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August 2005 Blether:
© 2005 Patrick Vickery

The Bugle Blether

'Blether' is a Scottish word meaning a good chat (a good blether), often a long and lazy relaxed chat at that, and sometimes over a dram or two of whisky!

e-mail Patrick at: aldieburnplants@aol.com

Patrick Vickery lives in the Scottish Highlands with his wife, three children, two dogs, two goats and an assortment of smaller animals. They live in a two acre wood in a wonderful part of the world.

Patrick runs a small Garden Nursery (part-time), is a Garden Writer (part-time) with a particular interest in the humourous side of things (especially the things that go wrong!), and works part-time as a Special Needs Teacher.

Patrick's first gardening book  In Pursuit Of Perennial Profit - The Pot Of Gold At The Bottom Of The Garden. ISBN: 186163148 has recently been published. A 'how-to' book - a book that shows how to make your garden productive in a variety of ways, for both expert and gardening novice alike, at minimum cost and in an innovative and self-financing way, using a raised bed system of propagation, and concentrating primarily on hardy perennial plants that can be raised and grown outdoors without the aid of a polytunnel or greenhouse.

Available direct from the Publisher at: Capall Bann Publishing, UK; from bookshops; or from Amazon.co.uk via the Internet.

more info:

In Pursuit of Perennial Profit - The Pot of Gold At The Bottom of the Garden...

Garden machinery seldom causes mishaps independently of course and generally requires human intervention of some kind before things go wrong.

I remember he was mowing the grass, smoking a cigarette and looking somewhat disheveled, his movements moderately deranged, quite clearly a case of  'the morning after the night before',  I thought, if ever there was one.

The lawnmower spluttered to a halt. Something wrong here. Puzzled, he transferred the cigarette to his mouth and bent down to unscrew the petrol cap before peering quizzically into the ‘hazard’ zone; then, as the petrol ignited and flared about him with a breathless sort of gush, a whispered sort of whoosh, he executed a number of acrobatic feats rarely seen outside the Olympic Arena, a truly magnificent performance.

As luck would have it, though, he was not badly hurt, not in any physical sense anyway, a bit singed perhaps, although the shock was certainly a major one. 

He gingerly picked himself up and surveyed the surrounding area (as you do after an embarrassing mishap) to determine who, if anyone, had seen the chain of events leading up to his acrobatic display. Satisfied that there was no one, he buried the still smoldering cigarette beneath the newly scorched purple foliage of a Bugle (Ajuga reptans 'Atropurpurea') and rearranged his expression into one of glazed dumbfoundment as people began to gather around the burning relic of what was once a prized garden implement.

There was a lot of talk about spontaneous combustion, singed eyebrows and the inherent dangers of gardening over the next few days, of course, but as for me I said nothing.  Sometimes it's best to speak out, isn’t it, and sometimes it’s best not to.  On this occasion I adopted the latter approach.

A number of years ago now I worked as a Gardening Instructor at an establishment for adults with ‘multiple’ needs, a place that catered for a variety of folk wishing to participate in the activities on offer. And so it was that Robby came to work in the garden on a voluntary basis -  a spot of weeding, a spot of planting, a spot of convivial conversation, that sort of thing, all liberally interspersed with coffee breaks.  Now Robby - if I recall correctly - was an amiable man in his mid-fifties, an ex-builder who'd been robbed of his short term memory at a remarkably young age.  It was a cruel blow.  I was strimming in the garden one afternoon when Robby asked me if he could have a go.  Well of course, I said, thinking nothing of it, although by rights he should have attended a Council half-day strimming course first.  But he was an ex-builder, a ‘man of the world’, and didn't need me to undermine his already battered self-confidence by insisting.  So I gave him a quick lesson in strimming techniques (in essence how to switch the thing on and off) and then turned him loose to have some fun. A good strim is both creative and destructive at the same time, don't you find ?

A mug of coffee and a custard doughnut later, however, it dawned on me that perhaps a man with a short-term memory loss might not grasp the fundamentals of strimming in the time that it would take you or I.  And I was right.  I will not go into details, but I'm painfully aware that the most important information required before operating any form of machinery is knowing how to switch the thing off. Luckily Robby survived his experience with the strimmer - and hopefully soon forgot it - but before the strimmer could be deactivated both Robby and I danced a good many tangos together on the lawn. Strimmers can be painful things, you know, and for weeks after my lower limbs bore the marks of our cavorting

In the light of my 'Robby' experience a neighbour asked me recently to sit at the controls of his dumper truck while he attempted to tow it out with his JCB.  (It was bogged down in the mud, you see).

'Ok',  I said,  'but where’s the ‘off’ switch?'

Unquestionably this is the right response to adopt with any piece of machinery, irrespective of your capabilities, because machines have well developed minds of their own, you see, and are just waiting for a lapse in concentration to wreak havoc, chaos and mayhem - not to mention the ever-present dangers of hospitalization - if you’re not careful.

Copyrite 2003. Patrick Vickery.

Gardening in Scotland