Being involved in a Chelsea Flower Show build was a long held ambition, but with that and Hampton Court receding into memory it’s difficult not to feel a little flat.

That’s not to say that I don’t have anything to look forward to. There are at least three weeks off with Little Boots over the next month and a half, and we have plenty planned.

But there’s nothing in the here and now and I’m finding it tough. This is largely boredom and self-indulgent self-pity, but the thing is I’m longing to do something immediately, rather than just mark time until the summer hols.

There is I think another aspect to this. A yearning to spend more time outside. Occasionally I used to take an alternative route to the station. Instead of the L-shaped couple of hundred yards of boring tarmac, that only varied seasonally because in the dark winter months there was more dog-shit to avoid, I’d duck down a bosky footpath that covered the same journey, but took slightly longer. At first this was an impulse to break the tedium, but the more I did it the more I noticed. There were plants in such variety it surprised me, although it shouldn’t have. On really crappy days I’d reflect back that the most interesting thing I’d done was something like spotting white Herb Robert flowers, and pondering whether they were formed that colour, or if age, or sun had made it so.

A few months back I made this my regular route, quite simply because it makes my that little bit richer.

But they say the taste of honey is worse than none at all. And I think it has very much made me wish for more of this.

Yes I have the garden and the allotment, but when I’m in/on them that’s work, diverting work, but work nonetheless. I’m feeling a need not just to wander, nor just to “stop and stare”, although they are surely part of it, but also to well, fill a nature shaped hole in my soul.


Sometimes you go to things eagerly, and they are disappointing. A good example of that would be when a few years ago we went to see Jason Byrne, alleged to be a comedian and also one that according to a review was a mix of Spike Milligan and the Duracell Bunny. What the piece failed to point out was that this meant he had as little surreal humour as the Duracell bunny and was as funny as one of Spike Milligan’s most depressive episodes. It was an experience that my friends similarly depressed, and me more so since I had persuaded them to come along.

Contrariwise – is that a real word or a made up one that I have in my head courtesy of Lewis Caroll? –  there are things you don’t want to go to and which end up great. A watery example of the latter happen to me on Thursday morning. I was laid in bed at 6 a.m. really not wanting to get up and go tothe RHS Hampton Court Flower Show.

Two things in my mind made this a bad idea. One, it was 6 a.m. Two, I was fairly sure it was going to rain heavily at some point. There was a third that crept in as I dropped my head onto the pillow -I could spend the day at home on my own – after a pretty stiff week at work that’d be just the ticket. But, no, that wouldn’t do. I said I’d go. So I set off with the firm expectation that the day would be a bit grim, but consoling myself with the thought that I had my Gardens Illustrated umbrella, with it’s magical shamanistic power that meant whenever, and wherever I carried it, it never rained.

Things started to go a bit wonky from early on. I was on the second of the three trains I needed to catch when I realised I forgotten my lunch. I was more pissed off that I wouldn’t be eating the especially nice bread rolls I’d bought and filled the night before, than that I’d have to spend a ridiculous amount for not brilliant food at the food.

Getting to the show went smoothly enough and Tim the contractor’s foreman was pleased to see me as the designer was not on site and he “knew nothing about plants”.

Grabbing a coffee, I was a bit miffed at paying four quid for a pretty crappy bacon roll, but more so when it started to rain and then for no reason my camera died on me.

Not only did my talismanic umbrella fail to ward off the rain, it failed to keep it off of me as it quickly got soaked and started leaking.

The sun came out and dried us off a bit, only for it to really start hammering down.

By the time it finished I was soaked to the skin right down my back thanks to my un-umbrella. It was by now lunchtime and although starving I wasn’t looking forward to what was on offer – and the cost of it – something not helped by a call from my OH to say my sandwich rolls were delicious.

Despite all this I had enjoyed the morning talking to people about the garden and plants, and it was helped further by having some good banter with Tim from the contractors, a genuinely lovely bloke and fine company.

By now the designer was on site and let us into the secret of the RHS Exhibitors’ food area. Nicer, cheaper food than I would have otherwise afforded, with plenty of space to sit down – although I have to say that the coriander on the new potatoes was a mistake – did they have a rookie in the kitchen who got it mixed up with parsley?

After lunch Tim and I took a wander around the show gardens, which I found a bit mixed, and I had a chat with someone I vaguely know who had done one of the Concept Gardens which was a surprise for us both.

I then put in a bit more time back manning the plot and realised that I really love this – talking to people about the design and the plants, offering suggestions and bits of advice when asked for it, and learning things from them.

By mid-afternoon the sun had come out and although it did little to dry the site out except make the mud stickier, it was hot enough to burn my skin.

So I returned home tired, sunburnt and slightly muddy, but having had a pretty good day, despite my expectations to the contrary.

It had even been funnier than Jason Byrne.

Helping build a garden at Chelsea was the fulfilment of a long-standing ambition.

It wasn’t achieved without cost.

I don’t mean the money I spent on travel, or the time taken off work.

No the cost was to my boots. My beloved Blundstones have died.

True they were getting on a bit, I bought them on a trip to New Zealand in early 2002, but I had taken a lot of care of them and didn‘t even wear them as work boots for a number of years. I reckon it was the corrugated steel roadway that helped shred the soles, but I’m sure they would’ve given up the ghost sooner or later – it just happened a bit suddenly, that’s all.

To make matters worse they’re a model (Blundstone 140s) that you can’t get in the UK. What am I going to wear to Hampton Court?

So there we are. Or rather, here we are. After a rather grim period life looks like it’s picking up.

Some of that is rather small things like seeds bursting into life, but then it’s often the small things, or at least an accumulation of them, that make a difference.

Other things are a bit bigger, like only having one RHS3 exam left and already having done over half the notes for it back last summer.

Of course none of this compares to being given the all clear health-wise, but there is one other big bit of news that has really buoyed me up.

It looks like I’m going to be helping to build a garden at this summer’s RHS show at Hampton Court. It’s all a bit nebulous at the moment, but it is nevertheless stupefyingly exciting and the best thing I’ve had to look forward to for ages.

And it’s especially welcome on a wet and miserable day like today, when I want to be out planting things.