Nothing entertains me more than to hear our former PM, Edward Heath, being roundly abused, but I didn’t expect to have that pleasure at a meeting of the Tourist Board. The occasion was the presentation to Hunter Davies of the Bernard Gooch award in honour of his services to tourism. The great man (Hunter Davies that is, no-one seemed to know who Bernard Gooch was) began his speech of thanks by telling us about his stint at the Sunday Times, some 40 years ago, when he was asked to come up with some ideas for a weekly column to fill the last page of their Magazine.
Last July I wrote with some excitement about a new type of Dahlia which we had bred in our potting shed and which seemed to be a cross between a tree Dahlia and a hybrid. By July it had grown to five feet tall and had one flower and 13 buds. It went on to reach a height of seven feet and produced flowers profusely throughout the summer. This year it has an astonishing 22 flowers and 35 buds. The flowers also have a distinct and rather beautiful scent.
The Simple Stick symbolizes a core value within Apple. Sometimes it’s held up as inspiration; other times it’s wielded like a caveman’s club. In all cases, it’s a reminder of what sets Apple apart from other technology companies and what makes Apple stand out in a complicated world: a deep, almost religious belief in the power of Simplicity. - Ken Segall- Insanely Simple
In the second part of John Allison’s Ayn Rand lecture he spoke about work. Now, the subject of work rarely surfaces in this Slow Life blog, which is mainly preoccupied with gardening and food, music and art. But of course, Slow Life is very much about achieving the right balance between work and leisure and in finding that balance how much weight should be given to work? John Ellison had some interesting things to say about this.
He began with the premise that the vast majority of human beings want to make the world a better place and that it’s important to believe that your work is making the world a better place. If your work is just work, he said, you are missing what life is about and if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing you are wasting your life. He also observed, and this is at the core of the Objectivist philosophy, that self-esteem is the foundation of happiness. The driver of self-esteem, he said, is your work, and if you don’t do your work the best you can, you will lose your self-esteem and be unhappy. On the other hand, if you can say- “That was a lot of blood sweat and tears and I’m glad I did it”, you will be happy.
Professor John Allison* has come from the southern state of North Carolina to the City of London to speak to the Adam Smith Society about the cause of the financial crisis. He’s in a unique position to know as, when the crisis struck in 2008, he was CEO of one of America’s largest banks, BB&T. Professor Allison sees the origin of the crisis in the law passed by President Clinton in 1999 forcing the two government mortgage agencies, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, to devote half of their portfolios to affordable housing.
Cannas are indispensable in a subtropical garden because their foliage is so splendid. They aren’t necessarily grown for their flowers, but when they arrive, late in the season, they are a bonus. With some varieties, such as the very large canna musifolia, the flowers may never arrive at all in our climate. So it’s especially pleasing when, in a very average summer, cannas start to produce their flowers early. This photo, taken yesterday, is of a dark-leaved variety interplanted with the dark banana leaves of ensette murillii. I’ve never known a canna to come into flower so early in the season before. Why this should be, I’ve no idea.
“Don’t start up a cold engine and then leave it idling while you rush indoors to pay a belated farewell to your wife.In the interests of minimum engine wear, skip the farewell and drive away. When facing the music on your return in the evening, make a mental note henceforth to adopt a definite sequence of events prior to your morning departure. You will achieve substantially diminished wear from your engine and deserve greater affection from your wife”. - From the Gordon Keeble Handbook, 1964
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” - Steve Jobs, Stanford University, 2005
Last year the miserable people in charge of Haringey Council refused to give Bob Dylan, who has a house there, the Freedom of their Borough. I’ve no doubt that they wouldn’t have hesitated to give that honour to their former resident Ho Chi Minh, who lived there whilst working as a pastry chef for Auguste Escoffier. And I doubt they’d have had much time for Escoffier, because he was immensely rich. In fact he was the richest and most eminent chef who has ever lived.
He made his fortune firstly at the Savoy hotel where, together with his partner Cesar Ritz, he earned a million pounds a year in today’s money. He and Ritz (as Paul Levy has revealed) also had a nice side-line in taking commissions from suppliers, which brought in a further £1.5m a year.
In an entertaining article today* James Alexander-Sinclair draws inspiration from the Slow Food movement to extol the pleasures of Slow Gardening. He says: “Often the greatest pleasure is in the waiting: to appreciate the progress of the plant at every stage from seed to cotyledon to sapling to fully grown. This is the principle behind slow gardening: enjoying the process as much as the result”. Every gardener, he says, should be wary of the temptations offered by the larger store or garden centre, whose plants are mass-produced, and do their shopping instead in the local nursery where they will find dedication, expertise, quality and value.
Cow parsley featured in several gardens at Chelsea this year, which puzzled a lot of visitors as it isn’t a plant you would choose for your borders. But its big sister, Angelica archangelica certainly is; in fact it’s a mainstay of my garden at this time of year. It never needs planting as it self-seeds everywhere and the trick is to leave it to grow where you know there’s going to be a gap in the spring and it will oblige by shooting up from a one foot plant in January to a massive five footer by May. It’s said to be named after St. Michael the Archangel, because it’s always in flower by May 8th, St. Michael’s feast day.
At Chelsea the designer Jason Hodges posed for me in front of his garden clutching a pint of Fosters at 11 in the morning- there’s nothing like living up to the national stereotype. When he asked me if I’d been to Australia I had to admit to him rather bashfully that I hadn’t and he didn’t waste the chance of telling me why I should. Of course, I want to go there, but there’s a massive disincentive in that it takes much longer to get there than anywhere else you might want to visit.
One of my favourite cartoons shows a shaggy-haired young man holding a guitar who is saying to his girlfriend “How can I be expected to write a hit record if you won’t leave me?” There’s nothing musicians like more than a little suffering and even when they’ve made it they like to moan about the record label who’ve snaffled all their millions. This has become such a cliché that some of the canniest newcomers are looking at ways to get started which don’t involve signing their name in blood on a contract with Universal or Simon Cowell.
This is the first May when the dahlias have not only been in flower, they’ve needed dead-heading. I think the reason they’ve done so well is the new regime for over-wintering introduced by Matt, our gardener. Instead of storing the tubers in trays he decided to pot them up immediately after they had been lifted and to transfer the pots to the cold frames before the end of February. 98% of the tubers survived. What’s more, there was plenty of time to take cuttings, all of which have rooted. There’s been a similar success story with the cannas- the 40 plants which we had last year have been successfully divided to create 129. They are all growing strongly and if we can get some more decent weather we should enjoy our most colourful summer ever- without buying in a single plant.
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.