April 22, 2024

MICHAEL WOLSEY: This lockdown is not working because all the workmen are

How does my garden grow? Rapidly, I am sorry to say.

When last I wrote about it, I had achieved a notable victory in the trench warfare that passes for gardening at Chateau Wolsey. A slash and burn attack had left my foes in disarray.

The brambles had retreated to the furthest borders of the battlefield, the creepers had crept under the hedges and the weeds – mere foot soldiers in the enemy ranks – were keeping their heads down for fear of a fresh assault.

The evil empire was damaged but not defeated. Over Winter its forces regrouped and now they are reclaiming lost ground – a flower bed here, a pathway there. They are advancing on the house in a Spring offensive.

When last I did battle, I was assisted by two valiant allies. I number some oddities among my friends: anglers, golfers, vegetarians and even a supporter of Manchester United. These two are gardeners and they have fought my cause through many a campaign.

Given a choice, they would take a more constructive, and more frequent, approach to my garden. But, since I insist on swift, direct action, they turn up once or twice a year, armed with all sorts of weapons for chopping and cutting.

They relish the fight and make it clear that my ham-fisted assistance is neither helpful nor desired. So, although I speak about allied action, in truth my main contribution is to take them to the pub for a couple of thank-you pints when it’s all over.

But this year I have a problem.

I’m not sure if it is Covid-legal to have friends working in the garden and, even if it is, I certainly can’t take them to the pub for a pint or even indoors for a couple of cans.

So I thought of breaking with tradition and paying for professional assistance. I found a website that offered to post my request and assured me I would have gardeners calling with quotes “within hours … sometimes minutes”.

Well, I waited minutes. And I waited hours. And days later I re-posted my plea for help. But nary the gardener did I hear from.

What I did hear from was another website whose operators, quite unsolicited, contacted me to offer a better service than the first one.

They came up with the names of four gardening contractors, all quite near my home, and asked to which ones they should send my request. I suggested trying all four and, like the first company, they promised a near-instant response.

That was days ago and I have not heard from a single gardener. I have made my own direct contact with a few contractors but they are all too busy to take the work. Some simply said ‘no’. Others offered me a date so far ahead that Spring would be well-sprung before they arrived. If I wait for them, the brambles and briars will have occupied my house.

It was only then it occurred to me that other recent attempts at hiring  trades people – in one case to repair a dishwasher, in another to do some plumbing – had been equally unsuccessful.

Once I gave it some thought, the reason for the problem became obvious. It was in front of my eyes all the time: every second house in the neighbourhood is having work done and all trades people are fully occupied.

There are men up ladders on roofs, painters at work outside and in, gangs laying paths, blokes building walls and guys chopping trees.

And we wonder why this lockdown has not been as effective as the others. It’s not working because half the country is paying no attention to it. The lockdown is not working because our workmen are.

That is an observation, not a criticism. If I can persuade one of the gardening fraternity to break their schedule, they will be very welcome at my house. Failing that I may have to give my old pals a call and ask them to take a raincheck on the pints.

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