Saturday, 10 March 2012
Look Who's Back!
This is Gardener trying to make sense out of a rambling rose gone completely wild and unmanageable. He ended up with a large heap of razor-sharp prunings, and, true to himself, he piled them up just outside the nearest garden gate, on land which is technically the property of the Duke of Norfolk, leased to English Heritage. True, nobody but us goes there, and we tend to look at this short bank, which goes down into the moat alongside our holly hedge, as very much an extension to the garden. Being Shropshire born and bred, and a true country labouring man, Gardener is no respecter of persons, and if a plot of land is useful, well then, he uses it.
Today was his first day back since last June, when he had a heart attack just after he finished working very hard for our summer garden opening. Since then I haven't felt like doing much myself; without him it just isn't the same, and although I've had other people come in for some of the big jobs, they've just stood there, arms hanging limply, waiting for instructions. I simply don't feel like training anyone else; working with Gardener is a great joy, we bicker and argue, he never listens to a word I say and always does as he sees fit. Secretly, he has taken a lot of my knowledge of gardening to heart, he has learned to treat plants with respect and I can usually trust him to keep any damage he does within acceptable limits. I was so happy to see him this morning I gave him a big hug, which made him feel quite uncomfortable. Although I call him by his first name, I am Mrs. W. to him, and his employer to boot, and hugging is not for the likes of us, according to him.
We did three hours; he tamed and tied in the rose, which is looking very sorry and spindly now. He said it didn't matter and that next year (!) we could prune out the rest of the ancient stems. Will we both still be around, and will we both still be working this garden?
I am very fond of Gardener and I know that beneath his flippant, sometimes rude and off-hand and anti-authoritarian manner beats a heart of true gold. He can also be quite soppy, particularly when he talks about his little dog, but I've never before seen him come close to crying. His sixty-two year old brother died of Leukaemia two weeks ago and he told us that he missed seeing him off because his sister chose to go on the day he had planned to visit. The brother had been hanging on in the hospice for weeks and weeks and all the siblings, seven sisters and six brothers, had been hoping the end would come. Gardener said: "He used to lie on his back and just stare at the ceiling. My sister said to him 'close your eyes, Geoffrey, and go and see Mum and Dad.'" Gardener's face crumpled, he sniffed and brought out his large countryman's handkerchief to wipe his damp eyes. "So he did" he said, " and he just went, there and then." And then Gardener finished his mug of tea, got up, and said "right, let's get on with it."
We have another date for next week. I might even feel inspired to do a few jobs around the garden by myself before then. No compost turning, mind!