The garden

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Cycling to Ninewells Hospital Community Garden with Isobel is one of my favourite things to do. As soon as we get there, we wander around the flowers and trees and try to take in everything, like over-active experience-hoovers. Within moments of leaving our bikes tied up to a rail, and entering through the wooden gate, magic begins. I freeze at the sight of a grey squirrel, a twitching of tail and fur, flying up a wall and then over it and out of sight.

I notice a bird box high up on a tree and walk towards it. Looking up at it, I freeze again, as a Blue Tit pushes a tiny head through a tiny round hole. (Later, I read in the RSPB Handbook of Garden Wildlife: ‘Its natural nest site is a hole in a tree, but it will also use other cavities. It is the most likely species to be attracted to a specially made nest box, provided the hole is the right size.’ 28 mm is apparently right. Yes, I know: geekiness does not even begin to describe this level of attention to detail. I don’t care.) I saw the bird fly out and away and I was about to wander off happily from the spot when I heard tapping sounds from inside the box. Was the Blue Tit having a secret rendezvous with a woodpecker? No. Another Blue Tit pushed its head through the hole. By then, I had my phone camera ready and snapped a shot of the bird, just before it flew away in a blur of feathers.

“It’s got specs” Isobel said, in a puzzled way, as I showed her the photo. She was right. I hadn’t noticed it before, but Blue Tits have markings like black rimmed spectacles.

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Then, we did our usual circling and circling of the garden, sometimes separately – with me taking dozens of photos, and Isobel finding ideas for our garden. Small plastic dinosaurs roamed in one mini garden, and in another a huge butterfly was laid out in grey and white stones. Real butterflies: Red Admirals fluttered around glowing yellow daffodils, pink Michaelmas daisies, and many other flowers. Patches of bright blue, white, or red petals provided a strong magnet for my eyes and camera. I also tried to photograph a butterfly, but this particular type is clearly a sub-species of the Red Admiral: the lesser-caught ‘You’ve-no-chance-pal’ butterfly. Most times that I crept close enough, the butterfly zoomed off, sniggering. I got one snap.

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Isobel decided to snooze on a bench and I sat with her, flicking through photos on my phone, when a trio wandered over to us: two women nurses and their patient, an old man. One of the nurses asked us what was in the big shed. Isobel said she thought it was used as a kind of community resource but we’d never found it open. I added: “There’s a wheelbarrow in it.” The nurse snorted as if this was a good joke. It really wasn’t. The other nurse, looking a bit bored, said to the old man: “Well, Mr Fufflepuff (or, something like that) we’d better get you back.” He nodded and ambled off with the two nurses, linked in to the one who thought that wheelbarrows in gardens were hilarious.

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(I may have made up the man’s name but it was mumbled so it deserved to be made up.)

It was a good day. A very healing place.

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Harvey Duke

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