Comments, EdgeNotes, In Focus

It’s War!

We are truly at war! Someone has stolen my wife’s flowers! I know we live in the inner city, but this really is not on!


Steve Latham


There is a patch of ground, outside our garden gate, around a single tree, maybe 1.5 metres square. It was dead ground, so she (the love of my life) decided to plant something there, to beautify it.

Now this is public land, strictly speaking, and the practice of planting stuff in these locations is often called (tongue-in-cheek) “guerrilla gardening”.

But although it may possess this radical, subversive edge, I don’t really think it is the local representative of state authority, our housing estate’s caretaker, Fred, who has wreaked vengeance.

Rather, it is an expression of what is euphemistically called “anti-social behaviour”. Sometimes it’s pure vandalism, destruction for the sake of it.

In this case, however, the assault has more sinister overtones. Only the most attractive plants were taken, leading us to suspect somebody eager to populate their garden with their criminal haul.

This is just nasty! And lazy! They can’t even to bothered to buy and grow their own produce, but feel impelled to nick other people’s.

Now, although I am the least green-fingered person, I suspect, in the world, it is clear to me that most of the joy in gardening is seeing something, which you’ve nurtured, flourishing.

Surely it wouldn’t be the same, to transplant someone else’s plants, which you have stolen, and see them growing (illegally!) in your thief’s plot?

Or maybe it would be the satisfaction of knowing you had outwitted an enemy, and gained advantage in an undeclared war of covert operations?

We have become used to calling Covid a “secret and silent enemy”, but now we have one closer to home, in this, our very own ‘range war’.

For this is a battle for urban turf, a life-and-death struggle for The Territorial Imperative, as Robert Ardrey called it in the 1960s.

It’s a frontier conflict, like that between ranchers and farmers in the US mid-west, during the nineteenth century.

In response, my wife thought about putting a grill over the plants, to protect them from theft. But this kind of horticultural Maginot Line would just destroy the beauty, which is actually her aim.

Perhaps we could put up a sign, asking whoever it is, to NOT steal them – but such politesse would sound merely weak, pathetic, and feebly middle class in our urban environment.

I have wondered about buying two dogs: mastiffs, Dobermans, Rotweilers; and using them to patrol the defensive perimeter at night.

Maybe we could install some CCTV, or huge searchlights, on high watchtowers, manned by armed guards, thus escalating the conflict, from a small skirmish to all-out war.

Raising the stakes for our unknown opponent might seem a little extreme, but if nations do it, why not us, as we revert atavistically to a Clausewitzian horticultural vision?

In these days of Trump and Johnson, Covid and Brexit, what could be more appropriate? To quote the prophet:

All along the watchtower
Princes kept the view
While all the women came and went
Barefoot servants, too
Well, outside in the cold distance
A wildcat did growl
Two riders were approaching
And the wind began to howl.

(Photos: Pixabay)

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