Friday, 16 October 2009


Autumn cucurbits stir up thoughts of pumpkin pie, trick or treat and other bits of American culture which we seem to have adopted. Can you actually eat these things, or are they just for gathering dust and bulking out harvest festivals?

Never break shocking news to anyone when they're driving. It can have terrible consequences for the car, and for road safety. It was done to me, this week, and I almost caused a multiple pile-up on the A1 just outside Stevenage.

This was not trivial stuff like being sacked. Or a death in the family, or winning the National Lottery. No, this one was a biggy, a head spinner, a pants dampener. And the blow was struck by the BBC! Bastards!! I heard, on Radio Noos, that the God of my youth, the Wunderkind of the hippie era, master of the ironic lyric, the original subterranean, tambourine rattlin', non-looking-back Artist - OK, also a bit Woody Guthrie-ish from time to time, and capable of dreadful harmonica playing - but still the absolute main, main man of the Beatle-infested sixties, Bob Dylan has made a cheeeeeezy Christma album. Look what the Indie said about it.

I know he did it for charity but they played bits of it on the radio - Dean Martin after a partial laryngectomy - and by the time I'd reached Sandy, I was in tears.

I won't say anything more about it, but think I will have to buy the album, just as a reminder that when one grows old, one should don woolly cardy and soft slippers, pour oneself a series of enormous whiskies, and sit in the dark, with the phone off the hook, watching Bette Davis films.

This is by way of a 'holding' post, just to keep in touch while I recover from the Dylan aberration, but a couple of things:

1. I have a question - and I do hope you'll take the trouble to respond:
Have you tried navigating the new RHS Website? I have, but I don't want to say a word until I know how you all find it. If you haven't done so yet, please log on here and if you feel like it, tell me what you think.

2. Tomorrow is the new yesterday. On BBC's Farming Today, all this week - it's on at 5.45 each morning! - they've been discussing organic farming. Apparently, consumption of organic food is falling rapidly and one of the reasons given was that shoppers are more concerned, these days, about whether food is local, rather than organic.

This startling example of consumers behaving exactly like sheep and following fashion, reminded me of a thing they used to have in Private Eye, as a satire on folk saying idiotic things like 'White is the new black.' and so on.

So I turned over in bed and said to the Photographer General, 'Local is the new organic.' She responded by laughing uproariously, leaping up and making me a delectable cup of tea.

So how about a few 'X is the new Y?' Go on, you're bound to think of something!!

Here for starters:
iPhone is the new Blackberry
Ilex crenata is the new box hedging.
Heucheras are the new Hostas
Pak Choi is the new curly kale
Butternut squash is the new marrow
Monty Don is not the new Alan Titchmarsh

Better examples welcomed, for the good of Mankind.

Cones of Pinus strobus, weeping resinous tears - clearly, they've heard about the Dylan album.

I'm reading. A brilliant translation, by Hussain Haddawy, of the Arabian Nights. It's in two volumes and gives a clear insight into Mediaeval life in the Middle East. It also shows how profoundly changed and degraded are the fairy tales of chaps like Ali Baba, Sindbad and 'Al Al-din, whose name got corrupted to Aladdin. Some bits are jolly rude, too.

I'm not listening to Bob Dylan. There will be forgiveness, but I need time to heal.

This time in 2005 I was in Aldeburgh to see Britten's Opera Albert Herring at Snape Maltings. The day after the performance, we saw a flock of Common Crossbills, between Aldeburgh and Thorpeness.

Bye bye.


  1. I heard a bit of the Bob Dylan thing and it was a bit of a shock. I think he sounded like a carol singer who had been on a very long round of houses on an executive housing development just outside Ipswich singing Silent Night and drinking iffy sherry.

  2. The fuss over the Bob Dylan album makes me laugh. Laugh with joy, because I love it. I'm a collector of Christmas records and always try and add a new one each year - dear Bob has made my job a lot easier this year. Don't forget his great hero Johnny Cash made a couple of Christmas albums, which are equally cheesy, but great. Now I can file Bob along The McGarrigle Christmas Hour, The Sufan Stevens 5 CD Christmas box set, Low, The Everly Brothers, James Brown, The Sonics, The Platters and many others on my special Christmas CD shelf (yes, I really do have one). Incidentally, best Christmas record is Where will you be Christmas Day - it contains mainly blues recordings from 1917 to 1959, including Christmas In Jail-Ain't That A Pain and Christmas Morning The Rum Had Me Yawning.

  3. Nigel - it's a lot more consistent to navigate than before BUT until the search facility is re-enabled it's well nigh useless for finding the stuff I usually use the site for i.e. plant information.

    I see they've disabled Search until the pages are re-indexed by Google. However, there are still some pages where the Search facility can be found, so as usual there's some inconsistency across the site.

    I did a search to see what happened, and it returned this page:

    which helpfully tells me why my search might not have worked (except for the real reason - they've disabled it) and for some reason gives me a randomly generated recipe to try instead. I can assure you, cooking's furthest from my mind if my search hasn't worked!

    The journey between the RHS website and the ticket purchase provider, Keith Prowse still needs to be sorted out. The look and feel of the Keith Prowse website is very poor, yet doesn't really signpost that well that you've actually left the RHS site at that point. Most of the text is almost microscopic, so I suspect quite a few people using the site to buy tickets have trouble with it - I wonder if it meets DDA guidelines? Navigating back to the RHS isn't done that well either.

    WV says askingn - how apt!

  4. Right - I've just looked at another part of the website which I'd previously thought needed some attention - the volunteer pages.

    On the plus side - there's more information about the opportunities and what it's like to be a volunteer. And there's an e-mail address for volunteering opportunities in London.

    However, I feel the RHS is missing a golden opportunity for volunteer recruitment at the gardens. If someone has taken the trouble to find out online what's available and like what they see, they'll be wanting to contact someone straight away. Instead, they're given an address to write to, which is rather off-putting and slows things down. Surely it would be no trouble to provide 4 email addresses (1 for each garden) so that people can immediately feel they're in contact with the garden they'd like to volunteer at?

  5. Oh yes, tears of laughter rolled down my face as I heard Bob's cheery Christmas carols.

    In my more pretentious days, I took to reading the Arabian Nights books in French whilst on long train journeys. As you say, so much better than the bastardised versions we get in pantomimes.

    I believe that Chrysanthemums are the new Dahlias.

  6. I had thought my new kitten might be called Dylan but not any more. Yet another reason to dislike Christmas... (Bah humbug already).

    I went to a Bob Dylan concert some years ago at the less than atmospheric Brighton Centre which is better disposed towards hosting grey and dreary political conferences. We could only get side view tickets. Afterwards I commented to the Bedsock that it was a shame that Dylan wore a hat all the way through as I couldn't see his face. The Bedsock replied that the guy in the hat wasn't Dylan it was one of the band. So I have both seen.. and not seen.. Dylan at the same time. After the 'cheery Christmas carols' travesty it doesn't really seem to matter. Whatever next.. Leonard Cohen singing 'Frostie the Snowman'?

  7. Blimey... Enviable photographs... Both the pines and the gords of joy are great pics. Nice one... Hmmm. Secretly, you know you love Bobby D s Christmas stuff... Rumour has it that you have a bit of a thing for Bing's Jingle bells medley too!

  8. Martyn - the Johnny Cash fromage de Noel, I have to hear. Just going to the iTunes store now!

    littlegreen - the gourds were shot by the Photographer General; the pines by me.
    Your suggestion that I'm attracted to Mr Crosby's jingle bells is a scurrilous slander.

    VP - big thanks for your comments on the RHS Website. I might do a post about it soon.

  9. Dylan sounds like Tom Waits on temazepam. That Little Drummer Boy must be one of the most ghastly Christmas tracks ever recorded in the history of unpopular music!