Do you remember the ‘Doctor Who’ episode called ‘Blink’? The one where angels prey upon humans but turn to stone the moment they are looked upon — so the only way to prevent them killing is not to blink. As soon as a person shuts their eyes, the angels move, incredibly quickly — though of course, the person doesn’t see that, because their eyes are shut. And then, when they open their eyes, the angels are closer each time, but completely still, statues. A reverse Medusa.
It’s a very creepy episode. And it occurred to me this morning, it’s a bit that way with couch grass — you know the kind that grows stems out from a central root and each stem puts down roots as well. And, just to be even more rampant, sends down rhizomes underground, creeping and expanding.
We’ve spent hours — hours we’ll never get back — weeding the tendrils of couch from our veggie patch. And all because we looked away. It was more than just a blink, though; it was lots of blinks — weeks, probably months, busy with writing, not noticing the silent weed encroaching.
A friend describes couch as the cockroach of the floral world, and I think he’s right. It has been said that when we’re all gone, destroyed by one or another global catastrophe, it’s the black armoured insects that will survive. As I was pulling out roots and stems from beneath the weed mat this morning, I wondered why couch hasn’t taken over the whole world by now. It doesn’t need lots of water; it puts out pointed tendrils that will burrow through and around all sorts of obstacles, and it keeps on growing from any tiny piece you happen to leave in the ground. What’s to stop world domination, I wonder.
Pondering all this as I was, I decided that couch grass must have been the inspiration for The War of the Worlds: alien life nurturing its attack from beneath the ground, unbeknownst to us, and then, taking over in an endless network of rhizomes that strangle any other kind of life. Very couchlike!
I had hoped that the endless monotony of digging, pulling, sifting, and shaking dirt off roots and tendrils would become a kind of meditation — a chance to mull over the next chapter of the novel, allow some new ideas to arise — but instead I found myself making these wayward comparisons. Tendrils of irrelevance and silliness creeping into my mind.
Like this, the ‘Blink’ cat video, with Dr Who commentary, if you’d like to join me.