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Sunday, April 24, 2011


“It’s not rust,” said the man who sold us our garden table and the two chairs which go with it. “It’s been painted with a special paint which makes it look as if there’s rust underneath.

I’ve never been able to work out whether he thought we believed him. Or maybe he was the one who was duped? If he had known he was selling us a table with real rust, would he have wanted to charge us more? Did he go home rubbing his hands because we were idiots to pay so much? - because, if he did, he was wrong. We knew the table (and matching chairs) was over-priced. It wasn’t old. Nor had it been synthetically ‘pre-rusted’ - it just wasn’t very well made. But it was worth the money to us. It put the right finishing touch to our garden and we hadn’t seen one like it anywhere else. Indeed, it was so ‘right’ we weren’t tempted by a similar-but-not-the-same version which he could have sold us for less.

Sometimes, the only way one can decide how much an object is worth is by how much pleasure it gives - and it has given us a lot. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say it wasn’t just a finishing touch - it is (along with the shed) the foundation of our garden. There is so much wrong otherwise . . .

plants which haven’t grown; bald patches where cats have sat or done worse; pots which have been knocked over so the earth has spilled across the path; the browning leaves and brittle, blackened stems of the clematis armandii which has been tugged so vigorously and so often from the other side of the wall recently it has slipped into depression and isn’t certain whether it wants to grow any more . . .

. . . our table and chairs have been absolutely crucial in establishing that the area beyond our household walls really is a garden. And in achieving this, they have been worth exactly what we paid for them. Their faux-faded elegance has given the impression (to our willing imaginations) that our garden has a history - not a set of false starts.

I would have liked it if bits hadn’t started to fall off but . . .

Where I’ve been making a real mistake, is in thinking (though ‘thinking’ is the wrong word because the ‘thought’ resulted from not thinking at all but ‘assuming’ instead) . . . that the table (and chairs) - once placed between the vine and the cordylines - had to stay where it started.

Today, I was struck with a radical sequence of realisations. All three (table and twin chairs) could be moved! Not only that, that, if moved, they didn’t have to stay in the place they were moved to but could be moved back if ever we wanted. They could be a nomadic table and chairs!

Daft this, I know. But I think it’s something to do with their garden-ness. After all, you put a lot of trouble into deciding where to plant a tree or a bush or even a daffodil. When you put them in the earth, you don’t have in mind that you will move them a few weeks later. Maybe, if you are uncertain about the daffodil, you reckon you can dig it out and shift it the following autumn but, more likely, you will be hoping it will divide and spread and fill up the bed or wherever it is . . . not be relocated at whim. Until today, our table and chairs have seemed more like bushes than daffodils; once ‘planted’ between the vine and the cordylines, they were set to stay there for ever.

Which means I was doing a ‘big-deal-thing’ when I shifted them. While everyone else was out, I levered some of the bigger pots further towards the fence and put the table and chairs in their stead - beside our back door. I then decided the paving stones between it and the path are really a terrace. Then I made myself coffee, took it into the garden, sat down and happily surveyed the new view. Suddenly, it all looks much bigger.

That’s what happens when you create gaps.

* * *

You can see what I see
when I sit at my table
on my other blog


Alison said...

I love it when these kinds of insights happen in the garden! Sometimes I smack myself on the head going, "How could I not see this?"

I'm glad you found a good spot for your table and chairs, they sound charming.

b-a-g said...

When I feel that there's a need for change in my life but I can't do much about it, I move furniture around and it makes me feel better.

I'm always moving plants around as the seasons change. So far it hasn't done them any harm, but I know there are certain plants you're not supposed to move like rhododendrons.

elizabethm said...

I can't tell you how much I loved this blog - the elegant phrasing, the mental pictures, the Eureka moment of realising the table could be moved. It is hard to explain why a particular piece of writing is just right and causes so much pleasure, but this one is! Thank you.

HappyMouffetard said...

I was thinking of a way of trying to say how I felt about this post. Thankfully, Elizabeth (above) has said it for me, so I don't need to try and say it better than that. Happy Easter.

Elephant's Eye said...

I love everything here Esther (but can we soften the red ...)

Janet/Plantaliscious said...

Elizabeth already said it. Great post, I love the way you think. I particularly loved it because I was sat outside the other day craning my neck to peer at the pond when I suddenly thought, hang on, I can move the chair and give myself a GREAT view of the pond. So I did.

Barbee' said...

I don't know how to say how much I enjoyed my visit here today. So filling and satisfying.

Esther Montgomery said...

Hello Everyone.

If you would like to see what I see when I sit at my newly sited table . . . .

Alison - it happens in much of life that one needs to imagine one is starting from scratch in order to see the obvious.

Hello b_a_g - I've always had such a resistance to change that I've often preferred to put up with ridiculous inconveniences rather than break with a self-imposed tradition. Daft. I'm trying to reform!

Hello Elizabeth. I'm pleased you enjoyed this piece so much. I warmly glowed when I read your comment! Fascinating (and often inexplicable without digging) why some things 'speak' more than others.

Ditto - Happy Mouffetard!

Hello Elephant's Eye. I was wondering how long it would take for someone to complain about the red! For the moment, I'm enjoying the red. I looked for something different and came up with this - but I also realise it might be a bit overwhelming for some people and that it's readability depends a lot on the screen and how it is set.

I'll keep coming back to the page until I can achieve a cheerful and radical change from the simplicity of the previous format without irritating people with white writing on a dark background . . . or too much colour . . . or, well, I'll keep thinking. Indulge me a little longer though!

Janet - sometimes one can put much more effort into working round a problem than is needed to solve it.

Barbee - so pleased you too enjoy the table post.


Alistair said...

Enjoyed your post Esther, it makes me think of our garden bench in the main area of our garden, for years we put up with it being in a shady spot, it didn't half make sense to move it. The reds, OK, but you don't half give yourself work with two blogs.