30 December 2011

Nick's Golden Years

Nick started work at Brooke Hall thirty years ago, when he was in his teens. He has adapted and survived and is the only person left from a team of 11 gardeners whose centre of operations was the kitchen garden. It was an intensely productive place, designed to feed people in several households around the British Isles. This was the pre-grocery delivery age.

Nick tends to talk about 'the Eighties' as though it's an ancient time. To me it isn't, but on a country estate which was still clinging to the old ways, the Eighties marked the end of the Edwardian era. A team of gardeners who took three months to rake every leaf, has been replaced gradually by three efficient humans and a minimal collection of machinery.

There is something about Nick which I admire but don't completely understand: he is impossibly quick at everything he does. It's not just a result of no-nonsense training but a leftover from the school playground mentality amongst the mob of under-gardeners. They challenged each other to see who could finish the job first - that would surely make the time pass more quickly. Nick is unquestionably the swiftest as well as most artistic edger and hedger in the East Midlands, but it is speed which motivates him. This of course means that he does twice as much work. It's not something I'd condone, personally, but I haven't worked for thirty years in one place.

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