Friday, 27 May 2011

My Visit To The Chelsea Flower Show 2011

Perfumes are the feelings of flowers. Heinrich Heine

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is a garden show held every year for five days in May. It's held in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. The RHC is a retirement home and nursing home for British soldiers who are unfit for further duty, due to old age or injury. The residents are referred to as Chelsea Pensioners and wear iconic red coats on which to display their medals.

'Tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes. William Wordsworth

The Chelsea Flower Show is the most famous show in the UK and perhaps the most famous gardening event in the world. It has become part of London's summer social season. It's a ticket only show, covering eleven acres in the Royal Hospital's gardens. Medals are highly coveted and awarded to the best show gardens, best flowers, exhibits of trees/shrubs and vegetables.

The photograph below shows delicious plump ruby strawberries, but sadly the picture doesn't convey the amazing sweet smell which surrounded the display!

Earth laughs in flowers. Ralph Emerson

I loved this statue of Alice in Wonderland. It reminded me of Edgar Degas' ballerina in bronze which I saw last autumn at the D'Orsay Museum, in Paris. If I owned this Alice, I would dig a deep round hole nearby so she could follow a top-hat-wearing white rabbit when it appeared!

I will be the gladdest thing
Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one. Edna St. Vincent Millay

Flowering Redcurrant

Underneath the silver birch
They’d hang pink with pleasure,
Blushing blossoms
Full and frothing.
Beneath the birch’s lolling leaves
I’d read, or sing or dream.
And look through dappled light
To pale bare skies
Where contrails paint across the blue.
Small fingers fashioning necklaces
From a constellation
Of crimson-tinged daisies,
Dotted on the lawn.
The smell of earth, damp and raw,
Grass stained knees and the tantalising
Whispers of summer on the breeze.
I’d lie beneath those verdant boughs,
Embraced in their beauty.
And even today,
When years have passed,
I smell the flowering redcurrant
And remember,
And smile.

By Angela Barton

This flower display (below) in the Grand Pavillion, reminded me of fireworks. Here are a few paragraphs from my novel Lies and Linguine. Daniel has been scarred physically and mentally by a firework accident in his past. Tess has suggested that he faces his fear with her, in order to help heal his nightmares.

The sky lit up with brilliant arms of cascading gold and silver stars. Bright glowing pearls rose silently into the darkness, dissolving into the heavens. Blue tracer stars crackled as they wriggled in a sparkling mesmeric dance, lighting upturned faces. The whizzing and whirring echoed across the cricket pitch and far past the village.
Daniel pulled his scarf up to hide his mouth and nose. He didn’t think that a soft cashmere mix, a gift from his sister, would be much protection from a wayward explosive, but it made him feel warmer and safer. He turned to look at Tess to see if she was looking at him with a pitying gaze. Fortunately, she was looking skyward with a hint of a smile on her glistening lips. Her profile was silhouetted against The Royal Oak’s lights, a pale glow outlining her features. His eyes were drawn to her smooth neck which stretched upwards as she watched another rocket explode into a chrysanthemum of stars. Her lips parted slightly as a series of whistling clusters shot into the black night. He watched her eyelashes blink with each explosion and burst of colour. From the position they were sitting in, Daniel slightly behind Tess, he could watch her in secret against a backdrop of Swarkovski crystals raining down from the sky.
So, for the next ten minutes whilst a crescendo of squeals, oohs and aahs emanated from the distant crowd, and a climax of whistles, bangs and crackles sprang from the sky, Daniel focused on Tess. He drank in the curves of her profile and the warmth of her body leaning against him.
A cheer and a noisy round of applause heralded the end of the display. Tess turned towards Daniel.
“You okay?”
“I’m fine,” he answered, truthfully.
Watching the fireworks as a background to Tess’ lovely face, had been the perfect way to be re-introduced to the volatile explosives. They were the colour wash to the central eye-catching subject of the painting - Tess.

I can't look at blossoms now without thinking of Dennis Potter. What an incredible interview he gave to Melvyn Bragg. Dennis Potter was dying of cancer and this interview was to be his last. As he sat there obviously in great pain and occasionally swigging liquid morphine, I'll never forget some of his descriptions. He said that he knew his days left on earth were numbered, which made him take notice of simple things and appreciate the beauty of nature. It's so easy to walk past a blossom tree, but he said that as he knew this would be his last spring, the blooms looked like the 'blossomiest blossom' he'd ever seen. He said he was appreciating the 'nowness of now' and not just sailing through his last days. It was a great lesson in appreciating the present and not always planning for the future. Our lives are now - we're living it!

Flower-filled garden partitioning.

I'm always transfixed when I see a bonsai tree. Barely a foot high, they are perfect minatures of the giants in our gardens and parks. This beautiful artistic medium originated in Japan. Their purpose is purely ornamental. They're not grown for fruit or medicines. The earliest mention of dwarfed potted trees was depicted on a scroll dated back to 1195. Luckily, due to the early warm spell this year, this bosai tree blossomed during the perfect week - The Chelsea Flower Show week!

What's in a name?
That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet)

With plaited alleys of trailing rose
Long alleys falling down to twilight grots,
Or opening upon level plots
Of crowned lilies, standing near
Purple-spiked lavender;
Whither in after life retired
From brawling storms,
From weary wind,
With youthful fancy, re-inspired.

Tennyson (Ode to Memory)

The flower that smells the sweetest
Is shy and lowly. William Wordsworth

Sunday, 22 May 2011

A Road Of Lemon Bricks

A hag with skin as green as crinkled cabbage,
Screamed a cackling curse.
A vortex whisked and whipped,
Twisting spirals and coils
Like an unfurling skein of wool.
I held him close, my four-legged friend,
A bundle of fur that nudged closer
For comfort.
I closed my eyes, squeezing them shut
Until they puckered like smocking.
A sudden bark and bare blue skies,
As a new world emerged.
With friends of tin, and straw
And a lion as timid as a whisper.
And small folk dancing and skipping.
Wishes come true if you only believe,
Or so the good witch said.
A gift of red shoes,
Which twinkled like the nursery rhyme
With each step I took,
Arm in arm with my chums.
And still the journey made me gasp with wonder.
A road of lemon bricks.
Apes which soared on outstretched wings
Over rainbows in the cyan sky.
A magic castle where lived a wizard
Whose voice boomed from beyond.
“Click your heels in your ruby shoes
And make a wish from your heart.”
With a hug and some tears
I bid farewell to a beast now so brave,
A scarecrow who understood
And a man of tin who cried with love.
Inhaling, I made a wish
“I want to go home - there’s no place like home.”

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

My Versatile Blogger Award

I'd like to thank Carol Bevitt (Carol's Corner) for awarding me a Versatile Blogger Award. I hadn't had the best of days, so when I checked my computer for the last time before going to bed last night, I found a message from Carol. What a lovely end to the day! I believe I must tell you seven things about myself that you don't know, before passing on the award to seven other people. Here goes!

1. I'd love to write a novel set in the Victorian times. I'm starting some research with a visit to Southwell Workhouse in Nottingham this Friday.

2. I've worked in Riyadh Military Hospital, Saudi Arabia. I looked after tiny poorly babies in the Special Care Baby Unit.

3. I don't usually blow my own trumpet, but I'm a dab-hand at painting and wallpapering!

4. My favourite holiday destination is Amalfi and Ravello on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. It is a magical place which I've visited with my husband several times.

5. My sister, Jennifer, lives in Los Angeles, California. She moved there as a nanny, twenty five years ago. She has settled there with her family and sadly I only see her every 3-5 years. Happily though - I'm visiting her this September!

6. When I was 13, I ran away from home to find Marc Bolan!

7. I'm on the committee of Nottingham Writers' Club, a member of Nottingham Writers' Studio and a member of The Walk Book Club.

I award the Versatile Blogger Award to, (@MariamMKobras) (@NettieWriter)

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Another competition - another poem! This time the theme was 'Going Home.'

Dusk in Afghanistan

He looks for beauty in this brutal game
Amongst the bitter dust of Helmand,
And finds it in the sun’s splendour;
Its amber rays caressing the mountain range
As army boots leave prints in the earth,
As barren as unanswered wishes.
He finds no flower to press against his face and smell
Memories of his wife’s perfume.
Waning daylight cling to rocks,
Holding back the invading night
Where silent terror lurks unseen.
And evil crouches, exhaling poison as it waits
Squabbling insects dance and torment,
Biting and sucking his pink-parched skin.
He thinks of England’s gentle rain
Dimpling puddles under pewter skies,
And sighs.
Dusk creeps onwards darkening his thoughts,
As the Reaper hides nearby,
Planning a repulsive requiem,
Whilst searching for the next soul
To steal from loved-ones across the sea,
The soldier wipes his furrowed brow
Wrinkled like the wind-blown dunes.
Eyes raised, he looks into the navy sky;
A shared constellation with home.
Moving onwards
Past peripheral shadows of outcrops,
Like broken teeth in a rotting mouth.
Tears roll down the hardest face each silent night
In this foreign land, where each man dreams
Of going home.

By Angela Barton

Monday, 2 May 2011

Sepia Memories

I wrote this poem for a competition with the theme, 'A Chance Remark.'

Sepia Moments

Touching your profile in sepia,
Tracing my finger
Around your smile.
Bundles of letters tied with ribbon,
Frayed and faded
It hugs your words.
A tear-stained message,
Peppered with smudged pools
Of diluted ink,
Telling of your death in war.
Sixty years of tears,
Believing you loved me.
That you held me in your heart
As you breathed your last.
Pages of memories
To turn
And fold.
To mark for future return,
When dwelling and lingering
Stings like salt
Seeping into a suppurating wound.
And then, a voice whispers cruelly
Shredding those pages,
Tearing at the truth,
Erasing each word.
A chance remark reveals
You live!
You lied.
A hero in war; a coward in love.
I heard the angel who nursed you,
Whilst I grieved,
Shared your three-score years.
Whilst I held in my arms
Your sepia bundle of words
And the child you never knew.

Angela Barton