memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

Archive for the ‘gardens’ Category

Plumbago

Plumbago.

The texture of memory

The texture of memory.

Plumbago

I first fell in love with the plumbago bush whilst on holiday in the Algarve more years ago than I care to consider

One minute I was innocent of plumbago, insouciantly minding my own business without a care in the world and then suddenly I discovered plumbagoa combination of the resonance of the name and the delicate beauty of the pale blue flowers proved too much for me.

From then on the final assessment of any garden was reduced to that one reference viz. did it or did it not contain a plumbago bush.

PLUMBAGO BUSH

PLUMBAGO BUSH

Many horticultural avenues fanned out at my feet.

Now I could join in conversations about gardens and gently steer them in the direction of shrubs and bushes, coyly circling the word plumbago like someone shy of mentioning a loved one’s name but nevertheless wanting someone else to bring it up.

Or I could cultivate plumbagos and become an elderly eccentric,

alone in a garden comprising only of plumbago bushes,

my family long since fled from this obsession.

And finally, like Orson Wells at the end of Citizen Kane breathing his last word «rose-bud»,

I would breathe mine

«plumbago»

PLUMBAGO BUTTERFLY

PLUMBAGO BUTTERFLY

Plumbago

I first fell in love with the plumbago bush whilst on holiday in the Algarve more years ago than I care to consider

One minute I was innocent of plumbago, insouciantly minding my own business without a care in the world and then suddenly I discovered plumbagoa combination of the resonance of the name and the delicate beauty of the pale blue flowers proved too much for me.

From then on the final assessment of any garden was reduced to that reference viz. did it or did it not contain a plumbago bush.

ALPINE VALLEY - PAINTING BY THOMAS MILNER

Many horticultural avenues fanned out at my feet.

Now I could join in conversations about gardens and gently them steer in the direction of shrubs and bushes, coyly circling the word plumpago like someone shy of mentioning a loved one’s name but nevertheless wanting someone else to bring it up. Or I could cultivate plumbagos and become an elderly eccentric, alone in a garden comprising only of plumbago bushes, my family long since fled from of this obsession.

And finally, like Orson Wells at the end of Citizen Kane breathing his last word «rose-bud», I would breathe mine – «plumbago»

Y WORRY (Be happy)

About one hundred years ago I lived for a few years on the Estoril coast near Lisbon.

I shared the upper floor of an attractive house in Estoril in one of those leafy streets just behind the Casino, with two female colleagues, Nina and Sheelagh (what, Sheelagh? Yes, Sheelagh, we used to tease her gently about the spelling of her name: what exactly was your parents’ problem; was it dyslexia or just sheer bad taste). The house had a lovely terraced garden which was tended by an old gardener. There was a large fig tree growing on the lawn, beneath which I once fell asleep at 6.00 on a summer morning after a long night spent carousing in the streets of the Alfama at the feast of S. Antonio, the patron saint of Lisbon, together with olive trees, wondrous bougainvillea and herbs and finally a lemon tree from which we would casually pluck a lemon for our gin and tonics.

GARDEN AT ESTORIL

Unfortunately we had to vacate the house for the three summer months because the wealthy owners, who lived in a grand old-fashioned apartment in the Avenida da Republica, needed to use it for their holidays. We would return in the autumn for I had already decided to stay for another year; (I was having far too a good a time). At the beginning of July I returned home to Yorkshire where I stayed for a few weeks before hastening back for the fun in the sun. I dossed down on a friend’s floor for couple of days before another friend, the young representative of a well-known British firm in Portugal, offered me his house while he went home for a couple of weeks.

John and I had got on famously from the start and his company-rented house was in a residential street in Cascais. It was a real bachelor-pad with the master-bedroom giving out onto a swimming pool and a fridge full of half bottles of champagne. My friend John was an interesting man – young, smart and personable, he was obviously a competent business man though one sensed that he preferred our slightly freer lifestyle. He once told me with an ironic smile that in his street there was a house (obviously built by an expatriate retired couple) called Y WORRY. He had studied English literature at Oxford; fish, flesh or fowl? he would intone inquiringly as we all studied our menus in the up-market restaurants to which he would invite us.

LITTLE DRAMAS – PAINTING BY THOMAS MILNER

Usually during my life the door to my heart said occupied; but not that summer. That summer the sign said vacant – come on in.

Not that I was a stranger to the green-eyed monster, that most corrosive of passions, but not that summer. That summer I rarely went into Lisbon, preferring instead to hang around the down-beat and relaxed beach cafés of the Estoril/Cascais coast. Y WORRY?

Tender is the night.

On Cascais sands I lay in the arms of my girl in the sexy moonlight – liquid nights, golden memories.

Water the plants, Mr. Prime Minister

The last film in which the late great Peter Sellers appears he plays a simple gardener called Mr. Chance who, on the death of his rich and eccentric employer, is found alone in this enormous mansion. The plot develops in such a way that he is mistaken for his late employer, a financial guru and the adviser of Finance Ministers and Presidents. In his simplicity he takes the country’s Economy as a metaphor for his garden and offers the President the following advice: water the plants, Mr. President. The film ends with the Sellers character being hailed as a sort of idiot-savant.

APPLES - PAINTING BY THOMAS MILNER

So the country where I live has a new Prime Minister Mr. Pedro Coelho (Peter Rabbit); thus Socratic wisdom is exchanged for lettuce-munching earthiness and common sense as the scourge of Mr. McGregor’s vegetable-patch has turned game-keeper. It seems to me (and I speak as a resident who has being paying income tax in this country for some thirty years) that he has a somewhat thankless task ahead of him presiding over the winter of our discontent. But with dramatic rising unemployment and a contracting economy where will the growth come from?

Mr. Chance might have advised: plant some new seedlings, Mr. Prime Minister, and water the garden.

Plumbago

I first fell in love with the Plumbago bush whilst on holiday in the Algarve more years ago than I care to consider

One minute I was innocent of Plumbago, insouciantly minding my own business without a care in the world and then suddenly I discovered Plumbago …a combination of the resonance of the name and the delicate beauty of the pale blue flowers proved too much for me. From then on the final assessment of any garden was reduced to that reference viz. did it or did it not contain a plumbago bush.

ALPINE VALLEY - PAINTING BY THOMAS MILNER

Many horticultural avenues fanned out at my feet. Now I could join in conversations about gardens and gently them steer in the direction of shrubs and bushes, coyly circling the word Plumpago like someone shy of mentioning a loved one’s name but nevertheless wanting someone else to bring it up. Or I could cultivate plumbagos and become an elderly eccentric, alone in a garden comprising only of plumbago bushes, my family long since fled from of this obsession. And, like Orson Wells at the end of Citizen Kane breathing his last word «rose-bud», I would breathe mine – «plumbago»

%d bloggers like this: