May 17th, 2006

life on mars

handbags & gladrags, waviana

On Sunday evening I watched The Waughs: Fathers and Sons on BBC4. It was presented by Alexander Waugh, son of Auberon and grandson of Evelyn. I know quite a lot about Evelyn Waugh. I have read all his novels and most of his letters and journals (never a dull word) plus several biographies. I consider him to be the greatest English prose stylist of the twentieth century, although others may put in a good claim for P G Wodehouse. About Alexander Waugh I knew nothing at all before watching this programme. I have learned that he is proud of his family, loves his children and plays the piano rather well. So why did he get an hour and a half of TV time in order to show us his agreeable home and delightful family, the houses of his forebears and their graves? At times it was like a Hello! magazine article about My Perfect Life, with My Upper Middle Class In-Laws and My Aristocratic Uncle thrown in.

The programme’s saving grace was Mr Waugh’s touching filial affection for his late father, Bron, for whom his own sweet son is named. I’ve been missing Auberon Waugh this week. For some time now a copy of his book The Way of the World has been lying around in the sitting room. Every now and then I pick it up, dip in and sit shaking with laughter. It is a rare gift to be able to offend everybody with outwardly outrageous-seeming opinions, to be extremely funny and still to have an important point to make and I can’t think of any journalist today who is doing it. Craig Brown is brilliant but lacks the killer instinct (and is probably a nicer man).

Waugh Jnr. is not so amusing yet he inherits the crown. What does it all come down to? That your grandad was a genius. And yes, Freuds, I’m looking at you, too.

PS Auberon Waugh’s early novels, The Foxglove Saga and the rest, are well worth reading if you can find them.

All change

Just a couple of days in the garden and the whole look of it has changed. This is because the aquilegias and hardy geraniums have started flowering. You can click on the pictures for a larger image: I still can't make a cut work, which is very frustrating.

Lovely Columbines. They are frightfully promiscuous and seed everywhere. One of my plans for this year is to go round with a fork digging out any muddy-coloured ones. The Nora Barlow types and the black & whites aren't flowering yet.

Geranium macrorrhizum is one of the most useful plants for dty shade and I have masses of it. The white one is probably the best. The pale pink one here is 'Ingwersen's Variety' and the bright one 'Czakor'.


Geranium phaeum is another great plant for dry shade and I have lots of different ones. This is a favourite: 'Rose Madder'. It's pinker than it looks in the photo.

I'm pleased with this, especially as I won it in a raffle. A few years ago everyone wanted a variegated polemonium, or Jacob's Ladder, called 'Brise d'Anjou'. Blooms of Bressingham made a great deal of money out of it. I don't know anyone who still has this plant, though no doubt some poor National Collection Holder is struggling to keep it going. The plant in the photo is a fairly recent introduction, Polemomium 'Stairway to Heaven'. The foliage is dainty and when it first emerges is tinged with pink. The flowers are a paler blue than the type plant and more bell-shaped. I've put it in a shady and dampish (for me) spot and so far it's looking good.

Every day there is a new flower out. Irises are looking good and there are fat buds on the peonies. It's so exciting! I nearly forgot this wallflower, the perennial sort, which might be 'Jacob's Jacket'. At any one time there are yellow, apricot, pink and mauve flowers all out at once (the colours change, like anything called 'mutabile'). I love it but it's killing the plants it's flopped over so I will have to take cuttings and relocate it.