I love a good sign.
It is dark and miserable outside. I am grey and miserable inside.
But yesterday this fabulous acacia was bright and joyful.
Thank goodness for memories.
Do not be fooled by the innocent blue sky. It was blowing ice. But at least it wasn’t raining. For a couple of hours this afternoon anyway, this morning was a stinker. I’ll take that. Small mercies.
Many years ago, when I was still afraid of my own shadow, I accompanied my OH to a posh event in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Some of his discoveries were being displayed in an exhibition, he had been invited to the opening night and I was his Plus One. Of course, it was not just we two. There was a veritable plethora of historians, archaeologists and other non-specific museum types, all in their best bib and tucker looking like scary grown-ups who knew all the answers. After a short while of silently (on my part) mingling, OH excused himself and left me “rabbit in the headlights” within the throng. In the short time that he was away several people approached me, I was after all a lone young woman in her early twenties. In an attempt to strike up a conversation, their opening gambit was without fail “what do you do?”, “I’m a secretary” I replied. I might well have said I assassinated intellectuals. To a man, they hurriedly made their excuses and dashed off leaving me befuddled and embarrassed. In way of compensation, some might say over-, I proceeded to eat fist fulls of canapes and guzzle the free plonk. It comforted. There was however a saviour in the midst, and I will never forget his kindness. He was perhaps the most distinguished person in the room, a man of great knowledge and an expert in his field. I had met him previously when he had been in Bristol to visit one of OH’s digs. Seeing me marooned in a unfriendly ocean, he took me under his wing. He talked to me at length, explaining to me the significance of some of the displays, involved me in proceedings and, most importantly to me at that time, treated me with the respect that I, and all people, deserve.
A couple of years ago I met a friend at RHS Rosemoor, who to spare her blushes will remain anonymous. OK I will give you a clue …. “TT”. Yes, you’ve got it. I had brought my lovely neighbour along for the ride as she had never been to the garden before and was keen to visit. Chatting over tea and cake, possibly before we had even set off around the garden, TT had been reminiscing about her days as a radiographer. My friend, ever inclusive, turned to ask my neighbour if she worked. “Oh” she said “I am just a nursing assistant at the hospital”. Without pausing for breath, she was swiftly corrected “Never say you are just a nursing assistant! A good NA is worth their weight in gold and the whole system would collapse without them. It is a job to be proud of.” My heart swelled with pride. My neighbour relaxed, there was no hierarchy here. She had been shown the respect she deserved.
Today I came upon a conversation on Twitter that suggested that to presume a woman was a secretary was demeaning. It rankled. As gardeners we are often patronised, dismissed as mere muddy frippery. Which also rankles.
Surely we all deserve a little respect, whatever we do to eke out a living on this troubled planet.
True phone conversation earlier today:
Mum: Oh, before you go I have been meaning to ask you something. I’ve nearly run out of my turmeric tablets, I was wondering if I should get some more, but I can’t remember what I take them for.
Me: Is this a joke?
Me: You take them to help with your memory.
Another white feather. I’m being followed. In the best possible way.
I mustn’t get cocky though. That could be my downfall. We wouldn’t want the feathers to turn black.
Don’t be my friend, it is dangerous. I just can’t help but share.
This morning my phone rang, it was Hero. Laughing. What a nice surprise. Although perhaps a little disturbing. “I thought I’d ring and give you a giggle”, “OK” I said, never one to turn down the opportunity for a chortle, “I’m stuck”, “How, why, where and how again?”, “I tried to get up the hill to the garden but started slipping backwards, so I thought I would carefully, and in full control of the car, reverse back down. I ended up 1cm from Peter’s wall and I can’t go forward and I can’t go backwards and I’ve blocked the road”, “Oh dear”, more manic laughter, “I’m shaking”, “Do you need to go to the loo?”, “Well I didn’t until you mentioned it, I suppose at least it would melt the ice”.
Several years ago we were driving to work in similarly icy conditions and had ourselves an incident. On that occasion we had a close encounter with a dry stone wall. The day before I had filled a bucket with grit from the silo opposite the garden and used this to help us get out. Let me mention two things at this juncture, first of all this is the only time I have knowingly done anything sensible, secondly you are not supposed to “half inch” this grit and if anyone reports me to the authorities I will deny it and this blog will spontaneously combust. I suppose breaking the law isn’t very sensible. Disregard the first. But I had learned from this experience.
“Have you got any grit in the car?”, “No but I can see a container just up the hill and I think I’ve got a carrier bag somewhere, the problem is that it is too slippy to get out of the car. Actually, if I walk up the narrow grass verge I might make it, I’ll call you back”, “If you fall over aim to land on your bottom”. Always ready with a top tip.
Time passes. I imagine broken limbs, a severely bruised behind. My phone rings.
“I managed to get there and back, scattered the grit and now I’m waiting for the thaw”, “Shall we come over?”, “Then we will both be stuck”, “OK, shall I send a drone with a bacon butty for you”, “You could send a man in a helicopter to climb down a rope ladder”, “I’ll see if I can find his number, call me when you are free”. I was left wondering if she wanted to be rescued by Helicopter Man or just have him deliver the sandwich.
Time passes. I imagine a painfully swollen bladder. I message her.
“I’m home now, some nice people who had been walking on the beach found me, the man managed to get the car out of its tricky predicament, all is well.”
Once more the kindness of strangers. There is a lot of it about.
Later she popped around for a cup of tea and a couple of ginger nuts. She seemed relatively unscathed. Still laughing.