Billy Connolly must die

Posted on July 13, 2010


So — can you guess who’s on the cover of Around the House magazine?

The answer would be “me.” Or rather, the answer would be “me” if you happen to be me, but if you happen to be not-me, then the answer is “you.”

Anyway, what I’m saying is, that’s me on the cover.

I am now the winner of the “Tallest Thistle Award.” It comes with a cash prize of $500. Plus a guest spot on This Old House, and the chance to meet Mary-Louise Parker of the TV show, Weeds.

Mary-Louise Parker of Weeds. Also of Fried Green Tomatoes.

Okay, fine.

I made up that last part.

I’m not actually going to meet Mary-Louise Parker.

But except for the appearance on This Old House, the rest is true, other than the cash prize of $500.

Although, I suppose to be perfectly honest, I didn’t actually win the “Tallest Thistle Award,” either.

And the magazine cover is a mock-up I made at

But — and this is an important “but” — the picture is true.

That’s really me standing there, and that’s really my seven-foot tall thistle.

I fought for that thistle.

You see, when we moved to a house in St. Catharines I was less than overjoyed with certain aspects of our new life.

Such as the part about moving to a house in St. Catharines.

Worse, we’re in the suburbs of St. Catharines. And suburbs are nothing more than orientation classes for Hell.

Then there’s the matter of the yard.

I’ve lived in apartments since 1968, and this is the largest living space I’ve known for many, many years. The problem is, this particular living space comes with a huge lawn in back, and long-neglected gardens scattered all around.

When spring came, my wife (whom I’m going to call “Sam” from now on, because it’s a name she uses on another site — short for “Samantha Menzies”) and her father (whom I’m going to call “Don” from now on, because that’s his name) started watching the plants to see which were flowers and which were weeds. It seems that  flowers are very delicate and must be carefully nurtured, while the weeds are very hardy and must be destroyed.

To me, this is backwards. We should let them all grow, then call the ones that survive “flowers” and the ones that don’t “weeds.” Why prop up a plant that’s doing poorly while punishing one that’s doing well? That’s not gardening: that’s government. And it’s certainly not efficient.

But apparently efficiency plays no more of a role in gardening than it does in governing.

Along the side of the house was a thistle surrounded by a green, soft-needled ground cover with lovely blue flowers. (See the picture to the right.)

I defended the life of the green, soft-needled ground cover with lovely blue flowers, pointing out that not only was it green and soft, but that it also covered the ground, which would otherwise be bare and ugly.

Plus, it had lovely blue flowers.

I came close to winning my case, but was defeated at the last minute when an expert witness was called in: a neighbour boy who did yard work and whose father was with the city parks department. The boy (and his father) declared the green, soft-needled ground cover with lovely blue flowers to be a weed infestation, and promptly uprooted it all.


But when it came to the thistle, I put my foot down. (Not literally.)

You have to understand: a few years back there was this house I passed every day on my way to work that had a thistle on its front lawn. Of course, many houses had thistles on their front lawn, but this house had a thistle on the front lawn in the same way that other houses had trees.

I’m saying that this was a really big thistle.

When I say “it was like a tree,” I mean it was like a tree. It reached the top of the three-storey house and took up roughly the same area of the lawn as a similar-sized fir-tree would. Only way more sinister looking.

Still, every time I saw that thistle I coveted it.

So I figured that if I couldn’t have my green, soft-needled ground cover with lovely blue flowers, I should at least have the opportunity to grow my very own three-storey tall thistle.

To some people, fighting for a thistle might seem more difficult than fighting for green, soft-needled ground cover with lovely blue flowers. I mean, nobody needs an expert witness to point out the “weedness” of a thistle.

But when it comes to manipulation, I’m no amateur. Both Sam and Don consider themselves dyed-in-the-tartan Scots, so I knew just how to go about it.

“I don’t think the thistle should go,” I said. “It’s the national flower of Scotland.”

“That’s right,” mused Don. “There’s supposed to be a curse on anyone who cuts one down.”

You can see the resemblance, right?

So the thistle stayed.

I named him “Billy Connolly” because he’s prickly and he’s Scottish.

I am no longer his sole champion, however. Both Sam and Don have become fascinated with him and are now more protective of him than I am.

You see, I’m beginning to doubt the wisdom of this whole thing. Billy may not grow to be three storeys tall in one summer, but he’s already a pretty big boy, and there’s still a lot of summer left. As it stands now, I can’t get near him without protective gear (much like the real Billy Connolly), and I’m afraid that if I don’t cut him down soon, I may never be able to do so.

Let’s face it, he’s starting to make Triffids look friendly.

Sad to say, at some point, Billy Connolly is going to have to die.

In the meantime, here are a few more shots of Billy — and if I haven’t cut him down in another month, I’ll post some more.

Oh, and since you ask, yes, that stuff around him is the green, soft-needled ground cover with lovely blue flowers that was uprooted by the expert witness. Apparently it’s starting to come back again.

I’m just sayin’.

This photo is too light, but you can see more of the upper branches of the thistle. We're hoping to wait until the flowers blossom.

Billy Connoly in all his splendour.

And finally, because I was having fun with magazine covers, here are a couple I created for the specific purpose of embarrassing Sam, and to show the reason that I’m not upset at not getting to meet Mary-Louise Parker (or Avril or Michelle Pfeiffer — although we’d both like to meet Michelle).

Seriously. Magcover. It’s a lot of fun.