March 2011

In a recent post I mentioned rediscovering my interest in art. I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit in the last few days, in that way that you do when you aren‘t well and the same thoughts seem to rattle around and around in your head.

A decade ago when I moved to this house my mother turned up with a load of my junk from her loft. Amongst all this detritus. was a cardboard tube containing some of my O level art. It was mostly like anything else drawn by a fifteen year old. Awful. But there was one picture that is less awful than the others.

I actually recall drawing it, and thinking at the time that it was OK. I still think that it is OK. More than that it made me happy at the time, it makes me happy now.

And so I’ve been wondering whether I shouldn’t take up art in some way.


Some years ago I used to have a small collection of 50s/60s sci-fi books that I bought because of the abstract artwork on the covers.

They are probably in a box in the loft somewhere as are all my other non-horticultural books. Such a waste.

Dearly, dearly, dearly I wish I had shelf space in the house to have them down here. 

Actually what I really want is a room that I could convert into a library. After all, as Cicero said “He who has a garden and a library wants for nothing.“

This is of course a pipe-dream, but it is important, from time to time, to indulge such fancies.

As I’ve mentioned previously on this blog, I have a small collection of artwork which is horticultural in theme, and that would of course go on the walls of my library.

The latest addition to that collection is this science fiction magazine I bought solely for the weird brainish, spineous tree on the cover and plan to frame up.

It was I admit an impulse purchase and experience has taught me not to ignore those sort of impulses.

For a certain amount of this week, when not sitting in front of the TV coughing, or lying in bed coughing, or lying in bed thinking about coughing, I have been sat in front of the TV thinking about coughing.

I have also been sat in front of the TV thinking about how little horticulture there is on it these days. I understand they have even cancelled Landscape Man which was the best programme for a long, long time.

About six years ago when we first got a freeview box there was a channel called UKTV Style which used to have quite a lot of gardening programmes, including one hilarious one where this little bandy-legged fella and his unshaven mate used to noddle round making gardens on a budget of about 15 quid. It was often unintentionally hilarious, usually started with the pair driving round in their van, lost and always ended with them producing some booze (for which they must’ve kept back half of the budget) to ply the garden owners with and get them a bit tiddly so that they would say what a great job they’d done.

Eventually they got rid of UKTV Style, but there was another channel UKTV Gardens, although that required a subscription.

As I mentioned in the previous post, a while back the OH acquired a huge TV and a satellite package. It must have been rather predictable that I’d be a bit sniffy about this as an attempt was made to buy me off by sugaring the pill with a package that included UKTV Gardens

It was great, but alas short lived (lasting about 2 weeks after we got the TV). I was just getting into watching a wide variety of stuff from recent years and also from way back including Gardeners’ Worlds from the golden Geoff Hamilton era and the marvellous Victorian Kitchen Garden, when the channel was pulled and in it’s place a thing called Home erected.

If your “home” is some vacuous hole that is easily filled with crap like Escape to the Country, Bargain Hunt, Car Booty, Flog It, or Cash in the Attic, then I pity you. And the gardening content? Ground Force – I need say no more.

So what are we left with? Well having a lot of sofa-time on my hands I have done a bit of research into what there is on TV this weekend with horticultural content.

First off Gardeners’ World on BBC2 – newly retrovitalised for the pensioners. This is the only programme I found on terrestrial TV.

Then there are a couple of old Gardeners’ World repeats on Blighty on Sunday and a programme called The Nation’s Finest Gardens, which I think I’ve seen and if so is rubbish, but I may be wrong.

On Travel & Living can be found loads of episodes of Country Lives presented by Chris Beardshaw, which I think was originally on ITV, and as you’d expect has lots of rural fare, but on Saturday one programme features a botanic artist and another includes two Norfolk gardens. Sunday’s programmes include one on herbalism and another on a tropical jungle garden in Norwich. One programme even has a feature on people who dislike flowers so much they grind them up.

At the crack of dawn Sunday on the same channel is a programme, Sun, Sea, & Scaffolding, which is about a couple from Notts relocating to France where they are renovating a house and garden. The latter is usually amusing for the wrong reasons – last week we were shown what they said was a herb bed. It was a circle of earth, empty except for a stunted, wind-blasted bay tree and I’d have more readily believed they had just buried a large dog or something.

On both days the Community Channel is showing Blue Poppy, undoubtedly the best programme with horti-content on this weekend, and is about Tibetan women training in Scotland, to help save vital medicinal plants from dying out in their homeland.

And lastly, only the second programme that is not a repeat, The Horticultural Channel on at 8.30 a.m. on Information TV (Sky 166), about which I blogged earlier in the week.

It’s not exactly rich pickings.

It would be true to say that I was not particularly impressed when, some time ago, the OH returned home with a Sky TV package. Over the last couple of years I’ve actively tried to watch less telly, particularly the stuff that is merely mental bubblegum. There was also a concern that Little Boots already watched too much telly.

It seemed to me that that this was a wholly bad idea.

Some months later whilst scanning through the TV channels desperately seeking something to watch and I stumbled onto a programme on one of the Sky Arts channels featuring street art.

It was really good, so I then started looking through the channel’s schedule for more of the same. I found it, and whilst doing so came across other programmes on that and other channels which aroused my curiosity.

There was also an enormous load of shite I have to say.

There’s a moral in there somewhere about something positive being found in the most unlikely circumstances, or to seek the good in every situation.

Me – I just like big, clever, spray-painted murals .

But, truly I did not expect to rediscover my love of art via satellite TV – it’s been like finding a lost part of myself.

I saw this excellent piece the other day – apologise for the picture quality – I took it from a moving train.

Following on from the last post, I did watch some gardening on TV at the weekend.

There’s a new programme called The Horticultural Channel on satellite channel Information TV. It’s pretty ‘home-made’ & I personally don’t think there’s space on a half-hour, fortnightly programme purporting to be ‘horticultural’ for regular features on chickens & home-baking, but it was entertaining & diverting, sometimes it has to be said, in an unintentional way, particularly the guy introducing us to his weed-infested allotment plot, bisected by a ridiculous blue fence.

That said, there was a useful tip for getting rid of sciarid flies – almond oil. Oh, and Charles Dowding was good.

Enough to make me return to watch more, and see how it develops.

(The photo is of Sorbus x thuringiaca – a hybrid of rowan and whitebeam and is included with this post for no reason other than I took it ages ago and have just found it)

Just as I was despairing it was gone forever, my gardening mojo came stealthily creeping up on me.

I never saw it coming and despite feeling myself to be horticulturally bereft, suddenly found I was dunking seeds prior to sowing them in the heated propagator. This was all so out of the blue that I didn’t have all the equipment needed and was scratching around for something suitable for making holes in the compost.

Remembering that I’d put a pair of give-away chopsticks in my rigger boots by the back door, I set off downstairs.

(By way of explanation any small-ish items en route to the garden/greenhouse end up in the boots to ensure they end up outside. Mostly I remember to check before putting my feet in).

Passing through the living room, I was challenged by the OH who was sitting in front of the goggle box. The exchange went something like this:

“Do you know why they’re showing repeats of Gardeners’ World?”

“They aren’t – Monty Don’s back doing it.”

“So where’s this?”

“His garden.”

“So what happened to that new place?”

“Binned, I guess.”

“They must’ve spent tens of thousands on that.”

“At least.”

“Of taxpayers’ money.”

“BBC’s money.”

“That’s our money. The license fee is a tax. That’s a disgrace. Someone should be sacked for that. And where’s Alys?”

(OH likes Alys).

“No idea.”

“And why have they got these two numpties back?”

At this point Joe Swift and Rachel de Thame were helping an old lady spread a thin layer of partially decomposed sticks, purporting to be home-made compost around her plants.

“Ah, it’s the End of Days. Ragnarok. Twilight of the Gods. Time is folding in on itself and has started running backwards.”

“You do talk rubbish.”

“Beats watching it.”

“You’re right” said the OH changing channels.

“Tune back in in a couple of months. Maybe they’ll have Chris Beardshaw back.” I quipped, disappearing back upstairs.

Despite mentioning Hamlet a couple of posts back, I wholly admit that the works of William Shakespeare do not often occupy my thoughts. But the last couple of days I have been thinking about Macbeth, or at least part of it. Whilst doing some research into the Rowan tree and it’s myth and lore I was reading “The Forest in Folklore and Mythology” by Alexander Porteous, written in the 1800s. In this book he discusses a passage in Macbeth where the sailor’s wife in response to a request for chestnuts from the witches, says , ‘Aroint thee, witch!’ but that some authorities seem to think this should be ‘A rown-tree, witch!’.

Neither seem to make much sense to me and it did occur to me that since Old Shakey was from the Midlands, if you say ‘Aroint thee, witch!’ in something approaching a Brummie accent you come very close to something that sounds like “Alright. Thee witch”.

This is probably nothing but simplistic mental doodling on my part and realising that I thought I’d have a quick look around the internet to see if anyone of more erudition than I had anything on the subject posted anywhere.

My search was fruitless, but I did come across an article on Rowan which seemed to want to give the impression that it was an original piece of work, but was simply rehashed and unaccredited content from Porteous.

I didn’t think it was even that well done, but it did set me thinking. Since “The Forest in Folklore and Mythology” is over 100 years old and out of copyright, is there any comeback on this and are there any laws around plagiarism?

And with that having had two semi-intelligent things to conjure with in the space of two days I went to bed exhausted.

Tomorrow I shall confine myself to one of Little Boots’ comics.

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