Woke up yesterday to a deliciously crisp autumn morning. Spent it in the garden happily hacking back, weeding, collecting apples and raking leaves. All that was missing was the robin hopping around and a bonfire blowing smoke all over my neighbours’ washing and I’d have been in a bad TV mini-series.
As the clouds scudded across the sky, the wind blew roses into my cheeks (not literally, although I did entangle myself at one point with the Spiky Bush Which Has No Name). I started to commune with nature, to contemplate buying a trug, and feeling ever so slightly Radio Fourish. I had visions of the garden turning into a paradise which visitors sighed over and everything grew as it was meant to.
Then reality hit. The wind picked up, the hedge trimmers broke, and I realized I’m going to spend the rest of my life pulling couch grass out of my borders. I went on a mad hacking session with the hedge clippers, giving both hedges a superficial haircut which will hopefully fool people long enough to get me through the winter. But I didn’t stop there – I attacked the rosemary, the lavender and the purply/red thing which turns yellow in winter, before getting bored with the clippers and wrestling the fork off the Other Half. I dug over three quarters of the beds, pulling out weeds and possibly plants with gusto. Every so often I stopped for a quick breather, put my hands on my hips and called out to the Other Half, “Doesn’t it look better? You can see it looks better already!”, but he just carried on steadily picking up the mess I was making, no doubt muttering mild curses and wishing he’d got his iPod on.
Once we’d carted mounds of partially mouldy apples and sacks of garden waste to the tip, I felt purposeful, entitled to my Hunter wellies as I strode confidently to and from the Garden Waste skip. The Other Half couldn’t stop laughing – for all that I may have looked the part, I was a weakling, unable to lift the sacks of rubbish I had created. And the car is now covered in ladybirds.
On returning home and exclaiming again how good the garden looked, I took myself off for a bath. And made the mistake of looking in the mirror. My cheeks had blotches not roses, my nose was red, my hair had been fretted into a mad tangle and I had a smear of mud under my chin, and under my nose. I’ll never be Susan Hampshire, elegantly clipping roses in Monarch of the Glen. A hot bath, a drenching in moisturizer and a scrub of the fingernails later I was feeling pleasantly achy, and deserving of the full Thanksgiving dinner we made and enjoyed last night before falling into bed.
And then, I woke up. I could barely move. My arms were flapping around like those tiny dinosaur limbs (paws? arms?) you see on David Attenborough style evolution programmes, when a Tyrannosaurus Rex has just been born and is flailing about. I’ve used muscles I didn’t even know I had. And to be honest, I’m not sure I want to know about them again.
But perhaps that’s why Susan looks so lovely. Her rose clipping is part of a secret gardening workout known to an elite core of TV actresses. She could make a fortune out of a spin off DVD involving tai chi, a flat cap and garden clippers. She could even borrow my wellies if she wanted, I won’t be going back out in the garden for a while. There’s nothing left to hack back.