Where the hell have I been? That’s the question. Wherefore the pub shed? The wankery of brussel sprouts? And what happened to my garden?
I wrote the following post a while back. A year ago, in fact. Just as escalating building work, a farcical amount of scaffolding, and the small matter of having a baby stopped me from getting into the garden altogether. But another spring rolls on round, the tiny maniac is asleep, and my laptop is finally open. Shall we try this again?
The garden is mocking me. I stand in the only shaft of light to have made it through the tangle of silver birch, willow and holly overhead. A chiffchaff calls. A breeze rustles the 6ft wall of nettles surrounding me, and I experience a moment of… total and utter despair. Bloody nature. It’s gone feral. Our new garden is beyond overgrown. Heart of Darkness. Manderlay. The Lost Gardens of Heligan. They have nothing on this sub tropical nemesis I now call home. (Albeit on a slightly more suburban scale.)
How has this happened? How have we ended up here, instead of the 2-bed London basement flat we called home?
All I can say is, life has a dubious sense of humour.
A little while ago everything went tits up. Tim’s business reached its end… and so did I. Bloody advertising. The travel and the hours and the politics and the pressure and the scramble for awards and recognition and ‘success’ – the utter brutal nonsense of it all – finally took its toll. I burnt out. Lie-on-the-floor-in-a-ball burnout. It isn’t pretty. We are both flattened and lost and in the wrong place.
So we do the grown up thing: we run away, arms flailing. Sell the flat. Cut our ties. Throw everything into the air and land here, in this untamed garden by the sea. We are both bruised. Battle worn and homesick. But not defeated. On the contrary. There is healing to be found here.
I break concrete with a sledgehammer. Saw great trunks of holly. Rip ivy and bindweed from the ground with my hands. I hack and I tear and I cut away. Find light and fight like hell to let it in.
I feel better than I have in months. We both do. Because under the mess, beneath the neglect, amidst the tangle and confusion and disarray lie hidden treasures. An apple tree, leaning, half strangled with ivy and in need of attention, but a lovely old apple tree with life in it yet. Lilac. Rambling rose. Long forgotten alpine strawberries. A currant of some description. Periwinkle, passion fruit, and copper beech; white weigela, euphorbia, enormous mock castors, verbena and montbretia. A rosemary bush. Bluebells and three-cornered leeks. Everything needs saving. Everything needs sun. Everything needs a second chance.
I disappear into nature. To the quiet and the rain and the small everyday battle of my will against the garden’s. As I write, there is a layer of soil beneath my fingernails that no amount of nail varnish can hide. I have torn open my thumb on a rose, and am sporting the type of dodgy quiff that can only be achieved by sweating profusely beneath the peak of a trucker cap. But do I care? Not one bit, it turns out.
For a long time I lived in a world of immediate results. This garden will take time. Far more than I’m comfortable with or used to. There is so much to do. So much to plan and dig and plant. But there is also a cuckoo calling in the woods behind me.
Perhaps I will sit and listen a while.