It’s a bit chilly out in the gardens of Palatine School but at least it’s not raining. Pat, the Chairman of the School Governors, is on “gate duty” collecting in everyone’s £3.50 entrance
fee which will go to the National Gardens Scheme charities. She has her brolly tucked under her chair in readiness. Better safe than sorry.
I am given a laminated
map of the gardens, an admission ticket (that’s your insurance, Pat tells me, seriously) and a large yellow bookmark with “National Gardens Scheme” printed on it. Thus armed, I head off into the Millennium Garden at the start of my
It’s a pity that, on account of having my hair cut, I wasn’t able to be here this morning. There was an Easter Egg Hunt in which some
70 children participated, all chasing a large Easter bunny. I wanted to ask Pat if she had donned the rabbit costume (I wouldn’t have put it past her – she is a Person of Inestimable Qualities) but guessed she would have told me if she had. Maybe
next year they will ask me to be the Easter Bunny. It would make my day.
I did ask Mr B if he wanted to accompany me but he gave me a look which said, more clearly
than any words “Haven’t you forgotten something?” Which was when I remembered that Sri Lanka was playing India in some cricket final. Mr B, you see, is a real sports fan. Just because England isn’t in the final doesn’t stop him
from watching it. It is true that if England were playing, his interest would be doubled – but then so would his heart-rate.
So that is why I am wandering
around the gardens on my own, armed with the I-Pad so that I can take photos as I go round. I struggle a bit with the I-Pad as a camera, mostly because I tend to hold it the wrong way up so my photos come out upside down when I go to post them on Facebook
or this website. Also the I-Pad has an extremely smart leather case which keeps getting in the way whenever I attempt to take a photograph. (Mr B is extremely proud of this case as he bought it for a fraction of its normal price. He is not inclined to
listen to any of my complaints about it.)
In a little cabin, near the fish pond, underneath a rather artistic display
of gardening gloves hanging from a line(see photo) there are scrap books detailing how the school-children of 2001 set about excavating and designing their water feature. There, on every colourful page, are their hopes and dreams for this corner of their
garden. I gaze out at the pond and try to imagine what it must have been like seeing their dreams become reality. Later I meet one of the volunteer gardeners who has been working to create and maintain the school gardens for 15 years and who tells me
it took two hard-working years to bring the pool project to fruition.
Passing through the gardens, I can hardly miss the multi-coloured dream catchers hanging
from trees and bushes. There’s a garden depicting the Owl and the Pussy Cat off to sea in a boat, and a story-telling circle in the middle of which is a large throne carved out of an old tree trunk, for the Teller of the Stories. I can just imagine
myself sitting there, children at my feet, story book in my lap. I wish I had someone with me to take a photo of me. Where is Mr B when I need him? (At home, later, I remember that I could have taken a “selfie”. Katie and Eleanor showed me how
to do this last time I saw them and I think I can still remember how to do it. Bet the leather case would have got in the way...)
My goodness, what’s
this? A life-size cow, plastered all over with colourful pictures of flowers and birds. The volunteer gardener tells me that a pack of Brownies have been having a great time decorating the cow. As a former Brown Owl myself (tu-whit, tu-whoo) I rack my
brain to think of which Brownie badge they might have been working towards. I know the Girl Guides Association has come under criticism lately for some of their new badges, most notably the “All About Me” badge. I am sure these Brownies will
be as proud as punch when they go home to announce to their parents that they have been awarded their “Cow Decorator” badge.
Everywhere you look, there’s
something else to see, something quirky and different, to put a smile on my face. Nicky, who is in charge of the volunteer gardeners, tells me that I will be welcome any Monday or Tuesday morning if I fancy lending a hand. I explain that I am not very
good at digging and delving but she says I can always wander round the garden dead-heading flowers. She makes it sound like the very best of jobs.
still on the gate when I leave. So far, she tells me, 38 people have paid to visit the gardens and three people have driven off in disgust because they said £3.50 was far too much to charge, even though all the money goes to charity.
I really don’t understand some people. £3.50 to see how children’s dreams have been turned into a garden?
What price a dream?