Thursday, 24 March 2011

In which I make a confession

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

I am aware that I have a horrid tendency to flaunt my liberal credentials. Oh, look at me, with my fair-mindedness and my determination to see all sides of an argument and my freedom from bigotry. Regardez-moi, with my Child of the Enlightenment banner, waving from the moral high ground. It is perfectly ghastly, and it must stop at once.

Sometimes, because I believe that we all carry a little prejudice in us, however hard we battle against it, I examine myself for the bigot within. I am ashamed to say that I do tend to make assumptions, without any available evidence, against: people who drive four by fours, unless they are actual farmers who need to drive across fields; hedge fund managers; women who refuse to eat bread; and the very, very rich. I also harbour suspicions about fundamentalists of any religion, although to be fair, they do return the favour by believing I am going to burn in hell for eternity.

Even if I were entirely free from any prejudice at all, I cannot really take credit for it. I have to give the kudos to my old dad, who does not even notice race, class or religion, but divides the world strictly into two camps: bores, and non-bores. I would not even say that he harbours a direct animus towards the dullards, although he does have a tendency to groan aloud when he sees one hoving onto the horizon. (He is the only man I know who actually groans; grinny-groan, he calls it.) He is an iconoclast without even meaning to be. He was christened Gay. One of his favourite hobbies is going up to meaty, sporting men, sticking out his hand, and saying: Hello, I'm Gay. He once did this in a dressing room populated entirely by the Australian cricket team. Chaos ensued.

Today, I discovered that I am a filthy snob after all. I am a flower snob. In celebration of spring, and because as a good citizen I clearly have a duty to keep the economy going, I went to the village to buy some tulips. This was entirely selfless, you understand: in these dark financial times, one must support the small business.

Once there, I decided that tulips were not enough. I was going to make an Arrangement. This plunged me into confusion. The roses were too expensive, even for me. The ranunculas looked a bit dowdy. I was not in the mood for phlox. There were some of those lovely lime green chrysanthemums, which I adore, but I needed a splash of scarlet. The only other flower was the carnation. CARNATIONS??? I shouted in my head. Are you mad? Carnations are awful low-rent flowers, with a hint of pretention, the kind of thing that you find with the even more dreaded maidenhair fern. They are a nasty, cheap Abigail's Party of a bloom, that go along with net curtains and fake Dresden shepherdesses bought out of Sunday supplements.

You see? Revolting, instinctive, ocean-going snobbism of the most rebarbative kind. I had no idea I had it in me.

Once I got over the shock of discovering I was not quite the delightful, prejudice-free human I like to imagine myself, I looked more closely. It turns out that the blowsy pink carnation is not an especially beautiful flower. This is not a class-based, knee-jerk reaction, but observable fact. But the little tight deep red ones are quite, quite gorgeous. All these years I have been turning my toffee nose up at something of tremendous beauty. I bought two folds, in amazed delight, went home and put them in vases, and I don't know if I ever saw anything more pretty in my life. And they are wonderfully cheap. In these straitened times, this is not something to be sniffed at, but something to celebrate. I now declare the Carnation the Official Flower of the Recession. And in the meantime, I am going to put myself in the corner with a big dunce's hat on, until I have learnt the error of my ways.

Today's pictures feature, naturally, far too many shots of The Arrangements, for which I apologise.

Here is the big vase:

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Then I discovered that they also looked enchanting in tiny  glasses. The coloured one on the left is a type of Victorian glass which I collect. I wish I knew what they were used for. I like to imagine, fondly, it was for the ladies to have a little eleven o'clock glass of champagne, to keep their strength up:

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In my excitement, I cut some heads off by mistake, so I put them in a tiny glass salt cellar, and see how chic they look:

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Main one again. Do admit:

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Outside, there was also some tremendous flower action:


I cannot tell you how late everything comes into flower up here. In some cases, we are six whole weeks behind the south. So the dear hellebores, in their pomp in March, are like Christmas and Easter rolled into one:

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This is the first spring for my little blueberry bushes, and don't they look happy?:

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I have been absolutely useless about replying to comments recently, partly because I have not yet quite settled back to routine after my week away, and partly because I am working so hard I do not know what my name is. (983 words today, plus research and three pages of notes.) I do beg your forgiveness. Anyway, one of my dearest readers asked for pictures of the honeysuckle, and here it is, just coming into leaf:

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(Also, some of you turn out to be just as fascinated as I by the mouse eyebrows which I mentioned yesterday. I am ashamed to say that I cannot find any more information on them. The book I am reading merely mentions them in passing, and there is no footnote. I am as baffled as you.)

Along with the beauty of the flowers, the dogs were looking particularly fetching today in the spring light, so there are rather too many pictures of them too, since I could not resist.

Dedicated stick chewing:

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I love these close-ups. The Duchess has her 'I'm too grand for my shirt' face on; while the Pigeon is doing her best 'I am so unbelievably good that I must have all the biscuits' impression:

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I know it's a terrible sappy thing to say, but I do feel grateful each day that I have such glorious creatures in my house.

And finally, two views of the hill:

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  1. Oh, pretty! I think I like the ones with no stems best, actually.

  2. Hello there Tania - I too harbour prejudices, we all do. I do also drive a 4x4 (without the requisite farm) and feel generally guilty if I eat bread! Haha! And carnations, yes I would have the same feeling - that they were somehow inadequate for my floral needs! I was thinking about your hill the other day - how far away is it from you when you take the picture? I found myself wondering this as I contemplated a hill that looked miles away but was probably the same distance as your hill. Anyhow - no need for an answer just one day drop in to your hill commentary and that would do fine! Lou x

  3. Admit... with the mouse eyebrows, do we suppose they are mousey in colour or were they using specially-bred white mice, or any other colour for that matter. Perhaps it was for the feel - you know how certain parts of the body were banned (like legs and things) from showing so they garnered their erotic fill by stroking eyebrows and maybe mouse felt nicer. Or some such thing...

  4. Your dad is a realistic philosopher. To divide humanity into bores and nonbores is as sensible a response to the human condition as I've ever encountered.

  5. "I was not in the mood for phlox." Was there ever such a line for a flouncing exit, with a swirl of a cape?

    It would even - do admit! - work as the emphatic opening of a story - right up there with "I write this sitting in the kitchen sink."

  6. Kate - aren't they perfect? I'm going to do it on purpose from now on.

    Lou - you see? You are my perfect example of why one must never, ever make unfounded assumptions. You are one of my kindest readers, and must be allowed to drive all the four by fours you wish. :)

    Jo - I love that your obsession with the mouse eyebrows continues. It's making me laugh a lot.

    Colby - it's not a bad rule to live by, is it?

    Rosie - that comment has made me laugh out loud.

  7. Oh, bores and non-bores made me laugh and laugh! He is bang on. I love your description of your dad - especially, I guess, because I'm Australian. Would love to have been a fly on the wall in that dressing room!

  8. I must defend the carnation - ever since I grew some a couple of years ago, I love them and their musky, hot pink smell. They look fetching in any flower arrangement and grow so happily with other plants. But dahlias or chrysanthemums I have never wanted to grow or buy...we can't escape snobbery/prejudice. And let's not forget PLASTIC flowers.


  9. I love The Arrangements, and the rosy VIctorian glass is very nice also. And thank you for using the word "hoving" today. It's been a long while since I've heard it used.

  10. I did not know about the snobbish attitude to carnations at all. Here they are a bloody expensive flower!!
    The flowers are so pretty and I think that is all that matters.

    Thank you for the honeysuckle.

  11. We all have our prejudices, it's recognising that's what they are that's the trick. There are certain styles and colours of dyed hair that cause me to think less of the wearer for no defensible reason.
    Your dad's division of people into bores and non-bores is spot on. And how I would love to have seen the reaction to him in that dressing room!
    Am also quite fascinated by the mouse hair eyebrows.

    The arrangement is quite lovely.

  12. Oh,dear.I have a great big Landrover and I don't live in the country.But it's for putting all the children in.I've also got a bunch of red and yellow parrot tulips which are wilting very nicely.Along with peonies my very favourite flowers.Xsue

  13. Goll-eee! If you google 'mouse fur eyebrows', as I just did on an idle whim, you get - I kid you not, friends - about 4,700,000 entries. They include people showing you how to apply 18th century makeup in videos, although I didn't watch these because I'm supposed to be working. But I am confident that somewhere in those almost-5-million entries, there will be An Explanation.

  14. Dear Tania, well done on the writing.

    I feel the same about carnations and pretty much anything they sell in a petrol station. I didn't used to like chrysanthemums but my dad has taken years to convince me by growing unusual colours. Your flowers look glorious, especially with the red glass xx


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