Why this blog is called "Gallimaufry".

gal-uh-MAW-free\, noun.

Originally meaning "a hash of various kinds of meats," "gallimaufry" comes from French galimafrée; in Old French, from the word galer, "to rejoice, to make merry"; in old English: gala + mafrer: "to eat much," and from Medieval Dutch maffelen: "to open one's mouth wide."

It's also a dish made by hashing up odds and ends of food; a heterogeneous mixture; a hodge-podge; a ragout; a confused jumble; a ridiculous medley; a promiscuous (!) assemblage of persons.

Those of you who know me, will, I’m sure, understand how well some of these phrases (barring the "promiscuous" bit!) fit me.

More importantly, this blog is an ode to my love for Shimla. I hope to show you this little town through my eyes. If you don't see too many people in it, forgive me, because I'm a little chary of turning this into a human zoo.

Stop by for a spell, look at my pictures, ask me questions about Shimla, if you wish. I shall try and answer them as best as I can. Let's be friends for a while....

4 October 2009

Clematis and cabbage.

Nature has place for both, says the venerable Thoreau. So right he is, because not every every truth recommends itself to common sense! Some truths are romantic, others sensible. We must decide: do we choose to look at the cabbage or at the clematis? If you're an idealist, you may be tempted to conclude that merely because the clematis smells better than the cabbage, it makes better soup. But then you're entitled to such a perspective!

Walking in the Sheogh woods is ever a pleasure. Every month reveals fickle bugs and capricious flora. A little velvety starlet which caught your eye in March vanishes in September. That little black spiny fellow who went scampering under a bush in May goes off for his winter vacation and will only put in an appearance next year. Still, in the spirit of gathering ye flowers while ye May, one ventures back into the forest over and over again; unfailingly treated to some new species each time.

This time, I discover Clematis connata.

The Dictionary of Botanical Epithets describes this plant as "clematis "= climbing; "connata " = connate, fused together.
This is pretty lemon-coloured, bell-shaped flower about an inch long. It is mildly fragrant. It had four long petals that curve outwards and are finely woolly-haired when seen up close. The anthers are creamy green and the leaves, a glossy green pinnate. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by bees and flies. I found the flowers growing in warm, sunny, yet sheltered spots. The soil looked moist, but well-drained. The leafstalks had wrapped themselves around twigs and branches for support.
I'm tickled to find this smarmy and retro Alexander Bathgate poem in the Gardener's Book of Poems:

Fair crown of stars of purest ray,
Hung aloft on Mapau tree,
What floral beauties ye display,
Stars of snowy purity;
Around the dark-leaved mapau's head
Unsullied garlands ye have spread.

Concealed were all thy beauties rare
'Neath the dark umbrageous shade,
But still to gain the loftiest spray,
Thy weak stem its efforts made;
Now, every obstacle o'ercome,
Thou smilest from thy leafy home.

That home secure, 'mid sombre leaves
Yielded by thy stalwart spouse,
Helps thee to show thy fairy crown,
Decorates his dusky boughs:
His strength, thy beauty, both unite
And form a picture to delight.

Fair flower, methinks thou dost afford
Emblem of a perfect wife,
Whose work is hidden from the world,
Till, perchance, her husband's life
Is by her influence beautified,
And this by others is descried.


The humble cabbage is native to the Mediterranean and was known to the Greeks and Romans, even finds place in Cato's writings. Then man, it seems, praised it for its medicinal value and called it a vegetable that "surpasses all vegetables"! This is a herbaceous, biennial plant which is a great source of Vitamin C and riboflavin and contains significant quantities of glutamine, an amino-acid which has anti-inflammatory properties.

This leads me to conclude that some truths, no matter how unattractive, may actually be good for you!

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