Pretty appropriately for two of the rainiest weeks I can remember (in a fairly rainy year), tickets for next year's RHS Flower shows just went on sale. Chelsea was actually pretty good weather-wise this year, but in my mind Hampton Court 2008 will forever intertwine fond images of the Porsche garden demonstrating its superior run-off and Richard Reynolds's Guerilla effort with memories of the Independent's Cleve West looking a bit like a drowned rat. (A nice drowned rat! A nice one!)
I don't know what it is about flower shows that seem to suck the bad weather from out of the skies and onto our heads, but there certainly is a statistically significant correlation. People planning weddings for next summer should just avoid RHS flower show dates and they'd practically be guaranteed sunshine.
However there are those of us who will go out to Chelsea in our waders if necessary, brightly protesting "just a spot of rain!" even when it's leaking through the top of the marquee and flooding the delphinium display. For these hardy souls, you could hardly pick a better Christmas present than flower show tickets ordered, done and dusted right now. I know a lot of people swear by the most expensive tickets, allowing you access at 8am, but actually I think in 2009 I might be plumping for an evening visit, when most people have gone home. It also allows you to experience increasing calm during your two and a half hour slot as more and more visitors leave. Most important of all, it's the cheapest ticket available: check out last year's pricing for a rough idea of what's on the cards; this year the least expensive option is £13.50 on Wednesday evening, for which you'd need an RHS membership number to book.
Then you can spend the thirty-five pounds you've saved (each! Simply by not arriving at 8am!) on a slap-up dinner. Or, a posh new umbrella.