HAVE NEVER been the keenest of gardeners. When I was a child I would wonder why my parents talked with such animation about the hydrangeas and the hyacinths, when anybody could see that they were just boring flowers. And worse if I happened to mangle the rose bushes by kicking a football at them, there would be disapproval — likewise when I slid on my knees leaving skid marks on the grass while celebrating a a particularly magnificent goal.
Indeed, although at times I appreciated the aesthetics of a nice garden — I always liked the fuchsia, for example — the whole gardening thing seriously got in the way of my biggest hobby, which happened to be trashing the garden (and breaking the occasional window). Despite this, I did go through a
phase of thinking that I might like to be a football groundsman, though to be fair this coincided with a time during the 1980s when QPR had just installed Astroturf and other clubs were following suit.
All of which might go some way to explain why, until very recently, if you looked out of my kitchen window you would see a fairly unadorned patch of lawn, the length of which at this time of year was beginning to obstruct my view of the garden fence. Of course, anyone who lives in the suburbs is subject to the pressureof keeping up with the neighbours with regard to garden maintenance, although I have few worries. On one side lives a reclusive man who emerges from his front door only to accept Ocado deliveries and whose garden resembles Borneo in the rainy season. On the other side lives a family with four young children — each of whom is so destructive to the shrubbery as to make my childhood self look like Alan Titchmarsh.
Even so, I have been feeling very guilty about my neglect of what could be a great asset. As a fan of Nigel Slater’s cookery programmes I experience shame whenever I see him plucking fresh vegetables from a beautiful garden considerably smaller than my own. And whenever my own children have experienced a desire to leave the computer and go outside to play (which has happened only three times since 2010) they have been discouraged by the inpenetrable forest of weeds.