ALL power to the National Plant Monitoring Scheme.

Visitors to its website – – can find out how to take part in a survey of their local plant life.

The organisers of the scheme have been appealing to Swindon Advertiser readers to take part.

As far as I can tell, the volunteers will be assigned a square kilometre to survey twice a year, as plant data is a pretty good barometer of local conditions, pollution and whatnot.

I don’t know whether I have the monitoring skills to manage a whole square kilometre, so I’ve decided to practice a bit by monitoring my fairly small suburban garden. Perhaps when I send my data to the scheme they’ll be able to clear up a few mysteries for me.

The lawn, for example. I bought the lawn from a shop. It came in rolls. It looked like lawn and the sign next to the display said: “Turf.” As lawns are generally made of turf, I thought all was going to be well.

It is not.

The lawn started off looking like lawn, but then after a few weeks all the grass died and was replaced by a thick carpet of weird brown tendril things and some plants that stand about a yard tall and look like a cross between dandelions and holly. They only flower by the light of the full moon.

It isn’t so much the aesthetic issues I object to as the fact that people in black robes keep sneaking into the garden in the dead of night and nicking the flowers and tendrils. They might at least keep the chanting to a minimum and tether the goat.

People in my household said it was all my fault for neglecting the lawn and failing to do things like proper watering and weeding, but how am I supposed to tend the lawn when it grabbed the mower out of my hands and hid it somewhere?

And it’s had the fish out of the pond.

I put some weedkiller down once, but nothing happened apart from a weird burping noise.

I’m at a loss for an explanation. I looked at an old map of the area, made before the street was built, but there’s no mention of a radioactive waste dump or a glade said to be haunted by the unspeakable denizens of the pit.

My loved ones also tried to blame me for the state of the vegetable patch and the flower beds.

“It’s your fault,” they said. “Get off the sofa, get out there and do some weeding.”

Again, I’d like to see them do any better. None of the flowers and vegetables look anything like the pictures on the packet. They’re more like the sort of thing you’d see in paintings by old artists who went a bit too heavy on the hallucinogens back in the 60s and still have the odd conversation with domestic appliances.

The cat won’t go out there anymore. All the other cats in the neighbourhood used to visit the garden to play with him or just generally hang out, but none of them seem to be around these days.

Last winter, when the vegetation died back a bit, I used a strimmer and managed to get halfway along a flower bed. I stopped and turned back when I saw a rusted super strength lager can on the ground amid a sprinkling of finger bones - and realised the local outdoor boozers who used to hang out on the waste ground nearby hadn’t been seen in a while, either.

My family are demanding action, but I’ve hit on a plan.

Every time I’m on the phone or emailing somebody, I’m going to drop hints about burying explosives.

With a bit of luck MI5’ll be in there with an excavator.

  • I SEE the alteration of Swindon’s parking and other public ticket machines to accommodate the new pound coin is likely to cost the council £7,000. Or rather, it’ll cost us £7,000.The new shape, along with being made from two metals like our £2 coins, is apparently necessary to prevent counterfeiting. As it’s common knowledge that assorted international crooks have been able to forge £2 coins for years, I’ll be interested to see how that works out…

Courts must have the courage of their convictions

LAST week we ran the story of a dad who was with his son in a Swindon playground when he happened to glance at the ground. It was then that he noticed some filthy syringes dumped by drug abusers.

It’s not the first time such a thing has happened, and we can all be absolutely certain it won’t be the last.

The story, however, prompted the usual speculation about why these situations occur.

Coincidentally, we also ran two court stories involving drugs.

In one, a man was found near a club with a stash and a knife with a seven-inch blade.

He was given a non-custodial sentence in spite of having a record.

In the other, three men who took over a desperate addict’s home and used it as a base from which to peddle industrial quantities of heroin and cocaine also appeared for sentencing.

The one dealt with most severely will probably spend not much more than three years in jail.

Call me Mr Jump To Conclusions, but I suspect the paltry sentences handed down for being involved with the drugs trade might have at least a little to do with the popularity of the drugs trade as a career option for criminals.

There are two possible ways forward. One is to decriminalise hard drugs, have the state provide them at a cost to the taxpayer of a few pence a dose, remove the criminal profit motive and thereby remove the need for addicts to commit crimes.

The other is simply to throw the worst of the dealers away forever.

Each option has its merits, but if anybody in power could find the moral courage to adopt one or the other and stick to it we’d all be better off.