The Year of Living Stupidly
This time last year, there was a knock on my door. I opened it to find Postman Pratt with a parcel. It contained many books, including a copy of Tender by Nigel Slater. Now, as a keen cook, I have learned the classics, struggled with the art of the saucier, and have spent many an hour digesting Escoffier in an attempt to glean some small idea of his genius. However, I did little that was unusual with vegetables, and so the publication of Tender (Volume 1), a cook-book dedicated to veg, was a godsend. The only downside was that Nigel also talked about growing vegetables, in mud in a garden, and that was something that I frowned upon.
Having thumbed through the edition, I made a shopping list and headed off for the local farm shop. Now, Occasionally Yours in Lingfield masquerades as a farm shop, but it might be better named Occasionally Fresh, or even Crap Food and Crap Service. I was gobsmacked by the rotting shallots, the limp herbs, the grotty carrots, and the browning green beans that were very local, if you lived in Zimbabwe!
In disgust I headed off to Sainsburys, where I was assaulted by a wall of the elderly, people in track suits, and screaming brats of every creed. It was hell on earth, so I dodged off to another greengrocery establishment, this time within a nursery. Again, I was met with inferior produce, and a bad attitude when I asked whether they sold shallots without the mould. I left empty-handed, save a gardening magazine. That afternoon, with beer in hand, the magazine and Tender open on the dining table, I hatched a cunning plan to rip the garden apart and start growing shit. I called the plan Operation Grow Some Shit.
When Mrs IG arrived home from work, I revealed my plan. She rolled her eyes and muttered something about it being another idiotic episode that would all end in tears. She reminded me that I knew nothing about gardening. I told her it couldn’t be that hard if a twat like Titchmarsh could do it. She shook her head and poured a large glass of wine.
I’ve seen her look more dismayed with my antics, but even so she was close to the edge. Remember that this woman, this saintly being, had suffered a decade and a half of me trying to do bugger-all in the garden. She just wanted somewhere to sit and relax, amongst the broken motorcycles and piles of earth. Now I was suggesting turning the whole lot over to the plough.
So, today is a momentous day, because I have been an idiot in the garden for one whole year.
There has been blood, sweat and tears. Most of the blood came whilst building the raised beds. I learned that a drill through the thumb isn’t clever, nor is hitting yourself with a hammer, or sawing the side of your hand off. I also learned that if you dig holes, don’t be surprised when you fall down them. Bamboos will drive long splinters under your nails, and the human back has a tendency to lock up.
There has been sweat. I sweated more than a fat lass at an Abba evening. I sweated under the sun, the moon, in rain and even in the snow. I sweated through layers of winter clothing while shovelling manure. I sweated through thin summer clothing while … shovelling manure. I moved a lot of horse shit in a year. I sweated digging out Hill 49. I sweated thinking about how much I sweated.
And the tears? I knocked my beer over when doing a bit of drunken planting. It wasn’t pretty.
Sometimes things went wrong. I nurtured weeds. I dropped my hat into the manure. I fell over, sometimes very often. I bent my Neverbend fork. I watched my seedlings get neck rot. I learned what damping off was. I killed my curcubits with overwatering. I killed my aubergines with underwatering. My broad beans were broad, but without bean. My radishes choked my salsify. Then my radishes rotted. My rocket went to seed. My cress was chewy. The celeriac were too small, the courgettes were too big, and then God done the blight thing to my tomatoes.
I swore a lot. I said Shit and Bastard and Fuck more often than I should have. I also said Bollocks a lot. I read expert advice and ignored it. I listened to other bloggers and ignored their advice. I learned a lot, but never learned enough. I learned that sometimes, I didn’t know how much I didn’t know.
I upset the local horticultural mafia. I made friends with a few strange people that grubbed around in the dirt. I read a lot of blogs and discovered a community of like-minded people, and I found a few fellow idiots in the mix.
I laughed, quite a lot. Apart from when I spilled my beer. I’ve shivered, got sun burn, been dry, been wet, been partially wet and partially dry, and once I nearly set my trousers on fire – whilst wearing them.
There have been good times too. When I ate my first home grown salad, I was like a dog with two dicks. I thought there was no one on earth that could garden quite like this idiot. That notion was smashed when my cucumbers died, but for one short day…
My carrots were the most carroty carrots I’ve ever eaten. My parsnips were sublime. As for the chard; both Mrs IG and I are pure chard freaks now. I grew so much rocket we bathed in rocket and goat cheese soup. French beans dripped off the shoots. Turnips came out globular and sweet. Patty pan squash? I was knee-deep in the bastards.
In my freezer are so many vegetables that I have saved. A pack of this, a pack of that, so my Christmas dinner will be from the garden. We haven’t purchased a potato since 1963! Well, that’s how it feels.
As a garden hater (and a gardener hater too), I will freely admit, I’ve turned the corner. I now covet people’s garden space. I lust after their veggies (Mrs IG frowns upon me lusting after their wives and daughters). I get that heroin-cocaine-speedball buzz when I see a seed catalogue. I am high … on gardening.
It’s been a mixed year, a year of ups and downs (mostly falling down holes I’ve dug). I have spent hard earned money on mud and manure. But do you know what? No? Well, I’ll bloody tell you what. I’ve loved every fucking minute of it. Excuse the language, but that’s the way it is. (By the way, if you are a child and reading this, swearing IS big and it IS clever – and why are you reading a gardening blog when there’s drugs and beer and girls in tight t-shirts out there?)
So, there you have it. One year on, and I did grow some shit!
P.S.: Tomorrow is one year on for the blog – when I started gardening I decided to record my efforts, mainly for myself. I intend to celebrate that fact, but how? Let me tell you how. I’m having an awards ceremony. That’s right, put on your clean knickers and have a shave – and the men can tidy themselves up too, because you’re invited to the TIGNOGs (The Idiot Gardener’s Night of Gongs). Who knows, Paddy O’Furniture might even do a turn. Christ-on-a-fucking-sledge, it’s going to be awful!
Tagged Punk Rock Gardening