June 6, 2016 by Roy Murray
I was supposed to be hopping about at Underworld in Forbidden Fruit. Instead I was dragged along to Bloom. This was the first year that aquascaping was part of the flower festival. One of Delphine’s new hobbies is creating aquascapes for aquariums. She likes the challenge of working with underwater filtration systems and lighting to achieve photosynthesis and is a big fan of the Japanese master, Haruka Misawa. Personally I’m not into his intricate zen structures and I think he relies too much on 3D polymer. They lack soul or something. Plus he doesn’t cook dinner for me.
While she oohed and aahed at the fish drifting around the tanks, I went for a wander. I told her that I was going to the underwater basketweaving workshop in the Craft Village. It was either that or sulk and it was too hot for sulking. The walkways were as busy as the Camino de Santiago trail in August. It is always a bad sign when I start to get jealous of people in wheelchairs. I just wanted to go somewhere quiet and look at chicks passing by which is my number one hobby.
After I purchased some fudge from Man of Aran I lay on an inflatable cushion in the Banter section and checked the brochure. The only vaguely interesting thing I could see was a talk from a Bord na Mona turf management expert. His technique of pulling the grass up with a lawn hoover and cutting it in both directions was big news in the Rio World Cup. Meanwhile, other lost looking middle aged men wandered around the place. It was a giant beer trap. I grabbed a concoction of pink lemonade and digestive enzymes served in an Amazon Pitcher Plant from a passing volunteer and drank it from a straw. It tasted like Football Special, the soft drink which you can only get in Donegal. Beside me a farmer in an GAA shirt and a straw hat was talking to his grandson.
“In my day”, he said, “you could fix a John Deere tractor using a wrench and a sledgehammer. Now they slap a DRM order on their onboard software and you lose your warranty if you go near it. Feckin computers have the world destroyed and we don’t know it yet! Would you look at your wan in the red tablecloth suit. This place is like the Ploughing Championships for hepsters”, he said while he moved his face around a 99 ice cream with the speed and dexterity of someone who grew up turning grass by hand with a hay fork.
The sun was having a laugh. I should have moved into the shade. The melanin in my body was bubbling and flooding me with serotonin. I could feel my brain melting. I found myself wondering if there really was such a thing as the Merciless Peppers of Quetzalsacatenango, the world’s hottest pepper, grown deep in the jungle by the inmates of a Guatemalan insane asylum. Or was this something I saw in a Simpsons cartoon called the Voyages of Homer. I don’t remember anything after that so I presume I must have fallen asleep. When I woke the farmer was gone. In his place was the little old lady in the red suit made from tablecloths with a white sun hat. She was smoking a huge cigar.
“I am a greenseer who can communicate with plants” she said.
I wasn’t surprised by this at all. My father was a lunatic magnet and I figured that seeing as I had his gait and his propensity for solitude it was only a matter of time before I had the lunatics too. Another thing I shared with him was that I was brought up to never show surprise. I offered her some fudge and asked her if she was enjoying Bloom so.
“What you call Bloom is actually one of many global human trade markets developed by the Plant Kingdom which have been used since the Holocene Wars when plants and animals fought over dominion of the Earth. The Plant Kingdom use humans as a vehicle to spread plants and also as a weapon against the animal kingdom.”
“So you are not a fan of the Zoo next door?
– It is a distraction which gives people a false sense of importance about their place on Earth.
-There is a lot of that about these days I said.”
Then she whispered the four words that I am always powerless to resist. “I have exhibitor passes.” I followed her until we found a litle green wooden shed door in the 1916 showgarden. When we got to the door she put her hand against it. The door transformed into a face and asked her for a password. Only one timber is known to do that. Sapient Pearwood.
When the door closed behind us we were immediately hit with the most pungent aroma I had ever smelled in my life. “What the hell is that smell?” I asked her. She was covering her mouth and nose with a hankerchief. I didn’t know people even used them anymore. Titan Arum, the Corpse Flower she said in that italicised way that botanists have when they use fancy words. It smelled like gone off meat and for a few seconds I thought that I was going to pass out. Here she said, smoke this. She gave me her cigar which I quickly started puffing on in an effort to get rid of the reek. It smoke was minty and refreshing and had the unmistakeable taste of atropine, hyoscyamine, and scopolamine. She obviously rolled her cigars with Angel’s Trumpet, the hallucinogenic flower. She gave me a thumbs up. Her eyes had that demented wiggling look of someone who thought they had just made a friend for life. My brain merged with the plant world and I heard the sound of growth all around me. It sounded like a constant creaking. Plants worrying about where their pollen would fall and what life was all about anyway.
After my brain readjusted, we went for a wander. Like the rest of the festival, this section contained cordoned off gardens but the crowds were much smaller. We strolled along stopping every now and then to try and figure out what we were looking at. One section had an actual weirwood tree. Snow fell from a cloud above the garden and the face in the tree reminded me of Steve Buscemi. Another section, sponsored by Monsanto had a fully grown eight foot tall Giant Hogweed. In this hot weather, the sun made the thick sap ooze from the flower. This sap could burn right through the flesh so we were careful not to go too close. Beside it was some skunk cabbage, another plant with caustic properties. Next door was a stall where you could buy gillyweed, mandrake, hemlock and Bleeding Tooth Fungus (Hydnellum peckii). Despite the terrifying appearance of the Fungus it was not actually poisonous. The castor beans in the jar were. They probably contained enough ricin to poison the whole of Ireland.
A pool feature ran the length of the garden. The water was red. At first I thought it was dye but after reading a sign I discovered that it was tiny seaweeds known as Red Tide (Algera pelagius) which were the likely source of the plagues mentioned in the bible. Being a Game of Thrones fan I was thrilled to learn that the water also contained a newly discovered sea slug called Tritonia Khaleesi but we never got to see the creature beneath the oily red waters as we were passing by the Corpse Plant and had to keep moving. The flower was a deep burgundy colour and is one of the largest flowers in the world. It only flowers once ever 40 years and it looked like it was in bloom right then and there. We moved on swiftly to the trees.
I like trees. I like their slowness. However there was nothing slow about the Australian Gympie Gympie Tree. It has tiny hollow stings that can kill if not treated. Those who do survive contact with this tree say that it is like being sprayed with hot acid and the pain stays for up to six months. Beneath it was a spaghetti tree with strands hanging from their branches. Beside that was something I had not seen for years, a kite-eating tree. The sight of its blue and red tail falling from the branches brought waves of sadness and regret washing over me like and it made me question every one of the choices I made in my life. Hovering over them all stood Yggdrassil, the Norse World Tree which some clown had hung tinsel on. Then I passed out again.
When I woke up Delphine was standing over me and giving out to me for missing everything and not being supportive.
“How is my Rip Van Winkle? Are we going to Underworld tonight? she asks me
– No, I don’t feel so good.
– Next time we should go to Taste of Dublin” she says.