The Idiot Gardener

WARNING: This site contains information on gardening, brewing, curing meat,

building shit and hunting, all done in a piss-poor manner. It is not suitable for the

feeble-minded, the weak and lame, those of a nervous disposition, vegans and

vegetarians (and those other ones that only eat fish and the occasional bacon

sandwich - I think they're called 'hypocrites'), those who practice any

manner of folk singing or dancing, people named Colin or fans of Barry Gibb.

Hello, I love you, won’t you tell me your name?

When I was a lad, I remember waiting at a bus stop near my house when my mate’s elder brother happened along. We chatted awkwardly – I was a child of about 13 and he was a mature man of 15. Just before the bus came he pointed out a house across the road and stated, “See that drum there? Well, the bird that lives there; she’s sex on legs. I’m telling you, no one can get close, but whoever does, he’ll be walking bandy for weeks.” Then he winked and the bus arrived. I mean it arrived by chance, not because he winked. He wasn’t Paul Daniels! I mean he wasn’t a magician, not a twat. Like Paul Daniels.

Now, I didn’t know what sex on legs was; I didn’t even know it had legs. Truth told, I didn’t know what sex was either, but I was willing to give it a go. However, sex on legs; that had to be good, didn’t it? I’d never heard Felicity Kendall or Joanna Lumley or Lulu described thus, so I figured that maybe this girl was really something special, something that was elevated beyond normal beauty, a goddess.

I found that my bicycle rides passed her house more and more often, me slowing and craning my neck, but I never saw her – or for that matter anyone – in or around the house. In summer we played football in the park, and on the way I’d often stop for a rest at the bench by the bus stop, but nothing. One day I rested for at least three hours, but I didn’t see any signs of human life, or animal life for that matter.

I’d almost forgotten about Miss Sex-On-Legs, until one fateful day I was late for school and missed the bus. I saw it disappear in the distance as I sprinted up the road. Oh well, I was in for a bollocking when I got there. I sat and waited for the next, my head bowed, when a voice brought me to my senses.

“Has it gone?”

I looked up, and gazing down at me was a gangly girl with thick glasses that distorted her crossed eyes. Her face was spotty, her lips thin and dry. She wasn’t nice. She stood awkwardly, holding a briefcase in one hand and a violin case in the other. I nodded. Although not at school together, our schools were sort of linked. She wore the pale blue of the girl’s Convent Grammar, I the black of the Catholic Grammar for boys. We were both late. I asked her where she lived, and she turned, pointing at…

I couldn’t see the sex on legs bit, but I trusted in my mate’s brother’s experience. I mean, he was 15, he knew about sex and things like that. It was my obvious inexperience that saw a freak; if he said she was it, then she must be it. So it came to pass; I ended up walking out with a cross-eyed violinist. She was weird, gawky and awkward, but I didn’t care. I was waiting, working towards that sex on legs I’d been told about. I was ready to be bandy, if that’s what it took. In fact, I was eagerly awaiting bandiness. I was ready for bandidom.

I spent more and more time with her, and discovered that trying to French kiss a girl with braces wasn’t the best. I didn’t care, bandiness was approaching. A few weeks in, I decided to make my move. I was at my mate’s house, nervous and eager at the same time. I was waiting for my moment to tell him I was about to lose my virginity to Miss Sex-On-Legs, when in walked his brother. He grinned at me and said, “I like your style, young Idiot. That’s a nice move, trying to get to the prize by dating her ugly sister!”

Fast forward thirty odd years. I planted my Jerusalem Artichoke tubers. I waited and waited, then the first one came up. The other 19 were dormant, but the first one filled me with excitement. It grew fast, it grew strong. I nurtured it, watered it and carefully cleared the earth around it. If I was in the garden, I checked on it first, anxiously searching for slugs or any other creatures with bad intent. I loved it, in the way that only a man who loves an artichoke can.

The others started to sprout. They were okay, but I loved my first one best. It got extra water, extra care, and really, had the others withered, I wouldn’t have cared. Then I noticed something.

It’s leaves were different to the others. Very different. In fact, it was spreading whereas they were growing upwards. I bent down, my hand caressing its foilage, then I gave a little tug, a short gentle yank, and it moved. It’s roots were close to the surface, thin and fragile. I had been attending to a bloody weed!

How was I to know? I thought it was an artichoke, but it wasn’t. I’ve never grown anything, so how in the name of Soddom and Gomorrah I am going to be able to tell the good stuff from the bad? This is going to happen time and time again. It’s history repeating itself. I love the wrong ones, always the wrong ones.

As a postscript, I saw that cross-eyed violin player a few years ago. She was still gawky, awkward and cross-eyed. She also had some strange neurosis and smelled of cat wee. It’s nice to know that real life is nothing like the films, eh?


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34 thoughts on “Hello, I love you, won’t you tell me your name?

  1. Robin

    The picture you posted….does look like an artichoke. Don’t trust me though….I have been a complete failure growing artichokes! I am determined to keep trying!

  2. Is the Wiz

    How well I recall nursing strawberry seedlings which turned out to be chickweed, kissing frogs who turned out to be – frogs and discovering the year after I’d left that convent schoolgirls had a certain cachet.

  3. Britta

    Just to protect you against a flood of quotations from Saint-Exupéry (you know, the nice old chestnut “On ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” (“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”) I quote it first. I always thought of Tina Turner’s “What you see is what you get” as quite sufficient and found nothing wrong with “Some boys got the look of a Greek Adonis” – but then I detected that the song has a moral, too: “I always read the writing on the label/So give me reason to believe there’s more to you than meets the eye”. So pass me the lorgnon, please! Britta

  4. Britta

    This is not a comment – but a question: I’m new at blogging, technically not very accomplished, so: did I dream it up that you sent me a very witty comment? Did it vanish in a haze? Was it showered down the sink? What have I to do to keep those comments and prevent further accidents? A damsel in distress Britta

  5. Kara

    Did you ever figure out about “sex on legs?” hehe

    I’m growing Jerusalem Artichokes for the first time this year. They just arrived in the mail today from Manitoba, Canada – already sprouting.

    And…. I don’t have ground prepared to plant them yet and we’re supposed to get 4 days of rain.

    Ah, the joys of gardening!

  6. jo©o

    The way we all read everything by halves these days, I will from now on remember that Jerusalem artichokes are cross-eyed and play the violin.Thanks for that. Beware, they get tall too.Very tall indeed. And gangly. I have grown them for years and never once harvested any.

  7. Heather Bell

    OMG – that is too funny, Think I was that gangly girl sometime in my life. Don’t know how many times I’ve nurtured a lovely green thing to discover it was a weed. But aren’t they all, or should I say, aren’t we all?

  8. Kyna

    I bet that cat-wee smelling, spotty violinist was a cougar in the sack! You can’t judge a weed by it’s roots.

    She might not have been Sex-On-Legs, but she might have been Heavy-Petting-With-The-Lights-Off-On-Legs?

    Or not.

  9. jeansgarden

    I wonder if there’s a gardener alive who hasn’t, at some time, carefully nurtured some unidentified plant, only to eventually figure out that it’s a weed! It keeps us humble. -Jean

  10. ryublade

    LOL, what a great story. I once grew weeds in my flower garden thinking they were pretty flower seeds which I had planted when my dad came by and asked me why I was growing weeds in my front flower border. I feel your pain.

  11. Jo

    I’m waitiing to see what you make of the Jerusalem fartichokes once you’ve harvested and eaten them. Now that’ll be some blog post, I’m sure.

  12. noel


    enjoyed your story…hope you at least harvested some chokes from the other plants? Aaah well at least weeds can make nice compost to…

  13. Catherine@AGardenerinProgress

    That was a funny story and I also wondered how it would tie into your picture. I needed a good laugh today! 🙂
    I think we’ve all babied a seedling only to discover it was a weed, mine was about 2 feet tall before my friend told me to hurry and pull it out before it reseeded all over my yard.

  14. Ginny

    I thought this was going to be an ugly duckling turns into the prince story. . .
    I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who can’t tell a weed from an artichoke. But then again, I stick to flowers – they seem easier to identify!

  15. debsgarden

    Poor girl. Imagine being the dowdy sister to “sex on legs”. She probably wilted in her sister’s shadow and never recovered. As for tending weeds, I have done the same thing. I don’t pull it out till I know what the real plant looks like. In the beginning it may be hard to tell!

  16. Meredith

    You’ve definitely got the makings of a humorous essayist, IG. I have a specific area of the garden right now that is protected by a “Do NOT Weed” order, so F. nor I won’t accidentally pull up a seedling that is new to me. It’s starting to look rough over there… but I can’t risk it. 😉

    Poor girl, to start out spotty and gangly and end up neurotic and smelling of cat wee. My heart goes out to her.

  17. JT

    Hahahaha! I just had a “master gardener” come to my house and she quickly pointed out more then 5! plants that I had been babying and tagging for weeks that were actually weeds. Don’t feel bad, you were only caring for one.

  18. Britta

    Dear Idiot,
    (what a stroke of genius to call yourself that: as literature over the centuries shows, the Narr/Idiot is allowed to say everything. And of course, women with their mild hearts will show affection to the vulnerable. And connaisseurs are lured into not feeling threatened but condescending. And you counterbalanced all that effectively by mentioning your motorbike, drinking etc – so my picture of you shows definitely more yang (wikipedia: active/upward/hot and strong) than the make-believe intended Yin). Well: although I coquet with my technical-knowledge shortcomings, I detected that something with your “I follow this blog” is wrong: if you press “Gardening in High Heels”, it says: Blog not found – although I scribble on and on for dear life!
    I would appreciate it very much if you take your motorbike repair kit out and am utterly convinced that you can set that right. Thanks and
    Au Reservoir! Britta

  19. Karly

    Shame on you for falsely dating that poor visually-challenged girl.
    Hehehe … I mean, shame!
    Hey, if you like the weed, grow it I say. And then lie. Blatantly, extravagantly lie about it. ‘Its a rare cultivar – you wouldn’t know it, as its only known by artichoke specialists who prize it for its unusual blooms’ in a posh voice, for example ..


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