A little bit wooooo……

This week I’ve had a bit of an epiphany.

(I’m not sure if you can have ‘a bit’ of an epiphany, but I’m uncomfortable with owning up to the full blown fireworks, cannons, balloons type experience so I’m sticking with ‘a bit’.)

This course I’m doing…. You know the one. The full on, crazy, more work than I’ve done before in my life, ever, course – that is supposed to be teaching me how to be a garden designer. Well it isn’t what I thought it was after all.

I thought I was signing up to fill in the gaps in my knowledge about garden design. I thought I knew quite a lot already and all it would take was a bit of time spent on the technical stuff, the hard landscaping, the plant info, the nuts and bolts, and I’d be up and running. Which just goes to show how little I really knew.

Because it’s about so much more….

This course is about how to look at the world in a different way from the way I’ve been doing for the past fifty five years. It’s about understanding that anybody can learn the basics, the life skills; how to walk, talk, read, write; how to construct a terrace, a brick wall, a pergola. These are the essential skills without which we can’t do a good job. But in order to be the best designers we can possibly be we have to challenge ourselves, open ourselves up to things we haven’t considered before, put ourselves into places and positions that don’t necessarily feel very comfortable. And that is really hard.

There are eighteen people on this course and every one of us brings a completely different set of skills and experience and attitudes. We all have the things we like to do, the things we feel comfortable with. And we all have the things we don’t like doing, the things we shy away from, the things we find difficult. But if we just stick with what we know, what we feel comfortable with, we don’t learn, we don’t change, we don’t grow. And this is a huge opportunity we’ve all been given. Because we’ve been given the chance to look at life with new eyes. And that doesn’t happen very often.

It’s been the Concept Garden Project that really brought this home to me.  As soon as we were set the project at the start of term I knew exactly what I wanted to do. And I got on with it. But even though I really enjoyed doing it, in my heart I was frustrated by it. I knew that it wasn’t what I wanted it to be. So I just told myself that in the real world I would never do this kind of stuff, and while it was fun to have a go it really didn’t matter that much.

Well you know what, it does matter.

This week we spent a day with Claire revisiting our concepts, pulling them apart and considering how we might do them differently. And that’s when I had my moment. Because I realised that what I inevitably do when I’m set a challenge, not just on this course but in life,  is take hold of it and rush towards the solution. And I’m a bit smug about it. Because I know where I’m going, don’t you…. I like to be the person who knows the answers.

But there’s a problem with this. Because what happens is that I miss things on the way; important things, challenging things, things I wouldn’t usually consider, things that might be better than the solution I’ve leapt at.

And this reminded me of something a friend gave me to read a while ago. It’s called ‘Mind the Gap’.

There are times in life when the way we used to do things (and the things we did), or the way we used to be, just doesn’t suit us any longer.

Things may look the same from the outside, but on the inside something has changed, we know things cannot carry on in the same way.

And yet we may not know, precisely or at all, what we want, what we are supposed to do, what new direction to take.

This experience feels like a gap.

Many people react to this gap in two ways (we don’t like gaps really, we like it all packed and planned): They try to ignore it (for as long as they can), and hang on to what they know. Or they go into super activity, finding a new direction at any cost, and working like mad to get to it (and often find themselves years later in the same situation).

But that gap has the most amazing energy in it. Really. Everything is in potential there.
It is actually an incredible space to be in.

Thank goodness for the moment when you don’t know what to do, because it means that many possible new directions are available to you from this space. The gap can be very exciting and even relaxing…This is meant to be a place where you don’t have to know or do anything. You can let your brain go fuzzy (like a child) and let inspiration take over.

So, please don’t mind the gap. Let yourself experience its energy, make the most of it, cherish it, even look forward to it.

We experience many of those in life, big and small.

If you allow yourself to relax in that space, and let it do its work, you’ll know when the time to do something is back again. But this time you’ll be doing something new.

When I showed this post to my editor (aka my husband Graham) he thought it was a little bit wooooooooooo…..

But then I’m a little bit wooooooo…..

Calling all werewolves……

Does anyone else out there have that thing where it’s the middle of the night…. and you’re wide awake? And you look at your clock and it’s four am and you’ve been awake for what seems like hours. And after a while you get up, because your mind is insisting on doing a stockcheck of all the things that are worrying you at the moment. And quite a few that haven’t been worrying you, but are now. So you go downstairs. And you have a cup of tea. And eventually you go back to bed. And eventually you go back to sleep. Except for now it’s 6 am, and you’ve got to get up in an hour……

And then you find out there’s a full moon.

This happened to me on Friday night. Which was particularly annoying. Because after ‘the longest day of my life’ at the Chelsea Flower Show I needed my sleep more than ever.

But there was a upside to getting up at 4.30 am. As I went downstairs this was the view from the window on our staircase.


Perhaps being a werewolf has its compensations…..

Does what it says on the tin…….

One of the advantages of doing this course is being able to get tips from people who really know their stuff.

I’ve got a pair of Felco secateurs that are suffering from extreme overuse and lack of tlc. They’ve most definitely lost their edge. I’ve tried sharpening them but I just don’t have the skill. So while we were out working in the Twentieth Century Garden a couple of weeks ago I asked tutor Amanda’s advice. She suggested sending them away for a service. She told me she has two pairs so that while one is off being sorted she doesn’t have to manage without.

This got me thinking. About Felco secateurs. And why no other secateurs will do. And then I started thinking about other things that – once you’ve used them – nothing else comes close.

So I started compiling a list. At the moment it’s not a very long list. But I’m open to suggestions.

These are my Head and Shoulders Above the Competition products.

1.  Felco Secateurs

2.  The Swoe – this is a new one for me. And another recommendation from Amanda. I used it when we were in the Twentieth Century Garden and went straight home and ordered one online. You may not be into hoeing….. but if you are it’s very very special.

3. Those Steam Irons with a separate water tank thingyI know it’s really boring to talk about irons. (Possibly even more boring than talking about hoeing!) But ironing is really boring. And these irons make a tedious job a lot more bearable, because they do the job so much better than anything else.

4.  Dualit Toasters – we’ve had ours for FIFTEEN YEARS…….. And it’s still going strong. When you consider that most toasters seem to break down after six months and even when they do work they don’t toast properly, this is even more of a miracle.

5.  Eve Lom Cleanser – my mate Judes introduced me to this amazing product fifteen years ago. (Now I come to think about it, at about the same time as I got the toaster!) It’s expensive but so worth it.

6. Sky Plus – I’m aware that this may be about to be overtaken by something better, if it hasn’t happened already. But until it does I remain a huge fan of Skyplus. It’s changed the way I watch television. Means I get to see the things I really want to see, when I really want to see them. And it’s so easy to use.

7. Daily disposal contact lenses how would I manage without them?

8. Terrys Growth Booster Mascara – this does what it says on the tin. Honestly…..

So that’s my list so far. I’m sure there are things I’ve missed. But for now I’m enjoying thinking about what else might qualify. All suggestions gratefully received.

‘My other blog’s a Porsche…..’

Remember ‘Two Jags’ Prescott. The Labour Deputy Prime Minister who just happened to have two Jaguars. Both £200,000 top of the range jobs. One for everyday and one for best, I suppose…..

Well I’ve started another blog with my sister Mary. So just call me ‘Two Blogs’. And if you’re interested you can find my blog for best at http://twinseverest.wordpress.com/