To all the people who follow this blog you already know my name - Jack. I’m a 72 year old man and am still married to the same girl for the last 47 years. We have two kids, one of each, who in turn have given me two granddaughters and one grandson but today this post is about someone else.
I first met this person when I swept her chimney approx. 14-15 years ago. Whist having a cuppa I mentioned about the size of the garden and what a job it must be to keep it tidy. Without hesitation she said, “Well, why don’t you come and help me then?” Since then that’s what I’ve been doing for the past fifteen years.
One of my first jobs, apart from keeping the lawns in good nick, she had a tumbled down dry stone wall at one side of the large vicarage. When I finished rebuilding we both thought it looked a hundred times better. Also on that side of the house there was a pile of logs open to the rain etc so I built a cover around it to keep the logs dry because I was the one who split them, filled the baskets, filled the coal scuttles so she would have enough to last a week.
One day in her wisdom she asked me to make her back garden dog proof. I acquired two gates which she never asked where I got stuff from. I told her it came off the back of a lorry and no more was said. The veg garden at the back was big and every time I put something in Fido the dog would dig it out, so a fence was put around this as well. We had everything in that garden – rhubarb, gooseberries, blackcurrants, runner beans, dwarf beans, leeks, onions, spuds, brassica, radishes, marrows – you name it, we had it. One year she put some spuds out for me to plant. We left them near the fence and went in for a drink. We forgot about Fido. When we came out Fido had mixed 1st and 2nd early and main crop Pink Fir Apple seed potatoes. We sorted the best we could and we weren’t far wrong when we dug them up later.
At the bottom of the veg plot were two big apple trees. And who was the first woman on earth? – that’s right, Granny Smith. I was given a net of daffodils and told to plant them around the trees. The next spring when they all came out she was so happy because I’d planted them to spell her name. I knew I’d got some Brownie points that day but the next job I did I lost the lot.
She asked me to plant a cherry tree and showed me where to plant it. Off she went out. On her return I knew I was in for a reprimand when I saw her face! It was in the wrong place – she wanted it put at the bottom of the garden near a small patio I’d done with a seat on it. She could sit here in the evenings and reflect on past times. I found out later that the tree was in memory of her dad who I never met.
For the next few weeks I was planning how to get the Brownie points back. I’d got something in mind so the next time she went out I put my plan into action. At the other side of the garden were two large weeping willow trees. Around one of these I put a wooden seat. When she came back I made her close her eyes. She saw my handiwork on the seat. I’d put a buttered scone on it and there was a gin and tonic. My Brownie points had been restored.
I forgot to tell you about the time when Fido arrived. What a job we had to get him out of the car! I put on thick gauntlets and threw a towel over his head: this was the only way we could get him out. But Fido soon worked out what a good home he’d come to and he was soon jumping in and out without any help.
My person took in one more dog, what a sorry sight it was. It looked so frightened and at the least bit of noise it ran out of the way. The poor dog was a female and had been used for breeding all her life. The kindness and affection my person showed it healed the (emotional) wounds. Sadly that dog didn’t live very long but her last months were made better by the tender loving care and the kindness shown her by my person. Just one thing though, the poor dog had enough problems without the name my person gave it. She called it Dibley – what a name for a dog!
I did many things at the vicarage, none more so than when her mum came to live with her. I’d already been doing her mum’s garden so she knew me quite well. Her mum was in a wheelchair so I set about making things easier for her. I made ramps to get in and out of the house and handrails were put in certain places. I built a large patio outside the French windows so her mum could sit out with her daughter on warm summer evenings.
When her mum passed away I went to her funeral. My person and her sister asked me to stay behind as they had something for me. They gave me an envelope and inside was a cheque and a letter thanking me so much for making her last years so enjoyable. This part of the blog has after all these years brought a tear to my eye. No-one has ever said so many nice things about me. I’m just not used to it. Normally they just take the mickey out of me which I don’t mind as long as it makes them smile and be happy. That’s what my person’s Boss put me in this earth for.
One night I got a distressed call from my person – could I come over as soon as possible. When I got there I could see why! A few weeks earlier we’d been discussing ways to keep the weeds at bay. We decided on bark chippings. I thought we were getting seven bags but we got a bulk lorry load, about seven tons. It had been tipped out on the drive and she couldn’t get out of the house.. It must have been the worst day of the year, it was chucking it down. I got stuck in and after an hour she could get out of the front door and off she went to a meeting. After two hours more she could get her car on the drive. Job done? No such luck there was still 3 ½ to 4 tons left. I eventually got rid of it all. Never again! That first night I was soaked to the bone and well ready for bed1
My person asked if I would look after two churchyards for her as no-one in the villages would do it. I did it for many years but after putting petrol in the car and the mower and giving my brother a little for his help, I was well out of pocket but life’s not all about money. When my person retired I retired from the churchyards. A letter of thanks from both the church committees meant a lot more to me than £sd.
My person moved to a bungalow and O boy! what a lot of hard graft I’ve done there! I’ve cut down and dug out a leylandii hedge, put fences up, built a patios, helped to put in a new kitchen, built a large raised bed, put up a new shed, dug up the lawns, landscaped with gravel and slabs, put in a water feature, assembled flat packs, decorated, spring cleaned, cleaned the windows, dog walked, helped to put a personnel door at the back of the garage and still the list gets longer. On my last visit I put in nearly four hundred plants.
My person always feeds me and just lately I’ve been given soup with metal in, and lemonade that takes your breath away. I think I must be a guinea pig to try out new things. I’ve had plum and apple chutney, gooseberry jam, plum jam, red and green tomato chutney. I have to collect elderflowers for her so she can make cordial. I don’t have much of this. One year she gave me something called Rev Up, a drink she had made. I daren’t ask what was in it but I had a small amount and couldn’t speak for about two hours.
Sometimes she’s a bit crazy with the garden. I have to plant broad beans, peas and beetroot among the flowers. I think when we reach a certain age our brain does funny things but for the last fifteen years her brain has been like that and it’s getting worse.
Well I could tell you a lot more about my person but I won’t as she may ask her Boss to sort me out and then where would the other people who rely on me be?
To all of you who read this blog or whatever it’s called, please keep sending your comments, my person looks forward to hearing from you. I hope you’ll all see now why I feel so honoured and so humbled and so very proud to have my person call me her FRIEND.
Good luck, good health, and God bless