ake way for the Duchess of Argyll! Make way for the Duchess of Argyll!‘ The Duchess blanches and smiles weakly. Butlerial hands in white gloves brush aside the masses and minors. I have fallen into bad company. Blizzard and Phipps (alias wandering acting twosome Tony & Derek). cobwebbed butlers. are taking me on a guided tour of the Glasgow Garden Festival. I was lost before. but now I‘ve had it. Newly nobled. I have a lot to learn. We begin at the Rendezvous. where. in the invisible pit of the bandstand. musicians are playing. My crotchetty duo, bent and crabbit themselves. think I'm in need of some Health and

'j 5' 1 Wellbeing. So. like

Dorothy and her various crew. we follow a tarmac road through a gate at which a lusty Cupid beckons. complete with red heart. The place is heaving with children. and


I and Phipps are instantly

6; surrounded.

They tolerate the missile questions with dignity. as befits their stately role. and bid farewell to the hoardes as we pass on.

The Ear and Eye Gardens are a-jumble with children, peering into mirrors and bashing on organ pipes. Oor Wullie has his own small corner. but pride of this section is the Roman Garden plus Pavilion. Over the door I read ‘men‘s sana‘ and, accidentally inserting a ‘u'. I think I am in the wrong place. My escorts put me right. spelling out Latin ‘mens sana‘ and I realise that mine is not too heahhy.

Inside this bastion of ancient civilization we look around for toga-ed dignitaries. We find men in suits yabbering on television. We peruse the classical display boards which extoll the virtues of Strathclyde Regional Council’s Department of Sewerage. ‘Stunningly authentic’ cries someone behind us.

As we move out of this anachronism, my two butlers tell me that they have been known to appear at this venue dressed as gladiators and equipped with Italian phrase-books.

Back in the world ofgreenery, we peer at statuesque gardeners which are. infact. statues. Unfortunately. says a grey. red and yellow anoracked official, they don‘t do the weeding. A certain amount of ‘mock’ is in evidence: trees have miraculously grown to full maturity in a year.

We enter the Plants and Food section which, with its luscious

bunch of grapes symbol, looks extremely promising. Pig statues bedeck the first lawn. But the vines. strung up and limp between wires. appear-a little peaky. if not non-existent. Down at the farm, children are oohing and aahing at the lambs. A large shiny red tractor. every schoolboy’s dream. is parked at the barn entrance. The cow has just been milked and the floor is being sluiced down.

Blizzard and Phipps are still clearing my passage, and I am learning to greet the crowds with small waves of my hand, gracious inclinations of my head and slight. benevolent smiles.

The peat bog is being trampled and clambered on by more tiny feet. but it seems to endure. My two butlers are flagging, for it is time for their below-stairs tiffin. So I am abandoned outside a distillery which doesn‘t even have samples.

A stroll through a deep, dark forest (15 x 5 yards). with pine needles under foot. and I am nearing the lair ofthe bodiless badger. I don‘t go in. because the sett is full ofchildren and I can’t face the squeeze. But lam later told that I have missed out on the greatest mock of the Festival an enormous badger head that grunts and snorts in the half-light.

From forest and needles to sand and seaside (the intermediary Indian tepee has a large CLOSED notice outside it), and an icecream seems appropriate as I wait for the train. It could have been here that the picture-postcard humiliations were occuring. Chick-peeked and

Nigel Billen digs into the background ofthe Glasgow Garden Festival with chiefexecutive George Chesworth and the SDA’s Edward Cunningham, while Kristina Woolnough experiences an idiosyncratic site-tour.

brow-battered parents were being forced to stand behind. and poke their heads over the top of. cardboard buxoms for their gleeful offspring to photograph.

Back at the station. the Tate and Ler Express shunts past. replete. Finally the House of Fraser Special comes down the line and I am off over the Garden Festival Bridge.

People wave their handkerchiefs at us in jubilee mood. The Duchess in me bows in acknowledgement. We struggle past green GO lights. over railway crossings and gates. As I dismount at the High Street station. I am so busy reading a sign that says ‘don‘t hit your head‘ that I do.

A half-pint (even nobles need refreshment) in the Four Winds bar once a tram shed and it is nearly time to go home. A spectate of'I'he

Sandmen‘s short act, a glance at the mock-Glasgow skyline and the High Street shops and I finish my circuit by listening to the screams of the loonies subjecting themselves to the roller coaster. Heading back to the underground. I buy some heather. eat a crepe, see some shepherding and watch track-suits playing voHeybaH.

It has been an afternoon of children. Their mouths might romantically be said to have formed perfect ‘O‘s ofastonishment. But screams and full-blast yahoos would be nearer the mark. The Garden Festival certainly has something. However. I‘m not sure from the number ofchildren I saw carrying fistfuls of fir cones. stones. and twigs - how long it will last.

The List 27 May- 9 June 1988 7