This is one of the chapters of the new book by Mr David Wright “Tales from the English Garden”
There was one tussle that constantly recurred in and about Hodge’s garden. This was between Hodge and Mrs Hodge – you can guess who usually came out best in the arguments! Hodge said that it was unfair to threaten him with the withdrawal1 of his Sunday dinner privileges and Mrs Hodge said that she wouldn’t have to if he just did as he was told. At that point, Hodge would go out into his garden muttering “Women!” under his breath2 – but not until he was out of earshot3 of Mrs Hodge.
The bone of contention4 was flowers v.5 vegetables.
Hodge maintained that it was a waste of his valuable gardening time to be growing things that could not be eaten – eaten by humans, that is. The bugs had no problem eating both flowers and vegetables if he were not very careful. Surely, he would reason, Mrs Hodge enjoyed the fresh new potatoes from his garden long before they were available in the shops – except for those ‘furrin’6 things from Egypt or Cyprus. And the huge snow-white cauliflowers and six varieties of hard green cabbage, the onions like cannon balls and leeks7 blanched to perfection, artichokes and sweet marrowfat peas8, tender runner beans9 as long as his arm, lettuce10, tomatoes, beetroots11, radishes and all the rest. Of course she did, and she also liked flowers to put on the table and to take round to old Mrs Brown who couldn’t get out much these days and to put in the church when it was her turn to do the altar flowers. And didn’t Hodge enjoy the envious looks he got when he won the prizes at the village show, not only in most of the vegetable classes, but also for his roses, dahlias12, sweet peas13 and chrysanthemums? Of course he did! So Hodge would admit defeat until the next time the whole discussion was repeated. This happened with such regularity that both protagonists knew their parts by heart and could recite the familiar arguments with practised perfection.
The garden was divided into five parts.
This was not a formal demarcation, but an ad hoc14 arrangement that had just grown up and suited all concerned. At the far end, there was the part that I have already told you about where the pond was located and the surrounding area left wild for the birds and insects to enjoy. Next there was the main garden where Hodge grew his vegetables and fought his interminable battles with all manner of pests and diseases. Beside this, was his greenhouse where tender seedlings15 could be raised and later on, when the weather improved, tomatoes and cucumbers flourished. That makes three parts – are you keeping count? Then there was a smaller area where Hodge grew the flowers, keeping up the pretence that it was under protest and completely against his will, but secretly he would have been devastated if he were deprived of it! Finally, there was the grass, which Mrs Hodge called ‘the lawn’ with flower borders all round the edges and a stone path leading up the middle where Mrs Hodge had her clothesline16. Hodge cut the grass and every autumn he would dig over the parts of the borders where the annuals17 had been planted, but otherwise, this fifth part (is that right?) was the responsibility of Mrs Hodge. She chose the flowers and planted them out. Sometimes, if she bought seeds, she would ask Hodge to raise them in the greenhouse, but otherwise he left her to it and had to admit that it always ‘looked a pitcher’18 as he would say. So you see the garden was really a joint venture19, only don’t let Hodge hear that as he always maintained that it was his garden.
1 withdrawal – (зд.) лишение 2 under one’s breath – шепотом 3 out of earshot – за пределами слышимости 4 bone of contention – яблоко раздора 5 v. – (versus) лат. против 6 “furrin” = foreign 7 leek – лук-порей 8 marrowfat pea – горошек мозговой 9 runner bean – фасоль огненная 10 lettuce – салат-латук 11 beetroot – свекловица 12 dahlia – георгин 13 sweet pea – душистый горошек 14 ad hoc – (лат.) специальный 15 seedling – саженец, рассада 16 clothesline – бельевая веревка 17 annual – однолетнее растение 18 “pitcher” = picture 19 joint venture – совместное предприятие