This city is obsessed with coffee, that milky, jittery, machined addiction made by poseurs who call themselves baristas.
Just look at our major waste problem, the environmental disaster that is disposable take-away coffee cups littering the inner city. Disposable was supposed to mean single use, not throw it on the footpath or out the window or leave it under the train seat or on the park bench. They're everywhere. And now, the disposables are carried in a disposable cardboard multi-cup carrier. Insane. Aside from all that, no drink should ever be taken from cardboard or that abomination, polystyrene. Ban the lot of them. Hot drinks should only ever be drunk from porcelain or glass. All those inner urban Green-voting hipsters should live up to their 3Rs mantras. Reuse, recycle ... or recant, pretenders.
That brings us to the superior drink, tea; drunk by the silent minority – perhaps even majority – and appreciated for its loftier qualities, its more subtle pleasures. While coffee tastes like mud, tea's myriad flavour nuances are almost impossible to capture in words, ranging from savoury crushed leaf to the zesty scent of distant trees on fresh highland mountain air; powerfully satisfying yet with a finesse no coffee could approach. No wonder legendary Japanese director Ozu made a movie celebrating tea's flavour, which is inscrutable (to use an expression that has fallen out of use, but is nevertheless a very good one). Coffee could never be described as inscrutable. Obvious, yes. Inscrutable, no.
I drained my teacup and turned my thoughts from comparing tea with coffee to the garden. It was still a jungle, but now I thought I had its measure. Amazing what a tea break will do.
First, I wondered how to get rid of the fire hydrant. I could surreptitiously place it on a street corner where it would look quite at home, posing less of environmental threat than ten million abandoned cardboard coffee cups.
Pondering that problem, I entered a shrubbery of some large-leafed exotic. Pushing aside a couple of leaves the size of elephants' ears, I gazed at several large pieces of semi-rigid steel mesh, the kind that is used for training espalier plants. The edges had been trimmed at the ends of the horizontals instead of the usual, and safer, continuous edge; leaving a dozen or so lethal rusty six-inch bayonets on each piece, pointing directly at the eye of whoever may happen to venture behind the foliage. Since the garden is still frequently played in by grandchildren who hit balls into the corners, I removed the steel mesh sheets, folded them by wrestling them over and over into smaller folds while standing on one end, and dumped them into the rubbish.
Later, while putting away some spare pots in the shed, I had to step over a 10kg bag of weed and feed. It was so old, the plastic bag was breaking down, and fine dust was seeping out, making a haze in the close air of the shed. Keep out of reach of children, the label read, where you could still read it. Wear a mask while applying, it said. And, wash hands after use. The contaminated shed also held cricket and tennis balls and bats and racquets and other playthings, doubling as a playhouse for the grandchildren of the household. I found a garbage bag, bagged up the weeping chemical cocktail and threw it out.
Back in the garden, I dug away layers of dirt and leaf mould in another corner to reveal some original edging that could have been decades old: a single line of carefully mortared red bricks on an edge strip of concrete. It probably hadn’t seen light since the 1970s.
Nearly finished for the day. I was clearing a pathway where I had removed some invasive seaside daisies. I should have used my own broom, but I'd left it in the car, and there was one standing by the fence. It was an odd short-handled one that looked like it was made for midgets. I picked it up and made one broad stroke. It was far too short. The end of the handle passed through my hands, something flew off its end, and I felt a kind of coldness in my small finger. I knew what had happened even before I looked. I picked up the broom. Sure enough. It was one of those cheap aluminium handle shafts that bend easily. Someone had at one time broken it right off, placing the cap loosely over the new end, which was jagged. It had cut through my finger like a knife. It was a clean cut, between the first and second joints. I threw the broom in the bin with all the other junk. That was the end of the day's work. Sometime I don’t know when to stop.
The yard had seemed much smaller now, than when I had grown up here in the 1960s. They always do.