took an hourly wage from a garden in Oxfordshire, England. But I
cannot say I ever worked for that wage.
The garden belonged to an old house that had for generations been
sustained by the land it owned. Bits had been sold so that newer
houses might be built and over time the garden had dramatically reduced in
size. Then the house itself was sold and the garden was pretty much
When it was my turn to spend time in this
garden all that remained of former glory were three Beauty of Bath Apple
trees and a row of depressed and woody Black Current bushes.
The new owner could cast back to what she knew of the garden's history and
she could announce with a certainty that the garden's decline was a
consequence of economics. A naked relationship between the
availability of labor and the market for Black Currents.
In that stoic way we would walk by the Black Current bushes in
contemplation of their future. To give these plants enough sun for
fruit would mean revealing the next door neighbors, who were well hidden
by what my employer called 'Nut Trees'. And the naked question, was
the extent of the compromise she was prepared to make in exchange for
Black Currents to call completely her own.
Inevitably conversation drifted toward
identification of the Nut Trees. I had no clue what they were.
She thought they were Hazelnut, but never had she seen the trees produce and
there was always the chance that one year they might. Old Books were
consulted, the photographs in black and white, the illustrations artistic.
Over coffee and cake, there was talk of
relocating the Black Current bushes, but the plants were elderly and
cantankerous and had grown together, presenting more of a hedge than a
series of individual bushes.
As well, during tea and biscuits, there
was the question of why these Black Currents had been planted so close to
the Nut Trees. The conclusion to this question resolved itself
somewhere between two opinions, which were that the Nut Trees had grown
taller than anticipated or that the Black Current bushes were in the old
garden's cutting bed. And on it would go through this or that archeological
digression, which more often than not included a laugh and a smile.
Those days off with pay are remarkable
for their clarity in my thoughts. That place had what I sometimes
think of as a 'ghost of garden'.