Photo by Candia Dixon-Stuart
Alan Titchmarsh, Bank Holiday, Ben Weatherstaff, Chelsea Flower Show, Cromwell, Dadaism, Diarmuid Gavin, dogulator, Existential, FT, geometrie vegetale, Hans Arp, How To Spend It, leaf spreader, leprechaun, mauvaise foi, NGS Garden scheme, Nihilism, pension forecast, pikestaff, Poundcafe, Roundhead, Secret Garden
Depressing news. Depressing weather for the Bank Holiday. Diarmuid Gavin
even pronounced the hundredth Chelsea Flower Show unimaginative and
Chlamydia looked out at the rain-soaked patio of Costamuchamoulah
must-seen cafe. Leaves swirled around and became mulch on the
She picked up an NGS brochure which was advertising various local gardens
which were to open in Suttonford to support the Anacondas In Adversity!
charity: a cause which she and her daughter, Scheherezade, fervently
She prayed for a meteorological change while stirring her Mocha, thus
destroying its award-winning fern imprint in choco-powder.
How much had she paid for this caffeine indulgence? As much as could have
bought her three houses in Stoke-on-Trent. Really, social and even solitary
caffeine was becoming a luxury she could ill afford. If her pension forecast
was anything to go by, she would be better supporting a Poundcafe
expansion from Kirby.
She flicked through last week’s FT supplement, How To Spend It. Maybe
someone could publish a spoof version and add a final ironic Not to the title.
She picked up a less pretentious publication and started to read an article on
dogulators. This had nothing to do with the abominable practice of dogging,
but was concerned with the various means and strategies for calculating
one’s canine friend’s true age.
Clammie thought that the formula was fairly simple: multiply by seven.
Apparently, like pension forecasts, it was a lot more complicated and involved
the recognition that some breeds age at different rates and that there are
periods when the pace accelerates and then slows. No wonder she was so
confused about how her age of receipt of pension contributions kept varying
and she found it hard to focus on the ever-receding pot of gilt as it miraged
out of sight under the insubstantial rainbow of her transient life.
She would have to do some work to increase her contributions. Maybe she
could create a garden design and take it to next year’s Chelsea show? It
couldn’t be so hard to gain a gold medal. There seemed to be a plethora of
She had heard Alan Titchmarsh, no doubt irritated by Gavin’s criticisms, use the
terminological inexactitude: iconoclastic, in reference to some of the designs.
She had conjured up the image of a Cromwellian regiment of out-of-control
Roundheads smashing up garden gnomes with their pikestaffs.
Hey! What if she created a moving installation using such a – she hesitated to
adopt the over-exposed abstract noun that had broken out all over Chelsea-
using such an innovative concept? She was sure that Diarmuid would be up for
a bit of Celtic licence as long as no one smashed a fibreglass leprechaun. An
art garden would be the answer to her spiritual stagnation. No- wait!- an Arp
garden. Now she was really feeling her creative sap rise!
Yes, Hans Arp had made woodcuts of leaves and forms and had just thrown
them together at random. She could imagine sitting on that elevated bench
with Alan T, discussing her concept. She would refer to Dadaism and
geometrie vegetale and might even call the plot an Existential Garden for an
Age of Nihilism.
It would be a space where she had lost the plot! She would have at its centre
two huge sculpted dice which would turn on an axis, like swivel-headed loons.
People might have to return a six to enter; or not.
She would impress Titchmarsh by echoing Arp: My garden represents a
secret, primal meaning slumbering beneath the world of appearances.
Chance points to an unknown but active principle of order and meaning
that manifests itself in the garden’s secret soul. Alan would be blown away
as if by a giant leaf vacuum. And the non-existence of any supporting
rationale would contain the ambivalence of the aforesaid appliance, as it
would contribute to a kind of chaos theory that, just like the leaf blower,
moved concepts around rather than forming them into a neat structure
and creating something useful, such as a compost heap. The leaf vacuum-
a metaphor for our time.
Secret Garden? She could place a rusting metal outline of a Ben
Weatherstaff figure leaning on a spade at its centre and a robin
could buzz around on elastic over an empty wheelchair. That might
suggest hope. On alternative days she would replace the wheelchair
with a vandalised shopping trolley, representing mauvaise foi. Brilliant!
Next year Diarmuid would not be bored, she could assure him.