I had a dream. Actually, it was not so much a dream as a disembodied voice whispering in my ear as I lurched into wakefulness one early autumn morning. “Mr Osaka is tending your garden”, it said. So, Mr Osaka is tending my garden. I thought my herbaceous borders were being looked after by Susie Bower. Who might Mr. Osaka be? Later that day I remembered that Osaka was a city in Japan, a cultural capital and proud host of the Maishima Sludge Centre, for the centralization and efficient treatment of sewage. Still no illumination. I’ve never been to Japan, don’t even have a yen to go, even to see the mysterious Mr. Osaka. But the voice kept insinuating itself on and off all day; indeed, there was something strangely soothing, even sensuous, about the phrase, Mr Osaka is tending your garden. I liked it. It made me feel as if all was well with my little world. I don’t have to worry about a thing: Mr Osaka is sorting it. Then it occurred to me that the garden of my dreams may have nothing to do with flora and fauna – it could be a metaphor. Now, what was it that I had heard about women ploughing their energies into the soil… a substitution for something else? If only I could remember… Ah, of course! Garden was a euphemism for sex.
As the days went by I stopped thinking of Mr Osaka or indeed anyone who might deign to tend my ‘garden’. I had better things to do. Things like de-cluttering the attic, making blackberry jam, finishing chapter three of novel (recently discovered in said attic), re-potting the begonias. And there it was. In the pause between things-to-do was a suppressed memory. White noise in the audio-tape. In the list of my life works a whole clump of activities had been deleted. Abandoned with the school runs, parents’ evenings, nativity plays and sport’s days, were those Sunday-morning lie-ins… In my lingerie drawer my Agent Provocateur thongs and my La Perla camisoles were crushed into submission by pairs of Bridget Jones underpants and thermal vests. At least they were still there. Just as I was about to confront the sad truth (no-sex-please-I’m-a-horticulturalist) I was saved by the bell. Susie Bower and her hedge trimmers were departing for the day.
A matter of weeks passed by before my burgeoning epiphany asserted itself in full Gloria-bunda. I was driving down the M-40 on a Sunday afternoon when Gardeners’ Question Time came on and instead of immediately snapping the “off”-button I experienced a tiny frisson of anticipation. The delights of mulch and marsh marigolds lay tantalizingly ahead. What had happened to me? No longer were Liriope and Passiflora characters in a Greek tragedy but plants I had chosen and lovingly tended in my garden. I had in fact become my late mother-in-law. She who spent long days in all weathers tending to her abundant orchard, while my father-in-law huffed and gruffed in the tool-shed. She definitely did not have sex. I knew that with every fibre of my then thirty-two year old being.
How had this happened? Where was the siren-within that relished her Sunday-morning work-out? She’d obviously gone to earth. Logically my mind moved on to the plight of others. Was Richard still tending Judy’s garden? She certainly looks perky and well watered. And what about Fern? Is Phil spending too much time in the kitchen garden eyeing the philodendrons? Has she become a closet gardener? Does Madonna have a serious interest in hollyhocks or has she more important Guy-things on her agenda? Maybe she has a game-keeper… And, of course, there’s Charlie Dimmock whose whole career is rooted in gardens. Then again if gardening is your life work, perhaps your free time is spent in other kinds of beds? But what I understood, definitely understood, was that there was a connection between my dwindling sex life and my mushrooming passion for gardens.
Now, I’m not sure whether this is a terminal condition or if it can be reversed. But now that I have noted it I have a decision to make. Should I, could I, recapture my lost lust? And will it be worth the effort? Can I still look fetching in a lacy bodice? What kind of lighting will there have to be to turn the clusters of cellulite into inviting silky contours? And even if my fragrance tweaks the ferimones of my once-ardent spouse, will my kneeding of his erogenous zones prove as satisfying as propagating my kniphofias?
Of course I’m forgetting the Great British solution to a dilemma – no, not the cup of tea, the compromise. Is there any reason why the two grande passions in my life cannot co-exist. Surely I can dig, rake, snip and strip in the world outside the bedroom and nurture and pleasure within it. And who knows, maybe the two can come ecstatically together by the lily pond in the Indian summer that lies ahead. Love al fresco.
In the meantime, it seems my erotic life is in good hands: in the Japanese garden of life, Mr Osaka is tending to my needs. And it is probably a very good thing because if I let matters slip any more I’ll find myself debating the relative merits of a number three or four (drivers and putters that is) and booking stolen weekends at Gleneagles. Worse, I will no longer be morphing into my mother-in-law I will have become my father. Now, there’s a thought…
Original article: Edited version appeared in Woman&Home in 2005