I know it is a cliché as old as Chaucer, but there is NOTHING like a perfect English summer’s day. Temperature of 24 degrees, sun, blue sky, light breeze and everything happening in the veg garden. This year, because my big garden is getting an overhaul, I’m reduced to an ancient cattle trough filled with herbs and two tiny raised beds outside my front door.
It is heaven. I’m free of the tyranny of the hopeless struggle to keep up with nature’s excessive bounty, of beetroots swelling to the size of coconuts when your back is turned, of broccoli bolting, of too many lettuces one week and none the next, of the fridge stuffed with berries I am never going to turn into jam before they turn into a smelly mess. And I don’t have to feel constantly guilty about the waste. I now stand smugly admiring my purple and green cabbages, three different lettuces, runner bean plants climbing a wigwam, spilling courgette plant and reddening tomatoes. I hardly like to pick them they look so good, but of course I do. The difference in flavour of a lettuce leaf out of the soil five minutes ago and one that has spent a week in a bag of nitrogenous air in a supermarket distribution chain is just astonishing.
Maybe I’ll forget about the veg garden altogether. More space for flowers.
And that is the other obvious, cliché-laden thing. English flowers in an English summer. I MUST be getting very old: I think I would rather wander round my garden, secateurs in hand, than almost anything. Unless it’s perhaps arranging them. In my restaurant days my veg garden was also a cutting garden and every week I’d be up at six picking armfuls of flowers for my London restaurants. It took hours, was often wet and cold, and yet I enjoyed it. But not like I do on an early summer morning, sun still at a slant and the scent of roses better than Chanel.