The Cottage Smallholder


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Flowers from the garden: October 2008

nasturtiumsIn 1990, at the start of the boom, I was living in London and working in a small photo library in the East End. This was way beyond the City (the square mile of London’s East End that is the financial centre). Here there were quiet residential streets and parking spaces.

I wasn’t happy in this job as my dyslexia (never divulged to the proprietor) meant that my indexing skills were eccentric. This often caused explosive ructions when a transparency had to be found in a hurry. In the end I spent most of my time mounting slides and encouraging his clients cough up the cash for outstanding invoices. The former was fine and the latter was a bit of a nightmare but I seemed to be able to ease open the tightest of clams. The money rolled in and guaranteed a job for life.

On the floor below was a school for casino croupiers. As I dialled the Bought Ledger departments of recalcitrant clients, the echo of spinning roulette wheels and the raking of chips rumbled in the background. The photo library office was at one end of a long corridor. The rest was taken up with a busy sex line operation that had started off in a small room and gradually expanded to occupy the rest of our floor. The girls that were employed always wore slick black suits and white blouses. I was never party to the conversations, but sometimes I’d hear the murmurs when I passed their open doors.

The strongest memories I have of the experience are the escapes to the sandwich shop and a small scene that involved a child, an old butler’s sink and a packet of seeds.

This child lived in a slim Georgian house next door to our office block. One morning I noticed her standing beside the butler’s sink as her mother forked over the earth.
“Now scatter the seeds and press them very gently into the soil.”
With a small flourish the seeds were tossed into the sink and pressed very firmly in with small star like hands. The child then picked up a tiny pink watering can and watered them in
“They haven’t  grown yet.” She peered at the soil.
“They will grow but very slowly.”
Wanting to see the denouement of this scene I pretended to search the boot of my car. The child was ushered indoors. A few seconds later I saw her pale face through the Georgian window, examining the bare earth in the sink.

Within weeks the nasturtiums were growing and spilling over the sides of the sink. By the end of the summer they were winding around the railings in front of our building.

One small child gave great joy to several sex line operators, hundreds of would be croupiers and one bored Sales Ledger trainee.

What an amazing start to the joy of gardening.


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3 Comments

  1. How life moves on! It’s funny how those covertly observed private moments so often stick in your memory. The house we lived in when I was growing up backed onto the primary school playing field and occasionally in the summer my mum would pass treats over the fence. As the years passed the hawthorn hedge thickened. Sometimes in the summer at lunchtime, long after I had left primary school, small groups of children would sit and chat, unaware that there was anyone on the other side of the hedge. I can’t remember individual conversations now but I do remember smiling often as I eavesdropped while gardening with my mum.

  2. Nice blog post there Fiona!!! Now I will think of that little one everytime I see Nasturiums. 🙂

  3. That’s the loveliest story I’ve heard in a very long time. Thank you, I really needed to read it today.

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