Well meaning laws sometimes have unintended consequences, which entirely defeat their intended purpose. We had a splendid example of this this week when 25 pensioners, some in their 80’s, lost their jobs at Longleat because their employers were worried that they would lose the right to dismiss them when a new law comes into force next year.
It’s bliss today. No post, no papers, no possibility of getting to work. Two hours of heavy snow at dusk yesterday means that we have the perfect excuse to take it easy.
Enjoying the Slow Life I picked up the 1896 volume of The Garden (see Saturday’s posting) and my eye was caught by an article headed “Scarcity of small birds”. It began “I never remember a scarcity of small birds as at present. Robins, wrens and hedge sparrows are only seen here and there.”
Eric Robson may be the sharpest wit on the radio, but he’s a bit of a snob. I mean a gardening snob of course- I’m sure he’s not the sort of person to wince if he hears someone using the word toilet. But he does wince when he sees Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana) growing in someone’s garden, which must make any drive through suburbia a painful experience for him.
Court Hay Books are the leading specialists in antiquarian gardening books and their genial proprietor, Howard Walters, stays ahead in this internet age by providing a personal service. He didn’t like to trust a courier service with my order of the Victorian gardening magazine The Garden and delivered them to me personally. Mind you, as he was delivering more than 2,000 weekly editions, covering a period of 20 years, his decision was probably a wise one- they filled the boot of his car. The magazines were bound into 31 volumes, each of 500 pages of dense type, comprising, at a rough estimate, more than 37 million words. This new purchase covers the period from 1880 to 1902 and supplements the run from 1871 to 1880 which I already have. The Garden competed against other weeklies such as The Gardener’s Magazine, Gardener’s Chronicle, Gardening Illustrated and The Journal of Horticulture, which also fill up my shelves, and probably add up to close to half a billion words in all. That’s War and Peace 1,000 times over.
James Delingpole, who writes good sense week after week in the Spectator, has been awarded the Frederic Bastiat prize for Online Journalism. Frederic Bastiat is a 19th century political philosopher who has been called the godfather of Austrian economics and who is in vogue in the United States. Until today, I’d never heard of him, which is rather shocking considering that I spent three years at university studying economics and am an enthusiast for the Austrian school of economics. One explanation for my appalling ignorance is that nearly everything I was taught at university was complete tosh.
Some gardens are spectacular for two months and dreary for the rest of the year. I couldn’t abide that. Others are good in summer but desolate in winter. Not a good idea. When I began to design the garden at Yewbarrow House I was determined to avoid these traps. To my mind a garden should look good all year round. Moreover, in winter time the garden should look good when viewed from the house as the chances are that when the weather is cold you are going to be looking at the garden from the warmth inside.
A series of heavy frosts, such as we experienced last winter, will cut down a young Cordyline Australis . But it’s very difficult to finish them off altogether. What happens is that a single stemmed tree will rejuvenate from the base and become multi-stemmed. This is what has happened to all the Corylines at the Damson Dene Hotel They were cut right back in February and then started to resprout in July. The photo is of a multi-stemmed Cordyline on the promenade in Grange.
Everybody starts by copying. This fact is acknowledged, admitted and even bragged about by the modern greats in pop music- Lennon/McCartney, Jagger Richards and, above all, Bob Dylan. His latest album consists of demo recordings of his earliest songs and there’s scarcely an original tune among them. Dylan ransacked old blues and folk music, even Scottish folk songs- the tune for Blowing in The Wind comes from a Scottish folk ballad. In these early days Dylan used to borrow lyrics too. There’s a well known saying in pop music - “where there’s a hit there’s a writ” and many of the great song writers have spent years in court fighting allegations of plagiarism. But Dylan was crafty- he only used stuff that was well out of copyright. The dead don’t sue. It wasn’t long before he found his own muse. This latest album is his 57th and I bought it as soon as it was released, as I have with all the 56 that came before, not caring a jot whether the songs were original or not.
This is the time of year when all the gardening columns are giving advice about shutting the garden down for the winter. One burning question is- do we ned to go to the trouble of lifting dahlias and storing them indoors? If you’ve got only a few choice specimens you’d be mad not to lift them, as the effort is minimal and once they’re inside they don’t need any attention until the spring, not even watering and you can be confident that they’ll be free from harm.
A E Housman is the perfect poet for a young man; his poems are all about rejection, unrequited love, despair and sacrifice. It’s no wonder that I liked him so much when I was a teenager. He is often quoted on Remembrance Day for his verses about young men going to war and not returning. Here dead we lie Because we did not choose To live and shame the land From which we sprung
BBC Radio Cumbria rang to tell me that the winner of the bid to run the Windermere Tourist Information Centre would be announced on the 7am news. Would I be available to give an interview live, straight after the announcement, to give my comments on behalf of the Lakes Hospitality Association- who were one of the 19 bidders to run the TiC? The BBC knew the identity of the winners, but I didn’t, and they weren’t at liberty to tell me.
When I had the idea of designing a Beekeeper’s Garden for the Hampton Court Flower Show one of my main aims was to highlight the plight of the bee, whose numbers had been declining for several years. The idea was avidly seized upon by the media and the BBC did a special feature which included an interview with a bee expert, Professor Ratnieks in the finished garden at Hampton Court. My story was one of many about bees last year and it caught the public’s imagination to such an extent that 18 months later comes the news that the number of privately owned bee colonies has increased by 50% from 80,000 to 120,000.
The albums at numbers 4 and 6 in the charts this week were first released on vinyl, in the days when albums were called LP’s. When CD’s were invented these same records entered the charts again as everyone renewed their record collections to catch up with the new technology. Now they have been re-launched for a third time as “digitally remastered” packages. While these two albums (which are the Beatle’s “Red” and “Blue” collections) mop up sales, several other artists whose careers began in vinyl days are also in the top twenty- Bob Dylan, Cliff Richard and Phil Collins among them.
We’ve had all kinds of weather thrown at us in the last two weeks- including several severe frosts. The frosts have seen off most of our Dahlias but we’ve nothing to complain about as some of the plants have been producing flowers continuously for five months. Dahlias are well known for being susceptible to the first frosts, but some of the Dahlias in our garden are made of sterner stuff. These are the species tree Dahlias, which have not only survived the frosts but, in the warm spell of the last few days, have shown vigorous new growth. We have three types of tree dahlias in the garden- Imperialis, Tenuicaulis and Excelsa.
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.