Wednesday 6th July….
03:50 I left the house before 4AM today to catch a train to London. This is not something that I habitually do, in fact it seemed like a really rotten idea. I am now on what used to be called “the milk train” in the novels of PG Wodehouse. It was sometimes necessary to catch this train to escape from an awkward moment during a country house weekend.On this train, however, there is no milk just rather tired looking people.
06:20 St Pancras International. I have run from Euston to here which is not very far but still a bit exhausting for a chap of my age at such a ridiculous hour of the morning. So I am now ensconsed on the Eurostar to Brussels clutching a surprisingly good cup of coffee and a ham and mozzarella Panino.
There is a man near me wearing a very respectable and well cut suit, silk tie and a large ring through his septum. The effect is strangely disconcerting.
The train manager is called Didier which is one of those comfortingly French names which has no obvious English equivalent: I am hoping that he will shrug and say Bouff a lot.International travel is not as interesting as it used to be, when I was a child we lived in Germany off and on and I can sort of remember our car being lifted on and off the ferry by crane.It took ages to go anywhere and aeroplanes were an exotic luxury. I also remember checking in at the West London Air Terminal (which is now Sainsbury’s at Earls Court) and riding in a double decker bus to Heathrow with the baggage in a trailer behind the bus.God, I am sounding old bufferish again.
07:07 I am underground and underwater. My younger son remarked what a disappointment the Channel tunnel is on first meeting as he expected it to be transparent and rather like an exotic aquarium (albeit muddier) as opposed to resembling the Northern line at Goodge Street.He has a valid point.
07:30 We have emerged, spluttering, from the water and are in France. Actually it is 08:30 as the clocks are different in these parts.French electricity pylons look like cats faces.Slightly malevolent cats hell bent on sharpening their claws on your best armchair.
10:22 I have traversed Brussels.Foolishly I left my itinerary on my desk so I hope that I am on the right train.Belgian trains are blessed with ugly engines but large seats. Must be the chips. Or the EU.I would quite like to learn Flemish as it sounds interesting and yet is pleasingly useless.
11:10 We are trundling through the outskirts of Antwerp which, to be honest, could be the outskirts of any city.Except that their allotments and streets and car parks are much closer to the railway lines than ours are.This is not necessarily a good thing but it seems that they are trusted more than we are. If I wanted to garden next to a railway line I am,sure that flocks of well meaning people in bad suits would come out and stop me on the grounds that I might wander on to the line or get heavy metals in my carrots. At the very least I would have to hoe while wearing a Hi Visibility vest.
11:18 I have very nearly just got off at the wrong station. Interestingly the doors to the train opened when we were moving.The station was called Kiudijeikki or something similar.It appeared to be in the middle of a field so failing to get out was probably a blessing in disguise.
11:46 Another train, this time from Rosendaal to Middelburg. We are in another country: the Netherlands. This train is a bit rough with dirty windows and hose down seats.
Oh my I am now hemmed in by very young, not entirely clothed Dutch blondes as pert as a shelf of chilled Gouda. They almost certainly have not registered my existence. The invisibility of the middle aged.
11:58 I have no idea where I am but it is very flat. I can see the sea and a series of dykes. From here I cannot see if anybody has any fingers in any of them.
14:22 I am back on the train again. I came a long way to spend only an hour in a garden. But my goodness, what an hour and what a garden. I am a bit cynical in my old age and it takes a lot to knock my socks off. I stand here not just sock less but shoe and trouser less with admiration.
17:01 It is worth looking out of the window as you draw into Brussels Central station. There is a street of small shops but instead of being haberdashers or greengrocers or ironmongers each shop window contains a scantily clad young lady pouting suggestively. It is possible, I suppose, that they may just be resting florists or pharmacists enjoying the sunshine but probably not…
18:34 I am back on the Eurostar rumbling from Belgium through France towards the channel (or La Manche if you want to come over all French). It has been quite a long day but I like trains and they are usually productive. I have written the article about the garden I went all that way to see. And things about Raspberries, Eryngiums, Lavender, What to do in October, a devious plan and, of course, this long a slightly dreary travelogue.
So as some compensation to those who he read this far here is the latest Three Men Episode.
I have hardly any pictures as I have lost my camera -again – so you will have to wait until September to see proper pictures of the garden. Very strangely I am off to Europe again tomorrow when I am going to look at another garden this time in Luxembourg.
Since that travelling Wednesday I have spent most of this weekend at Wisley giving lectures and wandering round the gardens doing guided walks: very jolly in spite of the presence of a couple of rough types (this one and this one) on Saturday.. One member of the audience interrupted me to complain loudly that I was swearing at her when I employed the adjective ‘bloody’ when describing the many foibles and failures of a Forsythia. It was quite disconcerting and my plans to use the words buggerypoo and shitswallop later in the presentation had to be quickly shelved.
The picture is of part of James Hitchmough’s meadow by the glasshouse at Wisley. I am listening to Wayfaring Stranger by Blanche.