Ride through the night

The night

Strange Flowers has achieved its first half-decade: five years ago today I posted about that rare and exotic bloom Alastair, still one of the best examples of the kind of unjustly neglected individual the blog set out to celebrate.

At this milestone, I have some good news and some bad news. Both are a little sketchy on detail, but beginning (as custom dictates) with the bad news: the blog will be going into partial abeyance for the forseeable future. I’m reluctant to predict what that will actually means in terms of output, but it might be as little as a post or two a month.

The good news is that my energies will be redirected toward a new approach to our beloved Flowers. Because it’s certainly not that I have grown bored of the magnificent misfits who have stalked these pages. Quite the contrary: to me their bold, blazing otherness is more real, more vital and more inspiring than ever, and I want to honour their stories in another form. That’s all I can say for now, but be aware that in the process some past entries will be disappearing, so if you were ever inclined to delve back into the 740-odd previous posts: now would be a good time.

If you wanted a starting point, the ten most popular posts to date are:

Sissi & Romy (the Austrian Empress and Romy Schneider)
“To know her was to loathe her” (Gala Dalí)
The last Krupp (Arndt von Bohlen und Halbach)
The 12-step Sissi lifestyle plan (the Empress again!)
A Percy Grainger glossary (the Australian composer’s language experiment)
Berenice Abbott | portraits (a gallery of works by the American photographer)
Goddess of the night (Anita Berber)
Boni and the Palais Rose (Boni de Castellane at home in Paris)
Magic acts (the multiple careers of Carl Van Vechten)
Dixie Orlando (the eternal conundrum of Dawn Langley Simmons)

To everyone who has read, subscribed, linked, recommended, tweeted, re-posted, commented or emailed over the last five years: thank you. I would be thrilled to have your company for the next phase. I can’t put it any better than Quentin Crisp (who could?), so I leave you – for now – with his words:

Don’t keep looking into the sky to see what is happening. Embrace the future. All you have to do about the future is what you did about the past. Rely on your curiosity and your courage, and ride through the night.



  1. Such a wonderful resource!
    We look forward to the new phase of Strange Flowers.

  2. Kerry

    Nooooooo! My inbox lives for your posts!!!!!!
    I’m sure what you’ve got planned (book? film? documentary?) will be just as amazing as the blog but I will miss the regular wonderfulness.

  3. I am in total agreement with Kerry. Your blog is one of my daily/weekly joys. Do keep me in your loop!

  4. James why not self publish these in a book so we don’t lose any of these gems. I would be first on line to buy such a book.

  5. You’ve been a great and entertaining teacher and a fabulous resource.I look forward to that next phase..

  6. Mel

    I’m feeling abandoned. I’m joking. (But I’m serious.) I literally feel a draft through my stomach. I don’t know if I’ve ever commented but I’ve read and explored and luxuriated in your wonderful blog for a couple of years now. And whatever it is you’re doing next, I’m sure you’ll do it provocatively and I can’t wait to experience the next iteration. (keep me on file for any updates or announcements).

  7. thombeau

    Congratulations on the past, present, and future. You know I will follow you anywhere and everywhere!

  8. This wonderful Strange Flower has educated me on countless occasions,introducing me to the exotic often neglected most unique Artistes.. and I must thank you for your incredible ability to source rare photographs and historically accurate information that is most often very difficult to find…I love receiving my e-mails. Just like thombeau I too will follow you wherever this may

  9. Andrea

    Dear james thank you for your wonderful blog. I hope you will use all this material in a book may be? Or? Will we discover it soon. Thanks thanks thanks

  10. richard

    Hi James, many thanks for all your great posts. Sure hope you do stick around whatever direction your ideas lead to.
    I’m sure each of us will have their own favourite post/posts. But for me your wonderful 4 parter “Strange Flowers Guide To Berlin” was both a fascinating insight to the personalities of the “bohemian” aspect of Berlin in the Weimar days and a pointer to connections that remain to this day. – My only previous comment was to that post. Anyway, I did make that trip to Berlin. Should have done a follow up but will have a bash now. 🙂 Hope this won’t be too long for a comment.

    Didn’t quite follow in your footsteps (cycle tracks), rather I veered off in pursuit of my own perhaps not so strange flowers at times.
    Went chasing the ghostly shadows of Anita Berber at the Bethanian. Alas, the artists at the collective, with whom I spoke, didn’t seem to have any awareness of Anita. But, to be fair, neither would I have had any real understanding of their art world. I walked through the corridors hoping to find a plaque or anything commemorative but without success. (did I read somewhere that something has been erected since then.) I did find a commemorative plaque at her family home later on.

    After visiting Marlene’s grave I went in search of Valeska Gert’s grave. When I found the right cemetery I asked a woman for help and she replied “No, I don’t think we have any famous dancers here.” Lol. But she took me to the Admin building and the staff were able to point me in the right direction. – I guess most folk would be more inclined to go to see a live dancer. 🙂 But, there you are !

    Along the way I saw Claire Waldoff’s teeth on Friedrichstrasse and nearby is a street named after her. Pleased to have found that (the street) as I don’t think you had mentioned it.

    Lots of other stuff that day. Had some great interactions as I asked for directions/help.
    Thanks for your help, James, with all the info. It was a terrific day. (public transport & walking.) -OK ; it’s your blog, I had better finish.

  11. Madeleine

    We shall follow you as we did in the past and accompany you on the ride through the night ! Bring it on.
    Mwah xx

  12. Thank you all for your highly encouraging comments! They’re greatly appreciated.

  13. You’re bloody amazing. Beautiful writing. Wonderful research. I can’t believe that, after 3 years in Berlin, I’ve only just discovered this blog which would have shown me so many other ways to peruse the city. I want to marry you.

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