It has begun.
The charging around from show to show like a pinball (i) spinning between bumpers. I have been fired out of the chute and have done two days at Grand Designs Live before whizzing off to the Malvern Spring Show to cavort around the stage there.
Grand Designs involved judging (with Kevin McLeod) a garden competition, giving a couple of seminars (which is what architects call talks) and, curiously, giving a cooking demonstration. Now, as some of those familiar with these pages may remember, I have written before that I am not a terribly good cook. In fact I don’t do much cooking at all – although I make very good porridge – which makes me a slightly odd choice when it comes to demonstrations. This time I made (ii) scones, mini Victoria sponges and marmite cheese straws. They were all delicious, I am obviously a very gifted cook whose light has been hidden under a bushel for the last half century. The deal is that during this demonstration I chat away about whatever comes into my head which in this case encompassed the difference between a kipper and a bloater (iii), the pros and cons of chunks in marmalade and whether cream or jam should go first when making a cream tea (depends on whether you are Cornish or Devonian).
Then Malvern, which is a show that I adore. This is my eighth year of general cavorting and it is always jolly. This year I am encumbered by the presence of my friend Mark Diacono who is running another theatre. Occasionally he is allowed into my bailiwick provided he wipes his feet and does not fart in front of the public.The weather is, as aways, changeable. The gardens are delightful, the company exquisite, the hotel food great and, to cap it off, I trashed Mark at Scrabble twice. The third time I let him beat me by a hundred points as I hate to see a rough Devonian weep.
The star turn at the show was the indefatigable Carol Klein who is always fabulous but very difficult to move around as she keeps disappearing to talk to people or buy plants. We also had Chris Beardshaw talking about his new book and assorted other delights. On the Sunday things went a bit awry and we ended up with spontaneous chaos caused by pizzas, a trio of jaunty musicians, some giveaway kohlrabi and a lot of energetic dancing. We also included singing in French, getting garden designers to sing Tragedy (the Steps version with with hand movements) and everything you ever wanted to know about olives. It stopped just short of a bacchanalian orgy. The sound guy, Chris, looked very pale by the end of it and tottered up to me and said “What exactly just happened here?” I was not quite sure myself but it was pretty jolly.
For the last few years I have ended up going home with some bundled asparagus and a box of live chickens. This year was no exception. I am now feeling a bit delicate and am recovering from a visit to the physiotherapist this morning that involved some very serious pain: you know that muscle that runs down the outside of the thigh? it is not fun when a small, but physically very active, woman sticks her elbow in there for a protracted length of time. the picture above is of me standing on top of a pleasingly wobbly spiral staircase in Alchemy Gardens’ ‘Room for a View’ garden. The weather at that moment was not exactly clement.
Next week I will be at the Chelsea Flower Show for much of the time: if you wish to wave I will be tarting around on television during the Royal Visit and probably in a couple of other places during the week. I am listening to Cash on the Barrelhead by Gram Parsons.The photograph is of blossom on the Greengage tree.
(i) I was once threatened with bodily harm by somebody for nudging their pinball machine.,It was in the Marquee club, Wardour Street in about 1978 at an Adam and the Ants gig. This was before Adam became all Prince Charming/Dandy highwayman and preferred to strut about in very tight leather accompanied by Jordan who, for those young people among you, was nothing to do with either the Arab country or Katie Price. Instead she was a shop assistant and general muse at SEX in he Kings Road. I remember her looking very threatening and quite bulgy. I think she now runs a cats home on the South Coast.
(ii) When I say “made” I mean it in the same spirit as a child who has made a cake. I was allowed to mix one thing, knead another and am definitely not allowed near sharp knives or hot things.
(iii) Both are smoked herrings, the bloater includes entrails whilst the kipper is pre-gutted. The former, as you would imagine, is a more robust taste.