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The other day I put forward the suggestion that the next horror movie shouldn't be about rats, or spiders, or alien blobs, but about brambles.
            This was based on personal observation of the way brambles can take over corners of gardens, edges of fields, woodlands, even railway stations. I once picked blackberries on the platform of Exeter St David’s station while waiting for a train, from a bramble which had come up the side and over the back of the platform. How nice, I thought to myself, how very nice to have fruit actually growing on a station. But that is exactly what I was meant to think. The nice fruit is a little decoy aimed at making us go "Aaaah !" and not notice the killer tentacles which follow them.
            You think I exaggerate?
            To be honest, I thought I was exaggerating too.
            But then my wife said: "You know that book we bought in the Eden Project last week? You should see what he says about blackberries."
            Yes, we have finally got to Cornwall to see the Eden Project. And on our way out of the Garden of Eden, like Adam and Eve collecting souvenirs, we bought a book called "Cabbages and Kings" by Jonathan Roberts, a beautifully produced HarperCollins book which traces the historical origins of most fruit and veg. So I turned to see what Mr Roberts thought about the plant which I thought should be in a horror movie.
            This was his opening remark.
            "The Blackberry is a primitive thug that has been turning parts of the northern hemisphere into no-go areas since well before the last Ice Age began, some 35,000 years ago..."
            Attaboy, Roberts!
            And as if responding to my cheers, he continues:-
            "In late summer watch the horror-movie way its sprays search with their tips for somewhere to sucker and root. Raspberries progress underground about two metres a year and, like mushroom fairy rings, use up the available food supplies in their wake. Blackberries reach out farther and quicker, arching through the air. Introduced to New Zealand in the nineteenth century, they quickly became one of the country's worst weeds. Kiwis joke that there are two species of blackberry in the country now: one strangling the North Island, the other the South".
            My God. It's even worse than I thought. The bramble really is taking over, and can't wait for humans to depart, as any self-respecting species might have the grace to do...
            I have sometimes thought that the one science which humans have never thought of is the study of what will happen after humans have gone. There are two reasons for this, of course. One is that it will be of very little importance to us to know what is going to happen in a post-human world, and the other is that human beings are far too self-important to even contemplate the possibility that the world can do without us, or that homo sapiens could ever become extinct. Science fiction writers must have speculated on a post-human world - indeed, I believe I once read a book by Brian Aldiss in which a space colony of humans comes back to Earth to find the human race extinct here, though I can't  remember anything about what they found. I don't think it was brambles, that 's for sure.
            Nor do I remember seeing any brambles in the Eden Project, though I did see one thing that made my blood run cold. Normally, apparently, they have a row of vines growing there, in the temperate globe. A fortnight ago, that vine patch was empty. There was a small sign saying that the vines had been removed and destroyed because they had been attacked by phylloxera. Phylloxera ! My God - that was the scourge that wiped out the entire French wine industry in the 1860s! The sign said that there was no need to panic, everything was in hand, it couldn't spread, etc, etc, but I couldn't help feeling that it was ominous to find this ancient pest in Eden.
            So anyway, I am now working on a horror movie script in which all humans are eliminated and giant intelligent brambles take over the world. Just as soon as they have evolved their own technology, a spaceship containing human colonists returns from space only to find that Cape Kennedy is now a huge briar patch. Little suspecting that they are being watched by hostile brambles, they get out of their ship, when suddenly ....
            That's all I'm telling you. Potential investors can hear more. Let's see the colour of your money first...

The Independent Fri Sep 6 02

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© Caroline Kington