Since early childhood when I lived in the Lake District of England in an old farmhouse I have been afraid of bats. Well not exactly afraid, but they are a species of mammal whose company I can happily do without. In Britain bats are now a protected species. If anyone in Britain harms them it can result in a hefty fine or even a prison sentence, but repulsive as they are to me it has to be admitted that they are garden friendly. They devour hundreds of thousands of insects, many of them garden pests. In Britain bats are a spring and summer phenomenon. At home in Guyana we have them year round. Probably the commonest bats on the coastal strip are the fruit bats, although there are certainly insect-eating bats here as well. They probably eat tons of insects. It would be very interesting to learn just how many species of bats there are throughout Guyana.

I know that many people start their day off with a cup of coffee. My particular morning drink, however, is tea, and I am hooked on it, getting through more than a dozen cups a day. I am sure that it does me no good at all, but I take some comfort from the Chinese. The Chinese have developed herbal remedies for all sorts of ailments over thousands of years. Some of them work, and a special kind of tea has attracted the attention of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. It is called Yin Zhi Huang and is based on Artemisia capillaris and two or three other herbs. Now the Artemisia family is known in the west as Wormwood, and they are valued as small ornamental shrubs. They have been used in Britain since well before the 17th century for their medicinal properties. This school of medicine in Houston seems to have determined that this plant, used in traditional Chinese medicine for the treatment of jaundice, actually does the trick.
Another remarkable plant-related treatment for the relief of Parkinson’s disease came to light recently. The former Pope suffered from this neuro-degenerative disease, and part of his treatment is said to have involved taking papaya (paw paw), which has considerable antioxidant powers. I can certainly attest to the efficacy of papaya as a meat tenderizer, apart from it being a delicious fruit when cut into small pieces and served cold.

I see the gloom and doom merchants are now forecasting the loss of 250,000 plants; about a third of our total rainforest. Mind you, the way the Brazilians and Tasmanians are going they are doing more than their fair share to make this forecast come true. In Tasmania rare myrtles, celery top pines, giant ferns and gums reaching over 300ft high are now at severe risk due to man’s insatiable demand for wood chips. The destruction of these woodlands and forests will take thousands of years to grow back again, if ever. In fact Tasmania exports more wood chips than any other nation on earth except for the United States. It is always a dangerous thing for a people or a nation state to become too dependent on a single crop for its survival. For example, as I have related before, one of the staples of the European diet is the potato, introduced there from our very own continent. Its introduction led to the European population increasing enormously during the 18th and 19th centuries. The climatic conditions there were ideal, and nowhere more so than in Ireland. Their almost total dependence on it resulted in a catastrophe when this crop was affected by blight. Over a million Irish people died from starvation as a result and a million more migrated to the United States. I fear for countries which derive their main existence from one crop or another, and are subject to wild and sometimes grossly unfair changes in earning capacity. I am thinking of St Lucia and its bananas and of our own sugar industry. We need to lessen our dependence. Perhaps the idea of selling our carbon reserves will eventually save us and help to preserve our precious rain forest. When you can get onto your ground take the chance to trim old flowers and dead wood off your roses, and maybe even shape them a little. It will help the next crop of flowers. Take great care and may your God go with you and with us all.

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