Now then, now then

I'm writing, so it must be raining. Luckily last Friday was much better, glorious in fact - a classic English summers day. As Jimmy Saville used to say on his Old Record Club of a Sunday lunchtime back in the 70s, 'as befits', I had the English Garden here for the day. Tamsin the Editor, Cinead the Deputy Editor, and Jason Ingram.



Jason I met last year at River Cottage - he was taking pictures for a Gardeners World magazine feature and impressed most of us with his enthusiasm for getting rather muddy in the course of getting the shot. He's a particularly marvellous photographer and an equally nice chap.

He's also got a brilliant way of setting you at ease, getting the best out of you. Perhaps he clocked that all I need is the mildest of ego-stroking to do pretty much anything. 'Love your book....mind lying down in that cow pat for me, cheers'. He's so reassuring (yet quietly direct) that you can feel yourself almost as a fashion model. 'Brilliant, perfect...face just a little to the left...and back, towards me'. I was almost expecting 'I'm getting a little reflection here...it's the bra, it's going to have to go'. Still, if he can make me look even vaguely less like Stephen Merchant than the good Lord has seen fit I'll be thankful to him.



Almost interestingly, I'd been limewashing the dining room walls the day before. Living in a house that's partly made from cob you have to render and paint the walls in a breathable material - allowing any moisture to move out from the walls themselves. The limewash is slaked lime in water, and isn't what might be regarded as the ideal hand treatment if you consider yourself 'worth it'. I was, rather sadly, pondering the names of my favourite tribute bands (By Jovi, if you're interested) when preparing to limewash. This stretched into favourite all-girl tribute bands (Judith Priest), favourite made up not-very-good tribute bands (Shoddywaddy) and favourite made up right-wing tribute bands (SSClub7, Klu Klux Clannad). This is something I do all too often, especially when undertaking a manual task that uses just enough of my brain to make it vaguely interesting, but leaving just enough free to ponder topics not necessarily worthy of ponderment. Undercoating the stair rail I managed to mentally name 13 Derby County defenders from the 1970s. I digress.



The limewash is a tad caustic, and my mind wasn't on the job. I may also have been slightly bullish on account of the brilliant builder who was around the day before not using gloves when using bleach to wipe off a few marks in the lime rendered wall. He still had hands, my subconscuous mind must've thought, what's a little lime? Quite a lot, it turns out, especially when you start off with the hands of an 80 year old. Come photoshoot day they were drier than a dead dingos dipstick. I wouldn't count myself as overly troubled by vanity - I'm not sure I'd have lived this long with my rather ramshackle collection of physical attributes if I had have been - but I have to admit to a few moments of shame at the thought of the unsuspecting gardening folk of these islands being confronted by delightful shots from Otter Farm being somewhat compromised by my emu-like fingers clutched around a grapevine, or plucking some edible loveliness from the veg patch.

Perhaps Jason had a 'monkey's paw' filter attached to his lens. I'll find out next month when the first Otter Farm article in English Garden comes out. I can but hope.

Until then, I'll keep picking Dittisham plums, eating the finest early apples you can grow (Beauty of Bath - smelling of peardrops, incredible to look at, even better to eat and the colour of a lipstick that always got me going in my teens), and watching the walnuts develop.

Go to Otter Farm | by Mark D