Under the Radar. Every word is true. Honest to god. But the gardens looked terrific.
When George Clooney got into the Andrea Gail for the last fishing trip of the season he knew the weather forecast was bad, but he’d ridden out storms before.
We all saw the poster and even if we didn’t see the film, we know what happened next. I don’t mean any disrespect to the the people involved in the real catastrophe, simply to suggest that sometimes there’s a combination of circumstances that add up to something you might never imagine. Or want.
When eight months ago we invited Lizzie and Anthony to stay I enticed them with the offer of a tranquil weekend of rural peace and rustic charm. I promised them food from the garden, church bells, walks over fields, a rose arch.
When I volunteered to join this year’s Village Open Gardens I didn’t recognise the dates, but of course when it turned out to be the same weekend that these cosmopolitan, child-free friends who fly themselves down to the Venice Biennale and who live in an immaculate modernist flat seventeen floors up a tower in the Barbican, were coming.
Plus it was the same weekend that my husband was really looking forward to, because he needed some peace and quiet - he hadn’t been home, or had a day off, in a fortnight, because he’d unexpectedly had to go to Beijing.
This sounds glamorous but airports and hotels tend to be the same more or less everywhere if you’re not there for pleasure.
The joiner fixing our windows had started later than intended, and consequently the fantastic painters* who were doing the outside of the house hadn’t finished. Not what I had planned.
Although I had promised not to get over-anxious about being part of the Open Gardens Weekend, or do anything extra or different, I hadn’t banked on the mower packing up the day before.
I had just finished the paths through the wild part and was about to start on the more formal terraced area and a small circle of what actually deserves the name ‘lawn’ next to the house. When. Dead mower. Complete panic until Mike, an engineer who can fix anything, sorted out the starter mechanism after I had trundled it down the hill to his house. Phew.
The final killer component was a request to have Rose, Max and Kitty to stay the night and the following day. Delighted! Always! But the rhythm of domestic life stops when they arrive, and as the human brain can only cope with so many sources of stress at once, we focussed on keeping them from kicking footballs into the herbaceous borders, and didn’t worry about sophisticated visitors, or the hundreds about to arrive to inspect our gaff.
At 1pm I stood casually on the terrace hoping that I looked like Katherine Hepburn with a trug. The first visitors were making their way into the garden when two figures came running towards me: ‘Kitty’s just done a giant poo, and there’s water flooding the top floor’. These two events turned out to be unrelated, but sure enough, here was the apocalyptic wall of water.
I’ve now got at least one thing something in common with George Clooney. We both should have known better than to venture out when so many elements were against us.