One Woman’s View of the Chelsea Flower Show

Elvis Costello may not have wanted to go to Chelsea, but I’ve been wanting to go to the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show for years.  And last week, I finally made it.  Here are ten things I learned whilst I was there.

  • Travelling on the Underground isn’t as difficult or as scary as a Country Bumpkin like me thinks it’s going to be and I should do it more often, possibly taking the children to see all the sights.  However, it’s still not a patch on the Metro system in Newcastle, which is newer, cleaner and full of people with the beautiful Geordie accent.
  •  There are some awfully rude people in London.  There are also some lovely ones.  Most notable was the young woman we sheltered next to in the entrance of Sloane Square tube station, waiting for the torrential rain to stop.  She was small and bird-like, beautifully dressed with understated chic and was friendly and chatty.  Taking our chances with the rain, we left before she did but spotted her again later at the show itself, where she waved at us as if we were old friends.

“I want that one!”

“Does this look a bit like me?”

  • The Chelsea Flower Show is very, very big.  As you approach it from the street, it doesn’t look as if it’s going to be particularly large.  But it’s like the Tardis, with an awful lot packed into a very small space.  And an awful lot of people, unfortunately.  Getting there early and staying late would have been a good plan.
  •  Flowers and plants and green things are very beautiful, and there are some very clever people in the world, who create wonderful and inventive spaces with flowers and plants and green things in them.  I was awe-struck and very jealous indeed.

“We could do that!  All we need is a large chair, a pond…”

Would this outfit keep out the rain?

  • If you don’t wear a coat on a very rainy day, people tend to look at you as if you’re a lunatic.  Watching people’s expressions as they registered my husband’s coat-less state (he refused to wear the free rain mac he was given, too) puzzled me a bit as it’s something we do at home to Northerners, what with them obviously being used to a much colder climate than ours.  Then I remembered that to Londoners, we ARE Northern!
  • There are more beautiful flowers in the world than one brain can comprehend.  Thank heavens for digital cameras for snapping pictures of name labels.
  • The Husband can be very good company indeed.  He can be a pain-in-the-arse-moaning devil, too, particularly in a day-to-day, domestic context where he seems to think we live in a Terry and June sit com, but he can also be kind and thoughtful and amusing.  But don’t tell him I said so.
  • Standing in a secluded corner as you eat an extortionately priced snack-lunch is not much fun.  Not a cafe table, chair or perching post was available; even the bins and the steps were taken, with the exception of the staircase to the press box, which a security man patrolled to keep clear.   “I bet Titchmarsh doesn’t have this problem,” said the Husband.  “Nah,” I replied, chomping my steak pie, “nor the Queen.”  I’m praying my novels become bestsellers, so I qualify for a pass for Celebrity Day in future.
  • If you use the flash when you take a photo of a tv presenter while they’re being filmed, the producer shouts at you, very loudly and in a very cheesed-off manner.

Carol Klein talking to camera – she’s quite ordinary until they’re switched on, then suddenly she becomes VERY animated!

  • There comes a point in the day when the need to sit down overrides your need to see every last exhibit, to the extent that the inability to do so even once during the day, coupled with a sudden, intense downpour of rain, makes you want to go home, no matter how priviledged you are to be there.  “If we leave now, we could just about catch a train before 4.30,” I told the Husband as we sheltered in a very dull garden supplies kiosk, standing as far back as we could to avoid the rain blowing vertically into it.  “If not, we have to hang around in London till after 7 o’clock.”  I guess it’s a sign of our advanced years that an evening at home in our slippers was more inviting than an evening in a Big City bar.  Besides which, we were worried about the kids.  So, two people-packed tube-rides later, we jumped onto the 4.30 train just as it was preparing to leave and were home in time to watch the day’s highlights on BBC 2.

And as Alan Titchmarsh might say, there may have been a spot of rain between the snatches of sunshine, but altogether, it had been a Grand Day.

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