Green fingers, I never thought I'd get them

But with a garden (and a weak immune system) to tend, it seems I've caught the bug

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The Independent Online

Gardening used to be something that happened to other people. My grandma, my in-laws and my neighbours were all afflicted with green fingers, while I simply saw outside space as something to sit and drink gin in when the sun came out. The grass is a bit long? Just makes it more comfortable. The flower beds are full of weeds? Well, at least something’s growing.

Since moving into my flat nine years ago, I’ve had an annual bout of lawn-mowing, staggering around the shared garden in the wake of an elderly Flymo and doing more damage to its cable than the tufty lawn. Other than that, I happily let my neighbours suffer, thinking I was immune.

But I’ve recently started to have some gardening symptoms. I won’t lie - they kicked in when the lovely chap who lived upstairs (and used the keep the garden in check) passed away. I didn’t want his widow to think that I was uncaring (I’m not) and lazy (I am) so I made my peace with the Flymo, and, starting with homeopathic doses, I’ve started to do some weeding and planting. I have, for the first time in my life, felt the physical aftereffects of digging, hauling and raking. And I’ve found I rather like them.

I don’t want to pretend that my case is more serious that it is, though. I’m not yet at the terminal stage, as exhibited by one ex-colleague. He used to write a column that I was in charge of putting on the page. For three years on the trot he wrote a column about the joy of the heritage seed catalogue dropping through his letterbox. One year, rare-breed tomatoes got the love, the next, I seem to recall, he rhapsodied about spuds, before he moved on to raving about cabbages. Then I rolled my eyes. But writers in glass (green?) houses shouldn’t throw stones - now, I’m increasingly keen to remember what the bloody catalogue was called. I feel an itch that only planting some endangered endive can scratch.

I’d love to pretend that what I’m doing is guerilla gardening - tarting up roundabouts in the middle of the night with flowers, covering statues of Churchill with turf mohicans - but it’s not. I’m doing old giffer gardening. I’ve caught the gardening bug because I’m growing older. What can I say? My immune system is weakened, and an afternoon gently prodding the lawn makes me feel better. Seeing things grow, trying to do a bit of alfresco tidying up, then having a sit-down that feels well-earned - these are a tonic. Although speaking of tonic, a G&T certainly helps with the raking. I may have diagnosed myself with green fingers, but there’s life in me yet.