Sunday, 16 September 2012

The Gardener's Tale, part two

The Gardener leant on the handle of his fork and drew a hand across his brow. He liked the fact that he was busy these days. It was a good thing; the results of his labours were clear to see. But he couldn't help thinking that something was missing.

The sound of footsteps on the gravel path made him look up. The Gatekeeper was approaching.

"Good morning, Gatekeeper. I hope you like the garden. I'm just planning some bulbs for the spring. Should be a blaze of colour."

The Gatekeeper seemed pre-occupied."Gardener, I need to talk to you," he said, the beginnings of a stern expression forming on his face.

"Is there something wrong?"

"No. Well, not really. The garden is beautiful. It's much better than I could have hoped. How long have you been here?"

"It's difficult to tell, Gatekeeper. But this will be fifth time I've done a winter planting-out, if that helps."

"You've truly put your heart and soul into this. But I can tell that there is something you're missing."

The Gardener looked down at the neatly-mowed lawn. His words came slowly."You're right, Gatekeeper. I love this little patch, and you've been very generous. But sometimes I wish I could share all of this..."

"I think I know what you mean," said the Gatekeeper. He was thinking. Then he raised his head and looked the Gardener in the eyes. He spoke softly, almost a whisper. "I think it's time, you know."

Months later and the garden was a blaze of colour. Each bed was planned to perfection, every pot a riot of colour. The Gatekeeper was unsurprised; this was another triumph for the Gardener. But he could tell that there was something extra at play.

The Gardener's dwelling, now that was a different matter altogether. The Gatekeeper hadn't really noticed this place before, but he found himself drawn to it now. It had been somehow transformed. He couldn't really put his finger on it, but it was a home now, not just a place for living in.

The Gatekeeper was sitting on a long sofa. French windows opened out into the garden, a gentle breeze moving the apple tree branches to and fro. He could hear the trickling of a water-course, while the smell of baking wafted in from the kitchen. It was almost as if the garden and the house complemented each other. He looked around. There was an armchair next to the fireplace, knitting patterns and balls of wool strewn across it. Quite the largest aspidistra he had ever seen nestled in a blue and white pot in the corner, while a herd of small china hedgehogs marched steadily across the mantelpiece.

"Another cup of tea, Gatekeeper?" asked the Gardener's wife from the small kitchen.

"No thank you madam." Secretly he was hoping that another jar of pickled onions was coming his way, but he didn't want to press matters. "Are you settling in well?"

She bustled in through the doorway, drying her hands on a small towel."Oh yes," she said, "I've never been so busy." She motioned to the garden. "He thinks he knows it all, but every now and then he needs a little supervision. Plus his cardigans were were getting a little worn at the elbows. There's always something that needs doing." She chuckled to herself.

"The garden does look lovely."

"Oh, I know. All the colours. Reds, blues, yellows. I never thought I'd be able to see them like this again. It's been wonderful, you know. Just how I rememebred it."

The Gatekeeper leant back and regarded the Gardener's wife. "You know, madam, in my line of work I get to meet lots of people. Scientists, mathematicians, people of logic. If you were to ask them what one plus one comes to, they'd say it was two. But seeing you and the Gardener together, I'm not so sure any more."

Her eyes shone brightly as she replied. "Yes. Sometimes, one and one are worth more than that."

"Just one question, though. Why have you got the number 198 on the front door?"

She grinned. "Ah. I can explain that. You might think you know everything there is to know about paradise, Gatekeeper. But me and Alf, we'd been perfecting this for quite a while."

"That makes sense," said the Gatekeeper. He noticed her looking intently at him. "What's the matter?"

"Oh, nothing. I'm just trying to figure out if you're a 42-inch waist or a 44-inch. I've got this spare wool, you see, Gatekeeper. I think you'd look quite smashing in a nice cable-knit."

In loving memory of Edith Sawyer, 1917-2012. Enjoy the colours, Nan. Hoping you and Granddad are planning the spring bulbs together once again.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Don't say it

Well, that was a silly thing for me to do, wasn't it? And I've done some daft things in my time.

There was the time I went on holiday - my first holiday away with SheWhoMustBeObeyed. We were young, we were thinner. Certain things were to anticipated from our first time away together. I don't think I need to draw you a diagram, dear reader. I sat in the sun on day one, casually ignoring the commonly-held belief that Suncream Is A Good Thing. I then spent the next five days yelling, "Don't touch me!"  Which wasn't what either of us wanted to hear. That was daft.

I've done stupid things with illicit substances. I know, you're shocked. But it was only a half-pound of stilton cheese. I was hungry, it was 11pm. That night I slept the sleep of the damned as my arteries furred up. I dreamed I was being stalked by flying monkeys. That, too, was daft.

But none of this daftness (is that even a word?) ranks alongside the sheer rank stupidity of what I did last night. More to the point, what I said. Admittedly, we'd had a busy day. With the help of the in-laws, we'd cleared the garden, managing to fill the second of two skips. (By the way, if you ring the company that supplies these and say: "I'd like to have a skip in my driveway at the weekend," they will reply, "You go ahead, sir.")

I've digressed, sorry. Anyway. We had removed enough bamboo to feed a whoop of pandas. Or a flange, I forget which. We gazed upon the newly-cleared garden, features reappearing like those lost cities of the Amazon, all ziggurats and stepped pyramids. I half expected to find an ancient Japanese soldier in there, still unaware that WW2 was over.

Look, we'd worked hard, ok? And as I wiped the sweat from my brow I said these fateful words to Katie:
"Tomorrow, we're going to have a nice, restful day."
She did not respond. Or at least, if she did, her voice was drowned out by the fridge freezer in our kitchen. It said:
 Which, as songs go, is a lousy lyric. Although the rhythm wasn't bad, I'll admit.

"Does it normally make that noise?"

"Yes," I replied. "It's the mating call of a Samsung upright fridge freezer. We're privileged to hear this, you know. David Attenborough would give his eye teeth for this."

I received a look.

"Look," I said. "It's a pain in the neck but it still seems to be working. Let me have a look at it in the morning." I then spent an hour or so looking on the internet about rattly refrigeration devices. Because this is what we do these days instead of calling a professional engineer who might actually have the faintest clue.

This morning, I had intended to be one where I moved slowly around the house in loose-fitting garments, drinking expensive coffee and reading classic novellas. Like those blokes in the furniture ads do. So it was with no small disappointment that I found myself instead on my hands and knees, waving a screwdriver meaningfully at some precision Korean domestic engineering.

"Are you sure you know what you're doing?" asked Katie nervously.

"No, but some very clever people on the Internet seemed to know what the problem was. This panel only has four screws on it. The rattling seems to be coming from behind it. And there are only four screws." I felt that point needed repeating.

Unfortunately the four screws were not the only gatekeepers to the noise-maker behind. The panel wouldn't shift and, for once, I decided not to employ the brute-force-and-ignorance-approach. This was clearly a job for someone whose toolkit consisted of more than one screwdriver, a mallet and tube of NoMoreNails. I sheepishly replaced the screws and went to switch the fridge freezer back on.

It hummed back into life, giving us a few seconds of daggadagga. Then it stopped and switched itself off. No refrigeration, no freezing. Which, to be honest, is pretty much all you ask for from a fridge freezer. Arcane symbols appeared on the front panel. Katie's eyebrow raised. I instantly considered emigration, but realised I wouldn't get to my passport in the bedside table in time.

"Well, look on the bright side," I said. "At least the noise has stopped."

So that's how I spent the remainder of my planned sybaritic Sunday - calling various refrigeration engineers. The general consensus appeared to be that some sensors had iced up and my switching it off had sent the unit's little electronic brain into default safe mode.

Apparently this happens to space probes all the time. Which is nice, but Voyager 2 doesn't have to look after half a dozen Muller Fruit Corners, does it?

Unfortunately, I soon found out that 'rapid callout' and '24/7 service' actually means, "we might be able to squeeze you in next Thursday. If the planets are in alignment. And our pet rabbit has had its litter. And we can be arsed." Which is quaint and old-fashioned and lovely but won't preserve my cauliflower cheese. Which is why I then trolled over to the afore-mentioned in-laws, black bag in hand, with my perishables.

The in-laws have one of these American-style fridge freezers and it is a joy to behold. I guess they're called 'American-style' because you could accomodate one of the smaller states in one of them, no problems. In fact, I swear I saw Rhode Island in there, behind the radishes.

They're good people, my in-laws. Nevertheless, I reckon we'll never see that unopened Carte d'Or icecream again.

Then to our friends Karen and Chris to borrow their mini-fridge. This is one of those items that is normally used for drinks, which explains why it  has the logo of the English Football Team on its front and sides; inebriation being the only fit state for watching our national game.

I brought it back, huffing and puffing because it was big and awkwardly-shaped and it looked to the neighbours as if we were having a drinks party but we weren't and I had to drink half a litre of milk so we could prop the carton up at an angle without it spilling and I'm not sure that did my cholesterol any good come to think of it and I hadn't even opened any novellas up yet.

So. How was your day?


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