Monday, 7 February 2011


Hullooo! Huzzah!!! And how lovely to be alive, in this force 9 gale, watching all my late winter pretties being lashed to pieces.  Lovely!

Crocus imperati 'de Jaeger' - first bulb to bloom this year, beating even the first snowdrops.

I promised to deliver a serious rant, this week,  about - well, you'll remember this 'teaser' from my last post.
'. . . here's a vision of 2050:-
Nine billion people, a crashing climate, new top dog superpowers replacing the old top dog superpowers and a looming resources crisis.  Food for thought? And probably not for eating.'

But I'm afraid you'll have to wait another week.  Playing on Twitter has neutralised too much of my bile, for some strange reason, and I've come over all benign.    And it's sunny, even though the gale is howling, and things at last are beginning to look really pretty, in the garden, so I'll save the food controversy for next time

So for or now, let's begin with some really, really bad things.
1. Mubarak's hair dye.
2. England's post-ashes cricket.
3. The return of Just a Minute on Radio 4.  In its early days, around the time that Oliver Cromwell died, this was an amusing programme with some jolly contributors.  But now, like a number of shows I could mention, it has had it's day and should be kindly but quickly euthanised.  In fact I wish it would, like Fred Chopin's awful 'Minute Waltz,' fade away - but for good.

This is an important issue because Radio 4 is a precious remnant of the once wonderful BBC.  Since virtually all network television is unwatchable, Radio 4 is almost all that remains for anyone who likes to think, judge, consider and generally to cogitate about things.  Radio 4 also has some of the best comedy and drama - Saturday's dramatisation ofChandler's  The Big Sleep was done deliciously and I had my tranny radio tied to my waist while I gardened.  (OK, so it's sad, but I couldn't stop listening.)

Cyclamen coum - toughest little brutes in the garden

When I take over, as Commissar of Radio Four, there'll be quite a few sacred cattle for the chop.  Woman's Hour will only be allowed to remain if equal time is given for Man's Hour.  And on Man's Hour it will be perfectly acceptable to discuss intimate 'man' things like cars, football, real ale and husband bashing, not to mention cringy stuff like circumcision and bicycle saddle design. (If they can do cringy on Woman's Hour - and boy do they ever! – we blokes should be allowed it, too.) 

You and Yours will be cut to five minutes and broadcast at 5.40am.  Intense, boring documentaries on current affairs will be banned between Saturday midday and 6am on Mondays.  The Material World, Costing the Earth, Home Planet, Farming Today, From Our Own Correspondent and 'In Our Time'  will be protected by a PPO - Programme Preservation Order' - just like hallowed trees,  so that no future, power-mad, ratings-chasing, celeb-crazed  Controller could kill them off.  

All programmes that have 'phone in' sections will be banned forthwith.

Oh, and Gardeners Question Time will also go. It was fine in its day, just after the war, but not now.  For incurable addicts, they could re-run programmes from 1960 to 1965, since the same questions are asked every year.  Either that, or let there be proper gloves-off punch-ups on the best way to zap vine weevils and prune wisterias, and no more of this pussy-footing mutual politeness.

In place of GQT there'll be 30 minutes a week of Gardening Actualit√© - that is to say, a mic dangled near or attached to someone actually gardening.  NO CELEBRITY GARDENERS - corduroyed or otherwise - would be allowed near the programme, neither would those who dye their hair, Mr T  (see Bad Thing Number 1.)  Indeed, gardeners selected for microphone attachment will be just ordinary blokes down our allotments. And the programme will go out live, so swearing, farting, grunting and tool breaking would be part of the show.

4. Some berk has paid several hundred quid for a blasted snowdrop.  But it was a poculiform one, so that's ok then.  Read about it here and here.

5. The woman who lives virtually next door to me has had a dense and beautifully screening shelter belt hacked into a number of hideous, naked trunks.  I can now see into our neighbour's (not the tree hacker's) conservatory - can even see what magazines they're reading.  And as I realised, while standing naked at the window, scratching those parts of me that in polite society are best left unmolested, the neighours can see straight into our bedroom.  The shelter belt was of Prunus cerasifera with some laurel, sycamore and other odd shrubs and trees.  It was never profoundly pretty, except when in full blossom, but folk would pick the cherry plums, in summer and the whole lot gave of its greenness.  Any living vegetation is better to look at than no vegetation.  A flock of long-tailed tits foraged in it every day.  Now it's ugly, barren and bare and the tits are gone.  I don't know why she had it cut down.  Perhaps she resented others eating the cherry plums; perhaps she has an obsession with tidiness and the innate hatred of trees that seems to be common in Lincolnshire.

5.  Er, that's it for bad things.  We'll pass on Cameron and multiculturalism, fire and flood in Australia, the disgusting parade of obscene peep shows on Channel 4 and the fact that the blasted cats have shat on my most precious winter aconite, Eranthis hyemale '

And now for the good things:
1.  Our darling little Cyclamen coum are rushing into flower.  The one on the picture isn't mine.  Mine are more wind-mangled and sparse, but it's the same thing.  This is the toughest little cyclamen in cultivation and seems to put up with a wide range of conditions from partial shade to baking sun.  It is happy in our rough grass, as well as in the chilly, east facing border in our front garden - made more chilly still by the tree feller.

Hepatica nobilis in flower - this one exhibited by Ashwood Nurseries.
2.  The hepaticas are coming.  Someone tweeted me, this morning, asking what they were, so here's a piccy.  These weren't photographed in my garden.  Ours are being blown in the hurricane, at present, so I've pulled this pic from our libray.  It was shot, like the Cyclamen, by the PG.  (I did the crocus at the top.)

3. We've confirmed our booking for Berlin, in September.  We're going to the entire Das Ring Des Nibelungen and it's booked.  Huzzah - or should I say Hoch! Hoch! Hoch! 

4. Our Grimsby Fish Van can supply un-dyed kippers on the bone.  Mmmmm!  If you soak the kipper in very hot water for ten minutes, and then cook it sealed, in a microwave, the saltiness is reduced and the flavour is as good as I've ever tasted.  Plus, the house doesn't stink of smoked herring for a week afterwards.

This week's film was Lagaan - starring Aamir Khan and directed by Ashutosh Gowariker – a Bollywood classic, set in the 1850s, about British colonialism in India.  To avoid paying an unjust tithe or 'Lagaan,' the locals are given the option of a three day cricket match.  If the Indian side wins, the tax will be waived but if it loses, the tax will be trebled.  A gripping tale beautifully told. 

I'm listening to the builders hammering.  Work has begun on repairs to our house after the fire before Christmas. We have no wall on part of the house and the door to the guest room is nailed up.  The only way into that room is by climbing the scaffolding.

This day in 2007  I went to Stamford for a haircut and walked on the Thurlby Slipe Nature reserve at dusk, watching barn owls hunting.

If you're read this far, you're an absolute saint and I love you - unless you delight in wanton tree felling.  Oh, that' reminds me.  I've just read Roger Deakin's superb book Wildwood.  Anyone who loves nature and has a slightly pervy lust for wood should read this book  What an irony that I was reading it when the trees opposite were being mutilated.  Ah me!!!


  1. Hepaticas are the plants I have lusted after & drooled over at the RHS London spring shows so often & have hesitated buying as I really have nowhere they could appropriately be planted. I did however succumb to a fairly 'basic' one a couple of years ago & yes, it is still in a pot with no home to go to.

    I am keeping schtum about some of your R4 ramblings....Man's Hour indeed!

  2. Can I be on your GQT replacement show, please? I'm not a bloke and I don't go in for too much farting but I do swear a lot - sometimes even in foreign languages (Schwefelglanz being one of my faves).

  3. Post-ashes cricket? Lulling them into a false sense of security old boy before we go for the jugular! Old trick, works everytime.

  4. I noticed the dislike of trees when I was in Lincolnshire - in fact, I worked for a tree nursery, and all our stock was 'exported' to other counties' councils and parks!

    I asked why it was, and why had all the hedges been removed so badly - even the ones that edged roads and could have stopped the snow from piling up in vast drifts on them. The reply that I got was that Lincolnshire folk were nosy buggers who liked to be able to see everyone else's business!

  5. PS I was a little dubious about your Just a Minute comments but having just listened to tonight's offering I agree wholeheartedly. It has got 'too clever by half'.

  6. Thank you for the pic of the Hepatica - they certainly do look pretty.
    I miss the Grimsby fish van - used to have one come to us when we lived in Berkshire, but not seen one up here.
    Your near neighbour is probably related to the delightful chap behind me who cut anything that goes across his fence - garden just grass. He told me he was disfiguring my Prunus again and would put branches over the fence. Happily I had checked the law and told him it was his responsibility to get rid of them which didnt go down well but triumph for me

  7. When you are appointed Commissar, I do hope you'll cast your smiting gaze across the great waters and strike down a few of our TV duds. But really it might be easier to shut them all down and start from scratch. In my opinion, only "Nature" on PBS is watchable, the rest, drivel.

    As for all the garden programming you have, enough to whittle down a few apparently, well, I'm just jealous. We have nothing.

    "All programmes that have 'phone in' sections will be banned forthwith." Hear, hear!! American Idol and Dancing with the Stars makes me cringe.

    Christine in Alaska, Pretend Potentate of Programming in US

  8. Please get yourself to Broadcasting House - NOW. Your revised schedule is exactly what Radio 4 needs, and can you possibly sort out The Archers whilst you're about it?

    I've taken out 48 Leylandii in the last two years, does that count as wanton tree felling? OK, they were over 40 feet tall and blocking rhe neighbours view of the fells but it's still a major chainsaw massacre by anyone's standards.

  9. I have great sympathy for BilboWaggins' neighbour - our neighbour has a 3.3 metre high b.... Leylandii hedge blocking any view or sun we might have had coming from that side. Apart from that, hedge-fellers deserve all the grief they might get. Love the Hepaticas, they are lovely.

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  11. Cheers Helen. First thing we did when moving here in 2008 was get a tree surgeon in. The neighbours had been complaining about the Leylandii for 20+ years but the previous owners didn't seem to give a ****

  12. I caused a bit of a GQT fisticuffs when I asked about growing a wisteria as a tree. John Cushnie said I was far too young to be contemplating such a long exercise, then Ann Swithinbank and Bob Flowerdew completely disagreed.

    The wisteria died as did the trees mentioned in NAH's supplementary question asked just in case the pukka questions didn't fill the allotted air time.

  13. I totally agree about rubbish TV. You would think there would have to be something on one of the 50 or so channels we have - but no. Except for BBC 4's 'The Killing' which is a beautifully crafted piece of work with believable characters that makes you completely forget that it is subtitled. You can catch up on the series on BBC Iplayer if you haven't started watching it.

    I still like Just a Minute but it depends who is on. Shappi Khorsandi (very good comedienne live on stage) just doesn't work on it - far too 'in your face'.

    Like LazyTrollop I adore the hepatica displays at the RHS London halls - I did buy a couple which sadly disappeared so I don't think my garden is good for them either.

  14. Lots of lovely comments. Thank you all.

    I forgot to say 'Schwefelglanz' is a pale yellow variety of winter aconite but the cat really has buried mine while using my 'treasures bed' as a latrine.

    Ms B, Arabella - Hepaticas are easy, I find, if you don't fuss over them. Mine grow in my mini-woodland garden, in leaf-mouldy soil, in partial shade. You need to get them out of the pots sharpish.

    VP - I grow two wisterias as trees and they're lovely. It's easy-peasy. I'll tell you how I did it next time we meet.

    I agree about the Leylandii. Out of control, they're horrible.

    Bilbo - I don't think they'd listen to me at Broadcasting House. Last time I was there, I got told off by my producer and even the doorman was somewhat brusque with me. Anyway, everyone's too preoccupied decamping to Manchester. Poor, poor Manchester - except it's really Salford which is the NON POSH side of that great cotton city.

    Christine B - let's develop a united front against banal broadcasting! UFABB for ever!!

    Patient G - I believe that if a neighbour's apple tree hangs fruit over your side, you're entitled to the crop - but perhaps not.

    Er, that's it. But thanks again, everyone!

  15. Ooh, I love Lagaan. It's a fantastic film. I bought it for a cricket-mad friend and we sat down one rainy Saturday afternoon and watched the whole thing. Bliss.

  16. The Hepatica is new to me and I've been gazing into its picture.

    Gardeners Question Time is repetitive but that's because we've heard it all before. If we hadn't been listening for so long, it wouldn't be boring. If I were still sitting in my school history or maths lessons I would be saying the same but that doesn't mean new people who come along shouldn't ask the same old questions or be given the same old answers. However . . . I do wonder why people don't just look things up on the internet.

    Just a Minute - almost everything depends on who the panelists are.

    Woman's Hour - they did try a Men's programme but it . . . not sure . . . think it ran out of steam / didn't generate enough interest. With Woman's Hour, the name may be odd but the content is often important.

    The Archers - has lost faith with its listeners by killing the only cheerful, kind, open-minded, tolerant, enthusiastic, humorous, funny and committed character. I listened to it because it was the same year in, year out. This Radio 4 predictability is reassuring - like reading detective novels where you know everything will be resolved and the world made safe again.

    On the other hand - some of the other programmes you mention (which I too like - Material World etc.) could be more content dense. (I reckon.)

    People in the south, unlike those in the North East and in Scotland, are kipper deprived. The only ones we can buy here are thin, uninteresting strips of stuff instead of big and meaty and mouth filling, blasting with flavour, huge fish. (Kippers here don'd even look like fish.)


  17. Now you have to admit Nigel, that whilst all this blogging/IT lark is ok you cannot pot up a million seedlings or skulk in your potting shed with a good excuse, at the same time! NOW, that really is the joy of GQT - escape to the Shed!

    Why don't all we bloggers set up a new TV Gardening non-stop channel instead. Any thoughts on that folks?

  18. The hepaticas are stunning.

    If you enjoyed Wildwood try Tales from Walnut Tree Farm a great collection of Roger Deakins writing...such a shame such a great naturalist and writer died so young and with so much more to write I would think.