Ceasar’s Thumb

26Mar07

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We’re told our quaint old friend in the back garden was hand-built in the sixties by a lady who was a BBC gardening writer and avid nature-lover. She planted just about everything we have: the honeysuckle, bamboo, roses, apple trees, as well as digging a terrific little pond whose Rana temporaria leave us with a blancmange of spawn the first warm days of spring. So far though, I see no signs of precarious tadpole life and fear for any survivors of the recent low temperatures.

This week alone, three panes of glass have fallen from the greenhouse, one shard stabbing the former-East German railway sleeper (which I pretend to myself played no part whatsoever in the Final Solution). Now I fear more for the safety of young human visitors, visiting this Summer.

After decades fulfilling its humble propagation, the frame now convulses in a sort of death throe, its integrity so compromised that it’s only a matter of time before it yields on its own terms – a kind of horticultural suicide, taking with it a part of the garden’s heritage. We could dismantle it this coming weekend but our retired neighbours next door are away on holiday.

This might sound a little like Jon Ronson paranoia but recently, a house next-door to them has been ripped apart by a local architect and its new first-time buyers. Nearly all of the Edwardian features – doors, cornices, skirting boards and even the pine staircase have ended up in a skip, to the locals’ horror. In our ignorance, we didn’t think such architectural vandalism was committed these days. Our neighbours in particular took this badly as they had known the previous owner, a lady who died recently in her 99th year, for most of their married lives. They were naturally devastated when the building was all but reduced, with no warning, to clouds of lath, plaster and rubble.

This hopefully justifies my reluctance to use the claw hammer against our botanical heirloom’s rattling skeleton before at least mentioning our plans. Were we to proceed like any reckless developer, our neighbours would return in post-holiday exuberance, their tanned jaws to drop like demolition balls.

So in the meantime, our 40-something landmark remains, the sun glinting off its fragile roof, a lone daffodil wilting in memorium and the threat of euthanasia hanging in the air.

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