Monday, 19 May 2008

The Constant Gardener

I sometimes have co-ordination problems. I like being challenged to overcome it though, especially in work. I have good stamina. And a sense of humour!

I can do multi-tasking for instance - OK, kind of. Years ago, before kids, it was essential. I worked in the front office of a busy hotel and if you couldn't do three things at once and smile as well, you'd have queues of irate people building up - in person and on the phone... I learned fast.

Yet, yet, the memory of disappearing slowly head first/bottom up into the safe while multi-tasking there, lingers to this day. Well, I was taking a phone call, paging someone, paying wages and having an urgent silent lip-reading conversation with the barman at the time... and of course it is always good to see people really laugh out loud isn't it! Takes the tension out of a crisis I find.

Still, that was a long time ago. Now I continue to work happily as a trainee landscape gardener, learning new practical skills. In some cases like a duck to water and in others slowly - when I find it's like learning to work the clutch in a car, downright confusing! I try hard, I do!

Take last week, I'm bouncing along in the gardening van, wedged in with the rest of the team, after several hours spent learning grass strimming. I say learning... I haven't really mastered it yet in fact. At all. They are very very careful with power tools and spend a lot of time explaining to me how to use them safely. I'm really very fortunate with this work experience - I expected to be left alone a lot with the boring easy tasks, but it's nothing like that.

I sit still quietly imagining the evening news:

"A reckless woman with horticultural pretensions was arrested on a busy road junction in South Croydon this morning. Armed with a petrol-driven strimmer and blinded by protective glasses Merry Weather took out most of a young tree, distressed a lawn and was engaged in damaging a small ornamental fence when apprehended - police described her as flushed with embarrassment and dogged in her determination to finish the job properly..."

"You're thinking about the tree aren't you? Forget it, really, it was nothing!" they insist. And then they swear a bit and grin. One of them is a woman, small but exceedingly strong and very funny. If she was as tall as me she'd be invincible! I relax then amid grimy gloves and jackets, scented with rotting grass, feeling - relieved!

It was a question of co-ordination. A strimmer, I feel, is basically a small helicopter, upside down on the end of a stick. And it's incredibly noisy.

Before I set off with it I had spent a lot of time checking around me that no one was nearby, and nor were my feet...

"Tilt 5 degrees to the left and remember, the rotation is anti-clockwise" they told me. Sure, I can do that, copying exactly I set off. A quarter of a mile later my right forearm was actually bulging with effort. I've never seen it do that before. So I changed hands and was completely bewildered. Which way now 5 degrees? Huh? Cautiously I set off again, in a different direction, on smaller sections of lawn edging where I produced two effects - bald earth to the left and severely quiffed grass to the right. I felt a tap on the shoulder. Another demo ensued.

"Watch out for the long grass, you can get pulled in." said the head gardener and went off round the corner. Luckily. Because moments later I'd taken out a sturdy sapling and was making inroads on cutting down its tree! Wow! Thank God it's a communal garden, attached to a block of flats and not someone's private paradise. I can imagine the wrath of my auntie Margery whose garden is perfect. Reeling I moved on, blushing.

I showed him later and he frowned a bit and then said "that's all right, stop worrying!".

Later in the day, we pull up outside a private garden with an auntie Margery kind of owner... "don't worry we don't strim in small gardens". He detaches the head and refits a hedge trimmer. Oh No! I shuffle my feet anxiously, looking at her manicured shrubs, with fear. "You just need more practise" he says kindly, but hands me the hoe instead - Phew!

Ah well, I'll get it eventually. Even if I've to practise at home and remove my own lawn in the process! It's a beautiful time of year to be outdoors, the new blooms are perfect, so many different shades. My favourites now are the cool blue campanula, in springy drooping clumps and the rock roses with their fragile brilliant petals. Gorgeous.


Mean Mom said...

LOL! Love the pictures and the story! I may skirt around South Croydon until the winter.

merry weather said...

Very wise - Do you live round here MM? I may be coming soon to a garden near you if so -chuckles- - eek!

the mother of this lot said...

Practice makes perfect! Glad you're enjoying it!

Sandi McBride said...

Okay now these are just beautiful pictures and I know I should comment on them but the L plate has me in stitches! When we lived in Beaconsfield the boys went to school at High Wycombe and for Halloween I went as a witch on a broom with an L plate...took best of show, I did! I wish I'd brought that darned thing with me! You know it was months before I knew that the sign in the back window of a car reading "running in" meant it was a new car and they were driving slowly...I just wondered what in blazes they were running in to lol!~

david mcmahon said...

Very nice work.

And your comment on my `watch, heels, key' post brought a smile to my face, too!

San said...

Multitasking--it makes me feel dispersed, like I could go crazy with power tools. I could be your imagined evening news item, and that's not even in my job description.

Thank you for the lovely garden pictures. Soothing to my soul.

Maggie May said...

I had never thought that strimmers needed so much practice & L plates & things! Course, I haven't got a lawn, so I wouldn't know. I really love your gardening stories.
Will look out for chopped up lawns if I'm ever your way!

lady thinker said...

Good Heavens above South Croydon ?? -The next time I'm visiting the relatives I'll be looking at every female gardener and wondering if it could possible by Merry Weather?

Do you think we should start up a 'secret handshake' so bloggers could recognise each other?

PS I've seen Mr P somewhere else - sorry you been troubled by him. I just thought that maybe he wasn't very 'clever' with his way with words.

aims said...

Ah Yes! I spent 2 hours on Monday strimming our yard! The Man gave me heck only about 6 times. So I guess I didn't do too badly.

My arm then shook for the rest of the evening. Who thinks of these things anyway? We use to use scissors to cut away the long grass.

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

Oh South Croydon - I used to live in Thornton Heath, and then Norbury Hill. Croydon is such a great place for shopping and the Fairfield Hall - such great memories. Nice posh gardens up Norury Hill that are waiting for you to have a practice on them.

You sound divinely happy.

I Beatrice said...

Wonderful, Merry, just wonderful - I can smell the mock orange! (Or, maybe it's my own mock orange I can smell?)

You make me think I ought to brave our powered hedge-trimmer after all.... though on the whole I think I won't!

Thrilled to sense your happiness sparkling through all this though - and love the pictures.

Merlin's Wizard said...

That was brilliant!! i love reading your experiences with the gardening and the way you write your humour is priceless!! im sure the sapling will be fine!! i have the same problem with our strimmer and it seems not matter how much practice i have i always take my eye off the ball and end up with a bald patch in the lawn!! Ah the trials of being a gardener!!! but oh sooo much good fun!

Tkae care
Merlins Wizard

lady thinker said...

Oh dear, I see MOB mentions, Norbury, Thornton Heath and Fairfield Halls - I was born South Norwood then lived on borders of Thornton Heath/West Croydon as a child - ah, such happy memories... you are all making me soooo homesick ..... sigh

merry weather said...

Thanks all -

Hi MOTL - I read about you in the Sunday Telegraph - Cool!!

Sandi, my L plate is for life, if you know what I mean - so you've lived in England, hey!

David, it was nice of you to include this in your Post of the Day piece - Cheers!

Hello San, thanks for visiting - from your picture I can see you're full of fun :)

Nor did I Maggie, it's been a learning curve!

Lady T! Is that you sighing? A handshake would be good yes, would you be rolling your trousers up as well?
Actually, next time you visit your relatives, we could say hello - I shall wear a sunflower, obviously, I don't expect you to carry your fish though - perhaps the veil instead?
I'm serious, think about it, if you like :) X

Scissors sound good Aims! I was thinking that at the time.

Happy MOB - Yes! Divine? Sadly not :)

Thanks Bea, I have a mock orange here too. Beautiful, especially in the evening.

Hi Merlin's Wizard - thanks and reading your blog is great fun also. I am quietly relieved to hear that I am not alone in this matter!

Anonymous said...

You're very brave! I hate strimmers and electric things like that, give me a good old fashioned spade and hoe anyday. The little ones of course, that kids use.

CJ xx

The Lehners in France said...

Strimming is hard work. I look back to my days in my little garden in a Hertfordshire village with my light weight electric Black & Decker with delight. Here I have two big petrol jobbies, one with a blade and one with a string. Lazy I know but it's too much hastle swapping strings and blades all of the time. I scalp, bald patches all over the place. It's also a great cat turd spreader, everywhere. Normally me. I always make sure the chickens aren't around, as I know someone who took the head off one of theres whilst she was sitting under a hedge. Dangerous work strimming, especially if you are a chicken. Debs x

Catmoves said...

Um, just a suggestion, but rather than take a chance on ruining your own lawn, you might consider "volunteering" to do your neighbors instead. After all, practice is practice.

merry weather said...

Very ladylike CJ :) And why not!

I love this spreading business Debs - Ha! Glasses would be essential, of course - And beheading a chicken is far far worse than taking out a tree! That would take me days to recover from...

Cat, next door's is ideal - up for sale, vacant possession, I'm just starting the motor...

Dusty Spider said...

You can come and practice on my lawn if you like :-) Flick xx

merry weather said...

Hi Flick - ah, what a nice picture!!

Sandi McBride said...

Just wanted to let you know that I was tagged for Six Random Things. I have completed my project. Now I'd like to tag you, learn more about you...come to my place for the rules and I hope you will enjoy this

merry weather said...

Sounds intriguing Sandi - coming over to see...

Jules said...

Loved the picture and the story, but what is a strimmer? A weed-whacker maybe?

Swearing Mother said...

Lovely post Merry! Great pics.

Sandi McBride said...

Darling Girl....come back, tell us more...missing you

Sandi McBride said...

Okay miss Merry Weather...time to come in out of the garden and do a bit of posting...been too long!

merry weather said...

Hi Jules - What a fab flower you have! Thanks for visiting - it is a whacker yes.

Hi Jane - nice to see you again :)

Sandi, Sandi - I've done it - yes ma'am - you are funny! x