Friday, 4 December 2009


THE GMG Awards Lunch is done for another year. Hurrah!

I shot these ballons at Cebu, in the Phillipines a while ago - they'd have done for the GMG Awards Lunch.

The talented and diligent organisers had picked a rather elegant shed, somewhere in the City whose cavernous superstructure was disguised with lots of white triangular bunting. Outside we were treated, not to a red carpet but to a giggle-stimulating walkway of neatly laid turf with an array of garden machinery on the side.

Once inside, there was a glass of pink fizz to accompany the gently developing crescendo of garden writers hallooing one-another across the primaeval swamp. Soon, with a mwah! mwah! here and a backslap there, we were shepherded into the feeding zone.

We had barely tucked into a cloying pumpkin and honey soup when there was a stentorian blast on the PA system followed by a deafening announcement to tell us that we were at the Garden Media Guild Awards Lunch. Useful items of information like this kept bursting into our conversation from time to time as the meal progressed. One was reminded of a big rally in a totalitarian state.

A threatening-looking pudding followed the custardy soup and turned out to be rather good, with craggy beef inside but alas, no kidney.

Dessert was delivered on strange, long, narrow strips of porcelain which resembled petrified open scrolls, and were served longways-on. I believe I recall that chocolate was involved. Oh, yes, now I remember - it was as sort of dusky bosooom from which oozed molten chocolate.

Then, Andy Mackindoodah-doodah-day arrived at the podium to give an accomplished and amusing speech, and to run through the lengthy award winning procedure. He did it all with amazing panache and professionalism. He reminds me of a slimmed down, Anglicised Mr Magoo.

Andy informed us that we garden media people are the very heart of horticulture. That surprised me, because I thought our sponsors and hosts yesterday - people like Westland, Thompson and Morgan, Hartley Botanic etc. were the 'very heart,' whereas I've always considered myself to be no more than a hack, commenting and reporting on what happens in the world of gardening. Horticulture could probably manage without us hacks, whereas we depend on horticulture to feed us the means of earning a living. Or have I got that wrong?

The awards procedure takes forever, with recipients having to grin at cameras, alongside the sponsors. Some make speeches of gratitude, others don't. Some awards were predictable, others not. Two were richly deserved and absolutely delighted me:

The Master at work.

The Best Photographic Portfolio was won by my good friend Tim Sandall. The deafening cheer, showed how strongly the crowd approved, too. Tim taught me most of what I know about photography and is one of the most versatile, workmanlike and accomplished craftsmen in the business.

For many years, when I worked for BBC Gardeners World magazine - oh, happy times! - he would spend several days a month, creating action pictures and building up the visual side of our various series. In those days, if ever I struggled with the technicalities of handling a camera, he would drip-feed his knowledge with amazing generosity, and with considerable modesty.

He is indefatigable, always jolly and, uniquely, able to combine utter professionalism with having a bloody good laugh. Well done Tim! What a guy!

The second award - and I will admit to a slight pang of jealousy, here. No, that's not sincere! I admit to quite a lot of jealousy – was the Best Blog. (More deafening applause, whistles and maidens fainting with bliss at the announcement.) James has done it again and is now to be referred to as Multiple Award Winning Journalist or MAWJ.

It was delightful to meet VP, at last, and to chat with her before the lunch. I was not at all surprised to see Veg Plotting on the shortlist and quite expected her to win. Silvertreedaze didn't even make it to the shortlist which I admit was rather a disappointment. But I'll try harder for next year and, well, you never know.

But James really is a worthy winner. Informative, funny, always original and interesting, it's a delight when his posts appear. It was he, I might remind you, who kicked me into the blogging habit, little more than a year ago.

Reading a JA-S's blog is rather like making love. First. you are gently aroused by the intriguing Edward Learish titles. Working through content then gives increasing pleasure but you always arrive at the end disappointingly soon, feeling limp and exhausted but relaxed and satisfied.

Well done James - but might you try not to enter next year, to give the rest of us a chance?

I'm listening to Gluck's Orfeo & Euridice. Poor old Orpheus' longing for his prize - er, sorry, girlfriend - seems to strike a bit of a chord, just now.

This day last year I attended the funeral of friend and craftsman Ron Gray.

This week's film was Casablanca watched with friends, on their magnificent megatelly. One of the biggest of the Hollywood greats. Afterwards, we enjoyed an absolutely superb Moroccan feast.

Bye bye.


  1. Well knock me down with a feather.

    I was assuming Silvertreedaze hadn't entered as I thought you were a shoo-in.

    Actually if it helps, that makes me feel a shedload better as The Constant Gardener didn't make it to the shortlist either. We wuz robbed.

    But anyway I'll join in the very heart-felt congratulations to VP (but she knows that already :D) and of course to James without whom our blogging world would be entirely incomplete.

    it was a good do - we were right under the speakers on our table which brought an effective full stop to any conversation we might have happened to be having at the time.
    (actually I suspect that may have been the reason for the volume).

    I met the adorable Tim Sandall in the pub afterwards where his pink tie was being much admired. Since I've been a long-distance admirer for ages it was great to see his work recognised, and to be able to congratulate him too. Entirely agree with you there too - richly deserved.

  2. I too was shocked and disgusted that Silvertreedaze was not shortlisted: an oversight that I am sure will be rectified next year.
    Thank you for your kind words- although the idea of you being limp but satisfied is not an image I wish to carry for too long.........

  3. I'm looking forward to you and James battling it out for best blog next year - that will keep the pair of you on your toes. I find both of your blogs quite life-affirming. They draw me in with their warmth and wit and I invariably leave them feeling happier.

  4. yep I would have had money on James and Nigel ending up eyeball to eyeball across the table this year. Good job I'm not a betting woman (well, not often, anyway). The GMG moves in mysterious ways.

    There's always next year, though...

  5. I was surprised that Silvertreedaze wasn't nominated. I must join the GMG so I can nominate you. I was going to come and say hello at the lunch, but you were deep in conversation with someone and I had a fit of shyness.

  6. I'm sure I left a comment on here yesterday - I must have been dreaming.

    I'm very much in 'Awww shucks' mode after your fulsome compliments. Many thanks :)

    Like the others who've already said so, I was shocked you weren't on the list, almost as much as I was to be on it!

    Those pudding plates were a bit strange weren't they? They were far too large for the place settings - I had to make sure I didn't contantly dig my dining companions in the ribs with my elbows.

  7. It's complete lunacy that you weren't up for best blog. Did you perhaps kill small kittens in a previous life? I am really struggling to find any other explanation beyond 'bad karma'.

  8. You are all very sweet to say such nice things.

    Victoria - I'm devastated that you came over all shy - I'd love to have said 'hello.'

    Dawn - the opposite of killing small kittens! The PG and I are totally cat people. But, I have been known to make rude comments about some media people on occasions.