Yesterday I planted clematis in the front garden to cover a stretch of the most boring fence in the world. I finally stopped wishing for an instant 20-year-old wisteria, got off my arse and did something about it, which involved digging a hole through my gravel drive. Last time I did this (climbing rose, front of house), I wished for a pickaxe before I’d managed three inches down. But I don’t learn, so my trusty spade and I started excavations next to Boring Fence.
The rule of front garden work is simple. Neighbours pass, they comment on how hard you’re working, you cheerfully agree and mention the weather, they nod and we all carry on happily with our lives. I’ve only had to amend this rule slightly for one neighbour with a small yappy bitey dog: two bleeding ankles later I’ve learned to stand well back and hope she’s got her extendable lead on lock.
This time a different neighbour (with gorgeous labradors – you can always judge a person by the character of their dog) offered me a spare ticket to that evening’s show in the village hall: Alan Ayckbourn’s Communicating Doors. This neighbour wasn’t acting, but heavily involved in lighting/sound/tickets/interval drinks. It was the last night. Of course I went.
My way into the village crosses the Itchen. Despite enthusiastic encouragement by some of my twitter friends (they know who they are), I drank only one glass of chilled rosé as clematis celebration before I set off. If I’d had the recommended four, my evening could have ended significantly wetter.
Being brought up on Lynda Snell’s Ambridge productions, I had high hopes of village hall amateur dramatics. I was entirely ambushed by the stunningly professional experience. Even before I’d been shown to my seat, my interval drink order had been taken and marked on a grid for someone to BRING IT TO ME LATER. I knew then I was in for a splendid evening.
The communicating doors in question were brilliantly designed on set: two doors on a revolving mechanism that worked perfectly every time. The stage was tiny, but so cleverly laid out even when one character had to fall from a sixth floor window and dangle from a bedspread, we were willing to go along with it. We managed to ignore the stormpocalypse that hurled itself onto the roof halfway through. It kindly paused for us all to walk home, then started itself up again. That’s what I call generous weather.
So today my newly planted clematis has been well thunderstormed and is thriving, boring fence’s monotonous days are numbered, and I can quote Ayckbourn like a theatre buff. Village life at its finest. Hang on: “Clematis and Ayckbourn” sound like a crack detective duo just waiting to be written …