Where there is life, there is always hope, even for us non-gardeners
- Credit: Ian Dyble
Norfolk really is the most wonderful place. After 30 years of living in this amazing county it just gets better and better.
Countryside, coast and city. All amazing. Cathedral and castle, lanes and rivers. Big skies. Open spaces. Experiencing the changing seasons in Eaton and Earlham Parks. I love it all.
However, although spring, summer, autumn and winter each bring their own joys I have to say that this time of year is not my favourite!
So… walking Orla the Irish terrier in the dark, dank and freezing cold mornings, knowing that in two shakes of a lamb's tail the brief, albeit misty, light hours will have passed and it will be dark again doesn't exactly fill me with joy. And this year it just seems darker, colder and danker (a word that apparently doesn't exist, according to my spellchecker).
Now it may be that my blood is thinner. After all I have this week celebrated the passing of another year. I have sprouted more nasal and ear hair than is fair for one man to accumulate, and entered my 54th year of inhabiting my bit of this planet we call home. But I don't think getting older is the problem. Actually, I quite like being 53. It's certainly a lot less hassle than being 17! So maybe it's the air of uncertainty and concern that hangs, like the February fog, over our political future what with Brexit and Trump, Putin and Le Pen that makes me feel this way. Who knows?
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Anyway, it is what it is. And in the midst of what it is, it is good to find things to be grateful for. Like the fact that I don't have to cut the grass in February. Or weed. Or water. Or do anything at all in the garden.
Don't get me wrong, I love gardens. But at this time of year I don't even have to feel guilty because I'm not cutting something or removing something that I should be cutting or removing, or worse watching my wife do it!
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I'm not a fan of gardening. But recently I found myself, and here I make my confession, holding a conversation with 15 potted stems in my kitchen. Well, not so much a conversation as it was a bit one-sided. You see I really wanted these stems to grow. My wife had always wanted a myrtle tree and with the permission of the owner had, last August, taken 15 cuttings from a myrtle and stuck them into small pots of compost.
Now, although as the perceptive among you have spotted I am no gardener, even I know that this was probably going to end in tears. Whilst I understand that it is possible to grow a shrub like this I wasn't going to hold my breath, eagerly awaiting something akin to the Plantation Gardens to appear over my tea and toast. I love my wife and so it upset me to see, one after another, the leaves fall from the twigs like the hair from the top of my head. I could have said 'Well, what did you expect?' but the better part of valour won the day. And 'I could have told you so' would have been a schoolboy error.
Anyway, first they lost their hue, then they shrivelled to brown and fell. Dropped. Dead. Like a Norwegian Blue. Just one solitary stick with rather unhealthy looking leaves was left. The only hope. And so in the early hours, whilst the house slept, I did the only thing that anything self respecting husband would do. I pleaded with it, I begged it, I prayed for it. Please live. Despite the odds, in spite of everything, please live. But as three months passed to four there was not even a hint of vitality.
It might be something that we all have felt at one time or another. The situation looks desperate, impossible. There is nothing but the smallest iota of hope. And we cry out - dream, expectation, whatever….'Please, live!'
As a believer in Jesus I have that hope. Even when the odds are stacked against us, and things look dark and dank and cold, there is a promise that we will live.
The myrtle is a sign in the Bible of hope. One of the writers in the Old Testament says - 'Instead of the briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord's renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.' (Isaiah 55:13)
And then on a day that we heard some really positive news about a situation that we had been praying about, Jo said to me 'Have you seen the myrtle?' And there, just below the leaves that were hanging on in complete defiance of gravity, was a little green shoot. The shoot of realised hope.