Thursday, 17 December 2009


Well, goodness me! What an absolute gas!! I've just discovered the delight of re-visiting old blog posts and having a bit of a wallow in recent nostalgia. This time last year, I was blushing to admit loving the cheeeziness of soppy Christmassy things like the film Love, Actually and Scrooge and hanging up stockings and buying posh soap for the Photographer General - so I can use it in the bath - and eating mince pies and finding excuses for snarfing Madeira at 11am and so on.

And I mentioned that someone had bumped into me at Oxford Circus Tube Station and actually smiled at me, and apologised!!! Well, it happened again, this week. Is London beginning to thaw a little? No! Of course not. But there seems to be a temporary cessation of hostilities while the Season of Good Will and merry retailing gets under way. (If you weigh your anchor, when sailing off somewhere, I suppose you'd be under weigh?)

Hippeastrum 'Jewel' - a particularly nasty one whose petals remind me of blood and bandages.

Christmas gifts I hope I don't receive - apart from Argyll socks, a striped sweater or a Corby Trouser Press - are Hippeastrums. People will call these turgid monsters 'Amaryllis' which is both botanically and aesthetically wrong. Amaryllis is a beautiful-sounding, feminine name given to certain African and Asian relatives of the lily. Hippeastrums, on the other hand, are New World flarze. They're in all the shops at the moment, thrusting urgent, unnervingly thick, fleshy stems upwards, each one topped with an even more disturbing bud, encased in a sort of sheath. I mean really!!! I'd sooner have a naff hyacinth any day, or even an aspidistra.

Actually, you could play a variation on the 'shag, marry or die' game with Hippeastrum, Poinsettia and, er, well, how about Sansevieria? Which one would you have on your windowsill? Which one in your gabion, Ms Sock, if you're that way inclined, and which would you put in the hyperspeedy composterator?

Speaking of Amaryllis. At school, as a relief from corporal punishment, chapel and Rugby football, we were occasionally encouraged to sing madrigals. For some bizarre reason, I remember one by John Wilbye entitled Adieu, Sweet Amaryllis. Now, if you think the lyrics of most popular songs, these days are banal, try this one - you'll find it here. Naturally, if it was written in the early 17th century, it has to be good. Says who?? After all, even Shakespeare has churned out some awful turkeys. No? Ever read King John?

Crocus imperati - the first flower opened on Sunday but was zapped by the blizzard today.

The antithesis of horrible hippeastrums are delicate, frail, plucky little crocuses. Most are brave enough to open in March or even February sunshine but one of mine was foolhardy enough to shove its exquisite head above the gravelly parapet of my scree bed on 13th December. It was in good company. Two South African pelargonium species were still blooming nearby. They are Pelargonium ionidiflorum and P. sidoides (of gardens, for pelargonium pedants who say the only true P sidoides grows in a ditch outside Port Elizabeth - you know who you are!)

Yesterday, all these plants looked set to flourish for months to come. Today they've been bitch-slapped by a vile north-east wind and driving snow. What a difference a day makes!

I've dug out the last of the compost and spread it. The rotting down has been totally successful and the material for spreading has the consistency, and probably the flavour and texture of All Bran. But did it get hot enough to kill the sowthistle seeds, while composting? I bet not!

I'm listening to Britten's A Ceremony of Carols, sung by Westminster Abbey Choir.

This week's film was the Coen Brother's A Serious Man, seen at the luxurious Odeon in London's Raspberry Avenue. Seldom have I experienced such a swirling mix of emotions, from almost farcical comedy, to unbearable agony. This film is about big God and little man. And I have to say that the word 'spiteful' kept creeping into my irreverent mind. A wonderful film, provided you can laugh and weep simultaneously, as well as being completely puzzled as to why?

This day in 1975 I was living - don't laugh - in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, as an employee of Shell and working for the Animal Feedingstuffs industry. We spent Christmas day with our baby twins - then, two years old - and several friends, around the swimming pool which belonged to an orthopaedic surgeon. Never have I seen a cold turkey so deftly carved.

Bye bye.


  1. My dear Nigel,
    Award-winning post title - must send it along the GMG for next year's awards!
    You actually saw the new Coen Brothers film. I adore them, but the trailer had me running in the opposite direction.
    Think I might like that nasty 'Jewel' ... we're in the grey rainy season and the mood has been blue this past week or so.
    Lovely sweet crocuses might be just the ticket, but I'm waiting for a slew of naturalized fressias to begin blooming.
    I know you're not often found on Blotanical, but fyi, I dropped by your plot and faved it ;-)
    It's one of the places where I attempt to keep up with blog posts.
    Working for Shell in 1975? Sounds another lifetime...
    Wishing you a lovely holiday,

  2. Amaryllis is undoubtedly a charming name: with a certain saucy je ne sais quoi. It made the back of my brain tingle slightly and, after a bit of rumpling around I have three gems for you - much better than your dreary madrigal lyric:

    To sport with Amaryllis in the shade
    Or with the tangles of Neaera’s hair

    which is by Milton, no less.
    Thomas Campion (and, you will remember, part of the original score for Green With Envy)

    I care not for these ladies,
    That must be wooed and prayed:
    Give me kind Amaryllis,
    The wanton country maid.
    Nature art disdaineth,
    Her beauty is her own.
    Her when we court and kiss,
    She cries, “Forsooth, let go!”
    But when we come where comfort is,
    She never will say no.

    If I love Amaryllis,
    She gives me fruit and flowers:
    But if we love these ladies,
    We must give golden showers.
    Give them gold, that sell love,
    Give me the nut-brown lass,

    These ladies must have pillows,
    And beds by strangers wrought;
    Give me a bower of willows,
    Of moss and leaves unbought,
    And fresh Amaryllis,
    With milk and honey fed;
    (she is sounding a bit slutty now, poor Amaryllis - especially after the golden showers bit in verse 2)

    and finally

    Oh Amaryllis,what despair
    I'm in about your underwear!
    I dream about it all day long
    Wishing I were the cotton thong
    Lodged in the lodestar of my lust,
    The bra that holds your gorgeous bust
    (in an unprecedented size)
    the stockings that caress your thighs.
    When will it be my hand that tries
    The hooks and clips and clasps that stand
    Between your sundry suitors and
    The object of their randy quest?
    Or will I never be a guest
    At that delicious tottyfest ?

    which is much more modern but I have forgotten who wrote it.

    I also never thought I would read the expression 'bitch-slap' on this blog - even in allusion to Crocii.

    I am sorry, I know it is bad form to write comments almost as long as the original post.

  3. Oh dear I quite like that gawdy Jewel, it's rather jolly!

    Pour yourself a couple of Sherry's and I sure it won't seem quite so bad. Crocus on the other hand really bore me. They are always laying on the ground in a flattened and crumpled state with that "well if you'd been here half an hour ago we'd have been stunning" look.

    Anyway, Merry Christmas to you and yours, thank you for all your wonderful blog posts this year, I look forward to reading many more next year,

    RO :o)

    P.S. Poinsettia's without question, should be firmly planted in compost bin.

  4. Golden showers!!!! Oh dear James a bit of rumpling around indeed.

  5. I meant to say (before James' madrigal distracted me) that I hate hippewhatsits and that I fully intend to plant next year's hanging gabion up with the most delighfully lurid heucheras.

  6. What an attuned to the season post! Bitch slap, golden showers and slutty flowers with cotton thongs. I thought this post was going to be about yews. HA


  7. An inspiring read for this weather!!
    Have you read

  8. Is this the way to Amaryllis.... every night I'm huggin' my Hmm... sorry but every time I hear the name that song pops into my head.

    Hate the things. A friend of mine used to collect them and was stuck with pots-full of dull but very large and intrusive foliage all over her house. Yuck.

    Tra la la la-la la-la-la.... now look what you've done.

  9. I have hated hippeastrums for most of my life, but age has mellowed me somewhat and I now find myself lusting over the cybisters. Is this the way to amaryllis? Yes, it truly is

  10. "Shag, marry or die" seems a remarkably draconian means of division. What with that and all this 'bitch slapping' I feel as though I've wandered into a Tarantino movie. Come to think of it, I could just see you and James as Vincent Vaga and Jules Winnfield...

  11. Or perhaps John Travolta and Uma Thurman! LOL

    I wish you hadn't mentioned that song Constant Gardener because it is going around my head now instead of Amaryllis, Amaryllis, to this tune

  12. Hi Nigel

    Just realised you were on Blotanical - I thought I recognised your picture. Fabulous title to your blog post. I had someone yesterday in work who would not buy red and white pots because of the link with blood and bandages.

  13. Consider this a pre-holiday punishment for posting that hideous photo of Hippeastrum "Jewel." I've tagged you with an Honest Scrap Award at

  14. Thanks, everyone, for your sweet comments.
    James, so glad you were able to raise the tone of this blog with such wicked erotica, and you can make your comments as long as you want!
    Constant Gardener - I thought the song was to do with San Jose! Doesn't amarillo mean yellow?
    gz - thanks for the link.

    Tarantino - not really my kind of film maker but I see what you mean.