Old habits die hard (110 days to go…)

by Max Akroyd

After leaving the supermarket yesterday, I found myself behind an old guy who was driving a very battered and very ancient Renault van. It was so dented that it looked like a pig had been trying to fight its way out. Or in. Or both.

He signalled left and turned right. Such things are not unusual on the highways and byways of Carhaix-Plouguer. Everyone around gave him a wide berth, including me. It was when he entered a roundabout that his driving became downright bizarre. Until, that is, I realised he was giving way to the right – on a roundabout! I don’t think priorities on roundabouts have worked like that for decades in France, but he was going to stick to the old way of doing things regardless.

I can identify with the old man’s attitude. Moving out of your comfort zone even in the face of new rules is an uncomfortable business. I’m presently trying to reform my gardening habits. I’m taking a new broom to the field (metaphorically): sowing in straight lines, strimming away untidiness, keeping bang up to speed with bed preparation. I’ve even started hoe-ing off the weeds before they become all-conquering giants.

It’s sensible and very grown up. And it hurts! When confronted with the ten precision-engineered potato trenches I’ve joylessly created, I feel a bit wistful for the sagging lines of last year. My brain aches as much as my upper-body. But reality has changed, and that’s that.

Sometimes, I’m not even sure where my mind ends and the garden begins. The scene out there always reflects my mental state. If I’m distracted and lax, there’s weeds everywhere. If I’m focussed and determined, everything horticultural is ship-shape and orderly. Those statements could just as well be reversed. The untamed bits are like a niggling conscience. It’s almost like we’re made of the same substance, the field and I.

Later the same day and I was hurrying to plant out some broad beans. I looked back at the row I’d hastily created and noticed its striking resemblance to a dog’s hind leg. I shrugged and walked away.