Nice things: Still nearly a week to go before Stir Up Sunday whose Collect begins: 'Stir up we beseech thee, oh Lord, the wills . . .' Nevertheless, the Photographer General got to work early and spent the past weekend making and baking the family Christmas Cakes.
On Saturday, huge bowls of benodorous - no such word, I've just made it up - dried fruit sat soaking up alcohol and on Sunday afternoon, amid a great deal of grunting, whisking, stirring and creative macrame work with baking paper, the PG managed to manoeuvre what looked like half a ton of dark, stiff, fruit-rich, spicy mix into two substantial baking tins. And that followed, I might add, the production of a delicious lunch of roast chicken including all the 'fixings' and bread and butter pud with custard to follow. What is Sunday for, if not celebratory feasting?
From mid-afternoon, the house gradually filled with the delicious aroma of baking Christmas cake. I'm sure that smell is the best part of the whole cake fandango. It even drifted upstairs and when we went to bed, I dreamed of bakeries and confectionaries where fantastical cakes, big enough to dive into, were iced with glorious designs in royal icing that melted delectably on the tongue. This was about as sensual as a dream can get, but not a hint of eroticism anywhere - a sure sign, that advanced old age and general decreptitude is creeping in.
Landscape in microcosm A lichen-coated rock face with tiny succulents growing in the crevices.
Now for the rant.
I happened to be speaking to Mr Hat, the other day, having been absent from Bloglandia for a while, and was prompted to get up to date with his latest post about trying to find contentious issues and looking, albeit quite gently, at ThinkingGardens. He seems to have caused a mild kerfuffle.
After reading his post and having been, in the past, exhorted by various bods, both illustrious and humble - and in a few cases both - I finally got round to visiting the site. You probably know far more about it than I, so I won't bore you with details but one message comes through strongly. Fun is not in the repertoire. It's all a bit disdainful, at first glance, but perhaps if I'd bothered to read more carefully, and gone further into the website, I would have got a little better tuned in.
The pieces that I skimmed included an excellent description of Cesar Manrique's work and Fondacion in Lanzarote, which I know well and like immensely. Manrique loved a bit of fun and rudery, and therefore gets my vote, despite some distinctly dodgy giant mobiles on roundabouts.
Another, by Tim Richardson, suggests - and I paraphrase - that professional garden designers must be miffed that the most iconic gardens were made by non-professional designers. He cites, among others Derek Jarman and Julia Trevelyan Oman who, I thought, were both trained artists famous for set designs.
It made me wonder what you actually have to do to be a 'professional garden designer.' What is the dividing line between rank amateur and qualified professional? Could an architect be a professional garden designer? A structural engineer? One thing seems clear, from this website: real gardeners need not apply.
But that's not the rant.
What REALLY gets my goat. REALLY PUSHES UP MY BLOOD PRESSURE AND MAKES ME WANT TO SMASH THINGS, is this ridiculous notion that there's some kind of an idiotic conflict between garden design and horticulture or gardening.
I don't know who originally tried to trump up such an ludicrous notion but I remember there were some, frankly, rather silly debates staged by the RHS on this. I ought to remember them because I was one of the speakers at the first one and got quite a bit of flak, afterwards, for being rude about designers, which I wasn't.
May I make a statement here?
THERE IS NO CONFLICT BETWEEN GARDENERS AND DESIGNERS.
Got that? Good! Some gardeners are atrocious designers. I'm afraid my designs are, by and large, puerile and riddled with defects. And some designers are absolutely crap gardeners. But that doesn't make a conflict; it merely causes deficiencies on both sides.
Gardens are, of course, art forms. All of them. It simply depends on how you perceive them and to suggest that a semi-detached house in Swansea, with lawn, gnome-ridden pond and bedded tagetes isn't art, is just plain snobbery. It may lack challenging shape, philosophical content or cunning conceits. The colour scheme may make a bad thing worse, but it is still the garden owner's expression and as such, IT IS ART. Good or bad, it is art. So are a good many allotments; so could be the plantsman's array of primula cultivars or snowdrops. So is the ludicrously topiarised hedge, near where I live, which has been fashioned into a steam train. Good or bad, they are art. Like graffiti, the coca cola sign, Degas' ballet girls or Rembrandt's self portraits, they are all art.
And another thing. You can create an artistic installation, indoors or out, but it may or may not be a garden. This is just semantics, but to me, if it grows things, it's a garden; if it doesn't, it isn't.
Gardeners make a huge contribution to design. They ensure that the design's soft bits - the plants - survive and thrive to make sure the artistic expression is as intended. You can't do that unless you know how to garden. Gardeners who design, know what can and can't be done.
Designers who can't garden are as inadequate as painters who don't understand how to mix pigments or sculptors who can't carve. They may construct wonderful outdoor installations but, however artistically valid, those won't be gardens.
I'm listening to one of Beethoven's Rasumovsky Quartets.
This week's film was Ordinary People. Agonising to watch a family disintegrate, but a brilliantly crafted tragedy, easily - but unjustly - written off by some as trivial or melodramatic. Donald Sutherland at his absolute finest; Mary Tyler-Moore gut-wrenchingly tortured and Timothy Hutton's teenager with a guilt complex was an immaculate performance.
This time two weeks ago I was visiting Double H nurseries and will tell you about it soon.
As Bill Giles used to say, with a wink - ' That's it from me. Bye bye for now.