Fifteen months ago I moved from a house in the country with a 1/4 of an acre of garden and with acres of woodlands across the road to explore with my old Springer Spaniel mostly in perfect solitude.
I now live in a Georgian terraced house right in the middle of an interesting historic town only ten miles away from my old house but, in reality, a whole world away.
The old garden was shared with badgers, the occasional deer, an old fox, a wild cat and a large number of woodland birds including a robin that fed from my hand, an unusually extrovert wren and a pheasant that brushed round my calves whilst I sprinkled grain for it as if it was an old hen. They all celebrated in their tactless way, the passing of my old dog.
It was as if wild life here had not grown to distrust man.
I made friends with that wild cat – well friends in a wild way. She had those fiery eyes which spoke of life away from human beings and a friendly stroke was quite out of the question but she accepted my food, sat watching me practise kung fu and then, one day, she actually purred whilst she took morsels of sardine from my fingers. It was a great meeting between the jungle and civilization. Well that was how it seemed to me.
I was surrounded of course by plants, many of which I had grown myself and all of which I had to look after. Massive pruning jobs, epic weeding ventures and large scale designing projects occupied a lot of my time. It was the nearest I have been to living in the natural world.
Then I wanted something else – people I suppose: the bustle of the town, everything being a short walk from the front door, a touch of anarchy.
So I left that garden and its wild residents and headed for this place that I now call home.
There is a small back garden. I had it paved with old Yorkshire flag stones which match the antique Sussex flint walls. I was starting from scratch with plantings restricted to the borders.
It was a place for climbers – roses, clematis, fuchsias, passion flowers, jasmine, periwinkle and honeysuckle – and low growing lavender.
Now that we are half way through February, the pleasures of a small garden are beginning to show again. Flowers that are there to make a point, that can be seen close up and which have to earn their place in a tiny space. It is only a year old of course but it is growing into an interesting space.
Today, there are the primroses growing in urns, snowdrops and golden croci and, amongst the dormant wood of the honeysuckle, the first blue flowers of the periwinkle.
Nothing is far from reach. Each bloom and leaf can be examined with botanical care and every plant’s unique structure can be admired with new clarity.
Each flower today is a symbol of hope – a new season, a new life and, at last, hope of recovery from an illness which had threatened to end it all for me well before Nature sprung back into bloom.
I am out of kilter with the World today.
World recession, human greed, mass suffering and all those pressures on the environment – they have all faded for this moment in the face of simple natural beauty and new born optimism.
Then, of course, remembering my fractured spine which still stops me from doing even the simplest gardening jobs, I notice all the things I should have done. All those enjoyable winter tasks which make me remember that every season in a garden a season of hope. It is like the man said: there is no such thing as bad weather, only different weather.