NZ Woman's Weekly

Garden State

Work is taking me down Christchurch way, which means I can go and check on Dad’s tomatoes. I’m in awe of my father’s tomatoes. I’m in awe of all his vegetables.

My dad comes from a time when men prided themselves on the size of their cabbages and the number of their potatoes. Despite their best efforts, these great men went on to produce a generation of softies like me – men who are neither capable in the DIY department nor able to raise a decent artichoke or even a Russian Red worth letting anyone see.

In turn, our own sons are mostly even more useless than us at the traditional manly skills. I don’t even like to think about my boy’s tomato plants – mine look almost heroic next to them. But I do like to torture myself by getting Dad to show me his vege patch when I visit him and Mum. His garden might be small these days, but it’s productive.

Dad, who’s 89 now, keeps a close eye on it. Nothing goes thirsty and no weed dares raise its foolish head to the light. I told Mum when I rang to ask if I could have a bed for the night that I’d cook dinner. “I’ll do you a steak,” I told her. “You probably need the iron.”

“I’ll do something as a backup,” she said, which was a bit cheeky, I thought. Mum’s going to be away on an outing with one of her ladies’ groups when I arrive, though she’ll be back for dinner. She likes to get out of the house as much as Dad doesn’t any more, which is a bit of an issue – and probably a common one among older couples.

But I’ll only really be concerned if Dad stops going outside to check on his veges. When you lose interest in your garden, it might be that you’re losing interest in life itself.

On the subject of life itself, we have decided to get in a new cat in place of the recently departed Missy, who we miss terribly. But life goes on and it would be good to have a cat in it – if only to keep the blackbirds and starlings out of the vege garden where they root up half of everything I plant.

The other day I saw a large rodent dart out of the compost bin at the bottom of the garden. We certainly didn’t have that sort of thing going on when Missy was on the prowl. So, the wife, 13-year-old daughter and I had a meeting and agreed we should get a cat and that it would need to be a kitten so it could adjust to living with George, our dog.

I wanted a cat like Missy – a haughty variation on a Burmese – but the daughter announced it was time for a change and that she was looking for something “fluffy”. “Fluffy?” I heard myself yelp. “We don’t want some big fluffy thing. The birds will laugh at her.”

“Just leave it to me, Dadoo,” the daughter chirped. “Don’t trouble your head about it.” So I didn’t and now we’re booked to get a kitten that’s a breed called a ragdoll, a famously fluffy feline with the sort of looks that might see it better placed on the next series of The Ridges. This could be embarrassing.

Issue 1541

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Simon Barnett’s 7 magic rules

In this week's issue of New Zealand Woman's Weekly magazine: Simon Barnett reveals his seven magic rules for raising girls.

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