’tis the season

There’s ‘a time for everything’, the good book tells us; chapter and verse with which gardeners are only too well acquainted. Advent is upon us, the shortest, darkest days approach and, the list of gardening activities one can achieve by torchlight being disappointingly short, we are at pains to follow the seasonal exhortations, making we joy, and generally being of good cheer, with a determination that is something to behold.

The last week in November provides an ideal opportunity for such merriment, as several hundred garden broadcasters and writers descend upon the Savoy Hotel for the annual Garden Media Guild Awards. I snuck in for the second year running and, also for the second year running, was delighted to be shortlisted as a finalist in the Blog of the Year category. It’s a tangible affirmation not only of the work I’ve put into the blog over the past year, but also the enthusiasm and engagement of the community that’s grown up around the weekly posts. But while I’m both tremendously grateful and immensely proud of all of this, it didn’t make me blush half so much as receiving several generously and unexpected endorsements from gardening twitter friends (you know who you are) both before and after the awards were announced. A season to be jolly, indeed.

And, as winter follows autumn, itself turning into spring when the moment is right, it seems timely to confess that for a while now I’ve had a feeling that the blog in its current form is nearing the end of a season, and entering a period of transition. The hibernation period must necessarily be brief, but I expect this online collection of my garden witterings to emerge as a thing transformed, albeit with roots very much in the current iteration. I have in mind something slightly more than a refresh with, in time, some new features, tweaks to the structure, and a more open, airy feel about the place. At least, that’s the intention, with a view to launching early in the new year – a daunting, but exciting prospect.

In the meantime, I plan to keep these pages running, but do please excuse me if I should appear to be a little slower than usual to respond while I’m tinkering with things under the bonnet – a vehicular metaphor – time to give the blog a good winter service. ’tis the season for it, after all. fa la la la laa, la la la laaaa.

Posh suit and shoes for hobnobbing on Thursday...

....back down to earth on Friday.
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At the Garden Media Guild Awards

Yesterday I exchanged mud-caked boots for polished brogues, grabbed my trusty umbrella with its dog-chomped handle, and boarded the train to London. At midday I was due at the Savoy Hotel, there to attend the annual Garden Media Guild Awards; I arrived early, and spent half an hour strolling around my old stomping ground of Covent Garden, where Christmas shopping was in full swing, and the gardens of the actors’ church of St Paul’s, over which my old office window offered a fine view, are in distinct need of a good tidying up.

I arrived a second or two behind Carol Klein but, both of us managing to successfully negotiate the hotel’s entrance, the amusing anecdote of how-I-got-stuck-in-the-revolving-doors-with-that-Carol-off-the-telly entirely failed to be engendered. It’s probably just as well; no-one likes a name-dropper. There ensued a time of mingling, drink in hand, at which accomplished networkers could be seen working the room; I picked up tips, and filed them away in my head for future use. It was much more fun to poke people with my umbrella, which I’d refused to surrender to the cloakroom staff.

By one o’clock we were seated in the opulent splendour of the Savoy’s banqueting suite, a room so stuffed full of garden media royalty that you couldn’t lob a bread roll without hitting at least three of them. I did not lob a bread roll, neither anything else for that matter, concerned that such behaviour from one at the awards for the first time might have been considered rude. I am never rude until at least my third visit, after which I am rarely polite. Invitations to visit for a fourth time are, unsurprisingly, somewhat rare.

Having thus adopted the manner, if not quite the appearance, of someone who has at least a vague idea of how to behave in such company, I was able to to enjoy the meal, the conversation, and even the smattering of slightly weary applause (clapping fatigue sets in with surprising speed at an award ceremony) when this blog was announced as a finalist for the Blog of the Year award. This was something about which I think I can allow myself to feel both slightly chuffed, and rather more grateful, both to the judges who deemed it worthy of shortlisting, and especially to all the blog’s readers who comment upon the posts, retweet the links and provide the general encouragement and feedback that’s so essential. And so in a rare moment of sincerity from me, thank you – your support is truly appreciated. I will, however, save my tearful acceptance speech till we’ve actually won the thing.

Whilst this was all very gratifying, of at least equal merit to me was the discovery that so many of the people who do this garden writing thing for a living – of whom I am slightly in awe (imagine my surprise on finding myself on a table with many of them) – are actually thoroughly decent and approachable human beings, who weren’t at all sniffy about having an upstart blogger with a barnet full of sparrows in their midst (I had given the sparrows a bath for the occasion).

It was a good experience; more enjoyable and less terrifying than I had feared. In truth I’m still processing many things about the day. But this morning I was happy once more to be welly-clad and back in my element, building up the compost heap with an enthusiastic robin for company and a chipped china mug to drink my tea out of. I know my place.