Grandiose gardening: the flower beds at Lanhydrock

Having so far remained  free of the horrendous effects of Covid-19, I will however admit to suffering what might be considered a supplementary impact.

Not the sweaty feverish three days with a headache and sore dry throat and the accompanying anxieties; they  lingered a bit too long for comfort but thankfully eventually moved on. Immune system 1, virus 0. A narrow victory.

Of more concern is the growing tendency to fantasise that has invaded my mind.

Not dreams, but fantasies.  Dreams tend to calm and merely seek wish fulfilment; fantasies are disruptive, unnerving, scary, bordering on Game of Thrones territory.

My fantasies are of a garden, of a verdant and peaceful space beyond my four walls. It appears from all that is being written, Instagrammed and videoed that such additions to one’s home provide the ideal escape without actually breaking any rules of confinement.

Such a space, no matter how small,  is portrayed as heaven on earth. But to me it is more hreaven with earth, which soon morphs into hell on earth. It implies endless toil rather than the peace and contentment claimed by adherents.

Far from the agony of coronavirus. gardening produces its own form of physical agony. Backbreaking pain, aching joints, strained muscles, cuts that bleed into dirt-encrusted fingers, rivers of sweat.

Every bush, shrub, flower bed and vegie patch nags at you. They cry out ‘weed me, hoe me, prune me’ and numerous other technical imprecations that cannot be ignored. Like pleading prisoners reaching out their arms to passing gaolers.

Then there’s the fearsome weaponry that adds more Game of Thrones imagery. Alongside the basic fork and spade there are mysterious devices such as rakes, hoes, dibbers, trowels, sickles, pruners, shears, loppers and, scariest of all, the spine-chilling strimmer.

Use of many of these devices requires heavy duty gloves, face shields, safety helmets – all reminders of the PPE required by all those brave and dedicated workers on the NHS frontline.

Theere is little doubt that right now the idea of a garden can be appealing, especially to all those people crammed into city apartments and tiny terrace houses with at most a backyard  offering room only to squeeze in a couple of bikes and the recycling bins. No wonder they are defiantly flooding into sunlit parks.

But when this contagion has passed that patch of earth will remain with its relentless presence. Still demanding. Still a place of torture before tranquility.

And the fearful fantasy continues, insisting a garden would be life-enhancing, almost convincing in its persistance.

Fortunately the words of  poet Thomas Brown intrude to give a timely reminder: A garden is a loathsome thing …

At least that is what my wonky hearing lets me think that’s what he wrote …










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