Hibernaculum or Insect Hotel made by Sogs for our Shrewsbury Flower Show Garden a few years ago

Chairman’s report, Oct. 2019

Just recently I have been thinking about cake and the various levels of significance that it has.  Over the years Sogs has developed a special relationship with cake.  Our summer visits to special places are made even more special by the anticipation of sampling the wide variety of cakes that appear as if by magic; and then disappear as if by a scientific analysis of the ingredients and a study of the combination and mixing and juxta-posing the surrealism of the underlying metaphor.  In other words...magic.  Arthur C Clarke said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic...well I say that any cake that can find its way on to the chairman’s plate will disappear as if by magic.

 A cake is so much more than a sum of its ingredients it has a synergy which passeth all understanding.  In much the same way that a Soggie is so much more than a sum of all the chemicals and water that we call this corporeal existence.  A cake that is baked at home and then shared in a social situation acquires a certain something that is indefinable.  (But I will not let that stop me from spending the next 1,000 words trying to define it.  So if you are in a hurry I recommend that you skip to the next article.)  By singling out the home baked I have no wish to denigrate the shop bought, there is something in the act of purchase, transport and presentation that creates an aura to the otherwise ordinary, don’t you agree?

 Good! I am glad that you agree.  So, where was I?  Oh yes...cakes and organic gardening.  These things fit together, like peaches and cream, bells with a church and a steeple and horses with swimming pools.  (To understand this you really should get out more...)  Growing edible things in the garden is the sine-qua-non but it is just the beginning.  The harvest and converting this potential in to the actual is where the individual can add their own bit of uniqueness.  It is interesting to go to a small country show where there is a cake baking competition.  All of the competitors will have been given the same receipt to follow but no two cakes will be the same.  How is that possible?  I don’t know but I am glad that it is so, aren’t you?

 Good! I am glad that you agree.  So, where were we?  Oh yes...a Sogs visit on a Sunday afternoon to a members’ garden.  Have you been there?  If you have then no explanation is necessary; if you have not then no explanation will be sufficient.  Try to imagine, if you will, a cloud, it is warm and comfortable, it supports in every direction at once, the floating sensation reminds you of the most secure place that you have ever been, there is no future, there is no past, there is just the eternal present where all is one, the moment lasts forever and it is gone in a instant; as Loa Chi said “the handless hold the hoe, the man walks riding on a water buffalo, the man stands on the bridge but the bridge and not the waters flow...Well a Sogs visit is nothing like that; it is all about marvelling at how someone has the time and energy to do all this work and produce this magical (that word again!) space.  Then there is all the chattering to do to some of the most friendly people in the world; and then, I’ll repeat that for emphasis, and then! There is the tea and the cake!  Floating on cloud and all that stuff may well be OK but can it equal the sublime experience of tea and cake?

Good! I am glad that you agree.  There are many imponderable questions in the world today.  Where will it end?  Where did it begin?  What’s it all about?  Is it worth it?  Should I bother?  If I had my time over again would I do it all differently?  Where is my next meal coming from?  Whither atrophy?  What’s all this got to do with the price of toast?  My favourite imponderable is ‘how many different cakes is it possible to taste before the palate enters that Zen state and all becomes one?’  This is a question that I have been turning in to a scientific experiment.  If you have been at a Sogs cake meeting; oops, sorry, I mean garden visit, you may have noticed me conducting this experiment.  So far the results are inconclusive; more experimentation is needed; but even then there will be doubt as those of you who have read Karl Popper and his hypo-thetico-deductive method will no doubt recognise.  All this boils down to one question ‘is it possible to eat only one piece of cake?’

 Good! I am glad that you agree that it is not; which brings me on to the deepest question yet.  If we could fathom the answer to this we would understand much more about human nature and what will be the ultimate fate of humanity.  The question is...wait for it...roll of drums...swiss roll...roll of fat...”Is eating cake naughty?”  To even begin to answer this question we must first try to define the concept of naughty.  It has a dictionary definition but is that sufficient for it to carry all the nuances that are possible when the word is linked to cake?  I suspect not.  Do we need the concept of naughty to set boundaries? To create a border within which we can construct our own reality?  Without knowing what is forbidden how can we know what is allowed?  Can we know what is meant by ‘up’ without considering the infinite possibilities of ‘down’?

 Are we still in agreement? Good!  This is real progress.  I think that we are ready for a cake recipe. Recipes at the end.

 Continuing the theme of up and down, which way is up in space? I was listening to Helen Sharman on the radio the other day, she was talking about cultivating plants in zero gravity, I wonder if they do it organically? and can you bake a cake on the international space station? If not, is it worth going?  Shall we see if we can get her to give a talk to Sogs? And can we determine the ultimate nature of organic gardening reality by putting a small piece of fairy cake in to a Total Perspective Vortex?  Answers on a post card please.  There is so much to do and so much more to explore about the relationship of Sogs and cake and so little time to do it, if you have read this far you have missed 20 minutes in the garden that you will never have again. 

 I will leave you with a list of my notes so that we can continue this fascinating topic when you have nothing better to do and you feel like having your brain numbed by absolute drivel... I mean... deep philosophical insight in to why we should all save the world by doing something so much more positive than flying off in a private jet to join an extinction-rebellion protest or listening to a 16 year old telling us that we oldies have ruined her future; as she flits around the world with her perfect education and perfect health and perfect security and her perfect prospects...I wonder where she got all of those from?  It couldn’t possibly be from old type people’s efforts could it?  Ahh! That’s better, all of the previous 1399 words were about building up to that rant.  Now, the list; Cake as metaphor, cake for Sogs leitmotif, cakes as love, cakes and greed, cakes as variety/spice of life, cakes and ale, have your cake and eat it, caked with mud, if I’d have known you were coming I’d have baked a cake.

And so on to infinity. 


May 12th Members’ Garden Visit: Nick and Jan’s.

We had a warm welcome from Nick, Jan and their two German hunting dogs, and admired their garden which is an example of division of labour, with Jan tackling the cultivation side, and Nick on construction. The tree-bordered garden had varied areas including some formal vegetable beds, informal herbaceous borders, very informal grassy areas (Jan likes her grass to be fairly long), an orchard with old trees, a stream, and a lovely pool. Around the garden were sculptures waiting to be discovered, a rustic bridge over the stream and a Monet type bridge by the pool. An old farmer’s dray was under a tree in the orchard, being assimilated into the landscape.

 Nick and Jan discovered a well near the house entrance when they moved in, and Nick constructed a low brick wall round it with round edged bricks as the top layer. This was an inviting sitting area for tea and cake time. The well and the stone wall behind it were beautifully mossy. There is a system for obtaining water from the well for watering plants. We enjoyed this delightful visit, on a pleasantly sunny afternoon.