For years I've wanted to visit the Chelsea Flower Show. When I was in my twenties I lived right across the river from the Royal Hospital, where it takes place, but I was as poor as a church mouse and could never afford to go. Well, finally I've achieved an ambition and been to the show in person instead of sitting at home, watching it on television.
If you've seen any coverage this year you'll know the garden everyone's been talking about is Diarmuid Gavin's Irish Sky Garden. When I first arrived at the show, the garden was flying high from its crane, but I noticed later when the weather turned blowy they had to bring it back down to earth. No-one can say Diarmuid is unoriginal, and he does have a really good eye for plants.
If you're restricted to visiting Chelsea in the middle part of the day you have to resign yourself to a slow shuffle past the show gardens. However a helpful shower of rain sent many people indoors, leaving us drowned but eager souls to enjoy a better look outside. I really loved the Royal Bank of Canada's New Wild Garden, designed by Nigel Dunnett. Look at the combination of textures and colours in the walls. Often I find I spend the longest time studying the smallest details. Around the show gardens there were some stunning sculptures including a light-catching sphere by David Harber, and a pair of boxing hares in the Skyshade Garden, and you can peer through the gates of the Royal Hospital where the Chelsea Pensioners live. It's a beautiful building.Inside the RHS Pavilion there are stunning displays of the exotic and the everyday, but all of it grown and presented to such a high standard.I know when I've seen enough because I stop looking at my surroundings and start to watch the people. I saw Alan Titchmarsh and Chris Beardshaw filming for the BBC. Then I spent a while listening to the brass band play, and looking for stories in the crowd. Finally I had a walk along the river. When I lived near the Battersea Power Station I don't think I took much notice of it, but looking at it again with fresh eyes I realised how magnificent it is.
It's funny going back to places where you've lived during a very different time in your life. I loved being in London when I was younger. Nowadays the traffic, people and pace of London soon overwhelm me. I'm glad I finally made it to Chelsea at last, but gladder still for the relative peace and quiet of home.