Dinner! #homelife

2016-07-04 13.56.56I found this bell in the garage today, a bit dusty and cobwebby. It used to hang from the side of the family home in the New Forest. Mum had it put there to be used like those in cowboy movies that were rung for the cowpokes to come and grab their tucker or however the lingo had it. This one though was for Dad.

2015-02-27 12.08.07-1

If you look closely you’ll see said bell just to the right of the backdoor

Dad used the garden as a balm, returning from work stressed out after a day battling ignorance, ineptitude and institutional idiocy. At least that’s the way he saw it. Example: Dad worked for a chemical business selling their products, all made from cracked (i.e. refined) oil. So when he asked for the latest price of T.E.A. (something like Tri Ethylene Alcohol) he really didn’t expect to receive a list containing Ceylon Silver Tips, or Darjeeling Orange Pekoe.

The garden was his refuge, a place of routine transformation from the grumpy curmudgeon that drove up to the house at about 5.45 every weekday evening and the smiling raconteur and husband/father that sat for dinner at 6.30.

He would enter the house with a greeting that sought out a merry timbre but managed to sound like an angry warthog with inflammed hemorrhoids and an unexpected mortgage increase, stomp up the stairs to his bedroom to remove his tie and suit, stomp (slightly less heavily) back downstairs to the kitchen, take the offered cup of tea, twist a smile at whatever news we wanted to throw at him, attend for a pause, proffer an ‘I think I’ll just go and check on my beans/potatoes/tomatoes/sweet-peas/compost/other’ and head outside. He would don appropriate footwear for the time of year and weather, in the years pre-1972 light up a cigarette and, in my mother’s oft repeated phrase ‘sally forth’.

Perhaps he would pause in the first shed to retrieve a knife (to cut something – Mum may well have given him the  task of sourcing something for dinner) or string (ditto if something had flopped or fallen); sometimes he might pop into the greenhouse. But mostly it was to the far end of our triangular garden he would head and his lovingly tendered vegetable patch.

What is it about growing your own food that acts on someone’s whole psyche? You can’t see the things actually growing, can you? The beans or tomatoes are much the same as yesterday’s but something in the process of renewal, of creating a fresh hope where only the day before there was nothing, pleased him. Pleased him mightily.

2015-02-27 15.56.25

sun flowers or SUNFLOWERS!!

It may be that, in that small corner of a small corner of Hampshire he did something all of his own. He was his own little god of creation. He could be lost in that greenery, among that vegetation. I suspect he turned his daily turmoil, his wonder that he had to spend a significant amount of time with nincompoops and nonentities into the language of his poetry. The oxygen these plants gave out was his medication and inspiration.

And then the bell would be rung and he would be brought out of his reverie to return to the house, usually without whatever it was he had been asked to fetch so he would smile sheepishly, hand over the empty tea cup and return to the garden for another five minutes of peace and restoration.

And this is one of those poems of his. His best friend, a  delightful man called Les Kench, was his rival when it came to gardening. They teased each other over the size and success of their vegetables, though when one went away the other would look after the other’s crops, watering and picking and generally being a good neighbour. This would no doubt have both pleased and horrified Les. 

Happy Holiday, Gardener

Dear Les – I think I should report

on all the things your plants have caught

While you have been in Spain.

There’s capsid bugs and slugs and thrips

and all the leaves have yellow tips.

Could that be acid rain?


The greenback and chocolate spot

though colourful, of course are not

exactly crop enhancing.

Indeed, it’s not a pretty sight

and rabbits now are every night

relentlessly advancing.


 The mildewed leaves fall from the trees

upon the spuds with wart disease.

The lettuces are bolting.

Fusarium wilting of the beans,

combined with blackleg, means the scene’s

quite utterly revolting.


Tonight, the forecast is ‘hard frost’

but don’t despair, all is not lost.

Enjoy the Costa Blanca.

Relax, unwind, don’t build up tension,

there’s no need for apprehension –

it might not be root canker.


You’ve earned your holiday,

so just have fun – and, by the way,

I’m filled with admiration,

‘cos I’ve never seen another lawn

with grass that isn’t green but fawn –

a brilliant innovation.


It does you good to get away

so why don’t you extend your stay,

a fortnight, anyhow?

Meanwhile, wielding flame-gun spray,

I’ll hopefully hold all at bay.

So cheerio for now!

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published two anthologies of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand and Life in a Flash. More will appear soon, including a memoir of my mother's last years. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
This entry was posted in family, gardening, Hordle, humour, miscellany and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to Dinner! #homelife

  1. Erika Kind says:

    Such a gorgeous garden and beautiful memories. I love that bell. So classic and gives me a feeling of “good old times”…. although I never experienced them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mary Smith says:

    What a beautiful garden. I can understand why it restored your father’s good humour – whereas my higgeldy piggeldy mish mash of a garden is guaranteed to have the opposite effect on my humour. Love the poem – sounds like he had a wicked sense of humour.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The garden is such a great place to decompress. Your parents did that right. Love the bell. 🔔

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    One for the Garden Enthusiasts 😃


  5. 49lilykatz says:

    Reblogged this on lilykatzblog and commented:
    Many thanks to Geoff Le Pard for this wonderful tribute to his father, the gardener. I just had to share it, his father’s poem at the end is priceless.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. 49lilykatz says:

    I had to reblog this. You have your father’s sense of humor, his poem is funny!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Autism Mom says:

    Your stories of your parents are always some of my favorites!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Judy Martin says:

    The house and garden look gorgeous Geoff, and I love that little bell. Your parents must have had green fingers – the size of those sunflowers!!!!
    I really enjoyed the poem at the end too, 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. jan says:

    Wow – those sunflowers are amazing. Love the poem – my garden is my refuge too.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. We had a dinner bell too, and my father also hid in his garden. What fun memories. The poem is delightful. 🙂


  11. Susanne says:

    Your dad’s poem is a treat and I see where your sense of humour comes from. As for the dinner bell, we had one of those too but it was more “master to slave” and my memories of it are grim. What a wonderful picture you’ve created of your garden loving dad. Simply beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. noelleg44 says:

    Your father was quite a character! And with two green thumbs. My Mom had a garden, spent most of her time fighting off all the mammals that wanted to eat it. We had a bell, too, which she used to call us in from play. It was really, really loud because we could be up to a mile away.
    Wonder memories, Geoff – yours and mine!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Eileen says:

    Love your dad’s wicked humor. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Ali Isaac says:

    I should so get one of those bells! Sometimes I have to call my sons on their phones to get them to come down to dinner… even though they are only upstairs in their rooms! No matter how loud I yell they just don’t seem to hear me. And believe me, with no neighbours I feel free to yell as loud as I please! Haha! You sound a lot like your Dad. I see where you get your sense of humour from.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    Geoff Le Pard with a delightful memory laden post about his father and his sanctuary at the end of the garden amongst his vegetables.. head over and read the rest of the post it will restore your spirits for the day.


  16. Mick Canning says:

    I love the story, but triple love (or more!) the ;poem!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. This really does bring your dad’s character to life in a wonderful way. Those sunflowers truly are stupendous, and what an amusing poem!!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. M. L. Kappa says:

    Love those poems!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I believe my workmates are wondering if they should build a garden for me outside the front door, so that the reverse might occur for me i.e. that I might transform into a gentle nice person upon my arrival in the office… Perhaps I should take a leaf out of your Dad’s garden instead and write poetry about them?

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I had a similar bell hanging outside the house and used it to call the children. When we sold the house, we moved the bell to our boat. We actually used it in the fog a few times. When we sold the boat and moved into a motorhome, we forgot to take the bell! Oh well, I suppose we don’t really need it anymore but, it would be nice to have it on my daughter’s house to call the grandsons. Your post brings back a nice memory.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      We thought to put it up, for that purpose when our oldest was about four but it never happened and we’d forgotten it until we rebound it. He’s 26 now so it may be a bit late!!


  21. Great poem ! Happy 2017 year
    I leave you my post about celebration of New Year’s Eve in Madrid

    Liked by 1 person

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