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High Expectations

A Very Tall Thistle

A Very Tall Thistle

If you want inspirational, then you can’t beat social media. How we continue to bumble along as we do, awash with such powerful messages, must be a testament to humanity’s ability to ignore good advice.
Just say we took even a fraction of the good advice that we have access to. Wouldn’t we be such unbelievably powerful and efficient individuals? The other side of the coin is, of course, what would happen if we took even a fraction of the good advice, that we so confidently offer to all and sundry, ourselves?
There are people out there who do all this stuff. They regularly take all their lemons and make lemonade. They constantly start journeys of a thousand miles with that first small step. They welcome change with open arms. Every single thought they think is positively positive, and never would they think of taking any action that didn’t stretch them to their extreme extremity.
Luckily, for the rest of us, they are the exceptions that prove the rule. So there’s no need to panic. It’s fine for us to just sit here, bemused by all the hullabaloo, shaking our heads and wondering, just where do they get the energy?
Talking of the exceptional, the hedge in today’s photo is a good seven feet (two and a bit metres) tall, and sticking out the top of it we have – a thistle. Surely, there must be an inspirational message here, somewhere.

Shall I Go or Shall I Stay

Thistledown

Thistledown

“Ooo! Ow! Stop pushing!”
“Stop complaining, you’ve lived here all your life, you ought to know that the leaves are prickly by now.”
“Yes, but it’s been so hot lately, they seem to be more and more prickly every day. Have you noticed things are, sort of, loosening up?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, now and again, these last few days, I seem to suddenly need to grab hold of something, I’m sort of – loose.”
“Actually, yes, I have noticed. I just thought it was because the sun was so hot.”
“Do you think it’s true, then?”
“What’s true? Oh you mean about the West Wind coming? We’ve had wind from the west before, you know. I can’t really see how it could make any difference to us.”
“Yes, but, well, it’s that whispering, it’s a bit eerie. I know everyone’s doing it – but I just don’t know if we ought to join in.”
“Well don’t join in next time, party pooper. You must admit it gives you a real buzz. The West Wind is coming. The West Wind is coming.”
“Come on. Pack it in! You’ll have the whole bunch at it again. Oh. Crumbs. Now look what you’ve done. You’ve started them off again.”
“The wind is picking up a bit isn’t it? Come on. Sway, sway!”
“Oops!”
“What do you mean, oops?”
“I’ve come unstuck.”
“Hang on to me, then. Oops. Wait, careful, now I’ve come unstuck.”
“Aaaah! We floating away. We’ll never get back now.”
“Who cares. Hold tight. We’re off. We’re off!”

Not So Straightforward

Thistles

Thistles

Eeyore, of course, wouldn’t understand the problem. I’m sure any thistle that hadn’t been bounced on, would be reckoned a good thistle. In Scotland, in 1687, James VII (James II in England – even in those days, apparently, you needed two jobs to make ends meet) decided to reinstate the Order of the Thistle. There isn’t any record of there ever being one before, so it must have been unofficial. The Thistle had certainly been around in Scottish royal circles for a few hundred years or so. In Edinburgh, around 1768, the Encyclopædia Britannica decided to use a stylised Thistle as their emblem.

None of the above, while interesting no doubt – if you’re interested in that sort of thing, is the least relevant to the current discussion. You see, if you ask Google to tell you what he knows about thistles, the first thing he will want to know is “Which one of the two hundred varieties do you mean?” I begin to feel as if I’m dealing at a horse fair – you know.
“How much is that one?”
“Well, what do you think it’s worth?”

In the end, after trawling through more Thistle’s than you ever thought existed and which, to my untrained eye I have to confess, all looked very similar – sort of, like Thistles. You know?

I’ve come to a decision. It’s a Spear Thistle.

A Prickly Customer

Spear Thistle

Spear Thistle

Here’s a perfect example of the sort of plant name debacle that we complain about here as often as we can. Here we have a perfectly good thistle that any Scottish king would be proud to have as his emblem but if you look up thistles on Google all you get is a load of wittering about which variety of thistle is the ‘true’ thistle – there’s fourteen or so to choose from.

So, the story goes like this – the Vikings (or Norwegians, or someone like that) were creeping up on a Scottish camp in the middle of the night, possibly hoping to jump into the middle of the camp, switch all the lights on and shout “Surprise! Surprise!” or something along those lines.

In order to do the creeping up in a professional manner – as befits a Viking war band, the attackers had removed their shoes and socks, tucked each sock into its appropriate shoe and left them in a neat line on the beach near their ships. All went well until, nearing the Scottish encampment one of the Vikings stood on a thistle and said “Ow!” – In Norwegian or Danish of course.

This woke the Scots in the camp who all got up and came running over to see what variety of thistle had saved them from being slaughtered in their beds.

Yeah. Right.

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