Make it simple

I was very tempted – ‘though not for long to get a bit above myself, for reasons I’ll explain later. We spent most of the day, as ever, on the allotment except for a brief trip to a garden centre to buy a couple of new watering cans. After the driest and sunniest spring on record we’ve become experts on watering cans, not least because a dud one can lengthen your arms and drive you crazy while it dribbles its contents anywhere but where you want them to go. Watering cans can make watering purgatorial, but ironically we’ve discovered that the cheap as chips plastic ones often work better than the hand crafted artisanal brass and galvanised steel jobs. In our hard water area the expensive ones also suffer from limescale. Anyway, we snaffled up the very last two cans which – from the look of things – had been flying off the shelves along with everything else. There were very few plants, no pots, no vermiculite and no organic slug pellets. The only thing that worked seamlessly was the queueing system and the safety precautions inside. All praise to them – there was abundant hand sanitizer, the trolleys were all wiped down and the one way system kept us apart from the other (small number) customers. Even the payment was made to a protected booth – good for them we thought.

The two photos at the top are of our old and very broken wheelbarrow repurposed as a home for a couple of summer squashes, and the other shows the ever changing interior of the greenhouse, now housing chillies and aubergines.

But the reason I had to check myself was because while I was clearing out the third patch of broad beans and planting out calabrese for later in the year while Madame was moving the winter brassicas into new temporary quarters I was siezed by the disparity between two images of gardening and – sorry about this – two Greek philosophers popped into my mind. In the blue corner – the Plato Garden, beautiful and still, full of the essence of garden but essentially timeless – possibly with a timeless honeybee buzzing around in a philosophical sort of way. And in the red corner the Heraclitus Garden whirling in orbits and sub orbits like an astrolabe on speed.

I think I go for the red corner. The Heraclitian garden that’s constantly in motion; never stationary but always passing through trailing the past in its wake and the future just around the (circular) corner. There’s never a moment on the allotment when we can honestly say – “That’s it” because it’s always becoming “it” or leaving “it” behind. In fact to drift across the track like an out of control F1 pumpkin, in the perfect postmodern garden there would be no “it” at all. That’s something they always get wrong at Chelsea where some clever clogs thinks that shoving a factory chimney in the middle of a Gertrude Jekyll border makes it Postmodern.

So that’s the end of today’s philosophy lecture and straight on to my holiday snap – taken on the canal yesterday. There in the first pound after Bath Deep Lock was this heron sitting on a very rough and ready perch. There’s a large heronry about a mile away above a Honda garage, but perhaps this is his summer fishing spot.

Author: Dave Pole

I've spent my life doing a lot of things, all of them interesting and many of them great fun. When most people see my CV they probably think I'm making things up because it includes being a rather bad welder and engineering dogsbody, a potter, a groundsman and bus driver. I taught in a prison and in one of those ghastly old mental institutions as an art therapist and I spent ten years as a community artist. I was one of the founding members of Spike Island, which began life as Artspace Bristol. ! wrote a column for Bristol Evening Post (I got sacked three times, in which I take some pride) and I worked in local and network radio and then finally became an Anglican parish priest for 25 years, retiring at 68 when I realised that the institutional church and me were on different paths. What interests me? It would be easier to list what doesn't, but I love cooking and baking with our home grown ingredients. I'm fascinated by botany and wildlife in general, and botanical illustration. We have a camper van that takes us to the wild places, we love walking, especially in the hills, and we take too many photographs. But what really animates me is the question "what does it mean to be human?". I've spent my life exploring it in every possible way and the answer is ..... well, today it's sitting in the van in the rain and looking across Ramsey Sound towards Ramsey Island. But it might as easily be digging potatoes or making pickle, singing or finding an orchid or just sitting. But it sure as hell doesn't mean getting a promotion, beasting your co-workers or being obsequious to power, which ensured that my rise to greatness in the Church of England flatlined 30 years ago after about 2 days. But I'm still here and still searching for that elusive sweet spot, and I don't have to please anyone any more. Over the last 50 or so years we've had a succession of gardens, some more like wildernesses when we were both working full-time, but now we're back in the game with our two allotments in Bath.

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