Everything you can do in the garden without actually gardening
Francis Lincoln Limited 16.99 [pounds sterling]
Philippa Lewis has written a highly entertaining and original book, quirkily designed to match the eccentric but very informative contents.
Not much misses her attention, including that former feature of so many gardens, but now so rare, the revolving summer-house (many of them stuck fast, admittedly). That other feature of long-forgotten afternoons, tea on the lawn, is also here, set within an account of the move towards taking meals of other kinds outside: now we have the wretched modern barbecue, if anything, which is not the same thing at all (where are the servants, for one thing?). For once in this impeccable text, Mrs Lewis is wrong about the origin of the barbecue but then, so is everyone else, and so let us put this important record straight. Far from being merely an import from 'hotter and sunnier North America and Australia' in the mid-1950s, the barbecue is a native institution dating back at least to the 18th century, and is recorded in the surviving accounts and minutes of the Hambledon Cricket Club where we find that a 'barbacue' of a whole pig is enjoyed by the members in May 1774 (The Hambledon Cricket Chronicle 1772-1796, ed FS Ashley-Cooper, 1924, p47).
The passion for 'fresh air' which English occupations in the garden partly reflected also involved countless victims of tuberculosis, some shunted out to only lightly adapted summer-houses even in winter, their mortal coils shuffled off more swiftly by such treatment...