Sunday, 22 May 2011

Talking of headlines..

In a weekend of sunshine and showers at the Hillsborough Garden Festival, mum and I chose a shower moment to examine at close quarters the winner of this year's Gold Medal in the Large Garden category - a remarkable creation from Ards Borough Council designed by John McConnell. What you're looking at is a mirror, and the effect is of an infinity water feature of which you are, by the evidence of your own eyes, an integral part.

There we were in the rain (you can possibly make out the two of us, plus Sammy the dog, in the mirror), perched on an area of decking overlooking the water and musing on the serenity of it all, when my sister came by with the very pleasant Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Now, I've mentioned before that my mother uses an electric wheelchair to get about, and she has a habit, when her attention is elsewhere, of nudging the joystick control without noticing, so that the wheelchair seems to take on a life of it's own. If you can imagine, while we were chatting away, the Secretary of State was between the wheelchair and the water, and mum was blissfully unaware that the area of decking, slick with rain, on which he was standing, was getting smaller as the wheelchair inched forwards in almost imperceptible, but hugely significant increments.

I found myself looking sideways at the joystick but resisting the temptation to reach out towards it. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Claire's partner Bunny Parsons, who was on roving duty in his capacity as event photographer, always on the lookout for photo opportunities, and it occurred to me that we might be on the point of handing him a scoop. Sammy, I should mention, was tied by her lead to the arm of the wheelchair.

I could see the story in tomorrow's Telegraph: "QUINTRUPLE TRAGEDY AT GARDEN SHOW. The family lost in a freak accident in a water feature at this year's Hillsborough festival have been named as Lady Faulkner, her son Michael and daughter Claire (the event organiser). Also lost were the family's pet labrador, Sammy, and the current Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.."

Obviously, the moment passed and we went our separate ways. But the water garden hadn't finished with us yet. We decided to exit by way of a steep ramp, at the head of which we paused to take stock. As far as mum was concerned, this was wholly unnecessary, and without a backward glance she launched herself off the top like an Olympic ski-jumper. Halfway down, she took her hand off the joystick, presumably expecting the wheelchair to stop; but it didn't, it simply lost traction and continued downhill at some speed, turning sideways as it went, and if the next five seconds took years off my life, they were a blast for mum, whose ability to laugh in the face of adversity is something I have always admired.

We followed that with a cappuccino and half a muffin each.


The Gold Medal in the Small Garden category, by the way, went to this fragrant little haven from Greenleaf Landscape Contractors.
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