That’s Life! A Letter from London | WRITTEN BY WINIFRED BLACKMORE
No Good Deed...
Mottoes are funny things. Some are inspirational—
like Who Dares, Wins; or my old
alma mater Warwick Academy’s
Quo non ascendam, “To what
heights may I not ascend?”
(Given my fear of heights, plenty;
but I’m assuming it’s meant to be
Others are whimsical, like Bermuda’s national motto, Quo fata
ferunt, “Whither the fates shall
carry us.” This has always struck
me as a strangely passive, throw
your hands in the air kind of motto. Oh well! The fates have carried
me off to a life of crime/ dead end
job/barstool at the Swizzle Inn,
so what can I do about it? Yes, I
know it’s about the wreck of the
Sea Venture, but it’s not exactly
Live Free or Die, is it? Or even
Live Long and Prosper.
If I had to pick a motto for
myself, I might go for “Stick It,
Hywel!”—a pet saying of my
Grandpa Hughes. ( You have to
imagine it being bellowed by a
Welshman with a fine tenor voice,
emphasising the “well.”) When
he was a schoolboy, Grandpa
watched a race in which the hapless Hywel finished miles adrift.
But his father never stopped
cheering him on—“Stick it,
Hywel!”—till he limped over the
finish line, after everyone else
had packed up their kit bags and
headed home for tea. It’s about
perseverance, and getting the job
done, no matter how painful.
Hurt No Living Thing is
another possibility, given my
legendary soppiness with regard
to animals of all shapes and sizes.
But gradually, I’m coming
to the conclusion that it might
have to be No Good Deed Goes
Unpunished. Credited to Clare
Boothe Luce (American diplomat, journalist and archenemy of
Dorothy Parker), it seems to grow
truer, the older I get.
Take the other day. I was out in
the garden, doing a bit of tidying.
The first flush of summer had
passed, flowers had faded, and
things were generally going to
I’d spent a happy hour deadheading, when suddenly I felt a
sting on the back of my hand. I
assumed I’d been stabbed by a
thorn, but when I looked down
I saw a tiny insect. Still thinking
the rose the culprit, I removed the
creature and deposited it gently
on a leaf.
Later, the bite began to swell.
The next day, it was ten times the
size of the bug that bit me, and
oozing. And now I have a scar.
For exhibit two, m’lud, I present the foxes. This past winter, I
noticed one in our yard. A big ‘un.
And he was limping. Then I saw
another—smaller. His mate. Also
I rang my go-to guy, Roger, of
Roger’s Wildlife Sanctuary—a
modern day St. Francis, who
devotes his life to caring for wild
creatures injured when their lives
collide, sometimes literally, with
How badly were they limping,
Roger wanted to know. Were
they still hobbling around? Well,
yes. In that case, best to leave
them. “They will mend; they’re
just looking for somewhere to
lay low.” Wonderful. My garden:
the vulpine version of Butch and
Sundance’s Hole in the Wall.
“If you want to put a handful
of kibble out at dusk, you could
do that. Not too much—you
don’t want them to become
And so, for several weeks, I
crept out as night was falling, and
carefully placed a small fistful
of cat food (“Royal Canin Pure
Feline Beauty...with borage, for
beautiful coats”) on an old flowerpot saucer in the back corner.
I could tell they were there—
eau de fox is like no other smell
on earth: it doesn’t just get up
your nose; it punches you a new
Eventually, though, they must
have recovered, for there were
fewer sightings of their pointy,
crafty faces, peering out of the undergrowth or round the barbecue.
But I did see something else
that suggested they had not left
entirely. An enormous hole. Dug
under the hedge and half way to
I filled it with compost.
The next day, it had been re-dug; deeper. So I filled it again,
adding a bit of manure, just for
good measure. The day after that,
there were two holes.
And so it went. Until the hedge
ILLUSTRATION BY DANA COOPER
Regular readers will recall that
I launched a spirited defence of
ivy in general, and my ivy hedge
in particular, not long ago. “The
holly’s humble cousin may not be
a looker, but don’t judge a plant
by its foliage!”
Well, shortly after I wrote that
piece, the hedge flopped into our
yard. Preserved and nurtured
by me, it shot up so high that it
turned into a giant vegetarian
sail. So when the first big blow of
winter came, it flapped back and
forth, like a Chinese dragon in a
wind tunnel, and then collapsed,
taking a large section of fence,
and a big chunk of plaster from
the wall of our house, with it.
No good deed...
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