I had a dream last night about the “Open Gardens” day in the village. This biennial event was cancelled this year due to lockdown, depriving villagers of the opportunity to take a look at each others’ gardens – outwardly congratulating the horicultural hosts while inwardly smirking at the relative paucity of their sweet peas or broad beans.
But, being a dream, it all went a little bizarre and surreal. Not only were we opening up The Midlife Garden for the first time, we were also being judged on it as well, with grades being awarded. It was all very pressurised and stressful as I worked to get the garden perfect for the day. In my dream I was reported as being “distraught”, “upset” and “devastated” when the day was cancelled but still hopeful that I might get a good grade for all the effort I had put in this far.
I was told that the Powers-that-Be in the village were still going to award grades, based on a “robust” world-beating system of assessment. So I was hopeful of getting recognition for my runner beans and french beans which were heavier and more abundant than at any time since the we moved to the single storey dwelling. The potatoes were also better than last year, with Belle de Fontenay providing excellent new spuds. Sadly the Duke of Yorks looked rather red and overly large (like their namesake) and needed too much massaging and peeling, but they formed only a small per centage of the crop.
In educational terms I had viewed peas and sugar snaps as the teachers’ pets in early summer. After them, the courgettes started to over-run the raised bed like year 8s in the lunch queue, before some of the plants were permanently excluded. The reduced class size led to better, more focused results. The Independent sector in the greenhouse (a hothouse atmosphere for high yielding plants that might not cope so well in the outside world) the tomatoes were lined up on trusses like snooker balls; the cucumbers tumesced and the chilli peppers promised to produce more hotspots than a Covid map of the USA.
The flowers in the borders were the products of excellent progressive course work – with cosmos, ammi, rudbeckia and echinacea taking over from the early season showings of the lupins, foxgloves and delphiniums. And for the first time ever the Midlife Garden had hollyhocks.
As each of these horticultural subjects showed big improvements on last year, in combination with the spectacular Spursy Bed, which formed the basis of an A* Extended Project Qualification, I was expecting good grades. Sadly, the robust system that the Village Elders decided to use had, by now, proved to be flimsy and ineffectual in the village up the road. But they decided to carry on with the marking system, nonetheless. This involved not seeing any plants, asking the gardeners for their own predictions on how they would have looked, then promptly ignoring this information and giving grades based on which part of the village the garden was in and the size of last year’s sunflowers.
It was called PPE: Previous Performance and Expectation. So, my A grade beans and potatoes were downgraded to C. The A* peas were given a B, and the hollyocks were, mistfyingly, Ungraded. When asked to explain why my tall slim hollyhocks got a U, I was told that, as I had never grown them before, the algorithm showed that I was unlikely to be able to grow any this year either.
In my dream, I found this all rather perplexing and I was angry. But then, miraculously, the village idiots realised their mistake and decided that the people who knew the most about the gardens were the gardeners themselves. So, we all just gave ourselves A*’s and gold medals. And everyone was happy, albeit a little concerned that they would never be able to convince others that their cabbages were really that good in 2020.
Fortunately, at that point, I woke up and realised that it was all just a crazy dream. Nothing like that would ever happen in the real world.