Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

GBMD: A Little Learning

Quotation on the Nymphaeum at West Green House, October 2015 
I've been trying to take a decent photo of this quotation for Muse Day for ages and at last, autumn's softer light enabled me to do so. It's given me quite a lot of food for thought over the past few months.

When I tell people I write a gardening blog, the most common reaction I get is I must be an expert on gardening. Anyone who gardens knows there is too much to learn in a lifetime, no matter how deeply we might drink from our own 'Pierian Spring'. My blog is simply all about what I've learned or thought about gardening along the way.

Sometimes the amount left to learn seems overwhelming, and it's tempting to think it might be best not to drink (or blog or garden in this instance) at all. However, as an advocate of lifelong learning, I've decided that would be a shame, and so I must drink deeply for as long as I possibly can.

Luckily Pope agrees, as Wikipedia's entry for Pierian Spring shows. Reading the rest of his poem reveals his true meaning: a little learning can be intoxicating, but drinking deeply sobers you up and reveals just how little you really know.

As long as I - and you, dear reader - realise my shortcomings, everything will be fine.

Monday, 23 November 2015

The Kindness of Strangers

Frosted rose bloom in my garden
Rosa 'The Fairy' kissed by last night's first hard frost of the season - at least I know she'll bloom again 

Dee told a story recently on her blog about meeting a stranger from Persia, which has stayed with me ever since. It's good to be reminded that simple acts of kindness are much more powerful on a personal level than anything the news can throw at us. Thanks Dee.

It sparked a memory of something that happened to me many years ago, so here's my story...

Graduation during a recession means even the best laid plans can go off track. So in the early 1980's I found myself back at home with my parents instead of forging the glittering career I'd anticipated by being the first in my family to study at university.

The work ethic is strong in our family, so I took whatever temporary jobs I could find to tide things over until my dozens of permanent job applications bore fruit. I never doubted that would happen, and finally it did, even though the result isn't quite the path I originally thought I'd take.

One of my temporary jobs was as a census officer, taking round and collecting in the questionnaire UK households are required to complete every 10 years. My allocated patch was a 10 minute bus ride away and consisted of a council estate of maisonettes and high-rise flats, plus some university accommodation allocated to postgraduate students. It turned out to be quite a cross-section of humanity.

I quickly learned the role of a census officer is a lonely and thankless task. You never meet any of your colleagues and the majority of people I met regarded me with suspicion and open hostility. I was a 'government snooper', rather than a young woman trying to make her way in life.

Towards the end of my stint, I was going around the remaining addresses left on my round where I'd had no contact with the people living there. Many of these were in the university accommodation and as it was now the Easter holidays I was not expecting to collect many more of the outstanding questionnaires. I was not finding it the most rewarding of tasks, and I quickly became tired and grumpy.

To my surprise, one of my last rings on the doorbell was answered by a young man dressed in flowing robes. Whilst his English was good, it was clear he would need help to complete my alien-sounding form. I was invited in and greeted by his smiling wife, who offered me some orange juice as I sat down.

It turned out to be freshly squeezed orange juice, something not readily available in England at that time. My spirits were lifted instantly and I stumbled out my thanks at being offered something so delicious.

"It is the tradition of my country to offer guests something refreshing when they enter the house", was the young man's reply. We soon turned our attention to the information I needed, and I duly entered 'Syria' in the appropriate place on the form.

I can still remember clearly that couple from Syria and their brief kindness some 30+ years later. I cannot remember any of the hundreds of people I met in those six or so weeks who greeted me with hostility and suspicion.

I read somewhere recently about a survey where people who'd been treated kindly said they were more likely to perform an act of kindness themselves, and to do it more than once. Perhaps the solution to many of the world's problems is in our own hands after all.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

How Advertising Works in Chippenham #35

Screen grab from Chippenham's 2015 John Lewis-style Christmas advert

  1. Set up a Business Improvement District (BID) to promote your town
  2. Install wi-fi in the centre of town and promotional flags at key entry points
  3. Create a John Lewis-style video to promote local businesses for Christmas 2015
  4. Wait for a blogger to spot she can't embed the good news into her blog
  5. Et voila!

I wanted to make this a good news story, I really did. There's much to applaud in an organisation dedicated to show the good things Chippenham has to offer. However, I can only give you a screen grab plus a link to our local paper's article about Chippenham's Christmas advert, rather than sharing it directly with you. NB it's worth a scroll down the article then a click on the video to have a look at the town at its best.

There isn't quite enough time at the end to see all the local businesses involved (unless you freeze the frame), so here they are:

  • Amelia Classics (bridal wear)
  • Butlers Butchers
  • Chippenham Museum and Heritage Centre (say hello to our friend Chris who volunteers there)
  • Sarah Jane's Cafe
  • Floral Culture (florist)
  • Humbugs Sweet Shop
  • La Passione (Italian restaurant)
  • Phase Patch (craft and haberdashery)
  • Rivo Lounge (NB go elsewhere if you're after Real Ale, as NAH found out they don't serve it)
  • St Andrew's Church
  • The Brunel (pub)
  • The Buttercross Inn
  • The Craft Company
  • The Garden Restaurant *
  • Thyme (deli and cafe) *

It's good to realise this isn't a full list of the local businesses nestled amongst the national chains found on our High Street.

* = as a garden blogger I feel duty bound to check on these establishments ASAP.
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