I’m not the most
patient of souls. In fact as the years progress, I
find more and more things irritating: screaming
kids, rap music, 125cc motorcycles with big-bore
exhausts, anyone that thinks it looks hip to make
one of those W signs with their fingers, those
pickups belting out several kilowatts of sound to
inform us of the latest sale at Big C, and so on.
I’m fairly sure that annoyances get more annoying as
you get older. Does that mean I’m turning into my
father? A scary thought, but I’m sure that if I had
teenage kids I’d be bursting into their bedrooms
screaming at them over the 150-decibel music asking
them to “turn that damn noise down”.
I find that some accents from various parts of the
UK grate too. Apologies to Birmingham readers, but
that accent doesn’t do you any favors. Somehow the
Brummie accent makes the speakers sound as if
they’re a few bricks short of a full load. I’m sure
they’re not, but that high-pitched
back-of-the-throat ‘awroyt?’ favorite of theirs
hardly makes them sound like Mensa candidates.
Some regional accents are fine. Scousers (ladies and
gentlemen from Liverpool) are usually comedians, and
most utterances from Geordies (Newcastle) are often
hilarious. Try saying ‘Kaw-a-sak-i’ in a Geordie
accent without smiling. You can’t.
I’ve given up trying to decode the sounds that come
out of a Glaswegian’s mouth, though. I’m fairly
convinced that they produce random noises at
breakneck speed and spend their days nodding at each
other in the streets and pubs of Glasgow, pretending
to understand. Indecipherable, but bearable.
And so, inevitably, we move on to the Welsh. Their
accent is neither amusing nor charming,
unfortunately. Is it just me that finds Welsh
accents annoying? They’re wonderful in Wales I’m
sure, with all their singing in the valleys, but
let’s work on the exit visa situation.
And while we’re on the subject of the Welsh accent,
why is it that whenever I try it, the first couple
of sentences come out OK, but then inevitably
transform into a very poor attempt at Pakistani? Is
it just me?
The English have a flower for their national emblem
– the rose. A thing of beauty. The Welsh? They have
two – the daffodil and the leek. I will concede that
the daffodil has its charm, but a leek? A smelly
I remember, in my school days, a couple of Welsh
kids whose mothers insisted on pinning a leek to
their lapels on St David’s Day. We obviously made no
comment on the stinking vegetable that accompanied
them all day. You can imagine how gentle we all
were, and how much we admired these fine Welsh chaps
attending a Yorkshire school proclaiming their
I suppose I should move on to the subject of plants
at some stage, or I’m likely to be accused of yet
another meaningless rant. Much as I hate to admit a
fondness for something associated with the Welsh,
one of the few plants I miss from my homeland is in
fact the daffodil. Most of the others are either too
boring or slow-growing, or just plain insignificant.
The daffodil at least has some individuality about
Phuket is hardly the daffodil capital of the world
(it would probably be somewhere in those valleys
attached to the west of England) but at least we
have something that looks vaguely similar – the
clivia miniata, or kaffir lily. The similarity is
actually extremely vague, come to think of it. At
least they both have that 90-degree
flower-on-top-of-the-stalk thing happening.
Originally, clivia made its way over here from
Natal, South Africa, where it grows naturally in
shady, moist areas. The name of the plant isn’t the
most obvious. Most people probably even pronounce it
incorrectly. It was given to the plant by a man
named John Lindley during the mid-1800s. Lady Clive
(really!) was the Duchess of Northumberland then,
and Lindley named the plant in her honor. You
couldn’t make this stuff up.
There are a few different species, but the clivia
miniata is probably the most common grown here. Its
dark green leaves are broad and strap-like and grow
in a kind of arch, up to about 40cm long and three
to four inches wide. Brilliant clusters of
apricot-colored, funnel-shaped blossoms appear on
strong stems arising from the center of the dense
A general rule of thumb is that plants tend to be
happier in open soil, rather than being confined to
a pot. The clivia miniata bucks that trend
completely, as it is much happier when its roots are
constricted by a small pot, for some bizarre reason.
Try to resist the temptation to move the plant to a
larger pot as you would do for most potted plants.
This one’s a serious masochist. If it were human it
would probably be into things that should definitely
be conducted behind closed doors.
Clivia roots are thick, fleshy and very
well-equipped for water storage. On a mature plant,
the swollen mass of roots often becomes so large
that it will completely fill the pot, forcing the
soil in the pot up and over the container’s edge.
Only when this begins to happen should a clivia
plant be moved to a larger pot.
Unlike many other plants, clivias survive in bright
or dim light and in soil that is moist or dry. They
prefer well-drained, organic soil in bright light
with early morning or late afternoon sun and shaded
in between, as the leaves will scorch if they get
direct sun. It may have masochistic tendencies, but
heat isn’t among its pleasures.
The ability of these plants to survive under
conditions unsuitable for most other plants makes
them extremely tough house plants and ideal
candidates for people who like to have plants in
their houses, but can’t be bothered giving them much
Clivias are most often propagated by separation of
offsets, or the extra stalks that grow independently
from the main plant, after the plants have flowered.
When an individual offset has developed three or
four leaves of its own, it can be cut from the
parent plant (you need to include some roots too)
and placed in small pots of its own.
Daffodils may not exactly be abundant here, but at
least we make do with this distant relative. Those
of the Welsh persuasion can be reassured that should
they feel the urge to pin a clivia miniata to their
chests at the beginning of March every year, we
won’t snigger at all. Well, not much, anyway. Dydd
da to you.