Monday, 26 April 2010


Look, I'm sorry, OK? It's been a really difficult time, right, and I know you're supposed to post blogs every couple of days and people like the saintly VP are absolutely spiffingly brilliantly conscientious about their input - gorgeous thrush, by the way - and if you don't be good and diligent and post lovely things every few seconds, your fans (fans??? Hah!!!!!) leave you in droves and then you're all alone and pining in the blogosphere and the world goes black and we all end up disintegrating under a hung parliament.

Hanged, more like! Eh? What??

So rather than completely diffuse my persona into the great aether beyond, like a fart in thunderstorm, as my father was wont to say, here's a piccy and a couple of extremely important and non trivial observations.

But first the sad announcement that I can't come to Malvern, so won't be able to hook up with all you blogging lovelies this year. It's the immobilising problem with the hip. I do hope you all have a great show, and so sorry to miss it. Next year, let's hope.

One of the PG's porno shots. Rana temporaria sticking together.

Observation Number One. Well, I knew the election campaigns would be boring but who could possibly have thought that anything so earth-shatteringly important could end up blander than a pot of Cow and Gate Baby Food? I'm not even sure whether I'll have enough vim to drag my decrepit bod up to our polling station, even though it is also our local pub and one could enjoy a pint while deciding on the best and most effective way of spoiling one's ballot paper and giving the counters a bit of a larf at the same time. Our Tory candidate is but a child and I haven't seen hide nor hair of any of the others. I wish we had a Tarquin Biscuitbarrel here, but alas, we haven't.

Obs No 2. Peat-free compost is truly crap. I've tried about seven different brands and they're all rubbish. I'm not suggesting we should dash off to wreck a few more peat bogs - that would be awful - but for goodness sake, please DON'T tell me that peat frees work just as well. They don't, and when even tulips can languish because the stuff dries out after a twenty minute sunny spell, you know that they are simply not up to scratch - or, as Civil Servants love to say - when not recommending Vatican Condoms or suggesting that the Pope might want to bless a gay marriage, while he's here - they are not 'fit for purpose.'

Obs 3. The butterflies have been fabulous this spring. Orange tips, both male and female (the girls don't pimp the orange) Brimstones, (their girls are greenish white, not yellow) and the first Holly Blues (don't ask) were on the wing in our garden over the past fortnight. The cowslips in the mini-meadow are attracting scads of bees and the trilliums have made a remarkable come-back.

Obs 4. Cuckoo flower. I've never seen so much, or in such glory. Cardamine pratensis seems to vary in colour from a gorgeous, gentle, springtime lilac mauve, as in our area, to a creamier almost grey-mauve on the roadsides in Kent, including the M2. When I walked in woods near Cardiff this time last year, I discovered that the Welsh lady's smocks were so pale as to be almost white. Why has it done so well this year? A batch of it has popped up next to a vivid orange geum in my secret garden - what a combination! Tasteful or what??

Obs 5. I'm a bit worried about the Photographer General who seems to have devoted her recent activities to shooting pornographic pictures of copulating creatures. Well, frogs, actually, since you ask. Hence the rather raunchy piccy at the top of this post. They're a bit late, since most frog people's tadpoles are already at the toddler stage, ie, developing a pair of legs and falling over a lot, but I found these images on a flash card which she'd left to be processed. And she told me - get this - that the card contained nothing but 'pictures of the amazing crop of dandelions in your grass.' Hmmm. Interesting. I suppose I shouldn't admit to having dandelions on our premises, but they are lovely. Perhaps I'll post a piccy of some soon, when I've finished wading through the naughty pics.

But for now, I must go. The hip's still a wreck - MRI scan in early May. I've just had the whole of next winter's firewood delivered and the pile of logs is now obstructing everying around here. I must a daily quota to the growing stack in our garage to prevent family strife.

I'm listening to Billy Holiday singing You've Changed.

This day last year, a Sunday, our garden was open to the public for the village charities. One of the visitors was Rab C Nesbitt, aka talented and charming Gregor Fisher. He seemed quite impressed.

The film last night was Huston's 1950 classic The Asphalt Jungle. The busty, relatively unknown Marilyn Monroe had a small part in this great story but you could already bask in her screen presence. But Sterling Hayden? There was no one quite so good at seething and sulking as he, playing the small time crook in this upmarket Film Noir. He looked as miserable and edgy as a fen farmer who's just discovered that someone's just nicked a potato from his 1,000 tonne, grant-aided storage barn.

More, better posts soon, I promise. Meanwhile, vote Lib, think Lab or be Conned - the choice is yours. Or is it? What if the party that gets the smallest number of total votes ends up in power? That could happen. And they say our system doesn't need reforming!!!! Byee!

Thursday, 8 April 2010


Hullo again. This post is an annex to the previous one, so if it doesn't make any sense to you, go back a notch.

Also - sorry the previous post was so interminably long and rambling. I'll try harder for succinctness, next time, but may not succeed.

And now: here's the plant that made me think a high class tart had broken in.

Zaluzuanskya ovata a South African beauty which looks like a Silene but is related to foxgloves, snap dragons and figwort.

The red-backed, white-faced flowers are night scented but droop and half-close by day.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010


My garden wall's gone mossy, so last year I decided to embellish it a bit with succulents.

Bother, blast, dammit and bum! No, not our local solicitors - they're called Snooze, Muddle, Diddle and Flaw. No, it's just an exclamation of frustration at advancing senility.

It's the second time this has happened. I had a head full of important and significant things to record but the moment my computer sparked up, everything in my brain went blank. So all I can do is list some casual observations. They may or may not be relevant or connected but there it is.

1. Some idiots want to fiddle about with the clocks again.
We are told that pushing our totally artificial British Summer Time noon TWO HOURS ahead of when the sun is actually at its midday zenith will 'be excellent for tourists' and will 'make huge energy savings' and will 'save scores of lives on the road' etc. And to add to the lunacy, they want to abandon Greenwich Meantime altogether and let winter darkness fall at lunch time. Hateful. Abhorrent. Not wanted.

How will it help tourism? Tell me someone, please. Pref
erably without telling me that more people will go Fell walking in March if it stays light an hour longer - because they won't.

Who wants it to be pitch dark at 7.30 in April but sunny at midnight in Aberdeen each June? It ain't natural.

2. I saw a swallow yesterday, the 6th April and a house martin today. Hurrah. One may not a summer make, but it doesn't half cheer a body up. We also heard and watched several skylarks, down on the fen. I can cycle, despite dysfunctional hip, but can't walk much still.

3. I've decided that the arguments proposed by all three of our main political parties are so utterly hopeless, weak and uninspiring, as well as being largely incredible, that I shall base my vote exclusively on the physical characteristics and dress sense of the main protagonists. I think that will improve the chances of the right people being elected.

And when I say dress sense, I mean the worse the clothes, the more respect I'd give them. Let me give you an example - though of a non-Brit. Take Angela (Wir haben mehr zu bieten) Merkel. Not exactly a snappy dresser and she has the air of a benign but no-nonsense, slightly exhausted but unflappable tea lady in a northern factory, so she'd get my vote in a trice. 'Ein klumpen oder zwei, meine Ente?

On the other hand, Monsieur Sarkozy is too like a well dressed mime artist to be credible - although his comedy hooter might have swayed me a little if he'd been taller - say about a third of General de Gaulle's height. Now there was a conk!! Definitely not one I'd vote for, though. He was so rude to Churchill. And Macmillan. And Heath. So was M. Pom-pom-pidou, come to that. We should never have lost the Hundred Years War!

So any candidate who wants my vote must be slightly scruffy - Hush Puppies and crushed suits are fine - and needs to look as though he or she has no ambition to milk the expenses system and someone who wouldn't gib at having to stand in the 'sardine & sweat' section of the train like the rest of us. And of course, anyone who says 'stunning' is automatically blackballed.

3. Better news on the Trillium front. Two more have appeared. One looks weak, but I think is going to survive; the other T. flexipes is almost recordable as a 'clump.'

I was so thrilled to see it that I yanked out a winter aconite growing nearby, wondering why it was there, among the treasures, rather than 'naturalising' in the rough grass. Aaaaaaagh!!! I'd forgotten that that was where I'd planted the rare, beautiful and mortgageworthy pale lemon-coloured form Eranthis 'Schwefelglanz.' Cretin! If I employed myself, I'd sack me. What? Oh, I do. Well, I'm fired.

4. Wendy (my greenhouse) is bulging at the seems. The tomatoes - I've raised enough to populate Thanet Earth - are desperate to be planted 'on the flat' but the 'flat' is full of over-wintering tender shrubs and if I move those, there'll be nowhere to keep the other little propagules.

I'm raising plants for my brother, as well as us, and there just ain't the space. I always say, when planning a new greenhouse, work out the size you think you'll need, and then toss the budget out of the window and double it - even if it means murdering the neighbours for some Lebensraum.

5. Desperate to relieve the pressure on Wendy, I went to gather a couple of plants that might serve as temporary house plants on our upstairs windowsill. I chose Zaluzianskya ovata. I'd rooted three cuttings in the autumn, from the plant growing in my raised bed outdoors and, although the parent is still living, despite the vile winter, the three lovely propagules are large, full of growth and coming into full bloom.

I plonked the plant on the windowsill and went off to watch some mind-developing and improving Television, ie, The Simpsons, and forgot all about it. We moved on, later, to watching DVDs of that incomparable American series The Wire. (Gosh, it's good! Really, really good!)

Later, when I nipped out of the telly room for a pee, I was olfactorily caressed by the sweetest and most seductive fragrance imaginable. Knowing that the PG seldom wears posh scent at home, and anyway, she'd been sitting beside me all evening, I could only deduce that a high class tart had broken in. But no such luck! That one small plant had fragranced the entire upper story of our house. Gorgeous! I haven't snapped a piccy, but will put one up tomorrow. I promise.

Oooh look - another auricula. This one's called 'Mojave'

I'm listening to Richard Strauss' Metamorphosen.

This day in 1991 I was discussing a new series with Adam Pasco at BBC Gardeners World Magazine, when it was still part of Redwood Publishing. The series became Colborn's Diary and, thanks to constant run of brilliant pictures by Tim Sandall, it ran for years. VAT had newly been raised to 17.5%

This week's film was Inglourious Basterds by Quentin Tarantino. As some of you know, I've never been a Tarantino fan. I was deeply impressed by, but greatly disliked Reservoir Dogs; loathed and despised Pulp Fiction, and was shocked by the London audience's reactions to the violence. (Seeing people getting their brains blown out, somehow, just doesn't strike me as being particularly funny.) I just haven't been able to tune in to that fevered thinking. But this spoofy WW2 film I absolutely loathed and detested. It was riddled with ludicrous improbabilities, saturated with gratuitous violence, had an improbable story and was just, well - an insult to anyone's intelligence.

I think I'll leave it there. I wonder if this hip is making me a little grouchy?? Bye bye for now!