From a poem (The Garden) by Andrew Marvell
Photo by Candia Dixon-Stuart
Alan Bates, Andrew Marvell, Antiques Roadshow, Babylon, barmkin, Ben Batt, Corydon, Damon the Mower, Deep Heat, Downton Abbey, eclogues, Farmers' Markets, Fiona Bruce, Four Horsemen of Apocalypse, Green-Winged orchid, Grim reaper, Hayter, Highgrove, Lammas, meadow management, Mower to the Glow-Worms, Mr D'Arcy, One Man Went to Mow, pastoral, Pele Tower, Ph.D, Pig-gate, Poldark, Schroeckenfux, scything, snath, Stag's Breath liqueur, The Go-Between, troubador, Voltarol, wu wei
Diana Fotheringay-Syylk was administering embrocations
and a little tlc to a recumbent Murgatroyd, who is, as some
of you will recall, the owner of a Borders Pele tower.
Privately, Diana thought that he had been over-doing things
and Voltarol was not really having a great deal of an effect on
his lumbar aches and pains.
It had not helped when he had lugged plastic crates round the
local Farmers’ Markets, selling his Empress Bangers and porcine
Yes, Dear Reader, Pig-gate had already struck, before the
Cameronian variety hit the news.
(Photo:Alpha from Melbourne)
Once he had cleared out the pig-pen area he decided to
re-seed it, to please Diana, who had been upset when their
gardening firm had rotovated the wrong field and inadvertently
destroyed their recently established Highgrove-style wildflower
meadow and a group of what she took to be Green-Winged Orchids.
(Photo by Didier Desouens)
From then on, Murgatroyd had decided to do away with mechanical
Hayters and, Diana, having been inspired by Aidan Turner, like so
many females d’un certain age, had booked him in – Murgatroyd, that
is – for a Lammas weekend scything course in Brighton, where he was
going to learn the sociology of the bar peen.
His back-ache had been exacerbated by carrying the large A4 pack of
information he had been given at the start of the course. Someone had
probably gained a Ph.D in Rural Studies from producing it.
That meant she could watch the boxed set of Poldark in peace, while
he practised with his new, Austrian light-weight, zero-carbon
However, her pastoral idyll had been disturbed by Murgatroyd’s
complaints, not in the manner of a Corydon, or passionate troubador,
but more in line with the average husband who experiences muscular
twitches, or sciatica. He was recumbent and had hung his instrument on
the equivalent of a willow tree, while he lamented his estate, as if he
had been exiled from Babylon. He felt as if one of the Four Horsemen
of the Apocalypse had wounded him – perhaps that skinny one with the
hoodie and the big scythe.
We’ve run out of ‘Voltarol’. You’ll just have to use the ‘Deep Heat’ until
the shops open tomorrow and I go down to the pharmacy, Diana
informed him, noting that The Go-Between was on later that evening.
What a pity she didn’t have a little gopher, like Leo, to pop upstairs
with the tube of emollient. She was fed up running up and down stairs
pandering to the invalid.
Having taken him a Stag’s Breath liqueur and having poured a generous
shot for herself, she settled down with the remote in a comfy armchair, in
This had better be good, for she had enjoyed the Alan Bates version.
For some subliminal reason, she hummed One Man Went to Mow, Went to
Mow a Meadow…
It wasn’t too long before she found herself re-winding to check the length
of the snath handle Batt was implementing. Impressive-and that was just
his wu wei.
Meanwhile Murgatroyd was looking at a John Deere catalogue while Ben
Batt cut a swathe through Downton‘s viewing audience and no one could
remember what Fiona Bruce had been rabbiting on about on The Antiques
Roadshow. For, there was an attempt to high-jack a Mr D’Arcy moment for
Later, in bed – the spare bed – Diana could not clear snatches of eclogues
from her overactive mind. She kept thinking of Andrew Marvell poems, such
as Damon the Mower, The Mower to the Glow-worms and Mowing Song.
Snippets of the verses repeated themselves:
Sharp like his scythe his sorrow was,
And withered like his hopes the grass.
How happy might I still have mowed,
Had not Love here his thistles sowed.
…there among the grass fell down,
By his own scythe, the Mower mown…
T ‘is death alone that this must do:
For Death thou art a Mower too.
Well, she reflected, Life is too short for meadow
management. I think we will just pave it over again
and get some pots with pelargoniums. I’ll go to the
Garden Centre after I’ve been to the chemist’s.
And she decided that Alan Bates had, after all,
been more satisfactory.