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Gyles and Carrie had agreed to open the garden of Nutwood Cottage to the

general public, in conjunction with three other neighbouring plots, in aid of

locally popular charity, Anacondas in Adversity.

Although their cottage garden was only just over half an acre, Carrie’s

anxiety levels had been high.  It was all so competitive.

Tiger-Lily, their teenage daughter, had taken some time out from

studying to help with the baking required for the refreshment stall.

She had been crystallising violets while her mother attempted to

produce Jane Asher’s Festival Cake recipe, which was de rigeur for any

self-respecting National Garden Scheme follower.

Owing to the appalling Spring, Carrie had lamented that there was not a

lot of colour to celebrate.  However, in the previous few days, some roses

had blossomed, including all the ones she had chosen for their pretentious

names, such as Bluestocking and Aphra Behn.  She was alarmed to notice

that Sappho had whitefly infestation and Theresa May had black spot.

There seemed to be some undermining of their party wall, which Carrie,

initially thought was down to the roots of a fig tree which she now

regretted ever having planted, but, on closer inspection, she saw that

some burrowing creature had been tunnelling with the dedication of a

Colditz fugitive.

Yet the fig tree had been spared in the Biblical manner and the neighbours’

attention had been diverted from sapper activity by the questionable gift of

a jar of fig chutney.  (Not the best atonement for a family who were latex


The afternoon of the opening had arrived and assistance had been

requisitioned from as many of Carrie’s friends as she could muster.  That

meant Brassica, Chlamydia and myself.  We were on teas and Clammie

was appointed treasurer and guardian of plants.  No cuttings were to be

taken by the light-fingered, no matter how green-fingered their

credentials and not even if they said their name was Gertrude Jekyll .

painting of an old woman with glasses and grey hair in a chair, by lamplight

Carrie’s children were still at school and Gyles was at work.  He

had, however, helped by potting on a few ubiquitous seedlings for

plant sales.

Magda, the carer, had offered to wheel Carrie’s mother-in-law, Ginevra,

round for an hour or so.  Carrie thought that this was a bad idea, as Ginevra

had never shown any interest in horticulture whatsoever and had a deep

antipathy towards Carol Klein and all of her ilk.  Still, Carrie wasn’t going to

make a mountain out of a molehill over it and so she acquiesced, though

somewhat grudgingly.  She knew Ginevra would avoid paying the ticket price

for entry and Magda would eat all the cupcakes.

Carol Klein.jpg

She surveyed the greensward in front of her.  Gyles had definitely won the turf

war thanks to his sister, Victoria, who lived in the Charente, who, hearing of

his trials in attempting to create a perfect pelouse, had sent him a box from

Gamm Vert, the Gallic garden centre, which contained a detaupeur and a set

of petards.

You can’t use this in the UK, Gyles had told his sister on Skype.

Well, all my French neighbours insist that it is the only solution, she had

informed him.  They say, Pouf!  Ca marche and C’est normal! Ze mole, he is

no more!

Carrie worried about the hypocrisy of supporting anacondas while blowing

Monsieur Pantalon Velours as high as the Eiffel Tower, in the cause of

cultivated jardinage. Hadn’t she read Kenneth Grahame to all her brood?

However, with one hit she had eliminated all earth excavation and she felt

as powerful as Cate Blanchett in Charlotte Gray.  Next she would be toting a

smoking pistol in her stocking top and wearing a Kangol beret.  Gyles wouldn’t

put up any resistance.

Charlotte gray ver2.jpg