Thursday, June 18, 2020

Tree Ferns, Hedgehogs and Statues

It poured rain yesterday and it rained all night, too. The garden is sighing with relief! And I know Dave's new precipitation-loving tree fern is probably very happy.

Speaking of which, here's a photo I took in November 2004 in New Zealand, showing tree ferns growing in the wild. Aren't they beautiful? Like little palm trees. This was a park on the North Island, somewhere north of Waihi. When I bought Dave's fern I got to thinking about the photo, and I wanted to show it to Dave, so I dug it out of my "archives."

From my trip journal at the time: "Stopped at Waihi Beach and an old gold-mining town where I saw a parrot called an Eastern Rosella burst up through the tree ferns in a flash of color."

Here in London, the rain was so intense yesterday afternoon -- we had thunder and a little bit of hail, even -- that I cancelled Olga's dog walk. She stayed inside on the couch. I think we'll send her out today, now that we're having a steadier rain without the sound and light show. It won't kill her to get wet.

Fortunately, I'd already taken her on a long walk in the morning. We went to the cemetery, where we found...

...wildlife cameras set up along several of the paths. They're part of a London Zoological Society survey of hedgehogs, called the "London Hog Watch." I didn't know hedgehogs were even present in our part of London, but the survey's twitter feed has nighttime videos of them near Hampstead Heath, so that's exciting! I'd be surprised if any are in the cemetery, though, given how many dogs walk there. (Of course, the same could be said about the Heath. Maybe hedgehogs are more enterprising than I think.)

In other news, Oxford University is finally moving to take down a statue of Cecil Rhodes on the front of one of its buildings. That's a good decision. I agree with one of the local politicians who said it should go into a museum, where it can serve as a discussion point in larger conversations about apartheid and racism. I wish that had happened with Bristol's statue of Edward Colston, instead of its being torn down and thrown into the River Avon -- although apparently the city has retrieved it and it may eventually be museum-bound. To my mind, simply destroying these objects is an erasure of the past, and dishonors the victims of racist crimes as well as the perpetrators. Removing but preserving the statues helps us consider the fact that these men were once held in high regard, and ponder what that says about society at the time and how it is changing.

(I wonder if the Rhodes Scholarship program will also change its name?)

There are some imperialist paintings in Parliament that are also the subject of a similar discussion, and I hope they meet the same fate. (Removal but preservation.)

You've probably seen on the news that London's mayor has covered statues in Parliament Square -- including Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Gandhi -- with sheet metal to protect them from protesters on both the right and the left. Right-wingers are particularly concerned that the Churchill statue will be torn down, and held a violent, alcohol-fueled demonstration around it on Saturday. Churchill is several orders of magnitude above Edward Colston in terms of national importance, and he also seems less personally complicit in the brutalities engaged in by Rhodes and Colston, so I doubt that statue will come down anytime soon. (Nor should it, in my opinion, although I'm certainly not allied with the right-wing demonstrators either.)

These symbols are very potent, aren't they? Like the Confederate monuments in the American South. I'm glad we're re-evaluating their place in modern society.


  1. Huh! I thought Eastern Rosella was one of our birds. I've experienced it in Hexham up north in England, but Australians don't really know what a day of relentless heavy rain is like.

    I am completely with you about statues etc. Put them in museums with explainers. I suppose we saw the statue of Rhodes last year, but I can't particularly remember it.

  2. I agree that re-evaluation is healthy. Some of these symbols should certainly be consigned to museums. However, accusers are not always right. I am thinking especially of my great Yorkshire hero - Captain James Cook. Putting him in the same bag as Colston and Rhodes is just plain wrong. His accusers have clearly not delved into his history, preferring to cling to a headline incident in which owing to misunderstanding and fear on both sides, nine Maori warriors were shot dead by sailors from "The Endeavour". Cook was an employee of The British Admiralty, and he undertook several missions on their behalf, leading his expeditions with intelligence, experience and fairness.

  3. I agree with you- put these statues in museums. Museums of shame? Could we even build enough museums though? Do we not have enough to worry about with actual actions that we need to take to right some of these wrongs?
    I don't know. I'm overwhelmed by everything these days.

  4. What is it about Brits and hedgehogs? There must be something about this animal that reminds them about themselves, because there's no nation on earth more devoted to hedgehogs than the UK. I'm sure Beatrix Potter was merely giving voice to the general mania for them when she wrote The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and, at the other end of the spectrum, it was as a British subject that Isaiah Berlin wrote The Hedgehog and the Fox.

    It warms my heart to see those confederate statues being pulled down and the Stars and Bars being called for what it really is, the battle flag of loser traitors. Although, being perfectly objective for a second here, the Stars and Bars is a really cool design. But it has to go.

  5. Yes, put the statues in museums. I like Ms. Moon's idea of Museums of Shame. Tearing them down does not serve anyone well, although in the moment it probably feels pretty good. History shouldn't be erased, it's how we learn not to repeat our mistakes. (I know, I'm such a dreamer!)

  6. I agree with you and everyone here. The statues should be put in place where the context can be better explained and discussed.
    Wow, as I'm writing this I just heard on the radio that the Supreme Court has blocked the Trump administration from ending DACA. Two major wins in one week! Amazing.

  7. I wonder where it will go when controversial statues are taken down. What will the supporters do next to maintain their cause? I don't think they will go away.


    A complexity...and considering the times i suppose Churchill's bigotry / white supremacy was common. It is not a particularly attractive statue, Quasimodo thinks it is nice.I agree with you, they should be taken off to a far way building - history gone wrong. The fern trees are magnificent, good luck with yours. It will probably do well, lord knows that it will get the attention it needs. My little/big fern yearns to be taller!

  9. History is history. If it holds mistakes, then we should learn to right them. Tearing down statues, flags, etc. isn't going to change history. And that last person is right. What will these protestors want changed next? This is not a good road to be going down. You may not agree with me, but I do have a right to my opinion too. You have a great day, hugs, Edna B.

  10. I am completely in favor of removing the tributes to confederate leaders in the South, just as I was in favor of removing Franco's tomb from the monument to the civil war fallen here in Spain.

  11. I firmly believe confederate statues should be destroyed. You don't see Hitler statues anywhere...

    but that's just me.

  12. I believe there are a lot of statues/monuments that could be destroyed and make this world a better place. Actually, why do we need monuments to anybody, bad or good? Why do we do that? What is there about us as a species that makes us create likenesses of people to view? Is it hero-worship? a substitute for reading? I don't know. Getting rid of statues doesn't change history. Why yes, I AM feeling grumpy about this, thanks for asking :)

    Those tree ferns look pretty tall. Is that a trick of the camera or perspective, or are they really quite large? Will you be planting it in the ground or can it live in the pot? So many questions today. lol

  13. I don't know why the UK statues were erected or when but these confederate ones here were not erected to commemorate the Civil War or as monuments to the loss of so many Americans but were erected 100 years later in an attempt to terrorize blacks and keep them in their place.

    glad you got some rain. one of my granddaughter's has a hedgehog.

  14. I'd like to see history taught accurately, and not the crap we were served up as kids. In New Mexico, the city workers were able to remove the statues to Juan de OƱate before the crowds got to him. He's the guy that enslaved the First People, and then cut off a foot of every male over 25. He was so bad that Spain kicked him out of New Mexico. There is real evil enshrined in these artifacts, and I am glad they are gone.
    Hedgehogs are just unbearably cute. Glad the city is trying to keep them alive.

  15. Because of what Ellen said I agree with Silver :)

  16. Hi, It pains me when anything of our history is destroyed. I would love to see them go to a museum where discussions could be had over the issues. I haven't heard of any of our statues being destroyed here in Austin but there is a first time for everything.
    We have two musician statues that I really love. One is of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Willie Nelson. I know that they are tons more considering that we are South X Southwest and Austin City Limits.
    I met Willie Nelson in Mesquite Nevada once and have seen him around Austin a few times. Of course to me Stevie Ray is right on up there with Eric Clapton. I can listen to all three of these bad boys 24/7. I hate it that Stevie Ray is gone. It is so sad.

    Oh I do love the Fern Trees. If I could ever go anywhere I would choose New Zealand. I really think that it is a gorgeous country. I bet that Dave was very happy with his birthday gift. It was a really thoughtful gift.

    Have a great day and give Miss Olga a big hug for me.

  17. Where does all this pulling down of statues and replacing names end? And how does it rectify the horrors and tragedies of the past?
    It appeals to a mob instinct for destruction, a distraction for people who find their daily lives intolerable.
    In a moment of black humour I find the idea of a Museum of Malefactors appealing. It would be crammed with exhibits depicting life in past times.
    And lest our times be viewed in the same light, we had better get off our collective backsides and make an effort to improve conditions for situations in our own back yards and beyond.

  18. Andrew: Maybe the Eastern Rosella came from Australia but is now in NZ too? I'm not sure!

    YP: I'm not an expert on Cook, but I DO think there's a certain superficiality in the way people judge the behavior of these figures from our past. We have to consider it in context, not on the basis of today's cultural norms.

    Ms Moon: The "Museum of Shame" would be a HUGE museum! But seriously, that's part of what museums should do, right? Help us to reflect on the circumstances of the past.

    Vivian: The British DO love their hedgehogs. (Unlike their badgers, which are vilified by comparison, thanks to the cattle industry.)

    Robin: Tearing these symbols down has got to feel good in the immediate sense. That's why people behave this way. But it's not a good solution in the long run.

    Sharon: You'll be glad to know that YOU were the first person I heard the DACA news from -- by reading your comment!

    Red: Well, I think that's one of people's big concerns. What's next? I guess society is always churning and changing, though. We never reach the point of perfect equilibrium.

    Linda Sue: As you said, I think in that era those views were quite common. My grandfather had some racist/eugenicist views that were very similar. Again, it's about considering the time and the context.

    Edna: But I do agree with you, more or less. We LEARN from mistakes by studying history. I mean, Nazi Germany was a horrific nightmare, but the world learned a lot about the slow creep of fascism and groupthink from that phenomenon.

    Mitchell: Yeah, those Confederate monuments have to go. It's ridiculous that certain camps of southerners have kept "the cause" alive in their minds this long. Give it up, people!

    Silver: But actually, I believe there ARE Hitler figures in museums -- where they belong. They certainly aren't (and shouldn't be) in a public square anywhere.

    Jenny-O: Tree ferns in the wild ARE quite tall, but not as big as full-on trees. And yeah, I've wondered about statues too, and why we make them. I wonder if we'll make fewer now that this re-evaluation is underway. Maybe we'll question their role in society overall.

    Ellen: Well, exactly, and that's part of the relevant history! What do they say about the Jim Crow South?

    Allison: Yeah, why there was ever a statue to that guy, I'm not sure. I do think history teaching has become much more even-handed since you and I went to school.

    Bug: I don't know that EVERY crap statue in every little town needs to be preserved. Some of them probably could be scrapped without ill effect. But I think overall we need to show that some of history's villains were actually respected by certain segments of society for a long time after their deaths. It explains a lot about why we are where we are today!

    Beth: I imagine Stevie Ray Vaughn and Willie Nelson are not in any risk of being toppled!

    Alphie: Well, exactly. Tearing down a statue seems satisfying but it's window dressing in the long run -- an inadequate substitute for the changes that are really needed. The names of these racist figures from our past are on EVERYTHING, from streets to concert halls and civic centers to parks, and I'm not sure whether all those names should be changed (maybe?) or where the line is for saying enough is enough.