Nowadays I spend my days writing, drawing, driving and chatting. Such is the flabby life of the garden designer/journalist: I do physically garden but generally only for myself and only in my own garden. I have not been employed to wield a purposeful spade for quite a few years.
However, it was not always thus.
A decade or so ago I was mostly a manual labourer. Every day I wore muddy boots and drove a pick-up truck. I shovelled stuff, dug holes, hauled paving stones and laid bricks. My hands were pleasantly calloused and you could bounce a coin upon my abdominal muscles.
I had a lot of delightful clients in whose gardens I passed many happy days.
One of the most important moments was, obviously, tea breaks. Most clients provided tea at various points during the day.
One brought out tea wearing not nearly enough clothes. Her biscuits were very plain.
Occasionally they just left the kitchen door open – a generally successful option except for the day when my dog (a charming animal called Wilson who I bought, for £8, from a stall in Shepherds Bush Market) decided that it was wet outside and he would be much more comfortable curled up in the middle of the clients’ large, white bed.
He looked terribly comfortable but the cleaning bill for a King Size Damask Bedspread rather knackered the profit for that job.
I have always judged my clients (as every workman does) on the state of their biscuits.
A rich tea was seldom enough.
A Penguin was tantamount to a inappropriate advance.
A chocolate digestive ensured that we cleared away all the rubbish.
A Trio meant that we were prepared to turn the Radio down.*
The very best was a client in Dulwich, South East London. I can still (if I close my eyes and float away) remember eating plain chocolate Bahlsen biscuits in her garden. It was damp, cold and my hands were filthy but that experience was very close to ecstasy. Similar, I think (and you might feel that I exaggerate here), to being plucked from a raging sea.
Or tumbling weightless through distant nebulae.
Or rolling naked in soft grasses.
Or riding a speeding horse through fragrant pine forests.
Or stroking Mariah Carey with a kitten.
If anybody has the gall to deny that the Bahlsen Choco Leibniz biscuit is nothing short of a God among baked goods then I will spit in their eye.
*I once did a garden for Florence and the Machine’s mother. We played very loud Wagner, I seem to recall.
How very pretentious, I hear you say.
Absolutely spot on but pretension is the prerogative of youth, many architects and some garden designers