Granny’s Triffids

I must have been all of five years old when I learned about triffids.  Or so I thought.  They were in the new vegetable garden of the new house we’d moved into not long before Granny came to visit.

Me, in August 2020, outside the house my parents built in 1968, and behind which the triffids grew.

Dad, the horticulturist he was, and having grown up with an alotment, composted the garden from the embryonic compost heep that consisted largely of vegetable peelings and waste.  I remember that something that hadn’t been planted, suddenly started coming up where the “proper” seedlings should have been.  With hindsight, the Dad probably had more than an inkling of what they were likely to be.  Granny and Mum, not so much.  Granny, as I’ve mentioned before, was a prodigious reader and was also given to the occasional bit of singing.

Anyhow, the plants with the long vines and winding tendrils and the pretty yellow flowers became the triffids.  Inspected daily.

Every year we grow Triffids. Of one sort or another.

Granny’s triffids turned out to be gem squash and they are one of the first vegetables I ever remember harvesting.

Why is she on about Triffids?

Regular readers know that I occasionally participate in a monthly themed contest about favourite things. Over the last year, I’m gathering that the @yourtop3 team now expect a “Fiona treatment” of the topic.  Talk about no pressure! Ha!  I nearly skipped this month:  the theme is end-of-the-world movies.  When I saw that, my heart sank.  Skop, skiet en donner, blood, gore and gratuitous violence are just not my thing.

Not doing the apocolypse

The only apocalyptic film I could even remotely remember seeing was Francis Ford Cappola’s Apocalypse Now.  Although I was forced to study Conrad’s Heart of Darkness on which the film was loosely based, I worked as hard at forgetting both.  It’s taken thirty-odd years and I didn’t think I was going to revisit either.  On purpose.  Nope.  Not.  Still not!

Then I Googled lists of films that were about the end of the world and, my gosh, there were a huge number from which to choose.   I’d actually seen two.  On the lists that popped up for me.  So, avoiding the Apocalypse was Now unavoidable…. Regardless of tThe fantastic reviews, brilliant cast and direction mean that I might just watch it – if, at the end of the world there is nothing else to watch…

The book

On that list, there was another name that jumped out at me:  The Day of the Triffids.  Ha! I had forgotten that there had been a film.  I remember John Wyndham’s book which I had discovered in the school library and devoured.

The library in which I discovered The Day of the Triffids is still there – two windows to the left of the main entrance to Clarendon Girls’ High School in East London. This photo: 2010 when I returned for our 30th reunion.


My over-active adolescent imagination created creatures that were so terrifying that the thought of seeing them “for real”, even in a film, didn’t bear thinking about.

I was the child that when things got a little hairy on TV or home movies, would flee and peek around a corner until Shane was safe and sound….


Back to that list:  the other film that I had seen was the 1977 film Damnation Alley.  I now realise that my friend and I probably only went to see it because of Jan Michael Vincent.  I’ve never forotten the film.  Neither for the cast nor the story, but because of the terror of the flesh-eating cockroaches that swarmed through the sewer grills of deserted streets any time they sensed human flesh nearby.  The boarding house in which we stayed had a cockroach problem.

I still don’t like cockroaches.  Those images are as vivid in my memory as if I’d seen the film yesterday.  Not forty years ago in East London as a seventeen year old.

It’s a pattern

Just on twenty years after Damnation Alley, and serendiptously (but not, if you do simple arithmetic), twenty years ago, I spent a great deal of time commuting between Cape Town and Pretoria for work.  A bunch of us were working on the new post school system that was emerging in post democracy South Africa.  We stayed in a hotel, worked days and were at a loose end in the evenings.  Occasionally, we didn’t have work to do, or weren’t completely exhausted, and we’d go to a movie.  One of two movies I remember from that period, is The MatrixWhy I went to see it, and it didn’t pop up on that Google list, and more to the point, why I’d forgotten it, I don’t know.  I’m grateful to Gaz (@cheese4ead), one of the Top 3 team for the reminder.  I remember being enthralled, and the film stuck with me for a long time.  The sequels simply don’t live up to the original and are, for that reason, completely immemorable.

Going to the wall

This is a weird time and I’m not just talking about COVID-19:  the world is beginning to realise the almost apocalyptic damage that humans are doing to the earth.  Looking back to a 2008 film about the ravages of an electronic wasteland in the 29th century is somewhat prophetic.  Like so many good children’s films it’s allegorical if you allow it to be.  Also because it’s a children’s story, it leaves one with a warm feeling at the end even if there are tears.  I like that.  Again, thanks to Gaz for this happy reminder of the adorable WALL-E.

An aside

When WALL-E came out, I just didn’t get it.  You see, I was reading the reviews.  I heard read with my South African English and sort-of British accent.  I didn’t get “wall”.  I didn’t get “e”.  Until I heard it in American.  Then the penny droppedWally!!  Did I feel the wally?


I always say that I don’t participate in this contest to win but rather, because the topics get me going. They do, and when I get a prize for being runner up, which happened for last month’s entry…well, I’ll take it and brag.  Just a little.

As I suggested when I began, it was a close call as to whether I’d enter – until I came across Granny’s triffids.  Yesterday.  At that point, I was going to nominate just one movie – because you can (ethically, I think), only nominate films you have actually seen – and give the topic the full royal “Fiona treatment”.  Then, this morning, thanks to Gaz, I discovered that there are three four end-of-world films I had actually seen!  Two of which I actually want to remember.

So, to appease Q, my nominations, in no particular order, are:

  1. The Matrix
  2. Wall-E
  3. Damnation Alley (which for years, I thought of as Tin Pan Alley…oh dear…)

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma


Post Script

In yet another aspect of my life, I offer

English writing, research and online tutoring services

writing – emails and reports, academic and white papers
formal grammar, spelling and punctuation
more information here

And then there’s more:

  • If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:
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    • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts because of this.
  • If you’re interested in a soft entry into the world of crypto currency and monetising WordPress blog, use the fantastic Steempress plugin to post directly to the Hive blockchain.  Click on the image below to sign up
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  • I also share the occasional post on Medium.

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