So the beady-eyed, or those who occasionally follow my Instagram account may have noticed a change. Like many of us, recent events have changed things for me. Amid the devastation and the heartache there have been moments I’m sure for all of us where we have been able to question through choice or circumstance the ‘whys’ and ‘whats’ of our lives.
For me it started with a pipe. For some time I have had a small holiday house in the Loire Valley. The garden is the size of a family hatchback and the rooms are filled with everything I couldn't put elsewhere. Fun for a weekend, slightly overbearing for any longer.
Anyway, I digress. The pipe burst, well leaked, after Christmas and the French water board gave me a date in March to come and replace it. It just so happened that this date was the day of the French Covid-19 lockdown and so I travelled unknowingly overnight as the lockdown started to a cancelled appointment and found myself locked in for six weeks.
Like many of us as lockdowns swept the globe, I found myself at first lazy, second keen to weed and third questioning the deeper things in life. Again for those who know much of my story, it’s been a roller coaster four years from the depths of despair and bereavement to clutching a few loose straws and wondering what really was my purpose and direction. Mainly, I have come to live with what has happened, not accept, that’s impossible. You can’t accept a wonderful, kind soul torn from you at 36 with his whole life ahead of him, but I have learned on good and bad days you can live with it and still have a love of living. It’s not always guilt-free but I have learned that life is a precious gift, given for a time span we never know.
It also happens that I am turning 40, a milestone and, as everyone who is over 40 knows, your frame of mind, sense of time and sense of who you are change. They don’t say youth is wasted on the young for nothing.
Over the past four years, the village my house is in has been a refuge, a quiet space and, increasingly, I felt the desire to find the quietness. Across the road from my small little house was a former basket weaver’s cottage. It had been empty for some time, had a workshop, collapsing barn and half-an-acre of garden. It was being sold for a bargain price. ‘What could wrong?’ I asked. Adding up the money I had to hand and in savings with no guarantee of work coming in, I realised I could buy it and have roughly £500 to my name, approaching 40. As I said, ‘What could go wrong!’
I had a newly opened shop in Tetbury, doomed thanks to the lockdown as I prefer it shut rather than the risks of opening. Lockdown and a dream forming closed the doors on my little shop quicker than the refit and opening.
I might have stopped to ask myself how any of this would work, but an untouched aged house, a garden and silence seemed too alluring.
Originally the plan was to do all of this on the quiet, well as quiet as being on Instagram can be, but then, inspired by a story as old as Geoff Hamilton’s ‘Gardeners World’, I thought I should share the ups, the downs, the blank canvas but mostly the re-using, recycling and making a real garden. Yes, I allude to the brilliant Ann-Marie Powell’s ‘My Real Garden’, which inspired me and many others this year. It’s about making a proper garden not a high end glossy magazine garden but a space made as and when money, time and ingenuity allow.
I hope the journey we create will include months of making and, hopefully inspiring, in my garden and in yours. It’s a journey we can go on together and one I am looking forward to. So please, join me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, to follow the story of my garden in words, pictures and videos.