Friday, 7 September 2012


What a simply delicious September some of us are having.  Golden, dewy morns, a touch of mist,
new autumn flowers opening almost every day and warm, balmy afternoons.  Enjoy them while you can.

Lovelies in my garden include Aster asperula which, unlike most autumn daisies, has beautiful, broad leaves as well as sparse but large, soft blue flowers. It's good to team with Schizostylis coccinea 'Major.'   

Pick of the bunch for us, though, has been Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivanii.  None of my plants is a named variety - they're all self-sown seedlings - but what performers! These are proper 'black-eyed Susans' with chocolate centres, durable, egg-yolk ray florets and good standing power.  Few autumn perennials have benefited as much as they, from the wet summer.  

 Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivanii on 6th September in our autumn border.

No time for gardening. 
The PG and I will cross the Atlantic, next week, to travel across the United States.  It's a big trip and more to the point, the first we've taken, in decades,  purely for pleasure.  Work of one kind or another has influenced almost everything we've done overseas, for the last 30 years.  But this trip is, essentially, a jolly.

I'm not telling you our itinerary – you'll have to watch that unfold – but I can reveal that Washington, Chicago and San Francisco are on our route though, alas, New Orleans, Charleston and Seattle are not.

The U.S. Presidential Election campaigns will add political spice.  But they probably won't prevent me from being baffled about how American politics actually work.  We'll see, first hand, the effects of the worst drought since the 1930s, in the Mid-West, and will try to understand its devastating effect on people who earn their living from agriculture.   And in parts of California, there's a potentially deadly mouse-borne virus which may, or may not change our plans.

We will also be spending a night on  RMS Queen Mary, at Long Beach, Ca.  She is not a cruise ship but rather, an ocean liner.  It won't be my first time aboard her.  As I write these words, on 7th September, I recall that on the same date in 1964, I was crossing the Atlantic on the Queen Mary and would return, four years later, on her sister Cunarder RMS Queen Elizabeth.  More on her in a week or three.

There'll be some strange, quirky and hopefully, entertaining dispatches, on the blog, so watch this space.

Just now, though, we're in a pother and a dither over what to take and what to leave.  It will be hot in some places but cold in others.  And in September it can freeze overnight but swelter at midday.  What's more, we'll be tramping along mountain tracks one day, and poncing about in fancy city venues the next.  And we've imposed a  rule on ourselves that each must be able to carry all our own luggage, so cabin trunks are out and porters only employed when we're desperate.  (Expect a rant, in forthcoming issues, about America and the Tipping Culture!)

One of our fences, expertly wired and beautifully furnished with burgeoning climbers – not! The shadows are pretty, though!

We'll travelling mainly by train – no internal flights.  But every time I think of that, my mind fills, not with sensible clothing lists, but with images of Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in drag, in Some Like it Hot.  Or of Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye singing Snow!, with George Clooney's Aunt Rosemary and owner of the world's most waspish waist, Vera Ellen.  What a crime that Vera Ellen was not given equal star status with Crosby, Kaye and Clooney in that deliciously cloying festive extravaganza White Christmas!

And thank heavens for iPads!
Usually, on long trips, we take enough books to fill a cabin trunk - a Dickens or three, some poetry, field guides on birds, flora and mammals, travel guides, real ale guides, restaurant guides and so on.  But for this trip, just The Birds of North America in print and Audubon Field guide Apps for the rest.

I've never read a word of G. K. Chesterton – perhaps a bad omission, so for £1.99 I downloaded his complete works.  And for good measure, added complete works of DH Lawrence and Joseph Conrad, both of whom are overdue for re-reading.  And to think that as well as being weightless and fitting within the iPad, this huge volume of literature has cost me only £5.97!

I'm Listening to Schubert's Der Winterreise sung by the sadly missed and incomparable Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.  He died earlier this year.

This week's film was Ralph Fiennes' adaptation of Shakespeare's Coriolanus.  Not my favourite play, even on stage, but the first part of this film wasn't even Shakespeare.  It began like a Hollywood-style action movie, geared for unhealthy adolescent minds and concentrating on killing as noisily and as graphically as possible.  But after half an hour, and with amazing performances from Vanessa Redgrave and Fiennes himself, the remnants of the original play, and a glimmer of Shakespeare's genius showed through.

COMING SOON...  Heathrow security, jetlag, a dip in the Hudson and a report on whether New Yorkers are as rude as Londoners, these days. 

Bye bye.


  1. Wow, two post in such a short time. I shall be looking forward to rants and other bits of writing from over there, enjoy your trip, sounds very much like the thing I'd like to do.

  2. Have an absolutely marvellous time. I have the worlds most enormous suitcase as I always take huge amounts of stuff with me. I used to have a lovely olld samsonite suitcase which I adored and it had been everywhere with me but The Bedsock made me get a new one with proper wheels and trolley handle as the samsonite one was too heavy for him to lug everywhere. It was like parting with an old friend.

    I am already looking forward to your travel tales.

  3. Have a wonderful time. The iGit and I have a Golden Triangle trip all mapped out, but until our perpetual studenty kids stop placing demands on the bank of Mum and Dad, I fear these plans will remain on the shelf marked 'One Day'.

    Train travel in the US is a revelation after being a commuter here for many years. We caught the train from NYC Penn. Station to Washington DC. Wonderful scenery in comfort at affordable prices. Hardly noticed we had been sat on a train 4 hours. We managed to 'do' all the sights in DC and return that evening to NYC. Highlight for me was seeing some of Da Vinci's work in the art Museum. Pretty amazing stuff in the Smithonian too.

    Daughter recently returned from SF and other spots in CA/Mexico and recommends its highly, just be prepared for it to take a long time to get back into the USA from the Mexico side.

    Looking forward to hearing about your exploits.