When I was young I used to see magnificent pictures in my father’s geographical magazine about far away countries and forgotten tribes. I tried to copy these pictures but was snubbed by grown-ups who thought my artwork very basic and unrealistic. My drawings were relegated to the bin or filed in dusty drawers in far flung rooms that were never used.
So instead of following my artistic leanings I chose another profession and became a botanist. My profession took me all over the world looking at strange plants in exotic locations as I garnered a reputation as a lover of indigenous species and a bastion of anything alien and invasive within these ecosystems that I cherished.
So I lived my life pretty much alone, without anybody who I really talked to, until I had an accident with my car on the edge of Oldham some six years ago. Something was broken in my engine and nothing I could do would get the car to move. I had no AA membership and no mobile phone and so set myself the task of attempting some kind of repair all on my own. It was pretty much a question of life or death for me as this was a rough area and when darkness fell, anything could happen and probably would.
That first night as darkness fell I fell asleep on the cars reclined seat I felt more isolated than when in any of the far flung countries that I had visited. I felt like a shipwrecked sailor adrift on a raft in the middle of the ocean. Thus you can imagine my amazement – at sunrise, when I was awakened by an odd little voice that said:
“If you please – can you draw me up a method statement”
I jumped out of the car completely shocked. I blinked my eyes hard, looked carefully all around me and finally saw an extraordinarily small person who stood there examining me with great seriousness.
…the little Lord seemed very confident in these most dangerous of locations – nothing about him gave any indication that he was at all uncomfortable.
“If you please – can you do me a risk assessment and method statement?”
When at last I was able to speak, I said to him:
“…but what are you doing here?”
In answer he repeated his question, very slowly as if talking about a matter of great consequence –
“..if you please – a strategy document with method statement attached?”
Absurd as it may seem, miles away from home and in danger of robbery or death, I took out of my pocket a sheet of paper and my fountain pen and began to write. But then I remembered how my studies had been based on plants and plant invasions, alien species ….so I told the little chap my skills lay in a different direction.
“That is exactly what I require” he answered,
We talked more and more and gradually I learned, little by little everything that was required of me.
The first time he saw my car he asked me,
“What is that object?”
“That is not an object, it drives, it is a car, it is my car”.
And I was proud to have him learn that I could drive.
“What? You drove over from Glossop?”
“Yes – I answered modestly”
“Oh that is funny!”
And the little Lord broke into a peel of laughter.
“You have come so very far, yet you have arrived in an area with just as many problems as that from which you came!”.
You can imagine how my curiosity was aroused by his confidence in the ‘many problems’ that Glossop had – and made a great effort to find out more about this subject.
“What do you want your method statement and risk assessment to cover” I asked.
He waved his hands in a covering gesture, and with a hint of sadness he proclaimed – “all of this, everything ahead and around, all that you can see that should not be here”…
At this comment I began to look a little closer around my location.
What had appeared at first green and lush now appeared foreign and alien. Bamboo like arching stems shot in all directions and where light penetrated the thick foliage a purple flowered soft herb grew in abundance. Above all towered a mighty giant looking down on its surroundings with disdain.
Why had I not seen this before? So engrossed was I in my own misfortunes I had missed the fact that the very landscape that I had taken for granted was in fact under siege from plant and animal invaders stealthily reaping the rewards of the ignorance of its neighbors.
As each hour passed I would learn a little more about the little lord’s home. The information would come very slowly as it might chance to fall from his thoughts. It was in this way that heard about the catastrophe of the knotweeds.
“Is it true that goats eat little knotweed plants”
“Yes – it is true”
“Ah I am glad!”
“Then it also follows that they eat balsam and hogweed?”
I pointed out to the little Lord that the knotweed in his land were not ‘little’ but on the contrary – were as big as houses – and even if he took a heard of elephants to site they would not eat a single stand.
The idea of a heard of elephants made the little Lord laugh – but then he made a wise comment:
“Before they grow so big, the knotweeds start out by being little”
“That is strictly correct” I said “but why do you want the goats to eat the little knotweed plants?”
He answered me at once.
“TO SAVE MY PLANET OF COURSE”
Mike C – with thanks to Antoine de saint Exupery