1. Spotted Boris Becker and family in Wimbledon. There was an Easter thing on with Shetland ponies being ridden by people dressed as bunnies. Boris looked bemused, as did everyone else.
2. Titchmarsh at Ideal Home Show. He was blaming water ‘boards’ for drought.
3. David Domoney and Prince Charles at Ideal Home Show.
4. Antonio Carluccio, not eating at the Umbria a land of culture event at the Italian ambassador Alain Giorgio’s house in Grosvenor Square. There were no Ferrero Rocher’s on offer but some mushroom gnocchi was quickly snapped up as was the dessert wine. Contemporary art, Luca Signorelli’s exhibition and music and dance by UmbriAEnsemble was the entertainment.
5. Garden hacks calendar: where writers exchange gossip-ie no work, newspaper has cut payments, isn’t so and so wonderful?
The calendar used to involve Yellow Book launch in Feb at South Bank Centre in London as a first meeting after New Year. Now YB launch is so late that fewer people go. My record is nine YBs. The hacks go to Garden Press Day instead in Feb (when it doesn’t snow). That was moving to Alexandra Palace in north London from Hort Halls (RHS is selling Lawrence Hall for £18m). Will the hacks trek that far? No, so its moving to Barbican.
6. Thompson & Morgan’s popular July open day is going too. Hacks grand (Robin Lane-Fox) and humble (me) gorged on seeds and food at the Hintlesham Hall (once owned by Robert carrier and then Ruth Watson) near Ipswich. But that’s off this year because of the Olympics. More might go to Mr Fothergills trials, which are the last of their kind with this sort of open day. Unwins sweet pea open day ended a few years ago –last special guest was Mary Archer, who everyone described as ‘fragrant’.
7. Then there is the Garden Media Guild event in November. Been rather hijacked by an undesirable clique. Oh, and garden blogger get togethers. Maybe we need less knowledge sharing for a more diverse garden media.
8. B&Q has been selling 39 per cent peat top soil. Maybe I’m cynical but I think this didn’t become a newspaper story because B&Q has such a big spring ad spend. Ditto the story in 30 March HW about the Scabious ‘Kingfisher Blue’. The Telegraph eventually ran a bowderlised version of the peat story– but they did have a four page B&Q ad in the same issue. The next day the ‘Independent’ ran a not very Independent even lamer version of the tale. http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/for-peats-sake-bq-runs-into-trouble-with-new-topsoil-7609048.html. Oddly, the hack who wrote it, Josephine Forster, who has a first from Cambridge, tweeted Tim Briercliffe for comment. Why not ring him up? Or find the original story rather than relying on the Telegraph’s? They all used the headline ‘for peat’s sake’.
They all made a lame job of rehashing my/each others’ articles but at least it’s out there…
9. Is Guy Hands only sleeping 4 hours a night and working the rest of the time a Thatcher/Churchill-style myth? I rang his office the other day at 7.30am and a bod said he wasn’t there yet.
10. At the GIMA meeting at Barton Grange, Pippa Greenwood: “I’m not sure what I’m meant to be talking about.” You can cruise to the Baltic with PG in cruise.co.uk’s latest series of trips, which also see David Hurrion manning the forecastle to Cuba, with Matt Biggs on the bridge for the Norwegian fjords.
11. Top 100 garden centre people list in latest Garden Retail mag that I edit: 26 emails/calls so far. Three in favour of, 23 against their placings. One accusation of misogyny
one of wrong title, several requests for extra copies. All good fun.
12. Some great feedback on Tim Penrose (Bowden Hostas) interview in HW 23 March. He upset Harrogate show people by saying he makes less there-they all do well. Others liked his style-sell and don’t moan. Ex GB’s youngest funeral director TP liked the piece as it “ruffled feathers”.
13. Martyn Cox is now a TV star on BID TV doing an OB from lottery hq is Bucks.
14. Hosepipe bans.
15. Alys Fowler on the curiously humourless Our Food, eating samphire. Nice 2c AF bk on TV. Bit prissy that she wouldn’t pick it herself and had to get a local to do it – PC BBC. Lots of goshes too. No-one has said gosh since about 1950.
Why do so many garden hacks want to be food hacks? Guess they get more work and a bigger audience. Also they have made garden media so dull, including with their blogs and tweets, that can’t blame them for wanting to get out. Also good on the programme is Historic Royal Palaces curator Lucy Worsley, who is known for having a rhotacism. Quite common in the countryside/home/garden TV sector Joe Swift, Mike Dilger, Phil Spencer, Packham etc. Guess its cute. No stuttering allowed on TV though. I’ve only interviews three no.1 pop artiss and two had stutters-Tony Hawks and Paul Hardcastle. Kim Wilde didn’t.
16. Amusing spat between Independent environment hack Mike McCarthy and Defra. MM is one of the few enviro hacks left on the papers, who have got rid of specialists and replaced them with cheap staffers. MM is upset after talking to Dr Bob Watson, the Defra chief scientific advisor. After several paragraphs lauding Dr Bob, MM gets to the point. Dr Bob has told MM he is going to review neonictinoid new evidence that the chemical buggers up bees.
But Defra has written one of its rather odd ‘myth busters’ saying it isn’t reviewing anything. MM in Indie 5 April gets v upset about Defra ‘peddling’ its line. Turns out the ‘mythbuster’ is a year old and Defra is investigating the research. So all fine then.
What can go wrong with the big fella’s backing?
18. Saw two red squirrels in Lake District last weekend.
19. I may be involved in a charity tandem ride pulling a wheelbarrow from Fermoys garden centre in Devon to Chelsea.
20. PTES has highlighted a number of Urban myths –quoted by Steve Head of the Wildlife Gardening Forum.
Rats are as numerous as people –
You are never more than six feet
from a rat
There are fewer than ten million brown rats in Britain. In 20076,
The English House Condition Survey found that rats occupied
four of every thousand urban properties and were present in the
gardens of just three per cent.
Rats leap at people’s throats Rats jump to escape, not to attack
Rats spread disease – inhaling
rat droppings or coming into
contact with their urine can be
Rats are fastidiously clean unless overcrowded, spending a
considerable proportion of their time grooming themselves and
others. They do carry some human diseases, particularly
leptospirosis, but the risk of infection is low and is smaller from
urban rats than those in rural areas.
Fox numbers are increasing
Fox populations are stable in the long-term. Mange has had a big
impact in many areas and populations are slow to recover.
Numbers in Bristol five years ago were only a fifth of those in
1994, before an outbreak of mange. The findings of Living with
Mammals are that numbers in urban areas nationally have
changed little in the last decade.
The pre-breeding (adult) population in urban areas is estimated at
about 35,000; within the M25 there are fewer than10,000.
Foxes raid bins and are
dangerous to people and pets
Very few raid bins – better food is often left out for them by
people – and heavy-duty wheelie bins are completely fox-proof.
There is no evidence that the parasites and diseases foxes might
carry pose any significant risk to people or domestic pets – in
fact, the risk to people is much greater from their pets, which
carry most of the same parasites. Confirmed attacks on people are
6 Given the average adult biomass of each of the 62.3m humans in the UK is about 240x greater than that of a
rat, it’s pretty clear which mammal species is above carrying capacity.
almost unknown – compared to the many thousands of injuries,
and several deaths, caused by dogs each year.
The mole population has rocketed
since the ban on strychnine use in
The latest data (to 2007) assessed by the Tracking Mammal
Partnership, of which PTES is a member, suggest a decline in
numbers since 2000. Nothing is known yet about numbers after
the ban. The indication from Living with Mammals is that mole
activity has changed little in urban areas over the past decade.
Bats fly into your hair7
Bats are superbly adapted to navigating in the dark and skilful
enough flyers to catch airborne insect prey – they have to desire
to get caught (accidentally or deliberately) in a person’s hair.
Bat roosts cause damage to
Bats rarely cause any damage to buildings: unlike birds, they
don’t bring in nesting materials and, unlike rodents, they won’t
gnaw electric cables or wood. Their droppings carry no disease
and are generally odourless. Large colonies of pipistrelles can
number several hundred individuals in summer and can be noisy
tenants, but so important are buildings to bats that managing and
renovating them appropriately is a big part of bat conservation.
Grey squirrels have caused
declines in British bird numbers
over the past 40 years
The British Trust for Ornithology found that grey squirrels had
no impact on many of England’s woodland bird species. Grey
squirrels do occasionally eat eggs and fledglings but so do red
squirrels, and birds probably compensate for the loss.
Grey squirrels are responsible for
the decline of red squirrels
While grey squirrels have a competitive advantage over reds and
have displaced them from much of England, red squirrel numbers
declined drastically between 1900 and 1925, before grey squirrels
had become established. In southern Scotland and Ireland, red
squirrels were extinct by the 18th century due to deforestation and
habitat loss – those there today are the result of reintroductions.
In England, red squirrels were viewed as a pest and almost wiped
CAN YOU DIG IT?
THE VEGETABLE CULTIVATION-BASED MUSICAL COMEDY SHOW EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT DOWN THE ALLOTMENT – NOW ON TOUR!!!
**** “Highly entertaining” Daily Telegraph **** “A riot” What’s On Stage **** “Inspired wordsmiths…laugh out loud funny” ThreeWeeks
If you hate slugs then you’ll love this – a musical comedy show all about the ups and downs of growing your own. Sprouting from the fertile brains of comedy songwriters and real-life allotment gardeners Jo Stephenson and Dan Woods, Can You Dig It? features a wheelbarrow-load of songs covering topics including compost, vegetable theft, annoying allotment neighbours and digging (of course).
Having earned rave reviews with a successful run at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, the show is now touring the country. Highlights include a rap battle between an angry gardener and a slug, a 1980s-style power ballad to cuddly gardening guru Alan Titchmarsh, a virtuoso performance on the cucumber trumpet and popular radio show Gardeners’ Question Time as you have never seen it before – Eurovision-style.
Can You Dig It? will appeal to both vegetable-growing novices and seasoned cultivators, as Jo and Dan delve into the mysterious and competitive world of vegetable shows, launch a campaign to give sprouts the recognition they deserve, and ask: John Innes – who is he?
With more and more people in the UK growing their own, Can You Dig It? is both timely and topical. There’s even a song for people who don’t like vegetables, poor things.
What’s more, Jo and Dan, are inviting gardeners across the land to join in the fun and take part in their Greenfingers Challenge designed to identify the best allotmenteering talent in Britain (and weed out the gardening dunces). At each show they’ll be inviting audience members to plant seeds, charting progress on their website at www.can-you-dig-it.co.uk
Jo Stephenson and Dan Woods are familiar faces on the UK comedy and cabaret scene and keen amateur gardeners. Both have allotments where they strive to grow a vast array of vegetables with mixed success.
Dan has performed his accordion-based comedy shows to critical acclaim across the UK both solo and with his band Pig With The Face Of A Boy. His song A Complete History of the Soviet Union, arranged to the melody of Tetris has become an internet sensation with more than two million hits on YouTube. Jo plays the ukulele and her music has featured on BBC Radio 4. She recently launched her first album and was Highly Commended in the 2011 Funny’s Funny Female Comedian of the Year competition.
Can You Dig It? is touring the UK in 2012/13 after premiering at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in August 2011 – tour dates attached. The Can You Dig It? CD, which features 16 original songs about growing vegetables, can be bought from the show’s website or is available to download from iTunes and all other good MP3 stores.
Web: www.can-you-dig-it.co.uk Twitter: twitter.com/canyoudigitshow Facebook: facebook.com/canyoudigitshow
Jo Stephenson and Dan Woods are available for interview. Media enquiries: Jo Stephenson on 07980 854097 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos (more images available): http://can-you-dig-it.co.uk/pr/canyoudigitpress1.jpg http://can-you-dig-it.co.uk/pr/canyoudigitpress2.jpg
20 April 2012
Royal Spa Centre, Leamington Spa
01926 334418, www.warwickdc.gov.uk/WDC/RoyalSpaCentre
5 May 2012
Cornerstone Arts Centre, Didcot
01235 515144, www.cornerstone-arts.org
18 May 2012
Bleasdale Parish Hall, Bleasdale
01995 61343, www.spotonlancashire.co.uk/bleasdale-parish-hall
19 May 2012
The Arts Centre, Burscough Wharf, Ormskirk
01695 576844, www.spotonlancashire.co.uk/the-arts-centre-burscough-wharf
26 May 2012
Square Chapel, Halifax
01422 349422, www.squarechapel.co.uk
11 July 2012
The Carriageworks, Leeds
0113 224 3801, www.carriageworkstheatre.org.uk
30 September 2012
The Kirkgate, Cockermouth
MORE DATES TO BE ANNOUNCED SOON!
Horticulture Week deputy editor
Garden Retail editor
020 8267 4660