Some special people.

I adore Mrs 23thorns. She is the light of my life and I will always remain true to her. But I have a confession to make. Every now and then, a small part of me falls in love with someone else. Someone special. Irresistible. Someone like this;

What mysterious siren song has allowed her to capture my heart?

What mysterious siren song has allowed her to capture my heart?

That, good people, is the delectable Ms Cecilia Gimenez, and you know her well. You might not know her name, or recognise her picture, but in the greatest compliment that can be afforded to any artist, you know her by her work. Yup. Cecilia Gimenez is the sweet little Spanish widow who looked at this;

It's starting to flake! Someone needs to do something!

It’s starting to flake! Someone needs to do something!

And decided that it was looking a little mothy. So she decided to spruce it up a little. And she did. You know the outcome;



I want to abduct this woman. I want to scoop her up and take her home. I want to pop her into a quiet corner with some power tools and a Stanley knife and see what happens. I want her to be part of my life.

So what made me think of Cecilia Gimenez again, so long after her world-famous trick? It was the bloody Australians. They’ve returned to their colonial roots and stolen all our trees. Our Acacias.

They actually did so a couple of years ago, but I was reminded of their scandalous act of international botanical larceny today, and was reading up on it, while quietly grinding my teeth and cutting up a picture of the Sydney Opera House. I won’t go into the whole sordid tale right now. It would just upset you. Suffice to say that it makes the current US spy scandal look like a tea party. There were lies. Bribes were paid. Threats were made. Small children were bullied and puppies harmed.

How low will you sink, Australia?

How low will you sink, Australia?

To cut a long story short, our mendacious antipodean cousins have somehow managed to retain the genus name Acacia for their scrubby little wattle trees, against all the accepted rules of botanical nomenclature, while our noble, spreading thorn trees will have to be called something else.

This post isn’t about the Australians (although it will do you no harm to keep an eye on the shifty buggers). It’s about people like Ms Gimenez. Good and bad. People who, alone or in small groups contrive to destroy things of great age or value out of sheer stupidity. You see, while reading up about the imposing, iconic giants of the African veld that we used to call Acacias, I learned something interesting.

I learned about this;

The tree, not the truck. Although I did learn about a truck as well.

The tree, not the truck. Although I did learn about a truck as well.

That, good people, was the “Arbre du Ténéré”; a tree so famous that it not only got its own name, but was included in maps on a scale of  1:4,000,000. It was the most isolated tree in the world. Its nearest woody companion was over 400 km away. It wasn’t a particularly imposing tree, but it was the only one; a lone sentinel in a vast open stretch of the Sahara. It was a landmark for the passing Touareg caravans; a marker for a nearby well. They considered it sacred, and left it unharmed for generations.

And then, in 1973, some asshat drove over it with a truck. A drunken asshat. I strongly suspect him of being Australian, too. Now there’s just a statue of a tree there to mark the spot, which seems more than a little sad.

How do you be that guy? Ms Gimenez seems nothing less than sweet and well intentioned, and, because the gods sometimes smile on people like that, her little restoration project led to a mini tourist boom, helping her otherwise unremarkable little town weather the storm of Spain’s current economic woes. But that guy? There was something heroic about his achievement. It was the ONLY TREE FOR FOUR HUNDRED KILOMETRES! How drunk do you have to be?

He was, sadly, not alone. Earlier this year, two men were hiking in Goblin Valley State Park in Utah when they decided to stop for a little break and film themselves pushing over a giant standing rock. Which sounds like the sort of thing that drunken frat boys would do while shouting “Whoooo” and waving their hands in the air.



They weren’t frat boys. They weren’t drunk. They weren’t even Australian. They were boy-scout leaders. In a park named for its curious standing stones. “Their” rock had been standing there for OVER 160 MILLION YEARS. In a rather sad little twist to the tale, they seemed genuinely hurt when the world reacted with outrage. They had, they said, simply been doing their “civic duty”. Which was very thoughtful of them. They didn’t want anyone to get hurt if the rock fell over without the help of the boy-scout movement. Perhaps the park authorities can set things right by putting up a statue of the rock.

It was no accident that I fixated on the story of the Arbre du Ténéré today. I had been primed to do so. By the Germans.

Germans are generally seen as serious minded, rather anal efficiency-machines whose greatest joy in life is to see things done properly. Nope. Not all of them. Some Germans are unutterable morons. Specifically these Germans.

Is it just me or does the German on the right look Australian?

Is it just me or does the German on the right look Australian?

We don’t know their names. But we know what they did. During their holidays, while other, more sensible Germans wandered around the world’s beaches in socks and sandals laughing just a little too heartily, these prime specimens used the cover of Egypt’s current political turmoil to sneak in and deface the Khufu pyramid.

They scraped off part of an ancient cartouche above the pyramid’s burial chamber. A cartouche which had, up until that moment, managed to last for four and a half thousand years.

So how do these formidable young men crack the nod for a list of people who destroy things out of stupidity? Surely this was an act of pure vandalism? No. It was an act of idiocy. Our intrepid pair were sciencing, you see. For science.

They are adherents of the rather curious and completely unfocussed theory, held by a large and varied group of morons, that long, long ago the world was far more advanced than it is now, and people could do really cool things like levitate rocks, build underwater roads in the Bahamas, and place rust-proof iron pillars in Indian town squares. Who knows where this knowledge came from, but sadly, somewhere along the line it was lost.


Perhaps someone left it in a bus station somewhere. Or maybe it was simply forgotten during an economic downturn when the ancients stopped moving rocks around for a while. The details are a little sketchy. As happens when you are untroubled by minor inconveniences like facts.

But there is one fact that these guys all agree on. There’s a conspiracy. Mainstream archaeology knows the truth about the ancients, but is hiding it. Quite why they are doing so is less clear. An elaborate joke? The belief that once they have rediscovered this ancient wisdom they stand to dominate the landscaping industry by moving large rocks around? They’re just a little shy?

Our intrepid pair decided to blow the whole conspiracy wide open. The pyramids, you see, are twenty thousand years old. Not four. The Egyptians didn’t build them; they simply repurposed them when they found them lying around in the desert doing nothing. I like their style; I myself have turned an old bath into a fishpond in my garden.

They turned the small one in the front there into a public toilet.

They turned the small one in the front there into a public toilet.

And how would our Teutonic supersleuths prove that the pyramids were 20 000 old? Easy. Carbon dating. All they needed was a sample to test. So they went to get one. And here’s the best part of the whole sorry saga. Using their almost superhuman powers of reasoning, the part they chose to chip off and analyse was a cartouche; a painted symbol. Referring to Khufu. The historical Pharaoh. Yup. They chose one of the most obviously repurposed bits of the pyramid. This would be like determining the age of Stonehenge by analysing the security fence that has been put up to stop hippies from stealing its vibrations. Indiana Jones, eat your heart out!

There pyramids are not the only parts of the world’s heritage that have suffered at the hands of fools. Take a look at this curious object;


It’s called the Intihuatana stone, loosely translated as the “Hitching Post of the Sun”. It is designed to act as an anchor-point by which the sun can be tied to the earth to prevent it from spinning off into the ether. It sits at the edge of a breathtaking viewpoint at a place called Machu Picchu, high in the Andes. And it is a rare thing indeed.

It’s a relic of the Inca Empire. And there aren’t many of those around; the invading Spanish made a point of destroying whatever they could find. But they never found Machu Picchu.

The U.S. publicity firm J. Walter Thompson did, however. They went there to film the Intihuatana stone in 2000, and proceeded to finish the work of the conquistadores. Yup. They broke it.

Still, it was an accident, and these guys were there to preserve for posterity the legacy of the Incas. Surely they were there to make a documentary? A well thought-out, insightful investigation into one of the world’s great lost cultures? Nope. They were filming a beer commercial.

I'm not sure which brand it was, so I've just put in a completely random beer picture.

I’m not sure which brand it was, so I’ve just put in a completely random beer picture.

Stories like this are truly inspiring. They belong in self-help books. They demonstrate the power of individuals, or small groups. Two men, working alone, can shift the rock of ages. A little old lady can rewrite the history of art. Two men can erase a mark in time left behind over four thousand years ago; a mark as old as history itself. Tiny crews of advertisers in cargo pants and Indiana Jones hats can untie the Sun itself from the Earth. And one man, one single man, can emerge from the far, empty horizon in a cloud of dust and whisky fumes like the boozy hero of a Clint Eastwood Western, rewrite the map of a continent by running over a tree, and disappear again, dragging his dust-cloud and his whisky fumes behind him.

If these few hardy souls can achieve so much with so little thought, just imagine what you yourself could achieve if you really fail to put your mind to it.

I myself have no such ambitions. Happily for me, the legacy of my own little world is intact. Our heritage is curious and fractured, but surely it is beyond the reach of the sort of people I’ve been writing about. I’m going to celebrate that fact this evening. I’m going to get myself a bottle of champers, and raise a glass to the sunset beneath the sprawling canopy of a thorn tree. Whose name I don’t know anymore. Bloody Australians.



43 thoughts on “Some special people.

  1. batconnie says:

    I enjoyed reading this post. I love your jab at that stupid Ancient Aliens guy who says everything we Native Americans do depends on communication with the aliens. Thank you for your enlightening humor on a serious subject of the stupidity of people.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this post, and learned a lot – not least that some people are really stupid, and should not be allowed out in public!

  3. OK, next post can you make me feel positive about humanity? Ta.

  4. liz2you says:

    What is it about Australians, hey? So many people form different nations run them down; but everyone keeps going to live there! We are fickle…… Good one!

  5. Lyn says:

    We Australians tend to have a habit of pinching stuff from South Africa… Tony Greig, But least we only pinched the name of the tree, and not the whole bloody tree 🙂
    Some interesting “facts” from the Australian Bureau of Statistics sites: At the end of June 2011, 157 630 South African-born people were living in Australia, 31 per cent more than at 30 June 2006. This is equivalent to 2.6 per cent of Australia’s overseas-born population and 0.7 per cent of Australia’s total population. South Africa-born migrants represent the eighth largest migrant community in Australia.
    For Australia’s South Africa-born migrants:
    ­ Their median age of 39.4 years was just two years above that of the general population.
    ­ Males and females were equally represented.
    ­ Their unemployment rate at August 2013 was 4.3 per cent—this was lower than the national rate of 5.8 per cent.
    ­ At August 2013 their labour force participation rate was 75 per cent, considerably higher than the national rate of around 65 per cent.
    ­ In August 2013, 109 000 were employed in Australia. Of these, the largest components were professionals (33 per cent) and managers (16 per cent).

    You can be proud Mr 23Thorns, South Africans appear to be harder workers than Aussies. Well, at least they’re 0.5% more employable than us.

  6. I loved reading this post – not for the outings made on of the worlds idiots – but with the thought – ‘Oh, what would narf7 say to this!’ and then I get to the end and there it all is! It’s made my day!!

    No longer are we NZ’ers alone in our distrust and belief that they are out to take over the world – Hoorah! for SA ! Australia is the meat in our sandwich. We must drop all inter-cricket /rugby warfare immediately and join ranks……. Acacia indeed! What next? The Ashes? The World Cricket thingy? The Olympics? Oh -Ummmm……….. I don’t think they have the Rugby World Cup ……

  7. narf77 says:

    Oops…forgot…you might have to rename those Acacias once they get growing…I think the name “Acacia” only extends to our Aussie boundaries…not beyond…

    • 23thorns says:

      Nope. the whole issue is as clear as mud, but it would seem that Australia has won the cladistics war and your Acacias are Acacias everywhere, while ours are Acacias nowhere. not even here.

      • narf77 says:

        Good show old chap!…maybe you can run a blog competition for people thinking of a new botanical name for them…it would be a travesty to have unnamed plant material when there are lean hungry student horticulturalists who are just waiting in the wings to pounce on the next great find…

  8. narf77 says:

    I think Ms Gimenez has moved to Tasmania! Only 2 days ago we had a report of “horrific vandalisation” of a war memorial in a small local town. Someone had decided that the plain boring grey wasn’t cutting it anymore and decided to make it more lifelike. Steve and I actually agreed from the comfort of our respective couches, that the “vandalisation” was a vast improvement.

    Oh dear Mr 23Thorns…everyone who is ANYONE knows that Australia is the oldest continent and therefore, by default, gets first dibs. It’s like trying to wrest the bathroom from your older sister or telling your big brother that he won’t inherit the farm…is just not cricket for a younger, more brash relative to take the crown (did you see how we are going in the cricket by the way sir?). I will MOST magnanimously send you some black wattle (Acacia Aulacocarpa or Acacia Mangium…we have SO many of them we get to choose…) seed to spread around your local district. We had 3 of them blow down on the property over our winter period and my love of them has both waxed and waned accordingly.

    We Aussies LOVE statues. We love statues, and putting HUGE representations of things at the town limits of our small towns in order to attract the hordes of South Africans fleeing their home state for a better life. Like fruit flies to a sticky yellow trap they come. Who could blame them when we have the “Big banana”, the “Big Pineapple” even a massive “Big Sheep” as lures. Someone should really tell you lot the story about the Trojan horse, but it won’t be me because I am still amused by how anything “BIG” can attract you guys…it’s like watching the ants in a long trail, amusing…for a while…

    Got to say, I was thinking that the German on the right looked South African! It’s that “manly stubble” thing that is SO yesterday and the plethora of khaki that eludes to the cape and that hat…that HAT! I rest my case! Let’s just say it is a German trying to make himself appear to be South African/Australian and failing terribly and be done with it.

    A lesser person than myself might feel somewhat slighted by todays post. Someone like myself who is, indeed, a conglomerate of both “Aussie” and “German” heritage, but not I sir. I, too, am living vicariously through our sunsets and our nice mild (so far) summer. The deck is my friend (even though Steve and I are both turning into smurfs and Kermit the frog respectively in our desire to give it a “little bit of character”) and life is good. Anyone wanting to bedaub the front gate with glitter glue can do so at their own peril…I have Earl primed and waiting for just such an eventuality. He has been honed to a fine barking knifes edge by possums screaming all night and is ready and willing to engage “the enemy” when they come.

    By the way…anyone fancying pushing a few rocks around on Serendipity Farm please feel free to raise your hand. I have a (battered) shovel and a pickaxe with your name on it. “Bis spater” Mr 23Thorns…I am off to throw a vegan shrimp on the barbie in your name…might even drink a bit of that good Aussie lager (sorry, you are going to have to rename your own beer as we picked that name first…being part German I get to choose 😉 )

    • Lyn says:

      Narf77, don’t forget the “Big Potato” at Robertson, in the Southern Highlands of NSW. It has the dubious honour of looking not like a potato, but rather a gigantic, enormous, huge dinosaur pooh. People come from all over the world to take a photo of themselves next to it and then tell their friends back home they saw a dinosaur while on holidays in Australia. They say, “Sadly, we didn’t get a photo of the dinosaur, but we did get a photo of its pile of pooh”

    • 23thorns says:

      Fear not; we have your black wattle already. and Port Jackson. They’ve gone feral and are taking over the place. The Authorities are loath to take them on and try to eradicate them because they happen to be pretty damn useful…
      I’m afraid I’m going to have to trump you in terms of beer-naming rights. I’m so damn German that my surname begins with four consonants (schw….)

      • narf77 says:

        Ahem Mr 23Thorns…my maiden name was “Stahl”. The German word for Steel…”TOUCHE” methinks sir! 😉 Consider yourself trumped and I will only make you wash my car once 😉

  9. albertine says:

    I’m sorry – I just felt sad. I take your point about accidental stupid behaviour. Maybe there’s another point in there somewhere, too, about the vulnerability of great monuments that stand around in the world, just being. (Though I wouldn’t for a moment countenance security fencing them either – that’s what would make it a debate.) But surely you, of all people, must know how poorly people read; how hate mail (even joke hate mail) proliferates and poisons minds? I am Australian. I’m not particularly drunken (perhaps more in my thirties, when life was at its most difficult) but I love the past and I revere ancient monuments. So does my Mum and all my aunts (all in their eighties and nineties); so do my brothers, and extensive family of cousins, second cousins, nieces and nephews. So do my hundreds of old acquaintances (including those who went mad as undergraduates). They are all Australians. I’m getting a bit worked up about this – the sorrow of the unjustly maligned sweeps my eyes with tears.
    In the UK and Europe there is a tree called a ‘false acacia’. It has long thorns and quickly takes over farmland as a weed. Are you, my blogfriend of many months, just a false acacia?

    • 23thorns says:

      🙂 The post was written with my tongue firmly in my cheek, and i am genuinely sorry if it caused you offence. It’s based on the bitter and protracted battle that has been fought among a tiny group of botanists for the right to keep the scientific name “acacia” for their local trees (the genus has been split on the basis of recent studies).
      Australia won. Since I don’t really watch much sport, this is about as close as i come to feeling the pain of supporting the losing team. As for any genuine anti-Australian sentiment, there wouldn’t be much mileage in it; half of my friends and relatives are now Australian themselves.
      Happy new year to you and yours.

  10. Brilliant if angry-making post. I was intrigued by the opening and was drawn in and in. Thank you 🙂

  11. menomama3 says:

    Coffee and Mr. 23thorns and a sad/funny/angry post with the use of the word “mendacious”. Nice start to a Sunday.

  12. sula1968 says:

    Reblogged this on Sula1968's Blog.

  13. sula1968 says:


  14. I laugh if I weren’t crying already.

    • 23thorns says:

      Laughing is better. Just think of these people as a natural force like erosion or the weather.

      • ….. but there are so many more of them, and they are everywhere. Some even do things like build dams and roads and and mines and parking lots and … entire cities, sometimes even temporary cities or cities for nobody, empty, but destructive none the less … and religious idiots destroying contradictions that the wars have missed…..Aiiii!!!

        Still, your writing is wonderful. ” … to keep hippies from stealing the vibrations…”, “… build underwater roads…” 🙂 🙂 I did laugh out loud several times and sent a link to a few people via email. Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. 23Thorns. 🙂

      • This is a reply to the email link, and a link to his website::

        Hahaha! Right to the point and superbly written.

  15. Mike Powell says:

    This posting was a great way to start my day, with some hearty laughs leavened by a healthy dose of incredulity at the absurd acts that people choose to commit. Wonderful posting from start to finish.

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