Thursday, 21 July 2011

Too many words

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

There have been far too many words lately. It is not that I do not love words. I believe in their enduring power. They are my love, and my living. But one cannot expect busy readers to read and read as I go on and on.

So today, at last, there shall be pith. And, mostly, pictures.

I went out into the July gloom and gazed, lovingly, at my garden. It is bashing gamely on, despite a shocking lack of sun. The lavender is looking a little sad, dreaming no doubt of the Mediterranean, which is really where it should be living. And something alarming has happened to one clump of delphiniums. (I suspect sabotage.)

But the astrantias and the hydrangeas and the salvias and the salix and the cotinus are going like gangbusters, defying the dank weather. I do not know very much about plants, but I suspect that, like racehorses, they do crave the sun on their backs from time to time. I find it oddly touching that they keep flowering under our dark Scottish skies.

The Pigeon rootles about, searching for rogue rabbits. There is a wonderful moment when she disappears under a Japanese quince, and all I can see is the shivering of green leaves, where she is foraging, and the tip of a wagging tail. She emerges, suddenly, with a dramatic flourish, nose up, sniffing the air, ears alert, body taut with purpose. She is thirteen years old, but she is not going to let those damn bunnies get away with it.

I laugh at her, call her over, fondle her velvet ears. I think: you are the sweetest, finest, funniest, bravest, loveliest creature I ever saw in my life. I wish, as I often do, that she spoke English, so I could tell her some of this.

Here is what we saw:

The exuberant philadelphus, with cotinus in the background, providing a wonderful dark contrast:

21 July 1

The newest cotinus tree in all her glory:

21 July 2

Delicate salvia tips:

21 July 3

The new hydrangea, with which I am quite in love:

21 July 4

21 July 6


21 July 8

21 July 5

21 July 7


21 July 9


21 July 12


21 July 14

Philadelphus in close-up:

21 July 15

The thyme is suddenly flowering, almost overnight, it seems:

21 July 16

And the marjoram is putting out its first flowers of the season:

21 July 18

This is not Chelsea, but I am rather proud of this little corner of my border:

21 July 11

And talking of flowering, and pride, and sheer, unadulterated loveliness, here is Herself:

21 July 20

21 July 22

How I love that serious face. And the delicately placed paws almost kill me.

And finally, today’s hill, under the drear Scottish skies:

21 July 22-1

But rather majestic and impervious, all the same.


As I was writing this, I thought: I’d better look up the Japanese quince. I always call it Japanese, but my horticultural knowledge is sketchy, and it’s the kind of thing I get wrong.

It is indeed called Japanese, but it is also sometimes known as Japonica. Japonica, I thought, that takes me back. That is The Naming of Parts. I learnt that poem when I was ten years old, and I can still recall, with a strong sense memory, how much it entranced me. I wonder what it was in that poem that so captured my childish mind. Perhaps it was the sense of the exotic. I had travelled then no further than France. I remember too being struck by the contrast of the gun with the bees and the coral.

I have not put up a poem for ages, so here it is. It is by Henry Reed, and I have not read it for ages, but it turns out I love it still, 34 years after I found it first:


Today we have naming of parts. Yesterday,

We had daily cleaning. And tomorrow morning,

We shall have what to do after firing. But today,

Today we have naming of parts. Japonica

Glistens like coral in all of the neighbouring gardens,

And today we have naming of parts.


This is the lower sling swivel. And this

Is the upper sling swivel, whose use you will see

When you are given your slings. And this is the piling swivel,

Which in your case you have not got. The branches

Hold in the gardens their silent, eloquent gestures,

Which in our case we have not got.


This is the safety-catch, which is always released

With an easy flick of the thumb. And please do not let me

See anyone using his finger. You can do it quite easily

If you have any strength in your thumb. The blossoms

Are fragile and motionless, never letting anyone see

Any of them using their finger.


And this you can see is the bolt. The purpose of this

Is to open the breech, as you see. We can slide it

Rapidly backwards and forwards: we call this

Easing the spring. And rapidly backwards and forwards

The early bees are assaulting and fumbling the flowers:

They call it easing the Spring.


They call it easing the Spring: it is perfectly easy

If you have any strength in your thumb: like the bolt,

And the breech, and the cocking-piece, and the point of balance,

Which in our case we have not got; and the almond-blossom

Silent in all of the gardens and the bees going backwards and forwards,

For today we have naming of parts.


(Sorry formatting is a bit dodgy, but you get the gist.)


PS. Most excellent co-writer was on Woman’s Hour today. They love her on Woman’s Hour, and so they should. She has a very lovely radio voice. If you are interested, and can get the iPlayer, you can find it here, about ten minutes in:


Well, not quite so pithy, after all. One day, I really shall give you a HAIKU.


  1. I say, that Chelsea border looks just stunning.

    And today the Pigeon, with her neatly folded paws and melting eyes, is the absolute picture of PURE Love.

    What joys for you under those grey skies!

    Now, I am off to listen to Woman's Hour.

    x :)

  2. The Naming of Parts is my father's favourite poem - and one of mine. Lovely pix. Lovely Pigeon. Rachel

  3. Beautiful. All of it. Especially the Pigeon :)
    *reminder for Cabin Pressure tomorrow morning - hope you're enjoying the new series*

  4. I envy you your hortensia, ours are sad and wilting here in Brittany, despite very Scottish weather for the last 5 days! My lavender is happier!
    Wonderful poem, tricky to get the i-player here, but will give it a go, as all I can get at present!

  5. Oh! So delicate,
    paws held together, Pigeon
    holds all of our hearts.

  6. My hortensia could certainly use a "pep talk" from yours!
    Your "Chelsea corner"is beautiful.


  7. I too love words, and cannot write a short story to save my life. I start, then find I've written 10,000 and I'm still at the very beginning of the tale.

    Lovely pictures as always,

    Helena xx

  8. Its been so long since I heard naming of parts.

    Takes me right back to my childhood and BISC.

    Wow. Its amazing how evocative poems are, not only for their own sake, but for the associations you have with where you first heard them.

  9. Cristina - the neat paws are really too much, aren't they?

    Rachel - how lovely to think of you and your dad loving that poem.

    Anne - LOVING Cabin Pressure. My crush on Roger Allam is now quite out of hand.

    Trifle Rushed - thank you for reminding me I must go and have a quick listen to Test Match Special.

    Erika - oh, that made me slightly tearful. In a GOOD way. :)

    Pat - so glad you like the little corner.

    Helena - me too. Have always thought the discipline of a short story is much, much harder than a novel.

    CatherineMarie - so agree. I can actually remember first reading that poem under a spreading cedar tree. It was the summer term and they used to send us outside with our books. I can almost remember the smell. Odd how the brain works. :)


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