in your course) so that they can convert agricultural waste into fuel. Really? How much poo do bugs produce? Just how big will the power stations have to be?

Anyway, if they’re thinking of using it to power pacemakers, they can piss right off. While I don’t exactly treat my body as a temple, I’ve no intention of filling it with earwig-shit.

Finally, of course, there is alcohol. Cars have been run on ethanol for a number of years now, and I’m hoping that people are working on ways of expanding the use of alcohol as an energy source. Indeed, I’m hoping that they have been carrying out experiments on real people in real pubs, and that I myself have been unconsciously participating (in all the possible meanings of that phrase) in these experiments.

If they can find a way of making me run on Guinness, I might just live forever.