A family day out is real rarity in our household. We are currently all living on the same continent, which is a bonus, but that hasn’t always been the case. They always say you should feel proud as a parent that you’ve given your fledglings the confidence to flap their wings and fly away – but I do sometimes wish they hadn’t flown quite so far (although to be fair to our children we have done our own fair share of flying in the past). With our elder daughter on sabbatical from her job in Budapest and working in London for three weeks, we took the opportunity to meet up for some quality time together, plans which included a visit Hampton Court Flower Show on one of the hottest days of the year.
My house in the UK has a fairly compact garden, but after spending a large part of the last nine years or so living in rented apartments overseas, I value my own personal outdoor space. I’d like more, but that’s because I look back through my rose tinted spectacles to the days when we had a third of an acre plot, complete with our own bluebell wood and children who needed trampolines, pop-up pools and wendy houses. Those days are gone – and so has the industrial-sized lawnmower. It’s not a question of quantity, but quality.
I still watch Gardeners World, I grow my own herbs and salad veg, albeit in high-rise containers to defy the slugs. I have a choice of seating areas, where I can chill out with a book in dappled shade or full-sun; we even have a pint-sized pond. I’ve crammed my borders full of plants to attract butterflies and ungrateful bees (I was recently stung), and we have visiting hedgehogs. It’s a little oasis.
Hampton Court was packed, and parched, and all around us elderly ladies were collapsing from the heat, but we viewed the show gardens and marvelled not just at the seemingly effortless planting, but at sunken seating areas and outdoor entertaining spaces, wondering if we too could find room in our postage stamp plot for that leather-look hot tub complete with wooden surround (surely we could?) as well as a circular shed to house a fully stocked cocktail bar…
While our young ladies revived themselves with Pimms, Mr T and I wandered around looking for further inspiration. I’ve now found the perfect solution to keeping occupied during long winter evenings when the great outdoors is out of bounds. We don’t need a bigger garden – we can create horticultural masterpieces from the comfort of our own settee. A knitting project for me, and a lego one for him.
But of course the best part of the day was being together – so that the kids could squabble just like they did when we all lived under one roof. To be fair my girls get on a lot better when they live apart, there is some truth in that old adage that absence makes the heart grow fonder.
A day out anywhere provides inspiration for a writer, characters, settings, planting schemes, I soaked it all up. Even if I can’t recreate those show gardens in my own backyard, I can certainly transplant the ideas into my next book – The Garden of (My) Dreams….watch this space!