It all started with Colin. He was dead, but seemed to act like he didn’t know it.
Colin is, or rather, was, the cactus that lived on the bathroom window sill. As you may know, cacti are very hardy plants that are found in deserts, surviving in extremely harsh conditions. However, after many years of living with us, the conditions were so harsh for Colin that the poor thing just gave up. After months without watering and sitting next to a bathroom window that didn’t close throughout the coldest winter for years, he pegged it.
And nobody noticed for months.
“I think Colin is dead,” said Master Johnny one morning, tucking into his omelette.
“It’s hard to tell though.”
Colin had always been a bit on the wan side, but never looked that droopy. Was he dead? I couldn’t tell. He hadn’t turned to mush. He was still erect, if you’ll pardon the expression. I decided he was a zombie cactus and left him where he was.
You see, I’m not a gardener. I hate gardening. When we took residence at Randall Towers, I made it quite clear that I was not, under any circumstances, going to be involved in ‘gardening’. That was a job for staff.
I’ve never understood the appeal.
We’ve always employed Melody Lane, the bare chested gardener, who likes to spend her time digging out borders and making things tidy whilst passing artisans and travelling salesmen trip over on the drive or walk into fence posts.
Lady Barton St Mary seems very happy with the results, which, to my eyes, looks like a whole scrimmage of vegetation surrounding the house.
I don’t mind mowing lawns, but the grounds being what they are, we have staff to do that too.
Hence, my gardening skills are exactly zero, just as I like them. However, this can be a drawback in certain situations. Steeley the Tinkers’ Friend’s wife She-La! called one afternoon unexpectedly. I opened the door. She seemed distracted.
“Oh, sorry. I was admiring your peonies,” she said.
My eyes widened and I looked at my midriff. It was her turn to look alarmed.
“NO! No! I mean your peonies!” she explained, fervently pointing at some flowers in a nearby border.
On another occasion, I visited the residence of Lady BSM’s parents, The Marquess and Marchioness of Prestberries. They were out, but one of their tenants greeted me. She was keen to show me her allotment.
As she waxed lyrical about her Sungold Delights, Cos lettuces and King Edwards, I tried my very best to listen.
After 10 minutes I was aware that she was looking at me curiously, narrowing her eyes. She paused for a moment.
“You don’t like gardening, do you?” she asked, looking disappointed.
I shrugged and ruefully shook my head.
You see, allotments and growing vegetables is a virtuous thing to do. But rather than spend hours getting dirty fingernails, stung, sunburned, stabbed in the foot with a garden fork or knocked out by standing on a rake, all for the sake of foodstuff that is going to mainly be eaten by slugs, snails, birds, rabbits and rats, I can go to the local supermarket and buy what I like. Sorry.
On holiday this year, we struck up a conversation with another couple who were perhaps a couple of years older than us, but not much. The type of people who like to spend their sunny days weeding and arranging plants. They’d taken the cable car from Funchal in Madeira to Monte in the mountains.
“The hydrangeas are wonderful!” he extolled, with a big smile. His wife jiggled up and down next to him, her eyes widening with excitement.
“The agapanthus are huge,” she explained, smiling and shaking her head, “I wish they could grow that big in my garden!”
I smiled and nodded. I didn’t know what an agapanthus was. This was the picture in my head:
I did manage not to reveal my complete disinterest. The next day, we took a trip to Monte. We walked straight past the tropical gardens. I’m sure Lady BSM would have enjoyed a trip around them, but realised that dragging me around with her would be intolerable. Poor Lady BSM.
Although, the whole family have a pretty poor record when it comes to plant husbandry. Most green things in our house have to ‘man up’, hanging on to existence from day to day, hoping somebody, at some time, will give them a drink. Inevitably, this ends badly, with a trip to the compost tip for Melody to deal with inbetween distracting the postman.
Eventually, Colin the zombie Cactus had to take that trip. I left him on top of the pile, waved him farewell and strode back to the house. I can still see his zombie figure, silhouetted against the setting sun, brooding over his lost life and place on the bathroom window sill.
He’s been replaced by Mitchell, the money plant. I thought he was another cactus. Can a plant look worried?