The modern world.

On 14 June I was down at Glendurgan Garden and saw a plant which I didn’t recognise and which didn’t have a label. I photographed it and posted a tweet asking Glendurgan what it was. They came back with Aristea major as a name. I Googled that, found a seed supplier who had it and placed an order. A day or two later the seeds arrived and I sowed them on 18 June.

Tweet-1

Yesterday I was cleaning up my propagation unit and was disturbed to find critters burrowing in the sand bed. I sifted them out, cleaned them up a bit and took a close up photo which I tweeted to the RHS entomologist for an ID and advice.
He replied and copied it to a Dipterist (Fly expert) at the Natural History Museum.

Tweet-2

Now, I’m clutching at the last few hours I have left of being 64 and I find this stuff absolutely bloody amazing. When I was young I’d have gone to whatever books I had and leafed through them hoping to find a picture of the Aristea, and almost certainly there wouldn’t have been one. Then I’d have given up. I might have taken a picture, and when I’d finished the film and got it developed, may have shown it to someone else who might know. In the extremely unlikely event that I’d put a name to it, what then? Perhaps I’d have sent off stamped addressed envelopes to get catalogues from Thompson and Morgan or Chilterns. Maybe they’d have listed it, probably not.

I’m not sure I’d have been able to get anywhere at all with the fly larvae. The idea that within hours I could get information from the chief entomologist of the RHS and an expert from the Natural History Museum would have been plain ridiculous.

A few years ago I wanted information on pruning apples as spindle trees. I found what I wanted eventually, on a YouTube video from an American University. Top man, demonstrating a technique he’d helped develop.

This is the modern world. I am old enough to remember when none of this was possible and I am all too aware that there are a great many younger people around who have never known anything else and for whom it is all normal, even mundane. To me it is quite extraordinary and sometimes scary, in that it is alien and a struggle to get my head around. There are many parts of it which I just don’t do.

In September I’m going to start helping out at the school in the village, youngsters between four and eleven. A neighbour with kids there asked if I’d help with their garden club. Some of the four year olds will know their way around parts of this new world better than I do. Heaven knows what the older ones will make of the old fossil. I can’t wait, I’m going to learn so much.

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3 thoughts on “The modern world.

  1. It is great. My kids literally don’t know they’re born. There is so much information at our fingertips now. Almost too easy. My fellow Hardy Planters (mostly elderly) are very impressed I can find just about anything out in seconds on the blower. The kids are not the slightest bit impressed with my slow rumblings….

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  2. I often wonder whether we are better or worse off thanks to all this new-fangled technology. Now, we ask a question and we get an answer. Job done. Quickly. Back then we had to plough through a book or two looking for whatever it was we knew not. Sometimes the questions went unanswered. But along the way we always learned something new, not just the one answer to the one question.

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    • The fly larvae episode led me to the NHM Curator of Diptera’s blog at http://www.nhm.ac.uk/natureplus/blogs/diptera-blog which was an unexpected delight. But you’re right, it is hard to know whether we are better or worse off for such easy access to information. The process of finding stuff out, learning, is inherently rewarding and if it is too easy, might it not become less rewarding? There’s no danger of running out of things to learn, but I’ve always found questions to be more interesting than answers, the means more involving than the ends.

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