Return of The Doran Child

Back in Godalming and we have visitor.  He is a plant taxonomist from the University of Berkeley and he has come to England to fulfil some lecturing engagements, and botanical curation commitments at his former school.  The museum is finding new homes for its collections which contain, by all accounts, some amazing artefacts.  During his brief time up at the school just now Andy meets a number of masters he remembers from his time there, including the colourful character who gave Andrew Doran his epithet.

Andy came into our lives 25 years ago when he fetched up in the same school house as Barns.  They became friends, something of an unholy alliance.  Andy appears to remember more of their escapades than Barns does.  This is what the then headmaster called ‘tunnelling’ and in his pep talk to parents of new boys he told us that our sons might do a lot of this, and there would be times when we wished our sons belonged to someone else…………..   Well we wouldn’t go that far, certainly not now!

During one of Andy’s visits to our house, when he already had qualifications in horticulture, he gazed out of our kitchen window and announced that we could do amazing things with our garden.  We listened and before we knew it there was a project and a team.

Some beautiful sketches and watercolours of what might be were produced by his sister Victoria.  We engaged the services of a fell-running Yorkshire stonemason who would carry out the hard landscaping and Andy, who was working part-time for a nursery and thus able to source an inspired collection of plants.  Nick toiled long and hard along with various friends of our sons who came to put in days of soil removal to skips.  We filled something like 20 in the end.

The story of our garden is contained in a journal with numerous photos.  One day we might convert it to an electronic version.  But not now.

Now Andy is escorting me round the garden and I have a list of what each shrub requires in the way of pruning, shaping and in some cases transplanting.  All in good time.  He also tells us how we should be trimming our Yew hedge which has grown very well since he planted it.  I learn that the lovely red berries it is sporting are called ‘arils’.  Our lawn is being torn to shreds by badger activity.  On the internet I see it might be that we have chafer grubs.  Badgers also like earthworms.  What to do?

Clearly the delightful walled garden at Sunbury suffers neither from badgers nor moles.  I meet Ted from nursery early one afternoon, we feed the ducks and pick up large shiny conkers, then cross the road to the walled garden that houses the Sunbury Millenium Embroidery and a little gem of a café which has a wonderful array of cakes.  I’ve brought Ted here off and on since he was born.

At 2 and a bit he is old enough, and has a sense of what is required when Granny takes him out to tea.  He drinks his juice, nibbles a muffin and arranges and counts all his conkers on the table, whilst I enjoy my carrot cake and a great little pot of tea.  Afterwards he runs around the box and lavender hedges and smells the roses then we go home and plant some tulip bulbs before his mother gets back from work.  This is a good Granny day.

I had another good Granny day with Lola earlier in the week.  She is starting at a new nursery and is doing half days for a couple of weeks.  Her working parents need some cover.  Dan and I take her in the morning and I am knocked back by the security hoops you must go through to come and go.  A sign of the times.  At midday I set off to collect her and after her nap we have a happy afternoon planting tulips which is just up my street, and making Princess pre-mix cakes which are a disaster.  Absolute non-starters when compared to the confections offered up by the Sunbury Embroidery Cafe.


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