The 1st of May was a very suitable day for the third meeting up of the Shropshire/Wales bloggers. I rushed around filling bird feeders and seeing to chickens before bodran arrived. I'm driving today and we are going down to Welshpool to meet up at the Dingle nursery. I have spent weeks with my plant books (mainly Beth Chatto) trying to establish what else will grow up here at about 700 feet in our stony soil which drains like a colander so I now have a list of things to look for. When bodran arrives she brings me a couple of pieces of Inula, a good start to what promises to be a good day.
We bowl down through the borders in the sunshine and catch up madly. Bodran is opening a clothes shop and I marvel as I often do when I talk to her at the different ways there are of knowing things. By education and training I am a theoretical person but bodran knows from experience and trial and error. She is very patient with all my raw prawn questions: "How do you decide how much to stock and what?" "How do you decide on your mark up?" We agree that when the shop opens I will bring her tea and chocolate brownies on my day off.
We are the first to arrive at the Dingle, a proper nursery with a little room in which you can help yourself to tea and coffee. The others arrive within a few minutes: first woozle, then CCA, then mountainear and sbs (apologies for the strange names to any reader who is not a purplecooer, they are an attempt to preserve some vestiges of anonymity and purplecoo is a blogging circle which has been going for about a year). Again there is the strange rush of intimacy. Perhaps in previous times the neareat equivalent would have been meeting a penfriend. I feel I know these people very well, although only bodran is near enough to me for us to have met quite frequently, but reading and commenting on what these people have been saying for a year or so means that I know more about their lives, or what they have chosen to share about their lives, than the lives of some of my old friends who live in other parts of the country. And I know what the dynamics of the group will be. Bodran and sbs will make each other laugh, mountainear and I will talk plants, woozle and cca will amaze me as they always do with their utter refusal to let illhealth define their lives, full of energy, determination and good humour, outward facing and interested in others. We walk about the garden, catching up, changing partners, making sure we have some time with everyone. Sbs and cca are writing fiction, woozle fills us in on the progress of their extension. It is like a school reunion except that we would never have been at school together, there is probably a twenty year age range or thereabouts, but we are interested in the same sort of things and conversation fizzes and bounces around, utterly easy and satisfying.
The nursery is just magic. I find things that simply aren't stocked in garden centres at fantastic prices. Truly this is not an ad but it is really worth a visit. CCA is on a mission to stock a fairly new and empty garden in front of their beautiful barn conversion and has also come waving a list but a whole heap longer than mine. This has the fabulous effect of making me feel quite restrained. Sbs comes past, pulling a trolley as I am walking slowly amongst the shrubs, bending down the read labels and laughs at the look of contentment on my face. She is right, I am in my element, I could stay here all day. But lunch is beckoning and my breakfast boiled eggs seem a long time ago. Where to go? Mountainear suggests another garden centre not too far away. She is my kind of woman.
Plants are paid for and loaded up and we set off in convoy. Not a good carbon footprint for this trip with all these cars but today is a day off from normal life, no lists of jobs to do, no responsibilities, and a day off from environmental worry too. We are all pretty green I suspect most days of the year.
The day has warmed and the sun is out as we sit eating lunch and talking. Birds are hopping in and out of the hedge by our table and the talk goes on so long that it is clear that we are not going to get to Powys Castle with time to do it justice so it is another wander around this garden centre, also a beauty, and tea and cake to be had. The conversation moves to books and again I marvel at how much in sympathy our tastes are. Not that we all agree, not that we like the same things, but there is somehow a similar cast of mind and a readiness to talk and share.
Driving home through the sunfilled landscape at the end of a magical day out, bodran and I agree that it is astonishing to think that we would never had met had it not been for blogging, a strange and satisfying result in real life of dipping our toes into the virtual world.