Friday, 3 June 2011

Ariel anchorage

   My Tillandsia ionantha is in flower. I'm delighted. I read that it dies after flowering but that its pups live on. “Pups”, who'd have thought?

   I bought it a few weeks ago in Montpelier, I didn't think it would survive for very long as it looks so delicate and seems unnatural the way it needs no soil to survive (Reminds me of the body-less lady I once saw in a side-show – just her head on a table with a feeding tube installed below her ear. She was very still, which I suppose was understandable, and after a few minutes of awkward silence (I was the only customer) I began to wonder if all was well, or at least as well as could be expected. Eventually a morbid curiosity got the better of me and I stooped to peer at her face, my nose was approaching hers when suddenly she said 'hello!' and scared me out of my wits).

   I put the Tillisansia in a terrarium, if it can be called a terrarium when the terre is replaced by a brass ring from an old sink. I spray its roots every now and then with an atomiser (see below);

  The Tillandsia normally resides on the branches of trees in central America, it doesn't feed off its host it uses it only to get nearer to the light. The Tillandsia's roots are hooked and serve as anchors.
   Interesting word, anchor. It is said to be the only Latin nautical term used in the Germanic languages. Now I think about it all maritime language is blunt and manly, not latinate at all – if the bosun caught you slacking you were hanged from the yardarm, not suspended from the lateral bifurcation of the blah-de-blah.
   Quinquereme! I remember learning that at school - “Quinquereme of Nineveh from distant Ophir”. Surely that's Latin, it must be a ship with five masts, hold on, how could it have been if it rowed home to haven in sunny Palestine? It must have had five oars, but that doesn't make sense either; it would have gone in circles. I'll look it up. Ah, five sets of oars.
   Then again anchor is in common usage and I'm not sure quinqueremes even exist anymore, except in the minds of those who recite an old-fashioned poem whose rhythms and sounds remind us of the vessels it describes;

Quinquereme of Nineveh from distant Ophir
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Emeralds, amethysts,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.

Dirty british coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rail, pig lead,
Fire-wood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

Cargoes, by John Masefield (1878-1967)