“The French Are Coming” Yelled The Panicked Cosmologist

I have been thinking…

I have just received another one of those really annoying sales calls where one is talked at by a cheery voiced tape recording. On this occasion he was trying to sell me roof insulation but I have had others flogging accident cover. I find it hard to believe that anybody will be persuaded by a recording. It is hard enough if there is a real person. Many years ago I was the King of unsolicited cold calling. When I say King I probably mean minor princeling but I was in charge of an office full of people whose job was to go through the Yellow Pages for some suburb of, say, Manchester or Norwich trying to sell advertising. I was promoted to office manager after doing some pretty impressive work on selling £50 advertising boxes in the official desk diary of the Association of Monumerntal Masons (i) I used to be in charge of sacking people who made no money after a couple of days: I even sacked my wife (before we were married). I wrote scripts which began “Good Morning, may I speak to your Managing Director, please?” then, if you succeeded in getting through, “Good Morning Sir ( very occasionally Madam), my name is X and I represent Y. I was hoping that you could spare us a couple of minutes of your time….blah, blah, blah” until either the call was disconnected or a sale was closed. We did not say “Hi, Jimmy Jim, how are you today?” As if we gave a damn. It was (and doubltless still is) a hellish occupation that was only really achievable by constant smoking and a couple of triple strength Bloody Marys at lunchtime.

My second line of thought is about the general frailness of all flesh and how, as I glide elegantly into middle age. Every day I seem to develop another annoying ache. This morning, believe it or not, I woke up with a nasty pain in my left shoulder and, after recapping on my most recent activities, I have worked out that it was caused by playing Scrabble while sitting slightly awkwardly on the sofa. It is ridiculous: last week there was a strange pain in my right hand. My left hip is regularly troublesome. My lower back can be upset by lifting a two litre plant pot in a slightly unusual manner. It could be said that this is the legacy of a decade or so of hard landscaping so, my young friends, be warned. All that digging and casual hoicking of large lumps of Yorkstone will come back and bite you on the lumbar spine.

Third thought concerns football. Why does everybody argue with the referee after a disputed decision? What is the point? To my (admittedly unencylopaediac) knowledge there has never been a moment when the referee, having been yelled at in a variety of languages by various strapping young men, suddenly says “Oh yes. I am most fearfully sorry gentlemen in the red shirts, but I think I got it a bit wrong. You are right, of course, and that was not a foul/penalty/booking offence so let us start again. What? You chaps in blue disagree with me? Oh dear, oh dear. We can’t have that can we? Tell you what, let’s take a vote -perhaps we should include the crowd in the process just to ensure complete democratic translucency. All those in favour…..” etc, etc

There have been lines of garden related thought as well. My highlight this week has been the completion of a rather fine fruit cage that I designed and which was then filled with various raspberries by his Eminence the Graf of Gooseberry, Marco Diabolo. The ornate wooden post tops are detachable so the netting can be removed in winter (to avoid collapse under the weight of snow). We have also nearly finished a lake and are sowing Dunnettish annual meadows all over the place – including in the orchard here where we have killed off and ploughed up half the grass.

Finally,mhaving just watched You Were Never Lovelier I can think of little else apart from the extraordinarily wonderful naked back of Rita Hayworth – the rest of her was decorously covered with lightly spangled gauze.

This week is National Gardening Week. There are all sorts of things going on so you should really get stuck into something. I am going to the RHS garden at Hyde Hall on Tuesday and am speaking at the Horticultural Careers Day on Wednesday.

The picture is of Magnolia Theodora, photographed at the RHS London Spring Show the other day and grown by John Ravenscroft. (ii)

I am listening to Alabama Shakes

(i) The official body representing Headstone makers.
(ii) Which was also the birth name of the late John Peel.