I am attracted to autobiographies by people born in England about the same time as I was. That’s how I came across Lorna Sage and Rosemary Kingsland. Remember Rosemary? I have analyzed the reasons to my own satisfaction, and a psychologist could probably make much of this tendency. And when I found these books on the “New Books” shelf at the library, I made a beeline for them.
Eric Clapton’s background was art and design and music and Pattie Boyd’s was colonialism and modeling—not areas which played a large role in my growing up in Enfield. But, as is usually the case, I found a couple of nuggets of interest.
Pattie Boyd (who was Mrs. George Harrison before she was Mrs. Eric Clapton) wrote at length of the places she lived. When the Beatles and other pop groups were at the height of their careers in the 60’s, their managers suggested they buy houses outside London, in remote parts of the home counties, all the better to avoid screaming fans and paparazzi (who at the time were the lesser of two evils.) So young musicians purchased a number of estates which were by now beyond the diminished wealth of the minor aristocracy, but chump change for the rockers. I was amused that she mentioned at least two of these houses with gardens designed by Gertrude Jekyll. I had visions of stoned musicians sitting around muttering stuff like, “Look, Ringo, notice how Gert used beds of siberian iris to draw your eye down to the horizon?”
I was uncharitable. In The Telegraph I found this article about the 2008 Chelsea Flower Show, where there is a garden celebrating George Harrison’s love of his garden at Friar Park. I am not sure that the “scrubby thistles and allotment vegetables, brightly clashing perennials, white-stemmed birches and scented roses” are my idea of a well laid out garden and they are certainly nothing that Ms. Jekyll* would have designed, but, George, I do owe you an apology.
* If you followed the link to the Wikipedia article on Gertrude Jekyll, you will have noticed that her name is not pronounced “Jeckle” , as I had always supposed, but “Jeakle” (rhymes with treacle.) That word may not mean much to people born on this side of the Atlantic, but for those of us raised in post-war England it brings back memories of school dinners and treacle stodge.
And why, you may ask, is this pronunciation noteworthy? Well, Gertrude’s brother, the Rev. Walter Jekyll, was a friend of Robert Louis Stevenson and the author appropriated his friend’s name for the protagonist of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Bet you, like me, have been pronouncing it wrongly all these years.