Final Friday

Today I am not making soup, nor is my wife. Neither of us is buying soup either. This is unusual. It’s what Trent and I usually get stuck into in the middle of a busy day – in a pan, heat on while you wash your hands or whatever, and you’re into eating without any arsing about. But for the first time in 17 months there’ll be no Trent on Monday.

Trent is flying off to the States on Wed, back to live where he loves the mix of vines and nearby skiing. It’s a sod. The place has come to love him as much as he loves the place.

I’m not sure I ever wrote about how he came to be part of things here. I probably did, but so what: I’ll do it again, none of you were paying attention anyway. I was sitting at my desk, happy at having so many interesting things on the go but anxious that I didn’t have enough time to dedicate to outside stuff. There is only one of me and I tend to spread it too thinly. I knew I had to have some help. I also know I’m fairly unsociable – the thought of someone being here every week falls somewhere below wearing Brillo pad underwear on my list of things to do. I sat up in my chair, pressed ‘send and receive’ one last time on the email, and one dropped in the inbox. From Trent. He was working in a local vineyard and had a couple of days a week free; was I interested?

He came round, didn’t seem like an axe murderer so he started straightaway and has been coming here every week since.

This last few months, since he decided to go back to the States, every angle of coersion has failed. Hoping that if he realised how much he was appreciated he might change his mind I’ve tried compliments, persuasion, incentives, talking up the good times, appealed to loose gardeners both male and female to offer themselves to him, but no joy. Even my 5 year old daughter wailing “I don’t want Trent to go” through teary eyes couldn’t move him. A while back I gave up trying and let him have a quiet last couple of months here.

The last couple of weeks have been about loose ends, clean slates and picking up some tips. The fruit cage is done, the barn cleared of rubbish and tidied, a couple of frameworks erected for apricot fans and I took an hour or two to wander around the vines with Trent picking up any last minute transfer of expertise I could.

After the success of our first foray into moving pictures, I decided to record our walk amongst the leafless vines, partly as it would give me one last chance to give him grief while committing it to celluloid and partly to try to record some of the more intricate aspects of pruning vines which aren’t yet established. I would’ve included the film a part of this post but the video recorder is currently drying by the fire. I left it outside for 24 hours, during which time it snowed quite heavily. Time will tell if my final moments of abusing Trent while he is in my employ will make it to a wider audience.

We didn’t get on to some things: it’s been freezing for days so no chance to cut down the dried Jerusalem artichoke stems and lift the tubers beneath, nor get the fork under the knobbly oca, nor to plant the young swamp cypress.

In the polytunnel the yacon is safe (I hope) from the harsh frosts – a couple are even flowering, which is rare for England. Next to them a few plants, a quince among them, that we couldn’t get the spade into the soil to dig holes for. Early spring it is then.

Most of Friday morning was spent shovelling shit. Horseshit. The stables over the river has plenty – it’s a nuisance to them and gold for here so we took 7 trailer loads. Half already composted, much of which we shovelled into steaming doughnuts around the mulberries, apricots and apples. The fresher poo sits in four large heaps, already warming up as decomposition kicks in.

I hadn’t bothered with soup as we were going to stop early and go for lunch. To the cafe for their rather special pastrami, gherkin and mustard mayonnaise sandwiches. Even Trent (who is normally tediously-begrudging when it comes to acknowledging the good of anything that is done famously well in the States) finds it impossible to deny their majesty. But it started him on one of his repeating rants: to Trent, a sandwich should be composed of two 3-inch thick mattresses of bread, separated by a further 3 inches of numerous and multicoloured fillings. The more fillings the better. Clearly this is all wrong. In the interests of international relations I let him live. In the interests of furthering his education, I assured him that the perfect sandwich should never have bread so thick and that the fillings should number three, maximum. He refused to be enlightened, I slipped a bag of crack into his luggage.

17 months isn’t long to leave a mark, but a lot seems to have happened in that time. We raised a couple of pigs and took them to slaughter somewhat circuitously; 1500 vines were replaced; the vineyard reinvigorated; we dug up dozens of dead olives, apricots and almonds; we planted a new quince orchard, almond orchard, Japanese plum orchard and a perry pear orchard; many hundreds of windbreak plants went in; the huge fun of the Autumn Malvern Show where he not only did everything and more that was asked, he made an impression on everybody involved; we dug the first yacon we’ve had here; we built the base of the bread oven; and he showed me his cock and balls.

So while I sit on the train to the Garden Media Awards on Wednesday, Trent will be heading over the Atlantic. He’s coming back in May for a visit, by which time the autumn olive vodka* should be in rather pleasing order. He’ll be made very welcome.

* having sunk to the bottom when added to the vodka, the autumn olive fruits rose to the top of the bottle on day 2, why, I’ve no idea.

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  • I'm with Trent on the sandwiches. I hope my gardening clients write so scathingly about me as you have about Trent in the early part of next year when I fork over my footprints in their borders for the last time.

  • these are olives?
    I'm with you on sandwiches, although 3 fillings is still pushing the boat…excluding salad of course.

  • Aw. We'd got used to him too. Do hope the Last Video makes it onto the blog. Mind you, do think you should do a Really Last Video when he comes back and gets drunk on autumn olive vodka.
    Stiff upper lip, man.

  • I did enjoy meeting Trent at the Autumn show, if he comes over early May you could bring him to the Malvern Spring show? Have you found a new Trent yet or are you not looking?

  • I think I need a Trent, although I'm sure his skills would be wasted on me and my plot. I also spread myself too thinly at the expense of my garden – in fact, I can't remember the last time I spent proper time in my plot…

  • Thursday – its madness about the sandwiches…repent!

    Rosalind – agreed – three only rarely – eg pastrami, gherkins and mustard mayo

    VP – I agree with every word

    Lia – I will indeed get a spycam on Trent when he gets stuck into the vodka…he's a bit of a two-pot screamer

    PG – Still undecided about a new tent – and I think he'll be too busy wandering around being sociable when he comes back over

    KS – not a nice feeling is it…

  • He's definitely wrong sandwiches but looks pretty perfect in all other ways. Wonder if he could go home via Wales. It's a crime to miss out a whole country. Mind you if he came down we would struggle to find the garden under snow.

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