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'.


  1. Friko - Happy birthday to Gardener. So pleased he had a reprieve when he roasted your treasured conifers. Hope he has a wonderful meal out with his wife!

  2. Beautiful photos and a fascinating story about your gardener, Friko. It's hard to believe, from his photo, he is younger than my husband, who is right now going out the door to referee football in the snow. I'm hoping the field has been cleared properly, so he doesn't get hurt.
    I can understand your gardener sitting over his tea breaks a little longer. He sounds like a real treasure, and a treat to visit with!
    -- K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

  3. friko - such a fascinating story!! i love a man with a sense of himself and a sense of humour!! steven

  4. What a lovely character portrait, Friko. You are so lucky to have someone who is willing to work hard alongside you in your garden. Happy birthday to your gardener, and I wish him many, many more.

  5. Oh I really enjoyed your tale of Gardener. I do think we have lost so much being so civilized these days. No one knows how to work hard anymore. People nowadays tend to think a life like his is full of misery but look at him. Full of life and humor and still so very capable, if you don't count the fires of course.

  6. I don't know which is more stunning; your pictures or the written portraiture of Gardener! Thank you sharing a bit of his world with me today.

  7. Your gardener could surely feature in a whole novel. Such a fascinating life.

  8. Lovely portrait of a country man, Friko. I would love to hear some of the conversations between you two, and appreciate the bits you shared today - you 'townie from off', you.

    My DH is older than your gardner and looks 15 years younger. The years of hard work do take their toll on the body - but no amount of hard work had removed the glimmer from his eyes!

  9. ha. i hope he has a great birthday and enjoys the night out with you...

  10. Wonderful portrait of "the gardener"-including the photograph of him. I also love the misty photographs--you've captured the atmosphere of such a day brilliantly.

  11. I wish your gardener a wonderful birthday and for you that you may have many more years of working alongside one another. From what I've seen of your property your collaboration is very productive. I'm sure that you will hear all about his celebratory meal out when next you see him.
    Enjoy your Sunday.

  12. Gardener sounds like a delightful man. A happy birthday to him.


  13. an enjoyable read
    send my birthday wishes to him

  14. Happy birthday to Gardener, an amazing man, it so good that you found each other Friko and go about the business of creating something wonderful together.

  15. Rare things search for something alike - surely he's one, down to earth, deeply rooted gentleman.

    Your ability to paint pictures with words is of great joy for the senses of sight and thought.

    Please have you all a good Sunday; and yes, Happy Birthday to him as well.

    daily athens

  16. A happy birthday to Gardener -- and thanks to you both for sharing his story!

  17. I hope Gardener's birthday celebration was all he'd hoped for. Thank you for telling us the stories he related to you - fascinating.

  18. That was indeed a good story. Also many folks see only how hard things are in life and want to blame someone for everything that goes wrong. He sounds like a good worker. My yardman is a great worker too. In trouble for growing illegal plants often, but is worth his good work. Sometimes he is in jail when we need him. LOL

  19. Happy birthday, 'Gardener'! You know, Friko, you could have been describing my grandfather, in part. If he'd lived, he would have been 100 this year. My point is, there is a constant that goes hand in hand with being born and raised in the countryside, and set to work on 'the land'. I don't have many regrets, but I am sad that I had to leave my home village, as a youngster, for an urban landscape.

  20. Happy birthday wishes to Gardener! I hope that he enjoys his celebratory meal.

    Wonderful misty pictures, Friko.

  21. His childhood sounds very like life here and certainly all our boys friends work on the farms and are driving the "farm Car" and the tractor well before they can legally as soon as they reach the peddles properly infact! You have a real gem there!

  22. What a lovely old soul to be part of your life and so nice that you can portray him with such stunning words. These people bump through our life and we pause in awe at their hard work and rough life.

  23. What a wonderful tribute to Gardener. I feel like I've walked into an episode of All Creatures Great and Small.. the gardening version. Happy Birthday to him.

  24. A wonderful portrait of your gardener, Friko, both the photo and the words. Oh how I love his authenticity, a trait that is sorely lacking in our modern world.

  25. Beautiful oral history Friko. His life on your hands is like a polished gem.

  26. Another literary and humanistic gem,
    Friko. Let's hope the Gardener's
    constitution, shaped by nature herself,
    continues to thrive, and that he will
    enjoy many more birthdays in future.
    What a treasure for you, for you seem
    to have a friend as well as employee.
    A nice piece of writing, and a wonderful
    tribute to a man who has earned his
    heaping plate of steaks.

  27. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Gardener. What a treasure. My, but you have a marvelous memory for the details. I would have had to scribble notes, possibly making him nervous and unwilling to chat!

  28. Makes me want to sit down and enjoy the cup of tea and listen to the stories, then watch the garden being tamed. Thanks for the words and the pictures. Evocatively November.

  29. Happy birthday to Gardener. He sounds like a wonderful character to sit down with for tea.

  30. Ohhh. Look at that face.
    Hard physical work makes a good life, I think...although you couldn't prove it by me.

    And your yard looks so dreamy and peaceful.

  31. Your Gardener must be an absolute hoot to be around and a hard worker on top of that! I empathize with those migraines and hope he has not been troubled with them in a long time. I also have a neighbor who would beg to differ regarding "suckling babes" and not getting PG...sure wasn't a guarantee for her!
    Here's to Gardener's Happy Birthday and beautiful roses next year.

  32. Friko, I also want to send Happy Birthday wishes to Gardener. Hoping that his birthday dinner plate will be filled again and again. (That's my version of many happy returns.)

    So, he's just a bit younger than I am. Wish I got tea breaks! Am going to have to look into that. Joking a bit. I am so glad to be strong enough to keep on my feet for 8 or 9 hours. And then there are the stairs....


  33. Thank you for sharing the truest wealth of your England.

    Aloha from Waikiki

    Comfort Spiral



  34. I loved hearing Gardener's story. He looks like a nice man.

  35. So delightful. Didn't want it to end. Would love to sit around a bonfire with him and listen to him tell his stories.

  36. Between you , you've produced a beautiful garden !
    I wish him a belated Happy Birthday and second helpings all round . In fact , I can't see anyone ever turning someone that appreciative away from the carvery .
    (And the word verification was tummum . Blogger has a random generated sense of humour ?)

  37. I enjoyed Gardener – it must be fun talking with him.


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