Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gone gardening

Remember Margot (Penelope Keith) in The Good Life? She who used to "garden" in a wide-brimmed hat and gloves, carrying a trug? I never look like that. At least I don't think I do. I've never actually checked because I don't give a damn what I look like when I'm gardening. The priorities are ease of movement, freedom from concern with tearing and muddying, and protection - from the elements and from the garden itself.
The current ensemble de jour is an unpleasant blue t-shirt that lost its shape after the first wash, a pair of trackpants that long ago gave up the fight to stay black and which are tucked into flowery No1 Shoe Warehouse gumboots, and black canvas and rubber gloves. If the sun is shining, add a thick layer of sunscreen on all exposed parts, and a kahki brimmed hat that looks as if it should be protecting the balding head of an angler. Dressed like this I can accomplish almost anything.
I often have to. "Garden" is a euphemism for a patch of hillside bush, to which  my basic approach is slash, pull and chop. This has to be done at least twice a year at the macro level unless I want the greenery to engulf the house. Amidst this, I tend two or three little spots of dug earth that I fondly think of as beds, and where every summer I even plonk a few annuals. My annuals of choice are usually Crystal Palace lobelia, if I can get it, and dwarf cosmos, as much for their ferny foliage as for their shining white faces.

I often drift outside to inspect these little outposts of civilisation during the course of the day. Within seconds, I'm getting earth under my nails and collecting dirt and biddybids on whatever non-gardening clothes I'm wearing. My favourite activity during a long telephone call is digging the moss, dandylion and baby dock from between the bricks that form the terrace at the front of house. Conversing while bent double has an odd effect on the voice, but most people are too polite to ask what the hell it is I'm doing.
I always wear long pants outside, to avoid the mosquitos and numerous scratchy things that lurk in the undergrowth. In winter, my arms will also be well-covered but in summer it's just too hot. Consequently I went to tango on Sunday night looking as if I'd barely survived a dog attack.
The freedom I feel when I launch a planned assualt and dress for it is exhilerating, empowering. It's true, what feminists have always said - we dress boys and men for action, girls and women for being looked at. There's lot more to be said on this topic. But not by me, not now - I'm off to work in the garden.

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