“And that was the B.B.C. Home Service Scottish news.
Looking ahead to the rest of this evening’s broadcasts – at 7.20 we will be On Tour with Jimmy Shand and his band as they reach Peterhead, which is very far away. At 7.35 we will be treated to A Pibroch by William M MacDonald. This is followed by our regular visit to the Edinburgh International Festival where tonight Alexander Gibson conducts the S.N.O. with Wilhelm Kempff as the piano soloist in a programme featuring Berlioz and Beethoven.
If you can stay awake, after that we have a late night programme of Gaelic Songs. Then the news in Gaelic is followed by more news which is not in Gaelic and prayers, some in Gaelic, before the forecast for fisherman. Now that reminds me my wife asked me to buy some kippers from MacFisheries on my way home from the studios in Queen Margaret Drive!
Before all that excitement we are joining Mr “Double Digging” himself Donny Macgregor for another edition of “Up Your Garden Path” which this week comes from the South of Scotland, which is on the way to the Highlands so no one stops there.”
“Good evening and welcome to another edition of “Up Your Garden Path”. This evening we are the guests of F.A.F.S., the local horticultural society based in the famous Rural Bolthole patronised by that doyenne of Scottish society, Mrs Muriel Wylie, known for her love of sitting in the garden.
Mrs Wylie is joined this evening by a panel of local experts including her husband Jasper, Lady Pentland-Firth, crime writer Bunty Haystack who for reasons we cannot go into is sitting on an air-ring and Auld Young Jock, the token cottager. We are honoured to be here this week in the lead up to the 150th anniversary of F.A.F.S., established to take minds off the Napoleonic Wars. Can we have the first question from the audience please?”
“I would like to ask the panel – is F.A.F.S. is the oldest horticultural society in Scotland?”
“Jasper Wylie, I think as the President for Life of the Hysterical, I mean Historical, Society, curator of Museum in a Shed that is one for you.”
“Thank you Mr Macgregor. May I say Mrs Hardacre that is a most interesting question. Here in the Rural Bolthole we like to believe ours is the oldest Flower Show. It would be nice to think that 1809 was our foundation year, because despite being at war with Napoleon, this was an exciting year that saw the completion of the Crinan Canal, a number of Telford bridges by well known bridge builder Thomas Telford, the establishment of the Dumfries Courier and indeed, and most appropriately, the Caledonian Horticultural Society in Edinburgh. This was established for ‘the encouragement and improvement of the best fruit, the most choice flowers and the most culinary vegetables.’ Incidentally, they did some very good, early work, on gooseberry caterpillars as their records show.
Obviously it would be good to think we were at one with what became the Royal Caledonian, but my researches indicate that F.A.F.S. was not formerly constituted until Victorian times, which happened during the reign of Queen Victoria. There is no doubt , however, that Sir Perceval Peregrine-Pentland-Firth (famous for not only his double hyphen but also his purple powdered wig, lavender pomade, white cashmere breeches and dangling fob) instituted a proto gardening society for the amusement of cottagers and weavers. Unfortunately, Sir Perceval’s horticultural interests were limited, indeed almost entirely confined to pansies with a side interest in auriculas if the wind was blowing in the right direction. He was not an administrator and always seemed to get into bed (if you will pardon the gardening pun) with the wrong sort of secretary, so the society was never formerly organised. So I am somewhat sad to say we are technically beaten by the Jedburgh society established in 1815 and possibly others.”
“Thank you Jasper. Next question from the audience please. The lady in the leather jacket with the big hair, what is your question to “Up Your Garden Path?”
“Miss Lulubelle Du Bois from the Deep South of America, here.
Good evening y’all. Ma li’le ol’ question is for Lady Pentland-Firth, have y’all had many gardeners sister woman?”
“Why Lulubelle, many, many, many – too many to recall.”
“Did that include Capability Brown?”
“Now Lulubelle, like you I may not be in the first flush of youth, but I have not been around since the creation of the Garden of Eden which I am sure you remember with affection.
Might I add that most of my gardeners, while admittedly numerous, have been quite incapable. Something seems to happen to them when I pay a visit to the potting shed to check their crocks.”
“Thank you for that probing question Miss Du Bois. And if I might ask, as I am sure it will be of interest to our British listeners, what sort of soil do you have in your garden in the very Deep South?”
“Capable of digging to at least 6 feet and containing well rotted manure of the wealthy kind.”
“Thank you Lady Pentland-Firth, but that question was for Miss Du Bois.”
“My apologies Mr Macgregor, I can never resist intervening when I smell fertiliser.”
“Miss Du Bois…”
“Why thank y’all Mr Macgregor hunny lamb, and might ah say few men could wear a vest, I mean a waistcoat in such a distinguished way as yourself. Have y’all by chance ever been a gentleman caller?”
“No, my attentions tend to be focused on rabbits Miss Du Bois, but I am sure if you wish….”
“Oh ah dooo wish Mr Macgregor, Sir, ah do wish. Might ah just say that in the very deep south, where the cotton grows, the soil is a difficult issue. You see Mr Macgregor Sir, after the War of Northern Aggression the soil was badly neglected and eroded and before we could say fiddle-dee-dee, it was gone. Blown away. Gone with the wind, y’all might say.”
“So sorry Miss Du Bois; so sorry for your loss of soil.”
“Think nothin’ of it Mr Macgregor; you are a gentleman.”
“Oh dear Lord, that woman could charm alligators in a swamp”
“What’s that Mr Macgregor? I don’t think our li’le ol’ audience could hear you there.”
“Nothing really Cousin, Mr Macgregor just saying what a charming answer.”
“Next question from the floor please. We have Sadie Stable, formerly of Much Wedlock.”
“Good evening panel, I have recently moved to the village and would very much like to participate in the Flower Show. Dare I say it? My ambition to be winner. Would it help if I were to present a trophy for a new category?”
Gasps from audience.
“Thank you Mrs Stable. I think this is one for Mrs Wylie.”
“Good evening Mrs Stable, and I shall reserve judgment on that one if I may. Firstly I think you should consider if rural life is really for you? One has to wonder why you left Much Wedlock and why there was no suitable home for you in Deeping St Wedlock, Wedlock Parva or even Wedlock-sur-Mer. Scottish villages are very different – they are not all thatch and roses around the door you know. And what you see in August, looks very different in 6 feet of snow in January. However, I am not one to interfere as my fellow panellists will testify.
Now if I might take the second part of your question first. You are well advised to read the F.A.F.S. schedule in great depth as it is quite clear on the matter of the presentations of the trophies. There is only one qualification – death. This was decided upon shortly after the Battle of Waterloo. It was felt that living persons presenting trophies might be seen as trying to have undue influence. For this reason all trophies are presented by someone who is late, never early or breathing.
It might be as well if I pointed out that a lot of villagers have died since 1815 (the proof if you need it is in the graveyard). For this reason the presentation of trophies can take some days and I strongly advise that you take yourself in hand and adopt a programme of physical exercise and mental preparation. If you wish for immortality in the form of a trophy, then I suggest you make the necessary arrangements with the secretary and your solicitor.”
“And the second part of the question Mrs Wylie which is actually the first.”
“Yes indeed Mr Macgregor. As to entering the show Mrs Stable if you still are, of course you can. All classes are open to amateur cottage gardeners. That is to say professional gardeners should not apply for fear of the consequences. In the worst cases in the past, it has not been unknown for professionals disguised as amateurs to have been unmasked and “barrowed” from the village at dawn with only their dibbers and a ball of twine for comfort.
Having said that, it would be ill advised for an in-comer to even contemplate winning. Why even you Mrs Unstable from Much Wedlock must have to post a letter or buy a pint of milk from time to time. If I were you I would stick to the decorative classes, flower arranging and the like. Vegetable growing is considered men’s work, men and vegetables of course being two sides of the same coin. Therefore, if you were to turn up with a plate of 3 onions on washed sand, there could be talk. Am I correct Young Auld Jock?”
“Thank you Jock, to the point as always. So my advice to you dear innocent lady who has relocated from Much Wedlock, in my opinion unadvisedly, is to stick to one or two classes. Perhaps the Decorated Cough Bottle, or the Eyebath with miniature arrangement or the decorated plate?
These might be your best bets. Under no circumstances enter The Line of Beauty Section as the Hogarth’s Curve on a Wine Bottle Award is always won by Lady Pentland-Firth.”
“Quite so Muriel; I am at one with Rococco.”
“Was that the Italian gardener Patience?”
“I beg your pardon Lulubelle; I didn’t quite hear you. The acoustics are bad – we are I fear somewhat above you here on the platform as in most other spheres.”
“Next question please.”
“My question is for Bunty Haystack . Miss Haystack I am a great admirer of your rural crime novels particularly “The Pasteurised Poisonings”. I notice that gardens and flowers play a large part in your fiction. What has influenced you in your horticultural horror and crime stories?”
“Thank you kindly sir; I am honoured. I cannot quite see you in the shadows but I am happy to sign any of my books after the recording.
Gardens for me are above all a female space where things are permitted and not permitted. Think of Jane Austen and gardens as a setting for assignations. Think of Shakespearean plays such as the well known Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. Here the garden is like a castle, a symbol of protection and exclusion. Quite often the garden is a metaphor for the sinister and the criminal, think of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark; quite a lot of is set outside, indeed he sees the world as an un-weeded garden.”
“Hamlet would’nae win any prizes in this village then Shakespeare or no Shakespeare! Weeds are the sign o’ the Deil.”
“Thank you Young Auld Jock your interventions are always so meaningful.”
“As I was saying, Shakespeare presented the unravelling of Richard II’s world in a garden.”
“Aye, Aye! Things unravel in gairdens. Take yon Lady Chatterley (and who would’nae?). Plenty unravelled in her gairden. Think o’ yon curly bracken faced by Mellor’s and yon pink Campion placed in her belly button. Aye that’s metaphor for yer.”
“I am sure you mean tummy button Young Auld Jock.”
“Aye. Certainly, Mrs Wylie; certainly dae.”
“I think moving swiftly on we have time for one last question for our panel of local experts this evening.”
Good evening panel I am the Librarian of Stirling Library in Exchange Square Glasgow. Some of you may know me for my Well of Loneliness seminars held in my top floor flat in Hyndland; totally unpaid of course. Do any of you recommend a book featuring flowers, gardens and women?”
“This has to be quick panel, as we are running out of time. Muriel Wylie?”
“Elizabeth and her German Garden.”
“And Lady Pentland-Firth?”
“Mrs Dalloway at least the first few pages – I never seem to get much further.”
“There is my own “When Wendy was Walloped in the Walled Garden” which is in chapter 3 entitled ‘The Farmer Wants Another Wife’. The book is number 2 in the trilogy – containing three books – “It’s an Arable Life and Death”. If I have to choose someone else’s work then it is Agatha Christie’s Dolly Bantry from The Body in the Library; how she dreams of her sweet peas winning first prize.”
“And Jasper Wylie?”
“Mrs Miniver, both the film and the book, in which Lady Belden forgoes her customary flower show prize so that the station master can win for The Miniver Rose, shortly before all is destroyed by a Luftwaffe bomb.”
“If you ask me the old woman was a fool.”
“Now, now Lady Pentland-Firth. Young Auld Jock it’s your turn.”
“Aye; ye ken weil it has tae be Lady Chatterley’s Lover, now there was gardening reaching its full potential. They say the full unexpurgated version will be published next year which will be 1960 by my reckoning” winking at Lady P-F.
“Well Young Auld Jock if you think you are coming round to my walled garden to cover me in pink Campion you’ve got another think coming; 1960 or not.”
“Nae offence yer Ladyship, but dinnae flatter yersel’. I’d sooner throw masel doon a bottomless well than throw masel in tae 1960 wi’ yoose.”
“Well that’s all we have time for. Next week we will be in Killearn where we will answer the question “Are the Scots a nation of gardeners?” So its goodbye from the south of Scotland and happy gardening.”
“Excuse me Mr Macgregor, I have been sitting here thinking and I would like to ask who presents the trophy for the Hogarth Curve arrangement?”
“Why me of course.” exclaimed Lady P-F.
“I thought that was against the rules. You are not late.”
(Gasps from audience Elizabethan Serenade fades in and out.)
“And we will be joining Donny Macgregor at the same time next week with a team of local experts from Killearn. This is the B.B.C. Home Service Scottish Programming Unit and now we join Jimmy Shand with the Bluebell Polka from Peterhead which is a long way away.”