Last night I dreamt I woke to the sound of cows again. It was a dream that has haunted me recently and it is a signifier of more than just a mad fear of bovine TB.
In November when delinquent Friesians from the next door field trampled the Brussels sprout patch in our garden I was more amused than dismayed. Yes, we had lost the best crop of Brussels for many years even before we had eaten any (my father insists on not picking them till after the first frost) but the whole incident was somewhat comical in that the damage had been done under my old man’s bedroom window and he had not heard a thing.
But he was upset. And only now am I beginning to grasp his depression at the destruction wrought by the hungry heifers as, in the fallout from the incident, we have agreed to take over a large part of the gardening duties from my father.
My parents had always been fiercely proud of their garden – and with some justification. They had started it from not much more than a ploughed field and turned it into a well cultivated acre of land with herbaceous borders, trees and, most importantly, a fine vegetable patch. All four sons had been required to do some digging, planting or harvesting, under a certain level of supervision, but it had never really left me with any feeling of satisfaction.
Renting the converted barn off my father, we have a vested interest in the state of the garden, and since my mother died five years ago it has become increasingly difficult for him to cope. But it is even more of a struggle for him to let go. Any work in the garden is closely monitored from the control centre next door and is more than likely being done in the wrong way, with the wrong tools and at the wrong time of year. I am approaching fifty (from the right direction, if one asks) but still get myself into adolescent sulks as I try to start the strimmer and hear the inevitable “is there enough petrol in that?” or the catch-all offer of “a word of advice”. I am unable to attempt the simplest tasks without the intervention and supervision of my father and it drives me mad. But I say nothing. Why? Because I think that if I do I will upset him. So I take the angst while he takes control.
But the cow debacle has given us a way in. We have offered (nay – demanded)to actually take over part of the veg patch and that is what I am going to work on this summer – and perhaps even write about. And it might just be the means I need to finally become a mature independent adult. I have already made one step when I was given some advice by the Old Man on how to put chicken wire around the patch to ensure that the mower could still get around. I finally felt compelled to tell him to back off and leave me to do it myself.
“I know how to do this thanks. But if I want advice I will ask. I would rather try things out my way and if I fail, so be it. I would rather fail and learn from my mistakes than constantly have you telling me what do”. There….I said it. And felt so much better for it.
But now I feel I must NOT fail….