The organisers told us that 100,000 had applied for the 5th series of Britain’s Got Talent, but whatever the numbers my youngest daughter Sara was delighted to be invited to audition. From the time we arrived, at 8am on a bleak Manchester Sunday morning, the TV cameras were there. And they were there to pounce on the most outrageous, the most outlandish, the most freakish.
“Live like a tiger for a day, rather than a mouse for a lifetime” - Jan Wilkinson, widow of Mark Weir One evening last March, Mark Weir set off home in his helicopter from his business, Honister Slate Mines, which lay near the top of a mountain in a remote part of the Lake District. It was a journey he had done hundreds of times before. The helicopter hit the side of the mountain and he was killed instantly. No one is suggesting it was anything other than an accident.
The other day on Gardener’s Question Time, Bob Flowerdew gave as his “topical tip” the advice that you should leave your dahlias in the ground over the winter. He said that he’s learnt that the only reason people lifted dahlias was to take cuttings in the spring and if you didn’t want to do that you might as well leave them in the ground, making sure that you give them a good covering of mulch to protect from the frost. If only it were as simple as that.
One November morning in 1995 Lucie Blackman’s mother, Jane, received a phone call from a stranger, a man, who told her that her husband, Tim, was sleeping with his wife. Jane’s reaction was to throw Tim out of the front door and his clothes out of the bedroom window. From that moment her life was dominated by bitterness, vindictiveness and thoughts of revenge. Any semblance of happiness in the Blackman family was destroyed.
At the Cumbria Business Awards tonight, James Timpson told us about the weird and wonderful concepts which make the Timpson family business succeed – ideas such as “upside down management” and a ban on the use of computers in their shops. One of their best ideas, which will have struck a chord with all the employers in the auditorium, is their war on “Drongos”.
It’s good news that Julian Barnes has won the Booker Prize for his novella ‘The Sense of an Ending’, but his masterpiece, as every Slow Food follower knows, is ‘The Pedant in the Kitchen’, written in 2003. It’s a small book with large print, which is a recommendation in itself, but it’s also funny and wise and tells you more about cooking than any book by Jamie Oliver or Delia Smith ever will.
There’s a chapter on Heston Blumenthal, written before this great man became a star, in which he discusses his cooking techniques and this is what he says:
In my three weeks away, I didn’t once switch on the TV or see an English newspaper and didn’t miss them one bit. On the other hand, I did miss my garden and it was a big disappointment to get back and find that the tomatoes had finished. But the flower garden, in spite of the onset of autumn, is still going strong. There’s colour everywhere, from the maples, which are turning a dark red, to the dahlias and cannas.
Until very recently Paris was the undisputed capital of gastronomy. Then the Michelin inspectors turned up in Tokyo and found, to everyone’s amazement, that the standards in Tokyo were higher. Tokyo now has 14 3 Star restaurant’s compared to Paris’s 10 – and, to put things in perspective, London’s 1.
The first reaction of a visitor to Kyoto is often one of intense disappointment. Hearing that the city is Japan’s ancient capital and that it has 2,000 temples and gardens they expect something as resplendent as Bath or Venice. In fact, when you arrive at Kyoto station and step out into the street you see a drab urban landscape, as grim as you’ll find anywhere in Japan.
Voting for the People’s Choice Award took place on the first two days of the show. All the ticket holders were asked to vote for their favourite garden and were given a voting slip with their tickets. There were only two contenders for the award, Kazu Ishihara’s Japanese garden (garden B) and my English garden (garden C).
We’ve had a lot of fun with the story of the snail, which has become known as “Snailgate”. It’s a story which took up half a page in the Daily Telegraph and which had me giving a live interview on radio 5’s “Drivetime” at 1.30 in the morning (Japanese time).
At the Chelsea Flower Show you are notified of your award with a discrete card left at your garden in the early morning, which gives you the opportunity to gather your thoughts in relative privacy. There’s nothing at all private about receiving the awards at the Gardening World Cup. This is an “Oscar style” ceremony held in front of a bank of TV cameras, with no advance warning of the results.
This year, England handed their crown to Australia and, as with many a test match, the result was weather dependent.
It has been fascinating talking to the other designers as we all strive to finish our gardens in time for judging day. They seem to inhabit a different world from me with their talk of ‘harmony’, ‘balance’ and ‘an appreciation of spatial awareness’. I’m just looking to create something which the visitors think is beautiful and which tells a story to which they can relate.
The last time I came to Japan it was raw chicken and raw horsemeat. This time it was turtle and black tripe. I’ve had many disgusting things for dinner in Japan, but these two took the biscuit. I tried the black tripe at a “Japanese barbeque”, where you cook the food yourself on a grill which is set in the middle of the table. It’s the Japanese take on a Korean tradition.
As the Japanese are well known for being the healthiest and longest living people in the world it surprising to find how popular and socially acceptable smoking is in Japan. It’s also surprising to find that smoking outdoors is not allowed there. But smoking indoors is. So here at the Hotel Europe, where we are staying for the Gardening World Cup, you can’t smoke on the hotel terrace, but you can in the hotel lounge.
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.