Wednesday 4 July 2012


Good day to all and a very happy Barclay to all our fans!
The title is the only line I can remember from Keats' Isabella  or The Pot of Basil.

That excellent, though no longer independent newspaper, The Independent, as part of its bid to lure a few youngsters of moderate brain – and to cherish the little darlings among its, ahem, more mature readership – has recently re-vamped its editorial pages and now includes a daily spread which, irritatingly, is called 'Trending.'  Not being a youngster, and having a brain that is dysfunctional, at best and never did fire on many cylinders, I have difficulty understanding what the hell 'Trending' is all about.  Celebrities get sploshed over the page, a bit and there are mentions of popular music groups I've never heard of and food item's I'd rather not try.  I believe the idea is to give folk a little help in recognising things that are to do with the, well, Zeitgeist, I suppose you would say.

But whatever .. . .  Lord, how I ramble! . . . I mention Trendings because I'd like you to regard occasional posts, like this, as being important comments on things of today that really matter. I will endeavour, almost certainly without success, to avoid the usual bilious rantings of the bigger posts, in these, my sort of answer to Trending.   I shall call them Bendings.

Bending Number 1.

Rose breeders have a lot to answer for.  They may have brought us such immortal lovelies as the salmon climber 'Compassion,' the exquisitely fragrant 'Madame Isaac Pereire,' achingly gorgeous apricot old  Tea Rose, 'Lady Hillingdon' and the sublime, crimson, quartered 'Charles de Mills.'

But they have also perpetrated some atrocities.  I cite the hideous blood-and-custard 'Masquerade,' m'lud, and the eyeball-shrivelling, dayglo orange two-tone, egg and gore 'Tequila Sunrise.' Then there's the liverish mauve, always diseased 'Blue Moon' and what, until recently, I considered the world's nastiest rose ever, 'Superstar''

'Superstar,' introduced in 1960, was a  new colour break which not only broke all records for egregious gaucheness but worse, practised deceit.  At a glance, the buds were promising.  Nicely pointed, on bushes that didn't grow too badly, it was quickly adored by all and became Britain's top of the pops rose.   Every garden known to man boasted 'Superstar', from ducal palaces (possibly – not that one, you know, hangs with that many dukes) to what in those days we snobbishly called 'Council House Fronts.'

The flower colour is difficult to describe but was so impossibly artificial for a rose that it shrieked out from wherever the bush was planted – a sort of chemical plastic orange-scarlet-bricky hue.  As a coarse fishing float, that tawdry hue would work beautifully.  As a rose colour, it made me feel physically ill, especially when my mother – we had a bed of the damned things in my teens – once put a large vase of them on the breakfast table.  In June, that rose was extremely nasty; by August, the stems and what few leaves didn't fall because of black spot, were so covered with powdery mildew as to be a rather elegant pale dove grey - making the Kia-Ora-cum-tomato-juice orange of the flowers look even worse.

Beales' wonderful Classic Roses catalogue  says everything you need to know about 'Superstar.' I quote:  'Not very resistant to diseases.  Not very attractive to bees and wildlife.  Nuff sed.

But yesterday, ah, yesterday, at the excellent and comprehensive-ish Waterside Garden Centre, Kate's Bridge, Lincolnshire, I suffered a Heart of Darkness moment; an uncomfortably close glimpse into the Abyss; an encounter with the ravening craw of ugliness; a foetid miasma of tangible, palpable, bristling unpleasantness – a rose of such surpassing ugliness that it was necessary to find a seat, to sit, to screw one's eyes tight shut and try to neutralise the unbridled horror by imagining skipping lambs, primroses, Easter bunnies, Delia Smith, Liberace, Obamacare, Spaghetti alla Carbonara – anything to get my mind off that dreadful cauchemar vision.

Luckily, the PG was with me. 'Have you got your phone?' she muttered.
'No need for that,' I replied, 'I think I'll be able to walk again, just give me a moment.  No need to call an ambulance.'
'To take a picture, idiot,' she replied. 'People should know about this. They'll want to see it.'

So here you have it, fresh from my iPhone 4 – whose camera, unlike previous iPhones, is not at all pants – the apotheosis of rose breeding.  Rosa 'Crazy for You,' as seen in a garden centre.  It's a floribunda, bred, I think, by the Frenchman, Michel Adam and introduced in 1998.

 I'm listening to the PG who is pretending to be running her Dyson around the office, but is actually spying on me to see if I'm working.  Which I'm not, though she thinks I am! Ha ha!

This Day in 2006 I was visiting my parents in Kent.  I record in my diary that they 'are frail, old, weak and afraid.'  My mother was - and is crippled with arthritis.  And yet she prepared quails, that day, cooked gently in a rich jus, each resting on a large field mushroom and followed with a lightly poached peach in a spiced sauce.  It takes guts to cook that well, when every joint is painful to move and your hands are like claws.

And this week's film was Masahiro Shinoda's Chinmoku (Silence) made in 1971 about illegal Jesuit missionaries in 17th Century Japan.  It's dark, brooding and relentless in its portrayal of religious persecution, human weakness, cruelty and in a way, expediency.  A superb film, even though the acting is often wooden and the pacing a little too slow at times.

Another chance for you to enjoy the rose.
Bye bye!