Thursday, 24 July 2014

Weather? 'tis nobler.

“You gardeners,” someone chided me good-naturedly on Twitter the other day, “you’re always complaining about the weather!”. Which may be one of the most self-evident statements to have been made upon that platform, or any other for that matter, but nonetheless worthy of examination for all that.

I don’t for a moment doubt the accuracy of my tweeting friend’s observation, but interested as to what lies behind the truth of her comment. Is it that the majority of gardeners of her acquaintance (and mine) are British, and British Gardeners, as a subset of the group known as British, exhibit the most obvious traits peculiar to that set (complaining, and talking about the weather)? Or is it more the case that all gardeners complain – or at least regularly comment upon – the weather, a behaviour which coincidentally happens to correspond to a national pastime in one particular part of the world? I’m inclined to believe the latter. Perhaps I’ll be lambasted* for this but I’ll hazard a guess that gardeners in all locations whinge about the weather – we might have good cause in England to kvetch over the fickle nature of the elements, whereas while gardeners in California or Seattle might have more predictable conditions to deal with, I bet they complain about them just as much as we do here.

Set Theory as applied to whinging-about-the-weather

And is it any wonder? Of course it isn’t. We have every right to bore people rigid talking about the weather. We spend far more time out in it than the majority of folk (excluding shepherds, fishermen and navvies – not an exhaustive list), experiencing its changing moods first hand, rather than observing its effects at one remove through double-glazed windows, or from behind the windshield of a car. Those of us who have elected to spend more of our time with plants than with people get the weather thrown in with the deal – the Elements Experience as a bonus package, no two days quite the same, and guaranteed to keep you on your toes. It's part of the joy of working outside (and yes, working in a polytunnel most definitely counts as ‘working outside’), and was one of the factors that attracted me to horticulture in the first place. In a society where we seem to be doing our utmost to build the natural world out of our everyday existence, I count it as a privilege that my place of work sees me baked by the sun, buffeted by the wind or soaked to the skin on a regular basis.

Does this mean I don’t complain? Of course not! Sometimes I have to remind myself that it’s a privilege – notably more so in my case when working beneath a relentless summer’s sun than when my boots are filling with water – but that doesn’t make it any less true. Whatever the weather has thrown at me, I can honestly say I have never once wished to be back behind a desk in an office. When it gets really bad, a shed will do.

* a process which I don’t quite understand but have always imagined has something to do with being basted along with lamb, which sounds quite pleasant, if a little warm.