Getting down and dirty
GARDENING is the new sex, they say, or is it the new black? Whatever the phrase du jour, we do know that so-called trowel tourism is all the go and horticultural tours to the world’s best-planted reaches are fabulously successful. It’s not just the great estates of Europe that feature on such itineraries. Plantsmen and women are off in their sturdy droves viewing raked-pebble gardens in Japan, with their ineffable symbolism and not a grain out of place, and Chinese affairs that look freshly lifted from willow pattern plates but with the bonus of a full colour palette and, I like to fancy, a celestial nightingale or three twittering away.
There is rather a lot of garden content in this issue of Travel&Indulgence , in fact, which surely is a good thing. We have old Sydney’s lost gardens and Britain’s best botanic gardens and, for good measure, our regular AccessAllAreas column features a mini-interview with nurseryman Wes Fleming, from Victoria’s ferny Dandenongs, who has put Australian garden design (and its water-wise and drought-resistant features) on the world map.
When I attended the 2004 Chelsea Flower Show in London (which I hope to do again next year; diary note: May 19-23), once I had recovered from viewing a variety of giant parsnip from Wales called a Gladiator, I eavesdropped as Fleming, standing by his silver giltawarded Australian show garden, fielded questions.
What are you using as fertiliser?’’ challenged a woman with an interrogative brolly. Bullshit,’’ he replied, with a thumping great laugh.
WEalso have a little piece in this issue about Hampton Court maze and its twists and feints, which are further described with pleasurable wit in Jerome K. Jerome’s brilliant 19th-century novel ThreeMenina Boat : It’s absurd to call it a maze. You keep on taking the first turning to the right. We’ll just walk round for 10 minutes, and then go and get some lunch,’ said Harris (one of Jerome’s three men).
They met some people soon after they had got inside, who said they had been there for three-quarters of an hour, and had had about enough of it. Harris told them they could follow him, if they liked; he was just going in, and then should turn round and come out again. They said it was very kind of him, and fell behind, and followed.
They picked up various other people who wanted to get it over, as they went along, until they had absorbed all the persons in the maze. People who had given up all hopes of ever getting either in or out, or of ever seeing their home and friends again, plucked up courage at the sight of Harris and his party, and joined the procession, blessing him. Harris said he should judge there must have been 20 people, following him, in all; and one woman with a baby, who had been there all the morning, insisted on taking his arm, for fear of losing him.
Harris kept on turning to the right, but it seemed a long way, and his cousin said he supposed it was a very big maze. Oh, one of the largest in Europe,’ said Harris. Yes, it must be,’ replied the cousin, because we’ve walked a good two miles already.’
Harris began to think it rather strange himself, but he held on until, at last, they passed the half of a penny bun on the ground that Harris’s cousin swore he had noticed there seven minutes ago. Harris said: Oh, impossible!’ but the woman with the baby said, Not at all,’ as she herself had taken it from the child, and thrown it down there, just before she met Harris. She also added that she wished she never had met Harris, and expressed an opinion that he was an impostor . . .
Harris suggested that the best thing to do would be to go back to the entrance, and begin again. For the beginning again part of it there was not much enthusiasm; but with regard to the advisability of going back to the entrance there was complete unanimity, and
FantasyHomesbytheSea : Whether the Cornish coast, the French Riviera or the Florida seafront, who doesn’t want water views? Money doesn’t equate with taste, however, as any property program devotee will attest. How To, 5.30pm, Sunday.
TheStoryoftheWeepingCamel : A family of nomadic shepherds in the Gobi Desert uses a musical ritual to try to save the life of a rare white baby camel rejected by its mother. Two hankies (minimum). World Movies, 8.30pm, Friday. so they turned, and trailed after Harris again, in the opposite direction. About 10 minutes more passed, and then they found themselves in the centre.
Harris thought at first of pretending that that was what he had been aiming at; but the crowd looked dangerous, and he decided to treat it as an accident . . . Harris drew out his map again, after a while, but the sight of it only infuriated the mob, and they told him to go and curl his hair with it.’’
Little Lounge , who grew up in England, visited Hampton Court maze with her father, Elwyn, many moons past and he produced from the linings of his newspaperman’s trenchcoat, suave as a magician, a copy of Jerome’s book and read aloud that account in full. Little Lounge sat cross-legged in her jodhpurs while he boomed and did all the accents and lost souls ambled past and she paid such attention to every word— as she always did — that her head all but burst with the dizzy pleasure of it.
Elwyn (who had to be restrained by my mother from naming me Aeronwy) died two weeks ago and the memories of him Lounge clings to most are of the reading, the respect for words, the love of language. Huge tracts of Dylan Thomas’s UnderMilkWood he could recite, word perfect, rolling out those compound adjectives with a voice as full-throated as Richard Burton’s. In a lined exercise book, under the bedclothes, little Lounge wrote down the wondrous combinations as Elwyn read and later tiptoed to his study to look up words of the baffling ilk of bombasine.
‘‘ You can lose at least half those adjectives, for a start,’’ Lounge ’ s first newspaper editor thundered at her. As you may have noticed, she wasn’t having a bit of it. ■ TWOyears older than Dad on his departure day, 93-year-old Nancy-Bird Walton, the fearless aviatrix who inspired generations of Australian women to follow their dreams and become pilots, was the star of the show at the unveiling of Qantas’s first A380 mega-plane last week. The big bird was officially named after the diminutive aviation legend who flew her first plane as a 17-year-old under the tutelage of Charles Kingsford Smith and went on to become the first female pilot in the country to carry passengers. Travel&Indulgence s deputy editor Michelle Rowe was at the A380 launch and reports that Walton, accepting the accolade as the greatest honour I could have ever received’’, also quipped, ‘‘ Qantas told me at my 90th birthday that they wanted to name this A380 after me. I made it my business to stay alive ’ til now so I could come to the ceremony.’’
The Nancy-Bird Walton, Rowe is pleased to report to Lounge , took off without a hitch and did a scenic flight over Sydney, as Walton made a guest appearance on the flight deck.
NSW Tourism Minister Jodi McKay estimates that Qantas A380 services between Sydney and Los Angeles, starting on October 24, eventually will deliver more than $1 million in direct tourist spending in our hotels and motels, restaurants, souvenir stores and attractions’’ to the state each week. Each Qantas A380 carries up to 450 passengers and, with the addition of a second aircraft in November, services will increase to three flights a week between Sydney and Los Angeles. All good news. ■ FIND of the week: From World Expeditions, Free the Bears: Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos Discovery tour (18 days; departs March 7) focused on three sanctuaries where you can interact with bears recently released from bile farms; $1000 from each booking goes to the Free the Bears Fund. www.worldexpeditions.com. ■ LOUNGE loves: During this international Pink Ribbon Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the 24-storey Peninsula Tokyo will be illuminated in pink and a percentage of sales in its restaurants is being donated to local breast cancer charity and research. In the same spirit, the Cable Beach Club in Broome has turned one of its pools and front entrance pink. www.peninsula.com; www.cablebeachclub.com. ■ LOUNGE loathes: On the Australia movie bandwagon, a rash of brochures and travel features promoting the West Australian Kimberleys. It’s the Kimberley.
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