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‘No Enemy But Winter & Rough Weather’

January 8, 2024
by the gentle author


Archivist Stefan Dickers will be giving a lecture at the Hanbury Hall in Spitalfields next Tuesday 9th January at 7pm entitled THE TREASURES OF THE BISHOPSGATE INSTITUTE. As well as its celebrated London photographic collection featured in these pages, the Bishopsgate Archive houses Britain’s largest LBTQ+ collection.


Click here to book your ticket for THE TREASURES OF THE BISHOPSGATE INSTITUTE


‘No enemy but winter and rough weather…’ As You Like It

Every year at this low ebb of the season, I go to Columbia Rd Market to buy potted bulbs and winter-flowering plants which I replant into my collection of old pots from the market and arrange upon the oak dresser, to observe their growth at close quarters and thereby gain solace and inspiration until my garden shows convincing signs of new life.

Each morning, I drag myself from bed – coughing and wheezing from winter chills – and stumble to the dresser in my pyjamas like one in a holy order paying due reverence to an altar. When the grey gloom of morning feels unremitting, the musky scent of hyacinth or the delicate fragrance of the cyclamen is a tonic to my system, tangible evidence that the season of green leaves and abundant flowers will return. When plant life is scarce, my flowers in pots that I bought for just a few pounds each at Columbia Rd acquire a magical allure for me, an enchanted quality confirmed by the speed of their growth in the warmth of the house, and I delight to have this collection of diverse varieties in dishes to wonder at, as if each one were a unique specimen from an exotic land.

And once they have flowered, I place these plants in a cold corner of the house until I can replant them in the garden. As a consequence, my clumps of Hellebores and Snowdrops are expanding every year and thus I get to enjoy my plants at least twice over – at first on the dresser and in subsequent years growing in my garden.

Staffordshire figure of Orlando from As You Like It

4 Responses leave one →
  1. Andy permalink
    January 8, 2024

    I find plants and birds and animals connect us to real life and take away our problems . If anyone reading this wants me to give a free Zoom talk to a group about the East End I grew up in and know please let me know via

  2. Patty Johnson permalink
    January 10, 2024

    I love these. What a lift to the spirits!

  3. January 10, 2024

    A fine collection of plants and delicate ceramics. I did manage a quick look around my garden yesterday and everything is on the move. It’s always such a boost at this time of year when the sun comes out and you can see the signs of spring poking through the soil.

  4. January 10, 2024

    I bought some blue hyacinths the other day and left them in the plastic pots they came in… how much lovelier yours look! I am going to find some better bowls…

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