22 July 2012

A Roy Strong Moment

Roy Strong

 I had a Roy Strong moment earlier this afternoon.

Which was unexpected.

Because at the time I was being quiet macho.

twisted wire

I’ve planted a rambling rose, Albertine, by the new back fence where the leylandii once were. The vain hope is that it will quickly blot out the neighbours in a wall of exquisite fragrant flowers. (Ha! we’ll see). This afternoon I strung some wires along the fence for the rose to ramble through. This involved so much hammering it brought a neighbour to her upstairs window to have a nosey, and some rather skilled use of a pair of pliers.

fence panel

 So there I was knee deep in the lush green manure, making a loud noise, and wrestling with fairytale-sized thorns, when effete and cultured Roy Strong came to mind.

Roy’s one of my intellectual heroes. A high point of my other younger life in London was brushing past him on the stairs of The Victoria and Albert (squeal!). He’s a high-end version of Grayson Perry. There is no dress wearing but you do get flamboyant suits and diamond earrings. They are both highly individualistic, with strong views, but are clever enough to know life is a game which you might as well enjoy while you can.

“When I first became a director, I thought I had to be a little man in a dark suit. But then I thought, 'To hell with it. Let's be me.' That moment, my career took off like a rocket.”

So why did Roy pop up while I was congratulating myself on this short burst of muscular gardening? It was the idea of the roses.

rambling rose wire

Garden65 is palimpsest of different gardens made by its various owners over the years. I’m not a strong enough gardener to wipe it all clean and create one coherently designed plot, so I deal with old bullying shrubs and awkwardly sized borders. It’s a fight to impose any vision of a lovely garden on this unplanned mess. It probably doesn’t help that I don’t have a defined idea of what that perfect place would be, but roses would be one ingredient. They represent Beauty with a capital B; an unattainable divine beauty.

I haven’t had much luck with roses in Garden65. They either produce one begrudging bloom, or bud promisingly but open flowers that quickly turn over to brown mush. So Albertine on the back fence is not only a defiant act against experience, but an act of faith in Beauty.

So that, I think, is why my subconscious whispered Roy Strong’s name (although in reality he would probably sniff at my sentimentality): art and beauty are something worth investing in.