Hints & Tips
“Well now”, (as my maternal Grandmother used to say) “Flipping Nora” (as she didn’t) just as my new found enthusiasm for hard work in the garden began to inspire me last week and I seriously got down to getting my hands dirty (well my Cath Kidston gardening gloves at least) just as I was about to really put my back into it, the phone rang and my friends Alby and Marie asked me down to their lovely West Country home for the weekend. Bother. Actually, that’s not quite true. I was putting it off. I had become rather miserable about the amount of work I needed to do and this was an excuse to get away. So I decided Alby and Marie really did need me to drive down, eat some of Marie’s amazing cooking, including lovely home grown vegetables and drink some superb home made cider and wine from the far reaches of France so I had to go.
A and M live in lovely, lush Devon, which is the official rain capital of England and generally wet as an Otter’s pocket, but, as it happened, we had at least two days of decent sunshine and benevolent evenings before the H2O really hit the roof and I was able to enjoy their beautiful garden with it’s amazing view (it basically heads stoically upwards until it becomes the top of a hill and looks out over a stunning valley.) It’s hard to be miserable there and they are such lovely, welcoming people.
What really impresses me is how much building, landscaping and gardening work they do. Their garden is an admirable mixture of amiable wilderness, outdoor office , adventure playground and working vegetable store and their house is a gorgeous classic, Devonian, cob-structured dream of a place that has had a lot of love lavished on it over the years – and it shows. They are always improving and working on either the house and the garden and while I was there were already starting on a terraced lawn and barbecue area with the help of an impressive array of gear. Alby likes his machines, and tends to buy well, with his sensible attitude of ‘spend the money, buy the best and it will last’, so they had cut back the lawn with their Hayter Motif, tamed the hedge with a Stihl hedgetrimmer and were busy lugging great quantities of earth around in a big trailer attached to their Murray Garden Tractor. It is early days yet but I have no doubt, knowing them, that by the time they have finished the whole area will look like the hanging gardens of Babylon.
Of course, you can’t find a bus when you need one, the local shops are pretty basic and teenagers have often got not much more to do than hang out by the churchyard with cans of scary looking alcohol in their hands but it’s all a trade-off in the end is it not?
And it’s not exactly peculiar to the West Country. It’s the same countrywide.
It got me thinking as I sat out in the garden, idly chatting to Marie with a cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc in one hand and a home made scone in the other, that I really should plan my own London garden more. It’s all very well having a pond, a lawn and a couple of hedges and leaving it at that, but I should be more adventurous. What about some levels, some texture, some fun? And then I started to get maudlin about London. “Is it that amazing?” I thought, “Is it that good a place to live? It can be too busy, fast, soul-less, perhaps I should move down here.” I thought. “Take on a project, buy a ‘fixer-upper’ with a wild garden.” as those Americans say and really get down to creating something amazing in a rural idyll.
And that’s when the rain started. Torrents of it, bucketfuls of it, rain of biblical, armagedonian proportions and my thoughts turned to my cozy dry London flat and to how easy it is to get a taxi, a pizza or catch the latest movie and how I might dream of being Capability Brown but I am neither that capable or, after a week in Britain, that brown, and how I’m not really miserable but more lazy and doing the old ‘grass is greener’ trick (actually their grass really is greener) and needed another break, which I have now had, and so after another very enjoyable day of being with my lovely friends I thought, “It’s time to scuttle back up to London – by boat probably looking at the rain – and plan properly for early autumn.” No grand designs, just vital work. Watch this space. See Ya. Holly.