November 30, 2012

“All happy families are alike; …

…each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

~Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

All writers wish they had written the first line of Anna Karenina – and not only because of its aphoristic brilliance. Tolstoy's opening cuts straight to the heart of much of 19th and indeed 20th century fiction. The novel is, apart from all the other things it may also be, the complex and variegated story of the making and breaking of families.

In Tolstoy, the theatre is often something to be mistrusted, both as art-form and social occasion, a place of absurdity and vanity either side of the footlights.  So it is an interesting, even subversive idea for screenwriter Tom Stoppard and director Joe Wright to have contrived an adaptation of Anna Karenina set in one place: a theatre.

It is an interesting film, alas, and this has been true of all visual translations, the subtlety of Tolstoy’s characters is lost. 

I recalled, as a sat and watched the movie, that in Russia, writers have always had a unique status.  For more than 180 years, laboring under censorship and repression, they’ve came to be seen as special transmitters of essential truth; the voices of the people’s spirit, its government-in-exile. 

When I traveled in Russia between 1960 and 1990 I thought that nowhere on earth, perhaps, was there such a reverence for literature (and for its truth) as there was in Russia.  The queues to renew subscriptions to literary journals were longer than those for vodka. New literary novels and volumes of poetry sold out in a matter of hours.  Poets filled sports stadiums; writers talked nightly on television to millions of people; and out-of-print books routinely fetched more than a week’s salary on the black market. 

The great Russian writers of the past, too, are still worshipped today in a way unknown to us in the West.  For they are the cartographers of the national identity, the creators of the country’s alternative-and therefore living-history.  Their graves are banked high with the flowers, and their apartments and country houses are places of pilgrimage, where the workrooms have been meticulously preserved and the clocks have been set to the exact times of their death. What you feel most when you visit these places is how near, how present in Russian life, these writers actually are: from Alexander Pushkin, Russia’s Shakespeare, on whose lips the modern Russian language was born; to the novelist Maxim Gorky, at a party in whose flat in 1930 Joseph Stalin is said to have invented the term “socialist realism.” A Ukrainian novelist at the turn of the 19th century wrote: “My country is not Russia; it is Russian literature.” 

may you have a transporting weekend

November 27, 2012

He went to a marvelous party

Be daring,
be different,
be impractical,
be anything that will assert
integrity of purpose
and imaginative vision
against the play-it-safers,
the creatures of the commonplace,
the slaves of the ordinary.

~Cecil Beaton

“I’m an enormously talented man,” Noel Coward once said superciliously, “and there’s no use pretending that I’m not.”

One of the most renowned bon vivants of the dinner party circuit was the urbane and sophisticated Noel Coward, the son of a failed piano salesman who wrote about the rich with such wit and insight that they simply assumed he was one of them. So impeccable were his skills at self-creation with his “thin veneer of sophistication,” his persona was not only the inspiration for Cary Grant, but scores of others hoping to copy his inimitable style.

Coward claimed that he habit of wearing flamboyant silk dressing gowns was purely functional, “wonderful things to play in because they’re so comfortable to act in.” Nevertheless, they caused quite a stir, and he welcomed, if not courted, the publicity. They were not so much regarded as feminine as they were subversively antimasculine. Still, he persisted in flouncing about in them during interviews until they became his trademark, a symbol of the new Jazz Age–loose, smart and glittery. He was as well known for the way he dressed as for his literary successes and stage performances. “I took to wearing colored turtle-necked jerseys,” he said, “more for comfort than effect, and soon I was informed by my evening paper that I had started a fashion.”

Cecil Beaton noted that “all sorts of men suddenly wanted to look like Noel Coward–sleek and satiny, clipped and well groomed, with a cigarette, a telephone, and a cocktail in hand.”

“Wit ought to be a glorious treat like caviar; never spread it about like marmalade.”
~Noel Coward

True, and we could use some of that wit right now.

November 20, 2012


A sanctuary where the lost are welcomed, the forlorn found. It is a simple, stark and quiet place where solace resides in one’s own thoughts, where comfort fills the still spaces and where the moment before and the one immediately following matter not. It is a place to hide and heal where no notice is paid or polite inquiry sought. Polite, I say, because the calm of it is unmistakable, inviting no harm, rancor, or ill will.

There is something quietly heroic in the straightness of its lines, the sturdiness of its weathered planks and the heavenward tilt of its prow.  It's vantage takes in what must seem like the whole of the world in one sweeping gaze. Spare and modestly ordered, if one were to look through the panes of its windows, might glimpse long even rows of hand tooled wood pews cradling the forms of folk in solemn contemplation.  Or in another fanciful stab of reverie, eye a salt-worn attendant versed in the ways of the sea, hunched over a desk strewn with logs, maps and coastal charts, intent in his duties to stave off calamity.

What I do know is this. It is a photograph taken of a church on the Isle of Iona, Scotland, where Saint Columba founded his great monastery. The archaic rock strata of Iona is some of the oldest on the planet, possibly 1500 million years old, and as such it certainly carries a primeval and powerful creative energy.  What lures men and women from the far corners of the earth to the tiny rocky island off the west coast of Scotland?   Not the scenery, for there is more magnificence on the mainland of Scotland. It must be something deeper. Something knocking on the heart which speaks of mystery and holiness, of dreams and truths which have outlived time. There is an indescribable atmosphere on the tiny island washed by the waters of prayer down through the ages. Hallowed and blessed by Christians for about 1,400 years, as well as by those who were there long before.  Is it any wonder that an aura of spiritual peace surrounds the island.

“This island set apart, this motherland of many dreams,
still yields its secret, but it is only as men seek that they truly find.
To reach the heart of Iona is to find something eternal....”  G.E. Troup

It’s a fitting narrative for this stunningly stark place connoting a remembrance of things past and a foretelling of times to come with wishes placed, fears soothed, promises pledged, and on occasion, prayers answered.

It is all of what we will be feeling this day of thanks when we sit, kneel, genuflect or be together. Whether the thresholds you cross this day be grand or sparse, walk them with grace and gratitude, content in your lot, your place, your fellow man and your time spent here on this earth.

November 15, 2012

“Give me that man that is not passion's slave, …

...and I will wear him in my heart's core…”
― William Shakespeare, Hamlet

As I reflected on this week’s revelations out of Washington, D.C. and earlier in the month from Paris, France, I recalled a trip on the river Thames and visit to Cliveden, and I ask myself, who does political sex scandal better than the British? 

Charles Stewart Parnell and Kitty O'Shea, Jeffrey Archer, but the biggest sex scandal ever in Britain was the Profumo Affair. By the time the dust cleared, the Prime Minister had resigned due to 'ill-health' and the Labor party was swept into office with Harold Wilson as its leader and new Prime Minister.

It was before the swinging 60's before the Beatles and the Rolling Stones launched a British invasion.  1960 was the year that the publisher Penguin was prosecuted for publishing D.H. Lawrence's novel Lady Chatterley's Lover. Penguin won the case and was able to publish 200,000 copies.  People raced to get theirs.  Ian Fleming's spy novels hit the screen starring sexy Sean Connery as 007. The newest actors in Britain were not Hollywoodized versions of British men, but actors like Albert Finney and Michael Caine.  New magazines like Private Eye which poked fun at everyone and everything was established. Beyond the Fringe starring Peter Cook, Alan Bennett, Dudley Moore and Jonathan Miller hit the West End. And David Frost became a national celebrity hosting the hit TV show That Was the Week that Was.

Politically however, things were much less progressive. Although Harold Macmillan had swept into office in 1959 with a majority in the House of Commons, discontent ruled the country. The British economy was stagnant there was inflation and labor unrest. Unlike America, with its young, vibrant president the politicians in office reflected a by-gone era, the era of Churchill and Lloyd-George, old school politicians.

It also was the height of the Cold War, and Britain was reeling from the revelations that Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean were Soviet spies.  In 1963, Kim Philby would be revealed as the Third Man in their spy ring and would also defect to the Soviet Union and the idea that a British politician was not only cheating on his wife, but sharing her with a Soviet diplomat did not sit well.

The chief players in the drama:
John Profumo - Secretary of State for War
Harold Macmillan aka Supermac - Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Christine Keeler - goodtime girl and model
Mandy Rice-Davies - fellow goodtime girl and model
Stephen Ward - osteopath and panderer
Lord Astor - owner of Cliveden, the estate where the shenanigans took place
Yevgeny "Eugene" Ivanov - senior naval attache at the Soviet Embassy

In the summer of 1961, Ward held a pool party at Cliveden.  

At this party Christine Keeler met John Profumo, the British Secretary of State for War. He was highly regarded in the Conservative party having won his first election in 1945, becoming the youngest MP.

Profumo and Christine started having an affair, but what he didn't know at the time was that Christine was also sharing her favors with Yevgeny Ivanov, among many others. But it was Ivanov who was the problem. It turned out that Ward was involved in helping MI-5 to entrap Ivanov. Sir Norman Wood warned Profumo about his affair with Keeler, and to warn him to be careful around Ward who was known to be indiscreet. When MI-5 tried to recruit Profumo to help them trap Ivanov by compromising him sexually, so that Ivanov would be encouraged to either defect or pass secrets, and informed him that Keeler was also involved with Ivanov, Profumo refused. Instead he dropped her but the damage was done.

The affair came to light when Christine Keeler was involved in a shooting incident at the home of Mandy Rice-Davies. Hearing the commotion, someone called the police, and soon the flat was crawling with police and reporters.

The press began to investigate Keeler, and soon found out about her simultaneous affairs with Profumo and Ivanov. Because of Ivanov's connection to the Soviet Embassy, a simple sexual affair took on a National Security Dimension.

Things might have turned out differently if Profumo hadn't made the fatal mistake of lying to the House of Commons. Instead in March of 1963, Profumo told the House that there was "no impropriety whatever" (sounds familiar?) in his relationship with Keeler and to make matters worse he said that writs would be issued for libel and slander if the allegations were repeated outside of the House.

Profumo's denials didn't stop the press from continuing with their stories. On June 5th, Profumo finally admitted that he had lied to the House, which was an unforgivable sin in British politics. He not only resigned from office but also from the House as well. Before his public confession, Profumo told his wife.  In spite of the scandal, it was never proven that his relationship with Keeler had led to a breach in national security (presumably Profumo was too busy doing other things to whisper state secrets to his lover). Profumo never talked about the scandal for the rest of his life, even when the movie Scandal came out in 1989, and when Keeler published her memoir of the affair. He died in 2006 at the age of 91, after receiving the OBE from the Queen. Like so many disgraced politician he learned that career rehabilitation was entirely possible.

The biggest fallout of the scandal was not Profumo, but Stephen Ward, who was prosecuted for living on immoral earnings. To make matters worse MI-5 denied that Ward had informed them of Keeler's affair with Profumo and Ivanov. On the last day of his trial, he took an overdose of sleeping pills. He was in a coma when the jury reached its verdict, that he was guilty. He died a few days later from the overdose. Harold Macmillan resigned in September of 1963 due to ill health. He was replaced by the foreign secretary, Sir Alec Douglas Home.

An official report was released 2 months after Stephen Ward's death. Hundreds of people queued up for copies.  But like the Warren commission or the Starr Report, or…there was no dirt to be had, just a lot of criticism for the government failing to deal with the affair quickly.

The Profumo Affair opened the door in Britain to the type of tabloid journalism it would become infamous for. No more were public persons coddled, their foibles covered up by the press. It was open season. Ah well, the more things change…

November 11, 2012

U n s h a k e n.

Skyfall Spoiler Alert!

Ah yes, the dreaded feast days.  A time of crisp weather, long walks, bountiful meals, unspoken antipathy among family members and – to my delight, martinis and Bond, James Bond that is.

Synonymous with sophistication, allure, and delicious decadence, the martini holds a hallowed place in social history – it is the “King of Cocktails”. Like the stiletto heel, it never goes out of style. Entire bar menus are devoted to its variants and a hip, retro cultural movement has adopted the martini as its cornerstone for stylish fun.The martini remains on the cutting edge of liquid fashion, constantly reinventing itself. There is no other world-traveler like the martini. Never watered down, the martini stands strong and silent in every language with no translation needed.

For the true aficionado, be sure to archive a Bond Lover’s Memorable Martini. You’ll be channeling 007 in no time.

No one in history has done more for the martini and its distinctive reputation than the fictional character who put the man back into manhood, Ian Fleming’s James Bond. If you really want to win friends and influence just about everyone in your very selective and choicest of circles, we’ve compiled some fascinating data about Mr. Bond and his martini habits, settling the record straight once and for all regarding “Shaken not Stirred” and Gin or Vodka. Time you stepped up to be the life of the party!

The shaken Martini is first presented to Bond in the first Bond film Dr. No in 1962, but Bond did not order one himself until Goldfinger (1964). Since then, each Bond has himself ordered the drink, except for two.

Roger Moore’s Bond never! although he did receive one in the 1977 film The Spy Who Loved Me.

Bond first ordered a drink to be shaken in Fleming’s novel Casino Royale (1953) when he requested a drink of his own invention which would later be referred to as a “Vesper“, named after the Bond girl, Vesper Lynd. After just meeting his CIA contact Felix Leiter for the first time, Bond orders the drink from a barman while at the casino.
‘A dry martini,’ he said. ‘One. In a deep champagne goblet.’
‘Oui, monsieur.’
‘Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then, add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?’
‘Certainly monsieur.’ The barman seemed pleased with the idea.
‘Gosh, that’s certainly a drink,’ said Leiter.
Bond laughed. ‘When I’m…er…concentrating,’ he explained, ‘I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold, and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink’s my own invention. I’m going to patent it when I think of a good name.’ — Casino Royale, Chapter 7: Rouge et Noir [5]

Following the novel’s lead, the Vesper was prominently featured in the 2006 film version of Casino Royale.
A Vesper differs from Bond’s usual cocktail of choice, the martini, in that it uses gin and vodka, Kina Lillet instead of vermouth, and a lemon peel instead of an olive. In the same scene Bond gives more details about the Vesper telling the same barman that vodka made from grain instead of potatoes makes the drink even better. Russian and Polish vodkas were also always preferred by Bond if they were in stock. Although there is a lot of discussion on the Vesper, it is only ordered once throughout Fleming’s novels and by later books Bond is ordering regular vodka martinis, though he also drinks regular gin martinis. In total Bond orders 19 vodka martinis and 16 gin martinis throughout Fleming’s novels and short stories.

Why shaken, not stirred?

Scientists, specifically biochemists, and martini connoisseurs have investigated the difference between a martini shaken and a martini stirred. According to a study at the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Western Ontario in Canada to determine if the preparation of a martini has an influence on their antioxidant capacity, the shaken gin martinis were able to break down hydrogen peroxide and leave only 0.072% of the peroxide behind, versus the stirred gin martini which left behind 0.157% of the peroxide. The study was done at the time because moderate consumption of alcohol appears to reduce the risk of cataracts, cardiovascular disease, and stroke, none of which afflict the fictional James Bond.

Andrew Lycett, an Ian Fleming biographer, believed that Fleming liked his martinis shaken, not stirred because Fleming thought that stirring a drink diminished its flavour. Lycett also noted that Fleming preferred gin and vermouth for his martini. It has also been said that Fleming was a fan of martinis shaken by Hans Schröder, a German bartender.

Some connoisseurs believe that shaking gin is a faux pas, supposedly because the shaking “bruises” the gin (a term referring to a slight bitter taste that can allegedly occur when gin or vodka is shaken). Others contend that Bond was only shaking because of the vodka it contained. Prior to the 1960s, vodka was, for the most part, refined from potatoes (usually cheaper brands). This element made the vodka oily. To disperse the oil, Bond ordered his martinis shaken; thus, in the same scene where he orders the martini, he tells the barman about how vodka made from grain rather than potatoes makes his drink even better. This does not explain why Bond in the films still preferred his drink to be shaken rather than stirred, because beginning mostly in the 1960s vodka refined from potatoes was virtually replaced by vodka refined by grains.

Other reasons for shaking tend to include making the drink colder or as Bond called it, ice-cold. Shaking allows the drink to couple with the ice longer thus making it far colder than if it were to be stirred. Shaking is also said to dissolve the vermouth better making it less oily tasting.

While properly called a Bradford, shaken martinis also appear cloudier than when stirred. This is caused by the small fragments of ice present in a shaken martini.

Now aren’t you glad you asked?  Good, let’s spare the sky and have a martini.

For Charles, always unshaken!

November 10, 2012


"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way."
~Charles Dickens (A Tale of Two Cities)



Tucked away behind the Victorian grandeur of St Pancras railway station, St Pancras Old Church(not to be confused with its grander offspring down the road, the cleverly named St Pancras New Church) is an interesting, if obscure, attraction worth missing a train, or two. 
“St Pancras Old Church is truly old. It is reputed to be the oldest church in Britain. Once pleasantly situated on the banks of the River Fleet and overlooking a Roman encampment, the site is thought to have been used for Christian worship well before the arrival of St Augustine at the end of the sixth century. However, the name of the church (and surrounding parish) may date from that mission..." (A Guide to St Pancras Church available from St Pancras Old Church, Pancras Road, London NW1)
History was not kind, bomb damage during World War II and desecration by Satanists in 1985 tell the story of our own times.  Today, however, it shows no glimpse of its traumatic past.

I wandered into the small church and found the spiral staircase open, so I explored the library upstairs full of overstuffed armchairs, and pamphlets on the history and spiritual significance of both the church and the church yard.
Tucked away close to the railway lines is the remarkable sight of an ash tree intertwined with rows of gravestones, known as the Hardy Tree.

What was Hardy doing here?
A plaque next to the tree explains that the famed novelist and poet Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) studied architecture in London from 1862-67 under the Gothic supremo Arthur Blomfield before moving on to full time writing.
During the 1860s the Midland Railway line was being built over part of the original St. Pancras Churchyard. Blomfield was commissioned by the Bishop of London to supervise the proper exhumation of human remains and dismantling of tombs.
He passed this unenviable task to his protegé Thomas Hardy. The headstones around the ash tree would have been placed here about that time. Some of the headstones were placed in a circular pattern around a young ash tree. Over the decades the tree has, inevitably grown and parts of the headstones nearest the tree have disappeared in to its growth.
Charles Dickens makes reference to Old St. Pancras Churchyard in his Tale of Two Cities as the churchyard in which Roger Cly was buried.  Indeed there are a number of French aristocrats who sought refuge in London buried here.

Here too, poet Percy Shelley fortuitously met the young Mary Godwin, future author of 'Frankenstein', whilst she was visiting her mother's grave - her mother being of course Mary Wollstonecraft, author of 'Vindication of the Rights of Women' (a book written long before its time). 
The stone bearing Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin’s name is not hers alone. Her husband erected it soon after her death and, demonstrating an accurate judgement of how history would remember her (a judgement so singularly lacking when he rushed into publication of the too-much, too-soon Memoirs) he had it inscribed thus:

Mary Wollstonecraft
Author of
A Vindication
of the Rights of Woman
Born 27 April 1759
Died 10 September 1797

When Godwin died, nearly four decades later, he was buried in the same place, and his entry was carved on another face of the square, rationalist marker. His second wife survived him by five years, and she too gets one surface. (The final face is left blank; had he needed a third spouse, there was space.) With so many divorces nowadays, will we see a trend for multiple occupancy burial sites?  Polyamorous posterity?
Next to one of the rather magnificent and seriously under appreciated gilded gates sits a placard explaining the gardens. It gives Mary a parenthetical mention, as 'Wife of Important Man'.
Because of the earlier tampering with the graveyard there are few headstones left.  Architect John Soane has a striking tomb of his own design. It is easily recognisable as the prototype design for Giles Gilbert Scott’s iconic London telephone box.

the monument as seen by Giles Gilbert Scott

Johann Christian Bach, youngest son of Johann Sebastian Bach, and Master of Music to Queen Charlotte, is also buried in the churchyard, as is William Franklin, son of Benjamin Franklin, and the last colonial Governor of New Jersey. Although the exact locations are not known and with the railway station having encroached upon the burial ground at least twice it is likely that many ancestors are now underneath the railway arches.

Oh, and Beatles fans may recognise it as the site of a certain ‘Mad Day Out’ photoshoot in 1968.

November 03, 2012

November’s Flower.

The high grey-flannel fog of winter closed off the Salinas Valley from the sky and from all the rest of the world. …

… Elisa Allen, working in her flower garden…

… She was cutting down the old year’s chrysanthemum stalks with a pair of short and powerful scissors. She looked down toward the men by the tractor shed now and then. Her face was eager and mature and handsome; even her work with the scissors was over-eager, over-powerful. The chrysanthemum stems seemed too small and easy for her energy.  …

You’ve got a gift with things,” Henry observed. “Some of those yellow chrysanthemums you had this year were ten inches across. I wish you’d work out in the orchard and raise some apples that big.”…

The Chrysanthemums ~John Steinbeck

Chrysanthemums! I have to admit they are not my favorite flower. Roses, tulips, irises and dozens of others, yes, but not chrysanthemums.

Chrysanthemums  are forever associated, in my mind, with the 1st of November, All Saints' Day.

Many, many years ago, on a foggy end of October afternoon, and it was the day before we were setting off for Venice, I was out walking thinking in anticipation of the trip.  And there was the pastor peddling towards me on his bicycle and about to dismount for a few rounds of seasonal compliments and beatitudes.  Dr. R., now dead, was a charming bachelor and a dear friend. He began to talk of flowers for All Saints’ Day, in church and graveyard, and I remember he told me his favorite flower was the chrysanthemum. I have never forgotten his remark because it saddened me and damped down my enthusiasm for the sights to come. The day we arrived in Venice, November 1st I watched families, with an obligatory pot of chrysanthemum, heading for the island of St. Michele, a sight not to be forgotten.

The sixteen-petalled chrysanthemum was the Mikado's crest or emblem, and the flower underwent every sort of embellishment that the florist's art could impart to it in Japan. The Japanese varieties must have arrived in Europe with something of a shock, to the growers as well as to themselves. And soon the enormous kinds were being grown, white or yellow, and the bronze, too, as big almost as bearskins, and which one associated with the drawing rooms of rich old ladies who had greenhouses. They were the kinds most admired in Edwardian days.  

But in its land of origin the Japanese chrysanthemum went far. In a book on the subject, the following varieties are mentioned: thread-petalled; brush-flowered; the anemone varieties; thistle-flowered; piled-up; clutching (for whatever that portends!); thick, or medium, or thin-quilled; cascade chrysanthemums, and the variety I would call "gone haywire," or by the old word "frantick" with their frills or petals blown about in all directions as by a typhoon or "force nine" gale. Shock-headed or mop-haired chrysanthemums, in fact; but this is a development which occurs, too, in the plumage of certain races of fancy pigeons and poultry, and with human beings is to be seen among the learned and even in the highest echelons of the clergy, but only, I think, in Europe. "Christmas dinner: dare you be different?" This, in our best fashion paper, and a recipe follows for chrysanthemum salad. "Choose the round big-headed variety. Pluck all the petals off," and so on, and so on. And it is true that they make an excellent salad.

But is this any more peculiar than the "instant seaweed" that the Japanese eat for breakfast? Their oddity of diet is persistent, according to my point of view at least. The only surviving letter in the hand of Sotatsu, their seventeenth-century painter of gold screens and a decorative artist who ranks with Veronese and Tiepolo-though how different!-is a note to a monk acknowledging the gift of five roots of an edible bamboo for which the monastery was famous. The story has a particular appeal to me because I know the temple, and it is in Kyoto, which is one my favorite cities. Just now, what chrysanthemums must be on view there in the wooden temples and in the paper houses with the snow lying deep outside!

By no means all their chrysanthemum varieties have been exported.  Is this a good, or a bad thing? I would not like to say. Yet, imagine having chrysanthemums on your scabbard and sword-belt, and even damascened upon your armor! Chrysanthemums, indeed, on everything, and practically everywhere.  

At home we confined them to the cemetery on All Saints Day. Bless you grandma! And perhaps the village altar! And they know how to behave themselves. Or do they? I have seen chrysanthemum looking like an octopus, or squid, with spider-legs for tentacles. Or it is some kind of eccentric centipede. That is to say, its legs or petals are convoluted, jointless and very far from straight. It is curious, but I would call it anything but beautiful. Another one, resembling a stellar explosion, with huge bursting calyx in the middle and corona of pinkish rays, is certainly impressive, though to be averted or avoided if encountered in outer space. But it is only a specimen flower, and should taste superlative in a salad with olive oil and a zest of lemon added.

And there is yet another one with a sort of crab-like center. Can this be the variety the Japanese describe as "clutching?" For that will describe it. Whatever its sort, this one appears to be retracting, drawing back into itself, as sea-anemones do when you touch them.  And so do hedgehogs which roll into a ball and tortoises which withdraw their heads into the shell. A kind of "sensitive plant," perhaps, among chrysanthemums.

There is nothing in the least frightening about chrysanthemums, though at the same time they are in close association with their owners, and may be to some little extent influenced by them.

Personally, I would avoid the freak ones and keep to the huge red kinds my aunt grew. I have always felt these are the lucky and benevolent sorts, and some of the others may have a little touch of the "evil eye" about them. In any case I would never trust them.

How many years it is since that October day!  It was a difficult time of year, of course, with the worst still ahead, and without the cheerful anticipation of spring to come. At least there could be the salads to look forward to, but that apart it is a grim season. One had better make the most of it and stockpile with chrysanthemums, although I would never countenance them in my rooms because they are too stuffy and persistent.  But neither are orchids desirable in the house. They are too possessive, and, it could be said, do all the talking.

But now the unexpected has happened. My neighbor Wilma has received a birthday present in the form of a Yorkshire terrier, a breed of dog I had never thought I could love. Its face and hair, eyebrows, whiskers, and all are exactly those of my un-favorite flower, but I am beginning to understand both Yorkshire terriers and chrysanthemums.