I was listening to the radio the other day in the car, when Gardener’s Question Time came on. This made me chuckle to myself. It reminded me of the time when I went along to one of their recordings and asked ‘the panel’ a question with a difference.
Have you ever been to a BBC radio broadcast? It’s quite exciting but completely without glamour. The outside broadcasts are usually held in some obscure village hall, where the local gardening society or Women’s Institute fills the room with plastic chairs, silver hair and diseased plants. At one end of the hall there’s a table with a green ‘snooker style’ cloth over it. This is where the panel of experts sit.
When the crew arrives with all the recording gear there’s a noticeable difference amongst the audience, nerves start to tingle and the sight of the equipment causes a buzz of excitement in the hall.
This set up process also does something extraordinary; it makes the people in the audience regress to 1950’s England. If you’ve ever heard Gardener’s Question Time you’ll know what I’m talking about. Everyone in the audience is obsequiously polite. They all suddenly speak with clipped ‘BBC’ accents and they roar with laughter at the weakest of jokes from the panel.
The members of the audience that get to ask a question go even further, just as the microphone approaches, you can see them nervously twitching and then on cue they revert to a language not heard since the days of black and white TV...“I recently purchased a flowering cherry tree...!” Purchased....there’s a word I haven’t used since, well the 1950’s frankly.
Most of the audience are posh women, keen to show off their gardening knowledge by using as many Latin plant names as possible. However because they are posh they like to pronounce those names in a slightly different way to the commonly accepted pronunciation. At the recording I went to, there was a very proper lady with pearls and a squinty eye, who asked a question about her Scots Pine tree. Being posh, she of course used its Latin name of Pinus sylvestris. However she pronounced it as Penis sylvestris. It went something like this... “I have a magnificent Penis sylvestris but it's leaning to one side” She didn’t even flinch. Nor did the rest of the audience; I damn near wet myself.
This pronunciation tolerance got me thinking and immediately a plan hatched in my mind. I had brought with me, two plants with diseased leaves and I was hoping the panel could tell me what was wrong with them. I knew what they were called but they didn’t know that.
When the next question opportunity came along I shot my hand up and managed to get the attention of the man with the microphone; sure enough he came straight over. “I’ve been given these two plants as presents but I’m not sure of their correct Latin names” I said loud and clear through the microphone. “The friend that gave them to me says they’re called Biggus dickus and Sillius soddus but I wanted to know, is this correct?”
This was met with polite titters from the audience...well it was Gardener's Question Time; anything else just wouldn’t be cricket what, what!