The travails of an amateur gardener
OUTSIDE the sun is shining and the sap is rising. Inside, though, the best rays are monopolised by multi-storey propagators which jostle for space on the windowsills.

And - joy of joys - everything has come up! Even the exotic seeds culled from the beach in Portugal last September have thrust tentative shoots up through the compost. Mind you, where I am to find a suitably nurturing habitat for them in wind-swept East Anglia is still a mystery.

Outside, sweet peas bang their heads against the roof of the mini-greenhouse, demanding to be let out. Their space is required by the tomatoes, which stretch out spindly fronds in search of more light and space.

Time for some potting on, I think, but this is not as simple as it sounds. The windowless privy which I laughingly call a potting shed has barely been breached in months. As I peer in at the chaos of miscellaneous tools, bicycle parts and abandoned decorating equipment, my thoughts turn, as they tend to do on such occasions, to Alan Titchmarsh.

The level of order in that man's shed leaves me speechless. Where most people have unsightly heaps of plastic pots in countless shapes and sizes, he has neat stacks of beautifully weathered terracotta. Whereas mortals make do with a tatty bag of multi-purpose compost, he knocks up a chest of drawers from spare bits of wood to create a special place for each of his five different grades. I ask you! I, for one, would die for a living room that big, let alone a shed.

Back in the black hole of "Coastguard Cottages", I have a problem. Not only do I have to find 30 pots of roughly the same size and shape, I also have to find the little brush with which to clean them. By now, the thought of Titchmarsh and his potting palace has got my gorge up, and I attack the task with gusto. Two hours later, the hole is empty and the yard looks like something out of Steptoe and Son.

Serendipitously, I stumble upon a bag of huge nails among the rubble, and spend a happy afternoon venting my spleen on them. From now on, everything will hang in its own place. Even the pot brush gets its own nail, just in case. By the time the task is complete, it is far too late to contemplate the repotting. In any case, I've run out of compost.

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