As I was trying to catch the barman’s eye at the Penny Bank in Lancaster I overheard someone saying “Why is this place so packed tonight?” “There’s a band on”, came the reply “They’ve got a massive following”. And it was a massive night for the Heroes of She, who played two sets over nearly two hours, with no fewer than six songs from their forthcoming second album including two played in public for the first time- Don’t Talk To Me and Not Wrong. This video features Don’t Talk To Me and you’ll see that it’s a change of style for the band, but one of the most original, innovative songs they’ve written. I love it and can’t wait to hear a recorded version.
At the Penny Bank in Lancaster I managed to capture a Flip video of the second public performance of We Don’t Love You. The tune is irresistible. In fact I’ve had it on my brain for the last couple of days. The style, pace and tempo are just right for the Hammond /Drums combination of James Mackie and John Elles. It’s my guess that this will be the first single release from their second album. On the other hand I’ve only heard half of the songs for the new album. Let’s just say- It’s looking good.
The artist Richard Wilson has made his reputation and his fortune from his discovery that oil is a good reflective surface. His artwork 20:50 where a room seems to be half-filled with oil, reflecting the walls, windows and ceiling of the room is a favourite of Charles Saatchi’s- it has appeared in all of Saatchi’s galleries over the years- and is now installed in the space in the basement of the Saatchi Gallery in Duke of York’s Square which until recently was occupied by the highly entertaining installation of waxwork figures of ancient crones in motorised wheel-chairs who played a never ending game of dodgems.
“They tuck you up, your Mum and Dad” Adrian Mitchell (after Philip Larkin) The Round at the Dukes Theatre is an exceptional experience for the spectator. There are only three rows of seats on all four sides so that the audience is right among the action. This was particularly effective for Amy Leach’s production of ‘My Mother Said I Never Should’ which has an all female cast, with Christine Mackie playing Margaret.
It was touch and go whether we would reach the farm this morning. It had started snowing at 7 (by the way, the sixth heavy snowfall of this winter) and when we set off at 9 in the Warrior, which is a 4×4, the snow was settling on the road- an ominous sign. But we wanted to battle on, partly to make sure that the animals were OK but mainly because our youngest, Sara, had sneaked her sledge onto the back of the pickup and would not be denied her fun in the snow.
When the Heroes of She agreed to headline at a fundraising event for the earthquake victims of Haiti they were told that they would be following “The Bishop”. A spin-off from Reverend and the Makers perhaps?. Nothing so mundane. This was a real bishop, the Bishop of Haiti, who was there to lay bare a few uncomfortable facts about the tragic events in Haiti. He did a good job as more than £1,000 was raised on the night.
Excitement is in the air as we have a peek for the first time at our “plot” at Chelsea . Philippa and Alex (the show organisor) are pictured here in exuberant mood on Main Avenue in front of what will, in less than three month’s time, become the Victorian Aviary Garden. The site couldn’t be better because we’re on the main thoroughfare close to the main entrance through which 70% of the visitors enter- that’s up to 50,000 people a day. The only times I’ve been here before have been on show days, when the site seems vast- almost impossible to get round in half a day- but today when there are no buildings or people- or gardens!- the space seems impossibly small. It’s just a gentle stroll from one side to the other.
This video shows the full panorama, with a glimpse of Philippa, Alex and Mark Richardson (the guy who will be in charge of the build).
Peacocks have been a feature of our Victorian Aviary Garden from the start. In our first submission to the Chelsea panel, when the garden was called “A Bird Lover’s Garden”, we had Peacock chairs on the Aviary terrace. The idea of the chairs didn’t survive the first draft but the peacock imagery re-emerged when Maggy Howarth designed her lovely peacock mosaic for the pathway leading to the aviary. Today we have learned that the aviary which inspired ours, the one at Waddesdon Manor, was built in honour of a visit in 1889 by the Shah of Persia, the occupier of the Peacock Throne.
Tina Bone, who comes from Camberton, Cambridge, down Philippa’s way, has produced this exquisitely detailed, wonderful watercolour of our Victorian Aviary garden for the Chelsea Flower Show. This is the image which will go into the official Show brochure and which will accompany all our press and media releases in the run up to the show. I’d be perfectly happy to rest on my laurels now, but apparently its the done thing to reproduce in real life what you promise in the brochure. Will this be possible, or has Tina set the bar too high? I now understand why so many of the gardens in the show brochure are represented by vague artists’ impressions.
This is Catherine Gazzoli who has taken charge of Slow Food, grabbed it by the lapels, turned it round and given it a good kick up the backside with her 4 inch Jimmy Choos to propel it into the 21st century. Catherine is making friends with all the right people in all the right places so that now Prince Charles and Jamie Oliver are ambassadors for Slow Food and Pru Leith is on the board. At the recent Slow Food Burns Night dinner at the Damson Dene, Sue Jackson, our Chairman’s wife, kept us enthralled with her description of Catherine’s visit to the farm at Highgrove, when she was dressed to the nines when everyone else was in wellies, in the expectation of meeting Stella McCartney as well as HRH.
Is this the worlds most evil creature? Although it looks like a Honey Bee, which is perhaps the world’s most benevolent creature, it is in fact the Horse Bot Fly, whose entire existence seems to be devoted to tormenting the horse, one of the world gentlest creatures. This is the Bot Fly’s life cycle. In late summer the female Bot Fly will lay eggs on the hair of a horse’s leg. The eggs are yellow and look like specks of pollen.
I know I’m biased, but I think this design is stunningly beautiful. This is our first glimpse of the pebble mosaic designed by Maggy Howarth, which will form the 3 metre wide and 4 metre long pathway in our Victorian Aviary Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show. All the large show gardens are on Main Avenue and we are lucky to have 15 metres of frontage to Main Avenue next door to Darmuid Gavin’s garden and looking onto the Laurent Perrier and Daily Telegraph gardens which are on the other side of the street. Maggy’s mosaic will be right alongside Main Avenue, along which 150,000 visitors will walk and no doubt look on in awe. If there were any such thing as a show stopper at Chelsea, this would be it.
Cumbria produces the best slate in Britain, from three mines, but only one mine produces slate with a golden thread. The mine with the golden thread is Kirkstone, whose genial proprietor, Nick Fecit, has kindly agreed to co-sponsor our Victorian Aviary Garden for Chelsea with the supply of the slate for the floor of our Aviary. The golden thread will marry well with the gold-leaf decoration of the Aviary. I spent the morning at the Kirkstone workshop at Skelwith Bridge choosing the slate which we will use. It was fascinating to see the processes used to produce the various slate finishes- from walling stone to polished worktops. This video shows Nick and some of his skilled craftsmen working on the slate.
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.