Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Remembering Reg's Garden

Reg's Garden will no longer be a community attraction from today. Instead it is to be a "Wild Life and Botanical Garden"":

Owner Reg Langlois says the time has come to stop hosting weddings, events and tourists at the space:

"I'll miss it like mad. When you get people from all around the world putting the world to rights, it's been a lovely position to be in and I couldn't have asked for better. If I'm making a cup of tea I tend to share a teapot with maybe half a dozen people who have never met before, but they go home the best of pals, meeting up the next day some of them, and I think that is nice!"

I’ve had the odd argument with Reg over the years, and at times, especially online, he seems rather like the Argument Sketch in Monty Python, deliberately trying to argue to have some fun. 

Often the thrust of his arguments are the same, rather like a stuck record. (1) Who is a true Jerseyman? To which I remind him gently that as Langlois, a corruption of L'Anglaise, "The English", his ancestors must have originated in England! (2) "I pay privately, so why should I be taxed" argument, usually to do with health care or education . (3) And finally, there is the "What do States Deputies do for their £40,000", mainly implying they are not worth that. Now that Reg is retired, perhaps he can stand for election, and tell us from the inside! Or shadow Graham Truscott, Murray Norton or Monty Tadier, and come back and enlighten us.

But balanced against that, I’ve also enjoyed hospitality – cups of tea and biscuits and a nice chat when I have visited his garden, as have so many visitors. He may have exaggerated the numbers of cups of tea. His own count which he gave online amounts to 17 cups of tea a day, if you count every day of the year! But the hospitality is very genuine and in this day and age, very kind. It will be sadly missed.

Pictured here is my son Martin on one such occasion with Reg..

This year reminded me in some ways of a Frankie Howerd episode of “Up Pompei”, a TV show that probably dates me and I’m sure Reg can remember as well – the show, I mean, not Pompei. He’s not that old! One of the characters is apparently poisoned, and spends most of the episode falling through doorways, out of cubpboards, etc stealing into every scene saying “I’m going…, I’m going…, I’m going”, and taking the entire episode to die, although in fact I think he survives.

This year has seen that kind of running commentary on the garden – “it’s going…, only 90 days to go… it’s going.. only 37 days to go…” etc, coupled with various pieces of the garden structures and plants for sale on a regular basis, posted on about three different Facebook sites.

How many plants and structures will remain? That’s a mystery - although the photo below shows some of the structures which are due to leave. Because the day has finally dawned, any remaining plants will be left to go wild. Anyone visiting does so at their own risk, although I suspect Reg will keep an eye on the trees to make sure they are not likely to fall on people.

I remember all the birds in cages, and the tortoises in the garden's past. There was even a webcam. Although in the distant past, I'm not sure if the garden was open all the year round; I seem to recall it being opened mainly for special fund raisers, like cream teas and a chance to stroll around.

And while some of the various experiments - some ideas - like the classrooms, didn't work, others like the Toy Shop, seemed to have always had visitors, even if it is unlikely that all the items for sale will be sold - a hundred or so VHS videos will probably have to be junked.

Reg seems have have toyed with various ideas for his garden before it closed. One was that it should be a place for quiet and meditation.

There is perhaps something to be said for that. The idea reminds me of Frances Hodgson Burnett's wonderful book "The Secret Garden":

"It was the sweetest, most mysterious-looking place any one could imagine. The high walls which shut it in were covered with the leafless stems of climbing roses which were so thick that they were matted together.... All the ground was covered with grass of a wintry brown and out of it grew clumps of bushes which were surely rosebushes if they were alive." 

"There were numbers of standard roses which had so spread their branches that they were like little trees. There were other trees in the garden, and one of the things which made the place look strangest and loveliest was that climbing roses had run all over them and swung down long tendrils which made light swaying curtains, and here and there they had caught at each other or at a far-reaching branch and had crept from one tree to another and made lovely bridges of themselves... "

"It was this hazy tangle from tree to tree which made it all look so mysterious. Mary had thought it must be different from other gardens which had not been left all by themselves so long; and indeed it was different from any other place she had ever seen in her life."

"How still it is!" she whispered. "How still!"

The current thinking behind the garden is that it will be wild, rather like the "Secret Garden", and perhaps also be a rather special place to visit. In "The Secret Garden", Mary, the lame boy Colin, and their friend Dickon all set to caring for the neglected and wild garden that they visit:

"Mary was an odd, determined little person, and now she had something interesting to be determined about, she was very much absorbed, indeed. She worked and dug and pulled up weeds steadily, only becoming more pleased with her work every hour instead of tiring of it. It seemed to her like a fascinating sort of play."

It would be nice to think that would be the case.

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