Gardening leave

PUBLISHED: 18:30 14 May 2008 | UPDATED: 15:46 11 May 2010

THIS weekend I was supposed to be on garden duty. You will see I described it as garden duty rather than gardening duty. Believe it or not, there is a difference. I believe the lack of gardening expertise is because many years ago in days of short trouser

THIS weekend I was supposed to be on garden duty.

You will see I described it as garden duty rather than gardening duty. Believe it or not, there is a difference.

I believe the lack of gardening expertise is because many years ago in days of short trousers and dirty knees and a daily dose of Cod Liver oil and blue-capped bottled orange juice, our garden was just a heap of earth.

Nothing ever grew because we didn't seem to get enough daylight and the sun never seemed to appear. These were, after all, the days of austerity.

Our gardening was dominated by perpetual digging. Holes of all sizes would appear over our backyard, and after a month or so, it gave the appearance of one of those battle lines on the Somme in the First World War.

To this day, I still don't know the reason behind the need to dig.

It was not as though we were attempting to build a tunnel to make an escape to next door's garden. It was just an obsession, I suppose.

Still, the lack of gardening knowledge came from such a beginning.

But to return to the difference between garden duty and gardening duty.

Now gardening duty - as the head gardener in our garden knows - is the selection of plants, the planting of the plants, the watering of the plants, the nurturing of the plants, the protection of the plants, and, at the right time of year, digging up the plants.

And so it continues each year. I know that because I've observed the routine long enough to know that creation of a garden is in a way a kind of art.

On the other hand, garden duty is quite different.

For example, one job involved in garden duty is the difficult task of holding the cable of the electric hedge cutter while the head gardener gets to work.

This may seem a simple task.

Let me assure you it is nothing of the kind. It is only us who are qualified in garden duty that have real knowledge of the job.

We have to, initially, make sure that there is something known as a power-breaker applied to the electric socket. Then we have to take the power cable in both hands and usually run across the shoulders to ensure that the head gardener does not suddenly decide to engage reverse and cut through the thing.

We then dutifully follow the course of the hedge-cutting exercise. It takes garden duty expertise to work out all the problems of a job which can be as difficult as cable-laying on a grand scale.

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