“Mother Nature is inconsistent and I refuse to trust her, even when she dangles herself in a winter bikini.”
- Robin Lane Fox- Thoughtful Gardening Robin Lane Fox is the wisest, cleverest and funniest of gardening writers. It’s such a pity that he hides away in the Financial Times, where he has written the gardening column for 40 years. He’s every bit as good a writer as Christopher Lloyd and I’d like to see him slip into Christo’s shoes at Country Life, where he’d get a much bigger audience. But I’m sure he wants to remain loyal to the the folks at the FT.
The Government has invited ordinary citizens to present Bills to parliament This would be a great idea if it turned out to to be more than a stunt. As it happens, a Bill has already been prepared which would be perfect. It was drafted, in verse, by A P Herbert, who was the last Member of Parliament to represent the University of Oxford (before the university seats were abolished).
On Christmas night, when all the festivities were over I settled down to read a book given to me by one of my daughters and found myself so engrossed that I read it from cover to cover in one sitting. The book was The Well Connected Gardener- the biography of Alicia Amherst by Sue Minter. Alicia Amherst is almost unknown, even in gardening circles, and yet she was as formidable in her time as Gertrude Jekyll and Ellen Willmott (with whom she was friends). In 1895, when she was only 29, she wrote The History of Gardening in Britain and became one of the great horticulturalists of the Victorian and Edwardian eras.
On a day like today I’d be willing to bet that there is no journey to work better than mine. I begin in Grange-over-Sands on a sparkling morning when the rising sun casts long red shadows on the expansive sands of Morecambe Bay. Then along the Lythe Valley to the Damson Dene Hotel in Crosthwaite. It is deep midwinter; when I started out the temperature was –1C and with each mile inland it drops a further degree so that by the time I reach the Damson Dene it is –7. All the fields and trees along the way are thickly coated with a hoar frost which gleams in the bright sunshine.
I’m sure she doesn’t mind in the least, but Heather Mills McCartney was the butt of more cruel jibes this week. It was reported that her daughter Beatrice was showing musical talent, to which she replied “Yes, she gets it from me”. Poor (as in ‘poor little rich girl’) Heather is unlikely to be rehabilitated soon and the story reminded me of a video which my daughter Jo made about her at the time of her divorce from Sir Paul, when she was rumoured to have taken him for £28m.
Video from RHS- The Garden – http://www.rhs.org.uk/ Roy Lancaster is the ultimate plantsman. His garden, which is only one third of an acre, contains a thousand different plants. He wouldn’t dream of planting 12 of the same just because they made a nice display- far rather 12 different plants, however they looked together. And those plants aren’t just any old plants such as you might find in a garden centre- he relishes plants which are unusual, rare, strange and exotic- preferably plants which either he or a friend has found on a mountain side in deepest Asia or Africa.
In this month’s The Garden he describes 10 of his favourite plants from his own garden and in this video another half dozen- some of which I already have, but those which I don’t have I now covet.
When I did my research on the Wagyus in the province of Kobe in Japan I found them housed in barns in temperatures of more than 100 degrees fahrenheit. Each barn had three enormous fans whose purpose I thought was to cool down the animals until I was told by my Japanese hosts that they were there to blow away the stench of the ammonia, caused by the animal’s urine, which, were it not for the fans would be overpowering in the heat.
Which makes the better weather forecaster- a bee or the Met Office? Last year Gloria Havenband, an amateur beekeeper from Derbyshire, noticed that the entrances to her bee hives had been blocked with very dense beeswax, much thicker than is normal. Her bees, she said, had prepared impregnable defences against wind rain and snow- an unusually harsh winter must be on its way. Not at all, said the Met Office, we can expect a mild winter. We all know who was right.
My Ford Thunderbird is lying there wrapped up for the winter, forlornly waiting for me to get round to restoring her. I will do so one day, when my life slows down sufficiently. In the meantime I was intrigued to learn that Ian Fleming was an enthusiastic Ford Thunderbird owner. Here’s what he wrote about his Thunderbird for the Spectator:
This nipping air Sent from the distant clime where winter wields His icy scimitar - William Wordsworth Yesterday the temperature on the road to the Damson Dene Hotel was minus 17.5 degrees; today it was plus 2.
One of the reasons I started to rear my own meat is that I wanted to be sure what I was eating. Not only that, I wanted to be sure that the animal had been well looked after and that it met a decent end to its life. Last winter I had the rather gruesome experience of following one of my bullocks through the abattoir but by the end of it I was reasonably happy that the animal had not suffered unduly.
After my musing (Saturday) on the utterly dire non-art of Susan Philipsz (sic) it was no surprise to hear that she has been awarded the Turner Prize for 2010. On the same day that I visited the Turner finalists at the Tate, I also went round the exhibition of British Art at the Saatchi gallery, which was greatly superior to the Tate exhibits in creativity, imagination and craftsmanship. One of the artists who caught my eye was Clarisse d’Arcimoles who presented a series of works based on snaps from her family album and a picture of the same person taken in 2009 in a scene which has been exactly reproduced.
My first thought on leaving the exhibition of the work of the finalists for the Turner Prize, at Tate Britain, was “That’s £8 down the drain”. The art was completely devoid of beauty or craftsmanship and the ideas behind the works of art were for the most part facile. The saddest exhibit was by Susan Philipsz (sic), who didn’t present any art at all but , but put two speakers into an empty room, through which came the sound of her own voice singing, unaccompanied, Scottish folk songs (or dirges) on a loop.
When, in 1993, Terence Conran opened his first restaurant, Quaglinos, he almost re-invented modern dining in London. He created a sensation with his show-stopping crustacea altar, which took up one whole wall of the restaurant. The piece de resistance on the menu was the plat de fruits de mer, which was based on the famous dish served in the French Riviera and served two at a minimum. But
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.