Yes, it’s old gardener!
Making sense of what has turned into an overgrown jungle.
Paul, new gardener, has been busy doing his own thing.
What with arts and crafts, the odd bit of malaise of one sort or another,
his proclivity for doing himself accidental injury,
and summer visitors,
he’s cried off many a Tuesday morning, his day for labouring in my garden.
So I took my courage in both hands,
and rang old gardener’s number.
Sure enough, the dreaded dragon, old gardener’s wife answered.
Being a dyed in the wool coward and ever so careful,
I didn’t give her my name, just asked if I could speak to her husband.
(She’d been the main reason for him dumping me.)
He was in, came to the phone and greeted me like a long lost friend.
(Oh dear, watch it, the missus might not like it!)
It’s not that she doesn’t like me personally - at least. I don’t think she does -
but she wanted him to cut back on work.
As I had stupidly told her how much we like and appreciate him,
I was the obvious candidate for discarding.
I had the impression at the time that she’s not overly keen on him enjoying what he does.
"Please, could you come and do the edges", I wheedled.
“Nobody does them like you.”
“the garden’s totally overgrown, I need you.
Maybe two or three mornings a months,
"The other chap can do all the hard work, like composting, and digging, and such.
If you’d come and do the weeding and cut the edges,
I’d be ever so grateful."
He chuckled. He likes flattery.
I carried on telling him all the jobs he’d not need to do, like cutting hedges,
replanting shrubs, clearing paths, lugging stones and pots, climbing up ladders.
“Just maybe two or maybe three mornings?”
“Alright”, he said, “I can do Thursdays”
we’ll see how it goes.”
After I’d had to screw up my courage and tell myself not to be a pathetic wuss,
and what could she say other than “on your bike, dear”!
It was as easy as that.
I know that he’s secretly nervous about her moods and her sharp tongue.
He’s also bored by inactivity and despite his 71 years he’s an active man,
who likes to work and takes pride in what he does. So, we’re off.
He’s already given me two mornings, making a great difference;
also, I’ve enjoyed being out with him.
We’ve got a very easy working relationship and we joke and tease and curse
those damned weeds and getting stung by nettles and entangled with long rose tendrils,
and ripped to shreds by vicious thorns.
It’s all in a morning’s work, and the best thing is that we have tea breaks!
Tea breaks, when, with a little gentle encouragement, I can guide him towards those gardener’s tales again.
I shall keep Paul on too. Between the two of them, I hope to get as much work done in a week as old gardener did by himself, when he still came for eight hours
and worked like two men. It’ll cost more, but “there are no pockets in shrouds”, and it makes me happy to restore my garden to its former glory.
I had lost interest, because I simply can ’t work as hard as I once did and seeing
Enchanter’s Nightshade (in spite of it’s divine name it’s an evil weed with an insidious,
delicate white root system) colonise my precious flower beds makes me helplessly cross.
“Well, it’s not too bad”, says old gardener.
“I thought it’d be worse; sure, you’ve got weeds growing
everywhere, but it’s not too untidy at all."