Friday, 9 December 2011


I'm dreaming up horrible destinations for the undeserving.  Here's one (described below in reddish type by my good friend J Milton) that I had previously planned for certain bankers.  

However, I feel, now, that perpetrators of mindless bureaucracy have the prior claim on this choice region of hell.  Details on the particular piece of catastrophically silly, pointless and – thankfully – unenforceable piece of pillocky legislation will follow in a mo. . . 

First the pome fragment . . .
A dungeon horrible, on all sides round,
As one great furnace flamed; yet from those flames
No light; but r
ather darkness visible
Served only to discover sights of woe,
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes
That comes to all, but torture without end
Still urges, and a fiery deluge, fed

With ever-burning sulphur unconsumed.

Yes, that would do nicely for faceless ones who stride past, staring through me with their dead eyes, some mornings, when I'm alone and palely loitering in the vicinity of Whitehall.

And then,  a pretty thing. It's cold, nasty winter but not yet Christmas – so we need tropical pictures to warm up our cockles – whatever they are.  (Hope it's not rude.)

Here's the first. . .

 A Common Birdwing butterfly, Troides helena photographed when we were last in Peninsular Malaysia

Oh, and answers to the last film quiz which was here, are these:  
The film was the Coen Brothers' Fargo and the man who did the stamps was Norm Gunderson, played by John Carroll Lynch whose wife, Police Person Marge, was played by Frances McDormand.  When Norm grumbles because his painting was chosen for a small denomination stamp, Marge cheers him up by saying that when the postage rate goes up, his will be the stamp everyone will use, to make up the difference.

And now here's this week's film quiz.  

First an easy one
Who said:
'That's the way it crumbles, cookie-wise.'  
Bonus points for the character name, and the star to whom he or she is speaking?

And now a nasty one for Victoria. . . 
Who said this:
You wanted a recording of my voice, well here it is.
And can you finish the quote?

Dahlia 'Fascination' - like a cheap, pink negligée.
Dahlias will be harder to overwinter, safely, for reasons you can read about below.

Now the rant.
If you want something to make you furious – I mean apart from the unbridled arrogance of the Merkozy cuddly snuggle-up which will NOT do much to stabilise the crumbling mess that was the Euro – look no further than the latest scriddick of asinine, anserine, indeed positive ovine legislation that directly concerns all good gardeners.  And I mean even organic ones.

From 1st January 2012 it will be illegal to dust gladiolus bulbs, dahlia tubers – or anything prone to the rots – with sulphur powder.  

That's right.  Sulphur may be one of earth's commonest elements.  It may, with carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and nitrogen, be one of the building blocks of our bodies, not to mention everything we grow and eat.  It may be organically approved and as safe, nearly, as tap water.  But its use as a fungicide dust will, from next year, be verboten. 

And anyone who so much as dangles a leaky packet of sulphur over a crate of over-wintering dahlia roots could be committing an offence under the Food and Environmental Protection Act.  

Now that, in itself, is totally bloody silly.  But it gets even more barmy when you realise that gardeners will still be allowed to buy and use sulphur to sprinkle on their gardens if they want to increase the acidity of their soil, or to use it as a plant nutrient. 

WHAAAAAAAAT?????  So it's not banned because it's considered dangerous.  They don't mind you having it but forbid you to use it in any way but the one they prescribe.  And that's sulphur.  Something  so abundant, in some areas of the world, that you could gather up a bucketful simply by dragging it along the ground.

So what panel of cretins dreamed up that one?  More to the point, how many pointless and tedious meetings, each squandering entire rain forests of paper, printed with impenetrable text, all in Civilservantese, had to be held, to come up with that particular piece of utterly pointless legislation?

And how will it be policed?  Will check-out staff, at garden centres, come over all officious, like Boots pharmacy counter assistants, and demand to know what the stuff you're buying will be used for?  

Perhaps the police – who, I'm told, are worryingly undermanned and overworked – will deploy burly constables to come and smash down our shed doors, hoping to catch us furtively sprinkling flowers of sulphur (posh name for sulphur powder) onto our begonia tubers while pretending that we were about to use the stuff as a rhododendron tonic.

I'm not sure where all this nonsense originates from.  It has a hideously strong whiff of Brussels about it, possibly coupled with Nannistate and New Labour and I DO NOT APPROVE OF IT.

The wise way forward is pretty obvious.  I can't tell you how to get round the problem, because even though the law, in this case, is an ass and should be strongly contested and objected to, the law as a whole has to be respected, don't you think?  

Or if not respected, obeyed until, by popular pressure, it can be changed.  So why don't those bodies with muscle - the RHS, the HTA, Garden Organic and others unite, get together and tell the legislators to stop being so bloody silly and repeal the stupid law this instant!

Here's another nice Asian plant, Amherstia nobilis, a superb member of the pea family which grows as quite a large tree and is native to Myanmar (Burma.)   The racemes were nearly 60cms long.  I fell in love with this while visiting the Kuala Lumpur botanic gardens.  There were Long Tailed Macaque monkeys,  Macaca silenus, playing in a stream nearby.

I'm listening to Erik Satie Gymnopedies 1 -3

This day in 2005  The PG and I visited Hanson's Chocolate Shop in Folkingham to buy expensive but delicious chocolate things for the Christmas crowd. The shop is still going strong. Even Lincolnshire, it seems, has a certain amount of Sloaniness, enabling a business like that to survive in such a small village.  Mostly, though, it's the three Ms, round here – Money, Muck and Misery.  That evening, we went to a cocktail party in Rutland.

This week's film was John Boorman's Hope and Glory, a little classic much loved by the PG and me.  We had a Boorman relative to stay, and since she had not seen the film, used that as an excuse to play it again and watch it with her.  It's an exquisite glimpse at middle class suburbia in wartime, through the eyes of a school boy who learns the rudest word in the English language and how to bowl a Googly, all in the space of a few days.  Ian Bannen plays his irascible grandfather to a tee. I've a feeling, had he really existed, that he'd have enjoyed this grandpa's awful blog.

(If you need to know what a Googly is, look at one being delivered here.   The knack is not to give the game away to the batsman - but then, a clever bat will usually spot a googly in time and play it accordingly.)

Bless you for your patience, and bye bye for now!


  1. How ridiculous but at least we can still buy and unless they are going to have sulphur dusting detector vans like they do for TV licences what can they do. The one that always gets me are the notices in shops saying that crackers are dangerous under the firearms act or some such nonsense.

    I particularly admired your use of different colours to enhance your rage

  2. It's from the wonderful 'The Apartment' and it's Jack Lemmon speaking to Shirley McLaine (Miss Kubelik), but I can't remember Jack Lemmon's character name!

    As the second one's for Victoria, I'll let her have a go 1st, though I'll just say the ending of the quote is quite shocking and the remake isn't a patch on the original.

  3. Lovely Birdwing, lovely Amherstia nobilis.

    If you were a suffragette and believed in direct action, you'd stand outside Parliament - and blatantly sprinkle your dahlias in front of the police.

  4. It's not the only madness like that - I bet you could name a few more. What about Root Out? Also with silly restricted use. Then all that deadly stuff restricting licences for seeds...And?

    People see these things and think they are being warned off deadly chemicals. Gardeners do believe a lot in deadly chemicals, even though they are made up of them. So they are hardly going to protest.

    Share your feelings but me? I'd go on dusting and hope to get arrested for it. That would be fun..

  5. I know the second one - didn't bother to watch the remake as the original couldn't be improved on.

    Gymnopedies my favourite music ever. Had I been introduced to Satie at a young age instead of having to play reams of boring Bach I would never have given up the piano.

  6. Thanks for your comments.
    The second film question is not specifically for Victoria. It's just that she seems to have remarkable filmic erudition, so is mentioned as a benchmark for high standards.

  7. At the risk of inflaming your rage still further, a friend with an organic vineyard was told by the Soil Assoc that he wasn't allowed to use a solution made from pine needles as a weed suppressant but was allowed to use the pine needles themselves as a mulch to keep the weeds down. He stopped being certified immediately.

    And may I commend you on the use of cricket within a seemingly unrelated blog.

  8. I too was dismayed to read in Garden News that in the New Year I will not be able to dust the cuts on my pelargoniums when I take cuttings, or dust my dahlia tubers. How will they police it? It's another Armillatox which cannot now be used to treat honey fungus or moss, but with the exact same ingredients I can clean my patio with it!

  9. Nothing to do with this post - but thought this article might interest you.

    Hope you have had a very Happy Christmas.