Sometimes, I focus so much on Miss Reeve’s recipes on this blog that I forget that not everybody else will remember or even know Miss Reeve the person. It is not appropriate to tell too much about her – she had her life and is no longer in control of what folk say about her or, in my case, write about her. Her relationship with me, by way of reminder, I wrote about here and here.
However, there are echoes of Miss Reeve to be found in people I meet sometimes. And yesterday, for the first time in years, I came across some of those echoes. I had been invited to the Chelsea Flower Show so decided to take the afternoon off. Self-employment has its wondrous benefits! From lunchtime onwards, there she was an echoing voice in many of those I was to meet.
I started by treating myself to lunch at the Victoria and Albert Museum, of which I am a member. I immerse myself within their galleries every once in a while when the day job, which I generally love, has taken away all my creativity and I need a ‘fix’. And where better than the V&A. Glass, silver, jewellery, fabric, furniture, fashion, art, sculpture… People made ‘things’ in the past and continue to do so. With passion.
I had lunch in the Members’ Room. Full of bohemian women of a certain age, clad in bright flowing colours and talking animatedly about everything under the sun. I often write down words that I hear amongst collections of people and here are some I heard in that room yesterday: ‘mellifluous’, ‘trumpet’, ‘antediluvian’, ‘Withypool’, ‘Serendipity’, ‘taking a stand’, ‘without walls’. Very varied. Suddenly, as I sat there gazing around the room and transfixed by the women and the occasional dapperly attired gentleman, a woman nearby said to me ‘Young woman. You have been either twiddling your hair or playing with your necklace for the past half an hour. One thing you should learn as a woman as you get older is that you need to take the time to be still!’. Forthright. Loud (everybody looked at me – ugh). Honest.
But – she called me a young woman so I recovered quickly from the criticism and took on board the descriptor ‘young’!
From that a conversation ensued amongst the women surrounding me about what they now know that they are of a certain age. ‘Tea – you need good tea in life‘ (a topic which surfaces again later in this blog). ‘Wear what you feel gives you presence – wear it for you and not for how you feel on that day but how you want to feel on that day‘. ‘Read a book every month that contains views with which you know you will disagree – it will force you to react and get cross. Crossness is a good thing!‘. And so on it went. Later, as I wandered the galleries before leaving, I came across one of the dapper gentlemen who had been in the room. ‘You’ll be like them one day’ he winked. I think he meant it well! Miss Reeve was in that room, believe me. Always forthright. Always loud. Always honest.
Thereafter, to the RHS Chelsea Flower show. Normally, I only get to have an hour or so in the evening there. We have friends who live nearby and they get tickets for their guests (they have guests all Chelsea week for drinks every evening) and we can enter ‘over the fence’ so to speak just before it closes. This time, I could go from 3.30 onwards. Such a treat. I had deliberately not watched anything about Chelsea as sometimes you just want to ‘feel’ a scene, and not have to analyse it having been told what it should feel like.
My host for the afternoon and later the evening dinner was Tina. An echo of Miss Reeve in one very particular way. If I had to cook dinner for 20 people at a day’s notice I would feel able to call Miss Reeve and say ‘help’. She would calmly tell me to get on with it; be supportive; be instructive; and take over in a way that made me feel confident that I was in total control. Tina is like that too. She is a lawyer. I was one once, I still work and have worked with many lawyers for years – all are technically brilliant. That is what they are trained to be. But Tina is the only one I would trust with my legal issues; or for that matter for my clients’ legal issues. I know I could pick up the ‘phone and ask for help at short notice and, as with Miss Reeve, all would be well. ‘She is on our side’ I think, ‘and all will be well‘.
She met me and we meandered through the showground. A real treat. Most folk we knew were working; we weren’t. I didn’t take that many pictures. Sometimes I think I risk just ‘snapping’ and not looking.
But we loved the dragonflies:
And the orchid:
The Arthritis Research garden was truly excellent and really reflected the feelings people like I (for I have had the occasional ‘flare up’ since childhood) go through. The emotional worry about keeping working and doing it well, the physical exhaustion for days after the flare up. For those who suffer from this all the time for all their life, it must be very validating of their horrifyingly painful experience to have Chris Beardshaw confirm he has it. His garden will remain in my mind (no need for a picture) for a very long time. But for somebody else’s photo, and a video about it, click here.
There was however the ‘perfect’ garden for me. Having done no research, as I have said, before visiting the show, I wasn’t aware of its purpose/story/function. All I knew was that it seemed to contain a story of both past (old windows, gates etc) and the present (copper sculpture) and planting that seemed to span all eras.
I couldn’t quite work out a story (people moving into an old run-down house and doing up the garden first maybe?!). I have now found out that it is supposed to represent 100 years of gardening. It is the M & G Centenary Garden ‘Windows Through Time’.
Yes, past and present. Not a bad feeling to have about a garden and in fact the correct one.
Having spent lunchtime in the V&A it seemed that the day’s theme was very much past creativity mixed with modern ideas whether at the V&A or at Chelsea.
I loved the gardens where herbs, and vegetables, were interspersed with garden annuals and perennial plants. A bit like my vegetable patches only much more organised, planned and perfect!
After the gardens, the flower displays.
Then, dinner. With 9 other women. I rarely get to spend time with just women. I had forgotten how supportive, funny, open, non-egotistical we can be when we get together. And these particular women were very successful in their lives and their fields of business. But very little mention of any of that. Our conversations were broad ranging, personal, stimulating and, for me at least, very educational. I could have listened to them for hours.
And tea yet again became part of the conversation. First, one of the ladies always carries her own tea around in case that which she is likely to be served may not come up to scratch (brilliant idea!). And another lady owns a tea business. The Tea Palace. I have determined that this weekend’s Miss Reeve’s Recipe will be one based on tea. So more on tea in the next blog.
Finally, we left. And, this morning, I am left with my freesias. Tina had brought a button hole of freesias for each of us to wear. How lovely. Now they sit drinking their water in a little glass in my office.
Freesias are a flower which represent multiple sentiments apparently. ‘Friendship, trust, high spirits, perseverance under pressure, variations in colour’. Remind you of any women you know?
I think the most wonderful aspect to them however is that when they are in bud, comparatively young, they start off with those buds facing downwards. As they mature, the flowers develop and they face upwards. Freesias are a reflection of the women I met yesterday.
I think Miss Reeve would have been in her element.