The welcome sound of leather on willow

I have built my fruit cage in the middle of my plot. Despite my calling it a fruit cage, I tend to use it mainly to grow my brassicas in.

Dahlias are flowering now SUS-200717-145817001

At the moment it is full of purple sprouting, Brussels sprouts, cauliflowers and cabbage. The only problem being, it is difficult to grow any vegetables each side of it and I decided to plant a row of Gladioli tight to the side.

They have just started to come into flower and are making a magnificent show. Of course, there is a limit to how many flowers one needs in the house, apart from anything else you tend to run out of vases to display them in.

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I get great pleasure in making up arrangements for my family and friends. Along with the Gladioli, the dahlias are now in full bloom and I have also planted a row of Larkspur. The three put together with a few sprigs of gypsophila make a lovely gift.

We were invited to lunch with friends on Monday and so I decided to pop down to the allotment Sunday afternoon and pick some flowers to take to them. As I was cutting them, I could hear the local men playing cricket in the field behind. To me the sound of leather on willow is the quintessential sound of an English summer.

The village green plays such an important part in English country life, apart from the local cricket match, I think the annual summer fete on the green epitomises the summer.

I was very lucky when I was growing up, to live in a typical country village where the highlight of the year would be the annual Sports and Flower Show.

Each year on the second weekend of July the huge marque would be erected on the village green.

Later, becoming chairman of the Sports and Flower Show committee, I realised how much work was involved in putting on the event.

My first recollection of the Flower Show was when I was about five or six and my mother entered me into the fancy dress competition. At that time Harold McMillan was Prime Minister and the unions were holding constant strikes in protest to the union reforms the government were trying to bring in.

It was the norm at the time for most people to smoke and they would light their cigarettes with matches. My mother together with her sister in law came up with the very clever idea of collecting all the dead matches and sewing them on to an old shirt and trousers of mine.

I entered the competition holding a board my father had written saying “No More Strikes”. That was my first taste of success.

In later years, I would help my father with his flower and vegetable exhibits. I can remember our kitchen table would be covered with sweet peas on Flower Show day. Each bloom would be examined to see if it had four flowers on each stem.

My father would dig rows of potatoes just to get the best 5 for the show. He was a very good gardener and won the cup for vegetables at the show 14 years in succession. I suppose that was the start of my obsession with growing flowers, fruit and vegetables.

Let’s hope next year will see the return of fetes and flower shows on the village green.