Sunday, July 15

The kindness of strangers

When life is shit, the only thing that you can be sure of is that there is no knowing what is around the corner. Sometimes admittedly it's just a second helping of shit, and that's not good. But there's also the possibility that there may be something good around the corner. When that turns out to be the case, enjoy it, celebrate it, and remember it. When you hit the next mound of shit, it might be what keeps you going.

The garden in full bloom

I have been nurturing a guerrilla garden for the last two years, but last weekend when the poppies and cornflowers and nasturtiums were in full bloom, the council came and 'tidied' it up, pulling the flowers off the roots and basically reducing the majority of the space back to mud. They never plant anything in this huge bed, so it remains empty apart from the roses in one end that flower only once a year. Thankfully they left most of the sunflowers in the centre, and a couple of other plants that I had put in, which softened the blow somewhat.

Local blog Deptford Dame took up the case as a result of which it seems that there might be a story in the local paper next week; outrage via twitter prompted one of the local councillors to table a question for the council meeting in September and the issue has been raised in profile.

But it was the reaction of a total stranger that touched me the most. Anne-Marie is a keen gardener in Hither Green, who recently set up the Lewisham Gardens website and who was in touch with me a couple of months ago, interested in arranging to get a tour of Deptford parks and gardens.

We only knew each other via the internet, and although we'd talked about doing a tour of Deptford, we hadn't yet managed to arrange anything. When she heard about what the council had done to the guerrilla garden, Anne-Marie immediately committed to come over and visit. She arrived on Sunday morning laden with cuttings, plants and seeds for me, and more importantly, with a huge dose of optimism and the unspoken attitude that you should not let the bastards grind you down.

I hadn't really felt ready to return to the decimated scene of the crime, but with Anne-Marie behind me it didn't seem like the massive issue it had been. Her indomitable spirit of generosity and enthusiasm drove me on to see this for what it was - just a temporary setback. The seasons of the natural world come around so quickly that there's no point being disheartened by such things, you'll always be just around the corner from the next growing spurt.

Planting next year's flowers

To be honest I was totally overwhelmed by Anne-Marie's enthusiasm; we planted out the shrubs and cuttings she'd rooted herself, and she even collected a few more from the Buddleia growing nearby to fill in the gaps. We broadcast great handfuls of seed across the bed, no doubt some of which would be enjoyed by hungry pigeons but hopefully some would come to fruition this year or next. She greeted each passer-by with a cheerful hello and a genuine smile, and her optimism was infectious. Thanks to Anne-Marie I'll be going back soon to plant a few more things and I won't be put off by such a minor hiccup!