Wednesday, 12 May 2010


Three cheers for democracy. We really must try it in England, some time. Still, I suppose it's a goodish outcome - until the squabbling begins. Mr B's 'Thank you and goodbye' brought a tear to the eye but otherwise, I was too embroiled in self-pity to take in much of what was going on yesterday. All is explained in a mo.

Now, then, now then. Ahem! Hrrrh hmm!!
There are times when you just can't win. Year after year, I've moaned about hot spring weather burning up the tulips, after we've waited and waited for them to flower. Then we've gasped at the speed with which they've shot out, shot their bolts and shot off. Talk about Tulipulatio praecox!

But this year, when Chelsea is coming up like a fast ball from Freddie Flintoff, and my trip to South East Asia is hot on its heels, the blasted tulips just won't die.

Tulipa 'Portofino.' Not nearly as pretty as it was in Parker's catalogue picture.

Not that I'n in a hurry to see them go. Far from it. But the trouble is, my beloved Wendy (my greenhouse to those who don't know) has been wonderfully productive and I need to get all the tender babes that she's raised this winter planted out before I depart for London and beyond. I dare not leave them under glass until mid-June and would not ask my long suffering and kindly neighbour to water all that lot anyway.

The tulips have been a mixed bag, this year. I tried 'Jackpot' a dark job with white picotee which I have to say is remarkably good. It has also stood up well to the disgusting weather that's been thrown at us. Ground frosts every dam' day, this week, and a poisonously bitchy north-north-easterly.

'Portofino' appealed in the catalogue pictures - a nice cherry red feather against a snowy white background. But what we got was cream and blood, uuuughgh (or in American, Eeeuuuuwwww!) The flowers resemble World War One dressings with the blood seeping through. Loathsome!

And for the prissy row of pots on my wall top, I chose 'Orange Lion,' a new Darwin hybrid which is neither leonine nor orange. It was yellow - a nasty, flat, eggy yellow with suffusions of L-plate red. And it had no lasting quality at all.

Jackpot - a fine, late tulip with amazing lasting qualities.

I'm trying to be brief, this week, you'll be relieved to learn. Work is crowding in, a couple of extra commissions have plopped onto my desk and I've got to get ready for flying to Singapore sharpishly after Chelsea.

My week's big event was not horticultural and took place yesterday. My first ever MRI scan. I won't bore you with too much detail. One had to wear the usual Jack Nicholson (Something's Got to Give) hospital gown but luckily, the horticultural buttocks were protected from world view by the baggiest, softest cotton pants I've ever donned. I was heartbroken to have to give them back, and would have schlepped about the house in them at home every evening until they finally fell apart. But the National Health Service demanded them back.

The scanner madoodle is terrifying to look at. You lie on a plank which slides into a coffin, and you're clamped into stillness with padded fetters.

'What sort of music would you like?' asked the charming and solicitous radiologist. (Are scanner madoodle operators called radiologists?)

'Schönberg please,' I quipped, facetiously. 'Or failing that, how about some Wagner.' Instead, was fed light classics - Eine Kleinebloodynachtmusik. But they needn't have bothered because the noise is so unbelievably all-consuming that you are blotted out and spun into a vortex of din. It really isn't that unpleasant, once you relax into it. No worse than a rock concert.

The first scan was to take 40 minutes. That was a shock. I expected to be like House - a brief spell in the coffin, while two supervising doctors paid no attention at all but quibbled with each other about who was being adulterous with whom and then it would all be over. But not a bit of it.

And since my injury, I've been quite unable to lie on my back without feeling sharp pain down there in my, um, I think sacrum. And you can imagine, I'm sure, what it was soon like, lying there unable to move while the pain got sharper and sharper until I was digging my fingers into my ribs to counteract the agony. The noise, if anything, was a welcome distraction. When it was over, I couldn't stand up, at first, but the pain disappeared remarkably fast.

After a few minutes of pacing, enjoying the baggy trousers and that wonderfully solicitous but brisk attention they give you in hospitals, I was ready for the next blast. This one, they said, would be only 25 minutes, and wouldn't hurt a bit because my knees would be up, and supported by a comfy cushion thingy. 'But I'm afraid,' the radiologist said, 'you have to have ear plugs and there's no music.' So it wasn't all bad. In fact it was a piece of cake and I nodded off.

Driving home, listening on the radio to history unrolling and feeling, for the first time in my life, rather sorry for Gordon Brown - but also sensing his huge relief at handing over the burden of office, I reflected on pain and pleasure.

That first scan scan provided me with the most unpleasantly painful forty minutes I've spent for years, or possibly ever. And yet, driving home through the fresh, vibrant countryside, with a low sun gilding the new foliage, with hawthorn coming into flower and all the roadside cowslips giving a last spring flourish, it felt wonderful to be alive.

Jackpot, close-up. Lovely, velvety petals.

I'm listening to Dies Natalis by Gerald Finzi.

This day in 2007 I laid a crude path in part of our garden, using heavy concrete slabs. Also managed to drop a large bolt into our Mighty Mac Compost Shredder. Nice work! Ruined bolt; butchered flails.

This week's film was - well, if you don't mind, I'd rather mention the new TV detective series Luther - written by Neil Cross whose blog is here - which is really good, in parts, but also flawed. Great casting, with Idris Elba – the big geezer from The Wire – and a spine-tinglingly bonkers parricide-matricide Ruth Wilson who, despite her evil nature is quite a sexy girlie and spends time dogging Luther for no apparent reason other than being unable to decide whether to outwit him for sex or for murder. But parts of it really bother me. Exciting ideas and possibilities are blended with knackered and hackneyed plot devices, disappointing scripting – not in the main storylines, but in the minor beats and changes – and sometimes, I just don't find it credible. But I still love watching it. Trouble is, whatever we watch, these days, can't help but be compared with the daring, skill, originality and grittiness of The Wire.

Whoops! - far too much rambling. Bye bye!


  1. The tulips are wonderful. I understand about not being able to win, I think all gardeners do, lol. The MRI sounds scary as hell. I dread the day that I should ever need one. I HATE enclosed tight spaces and your description matches my fears perfectly. Hope they find the bother so it can be solved. You want to be in good mettle for Asia! Think of all the eating to be done!

  2. Just seen Cameron and Clegg doing their double act in what looked like the Downing Street garden. For some reason, the names Tweedledum and Tweedledee sprang to mind. Tulips look gorgeous - good luck with the MRI and any other tests you have.

  3. That portofino tulip is quite the nastiest specimen I have ever seen. Everything you could hate in a tulip rolled into one.

    I wonder if you got one of the new Ben de Lisi gowns? If you haven't heard the name he is a famous fashion designer commissioned to do them so that people's bottoms don't fall out the back.

    I know what you mean about House - the only thing about it that is truly realistic is the fact that medical people only see you as a hopefully 'interesting' case rather than a real person. I think you were very brave with your MRI.

  4. Portofino - dressings leaking blood. You couldn't have put it better. Don't like the sound of that egg-yolk yellow either. You're much more adventurous than me on your tulips: I stick to my tried-and-tested four or five varieties and thought I was being adventurous this year when I added 'Abu Hassan' to the repertoire (now that is a gorgeous tulip).

    Bad luck with the MRI scan - it sounds a bit grim. I hope the results are suitably positive to counteract all that claustrophobia. Missed you at Malvern - maybe next year?

  5. This is what a blog can be like; really good writing, thank you - I hope the scan's result is good.

  6. The tulips look beautiful... or I am biased- I grew tulips for my daughter's wedding- and if she had been getting married in April this year the flowers wouldn't have been ready!

    Commiserations on your aches. Enjoy your trip away in the warmth, which if nothing else should ease them.

  7. Thanks, everyone, for the comments.
    EB - you've made me blush;
    Arabella, Constant Gardener, gz, - 'Portofino' tulip has started to look less nasty, now and the nasty red has changed to the hoped-for cherry veining. But they're still going to be binned, when the petals have fallen.