Tuesday, 17 January 2017

All for a visit to the bank.

In 1934-5 the Red Army of the Communist Party of China undertook the Long March. It has since been estimated to have totalled more than 9000 kilometres over 370 days, all to avoid the clutches of the Chinese Nationalist Party, the Kuomintang. The soldiers must have found it pretty gruelling, but then they never had to walk from Stefen Hill into Daventry's town centre on a wet January morning in order to visit Lloyds Bank. Of course I didn't have to do it: I could have jumped into my Ford Coprolith and driven there but the shame would have been more than I could bear.

No, I was 'keeping fit'. It would be good for me. 'But you can do it on the telephone!' Chris pointed out, but no, I strode forth with shoulders thrown back, an imaginary band performing stirring martial music to set the blood pounding...for the first one hundred yards. After a while a more thoughtful, sober mood set in and after another hundred yards I concluded that my actions were probably certifiable.  But I looked down at my hands, reminding myself that my bent fingers were the consequence of Dupuytren's Contracture, a genetic fault said to denote Viking ancestry. Another hundred yards on and I concluded that the Vikings probably didn't bank with Lloyds either.
Thankfully the rain began to ease off and I was able to throw back my coat hood and raise my eyes. Now Daventry has many good points but dramatic landscapes aren't among them but I remembered a remark made by my friend Bernard Tisley, who pointed out then when you regularly write a blog you tend to be on the lookout for material.
Mid-January and a Eucalyptus was flowering at the roadside and from its flowers, its attractive cream and brown bark - and the fact that it is hardy - confirmed it was Eucalyptus gunnii. This is often called the Cider Gum, not that it is associated with real cider but from it a sweet sap can be tapped in a similar way to maple syrup.
Eucalyptus gunnii flowers, Daventry, 17 January, 2017
This tree has been awarded the Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society.
Speaking of maples, I passed several specimens on my walk - mostly Field Maples, Acer campestre. Twelve months ago I would have stated that it was in the Aceraceae but recent genetic work has placed it in the Sapinadaceae. The Horse Chestnut, Aesculus hippocastanum (which I also passed) has met a similar fate. Once in its own family, the Hippocastanaceae, this too has been put in the Soapberry family, the Sapindaceae. So the sycamore and the conker now share the same family as the lychee, Litchi chinensis. Changes over recent years have been almost bewildering but the link between Horse Chestnuts and other members of the soapberries is interesting. Many of the Soapberries contain saponins in their make-up, as does the foliage of Horse Chestnuts, and I remember as a child reading that conkers and their leaves could be used to make soap. Seventy years later and it all starts to make sense. 

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