In our garden there is a peony bush that produces the most spectacularly gorgeous flowers. Every year its vivid crimson globes suddenly open to reveal lush and luxurious masses of petals. It is a thing of great beauty and always a joy to behold. But every year it is subject to what I call the iron law of peonies. Its flowers are delicate and the petals are easily dislodged and, sure enough, every year, just after the peony has bloomed, wet and windy weather comes along, ravaging the flower heads and scattering the petals. Today, oily black clouds hovered over the city as if drawn by a cartoonist and when I got back home the bad weather had done its work and the ephemeral beauty of the peonies was over for another year.