pic courtesy John williams

I was 24 when I went out on my own and I thought I knew it all. Cocky little f@*ker, was nothing new to my ears. Though I didn’t know and still don’t if that was a compliment or an insult. Like I cared.

I hadn’t a penny to my name and the rest of that violin story has been well noted here before…. Since then the landscaping industry has changed. Pre February 2012, it was on the one hand two bouts of snow, sub-zero temperatures, the highest rainfall levels on record within the space of three hours as Noah’s Ark sailed past my bedroom window. Probably fair to discount them. But when the country’s soil is frozen, you can’t really say economy. Can you ? Honestly, no.

On the other hand and pre, pre that, there was an industry of which the higher percentage of turnover ran off the back of a so-called building boom. Something I never really witnessed. And whilst some companies chose to insert plants into industrial and housing estates all over the country I was pretty fine just doing my own thing. I still am. I did make the show gardens for some builders developments, but I have to admit I never really got into bed with them.

Did I get stung ? Yup. Winkers. That said I still work with two or 3 good fellows. We are good friends to this day. For the right reasons.

Like some infatuated love struck fool ~ and though there’s nothing wrong with that, I did and had to look hard at myself in the mirror and ask myself the hardened question.

Why the flip do you put yourself through this ?

Not getting paid. The longest hours and not enough in the day. No summer holidays… the bad weather, the politics. The taxman. Winker. And so the list went and goes on.

In the middle of all of this was always [at least] one beautiful garden and one of the same cloth type client. I don’t like that word, client. And it made it all worthwhile. It was never and not necessarily the garden with the biggest budget or the best final photograph, for me. It has always been the story, the behind the scenes and the person that is as I would hope my wee daughter to grow up to be. If you get me.

I remember doing a front garden for a friend of mine. Rolled turf. Simple but just delicious when it was finished. It could only have been. It was a derelict overgrown space for over 2 years. This was his first house and mortgaged up to the hilt, he eventually got himself a couch and some second-hand mod cons and some matching cups. He wasn’t there when I put it together for him but, he rang me in the wee hours of the Friday night to tell me that he had just come home, off the night bus and was lying on the lawn, totally naked and can of beer in hand for the last hour. A terrible image I know and a complete nut job, but still one of life’s nice guys.

I could have given you a far sexier [of the garden] type example. My point – it was never about the dollar signs. I know, I know that doesn’t pay the bills. But I was making gardens when I was 12. Cutting grass at 8 or 9 and in college studying horticulture at 17. Also I knew and still know that Ireland is not famed for as a sun holiday resort and yet I still spent 4 years in college, studying horticulture for that I would do work of the great outdoors category. On that note, the one pound dearer than a Matthews,  Bus Eireann bus was nothing as cosy as it is now.

I like the quote that if you see a bandwagon it’s too late. In my personal life, I’m a little bit, of a why buy a bookmark for a dollar when you can use the dollar for the bookmark. I think that goes back to when I was 17 years old and working in the garden centre out by Dublin Airport, hoping that I had a days work that Saturday coming. One got used to the off-seasonal. Even through 3rd level, the pint of Guinness after a full summers earnings eventually churned into a pint of coke with a Guinness head – 30 pence if you must ask, for the latter. On a slight side note and back to it, the quote I stand by the most is only surround yourself with people who lift you higher. In that regard, I am most blessed.

To the original question, why do I put myself through this ? A question I was asked last night. In short, I’m not really putting myself through anything. Sure, I think you’d be mildly confused if you broke into my home* as there really is very little to take – unless you like camping. That said, it is a good home and you won’t taste a finer salad this side of Dublin when I’ve got my green groove on.

To the suggestion that I should be concerned about peripheral factors such as the budget, the Vincent Browne television programmes of the economy and the like, maybe so. But in reality it can only ever have a depressionist outcome on me and I find that unfair on those around me.

I find myself extremely fortunate that my passion is what I do for a living as well as my past-time. I know that the weather has been tough. I’m sick to the teeth of the newspapers and the constant depression that oozes from their pages [running a very close second is the X-Factor] and as a result maybe, I haven’t bought a newspaper in some years now. Also I can’t remember the last time I watched an economy type programme, which is to an extent mildly surprising considering I studied only business subjects all through secondary school. I won’t mention the radio, but fair to say the down-turn-lovers have had a field day and either or it’s a little overkill and for far too long, for me at least.

Monetarily speaking, I know I’ll never be the richest man in the world. Then again, I don’t really know that. And on that note, I and you don’t really know what’s around the corner. Sure, you could get hit by a bus tomorrow – and if you’re Irish the only bit of advice you can take on that note is to make sure you’ve clean underwear on.

What I do know is, I work extremely hard at what I do and I am good at it. I’ll happily settle with that knowledge for now.