The Clouds Looked Like Grumpy Luxembourgers

This is a bit of a catch-up Blog, I’m afraid, so parts of it may be a little out of date

Sunday 20th June

I am writing this while sitting in the handsomely proportioned but oddly sterile back stage area at the NEC. There is a nespresso machine and a plentiful biscuit selection. There is also fruit and later there will be lunch.

It is quite nice really provided that one can get over the fact that we are in a huge shed just off the M42. The M42 is far from being the world’s most offensive motorway ( that honour belongs to the M11). Actually it is strangely cute and cuddly: quite short and 42 is a more interesting number than many.

It is Gardeners World Live and I am here for five days. During that time I will not see many hours of sunlight and the walk to the hotel beside an oddly smelling lake that is also used as an aquatic golf driving range is my sum total of fresh air.(1)

My purpose here is to act as compere/link man/general factotum for the celebrity theatre.This has involved taking the Mickey out of Mr Titchmarsh’s hair, conversing with Monty Don, dancing with Alys Fowler, marshalling Carol Klein, persuading Adam Pasco to sing “Tainted Love” on stage, being Quizmaster with Toby Buckland playing with assorted babies (in particular the divinely plump Ida who was begotten by Kevin Smith – commissioning editor of GW Magazine) and messing around with Joe Swift and his Vuvuzela. I also promoted GW Magazine on innumerable occasions and tried not to repeat the same joke too many times.

It is an odd show for a number of reasons: firstly the aforementioned shed thing, also the fact that there are more middle aged people walking around holding hands than at any other show I attend. Maybe there is something about the air that promotes that lurrving feeling: if so I have missed it so far.

The secret to survival is to get away in the evening rather than sitting in the hotel bar or one’s lonely bedroom eating rubbish so this year we (Joe Swift and I) had curry in Knowle, tapas (2) in Kings Heath (with Alys Fowler who is local), came here for one night to watch the football and recover briefly and then we went bowling on the Saturday (with Toby Buckland and Dawn Isaac). The answer, incidentally, to the question above Dawn’s head was “No, thank you, it all looks repulsive”

I know Dawn has covered our bowling visit in her blog but I feel I have to add a bit. We went to a place called Star City that is hemmed in by the M6 and a power station. It has a casino, innumerable restaurants (that specialised in different ways of cooking an hormone laden battery raised chicken, with a bun), mini golf, soft play areas and a place where you could win a pink (probably flammable) teddybear. There was also a Bowling Alley. I am not much of a bowler having only done it twice before so was unsure about technique or mechanics, the others were very keen indeed.

I also didn’t realise that one had to have a bowling name: Dawn was Ricky, Toby was Rocky, Joe was Swifty (3)  and I was Shane. It was unbelievably loud but generally jolly except that Swift won both games and, as such was pretty insufferable for all of the next day. My bowling style was described as slightly camp by the others. I prefer to think of it as stylish, elegant and slightly balletic. The other punters were gazing in awe on occasion.The lights were all dimmed at about 8:00pm and the skittles started glowing.

I discovered later that it was known locally as “Stab City” but, as far as I could tell, Toby had kept his pruning knife in his pocket throughout. And I made Dawn leave her chainsaw in the car.

The other patrons were not all overweight.

We had to wear shoes that were interesting but far from debonair..

It was all gloriously garish.

Saturday 26th June

It is now the following Saturday and I have lectured at Coton Manor and also at the Cottesbrooke Plantfinders Fair. I think I will write more about it in my next offering as it is an event and an idea that needs examining further. My borders were also looking pretty damn foxy although most people are asking me about the fine white Corncockle that was added by the very talented Head Gardener, Phylip Statner, not me.

I would like to do some gardening as well but that might have to wait a little bit longer. Mind you things now begin to ease off a bit as I have only a day or so to do at Hampton Court and Tatton Park so I should have a little more time for weeding and loafing.

And clients.

And playing with my shiny new iPhone4

I am listening to Narrow escape by Ray LaMontagne.

The picture is of Poppies in my garden.

  1. Do golf balls float nowadays? They never used to, there was a golf course at my school and the more enterprising boys used to Wade into a very muddy pond in order to fish golf balls from the slime which they then sold back to golfers for 10p a pop. I did it a couple of times but could never fully enjoy the feeling of cold muddy water sloshing up the legs of my shorts.
  2. At this place, which is called Byzantium, they served us the most delicious chicken liver thing I have ever eaten. It is worth going to Birmingham just for that.
  3. Nil points for originality.