Thursday, 22 December 2011

More Bush

When we were in Sydney the other day we took a walk from Manly Beach to the North Head. As we plodded along, I found myself thinking about the late Alan Clark and his highly successful diaries.

This might seem surprising, since Alan Clark was a rather sleazy old snob whose private jottings are principally of use in revealing to any outsider the impossibility of ever being accepted by the upper middle classes in England. Clark's comments on the events of his life and the people he meets are infused with an understanding of - and devotion to - an unspoken and exclusive code that dictates what is correct behaviour in every area of human activity.

The best illustration of the kind of thing I mean is Clark's dismissal of Heseltine as a man who bought his own furniture, (rather than inheriting it, presumably). While I don't think I could ever find it in my heart to feel sorry for Heseltine about anything, I do think being criticised for one's choice of parents is a bit unkind.

Anyway, the reason Alan Clark and his diaries came to mind was that he also noted, disparagingly, of someone or other, (possibly Heseltine again, come to think of it), that, when he visited them, they had no flowers in the house. Looking around at the bush we were passing through, I thought how hard it would be to please Alan Clark in this regard, if he were visiting you in Australia.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, there are plenty of flowers and pretty things in our landscape, but they do not leap out at you - nor (apart from the good old wattle, which, as we all know has basically been put on earth to be shoved into a bottle) would they be easy to gather into a bunch and use to decorate your house.

To demonstrate what I mean, here are some of the blooms I spotted on our route. Some might be chivvied into a tiny posy, but none, I think, would be effective as a genuine, Clark-pleasing 'floral display':


  1. What I find in Wikipedia about Alan Clark suggests, as you say, "the impossibility of [an outsider] ever being accepted by the upper middle classes in England." It does nothing to suggest why an outsider should wish to be so accepted.

    But I'm interested in the furniture notion. Among those who purchase furniture, there is a hierarchy--I know, having when single belonged to the lowest rung, that of those who buy from second-hand shops or from stores that expect one to assemble from a flat pack. Among those who inherit, is there also a hierarchy? Must one go 5 generations back as under the old "quartering" system? Is there a distinction comparable to the old French one of the robe vs. the sword, so that the table grandpa pillaged in Aachen counts for more than the one great-grandpa bought in New York? The subject calls for a new Proust to guide us through the distinctions.

    But we did have flowers in the yard till a couple of weeks ago, which is pretty late at our latitude.

  2. I love those flannel flowers. and my rosella loves the grevillea

  3. I think there is something in the human spirit that means people always want to belong to clubs that won't have them as members, George. Wonderful complicated questions re the hierarchy of furniture ownership. Just to start with, I would put buying from secondhand shops far above buying flat packs in the pecking order.

    I'm guessing the flannel flowers are the sort of greyish ones - they are lovely, Nurse.

  4. I enjoyed your implication that Alan Clark was 'upper-middle class'. I hope he's spinning in his grave! 'Spinning' is quite appropriate as he was only a couple of generations away from the source of his wealth - oop North, in textiles.

    Clark's infamous furniture comment was made when quoting another Tory pol of that era (Michael Jopling). I'm not sure what he meant by this. He was a bit of a Nazi so he would probably have thought that good blood is preferable to old money.

  5. Gaw - I will have to consult Kate Fox (Watching the English), but I think the most Clark could aspire to would be upper upper middle class, since he wasn't part of the hereditary aristocracy. Because their position is not official and secure and because it has been arrived at by dint of effort - theirs and/or their parents - it is that slice of the population that most fiercely guards entry to the world where you don't say toilet or perfume, rather than those who have arrived at the rung above, I think.