A Tale of Two Gardens

The metal gate squeaked on its ancient, rusting hinges as the tall gentleman with a mop of curly, dark hair entered the garden. On top of his thick, roll-neck jumper he wore a brown, corduroy jacket that matched the trousers tucked into the top of muddy, green Wellington boots. Alan looked up to see who was visiting at such an early hour then smiled when he recognised Master Don. One knee was on the grass next to a freshly turned flower bed, on the other he rested his elbow. There was rich, black compost under his fingernails and in his hand he held a pansy. He lent down on a small fork to help himself raise up onto both feet then tugged at his thick forelock with his free hand.

“What a most wonderful surprise it is to see such a fine young gentleman, as yourself, beside me bed so soon in the day” Alan declared, a broad grin breaking out over his face filling the gap between two rosy cheeks.

“Good day to you Titmarsh, now listen here ol’ chap,” commanded Master Don as he slipped one hand into his jacket pocket, fingers searching for the envelope within. “I need you to perform an important duty for me and I need you to do it as quick as you can.” He curved his considerable frame forward so that he could quietly talk directly to Alan’s ear. “Within this envelope is a document that could change the course of history not only here but across the continent. It is imperative that you deliver it, as soon as you can ol’ chap. The recipient’s name is on the front, he’s abroad but we don’t know where. He was last sighted in L’Isle en Doden. We need to know if he’s in or out. Go to France, find him, and return with his answer, before it’s too late.”

“But sir, I’ve got Sweet William to bed before lunch. And what about Charlie’s back passage, I said I’d give it a good seeing to?” the now distressed gardener protested.

“You’ve a seat on tonight’s mail-coach down the Dover road, ensure you’re on it or I’ll…” His sentence ended abruptly before Alan would learn the consequence of failure. Don turned to face the woman now standing at the entrance to the small cottage. Her strawberry blonde hair shone in the sunlight, she was framed by a flush of pink climbing roses that arched their way around the half opened stable door. Their hypnotic fragrance gently meandered along the path towards him.

“Miss Dimmick”, he whispered, his eyes somehow unable to meet hers, eyes distracted, drawn to somewhere else, something on her dress that he instinctively focused on, his pupils twitched from left to right repeatedly as he tried to conquer the primitive urge that he was powerless to resist. Straightening his spine, standing erect and powerful, he eventually regained his composure and snarled at Alan, “Get it done man, do you understand, get it done.”

“Why young Monty, don’t talk to my Alan in such a tone or I’ll put you across me knee like I used when you was just a nipper,” scolded Charlie as she slowly wagged a finger in his direction. But he was gone.

Two chicks in danger!

Two chicks in danger!

Meanwhile in southern France we’d just transferred between two contrasting housesits. The first was bijou, compact and manageable with a garden lovingly planted and tended, our task was simply to cut some grass – if we fancied – and feed the cats. The second was grand with plenty of land, a family home with lots of pets. Feed the animals, walk the dogs and – if we fancied – pot some plants.

The other day we discovered two little chicks hiding in the grass, huddled together they began to squawk as we approached. They’d obviously fallen from their nest in the large oak under which we now knelt. Luckily, we’d bought cake from our favourite chocolatier that morning and had a small, cardboard carry-box to transport them home in. With a clump of dry, cut grass from the lawn we made a replacement nest. Carole carefully cupped the half-feathered creatures in her hands and placed them inside then I hung the box from a branch in the nearby holly bush. From a distance, we waited to see if the mother would find her now hungry and recently re-housed brood. Within minutes she was there to calm them and attend to their supper.

Mother returns to the cake box nest with food for her chicks.

Mother returns to the cake box nest with food for her chicks.

The next afternoon the heavens opened and the cardboard of the box soaked up the rain, sagged then surrendered to the effects of gravity. Once more the chicks found themselves on the ground and potentially at the mercy of the three cats we were caring for. This time we utilized a plastic flower pot and wedged it between the branches of holly. Yet again their mother returned to satisfy her young.

In the morning we returned to check on the little chirpers but only found two small recesses in the grass where they’d spent the night. Had they fledged? Flown the nest? I’d like to think so. Watching while perched on the garden fence was a magpie and I’m certain he raised an eyebrow then licked his beak.

The internet is a wonderful thing, we regularly get knowledge uploads, matrix-style, on all manner of subjects not that kempo, tae kwon do, drunken boxing or even kung fu have come in use just yet. Carole plugged in ‘caring for guinea pigs’ and moments later informed me that they shouldn’t be feed cut grass as it ferments in their stomachs and gives them tummy ache. My fact fix was surprisingly, about chickens. ‘What is the best ground surface for your coop?’ I hear you cock-a-doodle. Well, apparently short grass, soil or sand will get the girls clucking. As the grass in the run was a tad long I set to work with the strimmer. These two fascinating facts merged when I considered, ‘could cut grass do the same to a chicken’s internals?’ The last thing you want is a dirty egg so I decided to rake the grass just in case. From a distance I must have looked like a mammoth orange chicken scratching at the ground with my wide clawed foot, in search of seed. They say people end up looking like their pets!

Our lovely potted garden.

Our lovely potted garden.

I knew we had to register to vote and that there was a deadline but, as you do, I kept putting it off, ‘I’ll do that tomorrow…’ We don’t have a residence in the UK so are not on any electoral role. We could register at our previous polling station using our last address but still needed to organize a proxy to make the mark (X) as we’re too late for a postal vote. To do so we needed a foreign address – nope – for correspondence and would have to download a form, print, complete and post all before the deadline.

At first, not being able to participate didn’t bother me, but as the day loomed nearer a fear overtook me that my fellow Brits were going to make a massive mistake and our two votes might be enough to save the nation. Brexit has been a hot topic here in France and the locals are curious as to our particular personal decisions. Once again we find common ground with Johnny Foreigner as the French believe the EU is, as an idea, great but, that currently, it is bureaucratic and extravagantly mismanaged. If they had the opportunity I’d guess they’d vote to exit but that may only be the view out here in the countryside with Paris reflecting London and taking a different point of view.

For the record, my vote would have been to remain in the EU. My reasoning could simply be put, ‘two wrongs don’t make a right!’ It doesn’t work efficiently, so don’t Brexit, fixit! For me, it’s just not British to turn and run away, after all, we’ve invested a lot of money into it. We stand and fight, show some initiative and creativity, build a new union lead by us.

On referendum day I realised that it could be a win win situation regardless of the vote. A close ‘remain’ victory would put pressure on both our government and the powers in Brussels for change, for a new improved treaty which is essentially, all that is required. This would also be necessary for Dave to repair his now divided government and party, even more crucial for that ‘flaming yeti’ Boris to be a credible future PM. A ‘leave’ victory would plunge the country and Tooting into chaos, the government would try to delay exit on technicalities, negotiations and paperwork, effectively ignoring the will of the people and resulting in the ultimate goal of them all – revolution! Get Wolfie quick!

There's a storm coming!

There’s a storm coming!

One week later

A week is a long time in politics as they say. The ‘leave’ victory has sent shockwaves through Europe and here in France many of the expats are, not surprisingly, amazed at the outcome and concerned about their futures. It seems, that again, the once great British public have been lied to and mugged by the career politicians at the helm. Never has it been so transparent that their only interest is to climb up that greasy pole (tall, thin thing) and that the working classes have shafted themselves yet again.

It would be easy to have a right good rant about a million different topics but I get the impression it would be pointless. It seems, these days, that if you want us Brits to take notice and swallow any idea, however barking mad it may sound, all you need is a toffee-nosed f><#ing twat to spit real ale at us in a condescending manner, mention the NHS and get misty-eyed about the good ol’ days and you’ll win our vote. What a gullible, self-obsessed and scared little nation we have become. I want my country back.

Knock, knock. Got to go there’s someone at the door!