Saturday 25 July 2009


So i know that at least one of you has remarked the general paucity of posting over here in the last few weeks. And my last two posts have begun "So I just nicked this off x". 

I was determined to do better. I said to myself, I wanna make a post to make my readers proud.To make Vp weep tears of pride. To make Arabella Sock snicker. 

Off I went at 9am this morning, to capture the Titan arum for you all, in glorious technicolour. Before anyone else had got there. Including even the Daily Telegraph, who was hot on my heels with his big ole wide angle lens. 

So I did my bit, and came proudly home ready to upload Baklava Shed's very first Moving Images. 

Only then did I realise my filming was irredeemably, irrevocably sideways. 

Sorry! Try better next time! In the meantime, crick your necks, and be glad you can't smell it (Ryan!). I absolutely love the way the other lady sniggers after I say "have a little sniff" at the end.....

*ps by 'the smell of a fishbox', I mean a scent I remember from my childhood, when my best friend's dad was a fisherman. His car and their hay loft always reeked of this terrible ammoniac smell of beyond decay. 

Friday 24 July 2009


Just pinched this from Richard the Guerilla Gardener's wonderfully informative (and constant, unlike some of us) Twitter feed. 

Anyone not yet on Twitter, come on, it's fun! even if you just listen in and never make posts yourself. You get little nuggets like this video, too.... 

Friday 17 July 2009


Just nicked this off Kew's facebook page. We anticipate full frontal odoriforous assault in the next few days, stay tuned

Friday 10 July 2009


Dahlias, eh? 

Last night I was sitting out in the gardens here in Cambridge at dusk and I saw this great big shape scuttle across the garden. At first I thought it was a rat, and then I suddenly realised its hips were too big. It was a hedgehog, racing along, undulating over the lawns. Sniffing. 

Anyway that made me laugh. 

The funny thing about Cambridge gardens is that they are all behind great big tall hedges and fierce iron gates and wooden structures that stop you looking in. I saw one gentleman being politely directed away from King's Fellows Garden yesterday and then I realised it was Ian McEwan. What about that? Even he isn't allowed in. 

So you spend your whole time peeping over things and round things to try and get a view. And even then it's just a tantalising one, with no sense of the whole perspective, just leaving you with a rather disappointed feeling and a bit of a cricked neck. To be honest, a bit like Chelsea show gardens. 

Anyway this is the kind of thing you are faced with: immaculate herbaceous borders behind tempting walls with delicious skyline scenery, but no way in. 

(this is a tiny glimpse of the much-loved Clare College Scholars' garden, thought to be one of the best)

Anyway it was pissing me off, so instead of showing you lots of awkward views of halves of gardens, I posted the dahlias, from John Brookes' Denmans. Which don't hide their love away at all. Which is how I like it. 

Wednesday 8 July 2009


Some of you will know that I spent last winter working on a book about Darwin's relationship with his dogs, which was warm, passionate, and ended up with the beloved pets making an appearance in some of his most important books. 

I am at a Darwin conference this week (which means I get to loiter in lobbies next to Richard Dawkins and weirdly, Ian McEwan) thinking a lot about animals, humans, parenthood, love, affection, loyalty and evolution. In which context I found out that Arabella Sock had lost one of her two darling cats, Luka. 

I am really sad for her. In a sort of tribute mood, I found this section from my book, which is what I would like to be like myself, really. Darwin wasn't especially a cat person, which is what makes it even sweeter. 

"Whilst dogs were always Darwin’s favourites, Henrietta Darwin wrote of her father’s tolerance towards her own pets,

'He cared for all our pursuits and interests, and lived our lives with us in a way that very few fathers do… He had no special taste for cats, but yet he knew and remembered the individualities of my many cats, and would talk about the habits and characters of the more remarkable ones years after they had died.'

Darwin saw each animal as having its own separate being, its own 'individuality'. His celebration of Henrietta’s remarkable cats suggests, just delicately, that if we had asked Darwin if cats had souls, he might have answered, as much as any other creature does."