I work as a gardener one day a week. My least favourite work is maintenance for corporate office ‘mews’. My most favourite work is gardening under instruction from elderly ladies who are unable to tend their own gardens, so I become their eyes and hands – the more precise their requests, the more I enjoy the work. Perhaps because I can see my own mother in them, and myself in years to come too.
A dislike of leafblowers – ineffective, noisy, and once you’ve seen the woman in Pina Bausch’s ‘Die Klage der Kaiserin’ wielding one in the woods, you just feel mentally unstable using one – means I do the ‘corporate leaf clearance’ with a rake and brush. I know this means my employment will not last.
The relationship with ‘nature’ is pretty skewed in these environments: the desired ‘garden’ is static, unchanging, requiring no interaction. Plants, the ‘green’, are to cover undesirable wall surfaces, soften edges, and provide a structured resting point for eyes looking through the office glass, while decisions are reached.
And box hedging is super popular – visually clear, tapered, cut tight, and coming to a point, it provides a simple clean lined green decoration.
I hear a man calling the Apple helpline with a ‘synching’ problem between his Mac devices, conversations about clients, a person circling one car parking space on a mobile talking slightly too loud, uneventful conversations where everything is happening yet also continually postponed.
And the inevitable natural snack wrapper found behind a planter.