An Invoice From The Underground Charcuterie

After all that excitement in Moscow life returned to earth with a bit of a thump.

Well, to be accurate it did not exactly return to earth rather than return to the air but in considerably less comfort. No more complimentary sponge bags or the proffered Vodka for breakfast. Bits of beef in exotic sauces are but a whispered memory. Instead, less than 24hours after returning from Russia I was on a hideous RyanAir flight to Dublin. I have gone on for an unnecessarily long time in previous blogs about the general hideousness of RyanAir so I will not trouble you with more of the same.

Suffice to say I arrived safely and on time but felt slightly soiled and as if I had spent twelve hours on a crowded bus full of goats (i).I was then whisked off to the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Blanchardstown which is a large shopping centre just outside Dublin. I am here to give a lecture to the GLDA, a group of Irish designers, at their annual seminar and shindig. The star turn is Ulf Nordfell (who showed us some hot Swedish stuff) and I am the post luncheon ’stay-awake-just-a little-bit-longer’ slot. All very jolly and interesting, I am on the last plane back to Birmingham.

Next excitement was a lecture to the Bradfield Gardening Club near Reading (delightful audience) then officiating at the brand new RHS Awards ceremony. Previously the various trophies and medals that the RHS dishes out were distributed at shows and such. This year it was decided that there should be a special lunch and a proper ceremony which I compered. Cups were delivered, medals presented and everybody seemed to have a rare old time. Particularly noteworthy was Simon Charlesworth of Downderry Nursery who picked up four awards including the Lawrence medal for best exhibit in any show during the last year. Much deserved but the poor chap looked completely petrified by the whole proceeding. Like a marmoset waking up to find himself on the Aston Expressway.

My favourite moment, however, was giving a gong to my friend Nigel Colborn. And not just any gong but the Victoria Medal of Honour which is the top RHS Award. The equivalent of a knighthood or (for those of you who remember your Molesworth) the Mrs Joyful Prize for Raffia. The VMH only has 63 recipients at any one time (one for each year of Queen Victoria’s reign) and they are only given to the absolute top bananas in the gardening world. Nigel now has this and a lifetime achievement award from the GMG so he should probably retire to a bungalow by the sea but somehow I doubt that will happen and he will be chuntering along about things long into the next century.

Then (sorry this does go on a bit longer) I drove from Northamptonshire to Somerset via Sussex which may well not be the most sensible route but it took me to a client first and then to a very comfortable bed and breakfast in a place called Yatton. I was there for approximately six minutes before I had to leave again to give another lecture. En route between the two is a place called Cleeve – about which you could sing a song to the tune of A Boy Named Sue. In fact, I will give a prize of some sort to anybody who can come up with a suitable verse. I wanted to stop to take pictures of the Cleeve Cattery and to see if there were other possibilities with which to taunt my friend: perhaps the Cleeve Adult Book Store or Cleeve Cleavers – Catering supplies

Next was a lunchtime gig with the Sutton Coldfield Ladies’ Gardening Club. It was their 90th Anniversary and a very formidable and jolly lot they were too. It is marvellous that such organisations still exist,. It began with some of the well to do matrons of Sutton Coldfield getting together to play bridge and then morphing into a thriving garden club. My job was to flounce around after lunch chatting about stuff: I give quite a lot of lectures nowadays (nine so far this year) which is very nice and gives my showing off gene a chance to stretch its muscles. Most of them involve talking to pictures which means that there is always an aide memoire upon which to hang your thoughts however, this one was unaccompanied and just about words which was a much scarier prospect. In such circumstances it is always good to have a diversion: my wife suggested that I should have a pocketful of balloons which I could blow up and transform into, not giraffes and dachshunds but obscure orchids or species rhododendrons. I think it is an idea that could take off.

I have also been in the Holiday Inn, Cardiff where I chaired the show garden judging panel. There are a couple of drawbacks to this hotel: firstly the windows do not quite fit so the wind whistles disconcertingly around. It is quite blowy but the acoustics here make it sound as if we were in a flapping tent on the side of K2. The second drawback is also auditory. It is possible to hear people urinating very clearly in neighbouring rooms. This picture is of the esteemed editor of The Garden being instructed in the correct application of mulch by members of the RHS Advisory team while the Press office watch in case of a breaking scoop.

No more hotels for a bit, just home. There is a bit of a lull before the shows start stacking up. I must sort out my clients.

The main picture is of Anemones. Late arriving but welcome nonetheless. I am listening to It Ain’t All Good by De La Soul (featuring Chaka Khan)
(i) This is not intended as a comment on the hygiene standards among my fellow travellers, just in case any of them read this and take umbrage. A proviso like this is always a good idea especially if the fellow passenger in question is large and disgruntled.