Are you sitting comfortably?
I am in need of a little solace tonight as our gentle, barely-out-of-kittenhood cat, Sakura, has returned from an overnight stay at our local vet. Forgive me for being prejudiced but there is this not-so-friendly black cat who stalks our neighbourhood, feared by all, who first chased our innocent feline (who is not so good at practising self-defence) around the houses and then dug her claws into her leg.This resulted in the most unsightly and, I imagine, very painful infection. I am sure the vet has done a marvellous job but she is not quite out of danger yet. It is daunting to see an animal suffering and to witness the children's sadness.
I shall move on to more cheering thoughts and ask you all a deep and meaningful question;
What do these colours conjure up in your mind's eye?
Think a moment... and tell me...
Yes, those cheery hued embroidery threads bring to mind dahlias and quite possibly Chrysanthemums but could we please wait a while before thinking about Chrysanthemums? They will be forever associated with La Toussaint - All Saint's Day - here in France and the splendid, somewhat gaudy bunches of flowers dotting those rather austere French cemetries.
These dahlias guard the entry of Chaumont Château with bright determination.
When I am in need of much cheering and a little instruction I turn to one of my favourite books which resides by our humble fireplace. This book has been picked up by many guests (possibly weary of our post-dinner art of conversation) sighed and smiled over and jotted down on many a book wishlist. "The Ivington Diaries" by Monty Don. Now, some of my British readers may be rolling their eyes a little thinking such thoughts as 'goodness, I've had that book for ages'. I apologise but I must confess to being a profound admirer of Montague Don.
Before acquiring "The Ivington Diaries" I first read "The Jewel Garden" . I was fascinated by the concept of a garden inspired by jewels. Incidentally don't you think Dahlias are rather jewel-like in colour? This book is the story of the garden that over the past few years has bloomed from the muddy fields around the Dons' Tudor farmhouse, a perfect metaphor for Monty and his wife Sarah's own rise from the ashes of the spectacular commercial failure of their fashionable jewel business in the 1980s. It was a quick and pleasurable read which gave me a taste for the beauty of Monty Don's writing.
Wanting more I then devoured the more substantial "The Ivington Diaries" , published in 2009, a book with heavy creamy paper and splendid colourful photographs taken by Monty Don himself. It is a month-by-month account of his work in the Herefordshire garden which he created with his wife from 1992 onwards. This gardening space has been central to Monty's well-being and beautifully put down in words. His passion for gardening shines through together with his need for consolation and a strong devotion to his (dare I say) patient wife, Sarah.
This is also a book you can dip into and so tonight I searched for Monty Don's thoughts on dahlias. This is one of the jottings I found and I urge you, should you find yourself beginning to nod off, to read at least the second paragraph, please:
13 September 2003
Show dahlias are like Ascot hats. They come out only for the big occasion. But they got a bad reputation amongst those who care about reputations for being somehow a bit naff and lacking in the subtlety necessary to appeal properly to sophisticated tastes. The truth is probably cruder. Dahlias were considered common and vulgar in the same way that gladioli, hybrid tea roses and hanging baskets are still frowned upon. Nowadays 'Bishop of Llandaff' is allowed within the inner circle of good taste, and perhaps 'Arabian Night', but as exceptions that prove the ghastly rule. This is, of course, pure snobbery, and stupid snobbery at that. For all the democratisation of gardening through television, there is still a ridiculous streak of aspirational snobbery that runs throught too many back gardens. I hate it.
And I love dahlias. They are undiluted fun. The deep, dark ones are velvety and voluptuous like the inside of a bordello, and the bright, garish pinks, yellows and oranges have the 1950s sumptuous joyfulness of Monroe or Bardot. They come as tight, minimal pompons of flower or clumsy starbursts of petal. They can be childishly simple or mathematically complex. They are busy plants, giving out more energy than almost any other.
Beautifully written, don't you think?
So this is a tribute to those Monroe and Bardot-like dahlias cultivated by a charming man who cut us a bunch and donated a generous-sized butternut squash (which was devilishly hard to carry home with a wriggling, screaming toddler).
If all dahlia growers are as kind and cheery as this gentleman then I say three cheers for dahlias!
As an end-note to this VERY lengthy post I would also like to recommend a wonderful book I have just finished; Barbara Trapido's "Sex and Stravinsky". It is a superb concoction of fairytale and opera written in a brisk and substantial style. Whilst Stravinsky features as a leitmotiv there is virtually no sex to be found so I suppose the title was chosen mostly for its alliteration. I found the style and the storyline whisked me along at almost breakneck speed from Oxford to South Africa. Give it a try if you do not know it already?
I was also delighted to discover that my giveaway gifts found a loving, enthusiastic artist's home . Go see for yourselves as Vanessa has just had these STUNNINGLY beautiful cards of her work printed. I also discovered from her photographs that, by a strange quirk of magic, she has chosen the very same yarn for her Never Not Knitting pattern as I am knitting up right now for another (simpler) Never Not Knitting pattern.
Love to you all and have a peaceful happy week with plenty of time for reading and creating.