Saturday, 9 September 2017

Dictatorship for Inadequates

In his autobiography (which I've already mentioned I'm reading), Fr Bernard Walke talks about the role of gardening in the lives of clergy, and the way generations of vicars of St Hilary, where he served, had altered and affected the vicarage garden. He vigorously rejected the suggestion then being bruited about that Parochial Church Councils should take over the management of clergy-house gardens; but then, he refused to have a PCC in St Hilary at all, not being much of a democrat as far as the Church was concerned. 

Some clergy are enthusiastic gardeners, and some aren't. In the neighbouring parish of Hornington, the last incumbent arrived to find a folder left by his predecessor listing all the flowers in the garden and hints on how they should be managed. The garden of the old Rectory at Clinford just over the way was so huge that it could only be dealt with using a sit-on lawnmower and it had in the past housed an entire Boy Scout Jamboree. I've also seen clerical gardens that are wastelands of brambles and what might optimistically be called meadow grass, and whose tenants' only interaction with them during the whole time of their incumbency is just to look despairingly out of the window at them now and again. 

You may have gleaned that I fall somewhere in between these poles. I am surprised by flowers that pop up and my attempts to plant new ones almost always come to grief. I have, it seems, brown fingers, so I content myself with building the odd folly and otherwise making sure the grounds don't fall into complete decrepitude. 

I mowed the lawn again the other day for the first time since the growing season ended, swathing through the long stalks of lamb's-tongue plantain. Moths which had become accustomed to sleeping the day away in the grass fluttered upward in panic as the lawnmower raged and clattered its way across the pits and bumps of my dreadful greensward. It struck me, not for the first time, what a violent business maintaining a garden is. There's a relatively recent episode of Doctor Who in which the Doctor states 'I hate gardening. It's dictatorship for inadequates,' and then, on reflection, 'Well, it's - dictatorship.' The illusion of peace and order created by the maintenance of flowerbeds and a lawn, the gentle incursion of birds and birdsong, is created at the price of sharp steel tools, the bisection of unsuspecting worms, the endless warfare against ivy and bramble. And if you were in a suitable mood, you might draw a comparison with the rest of a parish, too. 


  1. If you think the growing season has ended for grass you are going to be sadly disappointed

  2. Here everything sort of largely stops in the middle of June and then kicks off again, well, around now for a final spurt of activity before dying down for the winter. I was referring to the end of that first, Spring, episode of growth. I know all too well that we are off again for a while now!

  3. I trust you haven't been bisecting parishioners again...