I have always lived in towns or cities. I have moved house twelve times in my life, despite never being in the military; always to another town or city.
My parents were from central Liverpool. My Mum had never had a garden so she was delighted to have a small patch when we moved to Runcorn.
She bought gloves, tools and a sun hat and went out armed to the gardening teeth, ready to dig up a storm.
Three minutes later, she was back. She stood in the dining room and gazed around, not speaking to us as we looked at her. Finally, Dad said, ‘What’s up? Why aren’t you gardening?’
Mum replied, ‘I saw a worm.’
That was the end of her gardening life.
Our first Christmas there, Santa brought my brother and I a swing for the garden. I remember swinging happily one day, then suddenly finding myself lying face down in the rose bushes, a plank for a neck rest. I must have let go too soon.
Dad loved roses but he struggled to grow them, despite careful pruning, watering and the following of instructions. Around his seventh year of no roses whatsoever, he lost patience and hacked at the lot with a spade and much temper.
Year Eight: a fabulous crop. Urban gardens are awkward for the sake of it.
Once we moved to South Africa, though still in towns, the houses had huge gardens. Dad used his to escape Mum. And Mum encouraged him.
I have never had any interest in gardening. We had an acre of land around our last house and all we ever did to it was pay someone to cut the grass.
I am a town girl, born and bred. Nature is for farmers and unhappily married people and the odd weirdo like Pseu and Viv. I relate to the Mike Harding joke about his first visit to a large park: We knew we were in the countryside because it had railings round it.
But one nice thing about urban living, besides public transport, a shop on the corner, pavements and regular refuse collections, is the council’s attempt to bring the countryside to the residents. This is the tree outside my kitchen window:
I watch it change all year round, from season to season (plastic bags blowing gaily from its branches). My favourite time of year is autumn, when it changes colour.
Then the leaves fall off and the street looks a mess.
Ah, the beauty of urban living: someone else cleans it up.