Elwood 5566

A Hot Little 'Story'

Posted in bathhouse Ballads, Comparative, Diary notes by 노강호 on July 18, 2010

Chillies growing near my house

My neighbour, an elderly man in his seventies is annoyed. He lives in a house next to my one-room ‘villa’ and loves to garden. Wild sesame grows around the front of his house  and often, as I am leaving my building,  their scent is wafting on the breeze. Along the sides of his house are an abundance of chillies.

My neighbours sesame plants

While Koreans often surprise me with their ignorance of nature, most patches of spare land, especially between buildings in residential areas have been toiled in order to grow sesame, mooli or chilli. If not eked out of vacant soil, plant life is sustained in ceramic or plastic pots of sizes ranging from tiny to big enough to bathe in.  I have even seen patches of cultivated land laboriously dug out of small patches on the mountain side.

My neighbour is angry because someone has pulled up a couple of his  chilli plants; a clear transgression because to do so involves putting ones hand through the fence into what is clearly his property. My other neighbour, who owns the restaurant directly in-front of my one-room, finds the incident somewhat amusing as she claims his chillies only have a couple of fruits on each plant and yet the solitary chilli which sits, day and night in a pot beside the restaurant front door, has seven fat fruits on it and no one has seen fit to steal it.

I’m perturbed; such theft is too close to the type of theft rampant in the UK except the chilli garden wasn’t vandalised or the stolen plants strewn across the pavement and subsequently stamped into the tarmac in that obvious expression of joy at destroying another person’s labours. The theft, though minor, unsettles me because it undermines the pedestal on which I put Korea but this is only temporary; I am pondering the issue outside the GS25 store and it’s Saturday evening at 11.00 and young kids, some as young as 10 or 11, are still walking about unaccompanied by adults. I remind myself my analysis may be a little over enthusiastic but in the UK  no child of 10, or even 14 is safe on a city street one hour before midnight and if they are out and about, individual or in groups, they are up to no good!

Unusual photo of Korean police

The ‘story’  has an amusing twist because the old man was so outraged by the theft of three plants that he telephoned the police – and guess what? They turned up to investigate – within the hour! Of course, there was nothing they could do but nonetheless it is incredible that such a matter should be both reported to the police and responded to, by them. I can imagine phoning the police in my hometown and telling them ‘someone had stolen three of my prized chilli plants.’ First they would either consider it either a joke or the complaint of an idiot because everyone knows the theft of a plant, other than a marijuana plant, is insignificant. And of course, the police probably wouldn’t respond. You can  guarantee ‘crime  investigation’ to occur if you are a big business but for most plebs who are victims of crime, you will have to be content with watching it  on television.  I had a motorbike stolen in London and it took them several days to turn up to gather the information  part of which would be used to identify criminal patterns and the other to provide statistics designed to foster faith in the system and appease concerns over public spending. Most statutory professions in the UK are now predominantly concerned with bureaucratic  and data collecting procedures designed  to justify their own existence, after-which  they deliver some secondary service to the public. ‘Statutory services’ should be renamed ‘secondary services’ as their current remit, basking in the shady, inconsistent world of statistics, clearly has a  political agenda.

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© Nick Elwood 2010 Creative Commons Licence.

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3 Responses

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  1. Unctuous Jones said, on October 28, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    After years of eating “sesame” or “wild sesame” leaves, I recently discovered that they are in fact not related to the true sesame plant. The more accurate english name is perilla, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perilla , and it’s a mint. I guess maybe you knew this.

    I was gratified to see wikipedia compare perilla to stinging nettle. I can’t tell them apart in my garden when they’re young. Once I absentmindedly tasted one to determine which it was. Words cannot describe the sensation of stinging nettle on the tongue.

    Sadly, this season I had maangchi’s recipe for pickled ‘sesame’ leaves printed out and was ready to make tons when an early frost destroyed my plants.

    • Nick said, on October 28, 2010 at 10:24 pm

      Interested to read about the wild-sesame and I didn’t know it was a mint. I can remember doing extensive searches on ‘perilla’ and ‘wild sesame’ about 6 years ago and there was very little about it on the internet. The same went for hanja and almost anything related to Korea with the exception of taekwon-do and the Korean War. For example, information on the rich history of ‘ancient’ Korea just wasn’t there. I guess I need to go back and have another look on ‘wild sesame.’ I couldn’t find seeds for it back in the UK and indeed on my second trip to Korea, brought some back which subsequently produced a crop but the shitty British weather retarded them – it does that to many of the inhabitants, too.

  2. Unctuous Jones said, on October 29, 2010 at 1:38 am

    Yes, yes, and it’s not just the internet. Years ago I saw a book of pictures of pre-Christian Korean ceramics. They had a very pagan feel and many were bluntly sexual. I’ve never before or since seen any hint of this aspect of Korea’s history. I wonder if this has been airbrushed out of the official history.


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