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‘Simon went to McDonalds yesterday evening. A guy came up to him and started talking. Half his face was covered with floral tattoos and he asked him for a thousand euros.

What a blooming cheek!’

…and because in my morphine induced stupor yesterday I forgot to add it, today’s bonus(?) offering…

’I met a genie yesterday. He granted me one wish. I wished for a lifetime’s supply of gin.

He gave me one bottle!’

No, it’s not a protein shake although technically I guess it is.

One drain in today and one drain out.

Beavering away at home, Simon has completed the drains for the new bathroom. This is big news for us. What we have laughingly called drainage over the last 10 years is finally living on borrowed time. A bright and shiny poo-crunching machine, a micro-station will be installed later this year. Until then we will continue to use the dry toilet. The English do not seem to understand composting toilets in the same way as the French. They are relatively well used in la France profonde, rural France, and personally, I think it’s fear of the unfamiliar that causes les rosbifs alarm. Ours looks like a conventional toilet and everyone sits for wees and poos alike. Liquid goes out and away at the front. Poo and paper in the back. Simples. As soon as a man tries to buck the system by standing, liquid is introduced into the dry area and it will most definitely stink and I then have to clear it out.


Use it properly and all is well. Nevertheless, we have decided to take a leap into the 21st century and add flushing loos to our now slightly less eco friendly house. I would be unable to empty the bucket for the foreseeable future anyway.

My wound drain was skilfully and painlessly removed this morning. What a joy! I’m no longer lying on the wound with the uncomfortable tube sticking out of it. Or dragging it around with me everywhere I go. Such a huge difference.

The physio gives me exercises to do twice a day to add to the walking. Years of jazz ballet and Pilates stands me in good stead - although I may now look like Nellie the elephant, I glide through them with strength, ease and pretty darned good posture. So good to move again.

He tells me there is to be absolutely no gardening this year unless it is sowing seeds at waist or chest height or clipping with secateurs at the same level. Absolutely no bending at all. Reality is I’m not sure how I will cope with it but I know I will have to learn to do so.

After all, it was gardening that got me into this fine mess.

It pays to stay flexible but I’m 100% certain I wouldn’t be able to break out of Hampton Court over the security fencing at present.

It was like this…

The year of the magic pink tap; our third show garden in three years at Hampton Court Flower Show.

We were falling behind with the schedule and as such we were given very little media attention in the days immediately before judging. Being perfectly frank, the garden looked like the building site it was, even late on in the week when other gardens were finishing off. Why would TV crews have wanted to linger over it? Our sponsors, of course, were after all the publicity they could get.

Sunday arrived. The final day for completion, or rather the day usually expected to be set aside for ‘fiddle time’. Judging was at the crack of a sparrows fart o’ clock on Monday morning.

Worried sick, I was exhausted with the physical and mental strain. Sunday afternoon arrived and so did a fresh orange juice trade stand. Their setting up regime involved blaring body-vibratingly loud music directly across our garden, which only served to make me more tense than I ever thought possible. We were still constructing parts of the hard wood decking, finishing planting and had mountains of clearing up and cleaning to do. Behind the garden was our garden storage shed and a full truck and a half’s worth of all the tools we had required for the last stages of the build.

It wasn’t looking good.

The show organiser came round at six o’ clock and told us we would have to clear up in an hours time. She reappeared at seven and said she would give us another few minutes. We were way, way off being ready for judging the following morning. Utterly demented by this time, I was desperately trying ways to find ways of cutting corners, but there were quite literally no ways left to do so.

At nine o’clock, long after the show organising team had left, having tactfully avoided our area since seven o’clock, the security guards were on the prowl. Astonished to see a garden still under construction but telling us we would need to be off site in half an hour, they continued their rounds and walked on by.

Fresh orange, disco Sunday was happening just a few yards away from us. In a complete twist of fate and good fortune, it was going to take them until eleven o’clock to finish putting up their trade stand in readiness for the following day. They had been given special dispensation to be around after hours. Had they not been there, I am completely certain that we would never have been allowed to remain on site and we would have had to leave the garden in a shambolic and chaotic state. The shame of that would have been more than I could have ever stood. Our sponsors would have been incandescent.

As it was, all seven of us worked tirelessly and incredibly hard until, not only was the garden finished, the temporary storage shed was dismantled and loaded onto the overloaded and groaning truck, as were all the other tools and bits and pieces we were required to clear. By this time orange disco mania was finishing too and there was a strange procession out through the Southside gates at nearly midnight.

Well, almost all of them left through the Southside gates and a barrage of security men, but not quite.

Earlier in the day everyone had been asked to move the unnecessary vehicles off site back over to Northside car park, which I had duly done with the car, and Thomas had done with the van (inappropriately named Fanny). My sister Sue had returned as a special favour to work for us during her nursing leave to help me plant up.

The car and van were still in the car park way over on the other side of the Long Water. Sue, Thomas and I still had to get to them and get out through the Northside.

Crossing the pontoons at midnight to access the vehicles was a surreal experience. Stopping in the centre of the Long Water in the midst of all our exhaustion, we simultaneously paused to take in the magnificence of the palace bathed in moonlight and the peace and quiet around us. It was a magical moment but one that couldn’t last. ‘Come on, let’s find Fanny and the car and get the hell out of here.’ I was nearly asleep on my feet.

It was at that point when we realised that the entire site appeared deserted on the Northside and all the gates were locked and securely tethered. Everyone had by then left from Southside too. There was nothing for it but we had to find a way of scaling the Heras security fencing. Several walks along part of the length, only served to make us look further like we were doing a recce.

Imagine for one moment the sight of two middle aged women, during the dark of night, attempting to hoist their not inconsiderable bulks up and over a length of security fencing. Not easy at the best of times. We were breaking out of one of the royal palaces.

I could sense that police sirens were never very far away. We would, without question, be arrested. This was it. My only claim to fame. Amazingly, with a diplomatically placed, hearty shove upwards from young Thomas, as we found muscles that had long since lain dormant, with a clamber and a scramble, we were over. Finding the car and Fanny was simple given they were the only vehicles left in the empty vastness of the car park. We made our way purposefully towards the vehicles, laughing about the antics of building a show garden, relieved we had managed to get out.

Or so we thought.

Shouts came from across the deer park. A huge man bounded toward us. He was radioing for help to his colleagues. This wasn’t looking good. Our arrests were imminent and my heart sank.

Telling us not to move and to put our hands on our heads, burly men appeared from various dark corners of the deer park in assorted vehicles, one with a dog.

‘Oh, oh’, I thought to myself, ‘We’re fucked.’

Being the boss, it was my responsibility to try and talk our way out of this mess. Explaining as calmly as I could about being locked in as we were trying to finish the garden, he listened attentively. We shouldn’t be here he kept saying. Did he really think I wanted to be?

Perhaps being a middle aged female reeking of stale sweat gave me an advantage after all.

‘Why were were you climbing over the fence? Why didn’t you get the guard to let you out?’ he asked gruffly.

‘Which guard? Where? There aren’t any.’ I was beginning to feel pretty anxious. He wasn’t happy and this was turning out to be very awkward indeed.

‘The one in that hut here.’

Looking at where he was pointing, I had to state the obvious, ‘There’s no one in there.’

What a strange band of bodies it was that processed the thirty or so metres to the control point. Three sun burnished, honking landscapers, exhausted and filthy dirty, wearing shorts and steel toe capped boots in the early hours of the morning, plus an astonished muscle bound security guard, who was seeing action for the very first time ever on his night shift at Hampton. Shining his torch into the glass of the security point, it was obvious why we had thought no one was inside. The occupier was sprawled across his chair, covered with a blanket, mouth open and fast asleep.

Furious and disbelieving, the enormous guard banged on the window and as the slumbering man’s eyes opened, guilt spreading instantly over his face.

‘He’s for the chop tomorrow then,’ we thought.

Checking once more that none of Good King Henry’s valuables were concealed about our person or in our car or van, we were instructed to get into our vehicles as security closely accompanied us towards the securely locked Paddock Gate. We nervously waited in line in front of the locked exit, fearful they would change their minds. I was concerned the burly guard would be calling the police but after ten minutes or so, a key was found, the gate was opened and we were told we were free to go on our way. Had the slumbering guard not been neglecting his duties, I had a lasting feeling it may have ended differently. We were not about to argue.

Talk about lucky! Needless to say, the Powers That Be were not informed as we heard nothing more about it.

No fence straddling today but a definite rung up on the ladder towards recovery.



Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I’m Jill, a RHS gold medal winning English professional gardener, garden designer and landscaper living in South West France since 2012. This is a personal account of my gardening life, some of the jolly and occasionally not so jolly japes that ensued while working, that probably caused my subsequent back problems.

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