Garden Journal - July 25th 2005

Wildchicken Garden Journal - Miranda Hodgson


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July 25th 2005 - The bitter and the sweet

A few things have happened since I last wrote, and the break in continuity perhaps needs a little explanation.


The end of May, all of June and the first half of July were taken up with the illness of our dog, Toby. Being a soft-hearted sort of person I decided to give him the time that would have gone to other things, like writing this journal. Toby was ill some 18 months ago, with a rare immune system disorder which took several weeks to diagnose. It wasn’t cured, and never could be, but was controlled with steroids and he regained his health to a large extent.


The steroids, however, took their toll and gave him stomach ulcers which wouldn’t heal. We tried various treatments and different diets but nothing worked and we eventually had to admit that he wasn’t going to get better, that he was depressed and in pain and that we had no option left but to say goodbye as kindly as possible. Losing a good friend this way is hard and extremely sad for all involved, but at least he could go with dignity and without pain, which is more than can be said for many humans. We buried him under the apple tree in the back garden and have planted some ferns to grow there. In time, I think it will look good.



After nursing him so carefully for all those weeks, and being unable to get him better again despite all our efforts, I just didn’t have the heart to spend much time gardening for a while, partly because of all the people who pass by and stop to chat. I couldn’t face their questions and sympathy so stayed indoors for a week. But, as they say, life goes on. There are still plants to find space for – the last of the Nicotiana sylvestris and the Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’ - and mulches to put down. Chillies and tomatoes to be watered and fed, now that the fruits have set. Weeds to be pulled out, dead flowers to be snipped off so that new ones will bloom. I’ll say more about that in the next instalment.


But to some better news, and it’s good to have some, I must say. After a four month wait, the results of the RHS exams finally arrived. For a week or so beforehand, I’d been getting letters from both the RHS and Bishop Burton college. Every time one dropped through the letter box my heart would race and I’d pick it up with trembling hands, only to find that it was a new prospectus or details of my membership renewal. How infuriating. Then another envelope arrived, from the RHS again.


This time it was a stiff A4 envelope and I knew this was it, whatever ‘it’ was going to be. They wouldn’t have sent a stiff envelope if I’d failed, would they? It would be thin and flimsy, containing a single sheet of folded paper with a few sad sentences, probably photocopied but the words themselves having a kick like a mule. So, taking my envelope upstairs, I put it on my desk and frowned at it for nearly five minutes without touching it. In the exam, I’d written what seemed like reams, had even asked for extra paper, but didn’t know if it was what they were really looking for, or whether it had made proper sense to anyone but me.


Ever so slowly, I peeled open the flap and eased out the papers inside. There were two of them: a certificate and a short letter. Which to look at first? I went for the letter, having briefly glimpsed the words ‘pleased’ and ‘congratulations’. It couldn’t all be bad if those words were there, so I scanned it quickly and found to my complete and total amazement that I’d been awarded a Distinction, the highest grade. The shock was so intense; I hadn’t expected it at all and had to hold my head on to stop it falling off. A brisk walk round the garden was needed, followed by a cup of tea, one of the best cups of tea in the world. I took my mug and sat in middle of the lawn where, unnoticed, several ants crawled into my trousers and bit my legs.


For the rest of that day, I wanted to scream and couldn’t concentrate on anything at all. Karl bought a bottle of champagne and we stuffed it into the freezer and waited for it to chill. Then, when it was good and cold, we gave our best cut-glass champagne flutes a quick polish, poured out a glass of bubbles each and shouted variations of ‘Hurrah!’. The wonderful excitement of such an unexpected achievement rose again and I danced round the kitchen, stamping, turning in circles, waving my arms about and uttering little shrieks and howls. I can’t remember what we had for dinner, but recall eating and that it was nice, very nice. The next day I found a picture frame in the garage that fitted, put the certificate in and propped it up on my desk, where it sits with the champagne cork dangling from it, attached to a bit of green garden twine.


One view from my desk


Speaking to Gail, I found that all our class had passed the exam and that there were three Distinctions. She told me that the usual rate for people to start the course, go all the way through and then pass the exam is 35%. This class started with 18 students and finished with 18, and all passed. 100% - not bad, eh?


© Copyright Miranda Hodgson 2005


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Published: 04-06-2005

Updated:   16-08-2005