Thursday, May 03, 2007


To my knowledge, I have never used the words “Wisteria” and “Bus” in the same sentence ever before in my life. So here we go, even at my extended age, pushing the boundaries of one’s artistic output.

The Wisteria is like a Bus – Just when you’ve been waiting for a story about one Wisteria, along comes a second straight behind it.

A small amount of personal history to set the scene. 13 years ago, we bought a lovely house which had just been converted from a Seventeenth Century Shropshire Barn. It was situated in a fabulous location, with which we immediately fell hopelessly in love. We bought it.

One of the downsides of the place was that the garden had recently (very recently!) been a field, so its horticultural qualities were still a bit latent.

My wife took up this challenge with alacrity, and in a few months a total transformation had been wrought on the 1 Acre+ which we had bought. We (actually she) built a series of “rooms” in the garden where you went from one horticultural experience to another, and in less than a year, the basis for a beautiful garden had been created.

In the garden just outside our kitchen window, a Pergola was built, which caught, quite beautifully, the evening sun, and where sipping a Gin and Tonic, watching the sun disappear was quite near to Heaven on Earth, at least in this writer’s alcoholically induced opinion.

In order to enhance the Pergola, we purchased a hugely expensive Wisteria. These plants, as you may know, grow quite slowly, and it is usually quite a few years before they deign to flower. Ours, in 1994, cost us £110, which I can recall from a distance of thirteen years, made me blanche just a touch.

Nevertheless, the Wisteria was duly planted, and it duly grew gradually up the side of the pergola, and started to provide a lovely cover for the evening G&T.

But, for the next four years, it resolutely refused to flower, and each year, there was a mounting degree of anxiety about whether “this year” would be the year it blossomed forth. Each year, it simply sat there, huddled shoulders, biding its time.

One day, however, when pottering around the garden, I noticed that the Wisteria had simply disappeared. What the previous night, had been a plant stretching many feet up, and over the top of our Pergola, simply didn’t exist, and all that remained was a stump of trunk about a foot out of the ground, where this magnificent virginal specimen had once lived.

You feel such a twit asking your wife “This is going to sound really stupid, but, have you done anything with the Wisteria?”, and suffering THAT look, as if you have finally tipped over the edge. But the simple issue was, it had disappeared, and neither of us had a clue where it had gone. We formed a search party (I can’t believe I’m writing this) and quartered the garden, but to no avail.

Our area of review gradually expanded, into the outbuildings, and in our Haybarn, up in the eaves, we noticed a regular pile of sawn off pieces of small tree, which looked remarkably like 6” sections of our beloved Wisteria. They only looked like that because, upon closer investigation, that is what they turned out to be.

The story was completed, by the sight of a squirrel, peering over the top of the woodpile, as if asking what his new home had to do with us, and would we please go away, as we were disturbing his privacy.

He had dismembered our Wisteria, literally in bite-sized chunks, transported them to his newly chosen house location, and formed them into a Des Res for himself and his family.

Best pleased, I was not. For some years, I had listened to the surrounding farmer’s views that Squirrels were vermin, and everyone of them shot or returned in some way to its maker was a real plus, with my “But they’re lovely little things” not getting much Airplay with them.

In an instant, this view was changed absolutely. Someone had to pay for this. You could see the beast, for that was now what he was, sitting on the fence, mentally, and I actually think, physically, waving two fingers at us, and the desire for some form of violent retribution took hold.

I borrowed an air-gun from my next door neighbour, and took up guard at the bedroom windows to give me a good field of view (no possibility of Friendly Fire here), and waited. At the appointed hour, our furry friend appeared, sat on the fence, and stared insolently towards me. You could almost hear the “Go on Punk, make my Day” wafting across the lawn.

I picked him up in my sights, took a breath, as you are taught in Rifle practice in the CCF, to become quite still, and did absolutely nothing.

Pathetic. So, I decided, if I couldn’t do it, I’d have to take out a contract on him. Someone else could have the blood on their hands. So my teenage next-door neighbour took on the job, a bit too Rambo like for my taste, and after a period of a few days, declared the deed Done.

I have to concede a degree of remorse at being the instigator of a violent death to such a beautiful creature, but “An Eye for an Eye” and all that. Except, of course, a couple of days later, who should appear but what looked suspiciously like my Squirrelish Master Builder, sitting on the fence, as large as life, and clearly very much still with us.

I have no idea how long squirrels live, but, for all I know, he is still alive, although, having sold the house to someone else, any plant in the garden he disassembles, is now someone else’s responsibility.



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