The Maestros and the Alley Cats!

We attended two outstanding talks yesterday at Altamont Plants, part of the Carlow Garden Festival. I could not exaggerate how much I enjoyed both talks and what a wonderful credit the occasion was to Robert Millar, at Altamont Plants, and to Carlow Tourism who are the leading promoters and organisers of the festival. On this occasion, as it was within Altamont Gardens, it would be very remiss of me not to mention the work done by the garden staff and staff of the Office of Public works both in preparing for the event and helping to manage it on the day.

Chris Beardshaw (2)
Chris Beardshaw in full flow at Altamont Plants

Chris Beardshaw gave a tour de force performance with his “Planting Composition: Exploring Planting and Sculpting with Plants in a Garden” which was, in effect, a combination of two talks, one on the history and development of gardens and garden design which then morphed into consideration of colour combinations and plant selections. It was a talk presented with passion, humour and enthusiasm and was enjoyed by all despite being considerably longer than normal presentations.

Fergus Garrett (1)
Fergus Garrett at Altamont Plants

Fergus Garrett gave a wonderful insight into the gardening philosophy which informs and drives the year at Great Dixter. The experimentation of Christopher Lloyd continues with gusto – and with some colours combinations which were not to his taste. The solid structure of the garden allows for a flamboyance of planting but, as Fergus explained, it is a flamboyance which comes after much trialling of plants and experimentation with colour combinations and, though perfection may be achieved, there is always a desire to move along and try something else, new and exciting. Not since reading Christopher Lloyd’s books have I enjoyed such an insight into the gardens at Great Dixter. It was an outstanding talk.

Fergus Garrett and Paul Cutler(2)
Fergus Garrett with Paul Cutler, Head Gardener at Altamont Gardens

The Alley Cats?

This was the pre-show “entertainment”. We arrived before eleven o’ clock in ample time for an event starting at midday. We wished to be sure of seats in a good position within easy hearing distance to allow for poor hearing. As we arrived and strolled towards the marquee a busload of attendees moved, in what I was told afterwards was a practiced manoeuvre, towards the venue and quickly placed coats, or umbrellas or scarves on the front seats of the first few central rows of seats. They then left the marquee with their seating secured. We took our seats a row or two behind this and sat and chatted to friends as they arrived until the beginning of the talk. Of course, as people arrived and wandered towards what they thought were prime and empty seats they were taken aback to see the lines of coats etc holding seats. The group was quickly identified and it seems that this is their regular practice. There were grumbles that the organisers should surely not allow such carry-on but, in fairness to the organisers, it is not unreasonable of them to expect adults to behave in a mannerly and polite way and the shock of seeing such a display very often leads simply to silent discontent and a wondering how it is that these people believe it is acceptable to behave in such a manner.

One lady arrived, simply removed the reserving items from a seat and sat down in prime position for the show. The lady (an inappropriate use of the term, I suppose) who had “reserved” the seats returned and challenged the intruder. The lady (an accurate use of the term) who was sitting beside me moaned, “Oh, no!” with the foreboding that an argument was about to break out and further spoil our enjoyment of the occasion. Fortunately, claws were bared, some snarls exchanged and the street cat went off – bums on seats is the only way to reserve them!

I had initially thought that the lady who removed the item from the seat was being – I’m not sure what the word should be – unreasonable, provocative, as bad as the first person? However, on reflection, I feel that this was simply because of our wish to avoid confrontation and it is this commonly held desire which gives these bad-mannered people the confidence to behave as they do. They don’t expect to be confronted and are brazen enough to face down the quieter people attending. There are people who do this regularly but it was shocking to see whole bus-load of people doing it.

Coffee on projector
No better place to put your coffee than on the projector – fortunately, it didn’t spill and the show went on!

19 thoughts on “The Maestros and the Alley Cats!

  1. Heard Chris Beardshaw a few years ago. He was excellent. Didn’t notice the time going in. I believe Fergus Garret is coming to Comber later in the year.

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  2. Name them and shame them! You are not entitled to reserve seats in this way. You either pay for reserved seats or else come early and occupy them. We’ll done Paddy for bringing this to our attention. So glad you enjoyed the talks.
    I wasn’t tempted to attend but obviously have missed out. Hope to see you both next week some time!

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  3. Really disappointed to have missed this event … only found out this week and it was sold out … obviously to coachloads of selfish people! I hope lesson have been learned by the organisers … I really admire the woman who ignored the “reserved” seats! Not surprised it was a great day with these two amazing gardeners. Great Dixter is a credit to Fergus Garrett … preserving the Christopher LLoyd legacy whilst continuing to be innovative and inventive with the planting.

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  4. What is it about buses? Recently my son, daughter-in-law (baby in tow) found ourselves in a queue for lunch at East Ruston Old Vicarage. Unfortunately at the same time as a busload of people we’d seen arriving and moving as a tidal wave towards the cafe. What ensued was an unseemly dog-eat dog scramble for lunch. These people were obviously practiced in the art of obtaining what they wanted, when they wanted it….I can’t believe they were English!

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    1. When together each feels the support of the others and believe their behaviour is socially acceptable and it is acceptable within their immediate group and that brazens them to misbehave in this manner though it would be unacceptable to general society. Mob actions; Mob rule!

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  5. Thank for the review Paddy. I would love to hear Fergus talk he seems a real down to earth person and highly talented. In days of yore when Chris presented quite a lot on TV I could never warm to him; he seemed to lack the charisma that so many presenters have/had. I never heard him give a talk or lecture so it sounds that this may be where he is at his best.
    Imagine that bus load if they stayed in the same hotel as you on a sun holiday! All the sun beds would be gone by 5am,
    Glad everyone enjoyed it so much.

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    1. Elizabeth, a few years ago Chris Beardshaw was giving a talk in Dublin and I was asked to give the “Thank You” few words afterwards. In preparation I did quite a bit of research and uncovered a side of this man that very few will know about. He has had arthritis for many years and he does unending work on behalf of the Arthritis Society in the U.K. He has undertaken cycling challenges – that would baulk the fittest of people and has given of his time generously to people with special needs. In conclusion, I admire his gardening work greatly – Chelsea gardens etc – but feel his greater work, for which I admire him very deeply, is not seen, not spoken about – he certainly doesn’t boast of this work – is the work he does for these charities. On the night he spoke in Dublin I was so very fortunate to spend about an hour in his company, just him and me, and found him the most wonderful person, a true pleasure to meet and speak to.

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  6. I was at the same event & the practice of placing coats on seats was alive & well further back in the room as well. I was tempted to gather them all up & place them in a pile near the door. Organisers should stop this practice.

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  7. I cannot understand what the fuss is about and why people are jumping on the bandwagon to heap scorn on gardeners who travel in coaches to events – I regularly bring a coach load of gardeners to East Rushton Old Vicarage (Carol Hickey) and the owners are delighted to see us. Coach parties support gardens, events, theatres etc. Our own garden – The Bay Garden – is delighted to get coach parties making a tidal wave towards the Tea Room and Plant Sales area.
    As for the event at Altamont, obviously those complaining never attend a two act play in a theatre where one leaves one’s belongings and returns to one’s same seat after the interval….
    This particular group are great supporters of the Carlow Garden Festival and attend many events at it. If one arrives early enough, one should be entitled to hold one’s seat while looking at plants or going to the loo!
    I am going to suggest to Robert Miller that we all bring our own reserved signs next year and save our seats!

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    1. Frances, No scorn being poured on people simply because they travelled in a coach. My comment re coach is that, while we regularly see a few people reserving seats in this manner, it is quite startling to see lines of seats reserved in one swoop by a large group – it brought home to me that it was inappropriate. Yes, of course, people leave coat or whatever on seats to hold seats while out for an interval but this was almost an hour and a half before the talk.

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  8. I appreciate that this conversation could go on forever and never reach a totally satisfactory conclusion. I really don’t feel the gripe is with coach parties per se but with this puerile practice of unofficially reserving seats in this manner. A significant number of folks can wipe out access to a number of seats that might be required by others with visible or invisible special needs … hearing loss, mobility, etc.
    We are people with a common interest in gardening … lovely gentle people! I will be there next year and hope I will arrive in time to SIT on a good seat …

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  9. Interesting enough, these were among that group, people with hearing problems and mobility problems….I disagree that garden people are gentle people – watch them at a plant sale!
    Regardless of whether the audience came as individuals or as a party of gardeners with a common interest, it would great to see such an appreciative audience for two well prepared lecturers – not always the case…and wonderful to see Carlow Garden Trail and Altamont getting such support from all sorts!

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