Thursday, 19 September 2013

Self-Preservation Or How To Please All Of The People

“I told them I’d be backup.”

Gardener and I had been hard at it all morning lifting and lopping tree branches to let more light into the garden and also to incorporate the pretty views outside the hedges into the picture inside. Borrowing the scenery comes free.

He looked over the wall into the square and saw the town hall clock showing the wrong time, as it usually does. Valley’s End follows its own time schedule. “We do things our way and we’ll have nobody from off interfering in our business, thank you very much”, is the friendly advice newcomers receive from the ur-inhabitants.

That doesn’t mean that said ur-inhabitants actually do very much. They are happy to leave town council and parish business to more recent incomers and if it weren’t for the latter, the town would have collapsed into a picturesque ruin long ago.

But back to gardener and the town hall.

“Do they do anything there now?”, he asked.

“They certainly do, it’s an interesting little museum exhibiting local history artefacts,” I said. In common with many other incomers, in previous years, both Beloved and I did stints as guides and brochure sellers on several days during the summer in the slightly dusty two-room museum.  In years gone by the town hall also served as the lock-up, but that really was a long time ago.

“Forty year ago, when I were a lad, they had dances there on a Saturday.  And all the lads from over Knighton way (in Wales) and the Castle (Bishop’s Castle - the next little town up the road) come over, looking for a fight. And when the Irish lads from Telford come, there was real trouble.” Gardener giggled his infectious, gleeful giggle, remembering the good old days. Then, just for a moment, he was serious.

“There were gangs in them days, all the lads from the same town and the villages along the valley belonged to their gang;  and if you didn’t fight in your gang, you’d be called a coward. It wasn’t nice to be a coward; on the farms and in the towns they’d know you for it.” Gardener looked at me sideways, a crafty expression in his eyes. His small, wiry person all of a sudden seemed to be ducking and diving.

“So I’d usually stay at the back, a look-out like, and when the lads at the front had done fighting, and the police was on their way, I’d scarper like. Nobody could call me a coward for that. I’d kept their backs.”

He giggled again, quite proud of himself.
Then he sat down on the low wall around the half moon flower border, clearing his throat before taking another drag on his cigarette.

“Haven’t you forgotten to tell me something?” He exhaled through his nose and peered at me.

“Have I?” I was fidgeting a bit. A bad conscience makes cowards of us all.

“Where’s the ivy gone?”

“Ivy? What ivy?”

“On the stump.”

“Ah, that ivy.”

“So you got somebody for that, did you?”

I’d been pointing out to him for a year or more that
the ivy on the stump was swallowing and killing my
‘Wedding Day’, a beautiful climbing rose and
that I wanted it freed and the ivy trimmed back.

Lately, gardener has shown himself unwilling to do
much climbing himself. So I took a deep breath and
went behind his back to Paul, whom I had been considering as a possible replacement for Gardener.

As you can see, Paul did the job.

Gardener grudgingly admitted that whoever had done it, had made a good job of it. What he doesn’t know is that Paul has since done various other jobs for me and that he might become a regular over time.

Which means that I’ve gone from half a gardener to two gardeners in the space of a month. Because of Gardener’s long illness and absence a lot of work has been left undone and, for the time being, I’m going to let both of them come, on separate days of the week, to catch up. Paul is tinkering around the edges while Gardener is doing jobs he had earmarked for a long time.

I’m hoping that I’ll get away with it until the weather stops work anyway. If not, I’m in trouble.
Perhaps I could call Paul ‘gardener’s backup’?


  1. This is the fairest and most gentle way to do this and I think you are wise for it. I am sure the gardener is not happy with his gradual inability to do what he has always done. But we cannot expect people to look away and accept half a job.

  2. No, you won't get away with it.

    Gardener clearly knows all about it so it will be up to him to take umbrage or get along with it.

    And you thought as the employer you had the upper hand.....?

  3. I think you are handling this quite well - and I'm sure Gardener appreciates your admiration for him... as you must, as you would otherwise have just replaced him. ;)

  4. Good luck. Hopefully Gardener will turn a blind eye to it. I am sure that the fly in the web is right and he does know about it, and hope that he decides to accept it graciously.

  5. Gardener better not find out or you are going to be in a heap of trouble. Two gardeners! I don’t think we could even use half a one here in our little rain forest. It is nice though here, all green, and just the little wild animals. But I go to gardens near home and enjoy them (as the one in my current post.)

  6. Gardener might be hurt/annoyed but he knows his limitations and could welcome the extra help.

  7. No fistacuffs! Thanks for passing along the sociology info. . . .

    ALOHA from Honolulu
    Comfort Spiral
    =^..^= <3

  8. I like the idea of "borrowed scenery" which is used a lot in Japanese Gardens. Perhaps my own garden has that element, too, though it is mostly a wild jumble. I've called my irrigation guy twice to come blow out my irrigation lines because our temps are hovering around freezing now. I can't seem to get a reply, so wish I had at least one of your gardeners to help!

  9. I think you and Gardener have a good relationship and understanding of each other. He will know what you are up and it's my guess he will appreciate it.

  10. Impossible to please everyone anyway, isn't it, but as long as you introduce Gardener No. 2 so gently to Gardener No. 1 (and Gardener No. 1 knows that he was ill and absent for a long time, and he also knows that he won't get any younger and stronger over the years), it should all go well without unduly hurting anyone's feelings.

  11. mooi hoor ik doe het je nog niet na.

  12. Uh oh! Best of luck with that one. But you can only do your best and clearly that is what you are doing. Fingers crossed for you:)

  13. Seems to me like you are doing this the right way. I think you should keep Gardener 1 and 2 and use olde gardener for light jobs and everything else to Gardner 2. I think they might even like each other. I think you are doing it the right way - and also I think Gardener 1 is full of old stories and who better than you Friko to share them with :)

  14. I think you are doing the right thing here Friko and I am sure the gardener will be appreciative

  15. I sure hope he takes kindly to "backup"!

  16. Difficult ... when I retired from the playschool , however glad I was to be able to put my feet up , I hated leaving "my" children to someone else . But , of course , they survived and thrived without me and I'm delighted that my successor is ... nearly ... as good as me !
    Gardener will certainly have heard all about the new arrangement from the village so it's probably time to explain that you've decided to "farm out" some of the jobs that are now too heavy for you both so that the two of you can concentrate on the creative side . He might snort but he'll understand .

  17. The way things are going, Gardener may be Paul's backup. Tough to admit, but every gardener knows the time comes when we have to admit something is past its prime even the oldest tree in the garden. Time waits for no man, as Gardener indicates when he remembers his youth. I tell my granddaughters to enjoy the ages they are at present because life goes by in a twinkling. Dianne

  18. Dear Friko, "gardener's backup" sounds good as does "gardener's helper or intern or associate." Whatever term you use when Gardener #1 first notices more than just the ivy needs to be one that will assuage his sense that he's no longer pulling his full weight in the garden. But then you've always, always, been gentle with his feelings and appreciated his worth and understood that his age and health are catching up with him. Peace.

  19. Gardener's tales are always welcome.

    Good luck with the Gardener Dance!

  20. A delicate situation well handled I think.

    I wish I could borrow scenery - gardens on this (50yr old) estate are small and back onto each other. However, if I lived eight doors down, my garden would side onto a wonderful (hilly) park area fashioned from the tips of long closed collieries, which, apart from a few 'mown' areas aside the pathway, are freely returned to nature. So I guess I am not that bad off.

    Anna :o]

  21. Hopefully, Friko, the gardener and his 'backup' are from the same town and not from different town gangs... (from their youth)

  22. Nice job Paul did. I hope they can both come and peace will reign. ;)

  23. Ooh, that's tough. But I think you're handling it well. And after all, you DO need to have the work done.

  24. Transitioning is usually fraught with some sort of drama....and a need to tread softly - sounds like you have done that well. And your gardens are benefiting from the attention of both Gardener and Paul.

  25. Can you diplomatically have them both on the same day so that Gardener can get a sense of his replacement and perhaps offer advice? And Paul can get a sense of Gardener's pride in his work and his reluctance to step back? Sometimes having a young pup around gives new life to an old dog...

  26. Hi Friko, thank you for visiting the Chickens Consigliere and for commenting. I love your header and wish you the best of luck with this situation. So far, so good, I think:-)

  27. Hi Friko - now I wish I'd paid more attention to the garden and have spotted said dethroned ivy .. but you have a knack of handling Gardener, and I'm sure he'll be pleased to know he's still needed ... despite the back up.

    The little town sounds like it has an interesting history .. in a beautiful situation in your Shropshire hills ... I've always wondered what it was like, after the story of Much Wenlock and the good doctor getting all his 'parishioners' into the good outdoors, competing against each other ...

    Cheers - the garden though is just lovely - the autumn colours will be glorious .. Hilary

  28. A ticklish process, this transition, and I think you are handling it well. Gardener must know he can't do everything now, but this way he gets to keep his pride in his work.

    I love his stories of the old days, though I wouldn't have wanted to live like that, and concur with you that if it weren't for the incomers little would get done in many towns and villages on both sides of Offa's Dyke.

  29. ah -- that makes a good deal of sense, having two gardeners... one who does it right and now and one who is just part of your life, shares a good tale and perhaps does only what he can. I know however it will work out, you will find the way to make it work out right. Doing it right -- I think that's just what you will do.


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