As a youngster I was fascinated by the philosophical notion of what is necessary before you can have an event. For example, if a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one there to hear it, is there any noise?
I thought of this yesterday as I was attacking the hedge between me and my neighbour. It’s a twisted, hard-core brute and even after I’ve gone at it for an hour or more with a heavy-duty electric hedge-cutter, it still comes out looking the muscle-pattern on a loyalist prisoner. My neighbour calls encouragingly to me as I stand tiptoe on a chair, trying to put manners on the top bit: “You’re putting me to shame with your work on that hedge!” I tell him he’s got the wrong man. It’s logically impossible to arrive at a number lower than the lowest number.
The thing is this: would I cut my hedge if there was no one there – if I had no neighbours? I’m surrounded by Protestants, in whose genes is a historal drive towards order and cultivation. My genes tell me that Mother Nature wanted hedges and grass to grow, and there’s something perverse about slashing and strimming and hacking at her efforts. So although I pick up my heavy-duty hedge-cutter every so often, my heart and my history aren’t in it. My father was a cattle-dealer and increasingly I see how wise he was. If you want vegetation kept under control, set a dozen head of cattle grazing on it.
Meanwhile, I can’t help thinking: if no unionists are about, will the Poc Fada competition at Stormont exist? More on that tomorrow...