Snuffle Holes

There’s a gardener the other gardeners hide from. He’s in charge of the lawn, and can usually be seen in the morning mist, tapping down the ruckled up sods left by the badgers. He would very much like to shoot the badgers, but nobody will let him do it. ‘Bloody snuffle holes!’ he roars, when he thinks he isn’t being watched.

The other gardeners giggle behind their hands, but they’re very careful not to do this when he can see them. Partly it’s because they don’t want to hurt his feelings, but a great portion of this courtesy comes from plain cowardice, because this eccentric is also in charge of them. He lines them up in the morning, inspects their finger nails, and sends them out. Today the Himalayan blue poppies need seeing to, and the ancient poplar tree on the slope needs cutting down.

He has a solitary lunch in a bird watching hut.

In the afternoon he can see the tree surgeons with the poplar tree. One of them is wiping his eyes. He’s standing with his back to the operation, facing up the slope, hoping for a little privacy. He loves this tree, and wishes it didn’t have to be cut down, but they’re building a new centre for tourists on the edge of the garden. The grumpy gardener’s heart goes out to the tree surgeon as he turns back, and picks up his chain saw. Bloody tourists.

Tourists love badgers.

As the sun dies down behind the big pine trees, and the gardeners scrub their hands, he returns to the shed to bid them good night. The big steam roller is due to come in the morning. He has to remember to let it into the west gate, on the scarred side of the garden. He considers barring it, not letting it in, not letting the place change. But it’s too late. The big poplar is dead.

In the morning he taps down the snuffle holes, and sighs as he unbars the gate.