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The ulterior motive

In a recent blog for HortWeek blog, I outlined my son’s opinions about the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. So imagine my surprise last week when, whilst climbing into the car at school pick-up time, caked in a combination of mud and sweat (always nice) after yet another rugby club in the rain, he asked “Are you doing Chelsea this year?”

Now, a spontaneous question like that from this eleven year-old is unsettling. He doesn’t do conversation starters. Lots of “Get in” and “What a goal” statements, but not interaction-initiation if he can possibly help it: it means people answer you and ask you something and then you are completely trapped when you could be getting on with the Sports section of The Telegraph. (Apart from one time in the Isle of Wight: as I was driving along, I  swear I heard the words “What a lovely view” come from the direction of the back seat. Reader, I had to stop the car.)

So, back to the Chelsea question. “But you hated Chelsea,” I reminded him. “You told the man from the BBC that you were so bored that it hurt, you sat in the garden and yawned while all those people were taking photos, then you held your stomach like they do in Casualty and you had to go and sit on a bench with Grandma and a Chelsea Pensioner,  and you were wearing Grandma’s big black and gold square-framed Christian Dior sunglasses because your head hurt too – by the way I still cannot believe you actually asked her if you could wear them.”

“But I really loved the show. It was cool”

Another car-stopping moment. Boring, busy, crowded, hot, noisy – these were the words used at the time. ‘Cool’ definitely was not mentioned. Pondering the mysteries and the surprises that our children constantly provide, I started to have a tiny warm glow of pride. My upbringing theory is that you don’t force anything on anyone, you take children along to things that you enjoy: they’ve got to try it twice and if they hate it more than once, then they can take a book or an iPod the next time if I can’t find a babysitter for the day. I think it’s called the “Dragging-Up” or maybe “Ad Hoc” method.  So,  finally, it had clearly worked, or was beginning to show tiny shoots of working at least. All that insisting that they come, at least for an hour, and see where their mother has been for the last  three weeks, as well as simply longing to see them, having missed them after being away  for so long, it had all worked. My son, my  suddenly and pride-makingly art-appreciative, sensitive son, had finally asked to come and share with me the doing of something that I liked doing.

Deep breath and warm glow of Good-Parentness. “Of course! I’m not building a garden this year, so I’ll be around to travel up with you – we can go first thing so we get there nice and early before the crowds, we can have ice creams for breakfast and maybe we’ll get a chance to go into the the actual gardens – I know your sister was keen on getting into the Australian garden’s pool again.”

“Great. But can you make sure it’s a Friday again?  That way I miss double Art but I still get to do Football. I know we have to go to the boring old show, but it’s worth it”


No hubris in being asked to take part in this month’s House and Garden feature on  ten up-and-coming garden designers. Holding back my first Are-You-Sure reaction (similar to my reaction on passing my driving test even though I’d mounted the kerb successfully on three separate occasions during the half-hour), I met up at the fab Thames Barrier Park  with some designers whose work I think of as rather good. It felt jolly special to be included amongst them. What’s more, I got to spend the day in the most wonderful location  – the park is all straight lines of trees going off on the diagonal, with the strange Thames Barrier emerging  in the distance. Now that’s what I call a vista. If you go, try to be there in the early morning – the light and shadows are  breath-taking

I took this next one without stopping quickly enough, then was rather pleased with myself when I saw it.