The Satisfaction of Reclaiming a Lost World

Have no shame. Let it all hang out. This isn’t Copacabana or Bondi or St Tropez, although you’ll get just as good a tan – this is one of the few places where my belly can bulge to its full fleshy glory and just flop right out over the top of my baggy shorts. It’s a well spread middle aged spread that hasn’t yet spread so far that I can’t see my feet and besides, I’m out here for the exercise.

Welcome to the far end of my garden, that part which was once a lost world. That part that I have just rediscovered and reclaimed and replanted.

Stripped to the waist, hacking away at the rampant vegatation – I feel like Indiana Jones hacking his way through thick jungle in search of a lost temple. I’ve just rediscovered my old garden shed, and inside, the rusting BBQ, which wasn’t so rusty when I bought it 17 years ago. I must have used it three or four times – (I’ll need a seperate post to expound my BBQ thoughts.)

Rusting BBQ, countless flower pots, an old garden chair aand cobwebs – better not clean them I don’t want to make the spiders homeless and, if I move those flowerpots, I might just create the equivalent of an earthquake for the bugs living underneath, besides if the bug leave, the spiders will starve to death.

No, I can’t clean out this shed, I am just going to destroy a unique, well-established and fragile eco system if I do.

This is all about the joys of gardening. My first serious stint in the garden all year. Four or five hours in the sun, cutting back, ripping up, making ready this lost world for the planting of tomatoes and strawberries.

There is nothing more satisfying than gardening. Though you might harvest the fruits of your labours in a few weeks, you can see the results of your labour straight away.

Compare this to my job of teaching. You labour away all year, planting liguistic seeds into the often, not so fertile minds of tired trainees. As a teacher you never really see the results. You are not even sure that your students have learnt anything. Gradening though … you cut, weed it, rip it … you see the results straight away.

Five hours of chopping down my Lost World, then, I am tilling the soil and what was formerly jungle is neat and ready for planting. I weed a whole patch of garden, I can see what I have done.

I’m like that, I like instant results, I like the physical effort, this is sport but not sport. I like the complicity between gardeners. Here we all are, tending our own little corners of God’s great earth and we are all stripped to the waist and wearing our worst shorts and most beat up shoes and exchanging jokes and pleasantries over the fence, and the old bloke next door gives me gardening hints and he talks about the weather and, when the need takes you, just go and piss behind your shed. There are no rules here. And across five gardens we are all men together, tending our patch, planting our tomatoes, harveesting our first strawberries – all stripped to the waist, all ages, there is some serious « male bonding going on.

I’m chatting to the neighbour about compost. I’ve got good compost and he wants some. We exchange a few wheelbarrows of compsot for tomato plants. I get tomato canes from another neighbour, a trade off for a fes hours with my hedge trimmer. I call this « doing a few favours, » but call it barting or exchanging services. All this is happening across my fence – no need for an Internet site.

Ripping out, churning up the soil and then I start planting – this is a crucial and enjoyable moment. In communion with the soil, setting down your plants into their new home, sowing your seed. It is precise, it is délicate, it is dangerous. I am giving new life and then I must nurture that new life.

Yes, this is truly satisfying.

So, after five house tending my little patch. Well, I feel fit as a fiddle. I’ve got the start of a decent tan and I feel happy, having communed with nature, and … there is this inescapable and highly satisfying sensation – touching the soil, smelling the earth. On your knees, bare hands in the soil. We are clay. Earth is life and by the simple act of planting, you are touching life itself.