Please don't hurt me, officer, I'm just writing a gardening column

You've got to hate it when 10 cops show up at your front door first thing in the morning and start rifling through your unmentionables looking for threats to national security. But it's not going to happen to me, folks, 'cause I'm writing about daisies. Yes, daisies. Aren't they pretty? Bright yellow centres and nice white petals, unless the RCMP or CSIS have information to the contrary. I have no desire to discuss the subject with the Syrian government's ministry of agriculture, department of horticulture and agonizing torment.

OK, there are a few things I probably should clarify. Looking back, I find that on Nov. 26 one of my columns inexplicably contained the words "the need for an inquiry into the Maher Arar case," which in all honesty looks to me like a typo or perhaps a production error or something. I certainly did not intend as a result of any such remarks that I may have made that there should be an inquiry into me.

So although I did not say it, let me clarify that if I had I would have meant, and for that matter do now mean, that we need a thorough inquiry into just how brilliantly, and virtuously, the government has handled the whole thing. Not that I've ever heard of Maher Arar, you understand. Or the Auberge Grand-Mère. Nope. Not me. I have heard of the Senate, though. Can I also note, before getting back to the real topic of today's column, that Paul Martin bestrides the world like a colossus, intellectually and morally as well as politically, officer? There is no need whatsoever for you to be taking that filing cabinet.

Now, revenons à nos daisies. Such nice flowers. I think I'll plant some. Hyacinths are nice too, and fragrant. We have a splendid pink one that ... sorry, not pink. It's red. Liberal red. In fact I think it's a party member. A nice man from the Dear Leader's campaign filled out the form for me and even paid the $10. I mean, where's a plant going to get $10? (Yes, obviously the Business Development Bank of Canada is a possibility, but my hyacinth doesn't own a golf course.)

Lose my nerve as a journalist? Never. It's just that I don't know anything. I never did know anything. But now you know that I don't know, all on a cold January morning with a horde of big scary cops right outside the front door.

Perhaps my enemies will be running to the RCMP to tattle on me, based on another small typographical error in that same Nov. 26 column. I refer of course to the transposition of letters, right after the bit that I quoted above, which produced this astonishing sequence of what is quite evidently meaningless gibberish: "The outcome will likely be painful, exposing either confidential information or, as seems increasingly likely, embarrassing incompetence by authorities in at least one country and probably several. But letting those in power conceal their own errors is a brittle strategy, encouraging carelessness, arrogance and abuse. Ensuring that mistakes get found out is ductile. It doesn't just help you seem honest. It helps you be honest. It forces the authorities to face what they did wrong and fix it." Ha ha. Absurd.

I've gone back to my notes (journalists should always keep notes; it gives the cops something to seize other than, say, a can of pepper spray or a handy soft bit of your anatomy) and here's what that passage was supposed to say: "daisy, name for several common wild flowers of the COMPOSITE family. The true, or English, daisy (Bellis perennis) is cultivated in the U.S.; its white, pink or red flowers close at night. Other species include the purple Western daisy (Astranthum or B. integrifolium); and the common, white, or oxeye daisy of the U.S. (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum). Other plants called daisy include the yellow daisy, or BLACK-EYED SUSAN; the Michaelmas daisy, an ASTER; the Paris daisy, one of the plants also called marguerite; and the seaside daisy and daisy fleabane, which are fleabane species (genus Erigeron)." (The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia, 3rd edition, p. 223). Long live Paul Martin!

There. Nothing will deter us fearless journalists from digging up the dirt on such vital questions as why, when the true daisy has white, pink or red flowers, we should so often hear the one I described above, with the yellow centre and white petals, called a "daisy." Long live Paul Martin!

Oh yeah, one more important thing about daisies: I don't want to be sent to Syria, spend some time hanging around with their version of a government-run cable company, and then end up pushing them up.

[First published in the Ottawa Citizen]

ColumnsJohn Robson