In these wintry days, it’s only too easy to call Shakespeare’s take on February to mind. In ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ Don Pedro says to Benedick : “Why, what’s the matter that you have such a February face, so full of frost, of storm and cloudiness?”
Today the valley had a Sunday face, full of bright skies and sunshine, not a storm cloud anywhere. I decided it was time to walk around the garden to look for signs of spring. And I found some:
the first buds of hellebores
a golden carpet of aconites under the trees
the splendid tendrils of the hamamelis
and unforced rhubarb shooting in the fruit garden.
Paul is once again out of action and will remain so for several weeks more; he had to have a carpal tunnel operation, so no accident this time. Which is progress of a sort, I suppose. There are a number of jobs which need doing before spring is here, the compost heaps need turning, a climbing rose needs moving and a pile of wood needs chopping and burning or taking away for firewood. I have heard nothing from old Gardener for months now, I doubt that he’ll return, which meant gardener number three had to be found and interviewed.
The first thing Jon said was “I have been suffering with my back for the past three weeks; paid a fortune to a chiropodist so I don’t want to put it out again with lots of digging”. Eh? What is it with me and gardeners? How come I only attract the ailing and accident prone kind?
Anyway, Jon took a look at the jobs and I assured him that he could take his time over the digging. That is, until he told me his hourly rate: one and a half times the rate I pay Paul and nearly twice what I paid old Gardener.
I am happy to pay a living wage for the hard or unpleasant work I ask people to do for me. Jon looked at me sideways when he mentioned the rate, not fully turning and looking me in the face, but swivelling his eyes in a ‘let’s see how she reacts’ kind of way; he mumbled something about that being the rate most people asked round here and he was going to do the same in the coming year with all his clients.
I felt both annoyed with him and sorry for him at the same time, but kept my face perfectly straight. Why do I feel embarrassed when people treat me like a fool? I need the work done now. It means that when Paul gets back he can carry on with current tasks rather than spend time on jobs which are a bit beyond him anyway. Jon appears to be a nice chap, he seemed grateful when I accepted his demand. Some acquaintances in the village employ him, so he comes recommended. But he is an unskilled labourer, not a trained gardener; I will pay him what he asks but he will have to work for it.