Les jardin des mille memoires – The garden of a thousand memories, my once a week domain where I undertake maintenance of my late father’s flora and fauna.
It’s a place where over the thirty years the old man built a sturdy retaining wall out of Yorkshire stone, along with lovingly tendering borders of hardy perennials and bedding plants. The wall so robust that, despite being built one score and ten summers ago, during a recent pressure wash not one drop of masonry or mortar was displaced.
It’s barely Hadrian’s Wall (or Adrian’s Wall as the old man would call in his dulcet Yorkshire tones). Nevertheless, though, an important family memory from the legacies he left behind.
This the first summer since his passing has seen me take charge of all horticultural logistics/decisions. When I say full autonomy with all things flora and fauna that isn’t strictly correct. My mum (Maggie) who, throughout 57 years marriage, left all the gardening down to my dad (Mally), does occasionally chip in with unhelpful suggestions she’s seen in the reader’s letters section of Old People Are Great magazine.
Maggie doesn’t subscribe to the magazine, she bought last months copy as it was published with a free ear trumpet, along with an article about the World Doddering Championships in Eastbourne. Her interest in the competition borne from the fact Leeds man Terence ‘The Barrier’ Herkfelt convincingly reigned victorious over dodders from around the globe.
The scoring mechanism for these participants in their dotage was simple – The winner was the competitor receiving the most abuse from frustrated members of the public delayed by strolling in their wake.
Herkfelt, a veteran at being a veteran, won comfortably after receiving double the number of curses from the public for his accomplished slow walking and deliberate waywardness.
Anyhow, back to the unhelpful gardening tips my mum acquired from Old People Are Great magazine.
She didn’t go through the long list of readers advocacies, however the one’s she did cascade all seemed to me as unscientific old wives tales. Gems such as ‘Ne’er plant your bedding plants until you see a crow’ and ‘If the crow’s are nesting on the lowest branch it’s a sign of a rainy summer, or that they’re suffering from vertigo’.
Maggie isn’t ordinarily a fan of old wives tales, but she did subscribe to a reader’s adage of ‘If reindeer are in your garden, it’s too late to plant your tulips’. A thing she made sure I was aware of prior to starting the garden maintenance. This nonsense mattered not, though, as there weren’t any reindeer in my old man’s garden and even if there had been I wasn’t planning to plant tulips today.
I’m not an overly spiritual man, but I had a moment today where my wife Karen, who is far more in touch with her Doris Stokes side, believes my dad attempted to contact me. An incident that occurred while planting begonias into two large tubs at the front of the home.
Sitting this morning on their doorstep the Sinatra song ‘Where are you’ playing in my cranial jukebox – The beautiful melancholic refrain I played while stroking his head in an attempt to comfort him in the last few hours of his life.
My dad was a stickler, almost to the point of OCD, for routine – When I took the decision to place the first tub completed on the door step, as opposed to the usual lower concrete area, a container of fertiliser pellets tippled over beside me.
Although coincidentally occurring while I was thinking of that song played for my moribund father, I took the container’s fall to be the consequence of me inadvertently catching it with my foot.
However Karen begged to differ, insisting it was Mally expressing his displeasure at my upsetting of the status quo by placing a tub of bedding plants in a place outside of routine.
I don’t agree, however I thought I’d mention it anyway. Personally I feel it’s about as unlikely to happen as a reindeer turning up in his garden when I finally get around to planting the tulip bulbs!