It’s my gardeners birthday today. The relationship I have with my gardener is the most challenging one I have but, other than the ones I have with my children, it’s been the most important. I know she will never read this so I wanted to use her special day to share some of the wonderful things about her that she would never accept if I said them to her beautiful face.
I refer to her as ‘my gardener’ as a term of affection but she would probably pounce on that as a negative and take the opportunity to remind me of her perception that I also treat her as my cleaner, childminder, maintenance woman and general dogsbody as well. I really don’t, but today is her day so I get where she’s coming from, honestly I do. She’ll think I have a motive for writing this. The truth is I do, we’re in a very bad place at the moment so this is ‘kind of’ the conversation I have in my head with her where things go well and we find common ground. Writing it down, helps me so there’s certainly a selfish element to this. It’s more about the qualities my gardener possesses though that I’d like others to know about. Unlike my other posts, I don’t want you to share this one. It’s just between us.
My gardener and I met in a bar. It probably says a lot about where she was in her life at that time as, the truth is, she doesn’t really like bars. She does, despite being the worst at the pastime I’ve ever seen, like drinking but a can of John Smiths Smooth-flow after a couple of hours burning stuff in the garden is much more her thing than the endless pursuit of nothingness I indulge myself in. Occasionally she allows herself two cans, usually because, in her words; “it’s a Friday”. When this happens I have learned to adorn my tin hat and take cover as her last sip will inevitably be followed by a ‘cute’, again her words, burp and a tirade against all the wrongs I’ve done to her over the last decade and a half or so.
As I’ve already alluded to, my gardener is very beautiful. She’s perhaps the most effortlessly gorgeous woman I’ve ever seen in real life. In all the years I’ve known her she’s perhaps had her hair done in a professional salon, maybe twice. Most of her clothes are purchased in charity shops, she doesn’t go anywhere near the gym, although she does keep very active as she’s a very hard worker, and I’m not even sure she knows what Botox is. Despite this, wherever I’ve ever been with her, she’s nearly always the most beautiful person in the room. There’s a picture in our front room of her mother as a young woman and she was the same. She looks like an old fashioned film star, Elizabeth Taylor to my gardeners, Natalie Wood.
Maybe because she’s always been so beautiful, so understands nothing else, she has always been deeply unimpressed by compliments on her looks. They just don’t wash with her, she’d much rather someone was positive about a piece of garden furniture she’s created out of a dead tree and some milk bottle tops or, especially, the achievements of her children. Be gushing about things like that and watch her light up the room. It’s a wonder of our world, it really is.
Look a little deeper and you will see how intelligent my gardener is. She can’t spell and sometimes struggles to articulate her thoughts the way she’d want to but she has a curiosity about a whole range of things and knows a lot of stuff. If you need someone for your quiz team, my gardener is the one to choose. Specialist subjects include; science, all things nature, pop music and…..gardening.
My gardener was born to be a mother. Perhaps (actually there’s no perhaps about it) my greatest achievement was the very small part I played in helping her become what she so desperately wanted to be when I first met her. To be fair, my part wasn’t that difficult. See the paragraphs above about her natural beauty, I was hardly being asked to help clean out the drains (not a euphemism 😳). If love can ever be described as a tangible thing then it can be seen, felt and touched in the way she is with our children. Many of my feelings towards my gardener have become complicated over time but, for the way she is devoted to our children and the way they are devoted to her back, I will always love her.
I know it’s quite unusual to take ones gardener on trips away but I’ve had some of my best of times with her in; Barcelona, Madrid, Rome, Milan, Dubrovnik, Amsterdam and one or two others down the years. When I’ve been in places like this on my own, or with my usual friends, I don’t see much more than whatever bars they have to offer but, with her, I’ve been exposed to art galleries, museums, gardens and parks that I’ve actually quite enjoyed, even if it’s just to witness the pleasure places like this give her. We once visited the famous, Gaudi inspired, Church of the Sagrada Família in Barcelona. Those of you that have been will know what an amazing place it is, with stunning and imaginative architecture. I thought it was very nice, it moved my gardener to tears. Seeing her moved to tears, moved me. That’s how we used to roll.
My gardener is brave as a lion and can more than fight her corner over things that really matter to her. She lets a lot of people, including me sometimes, take advantage of the quiet and unassuming part of her nature but woe betide anyone who oversteps the mark. Do anything to hurt her children, any animal, or let her catch you littering the countryside and she will go for you like a miniature raging bull. Gorgeous though she is, it’s not a pretty sight. Believe me, I know.
Although she is strong, much stronger than me, of course there have been things that have upset her. She doesn’t like anyone to see her cry, so she will hate that I’ve written this, but the death of her father, of her beloved dog Phoebe and worries about our eldest son Charlie, that occasionally become too much for her, have all reduced her to tears. Although during these times I have never been the person she needs, or would choose, to provide comfort, seeing this side of her, in those rare moments, is probably when I’ve loved her most and when I’ve wanted her to love me most. In some of these moments I’ve also not been there for her as much as I should have been, partly because I’ve never thought she wanted me to, but that’s no excuse as it was my job to be there. I wish I could find a way to say sorry to her and she would believe that I mean it.
If I had a time machine I’d travel with my gardener back to one of the first days out we had together. We drove in my old Fort Escort to Burnsall, in the Yorkshire Dales, and did a walk. My gardener had packed a picnic but the wind and rain battered us so much that we couldn’t eat any of it until, soaking wet and freezing, we got back in the car. Sitting there, by the side of the river with the rain lashing down on the windscreen, she poured me a small red wine in a posh plastic glass she’d packed for the occasion. She’d also made a ‘mix tape’ (it was a long time ago) full of songs she thought I might like. Such small things, but the effort she’d made was so important to me at that time. It showed she cared, when I didn’t care much for myself and that she wanted the day with me to be special. It meant such a lot then and it still does now. Do you know, I don’t think I’ve ever told her that. There’s probably a relationship lesson in that somewhere!
I don’t know how much I’ll see and speak to my gardener today. What’s important is that she is happy on her birthday so let’s hope she is. I hope she has a dance at some point as well, she loves to dance.
Happy birthday Adele X
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