Thursday, 1 September 2011


What ho, my lovelies!
Goodbye and good riddance to August, the month I usually hate.  February is next from bottom but at least it's shorter and contains my birthday – though that's nothing to celebrate at my age. No one likes November and March can be a bit of a swine, especially if the wind turns east.

But August, groan, is horrible.  It's like waking with a bad hangover on what should be a beautiful day but turns out to be a slutty, shabby and badly foxed day.  One should be loving the late summer, but all August does is give one a head ache and makes one feel lethargic and unsuccessful.

But now comes my favourite 30 days.  Heavenly September, when the lazy old sun can't be arsed to pull itself up out of the frowzy mist until it has enjoyed a restorative ciggy and a scotch.  September days can be like late Billie Holiday recordings – voice is going, but the old glory is still there, gold-hazed, sleepy, seductive but strangely invigorating.

O Lor' what a load of utter tosh.  Please pay no attention.  Now then.  To work, to work,

My autumn border begins to wake up.  Four rudbeckias, front to back: R. fulgida (self sown)  R. subtomentosa 'Henry Eilers' - barely visible on right, spiky flowers,  Rlaciniata 'Juligold' further back, hanging ray florets, and Rlaciniata 'Herbstsonne,' tall, right at the back.  Asters and chrysanthemums dominate later.  Dahlias dead. [CLICK TO ENLARGE PICS]

And now, the FILM QUIZ
Some of you Tweeted your answers to the first quiz – one of you within minutes.  Thank you.  But if you want the gold star reward, you have to write the answer in the Comments section, on each post – though tweets are welcome as well.

Victoria got it first, on this blog, so the first golden ePrize goes to her.

It was Rod Steiger (Chief Gillespie) speaking to (Virgil Tibbs) Sydney Poitier in the Norman Jewison classic, In the Heat of the Night.

ANOTHER rule, I've just made up, by the way,  is:  No Googling. You're on your honour not to cheat.

So, here goes.  A bit of a stinker, this time, since you were all so speedy with the last:

Who said this, and to whom:

You're the type women fall in love with . . . I'm the type that interests them.

I'll give you a bit of help:  The above is a translation.  The original dialogue was in a European language.

I learn, today, that as part of the drive to reduce the use of veterinary antibiotics, £1.7million of tax payer's money is going to be spent on research into homeopathy for cows.

Well that's another £1.7million of our hard-earned down the tubes.

The British Veterinary Association refuses to endorse homeopathy which is hardly surprising. Veterinary medicine, after all, is based largely on applied science, rather than faith or magic.

I believe homeopathy to be about as logical and effective as bone pointing or sacrificing virgins. It works for humans who believe in it.  However, it's going to be tricky explaining the concept of Similia similibus curentur (= likes may be cured by likes) to lactating Holstein-Friesians.  And if they don't understand homeopathy, how will it work for them?

And now you'll tell me how wrong I am and give me a raspberry for scoffing at this branch of 'alternative' medicine.

A pelargonium - looks really sexy enlarged!

On Friday, a riveting lecture was given in our village church, about rhino conservation in Kenya and, in particular, the black rhino Diceros bicornis.  Having spent part of my childhood in that spectacularly beautiful country, I was smitten with nostalgia, especially when we were shown slides of the landscapes around Mount Kenya.

Wildlife conservation faces challenges enough in sophisticated regions but in parts of Africa, where so many people live on the edge, priorities are different and it's hard to see how threatened species, in these areas are going to survive.  Eco-tourism is a great motivator though, and when governments see biodiversity as a valuable resource, they are more likely to support conservation.

But what impressed me most was the dedication of the conservation workers.  These are people who have devoted so much of their lives to species preservation, despite the hardship, frequent danger and constant battle to keep nature at the top of everyone's agenda.  We should salute such folk - they are doing so much to prevent damage to our world.

The wrong end of a white rhino, Ceratotherium simum which I photograped in Hluhluwe Game Reserve, Kwa Zulu Natal.

Also last week, a delectable late afternoon and evening at the famous Peterborough Beer Festival.  It's alway fun, but this was a vintage year.   Tasting companions included my great friend Robin Thain – a frighteningly tall Viking of a man to whom a 12 mile walk is little more than a pre-breakfast stroll – and the legendary laughing archaeologist Francis Pryor.  In his early career, Francis was a professional beer taster and knows a thing or two.  He also has a delicious sense of humour, a sharp brain and grows all his own vegetables plus much of his own meat.  An all round good egg – a double-yolked one, in fact.

The evening was fair and mild; the mild was dark and toasty; the bitters were wonderfully varied.  There were too many 'modern' extra-super-hoppy blond ales but just enough deep amber, gentle, barley-hop old fashioned brews to keep us happy.

Top jaw-drop moment was when an innocent young man, looking neatly dressed and out of place, asked one of the burly barmen if he had any lager. The barman was dumbfounded; a startled silence fell on all within earshot – a classic Bateman moment, Francis and I agreed.  But I felt sorry for the young man who was at first, confused and then crimson with embarrassment.

The beers were in pristine perfect condition and the company was all one could wish for.  Three old men behaving like small boys let loose in a sweet shop.  I tipped quite a few of my 'tastings' on the grass in the huge marquees, but still had a slight headache next morning.

And in case you're wondering, I travelled in on the bus and the PG came to take me home.

Hops in my garden.  I would be without their heavenly, beery September smell.

I'm listening to  Beethoven - an early quartet.

This day in 2006 the PG and I were in the Little Karoo, admiring the South African Spring flora with the mighty Swartberg Mountains in the background.  We stayed at Oudtshoorn.

This week's not-film was David Hare's  TV drama, Page Eight, starring Bill Nighy.  What a perfect combination of two giant talents!  I had looked forward to it all week but sorry, chaps, I thought it was lukewarm, off the boil and sleep-inducing.

All the stuff of wicked conspiracy was there: dishonest politicians manipulating the secret service for their own ends; PMs sucking up to the Americans; our Government conniving with them in Special Renditions – a vile and obscene euphemism – ; Blairish fibs and... oh, I'm getting exhausted trying to remember it all.  I may have dozed a bit, anyway.

Compared with the slickness of the Le Carré stories, particularly Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, this TV drama limped, for me.  The oblique dialogues didn't float my thingy – though, even in the Le Carré, one never got them first time round –  and Ralph Fiennes struck me as being more like an East End thug made good, than a PM.  And to cap it all, it the drama ends with a cliché - but I won't spoil it for you.

Perhaps real current drama, in Libya and Syria, made this all look cardboardy and contrived.  But the more likely problem is that without a Cold War, spy stories just don't work.

(We're also re-watching Kenneth Branagh/Emma Thompson in the Olivia Manning Levant Trilogy,  The Fortunes of War.  Now that's good television and a pretty decent dramatisation of some fantastic novels to boot.

Bye all!  Thanks a zillion for reading.


  1. Can't be sure but film quote sounds like Cyrano de Bergerac talking to his mate Christian. There was a lovely version starring Gerard Depardieu in which the summer wind in the trees was a major character.

  2. Nice try, Harriet, and closer than you think. But not Cyrano or Christian.

    Lucy - I'm shocked! Real brewing is a an ancient culture requiring skill, aesthetic sensitivity and a love of beauty. Factory-made Euro-pee is ugly, I grant you, but a traditional IPA? If skilfully brewed, that's up there with Brahms and Titian.

  3. I hate August too - I always feel like a failure in August. I feel I should be have wonderful BBQs and picnics etc and my garden should be groaning with floriforous plants. None of this happens - it gets sticky and warm, the ground is hard, the plants are wilting and I retreat indoors. Thank goodness for September which always feels like a new gardening season is starting.

    I have no idea of the film and I will be good and not google so I think I deserve a prize for honesty.

    Homeopathy - well I was a real cynic and then 20 odd years ago I was quite ill and was told I had ME and it would pass!!!! Under pressure I went to a homeopath who looked at my diet, gave me mineral supplements, told me not to eat refined food and within 6 months I felt better than I had for the previous couple of years. I think homepathy is about treating the whole person rather than an ailment. Not convinced about all the oils and smelly stuff though even have crystals put on me which just made me giggle.

  4. Homeopathy for cows? Whoever successfully pitched this is a presenatation genius and should get themselves on Dragons Den pronto. I would love to see Peter Jones relieved of some cash for an equally dubious scheme.

  5. I only knew the Heat of the Night quote because I watched it only the other day with my son. (Great film.) I'm stumped by this one, but I'll take a wild guess - Jules et Jim?

  6. Victoria - that's clever, but not quite there. Close, though. You got the right language and both you and Harriet, right country of origin. This film was made more than 20 years earlier than Jules et Jim.

    Helen - you're very good but I tried googling this quote and nothing helpful popped up, so I suspected it was research proof.

    I'll give the answer in a few days but may give another clue sooner, if no one comes closer than you two

  7. En ce cas, it must be Les Enfants du Paradis? Baptiste and Frederick (Jean-Louis Barrault and Pierre Brasseur)

  8. Sorry, no, can't be - Enfants du Paradis was made in 1945. I hope you realise I'm crediting you with extremely good taste in movies (while not guessing the right answer)

  9. Love that golden stream of rudbeckia in your border.

    I am so totally with you on the Page 8 front! Everything you said is exactly what I thought and such a waste of great talents. At least it was watchable though, which is more than can be said for most things.

    As far as the film quote goes until you said it was foreign it sounded just like the kind of thing Humphrey Bogart would drawl in some film noir. I'm still thinking about it...

  10. Victoria - you are SO almost there - but not quite on the bull's eye! The answer will appear on Monday.

    Good taste in movies? Moi? Hardly! I love rubbishy stuff too - even Carry On Up the Khyber. And we always watch Love, Actually every Christmas.

  11. September is my favorite month, too. Well, aside from October. Love your fall border! Is the pale blue flower a Stoke's aster? They bloom here much earlier, which is why I'm doubtful.

    I'm happy to send you some seeds from my huge marigolds, but I don't know if they will be true.

    Also, is "Hey Pesto!" one of those pantomime things?

  12. I think the film is Le Père des mes Enfants

  13. September is my favourite. The purple stain of blackberries, heavy apples, chutney, warm days, cool nights, Ashdown forest turning gold, sleeping through the night because it's dark earlier. The end of summer heat and boredom, fresh starts. New school shoes and unsullied books. And my birthday too.

    I have no idea about the film. To my shame I can only recall ever seeing four French films: Betty Blue, Jean de Florette, Manon des Sources and Amelie (which I absolutely adored). And I don't think it's any of them. I feel a French film winter coming on....

    The film is Le Jour Se Lève, directed by Marcel Carné and starring Jean Gabin, Jules Berry and Arletty. It was made in 1939. Carné is also known for the superb Les Enfants du Paradis.

    Details are here.

    The line is from Monsieur Valentin, the devious and cruel cabaret showman who is attempting to justify the heroine's attraction to him, to her boyfriend Francois (the film's protagonist.)

    There's an American re-make, 1947, with Henry Fonda in Francois' role and a deliciously oily VIncent Price as the showman. The American take is just a crass Film Noir - but watchable. The Carné is stagier, but much more appealing, despite not having the incomparable Fonda.

    It's rumoured that the American producer wanted to buy up all the Carné prints and suppress the film. An odd way to make a tribute.

    Neither film could be remotely described as classics - unlike the superb Enfants du Paradis.

    Arabella was pretty close. I promise the next one will be a bit less obscure.

    Please don't be cross with me, Arabella

  15. I should have said, the American re-make is called THE LONG NIGHT.

  16. My first visit here. "Dahlias dead" and a flowering hop vine and beer and film reviews-- (Is there a corner I could rent?) And all these years I thought I was the only gardener who hated August. I feel so much better now.

  17. Marcel Carne - well, I'm glad I got so close, because he's one of my great film heroes, although I haven't seen Le Jour Se Leve. I love Les Visiteurs du Soir, and Le Quai des Brumes, although I think Les Enfants is his best movie. One of the best movies ever.
    It just seemed such a French thing to say - which is why I thought of Truffaut. Personally, I don't think it's the sort of thing Bogart would say - but I think it is the sort of thing that Capitaine Renault would say to Rick in Casablanca.

  18. So right about August, and I thought it was only me