I have now read two more of The Folio Society’s 1974 selection of Short Stories by Anton Chekhov. The first, which is not illustrated with a drawing by Nigel Lambourne, is ‘The Cross of Anna’. As Elisaveta Fen, the translator, writes ‘It is essentially a story of the destruction of innocence and the folly of so-called self sacrifice.’ One of the author’s themes seems to be the desperate sadness of the widespread custom of much older men being pledged to women barely out of their teens and consequently considered heading for the shelf. My reaction to the pun of the title is also shared by Fen who states that the female lead’s ‘husband is awarded the cross of Anna, worn on a ribbon round the neck; hence the Russian title ‘Anna around his neck’ – a Russian idiom for describing an unwanted burden.’

To my mind, the next story is a tragedy of an obsessional character who manages to transfer his own fears to those around him. Elisaveta Fen points out that ‘Contemporary reviewers enlarged on Belikov’s type’s social significance and importance, treating [him] as a representative of an influential and socially dangerous class of people who threaten and bully their colleagues into conformity with absurd restrictions on their behaviour.’ I agree with the translator that he is more worthy of pity than fear.

Illustrator Nigel Lambourne has introduced a provocative element of his own to ‘Varinka was the first woman who had treated Belikov with friendliness’. It is, after all, his colleagues who thought it amusing to manipulate the prospective union of the two protagonists.

I am grateful to Maj for helping me distinguish between bees and hoverflies.

Today we were visited by both bees

and hoverflies.

Our new wooden bench was delivered this morning. This afternoon we carried it from our back gate to the Rose Garden in order to install it beneath the Agriframes Arbour. We had been pleased that we didn’t have to assemble it with flat-pack “destructions”. There was, however, a downside. The piece was quite heavy and would only just fit into the available space, so, having carted it up there we left it just outside and went back indoors to procrastinate and think about it.

This structure was to replace the smaller, white aluminium, two seater which was the previous occupant of this resting place, and really only suitable for children or small adults.

It was easy enough for me to shift that and to

leave it on the paving leading to single chair occupying the corner beyond the Little Climber rose and the fallen New Dawn.

After wrestling with the new bench we decided that lifting the fallen rose was a bridge too far, and could wait until tomorrow. Jackie relaxed on her pole and we both rested on our laurels and our new purchase,

looking at the view from Absolutely Fabulous through Festive Jewel.

Meanwhile our previous new bench still enables occupants to share the view with Florence sculpture.

Day lilies are blooming all over the garden.

This evening, after drinks sitting on our new bench we dined on our second helpings of yesterday’s Red Chilli takeaway, including the unopened paratha, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the CEO.


  1. The stories sound interesting, and the garden looks spectacular. I love your new bench.

    “Jackie relaxed on her pole and we both rested on our laurels and our new purchase,” Sounds perfect!

    1. Thank you very much, Merril. Tootlepedal tells me that the sentence you have quoted is a zeugma. Now I have had the opportunity to use it, I might remember it.

  2. I love benches in a garden. There’s something so comforting and yet grand about them. They invite one to sit and observe Nature, be it flower or bee or hoverfly or butterfly. I think you both deserve to rest on your laurels, particularly after reading Chekhov!

  3. Good to learn the difference between bees and hoverflies!
    Both look equally happy on your beautiful blooms – as does the Head Gardener on her new bench; you certainly have a myriad of vistas to enjoy from all of your vantage points!

  4. I love the photo of Jackie, her eyes look closed as though she’s reflecting on the day that was.

    I’m sure the new bench will find its home and before long will look at home and just where it belongs.

  5. I hope that the weight of the new bench will be a signal of its durability and that you will be able to rest on it and your laurels for many years to come. (I like a neat zeugma.)

  6. I had to smile when I read the description of the story as “a tragedy of an obsessional character who manages to transfer his own fears to those around him.” There’s been a little of that going around recently, not to mention people trying to “threaten and bully their colleagues into conformity with absurd restrictions on their behaviour.” As we like to say here in Texas, what goes around, comes around; Chekhov’s world wasn’t entirely different from ours.

  7. When moving a heavy piece that’s a tight fit, it’s good to stop and rest often to consider options. And the new bench looks like a good place to rest. I look forward to seeing what happens with the surrounding arbour.

  8. The bench looks delightful. And I noticed a small fountain in one of your pics, it’s so beautiful! I always wanted a fountain like that in my own garden

  9. A significant portion of Russian Literature to which Iโ€™ve been able to expose myself to is intensely psychological. So much happens in the mental landscapes of the protagonists that it nearly dominates the outside world too. I was quite engrossed in your description and analysis of Chekhovโ€™s stories. These posts prod me to finish the two modern Russian works I have abandoned midway, โ€˜Maidenheadโ€™ and โ€˜Secondhand Timeโ€™.

    Jackie the Keeper of the Gardens has blossomed to her full potential in that portrait. You have given fascinating names to the various sectors and pathways of the garden. It is a country unto itself!

  10. I think that is the best portrait of Jackie I’ve seen so far. She looks so content. Slightly fatigued but happy with her day’s labors.

  11. A beautiful bench in a bountiful bee-filled garden where hopeful hoverflies hover high heaping praise on the beckoning blooms …

  12. Love your garden with benches for a’resting
    (gotta add, w/press is getting ridiculous for signing in, another old password bites the dust)!

  13. Your new bench is wonderful!
    Jackie deserves a rest and a beautiful place to sit and rest! She works so hard, with such tender loving care, in the garden she deserves to sit and breath and take in the beauty she’s created! ๐Ÿ™‚
    I always enjoy seeing Florence! And the fountain makes me smile! I love fountains and their songs! ๐Ÿ™‚
    Your insect photos are delightful! So cool to see them close up as they busily buzzily work in the garden. ๐Ÿ™‚
    (((HUGS))), but no bugs! ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ˜›

  14. Your books show me that not much changes from generation to generation. Much as I discovered reading Marcus Aurelius.
    Love the bench, but the old one reminds me of the cast iron set Dad brought home for under his mimosa tree.

  15. Such beauty in all those flowers! Our daylilies are blooming now, too. The new wooden bench is a nice addition, and looks comfortable. I would love to see another photo of it when the roses fill in the arbor around it.

  16. Your garden is a pleasure to behold Derrick, and the new bench looks sturdy and lovely. Your white bench looks romantic and lovely too. There is nothing like it, having a rest seated on your new bench surrounded by your roses. Enjoy!

  17. I wonder whether the translator mentioned a parallel between this Anna and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. The latter comes from higher social circles, of course, where more liberties are allowed, yet Chekhov’s Anna leaves the reader wondering whether she is heading for an actual adulterous liaison. Regarding “A Man in the Case,” I agree that Belikov and his ilk are pitiful, yet as a segment of society, they become dangerous, as very aptly remarked by the veterinarian in conclusion. Doubtless, these are Chekhov’s own thoughts, expressed by another doctor, albeit a veterinarian. Interesting composition in the illustration, including a lively, domineering Varen’ka.
    Your yellow roses, “the emblem of sadness” in a Russian song, are nonetheless absolutely fabulous.

    1. Thank you very much for all this, Dolly. Elisaveta Fen doesn’t mention the link, and it is so long since I read Anna Karenina that I don’t really remember it. Maybe I’ll have another go once I have finished the Dickens set. On the other hand I may not last that long ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. Oh please, you will outlast many!
        Anna Karenina was my mother’s favorite novel, so I plucked it off her shelf when I was 8, and I was not impressed. I re-read it when I was in college, and I was still not impressed. There is a beautiful Russian film and a less than convincing American one, but I am still not as impressed as with other Tolstoy’s works. I saw Chekhov’s letter to a friend in his house – museum, and the link is mentioned in it.

  18. We have a couple of benches similar to your new one and I know how heavy and awkward they can be! I hope you may both rest upon it regularly for many years to come.

  19. Your early summer garden is stunning.
    I understand Chekhov had a great number of affairs. Having been so… vigorous, how hard it must have been to become ill and age prematurely when he was still so young.

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