Saturday, 15 August 2015

Swanning Off to Meet Princes

It's August. It's pouring with rain and I'm not doing the things I should be doing.
Instead I've logged onto my blog, although I almost can't remember how...
I haven't been here since May. Time closed in on me back then, and swallowed me up.
I'm still trying to burrow out.

But it's been an exciting few months, and I'd like to try and catch up, if I can.
Never go back, they say.
There may be something in that.

When I last posted - on 14 May - I was working long, long days with Seamus (aka The Bear) and his team on the garden at Bloom, and living in a manky B&B in Dublin. Days and dates had ceased to have any meaning, as we were simply on a countdown and worked 24/7, on-site in a hole, off-site on a computer/phone.
Except on 19th.
On 19th May I climbed into my dinky little red Micra and tootled off to Galway to present a rose to Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.

The WB Yeats rose. Alas, it's not photogenic. It's not bright scarlet - it's a darker, velvety red.

Somehow, I haven't mentioned the rose, but it's been the other Major Event in my life this year.
It's a brand new, very gorgeous, rich red, velvety rose that is being named WB Yeats as part of Yeats2015.
A very exciting project, but for my sins, I am the person responsible for trying to make it happen.
That would be fine if it was just a straightforward launch,but this rose is being funded by donation, so that means you, me, the guy who fixes the roof and the woman who hands over your latte every morning.
Or at least, that's the idea, but it seems to be down to me to ask them all to contribute.
To be honest, either Bloom or the Rose would have been enough for one year!

Still not being photogenic. Still not revealing its true colours. The deep red and the gold stamens are actually stunning.

Senator Susan O'Keeffe (the genius behind Yeats2015 and all that goes with it, including the WB Yeats rose) was waiting for me at Galway University, the starting point for HRH's Irish visit.
I drove up to the main gate, to the horror of the phalanx of Gardai whose job it was to keep people out, but they were very helpful once they realised that no one - not even they - could have carried two large rose shrubs from the appointed cathedral car park.

Susan and I then had to convince the woman in charge of the event that the roses were expected, had been cleared - indeed, had been facilitated at the highest level by the British Ambassador; that they had passed through her own security system and that despite her personal reservations, we did intend to present them to the Prince.
She wasn't happy.
But you can't please everyone.

The royal couple arrived in a heavy shower of hail - not the warmest of Irish welcomes, but what can you do? The people were thrilled to see them.
They made their way slowly through the quad, meeting and greeting.
When it was my turn, Prince Charles shook my hand and enquired politely if I was also with the college, but, not being much good at formal handshakes, I grabbed him by both elbows, beamed and replied, 'No! I'm here to give you a rose!'
He gave a great laugh. 'Things are looking up!' he said.

I met him again when we'd all moved inside. He was very interested to hear about the new WB Yeats rose.
He also commented on the jacket I was wearing - a most unexpected compliment from someone whose sartorial elegance is renowned, especially as I have no pretensions in that direction whatsoever.
When we finally went up to make our presentations (Susan gave them a beautiful, hand-printed book of Yeats poems), they were both warm, chatty and quite delightful. The rose was a gift for their brand new grandchild, Princess Charlotte, but I told the Duchess that I'd given their security team a second rose to take home to Highgrove, and she seemed genuinely touched. We talked about Prince Charles' love of plants, and she said she was sorry they wouldn't be in Ireland for Bloom, as she would have liked to see my Yeats show garden.

When I got back to Dublin, Seamus roundly told me off for being away - the build-schedule didn't allow for swanning off to meet Princes was, as I recall, the burden of his reproof.
I grinned. 'Yes, Bear,' I replied in suitably chastened tones. 'No Bear. Three bags full, Bear.'
His lips twitched. 'But a day and a half!' he said.
'Well, I had to go to the hairdresser - if you'd seen the bathroom at my B&B you'd understand, and it was 10 hours driving, what with the Micra, and having to go via Sligo to collect the roses, and there was a lot of hanging around...And anyway, it was the very first WB Yeats rose ever - being presented to the Prince of Wales!'
'You and your bloody rose,' he said. He pulled €50 out of his pocket. 'Here, that's from me and the lads.'
Bless him, what a lamb. I mean, a bear. A lamb-bear. A bear-lamb.
Well, bless him anyway.
'Now, get on with your garden, woman!' he said.
Yes, Bear. (But I wouldn't have missed meeting them for anything.)


  1. " Time closed in on me back then, and swallowed me up." I wish I had thought of this lovely descriptive phrase--my spring and summer in a few words, although I surely haven't done anything as marvelous as creating a memorial garden or meeting a prince!

  2. Thank you, Morning's Minion. Nice to see you here!


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