A brief encounter with the gardener

The barley is growing tall now. Sunny days are turning it into gold.

One day of torrential rain this week sent plants and grain shooting skywards, like speeded up, cartoon versions of Jack’s beanstalk.

It was a return to winter, if only for one day. And then back came the sun, behind overcast greyness. And that oh-so-welcome breeze. Cool, man.

Early morning dog walks are rewarded by feelings of smugness. I am up and out and about before many of my neighbours. Striding through open fields, picking my way past maize that soon will be as tall as me, I stop to take the small rucksack off my back and reach for my notebook. I need to record what I am seeing, through words as well as pictures.

And then it’s down to the gate and back. I admire the barley from the gateway but decide not to walk through it in case the developing awns attach themselves rather too enthusiastically to my dog’s hairy coat and then into her skin.

She’s back on the lead now as we walk along the lane, the air thick with the strong scent of Himalayan balsam standing mighty and proud above a ditch. It’s not yet eight o’clock and a car pulls up in the middle of the road, its hazard warning lights flashing.

An upright and rather handsome elderly gentleman gets out of the driver’s seat and opens the tall gates to the big house.

“Lovely day, isn’t it?” he says, in a voice as rich as golden syrup and looking up at the sky. A patch of blue big enough to make a pair of trousers for a sailor is creeping out from the clouds.

It’s the gardener.

He gets back into the car and drives onto the crunchy gravel before closing the gate behind him.

Later, I find myself singing “I’m Bayleaf I’m the gardener, I work from early dawn, you’ll find me sweeping up the leaves and tidying the lawn” in my best Westcountry accent. The song stays with me all day.


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