Saturday, 20 November 2010
A Country Man
It is gardener's 65th birthday tomorrow. It's been a thoroughly cold and dank day, the mist hardly lifted at all across the valley; still, we succeeded in pruning all the rose bushes.
Some needed staking too, the storms last week loosened the roots of several bushes. They suffer tremendously from wind rock and could even die over winter if they are not secured. After pruning they got a good dressing of mulch to soak into the roots. All that cosseting means that we'll have a good show of blooms again next year.
Gardener told us that his missis will take him out for a meal tomorrow, in honour of his birthday. Seeing that she's paying, he plans to go for the best steak they have on the menu. She'll be choosing the pub, if it were left to him, he'd probably go for a 'all-you-can-eat' meal. He remembered a very memorable meal, he said, where he piled his plate so high that he couldn't fit everything he wanted on it. He asked the serving staff "either give me another plate or a bigger one". "When they call it 'all-you-can-eat' then they'll have to give you as much as you can eat". He has a point.
He also likes Sunday Carvery meals, when the choice is limited to one or two roasts, plenty of vegetables and one of these large, stodgy puddings like spotted dick or treacle tart.
"The turkey was massive", he said, " the chap gave me seconds once. I went back and said that I hadn't any meat left to go with my vegetables". He added, for good measure, " I likes a big dinner".
Gardener is one of fifteen children, seven brothers and seven sisters. I asked "one every year?"
"No, he said, "they left proper gaps, eighteen months for the first eight or nine, more later". Poor Woman. There was also at least one still birth. Gardener then went into a monologue on how suckling mothers don't fall pregnant, "she should have kept us all on the tittie for longer", he giggled. Gardener is a great one for laughing, there is humour in every kind of situation for him.
As a small child he suffered with serious migraines. "I was teacher's pet" he said, "I remember that I sat on her lap in class when she was reading stories". He continued, "she could tell when I was feeling poorly and she'd sit me on the floor in a corner, because I was bound to be very sick in a bucket before I felt better again. Then she let me sit on her lap and I'd go to sleep".
He and his brothers used to run the first 1 1/2 miles to school across the fields. They then picked up a mini school bus which took them to the nearest town. The driver was a lady whose little daughter sat on the single seat right in front, nearest her mother.
"She was a nasty little girl", he said, "Priscilla, her name was. Stuck-up she was. She used to turn round and poke her tongue out at us. So, when we got off the bus, we always gave her a little tap".
Then, with one of his laughs, "she only went and married my eldest brother", he said, " she was fifteen years younger than him. He divorced her again ", he said, gleefully, "we could have told him it wouldn't work".
Gardener left school at fourteen and went "on the land". From the stories he tells, his life must have been very hard. He doesn't see it that way. He agrees that he has always worked very hard, from when he was a small boy, even before he left school. Country children work with livestock and in the fields almost from the day they learn to walk.
Gardener is tough and weather beaten, he does the work of two men, although he has lately taken to sit over his tea breaks for a little longer than he used to. I am happy that he should do so, under strict supervision and with a tight rein on his bonfire sessions, he is still worth his weight in gold and a mine of information on genuine country life. He is also willing to put up with us in spite of being townies from 'off'.