Monday, 26 November 2018

The snail race

 I remember reading a memoir one time called 'The Day Job: Adventures of Jobbing Gardener' It was about an out of work actor/comedian who decided to take a day job as a gardener to earn some money while he was hoping to break into the big time.  What could be so hard about gardening, after all, isn't it just about keeping things tidy, clipping shrubs and pulling weeds?? Well all in all he found it a rather satisfying job, peaceful and quiet,  until a rival garden company turned up on the scene and gave him a run for his money because they had the power tools, the mowers, the blowers, the trimmers, the chainsaws, and basically left him in the dust. They were the Power Gardeners.

After basically destroying creation and making a racket for anyone trying to have a nap in the afternoon, the jobbing gardener had to admit defeat and go back to making stand up jokes and TV commercials, because people paid good money to have their gardens done up in a flash, by the Power Gardeners rather than pay someone to take all day to rake each leaf.

Ok I am exaggerating, but it's true. People would rather pay someone else to poison their land quickly so they don't have to pull weeds for a few months. Also, in another twist, these Power Gardeners with their 'big boy toys' would rather spend the day at the races getting drunk and gambling their earnings away than quietly observing nature and racing snails.  I once suggested this to another fellow gardener that we didn't have to go all out at the races for the end of year party, we could just have our own backyard bbq, it could even be vegan, and race snails we found in the garden but oh no it seems like its more fun to beat dead horses.  And you know, they only get treated well if they win the race, because heaven forbid they break a leg, which means they are no longer useful to make money, and end up getting shot. Well she was quite amenable to this snail race idea but I know I would be laughed out of my tree if I so much as mentioned this to the Power Gardeners.

Now I'm reading another memoir (where do I find time to read all these books, good question, I make time) called 'The Gardener of Versailles' My life in the World's Grandest Garden. By Alain Baraton, Gardener-in Chief at the Palace of Versailles. To anyone who knows a bit of French history this is the grandest garden there is. Seriously King Louis XIV moved heaven and earth to create this...palatial landscape, of which are endless vistas, statues, fountains, allees, reflecting pools, parterres, you name it, it has it. And Marie Antoinette, before she got her head chopped off, did not enjoy the grand lifestyle that much and chose to create her own piece of the countryside in Petit Trianon, which was where she went to escape being royal. It's still there to this day and you can gasp in awe at the recreation of a beer lifestyle on a champagne budget.
 According to Monsieur Baraton,  after lamenting the loss of the horse drawn cart to the tractor with it's noisy gas guzzling, soil compacting ways and scythes to mowers, herbariums to online catalogues and willow baskets to plastic bags on page 199 he observes:

'Slowness is an integral part of my profession - the snails chosen by Le Notre (well known French gardener) for his coat of arms were a humorous manner of underlining this essential truth. That is why the recent technological revolution in gardening has hardly been a success. Technology has permitted a fair share of miracles, but not in gardens. Work done quickly isn't beneficial because nature itself is slow. In the end, it's a simple question of rhythm and harmony. What's the point in doing things more quickly?

Hear hear. So thank you snails, you are good for one thing, to remind us, take things slow.  I am a gardener, not a mowing technician, spray operator, or mindless working robot. And I often remind myself of the fact, by observing these snails as they slowly munch their way through the renga renga lilies. Also, I've seen that like the Power Gardeners, in the end, snails too like to drown themselves in beer.