'Put them on a plate, in the house, for flowers. After, put them in the garden.'
She told me a name, which I forgot. I wasn't too sure about the plate either, and thought perhaps she meant a bowl. She and the CDB-GN speak a strange form of English together, she is valiantly learning French, and poor little Marcel, their two-year old, is not quite sure what he's supposed to be speaking. He's known as 'poor little M' mostly because the name Marcel is so desperately unfashionable in France these days that whenever you mention it to anyone French they always grimace and say 'Poor little thing', or words to that effect. I can't quite think of an equivalently unfashionable boy's name in English, perhaps Cyril? Which, interestingly, is in fact quite trendy in French, as are Doris and Fanny for girls. (He is also the object of no little sympathy on account of his having CDB-GN for a father, but we're trying to get over that, and persuade ourselves of the latter's good qualities.)
But to come back to the bulbs. I compromised and put them in a shallow dish. They were very odd looking bulbs, smooth and dark brown, with no rootlets at the base, and anaemic, fat white shoots worming out of them. which have now burst into these.
Ah, I thought, autumn crocus! Thanks for the autumn crocus, I said to CDB-GN, next time I saw him. No, not crocus, no relation, he asserted, but this other name, and gave me a lecture on plant taxonomy and the number of important reproductive bits in crocuses, tulips and these things respectively.
I stood by my guns; but we call them autumn crocus, they're what saffron comes from, I assured him. No, they're poisonous. In English they are called naked ladies.
These words dropping from his lips were slightly disturbing. Better not look that up on the internet I thought. But I did look up what I thought he said, and found that they are indeed autumn crocus, colchicum. And she was right about the plate: they don't need any soil or growing medium, you can just put them on a plate in the light and out they come. Out of curiosity I then googled CDB-GN. (Why does googling someone you know always feel a bit weird? Does everyone do it?). He is clearly well-respected in the bulb trade, but keeps himself to himself.
Saffron is a spice I have little luck with, perhaps because I am simply too cautious and mean to use it with the profligacy it requires, or to buy good enough quality. I like it that that the flower is the complementary colour of that associated with the spice, purple to yellow.
I first bought it about twenty years ago on the island of Simi, in the Dodecanese, where I went on a day trip from Rhodes, a beautiful place, as I remember it, a stone's throw from the Turkish coast, with elegant Venetian looking villas on the waterfront. Much of the trade to tourists seemed to be in herbs and spices, and better than the saffron was a bag of heavy, fuzzy-leaved sage that an old lady was rubbing in a big plastic bowl on her lap, sitting outside her house. Good for the throat, she indicated, miming a cough, and it really was, I made it into tisane with honey several times, and it always worked.
I failed to get the set on the jelly, so in fact it resembled nothing so much as Delrosa rosehip syrup, and was similarly bland and sugary. I was obliged to pour it back out of the jars, but hope I have just rescued it with the addition of the juice of a couple of lemons, which will have added pectin and also a little much-needed sharpness. I was surprised at the natural level of sugar in the hips themselves. I still squeezed the bag. I'm not entirely convinced that the impurities that threaten to make it cloudy wont't rise to the surface where they can be skimmed off anyway. But I won't start a fight about it. If the jelly's OK, I'll make some scones and photograph it posing on top of them.
So once more, I have failed to revive the essay in English as a serious and incisive form in the medium of blogging, and wittered on about food and holidays years ago and my neighbours instead.
I also wanted to share a useful tip which doubtless everyone already knows about, as indeed did I, but which I had never actually put into practice. To shrink photographs for uploading to Blogger or elsewhere, highlight them all in the My Pictures folder, then in the side taskbar select 'e-mail these files' and then Windows will offer to shrink them for you. Then e-mail them to yourself, save the attachments, and upload these. They'll be a handy size for the web, will upload quickly, won't use up your allowance, and it's much faster than messing about with Photoshop. Of course this is only if you're a cruddy PC Windows XP user like me.