Wotcher! - or rather, What cheer! For those who love orange. . .
Leonotis leonorus – a beautiful dead-nettle relative from South Africa – which I planted in various parts of the garden has flowered superbly this year. Most of them are over, and being tender, I'll abandon them. But a late-rooted cutting was plonked into the ground just outside the greenhouse in late summer and has grown a number of sturdy stems with instensely burning orange, furry flowers.
It's not hardy, but if you hold a severed stem over damp compost for more than five minutes, it will probably grow roots while you watch. Well, a slight exaggeration, but few things are easier to strike as cuttings.
The small prize of an Electronic Button-hole for the first person to identify both poets in the title. I'll need the titles of both pomes, too. You'll get the first, easily, but possibly not the second - it's one of a, ahem, a mediocre poet's best efforts. (Hint - the person is dead and wasn't English. And you're NOT to Google it! I'll know if you have, so don't even try.)
I was moved to poetical thoughts while watching Channel Four news last night and listening to the previously unpublished piece by the late Ted Hughes, on the suicide of his wife, Sylvia Plath. It was read with sublime skill by Jonathan Pryce. (It's here, in case you missed it.)
It's been quite a week for the arts. The PG and I went to see Noel Coward's Design for Living at the Old Vic last Thursday. It's a brilliant revival, much raunchier and more energetic than the restrained TV version I saw previously. Gilda loves Otto who loves Gilda but she also loves Leo who loves her, but Leo also rather fancies Otto who adores him back. No wonder the play was banned when Coward first wrote it. Interesting to speculate who does what to whom and when and where and how.
The curiously furry flowers are produced in whorls, on long, straight stems. When I was eight and lived for a while in Kenya, we used to break off Leonotis stems and use a section, with a dry, dead whorl at each end, as toy vehicles. You had to cut yourself a forked stick and then zoom about the school playground, wheeling your Leonotis vehicle with all the speedy haste at your disposal. These exertions had to be accompanied by ear-piercing Grand Prix type motor sounds, including squealing of brakes on corners and realistic sound effects of true-life and death crashes. That takes some doing, when your lungs and larynx are only little, but it's amazing what a din you can make if you really try.
Then, on Friday last, we went to the opera at the Coliseum. English National Opera were making a pretty respectable fist of Janacek's The Makropoulos Case (details here) and since it's a seldom performed thing, it seemed mad not to go, particularly as a good friend of our virtually instructed us not to miss it.
He was right. It was not to be missed but a strange tale. The heroine was some 300 years old, thanks to being guinea pig of a former lover and Emperor who made her drink a dodgy elixir. It was all performed on a set that resembled some vast bureaucratic institution within a totalitarian regime - papers flying about, desks, and a zombie like chorus which didn't sing or dance, but just mooched about menacingly. The music is magnificent - you'll never go wrong with Janacek.
I love the way the flowers peep out of their calyces, like fag ends, at first (fags are cigarettes in English!) and then, like day-glo rabbit paws or fluffy boxing gloves, ready to pack a colourful punch.
Daytime artistic endeavours included a walk round the V&A to see the Raphael Tapestries, loaned by the Vatican and hung with the Queen's Raphael cartoons of the same subject. Two things struck me. 1. The cartoons are far lovelier than the tapestries, so her Maj obviously has the better deal. And 2, the tapestries are all mirror images of the original drawings. Why?
Buying new trews from Marks and Spencer was almost as aesthetically inspiring as the Raphaels - only joking - but an impromptu call on the National Gallery soon woke one from post shopping torpor.
And then it was back on Tuesday for the RHS Great Autumn Show which was quite good. I particularly loved the fruit exhibit from Wisley, their lordship's grapes - so perfect they look better than a Dutch Still Life- and a bizarrely impressive thing by the flower arrangers, in the Old Hall. They'd done the arrangement, like a wall hanging, and then suspended it above the show, just under the ceiling. I was reminded of an exploded compost heap, caught mid blow.
I'm listening to the prelude to The Makropoulos Case by Janacek.
This week's film was - well, you've had enough already with all that opera, theatre and stuff.
This day in 2005 I made a raised bed shaped like a grand piano, for growing Mediterranean bulbs and small plants. The rock, I discovered in our drive. Previous owners had used good quality stone instead of hardcore, but luckily, they hadn't broken the lovely big pieces up. (What possessed them?) I dug out all the huge chunks and replaced them with real rubble, which was lying about in squalid little heaps all over the darker corners of the property.