November 14th, 2006

International Kittens of Mystery

The Intelligence of Brambles and How Not To Awaken Sleeping Beauty

It's that time of year again. A man's time of year, when I pull on the thick leather gloves, grab my long-poled slasher and walk off into the woods.

Ground clearance.

When we bought our ten acres of undulating pasture, rock and wood, two of those acres were under thick impenetrable bramble. Three years later those two acres had expanded to three. We'd been so busy rebuilding our house from scratch and setting up a garden we hadn't had time to look after the woods and wetland.

The result: an impenetrable thicket of brambles not seen since the days of Sleeping Beauty.

So, every winter for the past five years we've attacked the brambles and pushed the wild frontier back a quarter acre, sometimes half an acre, at a time. It's hard work. But it keeps us fit. And it's led to a discovery that has shocked the scientific world.

Brambles are intelligent.

At first I thought I was mistaken. I'd be slashing away at a wall of giant brambles and then suddenly, out of nowhere, a wayward strand lashes across my face. I put it down to bad luck. But then it happened again ... and again.

It didn't matter how careful I was. It didn't matter if the brambles were connected. I could be slashing to the left and be under attack from a bramble yards to the right, its head dipping down to strike me the moment my head was turned.

Somehow the bramble knew. He was in danger. And when in danger, you take every opportunity you get.

So, now I'm even more careful. I anticipate. I think myself into the mind of a bramble - something which, with advancing years, I find remarkably easy:) I see the inch-thick canes at the back, their heads towering twelve, fifteen feet high, their arms bent over, tapering away several metres in this direction and that. And think ... which one of you is it going to be? Who feels lucky? I keep one eye on them as I slash. I dart in and out. Expecting the unexpected. And pull away the moment I see anything loom towards me.

I expect The Prince exercised a similar plan when cutting his way through to Sleeping Beauty.

Although reading this in Wikipedia about the origins of Sleeping Beauty, perhaps the bramble had the right idea.

For those yet to click on the link, in the original versions of Sleeping Beauty the Prince didn't awaken Sleeping Beauty with a kiss. He raped her. Which says a lot about medieval princes.

Disney wisely cut that scene from their 1959 classic. But brambles ... they remember. And to this day if they see anyone who resembles a handsome prince...