Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Merry Hall by Beverley Nichols

Merry Hall
home of Beverley Nichols
I had forgotten I was going to re-read Merry Hall by Beverley Nichols for my British Month. I thought of it as I was drifting off to sleep last night and awoke this morning looking forward to visiting with Mr. Nichols and reveling in his trials and tribulations in restoring the Georgian manor house and its wreck of a garden about an hour's journey outside London.

The action all takes place after WWII in 1946. Mr. Nichols was 45 years old at the time. After a long search, Merry Hall was just what he was looking for.  Not only did he buy the house, he inherited its gardener Oldfield who had been working on the property for 40-some years.

Mr. Nichols had just returned to London after doing a job in India. He knew that if he didn't get back to a garden he would die. He writes:

You have to be a gardener to understand that the expression of such a feeling is not a mere figure of speech; it is, quite literally, a matter of life or death. I believe that if it were possible to take what might roughly be described as a 'psychic photograph' of a gardener, you would find that there would be ghostly tendrils growing from the tips of his fingers, and shadowy roots about his feet, and that there would be a pattern of ectoplasmic lines that linked him in the natural rhythm with the curve and sway of the branches about him. And I believe that if this same picture were taken when he was removed from his natural environment, it would be the picture of a dying man - the frail tendrils and roots would be starved and stunted, the rhythm broken. 'Green fingers' is not only a flash of poetry; it is a fact in physiology.

Ah. Well, I don't have any phantom tendrils or roots, but I do like reading about those who do. Especially Mr. Nichols whose way with words and a spade are all too entertaining.

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