I’ve recently been the object of a campaign by a team from the pressure group 38 Detrees (see blog of 25th February 2014 for more) in protest at my extensive writings about flowers. On behalf of the 38 Detrees team, Oates, Rye, Barleycorn and Wheaten have dispatched a missive which says that over 100,000,000,000,000,000 signatories have joined an online petition urging me to write about GRASSES. ‘We’re plants too, and we’re distressed and dismayed that your blog is ignoring us just because we are not pink and pretty and petaly and FLORAL,’ they castigate. The petition has been trending on Twigger and Facebark, which I access from the Interoot, brought to me via the weeping willow tree in my garden (WeeWi). Such strong pressure has prompted me to write a piece about GRASS, so as not to be subject to accusations of grascism by Amnestree International.
Here goes.
Sometime in the second or third week in June, the Corfu countryside tosses off its spring mantle and changes from green to burnt gold. It happens in a day or two, and is most obvious in the Ropa Valley, that vast grassy plain in the island’s heartland. Along roadsides, the seeding grasses – many of them wild varieties of wheat, oats and barley – already are tipped with gold, and the flowers which they now shade are looking dry and tired. Where strimmers have cut the long grass, green shoots soon appear, but these will not survive a hot and rainless spell. The machine I call the ‘catastropher’ has yet to make an appearance around here; attached to the back of a tractor, its angled maw munches hedgerows of their new growth and shaves verges of the swaying grasses, so that after its work you can actually see around the corner when driving. The roadsides look barren and bereft until the prickly and spiny plants of high summer come along.
The destruction of the grasses, whether by machine or heat, reminds me of a book called ‘The Death of Grass’ by John Christopher. This post-Apocalyptic novel came to my attention when I was in my early teens because some scenes of a movie version (entitled ‘No Blade of Grass’) were being shot near my school and we were all very excited (needless to say, we never got to see any of the filming nor the actors). My mother gave me an old Penguin copy. I didn’t like it much at the time, as it was about the people affected rather than the disaster itself (an out-of-China virus has killed all species of grass, causing worldwide famine and the breakdown of civilisation).
Having just re-read it (ebook on the Internet) I now realise that it is in the tradition of the novels of John Wyndham, especially The Day of the Triffids and The Kraken Awakes, which like The Death of Grass were written in the 1950s. These three books are not about a disaster in itself (and in The Day of the Triffids the disaster is not even the appearance of the Triffids) but about how people handle an apocalypse, ongoing and aftermath, both practically and psychologically.
Christopher’s book is much darker than Wyndhams’ (which are actually fairly cozy) and involves the protagonists’ committing murder and mayhem. It demonstrates how very quickly civil society can break down; and also testifies to the merit of having a psychopath on your side in such circumstance. The much older me now understands that they are all better novels for being about the involved people, not the disaster per se.
So, 38 Detrees, you got what you asked for; I wrote about grass. Happy now?

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