‘Am I the only person in conflict because the garden (normally ignored) has become a domain that others want to exert influence over?’ writes Oldest Friend (OF) in the comments section of last week’s blog. I can only thank her for answering my plea for ideas to fill my barren Corona blog phase.
Love OF as I do, and grateful though I am for her blog ideas, I can’t help wincing at the salt she has just ground into the aching wound of my self-indulgent solo lock-down. OF supports me in absolutely every way she can – checking in regularly to stop me from wallowing in self pity or climbing my own four walls of loneliness (there I go) ; so it is totally out of character for her to be so tactless. Reader, I have no garden. There are no turf wars in my life.
Still, I am so in need of drama and distraction that I decide to feed off her corona dilemma parasitically and call her to explore it in more detail.
I should add the preface that before launching in to our conversation, we acknowledge my fortune at having a sea view (making up valiantly for my lack of garden) and that families in high rise flats will be fighting over a much more painful turf right now – I don’t want you thinking that we have totally lost the plot (well, I haven’t a plot to lose, after all).
Venting down the phone OF explains, ‘I have a husband redesigning flower beds and a furloughed son keeping Amazon delivery drivers in work with various exotic seed orders. The fact that our climate is unsuitable for said seeds – chilli peppers and American Horse Chestnuts to name but two – is no deterrent as he has apparently also become an expert compost maker and designer of homemade cloches. I now have various window sill displays showcasing a range of Heath Robinson contraptions but not a seedling daring to show its head. His compost trail seems to lead nowhere and, if it wasn’t for social distancing, I am sure the neighbours would accuse us of growing weed!’
She pauses to draw breath.
I take the opportunity to update her on similar turf wars going on in Norfolk where Favourite Daughter (FD) is locked down.
Before you get too sympathetic towards FD, I should point out that although I am missing her deeply, she is living the type of lock down that many of us can only dream of; haute cuisine; black tie quiz and theatre nights; hand made jigsaws and plenty of gin. There is also plenty of wildlife and this is where her turf story comes in.
Turns out that her hosts’ chickens – not briefed on social distancing and bored with the hypocrisy of free-range lockdown – plotted their own chicken run (sorry, I am not getting out much) and ventured onto their neighbour’s land. Neighbour greeted their advances by performing a promising chicken impersonation – flapping her arms and squawking that the hens were attacking her plants; this was an awkward response from the neighbour for, in the sanctuary of lock down, she has taken to topless sunbathing and was thus occupied as the chickens made their uninvited entrance. Incandescent though she was, neighbour refused to let FD’s hosts reclaim their chickens, arguing that Boris had banned any border crossing of livestock.
Resourceful as ever, the hosts regrouped and sent one of their domestic doves (ornithological PPE in place) over the hedge with an olive branch. The hosts stated that they would be happy for the neighbour to adopt the brood of bantams for the duration of the lock down – pointing out this bonus provision of free range eggs. They said that they were also happy to share the name of a very helpful Amazon delivery driver who could readily supply replacement plants.
The dove returned very quickly, a scrolled note attached to its neck with what appeared to be straps torn from a bikini top: ‘Stay off our land,’ it read, ‘ you need to retrieve your chickens from your side of this hedge. And, while you’re at it, cut out all that antisocial quiz and theatre night noise. Just pipe down and be miserable like the rest of us. PS. We are vegan and Amazon’s overall activity is harmful to society. You should feel ashamed of your offer.’
Sadly I never learnt how this incident played out. When I last spoke to FD she appeared to have partaken in some medicinal gin and was vexing over the missing piece of a 6,000 part jigsaw depicting an idyllic pastoral scene; she felt sure one of those free-range hens had swallowed the missing bit.
I phone my 93 year old mother as I feel this story will make her laugh. Not a bit of it because, tired of being classed as a vulnerable citizen, she has decided to lop down her courtyard hedge to distract herself from the lack of visitors. Six disposable bin liners later, she discovers that her hearing aid has fallen out. Not only can she not hear my story, she doesn’t have time to listen anyway because she is about to empty out all those rubbish bags to search for her hearing aid before ‘Pointless’ starts.
By now I realise why nobody wants to come to their phone to amuse me; it is so sunny that everyone is sitting out in their garden and has no time to speak, or, like Favourite/Fortunate Man (FM) on his sun deck, don’t want to say anything too loud in case a neighbour should hear. If I choose to prolong my call with FM, I will need my mother’s hearing aid to hear what he is saying. I leave him to his sunshine and remind myself that I am not the only one without a garden. (Shameless wallow now over).
Grounded as I am, I start looking for distraction. My friendly Amazon delivery driver suggests I order myself ‘The Good Life’ game – apparently I can use a little wheelbarrow to move around the board and collect fruit, vegetables, pigs and chickens. Regardless of the chicken element, I am hooked at the thought of winning by being first to fill my garden allotment. I will just need to have my wits about me to dodge the Green Fingers card and protect my small holding from foxes, drought or chicken runs. Ah, reading the small print though, I realise I will also need some people to play this game with.
My inner Barbara will not be beaten. I dig out the M&S Little Garden freebie I was given just before the lockdown – thankfully, it’s not just gardening, it’s M&S gardening. By next week, I should have a tiny little basil plant growing on my windowsill. I hope the neighbours don’t report me.