Friday, 29 July 2011
Lavender fields forever
Mitcham, suburb of south London where my old mum grew up, used to be the epicentre of the lavender growing trade - though a bit before her time; camomile, liquorice and anise were strong 18th century contenders until Ephraim Potter and William Moore found another candidate for their physic gardens amenable to the place's rich black loam and from which, according to my fabulous Brewer's Dictionary of London Phrase and Fable, was distilled 'Mitcham lavender oil'.
Well, yesterday, on a flying visit to said mater, I brought away with me - largely to repel the small population of clothes moths not horribly murdered by the ghastly pheromone-trap Mottlock, which I'll never use again - a bottle of Mayfield Grosso lavender oil. Lavender fields thrive again on chalk, as the Mayfield website tells me they used to do around Banstead, Woodmansterne and Carshalton as well as Mitcham. This organic, award-winning venture is a fabulous local amenity - there's clearly a beneficial, stress-reducing effect to be had from wandering along the grassy lanes between the beds or sitting picnicing under the lone tree in the field (Oaks Park, favourite childhood haunt though since deprived by the hurricane of its biggest specimens, is just across the road).
Mayfield grows three varieties - two of the English lavender variety Angustifolia (Folgate and Maillette). Can't tell you which of the two this is
but what's for sure is that it's well pollinated, as could be detected from the buzzing of innumerable bees
and at the top of the field sloping eastwards is the more pungent overseas variety, Grosso, a strain of X Intermedia with much longer stems.
A short trip, but an enchanting one. On a not entirely unconnected note, I was amused to hear that in the heart of genteel Banstead, a stone's throw away from the maternal home, two Vietnamese lodgers cultivated 200 cannabis plants in the bedroom of a small house. The police chase when they got busted ended in a kerfuffle down my old street, Glenfield Road. So much happens within several hundred metres; only a few years ago, the Waitrose built on the site of my first, infant school, burnt down...but I can tell you're falling asleep already and await my 'kitten rescued from tree' tale.
Just let me end, then, more soberly, with another imagined fragrance. My e-friend Deeyah, whom I hope to meet next time she comes to London - the champion of Muslim women artists around the world, a passionate fighter for all sorts of musical and other freedoms, born in Oslo - drew my attention to one of the many noble young people's statements about meeting hate with love. Now it's all about meeting hate with roses: I got choked up again hearing how the streets of the Norwegian capital were blocked with them. So here's mine, in heartfelt admiration and support of the great human values Norway shares with Denmark, Sweden and Finland: beacons to us all.