'How many roads must a man walk down before you can call him a man? How many plugs can one programme receive before things are getting out of hand? Yes, and how many trails can the listener endure before they want to change the wave band? The answer my friends is not very many and the question is when is it going to end?
One of the daftest things I’ve ever done was to travel to Crug Farm, which is on the far side of Wales, near Anglesey, on a Wednesday. After a four hour drive I came to their entrance gate and found a sign which said “CLOSED”. I was just thinking of chancing my arm and ringing the bell when I noticed that underneath the word “CLOSED” was written “This includes you”. But I love the place so much that I returned a few weeks later, on a day when they were open, and returned home, as always, with a car stuffed full of rare plants.
“For me Mackies is a Lovemark” - Kevin Roberts, CEO Worldwide, Saatchi and Saatchi James Mackie leads a double life. The keyboard player (I should say Hammond player) with the Heroes of She made his name with Madness and The Selector.
These are some random thoughts from the Chelsea Flower Show. Because of lack of space 7 designs which had received preliminary approval and were fully funded were rejected. I wonder how those designers feel about the inclusion of Darmuid Gavin’s flying pod, which bears the same relationship to gardening as Tracey Emin’s bed has to art.
Everyone in my generation remembers where they were when they heard the news of JFK’s assassination. I was at school with friends listening to ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’. It was Dylan’s second album but the first we had heard and it meant more to us then, and now, than the killing of the President. A lot of people in those days revered Dylan as a man with a message, a protest singer, but he’s said all along that he’s only there to entertain and this is what he’s done throughout the subsequent decades.
Crosthwaite is one of the most beautiful villages in England. It’s in the Lake District National Park and happens to be the location of one of my hotels, the Damson Dene. Because it’s in the National Park there are very strict planning regulations, very few planning applications for new buildings are granted every year and those that are, are subject to very strict regulations. One of these is that the roof must be made with Burlington slate.
“As the lamb had been kept outside and fed on spring grass, the meat had terrific flavour” These words are attributed in the Daily Telegraph magazine today to Andrew Fairlie, a chef who runs the restaurant at the Gleneagles Hotel.
During the winter my Wagyu cattle were allowed to roam wild on the fells with the Galloways. The conditions were rougher than expected and they were a little bedraggled when we brought them to their new home in January. They have now swapped the rough fells of the west coast overlooking the Irish Sea for the more benign conditions of Grange-over-Sands, and the three mature bullocks have spent the last three months living a life of luxury indoors on a diet of grain getting into condition for the fateful day which awaits all beef cattle.
I think this is the happiest smile I’ve ever seen. A smile of fulfilment, of achievement and of complete joy. The smile belongs to Sally and the occasion is the birth of her first child, Florence. Unlike most newborn babies, Florence really is beautiful.
We don’t keep hens any more, so I have to buy my own eggs and there’s no better place for this than Low Sizergh Farm Shop. Until a few months ago Low Sizergh Farm was organic, a status they had to relinquish when grain became too expensive, but that decision has had no effect on the quality of the eggs. There are four categories of eggs- battery, pretend free range, real free range and organic. Nearly all eggs sold in supermarkets fall into the battery and ‘pretend free range’ categories. The difference between pretend free range and real free range is that the former are kept indoors permanently, just like battery hens, but have a theoretical access to the great outdoors, which they don’t use. I’ve seen one of these pretend facilities on a farm not far from Low Sizergh Farm, and it made me resolve never to buy another egg which is described as “free range” unless I could be certain that the hens really do go outside. There’s no problem at all with Low Sizergh Farm. Any visitor can see the hens pecking contentedly outside. They may not be organic anymore, but they are the genuine article.
When I tuned into Desert Island Discs this morning I was taken aback to hear Kwame Kwei-Armah choose Ijaman’s ‘I’m a Levi’ as one of his discs. This is only the second time I’ve heard Ijaman played on the BBC before, the first being when I chose ‘Hold on Honey’ as one of my selections when I did Cumbria Radio’s version of Desert Island Discs a couple of years ago.
So many gardeners date their love of gardening from the sense of wonder which they felt as a child when they watched seeds which they had planted grow into plants. That sense of wonder never goes, and is still with me as I grow trays of seedlings in my potting shed. Nor does the sense of annoyance when the newly emerged seeds are nibbled overnight by mice.
There are, apparently, more than 2,000 varieties of apples in this country, which is enough to keep the doctor away for several years without eating the same variety twice. We’ve only a couple of dozen types at Yewbarrow House, none of them rare, as far as I know, but just below the house, in what used to be the garden of Yewbarrow Lodge, is Grange’s Community Orchard, which has many varieties, including the rare Keswick Codlin.
I make it a rule not to do any weeding in my garden (except where we are growing vegetables or planting seeds) until the middle of May. My motive here isn’t just laziness (although that plays a part) but because I want to see what has self-seeded. If you get out the hoe too early you run the risk of destroying the good along with the bad and that can be an expensive mistake.
Nice weather for ducks The newborn ducklings may have been saved by the great storm. Their dramatic first day started with their long trek down to the pond, where they had their first swim. Then the heavens opened. This was a real storm, with thunder and lightening.
In the three weeks since I spotted the wild mallard sitting on a nest in our strawberry house (see my posting of 18th April) I’ve checked on her every morning and every evening. She has lain there quietly, motionless, in fact so still that a visitor thought she might be dead. How long would it take for her eggs to hatch?
There’s something wonderful about the fact that a spoof rap video featuring two professors of economics should have attracted more than 2 million plays on Youtube. The video is American, but the two professors were British (one of them naturalised)- perhaps the world’s most important economists- Maynard Keynes and Friedrich von Hayek.
This photo may appear to be of a few shoots peeping above stoney ground, but it’s much more than that. In fact it’s a minor miracle. The shoots are from a dahlia tuber which had been left in the ground unprotected all winter. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw them this morning. The tubers ought to be stone dead, just like the phormiums and the cabbage palms all around them.
Good for Germaine Greer. I never thought I’d say that. In fact, she annoyed me so much a few years ago by saying that she couldn’t stand to see daffodils in roadside verges because they looked so drab once they’d gone over, that I thought I’d never bother to read anything by her again. But all is forgiven after her peach of an article about the failings of the Forestry Commission.
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.