Whatever the weather.

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad equipment”.

Mark rain.

Well, until such time as I sign a deal with an outdoor clothing company, I beg to differ. The company that creates the first truly waterproof pair of workman’s boots will be praised to the roof tops or fell tops. Until then, I will have to rely on my Sealkskinz waterproof socks. (Shameless plug).

Weather plays an important role in the life of outdoor folk, and we’re all outdoor folk really, whether we work outside all day, all year round, or choose to spend our leisure time outdoors; walking or gardening or dog walking, or, as an old customer once said to me, without a hint of irony, as I stood outside her kitchen door, dripping wet: “You won’t believe how wet I got going from my car to the supermarket this morning”.

However, I think it’s on the bleakest days that I notice the light a bit more. Normally, after a day of near solid rain, a patch of blue sky (enough to make a Dutch boy a pair of trousers as my old Gran used to say) will appear at 3pm and the sun will have a go at warming and drying the place up and the day won’t have seemed so dreary. Especially if there has been a potting shed or glass house to tidy up; it’s amazing how conscientious a tidier-upper I can be when it’s raining outside.

In the Winter, if there’s Sun at 3pm, then there will be a sunset at 4ish (As my old Gran never said, but it seems to be true, but don’t take my word for it, study the skies.) I understand the hopefulness of a sunrise and what it will bring to that day. But give me a sunset, the fireworks of red and pink and purple and gold and sheer “ta-dah” of a sunset, almost saying to the moon, “follow that, if you can” and the moon will follow, but it can’t compete, because it can’t compete, because it’s light is more melancholy, but just as necessary because it plays a supporting act to the flamboyant leading light .

Heather sunset.

There are a couple of gardens I work in that have amongst the best sunsets, they are both near The South Downs with lots of trees silhouetted around. But nothing beats the sunsets of the South Coast, Cooden Beach or dear old Brighton are my favourites. Walking westwards along the prom, watching the sun dipping and almost fizzing into the sea as starlings swoop will always gladden my heart and which is why I want to retire to a beach, and spend my days phoning radio shows and my evenings throwing a ball for Sprout with The Dancing Queen next to me.

Cooden Beach sunset.

Sprout sunset.
Sprout, in the sea, at sunset..having “sprouted” horns.

 

I do apologise, I drifted off for a moment there, I was supposed to be bemoaning the British weather and the travails of working in it all year round, but really, it’s not that bad, skin is waterproof and tomorrow’s another day and most customers bring out a cup of tea and we do have the beautiful British summers to look forward to….

 

DON’T. BE. SCARY….

Jolly good.

ComeoutsidewithSprout

Julia and Mark.Picture the scene, if you will:

Your correspondent finds himself in Las Vegas, attending a wedding and white water rafting through The Grand Canyon, not at the same time, with The Dancing Queen.

If that wasn’t surreal enough I then received a phone call….

They were phoning on behalf of a production company who were filming an itv walking show with Julia Bradbury, and would I like to appear…. I left a polite pause of approximately 1 second and asked how much I would have to pay for this privilege.

I have to admit, I have “history” when meeting people in the public eye:

I was lucky enough to get tickets for the midnight book signing of the last Harry Potter book. The Dancing Queen and I took our children to meet J K Rowling. As they were going to meet a “famous person”, I laid down the rules –…

View original post 1,047 more words

DON’T. BE. SCARY….

Jolly good.

ComeoutsidewithSprout

Julia and Mark.Picture the scene, if you will:

Your correspondent finds himself in Las Vegas, attending a wedding and white water rafting through The Grand Canyon, not at the same time, with The Dancing Queen.

If that wasn’t surreal enough I then received a phone call….

They were phoning on behalf of a production company who were filming an itv walking show with Julia Bradbury, and would I like to appear…. I left a polite pause of approximately 1 second and asked how much I would have to pay for this privilege.

I have to admit, I have “history” when meeting people in the public eye:

I was lucky enough to get tickets for the midnight book signing of the last Harry Potter book. The Dancing Queen and I took our children to meet J K Rowling. As they were going to meet a “famous person”, I laid down the rules –…

View original post 1,047 more words

DON’T. BE. SCARY….

Julia and Mark.

Picture the scene, if you will:

Your correspondent finds himself in Las Vegas, attending a wedding and white water rafting through The Grand Canyon, not at the same time, with The Dancing Queen.

If that wasn’t surreal enough I then received a phone call….

They were phoning on behalf of a production company who were filming an itv walking show with Julia Bradbury, and would I like to appear…. I left a polite pause of approximately 1 second and asked how much I would have to pay for this privilege.

I have to admit, I have “history” when meeting people in the public eye:

I was lucky enough to get tickets for the midnight book signing of the last Harry Potter book. The Dancing Queen and I took our children to meet J K Rowling. As they were going to meet a “famous person”, I laid down the rules – be polite, look her in the eye, don’t say anything controversial, don’t say anything scary. Needless to say, they carried it off perfectly. Only for me to become a gibbering wreck when I shook her hand and told her that “I love you, and you are one of my favourite human beings ever.” She said what lovely children we had. As we left, I said to The Dancing Queen “I think that went very well, don’t you.” she gave me a quizzical look and muttered something about being scary.

I bore this in mind when I met Caitlin Moran and asked her if she would like to be my imaginary sister. As we left, I said to The Dancing Queen “I think that went very well, don’t you.” she gave me a quizzical look and muttered something about being scary.

Don’t be scary is my mantra now, so when I met the Rev. Richard Coles and told him I would look after his dacshunds whenever needed, I was just trying to be kind. He wished me well. As we left, I said to The Dancing Queen “I think that went very well, don’t you.” she gave me a quizzical look and muttered something about being scary.

So, on the day of filming I left the house to The Dancing Queen’s wise words, take Sprout, he’ll give you something to think about, AND. DON’T. BE. SCARY.

I got to the local pub in good time and introduced myself to the team, including Gina and Holly from The Outdoor Guide. Julia then arrived, greeted me with a big smile, a firm handshake and the words: “It’s lovely to meet you, I’m looking forward to today, I’m just going for a pee”. That basically sums Julia up, really down to earth and good fun.

We discussed how I got into gardening, what I used to do, the Smuggling history of East Dean and how the filming would go. We walked to where the filming was going to be done and a small crowd had formed and some of the locals were being particularly fabulous. When I said to Julia she would be better interviewing them she said “There are hundreds of people like them in London, I like speaking to real people”.

Then, right then, was when Ms Bradbury became one of my favourite people. She even had a photo taken with me, which The Outdoor Guide have been good enough to let me show you.

When filming was over, I took my leave and wandered back to the garden, I hadn’t been scary, I would be cut from the show and it would all be a happy memory. But I did feel a bit big headed.

At least I will stay grounded, as I got back to the Walled Garden, Sprout The Gardener’s dog, gave his views on the matter and “left a message” on the path for me to pick up.

And later on, when I got home, regaling my story to anyone who would listen, our friend’s daughter aged 7, when told I was going to be on the telly said. “I don’t know why, you are very boring.”

And I am, and I delight in that, I don’t crave attention, quite the opposite, but it doesn’t mean exciting things don’t happen.

Fast forward 9 months:

I received another phone call, this time I was in a customer’s garden with my pal Jon:

“Hi Mark, it’s Julia, I’m just popping down to East Dean to do a walk with a group from Rambler’s Holidays and I thought it would be a really nice idea if we had a chat in front of them about filming and what you used to do”.

Obviously, I don’t crave attention, and the thought of standing up in front of a load of people to talk about myself scares me just a bit. So I gave it a good, long think, I think it might even have been 2 seconds and said of course, see you there in 20 minutes. Jon, to this day still laughs at the dust trail I left.

We did the chat thing, Julia read an extract from her book of the TV series in which she had quoted one of my blogs (and the bit where she likens me to a rather camp Alan Carr lookalike) and then I took the group to the walled garden I have developed from bare bones and showed them all the glorious fruit and veg. And I got a photo taken with Julia.

After they had all left, I was just about to leave to go back to work when Kirsty, who runs the Estate, came to ask how it had gone. I was telling her how basically marvellous I was when I felt a warm sensation on my leg. There he was, Dear Sprout, bringing me down to earth again by peeing on my leg….

12 months later, another phone call:

“Hi Mark, Julia here, same again today??”

Obviously, after 3 seconds thought I said of course, and where.

This time, it all went really well, and my confidence has grown, so, when Gina asked if I would like to join them all for dinner at The Grand in Eastbourne that evening, I played hard to get and made them wait a whole nano-second before saying yes please.

I didn’t take Sprout, although he is my comfort blanket, I can’t pass him off as a guide dog in hotels, what with him being basically untrainable.

Sprout sleep.

Gina and Julia have the ability few people have, certainly in my experience!! of appearing interested in everything one says, they also love a double entendre, so if you want to break the ice with them if you are lucky enough to meet them, ask them how to harvest rhubarb.

It is through meeting the team at The Outdoor Guide that I have gained the confidence to write and put my words out there, and occasionally even edit them before I do.

I now write a blog, I’m hoping to write a book or two and I try not to be too scary.

Having said that, I did film something for an upcoming walking show Julia is presenting, and I think I look really scary.

 

The reasons I walk….

The Reasons I walk:

  1. Because I can.

That sounds really trite doesn’t it, but, if you can walk, you should; for exercise, for health, for peace of mind and for getting from one place to another. Being the step-father of a girl who has sight issues and went to a school with children with mobility issues, walking is a freedom not enjoyed by all. Watching a child walk down the assembly hall to receive a certificate is just as emotionally fulfilling as reading about someone walking to The South Pole.

2.  Because I need to.

Being the owner of a fluctuating number of dogs – Sprout the Gardener’s dog is mine and at present we have Piper, 12 years old and ever so slightly dotty springer who came for a walk with us 18 months ago and hasn’t left and Rufus who kept escaping from his real home to the bins of a local Indian takeaway. That means three dogs in a small house, which means they need exercise. Rather typically, The Dancing Queen (wife) does the mundane, day to day walks for their exercise, but I very nobly step in at weekends and can be found blundering around our local woods. Piper will often go missing and can be found running around the base of a tree, trying to entice a squirrel down. Rufus will be amassing a stick collection and Sprout will be chasing each of the other 2 if they dare to cross his path.

3.Because I have to.

I’m a gardener, I haven’t always been a gardener, I used to work in finance and debt collection, walking up the stairs to my office every day wasn’t doing it for me, so I left and retrained. I can now be found pottering (a gentle kind of walk) around my various gardens, unless it’s raining when I’ll be trudging (a sad kind of walk I have adopted to try and elicit a cup of tea from my customers). But being outside is quite possibly the most rewarding aspect of my job.

4. Because I must.

Sometimes, life can look a little bit dark and I can become a bit insular. The best antidote to that, for me, is a walk with The Dancing Queen, it can be along the prom, it can be through the wood, it might be through the lanes of a town. But the act of walking, the air and the grounding that happens brings a sense of light back.

 

I haven’t mentioned specific places I walk, although I do have favourites, and I will share them in due course. I just wanted you to know why I walk first.