Monthly Archives: July 2009

My geranium is getting leggy – any suggestions?

I HAVE A  BEAUTIFUL Geranium giving vivid red colours but it is getting bolshie.

My questions are these, as in Gardeners’ Question Time.

1. Do I throw it away and say your time is past?

2. Do I get rid of all these stupid extra leaves it is making for no reason at all, thus contraventing Darwinism just so I can get more useless but attractive blooms?

3. Do I try to eat it and pretend the leaves are nasturtium leaves?

No answers required. But the Geranium had best stop getting leggy or I will have it!

Let us acclaim the successful potato

BELIEVE IT or believe it not, there used to be a title published by Reed called the Successful Potato.

Of course the ultimate successful potato has got to be the King Edward – a royal potato in every way. I am sure that when Sir Walter Raleigh – executed later by Queen Elizabeth I James I* – brought back a potato and a tomato and tobacco and a chili from the Americas, it was not a King Edward.

What a versatile creature the potato is – you can mash it, fry it, boil it, chip it, french fry it, bake it and roast it.

OK, King Edward is related to the Lucrezia Borgia of the genus, Deadly Nightshade. But his Brittanic Majesty is also related to capsicums and nicotines. What a versatile family!

The edible starchy tuber has, of course, many varieties apart from the King.

There is of course his consort, the Charlotte. And his mistress, Desiree. There’s Nicola whoever she is, and there’s Jersey Royals – the princelings of potato-hood. The Saxon variety is related to the House of Hangover, based in Hannover, which at one time by default became the right royal owners of England.

We’d be interested to know if there was a Republican variety of potato, one that organised the Boston Potato Party, and threw Edward, the Saxons and the Princelings into the drink. But we guess we’ll never find out.

* oops. Fixed SNAFU

Don’t thrush me, I’m hungry

WHAT DO YOU do when you’re a hungry thrush and you find a snail that’s as big as your head?

You grab the snail any way you can and you hammer it and hammer it again on a concrete patio until the shell breaks and you can have your breakfast.

That’s what the little thrush did in the back yard of the Oxford Violin Shop just a few minutes ago. Sort of escargot to go.

There’s a beer shortage in Italy

BELOW WE SEE a very sad state of affairs. There’s obviously a beer drought in Italy and, worse than that, you’ve got to pay through the nose for it!

droughtbeer

Just what is this tree?

What the heck is this tree>

What the heck is this tree?

Facebook is Velikovsky’s worlds colliding

I HAVE A FACEBOOK page, and have loads of chums around the world who have all chipped in with their various attitudes and points of view.

I think, I think, my Facebook page is called Mad Mike Mageek. It’s sometimes very very hard to tell what’s happening with FB.

Never mind Twitter.

But on your right you will see my interests in the links on this Volesoft page. There are many many worlds set to collide.  According to Velikovski.  Catastrophic!

Strings, blackbirds serenade my summer days

HERE IN my Tower of Light in Oxford, I am lucky enough to back onto Oxford Violins.  When it’s a warm summer day, the guys open their windows and you can hear them tuning and playing the beautiful instruments they make.

A couple of weeks ago, one of the chaps, Bruno Guastalla, came across the back garden to introduce himself. He’d heard me whistling a refrain to the blackbird that hangs around the yard, and joined me for a glass of white wine.

Later, he invited me into the workshop, and it was wonderful to see the tools and equipment they use to create the instruments.

If you go to Oxford Violins’ website, there’s a video showing a violinist playing one of the instruments Bruno made and different stages in the creation of a violin.  It’s all rather magical, really this little area.

They play themselves – I heard them jamming earlier this week, most beautiful.

Observatory Street is a study in pastels

THIS IS A SNAP of Observatory Street, close to Jericho, North Oxford.

observatory
It’s called Observatory Street because it’s close to the observatory and the rather surprising Tower of the Winds, based on the tower in Athens.

More of the dancing in the British Museum

Garden & Cosmos: The Natha Sampradaya revisited

THE BRITISH MUSEUM has a whole season of exhibitions and events about India – it calls this its “Indian Summer” – an expression that in English usually applies to unseasonally nice weather rather later in the year, like “fall” or Autumn as we Brits call it.

I visited the British Museum today to see its “Garden & Cosmos” exhibition – sponsored by HSBC and subtitled “The Royal Paintings of Jodhpur”.

There is little about gardens in the wonderful exhibition but there are some beautiful paintings related to an “obscure religious cult” called the Nath Sampradaya.

The Nathas, reckon scholars – and what would they know – started kicking in around the 13th century and many of the paintings in the exhibition reflect the support of the rajas of Jodhpur, in Rajasthan and form part of the collection of the Mehrangarh Museum Trust.  Very many of the highly detailed paintings in the exhibition relate to these “nathas”, in particular there are some paintings from the Nath Purana.

The exhibition was very well attended – it’s had quite a lot of publicity. The leaflet doled out to you when you arrive says: “Man Singh’s artists proclaimed Nath greatness and teaching in hundreds of paintings and monumental manuscripts. Nath yogis, recognised by their grey ash smeared skin and pointed hats, are depicted proclaiming their new ideas. Their guru is shown superior to the traditional Hindu gods”.

Man Singh lost his kingship in 1843 when the British arrested two senior Nathas for allegedly kidnapping a Brahmin. The Indian Mutiny – or the First War of Independence – as India describes it, occurred just a few years later and many authors have suggested that sadhus, holy men, helped foment the insurrection against the missionaries’ position.

A rather sad cartouche, next to one of the glorious paintings in this exhibition, suggested that after Man Singh was ousted, the “temples” of the Natha Sampradaya fell into desuetude and the sampradaya (tradition) lost its force.

I dunno who wrote that cartouche. In Rajasthan there are still very many ashramas of the Natha Sampradaya. I’ve visited many of them myself, thanks to the great kindness of one of the abbots. The paintings often show the padukam of the gurus of the Natha sampradaya – one very nice one shows everything flowing from those feet. I tried to count the Nathas – if there’s 108 of them, I would not be at all surprised.

108 is a sacred number in the tantrik and Natha traditions. The rosaries the sadhus wear are often rudrakhas and number 108 beads. A human being is supposed to breathe 21,600 times in a day of 24 hours – half of these are ascribed to the sun, the other half to the moon.

shri shri 108 matsyendranath jiI listened to many visitors closely inspecting the wonderful paintings in the exhibition. Clearly, very few of them had ever heard of the Natha Sampradaya – didn’t know that Gorakhnath and his guru Matstyendranath more or less created hatha yoga – and were clearly puzzled by these strange sadhus who on the one hand renounced the world and on the other hand promoted the common welfare of the people that supported them.

Matsyendranath, pictured above – and the picture is courtesy of a Natha mahant (abbot) in Rajasthan – was swallowed by a fish, a little like Jonah.

It is rather fantastic that the paintings are in the British Museum, though, despite the lack of supporting information to help assist the wanderers in the place. The exhibition lasts until the 23rd of August and it’s £8 to enter. Or free if you’re a British Museum “member” which costs £40 a year.

Almost finally, Thames & Hudson has produced a rather fantastic book which contains many of the paintings in this exhibition. The paperback costs £30 and the hardback edition £36 so there’s some kind of stock control unit (SKU) marketing nonsense going on there. Its ISBN number is 978-0-500-51443-6. The authors are Debra Diamond, Catherine Glynn and Kami Singh Jasoi.

Samadhi of Shri Shri 108 Mannath Ji

Samadhi of Shri Shri 108 Mannath Ji

There’s a bibliography but I can’t find any mention of the English translation of  Kaulajnananirnaya ascribed to Matsyendrath in 1986.

Almost finally, because on my way out of the exhibition, people seemed to be singing a Baul song, and three lasses were dancing rather effectively. The sound is non existent – sorry about that. Perhaps I should have used my Crackberry.

This exhibition is well worth a visit. If you know nothing about the Natha Sampradaya you will be very puzzled. If you know anything at all about this very ancient tradition of yogis and yoginis, you’ll be very pleased indeed.

Mannath is the founding guru of one of the panths of the current Natha Sampradaya – there are  12 confederated into the Baro Panth.

Quite a lot of the paintings in the exhibition are related to the Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati. Disclaimer: I own www.shivashakti.com. You can read some Natha texts in this PDF book, here. There’s obviously money in India.