Monday 21 April 2014

Gardener’s World

I was cataloguing some books this morning. This in itself is hardly hot news - I spend half my life feeding in ISBNs and describing every minor blemish to dustwrappers in excruciating detail. The latter mainly as a cover-my-arse stratagem for customers who can’t be bothered to read descriptions properly, and try to send books back on almost any pretext, and worse, give me crap feedback. (The most consistent sinners in this regard come almost invariably via Amazon, for some reason. )

But that’s an anecdote for another time, perhaps. Revenons aux jardins.

Some way down the tottering pile I came across a book on roses* (Staple-bound card covers, in As New condition, 64pp including index,  in case you care.)

Now as it happens we are just re-designing our garden. I say ‘we’ but in truth I have little to contribute as far as detail goes – if pushed I‘d probably make a right prat of myself by confusing Pelargoniums with Pergolas, or Ena Harkness with Ena Sharples.  

The family conversation has tended lately to veer towards the Titchmarsh end of the spectrum at almost every opportunity.  It’s  been Begonias for breakfast, Lobelias for lunch and Dahlias for dinner, chez Phil.  And it’s not just about plants – the minutiae of such fascinating constructional necessities as paving slabs and fence posts, decking boards and half-log rails, sheds and skips, are a constant theme. I can only pray that  ‘Capability’ James (Mrs)  doesn’t get ideas about a water feature – or  ‘Incapacitated’ James (Mr) will have to permanently live in the loo!

Anyway – there was talk of replacing some of our rose bushes, because the current crop had gone well triffidy since last summer and were not only maliciously trying to ensnare the dog every time she went anywhere near them, but they were going to be in the way of the proposed new fencing.  And guess who was given the job of getting rid of the redundant  ramblers, leaving him with a back out of kilter and thorns in  his hands and arms that are still painfully surfacing a fortnight later.

So as I picked up the book I thought “I’ll have a quick shufti  – maybe I can mug  up a quick Bluffer’s Guide.”

A substantial section of the book is given over to listing all the various varieties of Tea roses, Floribunda, Climbers, and so on , each with a short description of its good and bad points. Gripping stuff.

Until about half way through I came across this example:

ANGELA RIPPON: Popular  for bedding and exhibiting………..

At which point all ambitions towards horticultural understanding went out the window,

In yer dreams, James!

*Rose Jotter, by Dr D G Hessayon- £4.95 from any good bookseller, or £2.50  from Uncle Phil’s Books. (including p&p, natch.)

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Snakes and Ladders

It’s been a funny sort of week.  A week of highs and lows. Mostly lows. My knee and ankle joints have been playing up, and what with the chronic back trouble, some mornings I’ve hardly been able to walk. Or, and it’s been a big Or, do stairs. Up or down.  But I suppose this is all part of getting on a bit, so I shouldn’t complain. The alternative is, after all,  worse.  Nevertheless, boxes of books seem to be getting heavier by the week, lately.

It would appear though, that I’m not the only thing chez Uncle Phil that’s approaching its sell-by date. We drove to the bank on Wednesday morning, me to pay some cheques in, Herself to pick up her new goggles from the Specsavers next door.  Did all that – got back in the car.  Went to start the engine, put foot on clutch as I always do, in case I’ve left the car in gear. Clutch pedal goes straight down to the metal - and stays there.  I could move it up and down with my foot, but it didn’t seem to be connected to anything. Least of all, the gearbox.

To cut a long sad story short the RAC, may they live long and prosper, arrived within about 20 minutes, towed us to the garage of my choice, and then their driver, a very very nice man, gave us a lift home.

An hour or so later, the garage rang, to explain exactly what had happened, and what would be needed to fix it. Six hundred and fifty sovs later, I put the phone down and nearly brought my breakfast up.

But later,  I did have one small bit of good luck.  I’d bought a crate of assorted books in an auction.  Actually this is a slight whatever the opposite of exaggeration is – meiosis? litotes? Can’t remember. Go to the bottom of the class, young Philip.  I’d in fact bought 18 crates of assorted books. Which for those of you who generally think of books in terms of one-at-a-time, or have fallen for the e-books sales pitch, is a couple of people-carriers full,- or the best part of a ton.  I ’m thinking of applying for lifting crates of books around to become an Olympic sport.  I’d win Gold every time. And it’s cheaper than joining the gym.

Anyway – I was going through this particular boxful, and I noticed a bit of metal sticking out of the top edge of one of the books. So I pulled it out, to find a nice antique hallmarked solid silver letter opener. Which when I sell it will pay for the whole eighteen cratesful. Not bad, for a bookmark.

People use some odd things as bookmarks. Probably they grab at whatever’s near to hand. We’ve had  over the years (apart from the usual ephemera) a £20 note (useful) an uncashed cheque for over £1000 dated 1950-something (useless)  a 100 fr Swiss banknote (out of date) a Romeo y Julieta (flattened) flowers various (pressed), a hairnet (in holes) a pornographic photograph (kinky) and a slice of streaky bacon (cooked.) This last book we had to dump.

(Later…..) It seems to be my week for precious metals. In another box (same consignment) I found a little book published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, called Gifts of the Magi: Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh, complete and  in a slipcase, with samples of  the three  gifts, to wit  2 muslin bags containing , in crystalline form, the Sacred Smellies (but please don’t ask me which is which!) and a small corked bottle of spirit containing some flakes of 24 carat gold. Or so it says on the label, and I can’t see the Met telling porkies.

 What will I find next, I wonder.  A Georgian silver teaset? A Faberge Egg?  A Rembrandt etching?  ( I once did find one of those – in a £15 auction lot , not of books, but of pictures.  How much did I get for it? Quite a lot, actually.