Jephson Gardens

Snap. Snap. Focus. Snap. Yikes…toppling off-balance…snap.

“Beautiful, yes?”

Emmy jumped as a voice disturbed her floral photography session. She looked up from her decidedly inelegant position, crouched uneasily in the dirt, her handbag and camera case sprawled across the footpath.

“Yes! Dahlias are one of my favourites, especially dark red ones” she smiled.

img_20160907_095738

“Almost finished for the year now, though. I’m sad…we’ve had to cut back everything, the colour is gone” the gardener gestured despairingly around the park, where the cool autumn sun glinted off the damp, bare, brown soil of the formerly splendid flower beds.

Emmy’s enthusiasm for the change of seasons bubbled up inside her – she couldn’t help it, she adored this time of year. Crisp air, glowing light, dark nights that provided an excuse to huddle up rather than imposing the dull pressure to be ‘out and about’ like the annoyingly endless summer evenings did. What was not to love?

“Oh but autumn is beautiful! And so colourful in its own way – look at the leaves!” she protested.

Seeing the gardener’s forlorn expression, she added “It’s the time for nurturing so that everything can replenish”.

The man’s eyes sparked up at this notion. “In fact, do you have a big garden? I would like to give you some plants – it breaks my heart to see them go to compost, I feel like a murderer!”

Emmy was instantly excited – free nature! – but the petite decking area of her and Vernon’s home was not suited to hosting a horticultural respite centre.

“Sadly we have just a small space, I only have a few potted plants. My Mum loves gardening though and has a beautiful patch. She likes dahlias too!”

Before she knew it, Emmy had promised to return in a few days to collect a bin bag containing a huge tropical plant, with instructions on how to swathe it for winter survival. Her intention had been to secure a nice surprise for her mother – but she was a little unsure as to the practicalities of this developing plan. Handing over a smartly-wrapped hyacinth to bring delicate scents to her parents’ neat rockery was one thing – dumping an unidentified triffid with complicated care demands was another.

img_5016

As she strolled off past the holly bushes with their emerging berries, slowly ripening to Christmas red, Emmy contemplated how the man was definitely in the right job. He clearly felt deep compassion towards plants – something she admired, as she loved the natural world though had never been particularly hands-on. More of a wildlife observer from a distance, was Emmy. Her inappropriate choice of nature photography attire reflected this: her hat became irritatingly obscured every time she lifted her camera, her hair stuck to her lipstick in the breeze and her long woollen coat had to be carefully hitched up to remain mud-free.

When Emmy returned to collect the plant, with a tinge of dread for how her and her mother were going to manhandle this thing, she was faced with a pleasant surprise. The gardener had decided against the enormous tropical specimen and had instead compiled a selection box of bulbs. He talked through each piece of treasure, describing which variety of splendor each bulb would burst into.

During the conversation Emmy discovered more of the man’s intriguing back story. He was actually a musician and had moved to Warwickshire with his band to begin a new adventure in the home of Tolkien inspiration, given the band’s deep respect for the author’s works. The group were even named after something in one of the books, though Emmy’s indifference to Lord of the Rings meant she didn’t get the reference. Over the following few days Emmy chatted more with her new local friend and discovered that not only was he a pretty high-profile musician but also had a PhD – something he shared in common with Emmy.

“…and yet here we both are” Emmy had commented after they had shared tales of their respective doctoral examinations and career abandonments. Dr. Off-Duty Rock Star and Dr. Daydreaming Photographer, both finding self-reflective peace in Jephson Gardens, a humble yet truly endearing town park buried in middle England.

The Gardens had provided a wonderful oasis for Emmy over the summer after her momentous decision to leave her job. The sun-drenched lawns were where she had feverishly worked through a few panicked rounds of applications and interviews, before being been gently coached by her wise loved ones to give it time, not rush into anything that didn’t feel right, and turn down the subsequent job offers.

img_4906

During her time in these gardens over the past few months – watching them fill with colour, swell with visitors, soar with brass band music, grow cooler, turn brown, and quieten down again – Emmy was frequently overwhelmed with guilt that she was fortunate enough to be granted her restorative, therapeutic, self-discovery time in such decadent surroundings. She wished everyone could have the opportunity to step back and consider what they really loved doing in life, then figure out a plan of how to make a living from it. However, Emmy simultaneously felt reinvigorated with a sense of responsibility to follow her dreams – she had made the first leap by leaving behind her old life; the worst thing she could do now would be to hastily take a job out of shame and fear. Vernon had made her see that a ‘job’ should not exist; what you do every day was your way of life so it had to be something that worked for you. And of course, one needs money, but there are ways and means to achieve this without viewing one’s ‘work’ as something completely separate to ‘life’.

Yes, thought Emmy as the faithful autumn sun poured softly through the rusty leaves above her, I will use this time wisely. She grinned at the recent memory of herself and Vernon watching the film Bill, during which William Shakespeare tries to convince his ferociously doubtful wife that he really can make it as a writer and doesn’t need the ‘proper job’ she is desperate to shoehorn him into. “It’s like us in reverse!” Emmy had said, marvelling inside at her fortune to have someone believing in her, pushing her off the daily grind and into the creative unknown.

img_4891

Daydreaming was certainly something Emmy excelled at…she just needed to merge her two personalities together so the over-rational, disciplined side could facilitate her ‘fairytale career’ ambitions to be realised, rather than bullying her whimsical side into being reserved only for ‘down time’.

She suddenly stuck out a hopeful hand to catch a falling leaf so she could make a wish for everything to turn out OK. Missed. Oh well – she’d just have to build her happy ending herself.