Tuesday, 24 May 2022


 My father died in 1971.   He left school at the earliest possible age - when you realise that he was born in around 1890 only 20 odd years after the first Education Act bringing in Compulsory Education then I don't expect he had all that much education.   If any amongst you care to look how much - feel free - but when I started looking it became too complicated.

He came from a very working class background but his saving grace was that although he was one of eight his father was a lay preacher Methodist and education was taken seriously and they were home schooled as much as it was possible when his parents were not educated either.    But he valued it and one thing he did was to teach himself Latin in as much as was possible.   He loved gardening (we had a big garden, he grew lots of veg and flowers) and he loved their names.  He trotted them out at every opportunity throughout.( Latin is an easy language to learn on the surface because you say it as it reads).   He 'rose through the ranks' to have a reasonably good job and made sure the three of us would not fare badly education wise.   I was lucky being born last (1932) and passing the scholarship and 'staying on' at school a little longer.

And so we were away Dad and I - we searched for wild flowers and could trot out their Latin names and those of the garden plants in our garden.   How he would have loved Chelsea.

I have always watched the offerings we are given on the television.   And - one year - what excitement- a friend who was a member of the RHS couldn't go on members day and she gave me her membership entrance card!

I lived in Wolverhampton at the time.   I caught the six o'clock train to London, changed to the tube and was more or less there at opening time.   The tent with all the exhibits, the show gardens, the atmosphere, the famous faces.   I was totally and completely overwhelmed.   Be lunchtime, when I had intended to get lunch (bear in mind that by this time I had gone through University, gone through the ranks of teaching and travelled extensively abroad so was used to crowds)I just wanted to get home.   I left Chelsea and made for the train like a frightened rabbit.

How I love it on television.   I never miss a programme, I gobble it all up, I hear the latin names and remember my Dad, I jot down the names of plants I fancy adding to my garden.   But invite me to go again???   No thanks - I looked at HM in her buggy seemingly interested in what she was being told and I marvelled at how she could keep up and how she could make polite conversation and (if I had been wearing one I would have taken my hat off to her).



Sue in Suffolk said...

I think Chelsea Gardens is like Wimbledon Tennis - much better on TV!

Susan said...

Anything that draws huge crowds becomes impossible for me too. TV will do nicely.

Melinda from Ontario said...

I enjoyed reading about your father and his determination to be a life long learner. I struggle with the Latin names of my plants. I'm either convinced I'm pronouncing them wrong or I can't remember their name at all. I'm always pleased when a new plant I want to incorporate into my garden has an easy to remember common name. For example, Love Lies Bleeding (to me) is much easier to remember than Amaranthus caudatus.

Derek Faulkner said...

Must admit, large crowds have always been a no-no for me, that's why I rarely go to London or exhibitions, I'm a natural country yokel.
Back in the 1960's when I was training as a groundsman/gardener I also found it fairly easy to learn the latin names of trees and plants and also those of wild birds, although many have been forgotten by now.
Do you watch the Carol Klein programmes, they are quite good but her excessive exhilaration about everything drives me nuts.

Mary said...

Such a great memoir dear Pat however, like you, I too could never do large crowds now, I get rather panicky since being swept up in a very noisy, pushing New Year's Eve crowd in town some years back and was terrified of being trampled.

Love the story of your dad, mine, born in 1900 had little education, lived in foster care and was pushed out to work at a very young age. He did serve in the RAF through WWII, was a milkman for a while, a chauffeur for a wealthy woman, and learned to pull a good pint in bar work - nothing pretentious but a good, hardworking, honest, well-liked man doing good English work for those times. As for gardening, he always left that to mum and me, she was the one with the green thumb and taught me the plant names, haha!!!!
Hugs - Mary

Librarian said...

I always love your trips down memory lane, Pat. Your Dad sounds like a very good man with just the right level of ambition to keep going but not to become so driven that nothing else would have mattered.
My Mum loves the Latin names of flowers and plants and knows many of them, too. Often when O.K. and I are out walking or hiking and we come across a plant we can not name, I take a picture with my mobile phone and send it to my Mum, and she almost always knows what it is.
My Dad is more knowledgeable about trees, birds, fish and other animals. Much of what I know about wildlife and nature I know from him, and he instilled his love of the woods (and generally the outdoors) in me and my sister from when we were toddlers.

Ellen D. said...

Good memories of your Dad. I don't know plants' names at all. A few common ones I might recognize but not many and no Latin names. How nice that you have had such a life-long love of plants and flowers that is still giving you much joy!

Barbara Rogers said...

My parents were both citified people, though I know they camped and hunted deer just before they married...but they raised me in the city too. As for education, they had a high value on it, and I was the first of my generation to go to college. I was so glad to take many vacations by camping out and hiking with my sons as they grew...but I didn't ever know the names of things unless someone else told me! I wish I could remember them now!

Barbara Anne said...

Isn't it a marvel that we can see so much on TV while comfy in our reading chairs! I'm so glad Chelsea is on TV! We also enjoy the big dog shows on TV, like Krufts.
Now you can look out over your garden and beside your front door and enjoy what beauty you've brought to surround your home.
My Mon and Dad weren't gardeners but Mom sewed and Dad was a woodworker when not at his regular job.


John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

London's not much to my taste; I went to Uni there but haven't been back very often since. My mother was a big fan of Chelsea Flower Show and I often enjoyed watching on TV with her. Personally I'd rather go to the Open Gardens event in my village.

Rachel Phillips said...

Had you been there with a companion/friend your experience would have been different.

Anonymous said...

When I was 19 I announced to my parents that I wanted to get married. I disappointed both my school and my parents by not going to university, but at the time, I was fed up with study. I was concerned that they may not have enough money for the wedding, but they revealed they had put aside money since I was little for Uni for me and would use that. Although my father only finished primary school he thought my education was important. He despised my husband, and was proved right. Luckily after my divorce,
they allowed me to move home again to study. My youth was different to his, fostered out, then stuck on the end of a Liberator as a rear gunner.- Pam, Aust.

Joanne Noragon said...

I think the queen a marvel. She has lot weight this last year, but was as impressive as ever.

Cro Magnon said...

My mother was like your father. She knew all the Latin and common names for flowers, and she also knew all the regional differences. Oh, how I wish she'd written it all down. She used to go regularly to Chelsea, often with her friend Constance Spry.

The Weaver of Grass said...

You are possibily right Rachel - never thought of that.
Thanks everyone.