Another five minutes sit down won’t do any harm

Monday September 18, 2006

Hah! Feet up indeed!

“You’re supposed to be resting,” I said when I got back to the house to find the new chair all assembled, the carton neatly folded ready for disposal, and a major vacuuming in progress.

“I know. Can’t seem to settle. My sit down and stay seems to have got up and gone.”

“My mother would have accused you of an overly close association with St Vitus.”

“Mine too. Not to worry. It’s just end-of-season fidgets. It’ll all be over at the end of the week after next.”

“Just in the nick of time, I reckon.”

“Tell you what. You brew a nice pot of tea and we’ll sit down to talk about our new plan for the front garden.”

“It’s a deal.”

The front garden has been giving us pause for thought these past few days. Our immediate reaction to the sheet of coarse gravel broken only by a couple of drain covers was to rake it clear and make a classic town house frontage, with shrubs, beds, and a couple of formal roses. It’d look good but there’s a snag.


There are very few of the houses in the close that don’t have a cat. There are very few of the houses in the close behind us that don’t have a cat, too. A large proportion of them are young ‘uns, about three years old, same age as the development, and there are some strikingly beautiful animals among them, all well cared-for, alert and healthy. A cat-lovers heaven, it could be. Unless that cat lover is also a garden lover.

See, a cat that’s allowed to roam free does just that. Especially at night. And all those cats need somewhere to… well, somewhere to go. Open a patch of earth and every cat in the vicinity makes a bee-line for it, scratches a hole, and deposits a bit of well-meaning. If you get my meaning.

In short, an open patch of earth very quickly becomes a cat-toilet. Well, a cat’s gotta do what a cat’s gotta do, after all’s said and done.

Cats do not like to walk over sharp coarse gravel, however, far less use it as a convenient place for a comfort-call, so our patch of open shingle remains free from their attention.

The current plan, then, is to do what any good gardener does when building a garden—design and plant within the constraints of the situation. Rather than rake the gravel back, we’re going to plant through it, and create a shingle garden, selecting plants such as those that grow on the shingle banks. For architectural breaks, we’ll obtain and employ a judicious number of chunks of driftwood, perhaps studded with a bit of rusty ironwork. Graham favours weathered railway sleepers. I like the idea of something more organic in shape. We’ll compromise. The whole scheme, once we’ve finalised the design and come up with a plant list, can be done and dusted in a weekend and, as we walk away in the direction of a well-earned cup of tea, we’ll toss a handful of wild poppy seeds over our shoulders to start the process of naturalisation. It’ll look good. Better than that, it’ll look stunning.

The back garden will not suffer from the same problem. Making it cat-safe, to keep Dolly in, has the added bonus of keeping alien cats out. We’ll be able to open up beds and cultivate the soil to our hearts’ content.

I peered into Graham’s tea mug. It was empty.

“Fancy a refill?” I asked.

He stretched, smiled, and said: “Oh, go on, then. Another five minutes sit down won’t do any harm.”


The new chair, in use



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