Musings on SARA’s ‘Cactus Cull’ weekend at Parnaroo (near Peterborough) by Bruce Greenhalgh

There has been quite a bit in the media recently about people taking on second jobs to augment incomes strained by recent cost-of-living increases. Having a second income, perhaps a small business – a ‘side hustle’ – is reportedly becoming increasingly common. While the wolf isn’t actually at my door, I reasoned that it wouldn’t be a bad thing if I expanded my work skill set ‘just in case’. So, I signed up for SARA’s Cactus Cull at Parnaroo figuring I’d enhance my employment prospects by learning how to, and getting practical experience in, culling that unwanted Mexican import, the ‘Wheel Cactus’ (Optuna robusta).

At the end of the weekend, I certainly had added to my skill set, but I don’t know that my experience administering lethal injections makes me that much more employable. It’s true that I could seek employment in certain American states where execution by injection is still practised and where my history of killing literally hundreds of Mexicans would possibly add a lustre to my job application. But is this work I want? No way!

Not to worry, my newly acquired ‘License to cull’ and a weekend spent wandering around with a gun in my hand led me to thinking about the possibility

of a role with the British secret service, `a la James Bond. I wonder though, whether my attempt to gain espionage employment might be stymied by some Judi Dench type character being unimpressed by my lack of restraint when exercising my license to liquidate. Kathy, my partner in cacticide, and I ‘dispatched’ no fewer than 497 cacti – basically every plant we came across. I can imagine a raised eyebrow and a comment along the lines of ‘Perhaps somebody less profligate with their killing might make a more suitable appointment’.

However, I can’t see a failed application to MI5 (or is it ‘6’?) as such a bad thing. Amongst other things I doubt whether I could match 007’s alcohol intake, all those ‘shaken not stirred’ martinis, and I know I don’t have the ‘prowess’ to match Bond’s bed hopping. Does anybody have this skill set? Analysis by three scientists, as reported in the British Medical Journal, revealed Bond consumes an average of 92 martinis a week with the researchers concluding,

‘The level of functioning as displayed in the [James Bond] books is inconsistent with the physical, mental and indeed sexual functioning expected from somebody drinking this much alcohol’.

Another study posited that 007 was ‘probably riddled with sexually transmitted diseases’. That’s a ‘No thanks’ from me then.

If I failed to make myself more employable through the cactus cull, I nevertheless had an enjoyable and satisfying weekend. It was great to get away from it all, to revisit the site of one of my best rogaine performances, to share the company of fellow succulent assassins over a BBQ by a campfire and to witness kids being kids in a bush setting (and good to see juvenile pyromania is alive and well). There is also something uplifting about sharing an endeavour – ‘good works’ – with a group of volunteers. Our experiences in the ‘killing fields’ were notably similar with everybody reporting a preference for the younger and fleshier cacti who readily accepted their poison to the mangy, woodier specimens that were hard to inject.

Thanks to all who made the weekend a success and, in particular, to Richard Sprod (and not forgetting Judy, who puts up with all Richard’s rogaine work) who added to his already impressive organiser’s CV. Rumour has it that he will soon be taking on the Health and Home Affairs portfolios, and perhaps heading ASIO?