Adam Ed­wards

Why have we turned our gar­dens into a draw­ing room?

Cotswold Life - - INSIDE - con­tact adampotlick­ @cotswold­hack

There were many things that were miss­ing from my and most of my con­tem­po­raries’ child­hoods that we now take for granted. In the 50s and 60s it was, for example, im­pos­si­ble to get a pizza, a bulb of gar­lic or an av­o­cado. As far as I re­mem­ber no car had a glass sun­roof, no kitchen had an elec­tric clock and no bath­room had a power shower (or any sort of shower for that mat­ter). There were no su­per­mar­kets, no cord­less ap­pli­ances, no credit cards and no train­ers (only plim­solls).

The list is end­less but what in par­tic­u­lar prompted this flight of nos­tal­gia dur­ing these flam­ing days was that there was no gar­den fur­ni­ture to speak of. It is true the gar­dens of grand houses had chipped-paint wrought iron chairs sur­round­ing rusty iron ta­bles, the oc­ca­sional dark wood bench and, if they were par­tic­u­larly swanky, a Lady Pene­lope swing seat. The rest of us made do with a stained can­vas col­lapsi­ble deck chair or a few seats com­man­deered from the kitchen.

Nowa­days a blast of hot weather sees the back gar­dens of the Cotswolds’ gen­try morph into ex­pen­sive out­door draw­ing rooms. There is not a col­lapsi­ble Formica ta­ble, white plas­tic chair, or a multi-coloured beach um­brella to be seen. This was ex­em­pli­fied at the Chelsea Flow Show this year when one of the show gar­dens was dom­i­nated not by flow­ers but by a large de­signer seat­ing area with puffed up sofa cush­ions in pale yel­low and or­ange to “blend in har­mo­niously” with white and yel­low pe­onies and lupins in the less im­por­tant sur­round­ing bor­ders.

A bar­be­cue that is more pro­fes­sional kitchen than caveman fire is the fin­ish­ing folly to these al­fresco lounges. I don’t know when the Bri­tish fell in love with bar­be­cu­ing but it barely ex­isted when I was young. It was, as far as I can as­cer­tain, to­wards the end of the last cen­tury when it be­came part of our DNA. On the first sunny day of the sum­mer English­men would drag out their grease-caked ket­tle stove to cook, if that is the right word, a chicken drum­stick, a burnt sausage and a su­per­mar­ket burger. To­day cook­ers that would em­bar­rass an Aga have re­placed those Heath Robin­son medicine balls. (Again at Chelsea there was The El­e­men­tal, a be­spoke de­signer stream­lined out­door stove made from wood, stone and metal priced at be­tween £50,000 and £80,000.) And yet de­spite this leap for­ward in open-air gourmet gear, the am­a­teur Bri­tish short-or­der chef con­tin­ues to burn the out­side of the sausage while leav­ing the in­side of the chicken leg the colour of sun­burn.

The bizarre thing about this in­vest­ment in posh gar­den fur­ni­ture and grand BBQS is that the English sum­mer, de­spite global warm­ing, is er­ratic. In 2010 I in­vested in a cheap gazebo. In the seven sum­mers since my pop-up pav­il­ion has shaded an out­door feast for less than a cou­ple of days in any one year.

This past May has been the hottest since records be­gan in 1910 but an­other way of put­ting that statis­tic is that we have had the first de­cent late spring and early sum­mer in 108 years. The rea­son for the old wives tale “ne’er cast a clout till May is out” ex­ists be­cause it is usu­ally a bloody cold and grey month. There are, it is true, some hot weeks in June and the oc­ca­sional bak­ing days in July. But in Au­gust it al­most al­ways rains and a sunny Septem­ber – quite of­ten the sun­ni­est month of the year - is blighted by a re­turn to school and work. And yet de­spite these doc­u­mented decades of in­clement sum­mers we are now de­sign­ing our gar­dens as if we were liv­ing in Provence.

There is one cer­tainty about this year’s swel­ter­ing sum­mer – if it is a scorcher (and I am writ­ing this in early June) then it is an odds-on bet that we won’t have an­other like it for years. And for that rea­son I de­cided that this year I would buy my gar­den fur­ni­ture from the Fosse Cross dump. In a spare con­tainer at the tip, from whence any half-de­cent stuff is kept back and sold, I bought six wooden kitchen chairs for a tenner. They have al­ready earned their money. As for the BBQ I will be burn­ing my sausages on a brand new 14’’ inch steel-tri­pod por­ta­ble pa­tio grill that cost me £10.99 on Ebay. The con­trap­tion will go to the dump on the first day of au­tumn… on the same day that I chop up my chairs for fire­wood.

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