It was during our perambulation of the show gardens - somewhere between "A Garden in Reflection of The Universe" (Japanese pebbles) and "The Sunday Express Mizzen Top Garden" (a garden for a galleon) - that Mrs W's whiskers began to twitch in an agitated fashion. "Have you noticed," she hissed, giving me a nudge in the ribs like a blow from a pick-handle, "that French lavender is out this year and lilies have come in?" I can't say that I had detected this botanical putsch myself, but I made one or two placatory sounds of surprise and hoped that would be the end of the matter. Fat chance. For the past two weeks, the rolling acres of Weasel Villas have steadily filled with various cultivars of the genus Lilium, while the innocent fronds of Lavandula stoechas have been given the bum's rush.
Not that this will make much difference to the overall colour scheme. Just as V Sackville-West was renowned for her much imitated white garden, so Mrs W may gain fame for the unrelieved verdancy of her plot. Whatever she bungs in, the estate remains resolutely green. Flowers occasionally appear - but with a brevity that requires a stopwatch. No sooner has the peony unfurled its gobstopper of a bud, than a gust of wind shreds the cabbage-like bloom to a single stamen. The instant a lupin acquires a hint of colour, a regiment of snails turns up for breakfast.
It may sound odd, but Mrs W does not take kindly to me reminding her about this state of affairs. Nor did my attempt to alleviate the situation by hacking down a sizeable acreage of large-leafed weeds result in the warm congratulation I had been anticipating. "What on earth has happened to my foxgloves?" screeched the spouse. The rest I leave to your imagination - but at least my bruises bring a bit of colour to the garden.
Like most other people, I enjoy the horrified frisson which results from reading reviews of stratospherically priced restaurants. But the other day I came across one such critique which took the proverbial Huntley & Palmer's. It was in an American journal and appeared under the headline "Is this the best restaurant in the US?" The joint in question is a Beverly Hills sushi bar called Ginza Sushi-Ko, where diners nibble exquisitely arranged bits and bobs of raw fish and rice. "If you can't abide small portions," the reviewer notes, "it's probably not for you." The tab is a mere $200 (pounds 130) per head - and "rises accordingly" if you dice with death by ordering the infamous fugu (puffer fish). This price is exclusive of wine for the simple reason that the restaurant does not have a wine list, though you can take your own. All the odder then, that this encomium appeared in the boozer's bible Wine Spectator.
It's funny how an encounter with the medical business can leave you feeling much worse than you did before. Take this morning, for example. I walked into my local branch of Boots the Chemists as merry as a grig, with a twinkle in my eye and an annoying whistle on my lips. Having nothing better to do, I started leafing through a pamphlet on homeopathic medicines (I believe Her Majesty is something of a devotee), which has been produced by the company. Half an hour later, having worked my way from "Acne" to "Warts", I emerged from the shop a broken animal, palsied in body and unhinged in mind.
Not only does this treatise spare the reader nothing in its graphic account of disorders - a preparation of Ignatia, for example, is recommended "for two different types of headache. One in which the head feels as if it would burst... The other is a penetrating pain which feels like a nail being driven in to the head" - but it also introduces a whole new barrowload of symptoms which might otherwise not have occurred to you. Something called Gelsemium is appropriate for an interestingly peripatetic mal de tete "which starts in the neck and runs over the head to settle in one, but sometimes both eyes". Some maladies are described with such precision that the writer appears to have a specific individual in mind. I wonder if anyone at Boots' Nottingham HQ fits this description: "very irritable, easily angered, especially when questioned. They show great indignation and are usually very much overweight"? If so, Colocynth is just the ticket.
Bach flower remedies, also promoted in the booklet, range far beyond such humdrum distempers to tackle more subtle, metaphysical ills. Wild Oat is recommended for those smitten by "uncertainty as to correct path in life", while Chestnut Bud is a sure-fire cure for "failure to learn from past mistakes". Clematis is the stuff for poetic types suffering from "dreaminess, lack of interest in present" and Cerato will stiffen the resolve of shrinking violets who "seek advice and confirmation from others". Not to worry if you're prone to "fear of mind giving way" - a gargle with Cherry Plum should soon have you looking on the bright side. As for me, I'm torn between Mustard ("deep gloom with no origin") and Oak ("exhausted but struggles on"). Unfortunately, there appears to be no remedy for "have just read alarmist twaddle about homeopathy".
My recent observations on the cricketing term "Nelson" for the unlucky score of 111 - which most players incorrectly believe derives from the naval hero having one eye, one arm and one ball - prompted a bevy of readers to stir their stumps and set pen to paper. One brushed aside all anatomical connections and suggested that "it is more likely that the number refers to three of his great naval victories, perhaps Copenhagen, the Nile and Trafalgar: thus giving won-won-won." Too clever by half, I say. Most cricket buffs, while infinitely knowledgeable about the history of their own game, are a bit hazy about who won the last war, never mind engagements almost two centuries ago.
The overwhelming majority of my correspondents, many of whom were women, pointed out that the use of "Nelson" to mean 111 originated with the cockneys. It seems that the statue of the great hero was referred to by these chirpy characters as "three-ones". When toffs demanded an explanation, they pointed out that the Admiral was equipped with "one eye, one arm and one arsehole." I'll buy that. As well as its being anatomically accurate, you must admit that the expression has a ring to itReuse content