Green Fingers and Thumb


Since living in England (nearly 11 years now), there have been lessons learned about the differences in cutures. And even though England is supposed to be english speaking, accents and expressions differ sometimes to the point of non-recognition. Just try to  have a conversation with a Geordie (North-West England).

In some ways, it has been like relearning english living in England. Not the language as such, just how they use it over here. Pavements instead of sidewalks, motorways instead of highways, boot for trunk, bonnet for hood, nappies for diapers, zimmer frame for walker, mobile for cell phone and my favourite, valve amps for tube amps. Being a musician, that last one gets to me. But I adjust as necessary.

So, it will be of no surprise that when we purchased a fuschia flowering plant for the outside of the boat that I said to my best friend, “Go ahead if you must, but I’m warning you, I don’t have a green thumb.” She of subtle mind retorts, “What is a green thumb? Do you mean green fingers?” Of course I do. Bestie asks facetiously, “What, you only use your thumbs to garden with in Canada?” As if the colonials have it all wrong and have bastardised the king’s/queen’s english. Normally, I would have spelled bastardised, batardized. But I got told they use the ‘s’ over the ‘z’ because it’s more civilized….I mean civilised.

You see my dilemma. 65 and still being told how to speak and spell. But I digress. The point here is that I kill green, living things. I forget to water. I forget to weed. I forget to sing to the damned things. Or, I just don’t want to. Sometimes I just don’t know. I love beautiful flowers and lovely gardens, but not if I have to look after them. To be quite brutal, my best friend does not have the best record when it comes to the horticultural arts. But she’s a damned sight better at it than I.

If you are a stranger to the life of canal boating….barging as some like to call it….you may not have seen the colourful flower buckets, watering cans and pots used by narrowboaters to plant their flowers in. They have them on their roofs (rooves) as they move about. In fact, the traditional roses and castles theme painted on these pots, buckets, watering cans, doors and so on comes from the days when narrowboating was a man’s job. He and his family worked and lived on their boats. No permanent gardens, just the painted roses and castles depicting their boats as their garden and that a man’s home is his castle.

We modern boat dwellers have another plan….well, at least a couple of us at our marina anyway. Since we are moored in a marina for most of the year, we can afford to have a small garden around the boat. Our neighbours, Eddie and Miriam started it. We bought a few flowering pots early in the season and the whole thing snowballed fom there.

Now we have plants and flowers at the back of the boat, the front and on the jetty side. We have a herb garden, a flower garden, we’ve added a tree and a tomato plant. We have a honeysuckle growing at the end of the jetty, winding its way up the ugly wifi mast the marina powers-that-be decided would be a great location for broadcasting the signal. We also wound solar lights around the pole to make it festive at night.


Plants at the end of the jetty. Honeysuckle climbing the pole and the fuschia to the left. The rest of the plants are Sally’s and Gary’s.


I say we. Truth is, it’s all Miriam and my best friend who have made an otherwise bland environment into a botanical wonder. They decided to tart up the place to give some colour and life to our water homes. Our neighbours on the other side, Sally and Gary already had plants on the roof of their boat, along their side of their boat and at the end of the jetty. They also have an allotment not far from the marina. But they are in a class by themselves.

Eddie and I could easily live without gardens. But the females of our species know what we need. And we appreciate their efforts, even down to the artificial grass covering our utility boxes on the stone pathway behind our boats. They think of everything. And off they go again to this or that garden centre and back they come with more horticultural delights including bags of potting soil and more pots.


We only have one traditional pot (bucket). That was my idea. I bought it from a person who sold that kind of thing from her boat when she was moored along the canal near us a while back. My best friend is not as enthused about traditional narrowboat art as I am. I’d have a ton of the stuff if I had my way. But I don’t and, quite frankly, the cost of having more would be formidable. Unless my artistic best friend takes up the traditional arts. She just gives me that look when I suggest it. Not going to happen.

We are the envy of the marina. Well, they like what they see, but are not so foolish (in their eyes) as to take on another task when looking after boats is more than time consuming. Besides, many boaters are single men who can’t afford a mortgage and are certainly not going to spend any excess cash on flowers. Most of these poor chaps have lost it all to the other half in messy divorces and an old, used boat becomes the affordable refuge. Others have a boat moored here but don’t live on it. Part-timers. A garden makes no sense.


But we are residents and so have the luxury of pimping our boats. And the women do. Eddie’s lady and my best friend do anyway. The passers-by love our boats. They stop and admire the flowers and various arrangements as they are added to. We have had many good comments and compliments from local residents and people just visiting the area. Makes it all worthwhile.

So, my best friend has suddenly discovered her green fingers (green thumb). Not me. My traditionally painted bucket held too much water and virtually killed one of our flowering plants. You’ve heard of the dog house….well. The one flowering plant we still have not mastered is the fuschia. With all her best green-fingered efforts, we had to move our fuschia from its place of prominence along the walk to the end of the jetty, hoping it would revive.

It didn’t. But not because of my best friend. We came home one wet and blustery day from grocery shopping to discover our fuschia had disappeared….gone. We were stunned. A fox, a duck, a cat, a naughty child? No, the wind had somehow got hold of the damned thing, heavy pot and all and dumped it into the marina waters. Only a floating twig was found by our neighbours. Mother Nature had obviously conspired. Enough is enough she must have said. The fuschia is not for you. Stick to geraniums. We capitulate.



2 responses »

  1. Some day I would love to travel around England, I have enjoyed North and South Ireland and they seem to share a certain kind of beauty but I would like to see more 🙂


    • England has a beauty that is the stuff of myth, magic and legend. So much history. 11 years here and I’ve barely scratched the surface. Hope you get to see it some day. Be prepared to spend a lot of time here though.


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