It has been an important week round here.
So what is so important ? I will tell you.
Last weekend was one of the most important weekends of the year. It was New Marmalade Weekend (Hooray!). Now, I must make it very clear at this point that I do not make marmalade. In fact I am rubbish at almost everything to do with cooking things and was banished from trying many years ago because I (a) make a mess, (b) was really only capable of cooking two things both of which were considered by most people to be unpalatable and (c) my wife is brilliant. This may seem very old fashioned and stereotypically unenlightened but it seems to work. In days long past I did do self catering but it was not a pretty sight. I managed to poison an entire dinner party once by boiling chicken pieces that had previously been used in a photo shoot. A note for people looking for cooking tips – hot studio lights + frozen chicken = projectile vomiting. The boiling bit was because I did not understand the oven not because I was following an interesting recipe, I think there may also have been frozen peas.
Anyway, new marmalade and warm, newly baked sourdough bread is one of those experiences that makes life worth living. It is further evidence of the truth in the statement that some of the best things in life are sticky.
On other matters. Do you listen to Podcasts? They are, I think a rather underappreciated medium. They are free and there are lots of them – like germs. Also like germs some of them are best avoided. I like to listen to strange podcasts about history while weeding: at the moment I am going through a fifty-eight part series about the life of Napoleon. And another about the War of Spanish Succession. For something shorter try the Dictionary of National Biography.
If you want gardening then Gardens Illustrated have some good ones: I was listening to their podcast about Christopher Lloyd the other day. In fact I have been having a bit of a Dixter moment as I have been reading (intermittently) both Stephen Anderton’s biography and the book of reminiscences, Dear Christo. It has made me think.
Dixter is undoubtedly a great garden. Lloyd’s planting is distinctive, entertaining, usually sublime and occasionally disjointed and dreadful: whatever the result his gleeful experimentation was a delight to see. I also have great admiration for his writing but….
he also comes across as rather spoilt on occasions; he does not seem to like it much if he does not get his own way. From Stephen’s book you gather that his upbringing was a trifle dysfunctional (his mother was domineering, unsentimental, possessive and tended to dress up as a Puritan matriarch when the mood overcame her (i)). This ‘favoured child’ thing seems to have carried on through his life (probably getting worse as he became older and crabbier and more lauded) but he also seems to have had enough charm to make people forgive this behaviour . Although this does manifest itself sometimes as a slightly treacly close relation of sycophancy – a sort of “Oh darling Christo: I was constantly bitten by his dogs and he told me I was fat but he was such a character and an absolutely lovely love that I always forgave him” thing. I always regard people who “do not suffer fools gladly” with a certain suspicion and it usually means that they tend to be intolerant and unnecessarily rude. He was very generous to those friends who tolerated his slightly martinet behaviour and the chosen were invited down for weekends of whisky and exotic olives at Dixter. Personally, I loved reading his stuff (with much of which I heartily disagreed) and all I can say with certainty I only met him once (at Chelsea) and he was kind about my garden. So he definitely gets the benefit of the doubt.
Another podcast that absolutely should not be missed is the Good Enough Gardening podcast in which the indefatigable Jean Ann van Krevelen and Amanda Thomsen(ii) trundle on about all sorts of things. I want to be one of their acolyte correspondents. Maybe if I drop enough hints they will ask me. Clunk. Hint. Clunk. Hint.
Been to London for other important things. It is a long time since I have ridden along Oxford Street in the front seat on top of a bus: it is like being on a slightly swaying throne and everybody should do it as often as possible. You get an excellent view of all sorts of other people’s business: of offices, over hoardings, into other buses and through windows. In the eastern (and less salubrious ) part of Oxford Street is a shop called Harmony which sells accessories of an intimate nature. It is trying to be discreet but from the top of the bus you can see right inside. At the till was a very respectable lady who looked a bit like the off duty headmistress of a small finishing school in West Sussex. I could not see what she was buying but I hope it was lively.
“Hey There Cutes.Put on your Dancing boots” are the opening lines of Come Dance With Me by Peggy Lee. From her album Ole Ala Lee. Cheesy but magnificent.
The picture is of a Peony I extracted from a client’s garden about fifteen years ago (it was recycling rather than larceny). I do not know what it is called.
(i) Don’t get me wrong, I am all in favour of dressing up: some of my most enjoyable hours have been spent wearing a kilt or a pair of tight jodhpurs with long polished polo boots. I also spent the greater part of my schooldays in an odd uniform.
(ii) Who has made the best ever film about Poinsettias.