Saturday, April 26, 2008

Kew Gardens, plus ANOTHER expose on the beauty industry, the flip side of the corporate coin

So, the first real bout of sun all year descended upon England, and we decided it was time for a visit to Kew Gardens

and yes, blue skirt, blue tights. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

This is mum, taken from the upper veranda of the Temperate House. And Eric, who climbed up with me.

Eric got quite into the multitude of plantlife on showcase here.

I think he was inspired by this Time Capsule containing plant specimens from 1985, selected by David Attenborough.

Yep, this is his "Here they all their....natural habitat" Attenborough routine.

I wonder if Sir Attenborough put one of those dancing flowers in the capsule. You can't GET more a '80s plant!

Later on, Eric took on the mannerisms of Monty Don in his TV show 'Around the World in 80 Gardens'. Here he is, contemplative at the Japanese Kokoshi Mon garden.

I contemplated that the gravel 'lawn' wasn't raked any time recently. It was nothing like the perfection of other Japanese gardens we've seen, and at a £13 entry fee for Kew, we'd paid for it to be well-tended!

However, I think the writers of the Spring Haiku blog will enjoy this haiku we found there.

This is one of the entrances to the Palm House, which took over 30 years to build and is the biggest surviving Victorian Greenhouse. They say 'surviving' because it would've been pipped to the post by Crystal Palace, but that burned down (what is it with great British landmarks and fire?)

See the huge palm on the right? It was brought to Kew in 1846, but the greenhouse that houses it was not finished until the 1870s. It must've been tough keeping it alive in the British winter.

My favourite things at Kew are firstly the carnivorous plants like this badboy. It has a sticky sweet substance in it's 'throat' to attract flies which, once inside are trapped, their wings useless when coated in the stickiness, and the 'mouth' shuts down over it's prey forever.

I also like the Cacti, particularly one they call the Resurrection Plant, because it has the ability to technically 'die' only to regain life when watered after many months of receiving no moisture whatsoever. It's ability to harness and retain moisture has led to it's use in many an 'anti ageing' or 'age prevention' cream, but more on that whole flim-flam later.

THEN there's my real inspiration. Oh, you beautiful Cacao...
I was intersted to learn that it was the Spanish, in the 1520s who brought chocolate to Europe, where it was sweetened and made into what we (or I) guzzle by the bar today. For over 1,500 years previous, until the Spanish got to it via the peoples of Central America and Mexico it had been used only as an ingredient in a bitter drink made with ground chillis, vanilla and annatto (no, no idea) drunk only by the rich. What a waste!

Obviously I can't knock it as I haven't tried it, but I doubt it comes anywhere close to treating PMS like a big bar of milk chocolate does.

This is the newest, snazzy greenhouse at Kew.
Unfortunately it houses only 'alpine plants' which are relatively uninteresting by comparison.
And now, on to my employment news. I've recently been working in the beauty hall of the biggest and most famous store in the UK.
I've been on 'fragrance promotion' ("would madam like to try the new ridiculously priced fragrance by someone whose name nobody, not even the person themselves, can pronounce correctly?") and 'counter cover'.
The latter job title means that in the past three days, I've worked on three different well-known high-end skincare counters.

I have two points to make about this:

1) Miracles do not come in jars of cream. The blurb is the same. The ingredients are the same. They are, pretty much the same products on every counter at which I've worked. People do not buy the cream necessarily, they buy the person's pitch on the cream. But, having said this, when we buy something which is after all quite nice, that makes us feel good.

2) If you are ever at a beauty counter, and the girl standing nervously at that counter (with a pot of something in her hand) can't find the product you're after, it's because she is an 'agency counter-cover girl' like me, and probably has never worked at that counter before. She's covering for someone who called in sick. She doesn't know which drawer the particular shiny bottle she's just sold you is actually found in. She doesn't really know the product, but how can she? And those heels she's wearing? They hurt. She's not allowed to sit down on shift, and after 7 hours straight of just standing, she wants to throw them out the window!


Ex-Shammickite said...

Kew Gardens... I've always fancied a visit but have never been there yet. Perhaps one day!
I always admire those gorgeous girls who flog jars of miracle creams in posh department stores. And now you're one of them. They are always so smart and well groomed and elegant, and I always feel like a real country hick next to them!
As I write this the score is 1-0 for Philly at the end of the 2nd period.... will the Canadiens score another 2 goals before the end of the game???? Erik must be on the edge of his seat.

Princess Haiku said...

Wow! I would love to visit the Palm house. I You have a great blog.