Soon after this episode, we went on a trip to Yorkshire. We'd already had to stop a couple of times at services but the feeling came on during a long stretch of the M62 where the distance between services had the potential to turn discomfort into tragedy. Anyway, my wife was driving and I'd had the forethought to put a bottle on the back seat for such emergencies, so I scrambled into the rear and put it to good use. It crossed my mind that I could start a cult along similar lines to the Mile High Club, this time for peeing into a milk bottle while going at great speed along motorways. Thinking such cultural thoughts and lulled with the bliss of relief, I became aware that it had gone suddenly darker. I thought at first that maybe we were having a eclipse, but glancing up showed me that the cause was the Bullocks coach which had drawn level. An interested audience of pensioners was ogling me from their circle seats. However I couldn't stop, so I pacified myself by giving them a weak grin and rather limp Hitler salute with my other hand, all the time hoping to God that we didn't bump into them again somewhere. It struck me that it was alright for them, there'd be a toilet on board their bus and I maliciously hoped that it was blocked. A further comfort was the thought that, should we come across the Bullocks coach parked anywhere, I could easily change the 'u' to an 'o' with a black marker. That'd teach 'em.
This brought to mind the time that we had an event (I think it was a cycle race) in Wythenshawe Park. The park toilets were grossly inadequate for a large crowd, so we'd hired mobile loos and dotted them round a central area. Unwisely, we left them overnight and in the morning all that was left was a series of burnt out hulks. The local vandals had discovered that a burning lavatory gives far more pyrotechnic satisfaction than a bog standard (pardon the pun) firework. Fortunately they'd had the forethought to make sure no one was in them before applying the match. If anyone had been, no doubt their bowel movement would have progressed satisfactorily but this would have been poor compensation for being burnt to a cinder.
Rhubarb also has a reputation for encouraging healthy movements. It is such an easy crop that anyone can grow it with a high potential for success. Not only is the stem good in crumbles, pies and other desserts, but the leaves extend its use in other directions: an old bloke on our allotment recommended boiling them in water, then using the resulting liquid to clean algi off greenhouse glass. I've not tried this but the logic is there - rhubarb leaves have a high oxalic acid content and this has corrosive properties. Garden Organic (used to be known as the Henry Doubleday Research Institute) give the following recipe for controlling aphids: boil 3 pounds of leaves in 6 pints of water for half an hour, strain through muslin or an old stocking then dilute with water to rhubarb at quantities of 5:1. Some added soapflakes will help it spread and stick more effectively.
Originally from Siberia, edible rhubarb (Rheum rhaponticum) finds the British climate a soft touch by comparison. When I first heard of the rhubarb triangle I thought it must be related to the Bermuda one, with mysterious disappearances taking place on the vegetable plot. However it turns out to be much more mundane, referring to an area in Yorkshire where Wakefield , Morley and Rothwell form the angles encompassing the main rhubarb growing area. They probably get a lot of Christmas cards from the custard industry.
|Purpose made forcing pots with removable tops for observation|
Some forms of rhubarb provide sculptural interest in the garden. Like its culinary relative, it needs deep, moist, humus rich soil and benefits from an annual top dressing of well-rotted organic material. Especially effective near water, it can be a Gunnera substitute for the smaller pond, being more compatible in scale. A variety like Rheum palmatum (Chinese rhubarb) can produce red flowers up to a height of 8 feet.
So, as you can see, rhubarb is pretty versatile and so easy to grow it really is worth giving it a bash.