Hazel McHaffie

Chelsea Flower Show


Did you guess what the exciting occasion was that I referred to last time?

Centenary ChelseaYes, the Chelsea Flower Show. This was both my first visit, and Chelsea’s centenary, so very thrilling and special on all levels.

I can’t possibly do justice to something so spectacular with a few homespun photos – even a week of extensive coverage on TV hasn’t been able to do that.  Everything is on such a grand scale and has to be experienced to do it full justice.

But it will (at least hopefully) give you a sense of what I was up to strolling through the stunning show gardens, looking as if they’ve been matured for a hundred years instead of created in a matter of weeks …

Show Garden

Show gardenShow gardenThe sight of someone surreptitiously sweeping the paths with a dustpan and brush on Day 4 summed up the fine attention to detail …

Sweeping to perfectionSome of the smaller gardens, though, were every bit as beautiful …

Japanese gardenSmall gardenand I looked enviously at the notice inviting viewers to apply to the staff if they wanted that exact garden magically transported to their own home … I wish!

The floral art exhibits just blew me away, although, as with books, likes and dislikes are partially subjective, and I didn’t always share the judges’ preferences …

Floral art

Floral artFloral art

The trade stalls were works of art in themselves. Some artefacts, of course, have a kind of universal appeal …Statues

Decorative featuresbut I had no idea advertisements for plants could be quite so stunning …

Trade stallTrade stallor inviting …

Trade stallOr that other goods (like fruit and veg or furniture) could be similarly made to look so appealing …

Trade stallTrade stallHorticultural specialists filled The Great Pavilion with a riot of colour, showcasing their best collectively …

Flower displaysas well as individually …

OrchidAnd you literary folk will be amused to see that even here at a flower show, books featured!

Books includedAll in all a magical experience which comes highly recommended.

I returned to the weekend of the Edinburgh Marathon – another first, as I was cheering on my son and son-in-law (their first time competing too.) Both finished the course, so hearty congratulations all round. I am so impressed by the sheer stamina and dedication of all the 29,000 people who trained quietly and painfully, pushing themselves to their limit on the day, and gave so much to good causes.

Marathon medal

All this excellence puts my little world very much into perspective.

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Pride and prejudice

I do a fair amount of travelling by train nowadays, and it’s safe to say Birmingham New Street station is one of my least favourite haunts. Not only is it fearfully busy, but platforms aren’t revealed until close to leaving time, and literally-last-minute alterations occur with alarming frequency. Me, I like to be ready and waiting in plenty of time. Mad dashes from 8a to 9b with leaden cases through seething crowds of single-minded commuters do nothing for my health.

In all the years that I travelled regularly to the Westcountry, I went to great lengths to avoid changing in Birmingham, but these days I can’t avoid it, because my mother is now being cared for out in one of its leafy suburbs. Anyway, I was down there again this week, during the heatwave. Quietly melting on Moor Street station waiting for a connection, I noticed, across the track on the far platform, not one but eight massive posters – all identical. All advertising Kathy Reich’s latest book, 206 Bones.
A SHALLOW GRAVE; AN UNKNOWN VICTIM ran the heading. EIGHT times! Lots and lots of spooky black and white. All very tempting. And eloquent.

I was just comparing her marketing strategy … her sales figures … her royalties … with mine, in a fairly green-eyed, if-only, tone of thought, when my eye caught another message on a stand-alone poster:
Everyone that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD.

Brought me up with a jolt I can tell you. Back to being Ms Unknown Writer; and humble with it.

Sigh. I guess I’ll never know what world-wide acclaim would do to my character. But I can always blame my marketing team – or lack of!

Since that eureka moment, I’ve been admiring the huge range of gardens and exhibits at the Chelsea Flower Show, and I’ve taken heart again. We can’t all be gold medallists. Very few of us will reach ‘Best in Show’. But there’s room in this world for us all.

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