Jitterbugging Was Generally Unusual In a Gecko

To begin with some horticulture….I have been at the NEC in Birmingham this weekend and came across an inner courtyard (mostly used for smoking and sandwich eating) that was planted exclusively with Heucheras in various colours. It was like a secret Heuchera refuge: like that bit at the end of Farenheit 451 when they escape to a hideout where each person hasmemorised a book but without the message of hope and redemption. There were red ones and diced carrot coloured ones and spotty green ones and urine yellow ones. Had you been in the NEC and witnessed a pale faced fellow with weak knees and wildly staring eyes escaping down the travelator then that, Ladies and Gentlemen, was I.

I have seen visions of the apocalypse and the Four Horseman all carried Heucheras (except one who had a flowering currant).

Some of you may know that I have a monthly column in Gardeners World Magazine. In it I have a lovely time describing plants in increasingly irrelevant ways. It is not the most serious piece of journalism in the world and is intended as light relief with a small smattering of horticulture. This month I have attracted a letter of complaint which can be viewed on page 122 but, for those of you too skint or tight to buy your own copy of this excellent magazine I will reproduce it for you.

I love your magazine but I wonder if I am the only subscriber who finds James Alexander-Sinclair’s choice of similes unfortunate. I don`t wish to link balmy summer evenings with “post coital cigarettes” (i). Even more offensive did I find the comparison of fluttering leaves to the “quivering lips of a troubled toddler” (ii).  I don`t want to be reminded of “troubled toddlers” when I am trying to relax with a garden magazine. I have never found the pictures of crying children amusing or attractive. There are too many miserable children in the world – I focus on them when I have to, but while reading Gardeners World.

It was the same with description “fuchsias looking like hippos in tutus”, though not offensive, is not how I would choose to remember one of my favourite flowers.

These kind of descriptions are getting more frequent and less palatable.

If I am the only one who minds, then I will just have to look elsewhere for my escapist pleasure I suppose.  But if it is an oversight, please can the author restrain himself a little ?

I am a married woman with grown up children and 3 grand children and I have no quarrel with the birds and the bees, or sex, or children or tears – but to me a flower is a flower – a thing of beauty in its own right.

  1. This is a reference to a phrase in the August edition “…the bustle of June and the flurries of July are over and this is the closest our gardens ever get to a post coital cigarette”. Somebody else sent an email in about this as they thought I was encouraging young people to start smoking.
  2. A reference to my description of the leaves of Tetracentron sinense “….are they not as finely shaped and as furrowed as the unbotoxed brow of Michael Douglas? Do they not flutter as finely as the quivering lip of a troubled toddler?”

It is never my intention to upset people so my apologies to those who take offence but it does at least mean that somebody is reading the stuff. Although it would be better if they did not take things too seriously. I have never been complained about before so cannot help part of me feeling a tiny bit chuffed.

On the other hand I have been finally taken seriously by the gardening intellectual elite: my blogpost about Highgrove has been published on ThinkinGardens. It slightly ruins its gravitas by beginning with a picture of a mongrammed Cupcake. I am not sure that many of the more radical political pamphlets of the Nineteenth Century began in that way but I suppose that in this modern world there is always room for innovation.

Appearances can be deceptive. While sitting happily on the train the other day I was joined but an elderly lady. Sensible beige shoes. Tan tights. Buttoned cardi. Floral dress. The full works. She then unpacked a Tupperware box with sandwiches and a battered flask and got herself nicely settled. The large sensible handbag was then delved into again and I must admit that I was expecting a barley sugar and a copy of  The People’s Friend. Instead, she produced a shiny new net book and an iPod.

Never judge a book by it’s cover.

When I say ‘never’ I actually mean ‘usually’ because on the way back my neighbour removed her shoes, put them on the table between us and sang loudly to herself. I judged that book as being a trifle deranged.

I changed carriages.

We (Joe,Cleve and I) have quartered the country doing the Three Men Live Shows. Firstly at the RHS Garden at Harlow Carr in what is, apparently, the greenest building in the country (wind turbines, green roof, floors made of recycled stuff etc). It was a good evening: we were beautifully looked after (you might even say cossetted) by the staff and the audience seemed to leave happy: maybe they were just happy because they could at last go home.

We failed to see any of the garden as we arrived in the dark. We were one of a series of RHS Lectures to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Harlow Carr. Oddly many of the posters had been defaced. We have no idea how this happened and thoroughly disapprove of such behaviour.

We also missed most of the historic spa town of Harrogate (i) as we left early in the morning to get to gig number two (and three) at the NEC Birmingham. En route, somehow I managed to lose my wallet which was really very annoying indeed. Two performances at the NEC went down well. We did one on the Gardens stage which is about the size of a snooker table and another on the main stage. This is normally occupied by Kevin McLoud or a procession of architects saying things like ‘The door handle is the hand shake of a building”. Us playing silly games and talking nonsense came as a bit of a change.

I am listening to Elvis Costello’s Watching the Detectives.

The picture is of a very ancient and pleasingly gnarly Acer campestre in a hedgeline.

It may be that .me is being tricky about comments. Don’t forget it is also available here.

(i) We stayed in one of those very old, formerly grand hotels that have received a cheap makeover. This involves putting too many cushions on the bed and hanging drapes around the place in order to make it look designery and chic. It doesn’t work: hotels should be judged on mattresses and showers neither of which were much cop. I had an ‘invigorating’ whirlpool bath in my room and, having not experienced such a thing outside certain films so I looked forward to being aerated. Needless to say it produced neither bubble nor froth. I emerged clean but uninvigorated.