“Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race” – HG Wells
There is something uniquely wonderful about bicycles, and Hawkwood Community Nursery depends on them for transportation of many of its workers and produce. Yet I believe this sense of redemption expressed by HG can be experienced by gazing at any well made, human powered tool. Secateurs, for instance.
I pretty much always have a pair about my person when on site. To the casual observer, wearing a blade in a holster whilst performing admin tasks may seem like an affectation. But if I were to disarm, invariably I would soon find myself in the garden or glasshouse, naked: in nature, there’s always something in need of a passing prune.
I use Felco No.8s. There’s a pair I’ve had for eight years or so. They are mainly used for harvesting cut-and-come-again salads. Some folk use scissors for this task, but then you can’t also use scissors for fruit tree pruning, clearing paths of bramble runners, severing cabbage heads, executing slugs, slicing cucumbers, opening parcels, cutting wire, scoring benchmarks, tightening jubilee clips, shortening irrigation pipe AND hammering in metal stakes. To be fair, you can’t really use secateurs for the latter either, though a brave attempt to do so has lent my pair its distinctive appearance. Such scarring has, as in all human-tool romances, deepened our bond. The point comes when a piece of equipment feels akin to an extension, if not a part, of one’s own body. Some might say that’s a good point to try making do without.
This summer, I lost my Felcos. I’ve dropped them, and misplaced them, many times before, but this time they never came back when they were called. It may be foolish to grieve over inert material objects but, to lose something you are –literally – attached to, can only be a loss. And with it, I lost my sense of place in the garden. For, after my senses, almost equal to my hands, by-pass pruners are my main instrument of interaction.
I had to buy another pair of No.8s. Brilliant, but they felt like an expensive, glitzy parody of the Old Faithfuls. Still, they cut lambs lettuce keen enough, and began to warm to my hand as the sun lowered into the October mist.
This Thursday in the Entrance Field, sowing field beans, performing a final weed and tidy, picking through the old squash bed. Whose leaves, once so broad and green, now dry and shriveled, shrunk to reveal three missed orange fruit, and the exposed red and silver – and new rusty mottling – of my original gardeners’ best friend, back from the dead.
Mourn not for the end of summer! here, at least, it took a bit of death to retrieve something precious.