Tuesday 26 May 2009


Papaver orientale 'Saffron' with Bowles Golden Grass, Mileum effusum 'Aureum' and marigolds.

Wasn't the summer wonderful?  Three delicious days of blissful sunshine, swallows crapping all over the car in the garage, bless them, and gentle airs bringing the scent of field beans wafting into the garden to blend with a socking great perennial stock which is flowering furiously, despite its roots being crammed into a paving crack. 

I don't know whether anyone else does this, but I tend to travel through life, guided by seasonal milestones.  The arrival of the swifts, here, tells me that spring is moving summerwards and once they are settled into our roof - where several pairs nest each year – I know that it's time to rummage in the chest for shorts and sandals.  You should know that I invariably wear sandals with socks.  (Better to come out to the Fashion Police, now, about such things, than to be spotted at large, so badly dressed as to cause surprise, alarm,  despair and terror.  

A big summer milestone, for me, is the emergence of the first poppy.  Meconopsis, especially blue ones, are pushy, premature and don' t really count but the year's first startling, red, wild field poppy is a true and peerless herald. 

Seeing those first bright blooms among lengthening roadside grasses, or lining a cornfield, always delights.  This year, the first Papaver rhoeas startled me into a spasm of frenzied hand clapping while yodelling a bar or three from the Hallelujah Chorus - which would have been acceptable if I hadn't been driving down a narrow Rutland lane at the time.

Poppies really are extra special.  They float my boat absolutely.  They are utterly the biz.  So to celebrate three days of precocious summer, I thought I'd treat you to a few piccies which I dashed into the garden to shoot at the week-end.  This was done between sowing the last of the vegetables in the new raised beds, re-potting some of the containers on the terrace, digging out exhausted parsley plants which had grown an impressive 1.5 metres high, making runner bean wigwams and showing my 6 year old granddaughter the similarities between Pacific Coast and bearded irises. 

While doing that, I had to discourage her two year old sister from drowning herself in the micro-pond, garotting herself with string intended for the runner beans, feasting on foxglove leaves or monkshood and trying out a bit of self-pruning with my Felco secateurs.  Phew!  I'd forgotten how much self-destruction an under 3 can achieve in about 15 seconds of not being watched.

But here, without further ado, here's a montage of Poppies out in my garden on Spring Bank Holiday Weekend

Papaver orientale 'Saffron' - same as top picture, but with fading flower.  A bloom which dies with such grace, is better than an opera heroine at Covent Garden - not to mention, a dam' sight cheaper!

One of my annual poppies.  This one, I suspect, is a hybrid between Papaver rhoeas and the Eastern European P. apulum.  The white halo over the dark pollen guides is typical of the latter species, as is the deep, intense red.

Why does this bud remind me of the GQT we once did at a naturist camp, one chilly morning, in deepest Kent?  It is of Papaver 'Snow Goose,' raised by National Collection holder Sandy Worth, and certainly worth growing!  It stands well, despite the wind and has nice bracts cradling the bud.

Papaver 'Snow Goose' when fully open, bereft of its pubescent calyx and all the better for that! The white is brilliant, but with just a smidgin of a faint trace of pink, to soften it, and with nicely showing pollen guides.

The real Papaver 'Patty's Plum.'  Having wanted it for some time, I'm not so sure, now I've got it.  A great 'flower show' poppy, but rather a grungy pinkle (purplish-pink) in the garden.  I think I prefer these two below:

This was sold to me as P. 'Patty's Plum' which it obviously isn't.  Lovely seedling, though, and I'm glad to have it.  Harmonising, here with the chocolate leaved Persicaria 'Red Dragon.'

The seedling in close-up.  The flowers fade deliciously from blackcurrant fool to a gentle blancmange

The only British Meconopsis - M. cambrica the Welsh Poppy.  An invasive pest, but so wonderful for crowding together in a shady spot where little else will thrive.

Here's the orange form of Welsh Poppy, Meconopsis cambrica var aurantiaca, which seeds nicely behind a fence for me.

And finally . . . don't forget the poppy relatives.  Greater Celandine, Chelidonium majus (above) is a delightful wall weed and looks lovely with Welsh Poppies.  New to our garden this year is a poppy shrub, last seen growing wild, in California, Dendromecon rigida.  Then there are all the dicentras, Corydalis, Hylomecon, fumitories, plume poppies and so on.  But enough, as they say, is enough.

I'm listening to Nicholas Maw's Odyssey.  A great British composer who died last week, and whose music is not listened to nearly often enough.  Odyssey lasts 90 minutes, so you need patience and a careful ear.  

This week's film was Sergio Leone's  Once Upon a Time in the West.  A long Western which pulls no punches, and which has the most compelling opening sequence of any film ever made. The ravishing Claudia Cardinale could hardly look more out of place and speaks in Italian with English dubbed in afterwards.  Hmmmm. And the usually angelic, baby-blue-eyed Henry Fonda makes a surprisingly spine-chilling villain.  Good story, too, with breathtaking scenery divine horses and much roisterdoistering.  What more could a body want?

This day in  2006 I was being bombarded by my publishers with requests for last minute alterations to a tome, Plant Solutions, on which I was doing a lot of work for very little money.

Happy Whitsun.  Bye!

Thursday 21 May 2009


Well TGCO! (see footnote) That’s all I can say. TGCO! I might even say TFCO, but that would be unnecessarily rude. Today’s pictures, apart from the one below, are by the Photographer General, who was in the Royal Hospital, Chelsea's ground for the same number of hours as I was, this week, but who kept as far away from me as possible.

The Photographer General at Chelsea, in pre-opening chaos, composing a portrait of her left foot.

EACH YEAR, as the days begin to lengthen, a tiny black cloud begins to develop in my otherwise moderately well balanced psyche. At first, it’s no more than a puff of acrid vapour but over the weeks, as snowdrops dissolve to crocuses to daffodils to primroses to tulips, that small nag of blackness grows to a vast, billowing thunderhead of despair and rage and evil foreboding.

My absolute favourite New Plant at this year's Chelsea:  Conus 'Venus.'

And as May moves into double figures, my full loathing of the Chelsea Flower Show finally erupts into an all consuming grump. Scrooge is merely a little downbeat about Christmas, compared with my attitude to the ‘World’s Premier Flower Show.’ I know I shouldn’t resort to the carrion comfort of despair – Gerard Manley Hopkins says so – but when we move into the third week in May, I begin to wish I was Jacob Marley. (Or maybe Bob Marley – still dead, but the music’s better!)

But now its over, for me, and for everyone else on Saturday. Praise be! Hallelujah! Juggle my jimmy in a jamjar – it’s done, dusted, concluded, completed. It is no more. It is a show gone by. A has been. And there are just over fifty one glorious weeks before we have to suffer all over again.And you know, the really stupid thing about bloody Chelsea is that once I’m there, I quite enjoy it. 

There are no scarring memories, this year, but I have to say there were some extremely peculiar moments. So at the risk of boring you, this Ascension Day, I’ll jot down a few things that come to mind.

Bloms Tulips decided to try something completely new and different, this year - big vases of tulips!

Long hours.  Sunday wasn’t too arduous but on Monday, I started work at 7.15 am and finished chairing the final moderation meeting with judging panel chairmen at 10.23pm. In those hours, I moderated all gardens as part of a panel to ratify awards with show garden, urban garden and courtyard garden judges. I’m not, I confess, a great fan of Chelsea type gardens, preferring to wallow in the ill-designed mess that is my own back yard, but I recognise excellence when, as in the case of the Telegraph Garden and the Laurent Perrier Garden, it gets up and smacks me imperiously in the face.  All those hedges, and plants beaten into shape.

The corpses of hyacinths, freshly out of cold store.  Another example of the natural world at Chelsea.

I also had to chair the Tender Ornamental Plant or TOP committee, as we like to call ourselves. We discussed activities for next year and assessed some new Streptocarpus varieties.

After that, lunch. The PG and I hosted a table whose guests included the High Commissioner of Singapore and his wife, Toby Buckland, the Lord Mayor of Kensington and Chelsea and a delightful couple who had donated telephone numbers of money to the Wisley Glasshouse. The lunchtime speech was by Prof. Steve Jones who rewrote Darwin’s Origin of Species in an gloriously readable and gripping book entitled Almost Like a Whale.

Then I had to dash off and moderate the floral exhibits. With a team of three, to cover everything, we had little time to assess the newly finished exhibits. My top choices were the Hardy Plant Society, for an utterly enchanting exhibit of perennials, many rare, all beautiful and superbly arranged. 

Winchester Growers’ Dahlias were also utterly fantastic. What an achievement, to get so many dahlias into bloom in May! That takes horticultural skill, a certain amount of foolhardiness and total faith. I also loved the Cayman Island’s underwater scene. Very clever, and you would hardly have known that the corals were plastic. The goose barnacles, on the other hand, were absolutely real.

A wholly naturalistic arrangement of gerberas on the City of Durban's Stand.

Then, off to wipe dust from shoes, tighten the tie and go to meet the Royals. The PG and I had Prince Charles and Camilla to show round, along with the brilliant and charming Highgrove head gardener, Debs Goodenough and supported by the RHS Director of Science and learning, Simon Thornton Wood and his wife. Good manners prevents me from repeating anything that was discussed, but all I can say is that the experience was terrifying, because we had to keep re-developing our itinerary, but utterly delightful.

HRH was to receive the Victoria Medal of Honour – the highest award the RHS has to bestow – from his Mum, and we had been told that there was to be not a moment’s delay, when she arrived. Thus, we had to do a bit of studied shimmying around Peter Beales’ exhibit, near the presentation dais, where HRH was presented with a huge bush of the Highgrove Rose, and also around the Hardy Plant Society’s stand until Her Majesty turned up. But after a few tense moments and a series of stately gavottes with equerries, detectives and Persons in Waiting revolving around each other, Her Majesty arrived and it all came together as smoothly as a Bonio slides down a Labrador’s gullet.

A bonsai specimen of Crataegus laevigata 'Crimson Cloud.'  A wholly unnatural cultural process which result in the most natural-looking plant, but in microcosm.  Miraculous!  

I was determined to drag Their Royal Highnesses round the back of the show, through Ranelagh Gardens, so that they could see my out and out fave – the Fenland Apothecary’s Garden. This was a charming evocation of a Fen Tiger’s shack, not much less humble than our own abode, which happens to border the Fens, and which made me homesick. The dignitaries were a bit dubious about disappearing into the trees, but Their Royal Highnesses were, I believe, pretty delighted with most of the Courtyard Gardens round there, and particularly with the Fen one.  

It was gratifying to know that the Royal visits were being commentated by A.W.J. James the Hat, who is pretty much a TV treasure, these days.  I've never seen him looking so spruce.

No dinner for me, but more meetings followed the Royals’ visit and by the time I got out of the showground I was ready for a very very very large whisky and soda.  Another day on Tuesday – but I think you’ve had more than enough.

The apotheosis of good garden design and sound plantsmanship: a garden made with plasticene.

And that was Chelsea.  Oh, apart from two jolly outcomes: I’ve got a greenhouse coming in August. Hartley Botanic – what else!? – and can’t wait to get it home, erected and stocked with pretties.  And also, I’m going to Singapore, with the PG,  to help out with Community Gardening Projects next June.  A really bad time to leave England, but heck, it’s South East Asia!  Any excuse to go to my favourite part of the world.

I’m listening to Bach’s Cantata number 11 – for Ascension Day. A lovely old recording with Kathleen Ferrier singing the big contralto aria (hairs bristling on neck with pleasure, tears ready to start) and conducted by Dr Jaques.

This day in 1985  I visited the Hillier Arboretum and was impressed by a magnificent Malus transtoria, among other trees. We stayed in Winchester, visited Jane Austen’s grave and listened to Winchester Cathedral Choir singing Byrd and Tallis for Evensong.

No film this week. Just Chelsea.

Oh Lor – another endlessly overlong post. I’m so sorry. I really must stop getting carried away.

(Footnote: TGCO: Thank God Chelsea’s Over but you got that, didn’t you? Of course you did.)

Goodly bye.

Saturday 16 May 2009


I wrote this post on the train and pasted to the blog, so if there are any mistakes, sorry!

To Scotland – Och Aye! – to deliver the RHS Lecture for the Friends of Cruickshank Botanic Garden in the University of Aberdeen.  A ridiculously brief overnight sojourn which barely exceeds the rail travel time each way, but needs must when Chelsea looms. (My work at Chelsea begins today and lasts well into next week.)

A temple of trees, in Tom Smith's Aberdeen Garden. 

If you haven’t taken the East Coast rail route to Edinburgh, you won’t know what a remarkable journey it is. The best bits begin after York when you pass Darlington, home of the world’s first ever railway, on to Durham, where the Venerable Bede is buried and where the cathedral stands proudly on its hill; on to Auld Reekie, as Scotland’s capital was affectionately dubbed, then, over that triumph of innovative engineering, the Firth of Forth bridge – they’re still painting it – and up to Dundee, where the train trundles over the ‘silv'ry’ Tay, with reminders of William McGonegall’s awful doggerel rhyme.  

Thence to Montrose, where a flock of eider duck were swimming in the estuary, to Arbroath, famed for its smoked haddock, Stonehaven and finally to the Granite City itself, Aberdeen.
The coastal route was spectacularly colourful with gorse looking like intense golden yellow scatter rugs peppered among emerald turf, close-cropped by beef cattle, rugged Scottish sheep and on one farm, surprisingly, a small herd of Bison.

There were frequent glimpses through crags and cliff gaps, at the North Sea which was azure, for once, in such brilliant sunshine. This was the clearest of days, with perfect visibility and the air crisp, cool and refreshing.

I was met by Ian Alexander, Keeper of the Cruickshank Botanic Garden and, because we had an afternoon free, carted off to visit the garden of Tom Smith, a retired Professor of Physics.

Meconopsis cultivar in Tom Smith's garden

In the suburbs of Aberdeen, one did not expect a huge acreage. But neither did one expect a life-changing lesson, not just in how to use an outdoor space to best advantage, but also, how to sustain personal vigour, vim and creativity in advancing years.

Tom Smith would not object, I hope, to my mentioning that he is not by any means a young man, having been retired for a long time. But his zest for exciting new garden projects would be exceptional in a man half his age.

His is garden is not merely divided into rooms, but consists of a complex series of small events, each causing a moment of contemplation before moving on to the next, but all skilfully linked together, creating a harmonious whole.  

Densely planted areas are arranged in orbit round a large, disc-shaped lawn from which one can view such prominent features as a tall, narrow circle of fastigiate trees which create a temple-like enclosure; a small, blue summerhouse, whose interior mirrors the garden in a brightly painted mural which covers all four walls and ceiling with life-like flowers, trees and shrubs and sky. 

And most prominent of objects, a vast chunk of gneiss rock, looking like a gigantic salt crystal, rhombic in shape with subtle faces and angles, interesting colour suffusions and a remarkable sense of mass. Oh, but there were so many more, fascinating and often perplexing features.

Tom’s plant knowledge is profound and his collection vast. Rhododendron species bloomed above spectacular blue Himalayan Meconopsis; trilliums and wood anemones grew in drifts and through one area, a clipped hedge resembled a serpent, ‘reeling and writhing’ through the understorey where the lower limbs of conifers and shrubs had been cut away to reveal their distinctive curved trunks.  

Denuded trunks, making green caverns.

By denuding the conifer trunks, he has admitted more daylight, thereby allowing more ground flora. But that has also created intriguing caverns with their own special spaces revealing almost subterranean vistas and atmospheres.  

Not a single inch of this garden is neglected; not a millimetre of space is overlooked as a golden opportunity, not just for accommodating an interesting plant, but for use as yet another fragment of artistic expression.  

A memorable garden – thank you so much, Tom, for what you taught me on my brief visit. I hope you won’t mind me pinching some of your ideas.

I'm listening to my heart going pitter-pat because I'm running late for the cattle truck which will transport me to bloody Chelsea. (Not that I'm negative about it or anything.  After all, who would want to be in their garden, in May???????)

This week's film was Funeral in Berlin a 60s adaptation of Len Deighton's novel with a youthful, wavy-haired Michael Caine under-acting to perfection.

This day in 2006  the PG and I were photographing a buttercup meadow with cows in it.


Saturday 9 May 2009


INTO my heart on air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?
                                             A. E. Housman

Garden Judges at enthusing over the show gardens at Malvern.

You know it really is spring when the Malvern Show comes round again.  So there I was, on Wednesday afternoon, a little breathless from being late, joining the Garden Judges to assess this year's creations.  Meanwhile, a vicious gale was bouncing off the Malvern Hills, getting under our shirts and playfully wrecking all the careful planting and prinking that had just taken place.

The gardens at Malvern are better, this year, than they have ever been.   I loved the variety and the imagination: moonlight colours with plants selected for their soft tints, in flower and leaf, which would light up best at night; a wood to dance through; cyclical learning with old tyres and Quality Street sweetie tins turned into giant abacuses; scary dragons which breathed paraffin fumes; a sleazy theatre for burlesque shows and another one designed for retired dancers who have just finished Putting on the Ritz.

Scroll down for more pictures.

The judges, as you can see, were ecstatic about all they saw.  On the first public day of the show, I was knobbled by Nina, the bouncing firecracker of a lady who is the perfectly matched combination of glamour, talent and energy and who organises all the publicity for the show. She had thanked me profusely, the day before, for a plug in the Daily Mail.  But now she tore me off a strip (ouch!!!) for so few high awards in the gardens.   I explained to her that two Golds and a cluster of Siver Gilts was an excellent result, particularly since the RHS has raised the bar significantly since the early Malvern shows.

We dropped by at the excellently designed outdoor Theatre, hoping to see the
Award Winning Journalist J-AS  performing in his usual charismatic and comedic fashion.  I expected cavorting celebrities gushing about flars 'n' gardens but instead watched a very worthy Mr Beardshaw listening to an even more worthy garden designer making a solemn case for being part of his mentorship scheme thingy.  Also on stage was an even more sombre Robert Hillier, fellow RHS Trustee and meganurseryman.   The wit and charisma of the aforementioned AWJ was being made to work overtime.  I hope he had more fun later in the day.

As always with flowershows, it is the Floral Displays that really float my coracle.  Because I finished my duties very early on the Thursday morning, there was time for purchasing lots of goodies, including sausages, Welschcakes, cheese and superb Scottish lamb in the food halls.  

I was smitten by Claire Austin's wonderful irises, especially the Arilbred jobs.  What fantastic garden plants they are going to be!

Dwarf Bearded Irises on Claire Austin's Stand at Malvern

Woodland lovelies continue to woo me. Yet another Tiarella foamed its way into my heart, as did the rich cream Trollius x cultorum 'Cheddar.'  Variegated things usually leave me colder than death but I just couldn't resist Disporum sessile 'Variegatum.'  The palest cream-white stripes are subtle and go so beautifully with the green-tipped, pendant flowers.  If I ever wore pyjamas (pajamas to you lot over there) they would be precisely that colour.

For sheer spectacle, Southfields cactuses were in full song, with vivid orange, pink and yellow flowers among the spikes but my fave, beyond all, was Fir Trees Nursery proprietor Helen Bainbridge's wonderful show of pelargoniums.  At the apex of her central arch, she had hung a huge, overflowing basket of Pelargonium renata parsley.  This is one of the prettiest of the tribe, with oar-shaped, toothed leaves and wine-pink and near-white, bicoloured flowers.  It's an absolute sod to grow and yet hers must have been a metre across.  There's clever!  (Picture lower down)

Arilbred Iris 'Onlooker'

Last night (Friday) I was about to put on a DVD of Christian Bale and Russel Crowe in 3:10 to Yuma when I discovered that Gardeners' World was to feature Malvern and decided to stay with the programme for a bit.  I wish I hadn't.

The title sequence to the programme - is that new? - is spectacularly awful and induces seasickness.  The first 15 minutes of this episode had little to do with horticulture and I had the impression that I was seeing way too many people and too few plants and flowers.  Carol Klein's histrionic presentation goes well beyond manic.  She could upstage Ian McKellen and should try real theatre.  

Mr Buckland seems sound and sensible, although I notice that his faux enthusiasm has been razzed up to the tightest possible ratchet, too, since I last watched. Indeed, they all appear to have been directed to become ever more operatic, wild eyed and, well, luvvy-ish.  The scripty bits make one cringe but the horticultural content - the whole reason for the programme, for heaven's sake - gives the impression of having been shoved into third or fourth place.  

I think the presenters all do a difficult job with skill, panache and accomplishment.  But the programme makers, directors and their bosses at the BBC are not delivering what I, as a gardener would like to see and hear.  I want to know the names of the plants and how they behave. I want useful tips, hints and ideas.  I want to be introduced to new and lovely plants, and then to know whether I could grow them. 

When Toby B. had completed his '30 minute task,' I switched off.  It it really does take someone half an hour, to bung newspaper and a bit of compost into an old fruit box and then sow it with a few seeds, he should seek a different career.  A child could do the same thing in five minutes. Indeed, he did it in a single piece to camera before an adoring Malvern audience, so where does the 30 minute bit come in?  Or have I missed a point, here?  With my attention span, plus a second Friday whisky and soda, I probably have.

Fir Trees Nursery's display of pelargoniums.  Note renata parsley in the arch.

I'm listening to  Beethoven's Piano Sonata number 15 in D Opus 28.  The impeccable Alfred Brendel, known in our family, affectionately, as The BandAid Kid. - who else can do grumpy Beethoven better?  

The film, as you know, was 3:10 to Yuma.  A goodish modern Western with Crowe and Bale in top form.  The screenplay plods a bit at times, and sometimes the action was a little hard to follow but the ironic ending is so-o-o worth waiting for.  Not as good as Unforgiven but a decent bit of cinema.

This day in 1983  we were packing up the last of our potato crop (we farmed in those days) and had about 1 tonne left to go.  'They are highly whiskery,' I wrote in my diary, 'I hope they get sold.'  (They did.)  The General Election was announced that day, for 9th June and we ate at the local Chinese.

Gosh - there goes my resolution to do shorter posts.  Sorry! Sorry!  Bye Bye.

Tuesday 5 May 2009


Wisteria on the house at the RHS Garden, Rosemoor

I'm utterly aghast, shocked, dismayed, rueful and ashamed of my unbelievably idle and neglectful approach to this whole blog business.  It's bad enough not having posted for so long, but the greater crime is in not following other peoples' posts, not responding to those who have kindly contacted me and being generally slack, idle and no dam' good.  Sorry to all.

I plead excess of work - but that's the feeblest of excuses, when every gardener known to man is a busy as hell, just now, and yet so many of you have time to blog.  But it has been a bit pressing with far more travel than I normally like to do at this time of year.

We had the garden open, the week end before last, which was less of a sobering and cauterising experience than I feared.  But the main excitement, for me, was a ridiculously brief overnight dash to Devon, to attend an RHS Gardens Committee meeting at Rosemoor.  

An iPhone snap of bedding near the visitor centre at Rosemoor. 
 This is how bedding should be - brash, loud and glorious.

Any excuse to go to glorious Devon is good enough for me and if it involves a compulsory spell at the immaculate, inspired and staggeringly lovely gardens at Rosemoor, so much the better.

This is a garden of delights 365.25 days of the year and this spring, my lasting memory will be of the Wisterias flowering regally, on Lady Anne's house; the kitchen garden in full, feverish preparation for the coming season and perhaps above all, the reflections of virginally gold-green foliage in the 'lake.'  One is reminded of that deceptively deep and unsettling little poem by Robert Frost, Nothing Gold Can Stay. 

Early purple orchids flowered in the woods along the Torridge Valley.

They've made an area which they've called, somewhat pretentiously,  'The Brash,' designed for children to get close to nature.  It has natural-looking log seats - carefully planed to avoid splinters in delicate little bottoms - and big metal woodlice to wonder at.  The best thing about this spot, though, is that it gets the kids into the real woodland which flanks much of the garden.  This is lovely, dark, eerie woodland, carpeted with ferns and leading down to the mill leat and a temptingly boggy area where wildlife is rich and plentiful. What heaven this whole garden is!

'Step-over' and espalier apples in the Kitchen Garden at Rosemoor.

The good pictures, on this post were shot by my Better Half.  She's known, among close associates and friends, as 'The Photographer General,' partly because she likes nothing better than to lark about at flower shows and gardens, fiddling with her tripod and muttering dark incantations about 'white balance' and 'chromatic aberration' as she clicks away.  

Meanwhile I have to sit in boring meetings trying to be serious about the RHS and its functions.  (She was also once labelled 'P.G' at a Chelsea, thereby receiving far more deference and admiration than is merited.  The label should have read 'General Photographer,' meaning that she was shooting for our library, rather than doing commissioned work for Vogue or Gardens Illustrated.  But the name stuck.

My photoshoppery sketch of Bideford Bridge.

The rubbish pictures were snapped by me, either with my iPhone, which has its lens exactly where my index finger or thumb usually goes.   I also shot the non-Rosemoor pictures on my more grownup camera - they're not up to the PG's standard, I'm afraid.

Dramatic skies on the Torridge Estuary - with my 'grown up' camera.

I'm listening to my conscience, nagging me to get back to work.  But over the past few weeks, have been enjoying, act by act, the whole of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen on DVD - the 1980s Boulez production with Gwyneth Jones and Donald MacIntyre, now re-mastered in startlingly realistic DTS Sound.   Worth every penny.

I watched the drama doc Endgame about the secret talks to end Apartheid on Channel 4. Fascinating stuff but somehow, it didn't lend itself well to dramatisation, despite William Hurt's fairly convincing Afrikaaner accent and some fine filming.  It was plotless, and I do love a good plot.  

A propos of plots, can't anyone write an actual story, nowadays?  You know the sort of thing: a beginning, then an incident that sparks the action off, and then a series of horrendous and worsening experiences for the protagonist, followed by a gripping and harrowing climax, and then a denouement thingy to bring it all to a close. Why don't we get those any more?  If plots were good enough for Shakespeare, Dickens, Mrs Gaskell, Jane Austen, Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene, why won't they do today?  Answer me someone, please!!!!!  Meanwhile, I'll continue to blame that wicked old sham Jean Luc Godard.  A Bout de Souffle?  Breathless?  You bet, but with rage, frustration and boredom, not with excitement!!!

This day last  year I was digging up more lawn, to make borders and, according to my diary, we ate the last of my purple sprouting broccoli.  This week end, I made two raised beds for my vegetables.  Bye bye!