Weeping Willows to Water

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs

We couldn't work because of the workmen, so we conversed.

Weeping Willows to Water


We couldn’t work today because the guys were there hooking up fibre so we could have super-fast broadband… we were getting along ok with not-so super-broadband, but I suppose it’s another way for the telco to wrestle a few more bucks out of the organisation. So instead of gazing into the void of our computers, Jan and I did the unusual… we chatted.

‘Tell me,’ she asked in all seriousness, ‘why are the branches of weeping willow always flat?’

‘What do you mean... flat?’

She tried to explain, but ended up drawing on the whiteboard. What she meant was the ends, or branch tips hanging down towards the ground, seem to be always to be level with the ground.

‘If it’s a on a farm, the sheep or cattle will reach up and browse the tips because they’re palatable, and the level will be as high as they can reach.’ I told her.

‘What about the ones along the Avon River?’ She asked.

‘Well, if they are level, they must’ve been trimmed level.’ I told her. ‘My mate Albert has a huge weeping willow in his garden and he trims it because he likes to walk under it without getting tangled in it’s branches.’

‘I can’t see the council trimming them.’ She countered.

‘That’d be a waste of money.’ I agreed. ‘Are you sure they are level… flat? It isn’t natural… promise.’

‘I’ll check pictures of them on the internet when I get home.’ She said dubiously. Maybe she will check… but I know I’m right.


‘I saw your letter about the Regional Council [in the paper].’ I told Jan. ‘And I agree, they do waste ratepayers’ money, but they aren’t alone in that!’

‘Well then, what do they do?’ she asked. She’s as concerned as the rest of us that they’re going to rise the rate by 73%. For those who don’t know, rates are a tax on property owners… for services.

‘One of their responsibilities is to protect waterways, but y’know, by spraying the riparian willows and allowing a huge take of river gravels, they’re ruined the beauty of our river.’ Now I was getting wound up. ‘And they have the gall to charge a river management levy on my rate demand!’

‘Do you think… is it only since there’s been an increase in dairying that our rivers have become unswimable?’ She asked.

‘Probably,’ I answered, ‘but there’s more to it than that. We were down at the river mouth and because we’ve lived by the river for more than fifty years, the woman we were with asked me if I thought the river was silting up. Well, the river has a pretty clean catchment and there are maybe 5000 dairy cows near the bottom. They’ve only been there for ten or so years. Also the forest has been logging unusually large areas, which she was eyeing as a possible cause. More so than the dairying. I saw the land before there was forest on it and it was hard and boney, with hardly any grass cover. In a decent rain as much silt would have been washed into the river as there is now from the forest.’

‘You’re a forestry sympathiser though, aren’t you?’ Jan knows I am.

‘I know the catchment,’ I replied, ‘and I noticed a milkiness in the river that isn’t silt… it can’t be, because it hasn’t rained for ages. When I first moved into the valley fifty years ago, there were only five permanent residences there, now there’s thirty five and all of them have septic tanks and all of the septic tank grey water ends up in the river… sooner or later. They’re constantly oozing water.’

‘But it’s not dangerous like industrial waste.’ Jan was still thinking about the cows.

‘Ok, remember when Di had chemotherapy? She had to flush the toilet twice each time, and that made my alarm bells chime, so I looked up the drugs that are used in chemotherapy. They’re toxic and change DNA, and they don’t break down over time, worst of all, they end up in the sea!’

‘But everyone up there won’t be having chemo.’ She saw holes in my argument.

‘No, but everyone showers every day, has a dishwasher and does the laundry.’ I replied.

‘So…?’ she wasn’t sure what I was on about.

‘There’s fragrance in nearly every product we use these days. I’ve done some research because some of them make me crook… hypersensitivity they call it, chesty, eyes water, sneeze and cough. Fragrance is in your shampoo, hair shampoo, hair conditioner, lotions, deodorant, smellies, laundry powders, fabric softeners, and all the household cleaners. All the stuff you put on your body is showered off the next day. All of it goes into septic tanks or sewers, ending up in the sea.’  

‘Are you saying that fragrance is dangerous?’ Jan didn’t know if she should believe me or not.

‘Damn right!’ I said, ‘Fragrance is a commercial secret, so what’s in it isn’t scrutinised, or listed in the ingredients, they only say fragrance, but it contains carcinogens, has the allergens… that affect me, has hormone disrupters, asthma triggers, neurotoxins, so it’s actually not nice stuff. Yet people lather it on, and on their kids thinking they smell nice and look pretty. And all of it ends up in the sea. And in our river.’

‘I’m going to look it up on the internet when I get home.’ Jan was at least listening.

‘Just type in “dangers of fragrance” and you’ll find it.’ I said, and added, ‘Everyone knows about the seriousness of plastic in the oceans, even though there’s a lot still dumped into it, and half the population think we’re making the climate change, but most of them are daily polluting the waterways and the air we breathe. Ironic though, we have maufacturerers happily poisoning us and the planet, while some of them are the same buggers that manufacture the drugs to remedy the conditions they cause!’

The workmen finished their work, and it was time for us to go home.

Submitted: March 30, 2021

© Copyright 2021 moa rider. All rights reserved.

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