Friday, 21 June 2013

Chelsea Pensioners

The current Summer, floral display in the nearby town of Corsham. I love it when municipal gardeners are given a free rein to express themselves artistically, although the over-use of materials other than plants may have disqualified Corsham from any competition other than the Chelsea Flower Show.

I have a friend (well, more of an ex-client, really) who won the gold medal at Chelsea, and this lead to all sorts of things, including being granted the job of giving Highgrove a bit of a make-over.

Because this man's greatest skill lay in the area of networking, he was obliged to employ all sorts of other people to transform his vision into something tangible, and every now and then, I was one of those people. Funnily enough, the area of expertise in which he found himself most lacking was colour, and I was brought in several times to tint the new, garish stonework which had been built by ordinary masons, either to his design, or from the drawing-boards of local architects.

During one of the interminable meetings that everyone is forced to endure on projects like these, one of the architects suddenly snapped and stormed out of a meeting, accusing him of being a 'fat charlatan'.

I know that architects are - as frustrated fine-artists - usually impossible to deal with on a civil basis for anything other than simple beam calculations, but in this case, I believe he had a valid point.

Having such good connections and an illustrious past client list, my mate began to accrue all sorts of contracts from people with more money than taste, and I think this went to his head a little, turning him from an ordinary property developer to someone with aspirations beyond his capabilities. All that is fine so long as the money keeps coming in for the projects in hand, but everything that is in fashion for a time will always fall out of it again soon, to be replaced with some other fad instigated by some other designer.

He got wind that one of my clients was spending quite a bit of money on his gardens, and invested about £1000 by attending a charity concert in the grounds, just to see if he could get his foot in the door and go over the head of the existing garden-designer by doing a bit of not-so-subtle networking.

One of the symptoms of temporary success in people like this is that they seem to be completely unaware of - or unconcerned about - the role built up by people like me with valued clients (in my case, a sculptural one) so that they imagine that everyone trying to scratch a living by actually working for them, will immediately concede to their superior skill and status by simply bowing-out of the situation without so much as a whimper.

I ran into him on the street a few days after he had attended the concert, and he said, "I don't think that there is anything for me to do there. It's all in-hand as far as I can see."

I replied, "Yes, he is quite capable of fucking-up his own garden without your help."

I don't think he understood quite what I was saying.


  1. Because of THIS post, my time in my own garden today will be a joy. I'm going to work on a "Fat Charlatan" flower arrangement. yes I am.

  2. Replies
    1. It comes second nature to me. I can't tell you what the first is.

  3. Dear Tom,
    hahaha! I love especially the picture of the little monstrous flower-artefact above - well, and the story of course also.
    At the moment Hans studies the Soane's-Museum-Booklet - I took him there (for me the second visit), after the Shard, and he liked it very, very much - so thank you for that tip.

    1. See if you and Hans can make another trip to Bath? Anyway, I am glad you enjoyed the Chelsea-themed post.

  4. Yes, I like that - really clever.

    1. You mean the Dalek? Where have you been hiding, Moll?

  5. Sadly I recognise your character analysis in many of my own acquaintances. Pushy bastards who make big noise and big-ish money, then when sussed revert to being a moaning nobody.

    I missed Chelsea this year. After last year's efforts I'm not sure if it hasn't become far too big-girl's-blousey.