The Antimacassars Vibrated to the Sound of the Tambourine

I am just about to go off on a mini-lecture tour of Ireland followed by a few days in Moscow getting cold but wanted to rattle off a quick post partly because I have been slack but mostly because I have matters of great import to share with you. I have been rushing around sorting out various gardens (notably a rather fab one in Devon that is coming to completion soon) and shooing assorted clients into position but I have, to be honest, been slightly wrapped up with other important things over the past few weeks.

In particular Fruit Pastilles. I have developed a rather rash craving for them and don’t like to drive too far without a packet in the car. However, this is a double edged sword as there is something inherently unfair about the colour distribution in a packet of fruit pastilles so I am distracted from the rules of the road by worrying about the inherent unfairness of life. And the fact that there are fourteen sweets in each tube and only five colours makes equality and fairness impossible. Even if we wanted to live that safely.

I think that almost all of us can agree that a green fruit pastille is an abomination – some people profess to preferring the green ones but I tend to regard them with suspicion. They are probably the sort of people who would wear v-necked T-shirts or black satin pyjamas. A green fruit pastille is only acceptable in very small doses but should be treated with caution as they are notoriously unreliable: if any fruit pastille was going to be sick on the sofa, goose the au-pair or nick the petty cash the the green one is the one. They are also perfectly capable of leading the yellow ones into temptation. I have recently had two packets which both had no less than five green fruit pastilles in each tube: this creates unbearable social and diplomatic tension. Conversely, I also had another packet which only had one green and the majority were either red or black. Sounds good but it was too much of a good thing: like having your favourite puddings every day for a week. I do not know how fruit pastilles are selected: whether the process is randomly automated, whether the machines have colour recognition sensors or even if the whole thing is done manually by oompah-loopahs. The general theory of probability can be expressed very simply:

Probability = The number of ways an event can occur/The total number of possible outcomes

but nothing is that easy and the selection process doubtless involves a great deal of complicated mathematics. Or they are all chucked in a bucket and blindfolded workers take them out one at a time. Randomly.

The other thing that is bothering me is a date: 23rd March to be precise. One of the great pleasures of my life is reading the birthdays column in the Saturday papers. We even play a game where everybody has to guess how old  a particular person might be: this can turn into a quite heated competition – especially when having to guess the age of a distinguished (though generally unfamiliar) person like, for example, the former Bishop of Cleethorpes or the head of the CBI from 1981-87.

Anyway, on looking at the column on saturday I was struck by a strong theme. Did you know that Chris Hoy, Mo Farah, Jason Kenny, Joe Calzaghe, Steve Redgrave, Roger Bannister and Mike Atherton were all born on the same day? I think this is an extraordinary coincidence which almost makes me embrace astrology (even if this means an uncomfortable intimacy with Russell Grant). All of you who are currently planning families should take note of this date and, if you wish to be the parent of asporting legend then you should get out your calculator and plan your insemination accordingly.(i)

Although, of course, you cannot guarantee anything. It is all down to probability and chance. Just like Fruit Pastilles.

The top picture is of Crocus vernus in the Alpine house at Wisley. I find myself increasingly drawn to this partly because it is a bit warmer than standing on an exposed hill but also because it has some extraordinarily beautiful plants. All laid out as individual specimens, sunk in raked grit. It is like a museum exhibit rather than a garden but that is rather satisfactory. The other picture is just there to break up my ramblings and to stop you becoming dispirited: it too comes from the Alpine house and is called Saxifraga Allendale Accord.

I am listening to I’m Crying by the Animals.

(i) I feel that this is the perfect opportunity to publish the lyrics of the Floaters classic ‘Float On’ which is the best use of astrology in music.I am sure that any of you Ladies reading would be thrilled by a trip to “Love land” , especially by somebody on a powder blue sparkly morning coat. You can watch them here.

Aquarius and my name is Ralph
Now I like a woman who loves her freedom
And I like a woman who can hold her own
And if you fit that description, baby, come with me

Take my hand, come with me, baby, to Love Land
Let me show you how sweet it could be
Sharing love with me, I want you to

Float, float on (Come on, come on,
(Come on, baby, yeah, yeah)
Float on, float on (Ooh, ooh, baby)
Float, float, float on
Float on (Float with me), float on

Libra and my name is Charles
Now I like a woman that’s quiet
A woman who carries herself
Like Miss Universe
A woman who would take me in her arms
And she would say, Charles, yeah
And if you fit that description
This is for you especially

Mmm, take my hand etc.

Leo and my name is Paul
You see I like all women of the world
You see to me all women are wild flowers
And if you understand what I’m sayin’
I want you to

Mmm, take my hand etc.

Cancer and my name is Larry, huh
And I like a woman
That loves everything and everybody
Because I love everybody and everything
And you know what, ladies,
If you feel that this is you
Then this is what I want you to do

Ooh, yeah, take my hand etc.