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Thursday, 28 July 2016

The Allure of the Rose

By the time England's mini-heatwave came to its end, my roses needed a good trim. Now I'm waiting for the second, in some cases third, flush of flowers to see the garden into September and summer's last hurrah. It may be damp and cloudy again, but the last few weeks have been glorious and the roses at their best.

Roses Compassion and American Pillar in our garden set off by clematis Etoile de Violette

They really are fantastic plants and worth  the extra attention they need compared to some garden favourites. Fossil evidence suggests that in the wild they are as much as 35 million years old and today there are thousands of varieties. Throughout history, they've been used for perfume and even luxury food. The Romans loved them and if you were rich enough, it was fashionable to bathe in rosewater and hold your banquets on carpets of rose petals.



We all know that in the seventeenth century tulips were immensely valuable but it's less well known that roses were highly valued too and sometimes used as legal tender.
Of course they have been popular through the ages in painting and some of the best work of the celebrated botanic artist, Pierre Joseph Redouté, depicts them in  glorious  detail studying them in the seven-acre rose garden laid out for Napoléon Bonaparte's first wife, Joséphine.
 

Friday, 8 July 2016

Don't let the Facts Spoil a Good Story.

At the moment, UK politics resembles Shakespearean drama more each  day. A by-product of this has been the discussion of Boris Johnson's father's comment on his son's political assassination - those famous words from Julius Caesar,  'Et tu, Brute?' 
Several commentators have been quick to point out that according to the chronicler, Suetonius, Caesar probably said 'Kai su, Teknon?' - Ancient Greek for 'You too, my son?' Plutarch adds the words 'So fall Caesar'.
Shakespeare would obviously have been keen to choose the most dramatic and succinct line. 'Et tu, Brute' is certainly memorable and even though many educated people of his day would have swapped between Greek and Latin easily, it would have been more likely to be widely understood.
Of course we'll never know the truth. Maybe as one wag recently suggested, Caesar's last word is far more likely to have been 'arrrrgh!'




If you love a good mystery set in the Golden Age of Shakespeare, my novel Salvation is on Kindle Countdown until 15th July.