Alluring Orchids – Kew Gardens (7 February to 8 March 2015)

As you enter the Princess of Wales Conservatory you are greeted by the bold, prickly forms of the Cacti and Succulents of the ‘Tropical Desert’ zone. After meandering through you reach the doors to the ‘Tropical Rainforest’ zone.

Upon opening the doors you are struck by the vivid colours and the lush, dense vegetation that surrounds you. Welcome to the jungle.

orchid closeupThe Orchids were not the only plants on show, but they were the stars of it! Some of the orchids were placed in a naturalistic manner amongst the other plants. This gave the impression of walking a path through the rainforest and stumbling upon these gems of nature.

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They were also celebrated in elaborate and fun ways, with huge pillars, numerous archways and faux bees made from lichen and wicker.

The most impressive display being the giant orchid flower display on the pond, this was thoughtfully laid out in the shape of a flower with each petal overflowing with a vibrant and colour mixture of exotic orchids.

orchid pond

There was also many little panels aimed at children, which helped to engage a younger audience. One interesting fact we learned was how the vanilla pods used to make vanilla essence and ice cream, were actually seed pods of an orchid!

orchid archTowards the end there was a whole section of the Princess of Wales Conservatory dedicated to entertaining the children, with an elaborate UV display showing how flies viewed Orchids. There was even an educational craft activity to help entertain.

Final Thoughts…

The exhibition is well worth a visit, the greenhouse as a whole was nice to see, and the orchid exhibition made it quite a spectacle.

It was a fantastic opportunity to see some lovely vibrant plants in the middle of winter and is suitable for all ages as well.

Orchid: “Love” or “Lust?”

Around the globe, there has often been a cultural association of flowers with different characteristics. Whether that be Crocuses as a sign of cheerfulness, Ivy symbolising friendship, or even the Orchid which can mean love, beauty and refinement. Quite appropriate for around this time of year, with valentines day.

With this in mind, it may be useful to come to this month’s topic. Love or… Lust? These two ideas are often seen together as people have often confused the two, this is a tale which features this common misconception in a different context.

The orchid probably has one of the most interesting histories of all flowers or plants in cultivation. Whilst everyone may automatically think of a rose or roses as symbolic of love, the orchid is perhaps more relevant for discussion here. You see, the history of Orchids can be seen as one in which there was a great deal of effort put forth into prospecting and  collecting various species.

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Pink Phalaenopsis Orchid Flower

It all started in 1818, when a British scientist called William John Swainson had sent back an unusual flower – an Orchid. Due to its intriguing, unusual and beautiful shape there was  mass fanfare about the plant. This single act would set off the British in an “orchid fever”, and there would be a huge collective effort of many intrepid explorers to go and search and find orchids. Orchid fever drove the price of the flowers, as demand increased, however it was not without challenges. The risks involved were immense including: tropical diseases, dangerous animals and even cannibals! But, what about “Lust”, surely the Orchid is not representative of uncontrollable sexual desire? Well no… but “Lust” can be seen in another less known way, such as a passionate desire for something – like in the phrase a “lust for power”. Certainly, the Orchid has been the subject of this kind of lust. This orchid fever lasted for over a century, with many people going out to find new species and resupply the collectors and botanical glass houses over the decades. So great was the desire that it was acceptable for half of the orchids to die during transportation, as long as one half was delivered safely.

Orchid fever would eventually dies down in the 1920s when there were techniques developed that allowed Orchids to be cultivated back in Europe. However, the passion or perhaps “Lust” for orchid collecting did have somewhat of a revival, as rare orchids are still in demand and are seen as great achievements in the plant hunting world. Even to the extent that in 2000 Tom Hart Dyke was held captive in Columbia for several months by guerrillas whilst he was out hunting for rare orchids.

Throughout history, as we have seen in these cases there are unusual examples whereby something that symbolises love can take the form of lust. If you have any interesting examples in history of “lust” please feel free to comment below.

Orchid Photo: 
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File:Beautiful_pink_Orchid_flower_photo.jpg#file

Books to ‘Love and Lust’

I was a little bit stumped on deciding books based on the theme of ‘Love and Lust’ for February. I think this is because there are so many books that people feel passionate about and no doubt would either agree or disagree with me on the ones that I’ve chosen here. Whether you are single or in a relationship, hopefully these will give you something to think about for this month.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simison

If you are in the mood for a cheerful humorous read that is not too heavy but is a really great love story with a twist in the telling The Rosie Project by Graeme Simison is definitely one that I would recommend.

The story follows the life of Don Tillman, a handsome thirty nine year old who has been unlucky in love due to his Aspergers Syndrome. To counteract this problem, he designs ‘The Wife Project,’ an in-depth questionnaire that will supposedly find him his perfect match. He then meets Rosie, who is his most incompatible match on the questionnaire but despite this finds himself falling for her. Can he break out of his defined ideals enough to make love work? And how forgiving or accepting will Rosie be of Don’s quirky behavioural traits? Read this book to find out. If you enjoy it you may want to read the sequel The Rosie Effect.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

If you feel like experiencing an all-encompassing, passionate love story, then Wuthering Heights is definitely worth a try.

This book is very intense, I first read it when I was thirteen and really enjoyed it. When I read it I felt that I could imagine myself in ‘Cathy’s situation. Though she makes mistakes and is frustrating at times, I feel that this book represents the idea of ‘soulmates’ and ‘true love’ and that this cannot be manufactured or falsely created. It is a deeply romantic, passionate and at times violent book. I have met many people who did not like Wuthering Heights, and hated it in fact and even though it is one of my favourite books, I do understand where they are coming from. It is like Marmite really you either love it or you hate it. I never had to study this book at school and can understand that if this book was ‘taught’ to you, you may have some aversion to it. If you’ve never read it then why not give it a go, there are many versions available including a free e-book and a Classical Comics version.

Twelve Minutes of Love – A Tango Story by Kapka Kassabova

If you would like to learn the history of a dance and enjoy a voyage of passionate discovery then Twelve Minutes of Love would be a good starting point.

This story covers the areas of biography, dance, history and travel and tells the story of Kapka Kassabova’s romantic relationships through the medium of learning the Argentine Tango. It has a deeply descriptive narrative and takes in places as varied as a politically unstable Buenos Aires and New York. You get to learn about the tango world and the people within it who can become quite obsessed about the dance; whilst simultaneously watching Kapka’s life evolve and develop in terms of discovering who she is and what she wants in life. This book will particularly appeal to you if you’re already a fan of dance but also to those who are intrigued and want to accompany Kapka on her voyage of discovery.

The Cinnamon Peeler and Other Poems by Michael Ondaatje

If you are in the mood for something sensual, then ‘The Cinnamon Peeler’ is an excellent choice.

The Cinnamon Peeler is one of my favourite poems. I love the evocative way that Ondaatje uses language to create a truly sensual description in this poem. Reading this poem really fires up your imagination and you can feel the heat and sunlight of Sri Lanka along with the rich smell of spices.

I hope that my choices for our theme this month have given you something to think about and perhaps inspired you to read something new? What would your choices be for this theme?

Films to ‘Love and Lust’

Our theme for February is ‘love and lust’ which is of course very apt for Valentines Day and also represents the beginning of our Seven Deadly Sins theme which we will cover over 2015.

When choosing films to represent love and lust it is all too easy to think why not just focus on recent romantic comedies? However, I think that films that embody this theme should still make you think and feel like you’ve learnt something new or be able to consider something from a different viewpoint. All of these films have strong female characters and highlight the ways in which love and lust are such complex emotions across different times and places. The unifying factor across all of these films though is the ‘spark’ and ‘connection’ between the main characters that bests identifies love and lust.

In The Mood for Love by Wong Kar-Wai (2000)

If you are in the mood for getting lost in some sumptuous cinematic viewing,then you can’t go wrong with ‘In The Mood for Love’ by Wong Kar-Wai.

In The Mood for Love is one of my favourite films. The film tells the story of two neighbours (Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung) in adjacent rooms in a 1960s Hong Kong apartment. They grow closer together after suspecting that their respective spouses are having an affair with each other. The more time that they spend in each others’ company the more that they feel that passion for each other grows. This passion is all the more enhanced as it is repressed and constrained in accordance with the societal values of the time and place (similar to the relationship in Brief Encounter). You really get a sense of the tension between the natural passion that the characters feel towards each other, versus the expected behaviour of married men and women in 1960s Hong Kong.

The stunning cinematography by Christopher Doyle make the piece appear like a beautiful painting emphasising the depth and richness of colour with stunning sets and costumes. The period soundtrack further adds to the piece with a repeating ‘Perhaps’ song by Nat King Cole sung gently in Spanish which almost sounds as if it is whispered at times.

The heightened tension and emotion is further enhanced by the amazing sets that are used which are mostly interiors or enclosed exterior sets that are used as a metaphor for the restricted society that the characters inhabit. Doyle uses slow motion to further allow us to view the sumptuous visual detail of the film as the couple pass each other on staircases and encounter each other in deserted streets (where the lighting is reminiscent of The Third Man).

Wong Kar-Wai did not use a script making the scenes feel naturalistic but also dreamy and heightened, similar in some ways to Sophia Coppola’s work. You really root for the main leads and hope that they end up together (you’ll have to watch the film to find out if they do!).

The Awful Truth by Leo McCarey (1937)

This film is a great choice if you’ve had a bad day and need cheering up, or just if you are not in the mood for anything too heavy or serious as it is a light, fluffy ball of fun!

The Awful Truth is a witty fast paced two hander with a bickering couple (Cary Grant playing Jerry and Irene Dunne playing Lucy) believing that they are on the road to a final divorce after incompatibility caused by alleged adultery, lies and a lack of trust. It also includes a custody disagreement over their dog Mr Smith (who is reminiscent of Uggie in The Artist).

This film was also developed largely on an improvisational basis which accounts for the incredible comic timing, especially from Irene Dunne who was nominated for an Oscar in this role.

The chemistry between the two leads sparkle as they get into more and more ridiculous situations hampered by new love interests entering their lives which of course makes them both behave in a jealous manner and then they try to outwit and embarrass each other as the film goes on. What is interesting about this film is that though it was made in 1937 many of the comedic scenes stand the test of time and the strong role that Irene Dunne’s character Lucy has is refreshing and enlightening to watch in a film of this age.

Of course we know that they are really meant for each other and should not have got divorced in the first place but you’ll have to watch it to see if it has a happy ending!

Before Sunset by Richard Linklater (2004)

If you want to watch an intelligent film that is also deeply romantic without being cheesy then you can’t go wrong with this film.

If you haven’t watched the prequel to this Before Sunrise, then I suggest that you do before you see Before Sunset. I love all of the ‘Before‘ films but out of the three so far, the second film Before Sunset is my favourite.

Before Sunset is set nine years after Before Sunrise when the characters first meet by chance on a train in Vienna and spend a day and night together. They haven’t seen each other since that time and their lives have changed as they have got older but they still share the same instant connection that they had before.

Once again, this film has naturalistic dialogue and acting and the script was developed in a close collaboration between the films lead actors Ethan Hawke playing ‘Jesse’ and Julie Delphy as ‘Céline’. Before Sunset is set in Paris and this setting could have struck up a number of clichés as Paris is well known as “the city of love” but instead of using the Louvre and going up the Eiffel Tower as set pieces the director uses the more intimate settings of cafés, bookshops, apartments and a boat on the river Seine. We are a silent observer of the characters as they take a long walk around the city. This enables us to focus on the development of the characters themselves and their growing relationship with each other. The chemistry between Jesse and Céline is electrifying and they have an easy, flirty way of communicating with each other, we get the impression that the more easy-going and jovial Jesse is good for the more serious Céline.

This film also has one of the most clever and enigmatic endings ever, I won’t spoil it for you but you will want to watch the third film Before Midnight almost instantly afterwards!

As you can see here are three of my most apt films for the theme of love and lust, they may edge towards the more ‘love’ end of the spectrum but I think they are great films for this theme and would be interested to know what other people’s favourites are?