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I should be outside, scrimmaging around the rain soaked lawn on hands and knees, in trousers of steadily increasing clamminess, both inside and out. The old leaves need cutting off the Hellebores, so that the flowers may be better appreciated without thinking about demise, destruction and brown crispy splodges. I showed willing and wrestled the spiders in the potting shed for possession of the secateurs. Whilst doing so, I had plenty of time to contemplate the moist footwear that awaited, once I danced through the puddles between me and the job in prospect.
Chaenomeles x superba “Crimson & Gold” (ornamental quince)
Chaenomeles x superba “Crimson & Gold” (ornamental quince)

I’m not as daft as I look. I stayed dry in the conservatory and cut down the Brugmansias, leaving 6 inches (15 cm) of last year’s growth. In a few weeks, I’ll lard them with fresh compost and Gro-sure fertiliser. Thereafter I’ll start mounting an irrigation campaign, so that by summer I will be drenching them with enough water to give the Aswan Dam pause for thought. The old foliage on the Agapanthus (Nile lilies) and Zantedeschias (callas) has done all the photosynthesising it possibly can. Now veering between crunchy and slimy, I cleared it away to make room for new leaves whose snouts are already pushing up through the soil. I chopped down the stems of some of the Hedychium (ginger lilies) to make a path in the undergrowth, thus filling the air with the scent of spices. This certainly beats working.
Snowdrop City
Snowdrop City

I ought to be pruning roses but the wind is northerly and invariably finds the gap between jeans and jumper. Instead I went to Preston and the Harris Museum. They have an idiosyncratic collection of glass and china, some ancient workaday pieces and others too precious ever to be used. A small clothing collection is similarly distinctive, with outer garments to interest all genders. Corsets, bustles and similar underpinnings for female victims of fashion may be viewed in close-up. Mine was not the only hot breath to fog the glass display case and I was able to swap notes with other heavy duty underwear enthusiasts. I told Kevin that his secret should be safe with me, I wouldn’t tell another soul.
Work No. 960 - Martin Creed at Harris Museum, Preston
Work No. 960 – Martin Creed at Harris Museum, Preston

Upstairs we inspected artwork by Stanley Spencer and Atkinson Grimshaw, amongst others. There was one luscious floral painting and an improbable still life with inflated apples and highly varnished grapes. To my considerable surprise, we found an installation by Martin Creed entitled “Work no. 960”, consisting of thirteen cactus plants arranged in increasing size. The uniformed guide shyly confided that they were not to be watered until March. I’ve rarely been so grateful for a modern piece which made me struggle to find a meaning. The botanical content made me feel that despite all evidence to the contrary, I wasn’t slacking it off entirely.

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