Tuesday – Friday 11-14.05.21 Benches and Hogweed

Tuesday I was virtually in the Glen meeting with A & M about a proposal for a Glen event, adjacent in a yellow Bungalow on the Ballyhooley road we sat in A’s yard drinking tea and whirling around potential happenings. M had a really funny poem about the doomed romance between the new scarlet bench and the yellow bench, both recently settled in the Glen, but doomed because Yellow bench faces West while Red is bound to face North… among other things, I look forward to hearing more about this unfolding and epic tale. So our plotting done I said goodbye to M and Corey under her umbrella as they peel off under the rain and into the Glen at Sunview East.

Wednesday evening is damp and I pass between the birch and the hawthorn at my gate I see the fluffy orbs of the dandelion heads before I see the golden flowers, the grass is getting long here apart from the narrow strip the council are keeping at the verges.

The Hogweed is coming into its own, tightly wrapped parcels of bud and bristling fecund exterior so full of need to unfurl and bloom into astonishing floral parabola in all the precision of architectural perfection. Before that happens each massive parcelled bud is so uniquely caught up in its own form, incubating, each with trident crown already bearing heavy leaves, each bristling for that moment of release, and one by one so many will come.

The Glen is abundant in all of the common and most vigorous of plants, Hogweed, Sycamore, Bracken, Winter Heliotrope, Alder, Buttercup, Briar, Willow, Buddleia, Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Elder, Clover, Milkwort, Dandelion, Speedwell, Figwort, Brassica, Gorse and soon Rosebay Willow Herb, Wild Carrot, Foxglove, Yarrow, even the Elms are pushing out their lower leaves year on year while their dead tops make lightening in the sky…… and there are so many more right now coming up month by month, day by day, year on year, most of these are the ones that gardeners deplore for their very resilience and persistence, and are called weeds. The Wild Glen has repopulated itself since its industrial past – the quarries and mills and fertilizer factories, have left the barest traces and the plants are winning, despite the ever present activity of the humans. ‘Northside neglect’ has allowed nature to take its hold with a few sporadic but influential interventions by horticulturalists towards building an urban wetland.

As I wander the Glen I am reeled in by the old wooden bench, rain playing on the whirling surface of its grain, deeply glowing now, polished by many sitters since its burning, the wood has an inner light that draws me in. I remember the image I’d sent to Bec on last weeks exchange between Cork and Tasmania; we are swapping images of human intervention in our urban parks, hers to me is polystyrene balls carried in the water, clinging to the edges of things. Mine to her is a close up of the burnt patch on a wooden bench, the raw wood lending the green paint a coppery air. Both wooden benches in the Glen, green and red, bear the same scars, as if somebody spontaneously combusted quietly while sitting there ( i am reminded of an album cover, Pink Floyd?). I liked the play of positive and negative caught in uneven stripes and the fine shiny buttons lending a military air, worn but not defeated.

I amble around and near the steps to the meadow is a man in a black and white striped top bearing the number 45, he is hovering friendly and we share exchanges, I find him later on the zigzag, having a fag. He introduces himself and asks if I’m a FotG, I say that I am and he says he loves it. He is perhaps a little older than me and tells me he has lived in the area all his life, the Glen is his home, he tells me about the Rices owning much of the area and how he used to pay them ground rent for years in Cahergal. Later brother and sister fell out and the land was divided. We chat about many things Glen, the changes and the beauty of it. I find he is a neighbour of some friends and we look forward to meeting each other again down the Glen.

Thursday, the weather is dry and it’s a beautiful evening as I make my way through The Glen, sideways on a mission to the shops, I have taken a phone call and I am distracted by the catching up in the evening light when I am forestalled – the place I stood yesterday has a new and scarlet skin.

Its the same red as the new metal bench that arrived last week, a good Cork red, lush and seductive in its glossy way, it makes sense I suppose, a lick of paint. Looking back at the photos I see the graffiti is not revealed by the paint but mostly added after, scratched in to the viscous membrane, is that Homer Simpson I see? I notice carved things in the evening light and there is an imprint on the pedestal, irrelevant, but making its presence known, now the thing that was the front of it has gone. I’m on my way to the shops and I pass through the meadow to get there.

Friday morning I have an appointment to meet T the tree, we are to catch up and maybe do some ring forming. In response to demands for planting, the Council plant trees in rows, a grid form pattern, the Holly I’m informed, is imported from Holland. T the tree has planted many native Holly trees here, carefully hidden amidst the undergrowth, he is concerned about burnings and strimmings and makes collars of dense bracken around the baby trunks and the saplings are pushing out lively for now just a few carrying broken limbs. Rowan, Oak, willow, Elder Alder, many perhaps don’t need his help, there is a Crab Apple I will watch in the semi circle under the sandstone cliff, today I see the iridescent and unmistakable lime light of the Irish Spurge, like a footprint on the Bracken circle. I find I am not surprised that it is T the Tree who has knitted that icon into the cliff face, tying in the bracken down with string, helped by green fingered allies. We pass a Glen walker by the oak and the swing, she is a slip of a thing my age or older, very dapper in silver and lemon, gloved and hatted with a dog daisy at her throat, she apologies and requests a go on the swing, it keeps her well she says, bag on arm and she flies weightless above the Glen.

There are eggshells, taken or born? One walker asks, yesterday i found one down the road and couldn’t resist picking it up from a drain and placing it in a more considered spot, today on the ridge I find two halves of a thrush’s shell tucked inside one another, I put it in my pocket, its blue-brown turquoise being warming my pocket even though i know it will be crushed before I get home.

Published by @julforres

Julie Forrester, artist based in Cork City Ireland

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