MY CLEMATIS DIARY

November 2000



November 1st
The quiz this month is concerned with differentiating between wild and cultivated clematis. Which of the listed clematis were clematis from the wild and which were produced by cultivation? The same lettering will be used for both groups so as not to "give the game away".

The list is as follows:
Clematis marmoraria; Clematis 'Joe'; Clematis vitalba; Clematis Triternata Rubromarginata; Clematis 'Nelly Moser'; Clematis 'Jackmanii'; Clematis macropetala; Clematis vedrariensis; Clematis montana 'Alba'; Clematis viticella; Clematis 'Etoile Violette'.

November 2nd
There are a number of tasks that need doing in the northern hemisphere in December. Digging holes for clematis you will plant in the early spring; while the climate is suitable planting of clematis from pots can be undertaken; all labels on clematis in the garden should be checked and if necessary replaced; prune the late flowering clematis to about 2ft (60cms) from the ground and then tie the stems together with a tie to make them tidy; divide clematis by lifting them and then teasing the separate plants away, with a large plant use two forks to separate two halves; tie up any loose clematis stems; protect vulnerable plants with garden fleece; systematically weed garden beds; collect seed-heads for the house; reduce watering of container clematis; plan the planting of clematis for next year.

In the southern hemisphere many clematis will be in full bloom. Tasks are as follows: water the clematis as necessary; check insects and infection by the use of insecticides and fungicides; keep up a steady water supply; apply a handful of sulphate of potash around each plant to encourage flowering; cut blooms for the house; keep up the weeding programme.

November 3rd
In November here I have been busy on the border that I devote to herbaceous clematis. Most of these clematis will naturally prune themselves in the course of the year as they die down to the ground. However, if they are tidied now it is much easier to see what requires doing in the bed. Thus I cut them down in any event to about 2ft (60cms), then they are tied together which brings some protection to the roots. All my plants are surrounded by wire cages to protect the plant from rabbits and peacocks. The cages are all checked and on each there will be a label. The labels are checked and replaced if necessary. Plastic labels never last more than two years because they become brittle and fall away. Now it is easy to weed the bed. After weeding the bed is generously manured. At this time leaves will be harvested from under my trees and a layer of up to about 6ins (15cms) is placed over the manure on the bed. If a plant is susceptible to the cold, some leaves are placed inside the wire cage. The bed will not now need to be touched until the spring.

November 4th
In the old days, when I had plenty of time, I used to collect all leaves, put them in cages, and let them rot down to make leaf compost. This is probably the most valuable compost available to a gardener. However it is time consuming to undertake such a task. Thus nowadays I just put the fresh leaves on the beds and let them rot down. Not as satisfactory as making compost but still a valuable suppresser of weeds.

November 5th
Now we come to the result of the quiz.

Clematis marmoraria is a wild clematis, coming from the marble mountains of New Zealand, hence its name. It is the smallest known clematis. It has a most attractive flower, like a refined buttercup. The flower is followed by perhaps the most attractive seed-heads of any clematis. You may have to wait a few years before this plant produces bloom. It is worth waiting for. If you have a cold climate in winter then it is best to put the plant into a greenhouse or conservatory. It likes an acid compost.

Clematis vitalba is the wild clematis of Europe. It is to be seen everywhere in all the European countries. Making a very large plant, its strands are used for a variety of purposes, but they have no medicinal use. Hence the rare mention of the plant in old herbals

Clematis macropetala is a native of China and was introduced to Europe about 1829. In those days it was called macrosepala. The inference here was that the tepals were sepals. At some point the botanists changed their minds and called it macropetala with the inference that the tepals are petals. It is a splendid plant with double blue hanging bells. In the northern hemisphere it flowers early in the year, in early spring.

Clematis montana comes from Nepal where it was discovered by Buchanan-Hamilton in 1803. This is a most desirable clematis if you have room for it. It's covered in late spring with thousands of tiny white flowers.

Clematis viticella comes from the area of the Mediterranean and has been known as long as there has been records. It was introduced to England in 1569 by Hugh Morgan, apothecary to Queen Elizabeth I. It is a splendid garden plant and is covered with dark blue tiny bells. These are scented.

November 6th
Today it was the turn of the Texensis Group to have their annual tidy-up. I give them a bed of their own. They all look miserable this time of the year. They have been covered with dank, dark brown, leaves. I give them the same treatment as the Herbaceous Group. They virtually, left to themselves, die down to the ground by the spring. So I tidy them to about 2ft (60cms) and tie the tops together, making a tent that protects the roots. I check that their cage is in good order and check that the labels are unfaded and will last another year. The bed is weeded, then it gets a layer of manure, then it gets covered with a 6in (15cms) layer of leaves.

The garden is still full of colour. This is coming from the trees that have bright colours on their leaves in the autumn. The most conspicuous for its size is the oak tree. The colour won't last very long because the wind will soon be shaking the leaves to the ground. Other large trees are the birches. I have a silver, a white and a red. All have conspicuous leaves. This year Prunus subhertella 'Autumnalis' has put up a good show of colourful leaves. These will soon be shaken off by the wind, to be followed shortly by buds that will emerge in December, full of white or pink blossom. Then there is Robinia pseudoacacia 'Frisia' with its strikingly yellow leaves, and nearby, Gleditsia 'Sunburst'. I have two large specimens of this. Then there is the 'Sumack' with almost the most colourful leaves of all, a bright crimson. In addition there is Liquidambar and Parrotia persica. Both the latter give really striking colour. Last of all there is Ginkgo whose leaves turn a bright yellow. Most years this is quite striking but this year, because of the high winds, the leaves have fallen very quickly.

November 7th
Today I was asked to write a recommendation for a colleague whom I had not seen for 25 years. Not as easy a task as if I had seen him yesterday. It set me thinking about some of the tests for judging people in general. In a formal recommendation one of course lists a number of areas which one discusses to the best of one's knowledge. But in quick assessments of people that one meets in one's day-to-day life I have formulated two quick assessments.

The first I call the TRENCH TEST. I imagine a dire situation in a trench when I am expecting at any minute to repel a determined attack by the enemy. The situation is a difficult one and I have few advantages. The test is - should so-and-so be with me, could I rely on him or her?

The second test I call the ISLAND TEST. One is marooned on an island in mid-ocean. There is no other living person present. Rescue cannot be expected. Would so-and-so be tolerable as a companion in this situation?

If you apply these two tests you may be very surprised at those who will pass the two tests and those who will fail the two tests.

November 8th
Is there a clematis that does damage to other clematis? There is. By being too attractive. This is Clematis florida var. sieboldiana. This has been with us since early in the 19th Century. Most attractive flower of white tepals and a contrasting boss of purple sterile stamens. But - how does it do damage? It attracts the public by its dramatic colouring. But it is most difficult to grow. Thus disappointment ensues and, all too often, clematis are never tried again. There should be a warning label on it: 'DANGEROUS'

I have been asked "who was Daniel Deronda?" This was the name of the last great novel by George Eliot (Mary Ann Cross) (1819-80). The title is that of a character in the book. Gwendolin Harleth - unhappily married to Henleigh Grandcourt - is sustained by the influence of Daniel Deronda of Jewish birth. After the death of her husband she has hopes of marrying Deronda but these hopes are dashed when he marries another.

The clematis 'Daniel Deronda' was raised by the Sunningdale nurseryman, Noble, in the 19th Century. The parents are said to be C. lanuginosa and C. patens. It is one of the parents of C. 'Vyvyan Pennell'. In the spring the flowers may be semi-double. It is of purple colour with a lighter band down the centre of each of its eight sepals. Cream stamens. Single bloom later.

November 9th
Peacocks are so difficult to photograph. They are such restless creatures, never still for a moment. Even when they stand still they move their long neck and they are forever prodding at something with their beak. If human they would be said to be suffering from the clinical condition of 'hyperkinesis'. To control the restlessness and hyperactivity a number of drugs have been developed. But they are always trying to improve on these. Suitable subjects for experimentation, I would have thought, would be the peacocks. Don't spare the dosage.

November 10th
A survey has shown that, in the United Kingdom, the most troublesome weeds are bindweed, couch grass, and ground elder. I have all three in abundance. Bindweed, I have to say, does produce a most attractive flower. However, left to itself it would take over the garden. All three are troublesome because they have creeping roots under the ground. They are impossible to control by weeding. You will always leave some piece of root in the ground however careful you are. Thus, next year, up comes the weed and they spread like lightening. However, they can be controlled by the new root killers. The one I use is called Glyphosate, systemic in action and kills roots. You would probably need to give treatment two or three times during the season. The time that is most effective for control is in the spring when they emerge from the ground and grow quickly.

November 11th

I tend, in my working programme, to work very late into the evening and sometimes even to the early morning. But one must have recreation and it's Saturday today. So I was able to turn to the diversion that pleases me most - even beyond cultivating clematis. This is the operas of Guiseppe Verdi. Tonight it was the turn of Simon Boccanegra. It contains that wonderful "Council" scene. Boccanegra faces the mutinous population. This scene is so reminiscent of the personality of Guiseppe Verdi. In his operas he projects himself into baritone roles. His father-in-law, who could be termed his foster-father, appears in the bass roles. It is more difficult to place the female roles. However, there is a theme running through Verdi's operas. Some of the finest music is given to the father-daughter relationship. It emerges in Simon Boccanegra. For some years I have been analysing his life and music to throw light on the origin of this theme. Verdi's personality was distinctive. I have been analysing the origin of these distinctive attributes.

November 12th
I read in a journal today of a quick way of trapping snails. This involves saving one's half grapefruit after breakfast. In the skin a small entrance is made to allow the snail to slip through to what is left of the appetising fruit inside. They are great enthusiasts for grapefruit. The half grapefruit skin is then left on the ground overnight and in the morning you find the snails. It's of no use this time of the year because the snails seem to hibernate in very cold weather.

November 13th
The sad business in Israel continues. One atrocity precipitates another atrocity. Nowadays television brings to the whole world the events as they happen. We have had to witness the death of an Arab youth killed in cold blood, apparently by Israeli soldiers. Then we witnessed an Israeli soldier dragged out of an Arab police station and brutally murdered.

Israel has known tragic events over many centuries. Yet it has to be the country of the greatest historic interest in the whole world. If man truly came from the southern hemisphere, then he could only move to the northern hemisphere through this narrow track of land, between the sea and the mountains, which we now call Israel. The country, of course, is of major concern to at least three great religions - Muslim, Jewish and Christian. The most fascinating square mile in the world is the old city of Jerusalem; the three religions have their places of pilgrimage within yards of one another.

At my first visit Jerusalem, the city was divided, and we had to stand on a roof to look across to the places of pilgrimage. We can now wander at will. I have had the kindest and warmest hospitality from both Jew and Muslim. On a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, on one occasion, I enquired of one of the priests what was going on at the top end of the church. He said there were renovations which he would like to show me (for a stipend of course). He said they had renovated the grave of Joseph of Arimathaea. He pushed me into the darkness to look for the grave. Then I fell into it. My elbows and knees were very badly bruised by the granite. I called for help and he ran away. I managed to crawl out of the grave and thought I had best make for the entrance. Christians walking by offered no help because, I think, they thought I was just particularly devout crawling along the ground. I reached the door. I was immediately seen by an Arab who kept a little café across the square. He ran across, supported me and took me back to his café. He gave me coffee and his wife produced bandages and soon they found a taxi for me. There are just nice people everywhere.

I have learnt that both Arab and Jew have one phrase in common. I was wandering about the old city and stepped into a building. Immediately an Arab appeared who said "that is our mosque, my friend". I was walking with a Jewish guide and looking at some ground, I said "whose land is that?" The Jewish guide replied "that is Israeli land, my friend". The "my friend" is issued like a warning hiss. The country is full of extraordinary sights, from the Jordan gushing out of Mount Hebron to the Dead Sea in the southern country. Biblical points of interest are on every side. I recall travelling north in a coach. In the seat immediately behind me were two black Americans, one middle-aged and the other elderly. They had kept to themselves perhaps from some mistaken shyness rising out of their colour. I could weep that this could be so. We crested a hill and the younger turned to the older man and said "Look over there. Father, that is the Sea of Galilee".

The problem in Israel is a complex one. The more one goes into it the more complex it becomes. Yet both sides deserve a solution. Perhaps one can reflect that neither the Muslim nor the Jewish religion encourage their followers to "turn the other cheek".

November 14th
The anguished situation in Israel provokes, of course, one of the greatest theological dilemmas. Why does there have to be so much anguish, hatred and pain in the world? If God is omnipotent then he cannot be loving or he would prevent these hurtful events. If he cares and is loving then he cannot be omnipotent because he cannot prevent them. The answer given is that man has free will. He has the will to make hatred, cruelty and anguish. It is man's fault. This answer, however, would elevate man to the position of a god, able to thwart God's will. But man is a part of nature, like a stone or a rabbit or a snail, and under God's influence. Perhaps we should give weight to the thought that the problem lies in our ignorance. As we become more knowledgeable perhaps we will be able to better understand God's actions. It is difficult not to ask the question "why can't these matters be revealed now?"

November 15th
With the worsening weather I have had to busy myself today in offering protection to a number of the plants. A small number of clematis are over-wintering in the cold greenhouse. I find a simple way of giving the roots in pots extra protection is to put one pot within another empty pot. If one has time, one can put a layer of newspaper between the two pots.

In the garden this year I am relying on garden fleece rather than the bubble-wrap which I used last year. Fleece seems to breathe and does not encourage the development of various rots in the plants.

Some of the montanas need protection. I heap a little extra soil over the root area and add some leaves on top. The smaller montanas can be covered with a garden fleece. The larger ones I simply cover for the bottom 6ft (1.8m) and hope for the best with the rest of the plant.

Plants of any size in pots usually do better in the garden than in the greenhouse. I make a trench, rather deeper than the height of the pot. The pots are then put close together in the trench. The trench is filled in with soil and a layer of leaves put over that. The part of the garden I choose is protected from cold winds.

November 16th
I was intrigued today to read from the newspapers that a very pleasant lady had won a million pounds in a competition on television. Good for her. But the thing that intrigued me was the way in which a newspaper was anxious to trace her ancestry to see whether she had royal connections. Implication seemed to be that her ability was not a matter of her own resources but came from some royal link. The newspaper succeeded in finding that a distant relative was mistress to Edward VII. But going further back they traced her ancestry to an earldom created in the 17th century. On close scrutiny, however, he appears to have been a Dutchman. It is not clear why her ability came from roots so distant. Furthermore, of the thousands contributing to her hereditary qualities there must have been those of an academic bent, but not of royal connections, which might have something more to do with her ability. Geneological studies have a flaw. They are selective. The rogues, the vagabonds, the idiots, malcontents, the criminals, in the ancestry are overlooked. But they contribute also to hereditary qualities. It can be overlooked that every single person in the UK, however humble, has an ancestry going back in time, indeed back to the Ark. We must exercise care or one will be back to the apes. I had an horrendous thought. Might the peacocks have got in somewhere?

November 17th
I reflected today on what flower should I take with me if I was marooned forever on a desert island. After careful thought, much as I enjoy clematis, I felt that I could not live without the rose. But of so many to choose from, which one? Perhaps I would choose the climber 'Compassion' for the amount of bloom it would give me for the long period of blooming, for its wonderful colouring, its gracious shape, and its scent. What attributes! Then I hope that 'Mermaid' would arrive by sea. That, too, is a wonderful plant, single, yellow, long stamens, glossy foliage. Tends to be slow taking off, but I would have unlimited time.

November 18th
Had an extraordinary sight today. One of the three young peacocks is a cock and he has two sisters, the peahens. They are hardly out of the cradle but today the peacock was displaying to his two sisters. There you have it. Incest at this early age. Not only dirty and noisy but also perverted!

November 19th
The American election drags on, there is little to choose in the votes cast for the two candidates, so presumably there is little to choose between the candidates. In most elections they are decided by the floating vote. These are the wise people who refuse to be tied to one party but shift their vote according to the dictates of the situation. Normally the floating vote decides elections and they are a very important ingredient in democracy. The two candidates have bewildered the floating vote and it has been inoperative.

November 20th
A new opera star is born. This is the blind Italian singer, Andrea Bocelli. I have a DVD of him singing sacred arias from a church in Rome. All the great tenors have sang these arias, Caruso, Gigli, Corelli, etc. This singer stands comparison with them all. The voice is subtle, sweet and an Italianate throatiness. With great range. Just sheer delight. When one designates singers as great then one cannot say that one is greater than another. They are all great but different. Similarly, there is no such thing as a most beautiful rose. There are many beautiful roses but each is different. Of the old singers on record, however, I am always greatly taken with Corelli. Of present day tenors I am hugely taken with Carlo Bergonzi. I have a DVD of a concert at the Metropolitan, New York, and at the age of 70 Bergonzi brought the house down. Having reached the height of his powers just before the multi-media age, he is not as well-known to the public as he deserves. He is a singer's singer. When Pavorotti was asked who should young singers follow, he advised them to seek the recordings of Carlo Bergonzi. He produces flavourings in the voice which I have never heard elsewhere.

November 21st
My latest book, Choosing Your Clematis, arrived in my hands today. This is my 53rd book - but only a few, of course, on clematis.

The majority of clematis are brought by members of the public who have small knowledge of gardening, and often no knowledge of clematis. In these circumstances they make the wrong choice. Disappointment with clematis results. They make no further purchases. Thus our aim to have clematis in every garden is thwarted. The book aims to help the purchaser make the right choice for him and to continue purchasing in the full knowledge of what he is doing.

Disappointment from his plant being struck by clematis wilt is another source of disappointment with, and the avoidance of, clematis. The book gives the purchaser a balanced view of 'wilt' and he is encouraged to cope with it rather than avoid growing clematis.

The book now floats away into the hands of the public. As for the author, well, in my case, one is busy on the next book and hardly has time to follow its course, let alone do any sponsoring; I leave that to the publisher. Its first hurdle will be the reviewers in the journals. After so many books I am philosophical about this. The best reviews come from detachment. But for some reviewers this is the chance to step on the stage. They can't resist revealing themselves. Thus the review tells you more about the reviewer than the book. Detachment comes if the reviewer is knowledgeable about the field in general but is not working in the section of the field covered by the book. This allows for detachment. Books on clematis should not be reviewed by clematarians but by general horticulturists. A particular difficult arises if the reviewer is a specialist in the field covered by the book. His own views are likely to be challenged by a new book and this makes detachment difficult. I have noticed that the further away geographically the reviewer is from the author, then the better the judgement by the reviewer. Inevitably, just occasionally, the book will find its way into the hands of a friend. Here I am reminded of the words of Oscar Wilde: "anybody can sympathise with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathise with a friend's success".

Guiseppe Verdi thought that the only review that was worth anything was the reaction of the audience. So may the public deal kindly with Choosing Your Clematis.

November 22nd
When one digs, as I often do in this garden, I keep a weather-eye open for any interesting object that one may find in the ground. Sorry to say but we have never found anything of any great interest. There was one find of interest, but not of great interest. This ground is sandy. However we have found some glazed bricks here and there in the garden. That would suggest that there was a kiln at some point in the garden, presumably for constructing parts of the house. Locally they all said "there's no clay in that garden". However, putting in a small rose-bed many years ago, to my amazement we found clay - not far removed from where we had found the glazed bricks.

It has also been said that the Roman garrison in Colchester, about ten miles away, when the town was struck by the plague would abandon it and move to the high ground where we are. We have found nothing Roman here although a nearby neighbour did find some Roman material.

November 23rd
Today I received what, at first glance, was a testing letter. It reads as follows:

Dear Mr Howells
We have written to inform you that we at the Peacock society do not like the tone of your comments about our feathered friends. We would like to inform you that we are installing a unit to breed 200 cock pheasants a month in the upper half of your cottage. We also suggest that you should respect your feathered companions by naming your cottage after them.
We will call the first 200 gwilymus likimus after you, and we will send the first 100 to feast in your garden on your succulent clematis specimens.
Yours sincerely,
Mr A Peacock
Editor,
The Peacock Society

John Gwilym is not too bothered because he thinks he recognises the hand of
an amiable friend.

November 24th
It was getting dark and the wind was roaring. I was on the upper part of the garden where the sky was very visible. Against the dark clouds I could see groups of gulls making their way back to the coast. They worked hard against the wind. Sometimes the wind was too much for them and they fell a few yards, exposing the white undersides of their wings. Then they would swoop up again and battle on. I could only call this "the ballet of the gulls". The holly trees, both in my garden and in the fields, are covered with red berries this year. They are a sheet of red and getting redder every day. However, I have already alerted Ola to the need to collect branches for Christmas now. The great threat here are the waxwings. These birds arrive from northern Europe into this part of the world. They hunt in packs. They make such a chirping that they have been known as Bohemian Chatterers. Whatever their social life, they have a raging appetite. It has been recorded that one bird ate 390 berries, roughly its own weight, in 2&Mac189; hours. Any time now they will be moving, as a group, into my big holly tree. It takes them just one night to strip it of every berry.

However, I did notice that in the neighbourhood most years there are some holly trees left which are still laden with berries. On enquiry I was told that this is because there is a thrush resident in that tree and he sees off the intruders. But thrushes are thin on the ground here now, and so the waxwings may be able to make a clean sweep.

November 25th
Occasionally we do a walk-drive. That means that we roam in the lanes around here, going at walking pace in the car, while listening to music and stopping here and there when anything of interest emerges. One can do this around here for at least twenty miles without ever going into a village. As we got into the bottom of the valley we could see the flooding on both sides of the road. Canada geese could be seen in the distance and even the opening of the car door immediately caused them to move away. The gulls had gone. It was getting dark. They would be on their way back to the coast by now. A little higher up my attention was caught by two large hares in a grassy field. This is great hare country. Because of the wet weather the farmers have not been able to get the sugar beet out. But where they have been able to work, the fields were covered with crows. There were thousands of them. But even as we approached they were rising in clouds and going off to their rookeries. A little further on two riders emerged out of the dusk and were as surprised to see us as we were to see them. They looked ready for a chat. Perhaps wondering who we were. But their horses were impatient to get home. We scanned the hedges for wild hop. This makes a most attractive feature in the kitchen when it is dried. But as the farmers were unable to get to the fields they have been busy on their hedges and no hop was to be seen. As we turned towards home we were facing westwards and the sun was setting, making a yellowish-red sky, against which one could see the flare of the odd plane on its way to Stanstead Airport about 30 miles away.

November 26th
I discovered a new truth about Clematis vitalba - 'Old Man's Beard' - that this wild clematis does in fact get pruned every year. Even in this mechanical age the farmers, in trimming the hedges, do trim off the Clematis vitalba. It's pruning is a little early but nevertheless it will be greatly improved by it. It will make a fine display next autumn.

November 27th
Opera has come of age in DVD. I have a wonderful new recording made in Leningrad. They staged it as the opera was first staged when it opened in Leningrad in the 19th Century. This was La Forza del Destino. But I have an older recording on video, where the soprano is Leontyne Price. What a sumptuous voice. The voice is so big and sure that you have no anxiety about her being able to cope with anything that comes her way. She has been a magnificent representative of her race. The voice is God's gift to everyone. The improvement in the white-black situation in the States over the last 50 years is pleasing to see. Yet at its most difficult phase there were odd moments of hope.

I recall an episode in Detroit. I was lecturing in Coba Hall, the conference centre. I had been warned not to go out into the streets at any time. However, I did wander out in the early afternoon one day. As in all American cities, there was a great pressure of traffic. I came to a junction and the lights were against me, so I stood there and waited . Looking across I could see a blind white man with his white stick stepping out into the traffic. It looked like certain death. As I saw him, a black youth on the opposite side of the road saw him also and dashed, impervious to his safety, into the traffic, grabbed the blind man and hauled him to safety.

November 28th
On another DVD recording this evening I came across the voice of Joan Sutherland. Was she the greatest soprano of all time? It could be so. A friend and I once took a well-known aria and played it being sung by a number of the more prominent sopranos. We came to the conclusion that Joan Sutherland was in a class on her own. This Australian singer has only sung once at the Colon Opera House in Buenos Aires. In the old days it was part of the career of every singer to sing at the Colon, the largest opera house in the world. Our paths crossed at the only time she sang in Argentina. Due to the antics of an Englishmen two weeks before I arrived in Buenos Aires, which provoked a situation which had to be resolved by the army, the authorities thought it best to put an agent on me whilst I was there. After a while the agent must have decided that I was no threat to the authorities because he introduced himself, suggested that we collaborated for our mutual benefit, and said that he was ready to be as helpful as he could. I could not get a ticket for the Colon, but he could. In fact he came with me and we had box seats for himself, for his family and for me. The opera was Norma and the soprano was Joan Sutherland. In her autobiography she talks of another visit that they made in South America. She and her husband, a conductor, went on to Machu Picchu in Peru. This is one of the great sights of South America, if not of the world. Our paths did not cross there because, I think, they preceded me. For me that is the most exhilarating spot in the world. And the most fascinating city? It has to be Hong Kong in the old days, before they built the tunnel for the cars, and everyone moved across the bay on the ferry. So much of interest could be seen from that ferry that I spent hours going backwards and forwards on it.

November 29th
It's like a battle area here at the moment. Guns going off at shoots to the north, south, east and west.

No pheasants in the garden at the moment. Soon the walking wounded will limp in. It's not terribly sporting. Pheasants are not shot for food. So many come on the market in a short time that they are hardly worth selling. They are shot to test marksmanship. It's a really healthy day out but a carnage for these beautiful birds. Animals kill animals - but not for sport - and in the quickest fashion.

I had a lady research assistant once, who was rather cantankerous. One day she was full of indignation she said "Do you know that somebody has given me two pheasants. Two pheasants just for my husband and I. It's very selfish of them. Just imagine I have to de-feather two birds."

The "somebody" must have heard this message. Next year she was given just one bird. She came in again full of indignation. She said "Can you imagine? They have given us just one pheasant. One pheasant for two people. People always give a brace of pheasants. We have had only one."

To get some research going I asked her to concentrate on the following:

"Is it appropriate to regard depersonalisation, as a paradigm decipherable in
Pavlovian accent, or is the psychopathalogical truth more likely to emerge in a Popper experiential analysis, eschewing Freudian overtones?"

I expect the husband had his pheasant with the feathers that night. (Incidentally, someone might write a book about that question. You watch!)

November 30th
The month closes with still a lot of interest in the garden. Solenum is still in full bloom everywhere. What a magnificent climber it is. It could go on right into the new year. Matching it there are still some blooms on the climbing rose 'New Dawn'. Prunus subhirtella 'Autumnalis' has lost all its leaves. But the pinky-white flowers are already emerging! I first saw this winter wonder on a cold wintry day in December, many years ago, in the city of London. Suddenly I turned a corner and there was this fabulous tree in bloom against an old building. I enquired about this phenomenon and since then I have always had it in my garden. We have three trees of various sizes and one is the variety 'Rosea' which has a pink colour that retains its colour.



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