On Tuesday this week I arrived back in Australia, early in the morning, from three weeks conferencing and researching in Europe. I spent the day engaged in the gently restorative process of unpacking, washing, and sorting through the accumulated notes and debris of scholarly behaviour. By twilight I was beginning to feel properly banjaxed and adjourned outside to my garden deck, Ipad in hand, to catch up on emails, steadily replying, deleting and offering assurances that yes I was back, but would return after a couple of days’ leave. While watching the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s excellent catch-up app I noticed our copy of Yates’ Garden Guide on the table. This is the product of a New Zealand gardening company which began publishing the Guide shortly after it was established at the end of the nineteenth century, and is the most popular gardening book in Australia. Not that ours is used much: the garden is a small modest affair, mostly a lawn, a tree and a few potted plants – a backdrop and mingling area for barbecues, drinks and other social and family kinds of entertainment – but the Guide is a useful resource nevertheless and an emblem of suburban horticultural good intentions. I’d never really looked at it before.
Perhaps it was my slightly jetlagged subjectivity, but as I read it my mind went into analogy-mode, playing a game of ‘this is like this is like this’...