There are many things in life that are eternal…love, family, kids…good friends…songs you write and Jah music. Reggae has and will always be. It has an eternal flame. It is not a fantasy, passing fad or illusion to paraphrase a line from a big tune from MC Charlie Chaplin. Reggae is with you for the long haul because it is a music that can reset the mindset, a sound that can turn your world perspective upside down and bring an inner peace. I feel this happens because Reggae is the heart beat. Its a life line…There are however some other things in my life that are older than my love for Reggae. I have been sharing this life with a cactus from about the age of 8. It has travelled with me through different stages, places and countries.
During childhood, my neighbour in Walthamstow, dear Mr. Golding, introduced me to this cactus with Australian roots. I am not sure how it ended up in East London but the cutting he gave me thrived well in a pot filled with half soil and half sand. As a student, cactus came with me to Essex University, where my studies in Sociology and Government were also enhanced by a fledgling education in Reggae music selection. Tunes this cactus heard. Wheel and come again selector!
After Essex I moved back to London flat sharing with mates, Alister and Skev in Hackney. A nice bright spot in the kitchen by the window was it’s home for another 8 years. I then moved from place to place, East London to Haringey Green Lanes and the prickly friend came with me every time. Ironic during all these decades, its stunted growth, always being in pots, enduring those heavy winters, the cactus never bloomed.
1992-3 was a good time for me musically. I’d set up my own label, Kebab Kulture Music and several 12″ singles of mine became hits in Cyprus. During that time I came and went to the island of Aphrodite 12 times until I finally decided to repatriate, return to the land of my birth and yes you guessed it, the cactus came with me, as a small-ish cutting in my shoulder bag.
The Mediterranean climate is conducive to cactii. We have our own prickly pear, ‘baboutsosiko’ variety, which has an unusual if not acquired taste as a fruit. These grow throughout the island like weeds. When we bought our first house in 1998 I decided it was time for cactus to be planted in the garden, in the earth, to live and be free. This was also the first time the plant managed those characteristic orange flowers. What a sight!
Cactus however took over like the Triffids on heat. Within three years half the garden was green and very prickly. What a ting! I had to cut it though, as everything else was suffocating – being taken over.
Something like 27 bin bags were filled with cuttings and disposed of. It felt sad in a way so I kept a large cutting in a big pot. Every year it still blooms and is so beautiful…I asked one of my kids recently, what came first Reggae or the Cactus. And of course they replied Reggae…and I answered amusingly….Cactus…Well, for me at least….
A big thanks to Haji Mike from the beautiful island of Cyprus for this piece and a shout to Dr Strangedub for starting off this dub gardeners around the world series! Remember you don’t have to like dub to send us your pics. Gardeners around the world with all musical tastes are welcomed!