There is something wanton, somehow, about ivy taking over a place.
Something licentious, a sense of all the traditional borders of life being flagrantly transgressed, of Ms Nature staring at you strong-eyed and lewd despite the best window frames man can construct.
I used to duty manage a theatre complex in a great old house. The studio theatre was housed in the old nursery, a vast, high ceilinged room now a sanctum to the acting profession. They all said it was haunted. Some had inadvertently seen the two spectral occupants, the two children tragically killed in a nineteenth century fire.
The actors had painted it matt black: black looming walls, black ceiling, even the gorgeous old shutters were black; and the room spent its life in darkness, subject to thespian fantasy after thespian fantasy.
So it was that I had been at the theatre a year, locking that room up last thing at night, opening it as the hum of theatregoers agitated it back into life, when I spent some time milling around in the room with friends.
Look, a techie said, pulling away the shutters of the tall window farthest away from the door.
And I looked, and what I saw was inexplicably profane.
For the glass had gone, strong-armed away by the ivy. It had crawled in, infinitely slowly, through the cracks and broken the glass and filled the violent void it had created, silently, by increments. and now it blocked the window completely, leaving the gap airless and lightless, except for the odd chink where the sunlight from outside dared to tiptoe.
A stones throw from Jamaica In in Cornwall stands my sister in law’s cottage. Situated in the village of Northill, where Daphne Du Maurier’s magistrate was said to reside, it is built from blocks of stone hewn from the moors. And when I first came to see the cottage, some 20 years ago, the cottage was comfortable with its surroundings, nestling in the hills which gaze up to Kilmar.
But the ivy was coming. Beside the fireplace, behind the television in the sitting room, it was sneaking through the mortar in the stone-block wall, curling its fronds, sizing up its next move.
John Wyndham knew what he was talking about, when he devised triffids. Some plants: they have a knowing quality.
And there are few of us whose lives have not been touched by ivy, one way or another.