Cheats never prosper. My dear Mum was very clear on that point.
Should you ever be tempted to cheat, she would warn me, even
if as a result you were to win the race, the quiz, the competition, the argument, you would know that you hadn't. Not really. Not even if all the world (or that small part of it I inhabited at the age of seven years old or so) thought you were the victor.
Success would not taste half so sweet as if you had won fair and square. It would be a Bitter Pill.
With such an upbringing, it is not surprising that, even to
this day, I am unable to cheat. Even when I listen to "The Bag", the evening general knowledge quiz on Radio Sussex every night from the comfort of my bed. Even when it's multiple choice and it would be so very easy to pretend I knew that the opening
of the Channel Tunnel was in 1994, not 1993 or 1995. Even when the answer to the gardening question is on the very tip of my tongue and it's only what my Mum would have called my Forgettory", rather than lack of knowledge that leaves me stumped. Yes, if I
were inclined to cheat, I could easily score a perfect six out of six every single night. But what satisfaction would that bring me? Not a lot.
What I need
to check with you, dear readers, is whether you think I am cheating in the Annual Sunflower Competition. Every year I plant out four Sunflower seedlings - two for Mr B and two for me - in extra large flower pots, reminiscent of those in which Bill and Ben
the Flowerpot Men used to live. For those of you too young to know what I am talking about, can I suggest you consult YouTube where you will discover not only a catchy tune which will lodge, annoyingly, in your brain for days but will also be introduced to
Bill and Ben's friend, Little Weed. Yes, when I was a littl'uns, we really enjoyed Cutting Edge Children's TV.
Now where was I? Ah, yes, out in the back garden
watching the progress of our sunflowers and pondering on whether or not I might be cheating. Let me explain. Usually Mr B's flower pot is placed on the left hand side of the garage wall, as you look at it, while my flower pot stands on the right. You can tell
the difference because, in one of my rare Vincent Van Gogh Moments, I painted our initials on each pot - a large "B" for Mr B, an equally large "J" for Yours Truly.
after year, Mr B wins the Annual Sunflower Competition when his flower grows straighter, stronger and taller than either of mine. This despite the fact that he neither sows, nor plants, nor waters, nor feeds his seedlings. He doesn't even talk to them, for
goodness sake. Every bit of Tender Loving Care expended on his plants is bestowed upon them by me. Well, I couldn't talk to mine and not to his, now could I? It would be tantamount to neglect, if not downright cruelty.
It has over time occurred to me that the reason why Mr B's plants always grow taller than mine is because his flower pot just happens to be situated right underneath a hanging basket - which means
that his plants always receive a double helping of water whenever I get the hose out, due to the veritable waterfall that cascades from hanging basket to the flower pot beneath. It sounds plausible, don't you reckon?
This year, strictly in the interests of experimentation, you understand, I have swopped the pots over. My flower pot now stands directly under the hanging basket, with Mr B's to one side of it. Every other factor - size of
pot, depth of compost, level of words of encouragement uttered every morning and evening - have stayed the same. But - and it is an important but - am I cheating? However hard I try to convince you, and myself, that this is no more than an experiment, have
I purposely set myself up for a win for the First Time Ever.
Before you condemn me, I think I need to provide you with a final piece of important information.
Mr B's Sunflower plant, proud and stately in its new position, is already well ahead of mine in the Growth Stakes. Even at this early stage, and despite my nefarious behaviour, it looks as if he is heading for yet another win.
My dear Mum, of course, would not be the least bit surprised.
Cheats never prosper.