You may be relieved to know that I not only survived Grand Designs but enjoyed myself. We did a Three Men Show Live on the big stage on Sunday. A large proportion of the Grand Designs audience are there to look at patio doors and thermally insulated windows and not gardens, as a result they had absolutely no idea why we were there or who we were but those who watched seemed to giggle a bit. I then did a cookery demonstration where I learnt to grill sea bass and a risotto with condensed milk. I then had to eat lunch with three strangers. It was the best meal I had had all week.
I have now moved on and am writing this from Malvern (i) where I am ensconced in an hotel room of a much higher standard than last week in the Novotel. As always I have had a very jolly few days (one more to go) with gardens and plants and Joe Swift and authors and the Director General of the RHS and sheep and wildlife experts and Matthew Wilson and long life cupcakes and a baby hedgehog and slightly tough roast beef and Chris Beardshaw and a scattering of delightful bloggers and tweeters and Mike Dilger and a mummified grass snake and a fantastic Hungarian cafe band from Haringey.
Malvern is always a corker. I am now off to eat curry (ii) but, before I go……
I have an announcement of great import and seriousness to make.
If you are a member of the RHS then, later this month the June edition of The Garden will flop, exhausted, onto your doormats. Attached to this august journal will be a leaflet.
Do not, please, chuck it directly into the recycling bin but stay your hand and settle down somewhere to comfortably browse.
Right. In your hand you are holding the necessary bumpf for the RHS Council elections. You will soon notice that among the candidates for election is one James Alexander-Sinclair.
Yes. I am standing for election to the RHS Council. This is a body of seventeen people whose job is to help run the joint, advise on its future direction and to generally rally round and keep the society on track according to the charter which says, and I quote, “The encouragement and improvement of the science, art and practice of horticulture in all its branches”.Your gut reaction will be to say “What? that crusty old load of reactionary buffers?”
Things change and that conclusion would, in my humble opinion, be wrong because, actually, the council consists of a number of dedicated and interested people all with an abiding interest in gardens, gardening and the future health of the RHS.
So that is what I would like to do should you mob choose to elect me.
I have written quite a few pieces knocking the RHS for being slow to change and narrow in it’s outlook. I then thought that, rather than jeering and throwing rotting fruit from the sidelines, really I should try and see what I could contribute to actually make things change. Hence this candidacy.
The RHS has many facets. The publicly obvious stuff like running world famous flower shows and large gardens in four corners of the country. The less visible things such as trialling plants and offering courses and education for Gardeners. And the largely unsung stuff such as complicated scientific research into plant pathogens, bugs and diseases. All together this is a vital organisation working for gardens and Gardeners in this country. This is why it seems odd that, when I stand up in a lecture and say, “How many of you are members of the RHS?” not everybody puts their hand up.Often it is only about half the audience. Everybody who has a garden should go the the RHS as a first stop: from the novice gardener in their first house to the experienced gardener stumped for a plant for a problem place. We need more members and need to communicate what we do to as wide an audience as possible.
I have been gardening for (and this quite a depressing thought) slightly more than half my life. It has given me enjoyment, friends, knowledge and reasonable living (riches beyond the ken of man were never really on the agenda) for most of that time and I feel that, at the very least, I ought to give back a bit. It should also be very interesting, illuminating and (I am assured) fun.
So, and I apologise if I sound a bit like a shiny suited Parliamentary candidate, I would ask you to fill in the form on the back of the leaflet and send it in, it would also be nice if you chivvied any of your friends and relations who are also members to follow suit. If you feel that this is not enough and direct action is required, then you may, if you insist, camp outside the RHS Headquarters carrying placards and chanting.
Just do it quietly. And don’t pick the flowers.
I am listening to birds chirruping contentedly in the wooded slopes of the Malvern Hills.
The picture is of a very old and gnarly sweet chestnut.
(i) In the spirit of open disclosure I must declare that this is not completely accurate. I wrote most of it in malvern but have now returned home and have spent today picking over Cleve west’s leftovers at Crocus. I am now listening, not to birdsong but the mellifluous tones of the first lady of France, Carla Bruni, singing J’en Connais. On reflection the birds were better.
(ii) Curry was eaten in the company of Mike Dilger: wildlife expert from the One Show and all round cheeky chappie. A jolly evening.