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.