Wednesday 2 August 2017

"But there's never a rose like you...."

Another year, another tribute....

Some of you will recognise that the post title is a quotation from the song Roses of Picardy. All the time I have been mulling over a suitable 100th birthday present for my indefatigable and much-loved neighbour, Rose, this song has been running through my head.  In the end I decided that I really had to check when it first appeared and I was delighted to find that it was written in 1916, and first recorded by the tenor, Lambert Murphy, in 1917
Exactly one hundred years ago and the year that Rose herself appeared upon the scene! 

It is hard to believe that twelve months have passed since I was recreating her life in miniature for her 99th birthday. Someone commented on that post "....but how are you going to follow that for her centenary next year?"   I wasn't really worried - I had known almost from the start that for a 100th birthday the theme just had to be roses, roses, all the way.

Cue digression:  I can see that tracking down rose quotations and songs is going to lead me down some strange by-ways. For instance I discovered that "Roses, roses, all the way", words that most of us know,  is the first line of a truly depressing poem by Robert Browning.   How much nicer is this video clip from 1923, also called Roses all the Way - who knows, maybe six year old Rose was at the front of the crowds as Queen Alexandra drove among them?   I shall ask her... 

Alexandra Rose Day, instituted by the Queen in 1912 to raise money for the poor, still exists today.

Those of you who know Rose's life-story, even if only through the miniature version, will remember that she came to the then rural Hertfordshire as a land army recruit, to work on one of the many nurseries that filled the Lea Valley at that time.   "Just like going on holiday" commented her mother.   Little did she know!   

Rose was busy helping to grow tomatoes and cucumbers for the war effort but the nursery she worked for was, in peacetime, renowned for its roses. Indeed, some of the streets round my grandson's primary school, which is sited on the very ground that held the Stevens greenhouses that Rose worked in, carry rose names.  

Rose continued to work for Eric Stevens after the war, and the roses still blooming in her garden came from the Rosedale Nursery.  The sports club he started,where she spent many a happy hour both working and socialising, still exists.  And delightfully, close contact continues between Rose and the Stevens family today.

I have noticed, in the four years that I have known Rose, that anyone with this name is inundated with rose-related items when receiving cards and presents.  
I suppose it is inevitable - there are countless opportunities to find rose-linked gifts, from boxes of Cadbury's Roses chocolates, mugs and vases, cards and paintings, fine porcelain, upholstery and dresses, to bouquets of the actual flowers themselves.  

And there is even vintage corsetry, though maybe not as a gift (except in certain circumstances of course).  Rose tells the tale of being forced by a great-aunt into a not dissimilar garment at the age of about 12, until the school nurse rebuked her mother and she was allowed to shed it again. 

I just couldn't resist this one!

The rose is inextricably linked with all things beautiful, and, of course, with being English.  
And our Rose is very English indeed, from Bethnal Green, right at the heart of London's East End. 

Even the Welsh composer, Ivor Novello, was moved to write a song about the Englishness of the rose. And who better to render it than another centenarian, the incomparable Vera Lynn (her birthday was in March, just pipping Rose to the post).

Maybe I should make my apologies for adding yet another rose item to Rose's already plentiful store, but my excuse is that, to the best of my knowledge, no one has yet presented her with a whole arbour full of roses!  So although it may not be a rose garden, it nevertheless comes with my love.....

This is where Rose can stop reading if she likes because at long last we come to the bit that relates to the making of it! I may have got rather carried away by the rose theme....

I really thought this one was going to be very quick and easy.  Take one lantern, steal from (with permission) Butterfly's stash of lovely roses...

....find some trellises in my own stash, combine the three, not forgetting a table, chairs and cup of coffee for relaxing with and there you go.   Well, maybe...

Actually much of it was easy.  I had thought I would need to spend time looking for a suitable lantern once I was in the Czech Republic. But a last minute visit to our local cheapie shop in Hoddesdon for teabags produced the perfect lantern for the princely sum of £2.79.   Not only that, it didn't have a silly candle holder inside which I would have had to remove. (Of course I forgot to take a photo of the completely empty lantern....) 

When I got to Bavorov and searched through Small Worlds, the perfect trellis emerged as well.   

Unbelievably, it didn't even 
need cutting to size, just gluing together. 

Purist dolls house collectors will probably cringe when they recognise it for what it is - some spare railings from the now rather valuable (but I think hugely ugly) Jennie's Home series. 

Cue digression: Jennie's Home was a joint effort in the 1960s by Triang and the Homes and Gardens magazine to show the best of British design.   I feel they were singularly misguided.  I was fortunate enough to acquire mine when it was still on sale in toy shops - in fact I bought it all from a village tobacconist, who carried a small stock of toys, who was selling it off cheaply to clear his shelves. 

As far as the table, chairs and coffee set went, I had already ordered a set of Sylvanian garden furniture and a rose patterned (of course) china service from ebay. 

The garden table was perfect, the chairs a bit of a disaster....  
They are cumbersome and out of scale, presumably because they are sized to take the rather substantial bottoms of Sylvanian animals. But they don't really even fit the table properly.  

So the hunt was on for a replacement chair.  I found one, actually I found four, little brass chairs in the stash, but then I struggled to match the paint colour to the table. There are no modellers' shops around here.  

After several hours of trial and error, which included trying to find a stockist of modellers' enamel paints and experimenting with every green I had in the Stables, I finally ended up mixing some black into Stock Green and it worked.  The chair was not quite tall enough so the top of a champagne bottle's fastening was called into service to raise it a little.

It was the roses that caused the real problems. They were all identical, except for the colours, though the white ones are a little smaller, and I really did not like that. The only way I could think of to differentiate was to make some buds, and to ensure that the buds of the three differently coloured rose species all differed from each other in shape, size and way of growing.

Not really difficult, but immensely fiddly and time-consuming.   For nearly forty years I have had three little containers full of things to make centres of flowers.   

Stamens and such-like.   And also pearls at each end of a bit of wire.  I don't really know what half of them are intended for but covered in paint of the correct colour, they become rosebuds.  (I have just looked up the Czech word for bud since I have been totally unable to commit it to memory this week - poupě. Quite hard to pronounce which is why I wasn't able to retain it when people told me.) 

I ended up making 54 white buds, 22 pink ones and 20 apricot.   

But before you can put roses and buds onto the trellis to grow, they need leaves behind them.   I sat with a rose catalogue and a painting extracted from a calendar (thank you Noreen's mother-in-law, Dora Marshall) in front of me whilst I tried to work out which of the large stock of plastic greenery in Small Worlds would work best as rose foliage.  I finally settled on two different types, again trying to create some distinction between the roses.

So then it was really just a matter of cutting to size, and gluing the greenery. This is great fun when you have no idea which bit of green is going to meet which bit of trellis. Fortunately I suddenly remembered that there was a aerosol of spray adhesive in another room of the Stables and that worked beautifully.  Much testing and worrying because the trellis fit was so perfect that I thought it wouldn't go in easily once covered with roses.  (I was right by the way.) 

I wasted a lot of time on some planters to insert the greenery in.  

 Wasted, because in the end I decided that space was at such a premium I would have to ditch the planters and people would just have to imagine that the roots of the roses go down into the ground the arbour is standing on.

I laid out each pair of trellises and placed the roses in position, then did the same with the buds.  Then came the bit I was dreading, lifting them all off again to glue them all into place. (Nearly 150 items to glue, and I couldn't decide on the best glue to use.)  In the end it turned out that each colour required a different method.   

In the case of the pink roses  the buds had to be glued on first. 

But before that they were individually glued to cut leaves, which then had to be incorporated into the main greenery. Once these were stuck down, the roses were placed on top.    

The white rosebuds were formed into clusters and were glued more or less together with the trios of roses.  

With the apricot ones, the rose heads themselves went down first, with the large and small buds being slotted in afterwards.  

All in all, I got incredibly sticky!

Once each panel of coloured roses was ready and had had its photo taken.....  

.....came the even more fun part of getting it all into the lantern, sorry arbour.   Pink went in first, followed with a squeeze and a shove by the white and then, holding my breath, the apricot slid into place.  Only three roses fell off in the process, one of each colour. I decided that actually there are too many roses but I'm blowed if I am starting again!  

And can one ever really have too many roses?

Chair, table and coffee service went into position - the coffee pot went on and off the table several times and I still haven't decided whether it should be there or not.   But since I shall be travelling that separately through customs and security I can consult Butterfly when I get to England on Friday.

This post is being published on Rose's actual birthday, Wednesday 2nd August.   Our lovely postman is hugely excited by a different sort of post that is due to arrive that day - the message from Her Majesty the Queen.   "Even if it's my day off, I am coming to deliver it" he said "I've never done one of those!"

My post comes to you, Rose, with very much love and admiration on this, 
your 100th birthday.  

May you continue to enjoy smelling the roses, and drinking your coffee (with sugar!)

And I end with that famous quote from Romeo and Juliet - how could I not?

"What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;"

Well, that may be true - but had you been called by any other name I could not have presented you with a rose arbour!