Gardening: A wind to blow your mind

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The Independent Online
I am fed up with the wind, which blows incessantly and with the same depressive effect as the mistral inflicts on inhabitants of the Mediterranean littoral. The Israelis, who suffer from one themselves, which sweeps in across the Jordanian desert, have done extensive research into the subject. They conclude that fierce and unceasing wind, combined with low pressure, has a deleterious effect upon the brain, producing in abundance certain neurochemicals which we can tolerate only in moderation. This goes some way towards explaining turbulent occasions in that part of the world.

Eighteenth-century English visitors to Naples, including Sir William Hamilton, advised their countrymen to keep clear of the place on account of the volatile effect of the atmosphere. Nelson did not take this advice.

Our own wind, as far as I know, has not been scientifically calculated for its effect on Irish behaviour. Bernard Shaw, in John Bull's Other Island, spouts some claptrap about the emollient effect of constant rainfall on everyone who settles here, but no mention of the wind. This is curious, as he used to live down the road from me and I have been battered by it for the past six months, and often cannot get out of the door for fear of being swept by the tails of my overcoat into the Irish Sea.

Unlike the mistral and the fearsome Israeli version, our winds batter us from all directions. Nor are they predictable. I am neuro-physically unstable as a consequence, and inclined to swear at Mary, who has managed to swan off to the Caribbean. May kindly zephyrs waft her back.

I TRACKED down the last of the gang of ferocious muggers who set upon me - or rather she did me. I was buying a newspaper in O'Connell Street when she traipsed by. She is a pretty redhead, about 15, with long flowing hair which looks clean at a distance, and a beguiling smile which she bestowed on me as she passed. 'I know that one,' said the proprietor of the restaurant I was in that afternoon. 'She came in here and made a mess of the place before I threw her out, with kicks.'

Well, I didn't kick her. Some ancestral voices whisper against the notion of kicking women, however sensible a course of action that might seem. I do feel that I would like a quiet word with her. She is probably illiterate, like the 85 per cent of her class who are thrown on the streets by their parents to beg and steal, but it occurred to me that she could go far. Neither a beggar nor a petty thief have much ahead of them except misery, but beauty, even of a shoddy sort, opens doors.

A MOBILE librarian, interviewed on the box, declares that he is particularly fond of bringing the written word to 'young offenders', as they are known, who might otherwise know no exposure to literature. 'It's very interesting what they ask for,' he says. 'Most of them ask for that book on the Kray brothers. Another book on great modern prison escapes is very popular with them.' I find it most heartwarming that these young people are taking so positive an interest in their future.

OVER THE hills to Wicklow with Edward Delaney, our leading sculptor, whose public works and private commissions are vandalised with a frequency that astonishes me. (His statue of Wolfe Tone in Stephen's Green was blown up with such force that bits of it landed in the Shelbourne Hotel.) Delaney is a gentle soul, though briefly acquainted with nascent members of the Baader-Meinhof Gang while studying at Munich. I had commissioned a ring from him, which turns out to be very splendid. As we passed through Killiney, on our way towards what we thought might be good weather, he pointed out the former summer residence of John Charles McQuaid, Archbishop of Dublin and persecutor of Sean O'Casey. 'He used to shoot cats,' said Delaney.

'What do you mean, he used to shoot cats?' I asked.

'He kept a shotgun,' said Eddie, 'and any time he saw a cat in the garden, he would excuse himself and blast it to bits.' It is no wonder that he appointed himself a theatre critic.

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