Friday, August 14, 2009

Gwapple Me Gwapenuts

I've traipsed my sorry backside around several trade fairs and expos over the years that I've been churning out this risibly ill informed landfill of a column. Last week though I chanced upon a trade show with a pleasant difference up at Lapangan Banteng, a small park (and aren't they all in Jakarta) that sits just behind the Istiqlal mosque near the National Monument. The Flora and Fauna show featured stall after stall of plants, gardening equipment and pets and made for a charming change from the consumer durables on sale at Jakarta Fair's consumer capitalist gang bang.

Despite being English, I'm not particularly green fingered I must say and wouldn't really know how to create a country garden from a hole in the ground. I am led to believe though that there has been a veritable gardening revolution among Britain's youth in recent years. Gardens have flourished in wardrobes the length and breadth of the UK as grown your own aficionados tend to their medicinal buds, away from their neighbors' prying eyes.

With this in mind, I wondered among the various plant stalls in search of one of those special ultraviolet lights that are used for growing stuff in the dark but alas to no avail.
"Are you wanting to grow herbs Mr?"
"Erm... in a sense yes, yes that's pretty much the strength of it."
There were plenty of other blooms and hardy perennials to enjoy as I strolled around the show though and I soon forgot all about Project Marley.

My first stop was at a stall selling plants that it claimed were, "Tanaman Pengusir Nyamuk" i.e. plants that drive away mosquitoes. Apparently the odor from certain plant and tree species, such as eucalyptus, puts those pesky skeeters off their vampiric blood feasts. It's also possible to put Listerine mouthwash into a sprayer bottle and squirt it around the garden apparently. You live and learn.

Elsewhere in the show, the beauty and elegance of Darwinian natural selection trumped the man-made items on display hands down. There were some truly gorgeous orchids and roses and some tempting young fruit saplings, as well as a whole load of attractive bonsai trees. On the man-made side though, some of the mass produced statuettes and water features were more than a trifle cheesy and tasteless. It's been said that evolution produces a powerful illusion of good design; well it certainly produces designs that are better than some bloke cementing a water spray nozzle into the mouth of a concrete frog.

Elsewhere in the flora section there were the inevitable hokum herbal remedies claiming to cure everything from backache to terminal cancer. My favorite find here were some herbal eye drops which I conjectured could either induce some LSD type visual hallucinations or turn you into the next Stevie Wonder. It was time to move on.

Towards the rear of the show lay the fauna section. Naturally, the kids were drawn to this part of the park above all others and seemed to especially love engaging in the time-honored Indonesian tradition of tormenting poor animals by poking at a group of caged dogs with sticks. Fluffy white rabbits, fish and terrapins were all available to purchase while the marmosets and a pair of sorry-looking caged tigers most definitely were not.

As family groups crowded dangerously into the packed animal tents, I had a vision of some minor accident setting off a chain of events that would result in the poor creatures escaping out of the park and into the city. All it would take would be for corpulent ibu to slip on a discarded ice cream and crash into the snake cages, bringing them down onto the floor. One of the reptiles would inevitably escape and make its way up an unfortunate bapak's trouser leg, causing him to panic and trip. He would then face plant into the tiger cage, awaking them from their slumbers and causing them to claw furiously at his nostrils and bum fluff moustache. He would then inadvertently pull the cage door open in his desire to escape and the beasts would flee their prison and head out into the park, hunting down every defenseless bunny rabbit and child under the age of two that lay in their path. Meanwhile the marmosets would become overexcited and start lobbing fecal grenades at the hysterical throng. I beat a hasty retreat and headed back into the less hectic flora section of the show.

I reflected on how commendable this oasis of green fingered eco-urban power was, despite the irony of the mounds of plastic trash that were piling up everywhere around me. I read recently that much of the world's plastic waste finds its way down waterways into the sea where it is carried by prevailing currents to an area called the North Pacific Gyre. This recently discovered sea of plastic is now about half the size of Europe and growing rapidly.'s evidently going to take rather more than a few window boxes full of geraniums to reverse our planetary nest soiling but you’ve got to start somewhere I suppose. Daffodils all round then.