“He would, wouldn’t he”, was the reply famously given by Mandy Rice-Davies when she was told in court that Lord Astor had denied ever having sex with her. But did she actually speak those words? According to Sir Ivan Lawrence M.P. she didn’t. Sir Ivan wrote to the Times saying that he was in court, as a junior barrister, taking meticulous notes when she gave evidence and he could say with absolute authority that she didn’t. What Sir Ivan hadn’t reckoned on was that Mandy Rice-Davies herself is still around to contradict him.
Aaron dead. World wanderers, we have lost a wise elder. Hackers for right, we are one down. Parents all, we have lost a child. Let us weep - Tim Berners-Lee in a tweet on learning of Aaaron Swartz’s suicide
When, last autumn, I was given a student card, after enrolling on a Master’s Degree course in Garden History, I was thrilled. My student card would not only entitle me to half-price beer at the union bar but, equally importantly, access to all the articles which have ever been written on my subject, through JSTOR, the digital library which is free to students and out of bounds to everyone else. And then, I was given the news, which I could scarcely believe, that the JSTOR subscription of my university, Buckingham, did not extend to articles on garden history, because they couldn’t afford the charges.
Sir William Temple loved his garden at Moor Park so much that he made a provision in his will for his heart to be buried under the sundial. Which it was, when the time came, in a silver casket.
I’m not sure that Sir Roy Strong is planning to go to the lengths of Sir William in showing his devotion to his garden, but he is certainly planning his exit strategy. First to go have been dozens of conifers which had impudently outgrown their station.
I happened to be at the reception desk at the Newby Bridge Hotel when two officious looking men and a woman walked in. They produced badges and showed them to me. “We’re from the Food Standards Agency” one of them said “we need access to all your fridges”.
The National Liberal Club has the unfortunate distinction of being famous for its toilets. The fame arises from the story told about the habit of F E Smith of popping into the club on his way to the Commons to use their facilities. The problem was that he didn’t belong to the club and one or two of the members got a bit shirty about this and asked the porter to have a discreet word with him about it. And so, on his next visit the porter accosted him with the words:
Yesterday, when I was cycling along the straight bit of lane at Meathop, doing about 15mph, a hawk sprang up from the field to my left and flew alongside me for about 50 yards before swooping in front of me and away. It was one of those scarcely believable moments which will never happen again, but which doesn’t need to because I’ll never forget it.
When I got back to Grange my mood of exhilaration was dented somewhat when an elderly lady raised her arm as I passed and shouted “Where’s your helmet!”.
It’s quite possible that Lord Emsworth first inspired me to become a pig farmer. I remember travelling by train through Italy as a teenager with only P G Wodehouse as my companion and laughing so much that the Italians called me “il pazzo Inglese”. My hero, of course, was Lord Emsworth, the batty aristo whose main aim in life was to win the “Fat Pig” category in the local show with The Empress of Blandings.
With rumblings on the news about some extra cold weather heading our way we thought it would be a good idea to get our cannas out of the ground. They can survive hard frosts if they are left in the ground and given a heavy mulch, but the only way to be sure is to dig them up and get them under cover. The photo above shows the individual rhizomes, once they’ve been cleaned. Each one already has two new shoots ready to develop. We put them in pots, in compost, and keep them in a shed until February, when they can go into cold frames or into the greenhouse. By May they will have produced a fair amount of new growth and will be ready to plant out.
The photo below shows a single plant just before digging up, with all the foliage removed. It’s quite astonishing how it has bulked up over the last summer, even though conditions weren’t ideal for cannas. In fact what began as 36 plants in one bed have grown so much that they now fill 140 pots, most of which have two or three plants in them.
A letter of complaint from a guest used to cut me to the core. Then I read that Claridges, who are about as iconic as they get, employed someone whose sole job was to answer letters of complaint. That cheered me up no end. If Claridges, where everything is perfect, gets moaners perhaps I shouldn’t mind so much. Nowadays no-one ever bothers to write in. If they’ve got something to moan about they just post something on TripAdvisor, for the world to see. But sometimes, when things have gone splendidly, they take the trouble to tell the world about that too. Wayne, at the Damson Dene Hotel is good at making things go splendidly.
The other day I had a call from The World at One asking if I’d like to comment, from a tourism operator’s perspective, on the news issued by the Met Office, that 2012 was officially the wettest year on record. I replied that here in the Lake District we are not in the least intimidated by the prospect of rain, and it’s not long since that we were getting visitors from East Anglia who were coming just to be reminded what rain looked like. Rain is a part of our life here, we wouldn’t have any lakes without it, and it’s one of our great advantages that visitors aren’t at all disappointed when it happens.
My heart stopped when I walked into the bathroom at 4.30 in the morning and saw a large rat at my feet. The rat was frozen, as I was, and seemed to be weighing up the option of running up my leg before it darted down a hole in the corner, which had been exposed when the builders removed the shower tray, as part of our building works after the fire. Later that morning the rat man came to put down poison and the builders blocked up the hole. This unnerving experience made me sympathetic to the girls’ entreaties for us to get a cat to replace the unfortunate Pepper.
There is sorrow enough in the natural way From men and women to fill our day; And when we are certain of sorrow in store, Why do we always arrange for more? Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware Of giving your heart to a dog to tear. -Rudyard Kipling ‘The Power of the Dog’
Last night Pepper was lying in front of the fire, watching TV, when Sara bent down to give her an affectionate stroke. Pepper wasn’t in the mood for petting and jumped up, biting Sara on the nose and refusing to let go.
The idea of Slow Life is to take the principles of Slow Food, which are “good, clean and fair”, and extend them to life in general.
Here in the Lake District, the air is clean, the pace is slow and the atmosphere is calm. If we don’t grow food ourselves, we can buy it in friendly small shops, where you know the quality is going to be the best.
This blog is a celebration of the Slow Life, with forays into the world of design, music, the arts, gardens, and my particular weakness, Japan.