Diary

By Welch, David | The Spectator, March 20, 1999 | Go to article overview

Diary


Welch, David, The Spectator


Never resurface a road in central London. It only leads to trouble and public excoriation. This was the principle adopted for the Mall when it was last repaired just after the second world war. It almost caused an additional conflict at the time, and prudent functionaries let it rest in peace till this year, when it started to fall apart and had to be dealt with. I am truly sorry it had to be done on my watch, and that a lot of people were put out by it. But it is over now. The Mall is still a red carpet leading to the Palace, although it is a deeper, richer red than it was. The previous colour had faded over the years till it was a faint pink. It is not so smooth either, because the old surface allowed cars to skid in wet weather and the new one is resistant to this. No one said the world would come to an end as a result of the work, though I thought it might, and there were some who considered the time taken indicated a touching faith in everlasting life. Shakespeare, in Macbeth, has Malcolm say, `Nay had I power, I should/Pour the sweet milk of concord into hell,/Uproar the universal peace, confound/All unity on earth.' He was not familiar with hot rolled asphalt but he got the effect of laying it on the Mall, bang to rights.

The daffodils now turning Green Park yellow were planted in celebration of Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh's golden wedding anniversary, and to give public pleasure. They are now already entering their third season of flowering. I happened to look at the work of planting two and a half years ago, when it was just getting under way, and saw to my chagrin that the bulbs were being put in upsidedown. They do grow eventually because the roots are attracted and the shoots repelled by gravity, but they are later to flower at first, and are slower to naturalise as they take time and energy to correct their posture in the soil. All the same I bitterly complained to the contractor. `It's because the workers are casual,' he said, though I needed no persuasion about that, `and they are from Australia.'

Borzoi, Chihuahua, Yorkshire, Norfolk, Norwich, Airedale, Bedlington, Border, Boston, Bull, Cairn, Dandie Dinmont, Fox, Jack Russell, Kerry Blue, Manchester, Pit Bull, Sealyham, Scottish, Skye and West Highland terriers; Dachshund, Affenpinnscher, Schnauzer; King Charles, Cocker, Clumber, Field, Irish Water, Springer and Tibetan spaniels; Shar Pei, Chow Chow; Border, Bearded, and Rough collies; Dalmatian, Alsatian, Weimaraner, Saluki, Setter, Malamute, Pug, Pomeranian, Poodle, Pointer, Pekinese: all exercise in the public park - Corgis exercise elsewhere.

In June this year, towards the end of the month, the Royal Parks are to reintroduce a flower show in Regent's Park. It was originally started in 1848 by the Botanical Society of London and it attracted its last visitor when Paul Robeson was top of the pops and Harold Larwood was about to decapitate antipodean cricketers. The flower show seems likely to be more successful than he was, stoutly as he tried. All the stands in the marquee are now taken up, there are many outside exhibitors and more appear every week. When it was just an idea we consulted widely. Won't it interfere with other shows? `It will be a threat to no one. It will be in the very centre of London surrounded by millions of people; it is alongside fine, newly refurbished gardens and in a splendid park. …

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