Between the years 0 and 50 BG (Before Gardening) my eyes skipped automatically across certain programmes in the TV listings.
I don’t mean A Question of Sport or Friends repeats. I mean gardening programmes, mentions of which I hardly saw, as if there was nothing printed on the page.
I knew who Alan Titchmarsh was because he was born in the next street to ours. And it’s impossible not to have heard of Monty Don, the welly-wearing woman’s crumpet. But as to what either of them did when they got down and dirty, I had no idea.
Imagine my surprise a few months back when I found myself still sitting on the settee twenty minutes into Carol Klein’s ‘Cottage Garden’, the remote having gone limp in my hand.
I was impressed by her passion for her garden, her discernment in hiring interesting-looking men to finesse bush and hedge, and her roping-in of the camera-shy Mr CK for the heavy work. I particularly loved the scenes in her shed. It was always the middle of the night and she was always pricking out seedlings, adding a finishing layer of grit to the soil.
I still have no idea why she did the grit bit (I missed that) but I know a pleasing ritual when I see one. I hurried to the garden centre for grit of my own, and now have my own gravelled oblongs, like miniature Zen gardens.
I watched all those programmes. This is dangerous territory, I know. I’ll be listening to Gardener’s Question Time soon, a place from which few return.
For Dad’s part, he has always been a keen watcher of the TV weather forecast and an even keener complainer that they’ve got it wrong again. According to him, you might as well ignore everything they say. But he doesn’t, especially not nowadays when he wants to know whether we’ve passed the danger of frost.
Inaccuracy isn’t his only beef. ‘You can’t hear a bloody thing they say! ‘But then, they only give the poor blighters two minutes. They have to talk fast to fit all the words in.’
The subtitles are no help, telling of ‘a pig suede of cloud coming in from Norman Island.’
Dad goes on. ‘It’s over in a matter of seconds, and then you’re on to something completely different, like some halfwit drawing a diagram of the solar system in the sand with a stick or talking at you over his shoulder while he runs up a hill.’
An erstwhile scientist, Dad has no time for today’s informal presenting style. ‘And why do we have to have all that bloody music?’ he usually finishes.
He’s got a point. TV has its limitations. If I want gardening tips, I should probably ask the taciturn old gimmers down at the allotment, however unapproachable they seem.
And as for the weather, we can always fall back on the old-fashioned methods: watching the sky and noticing whether the cows in the fields are standing up or lying down.