My loyal readers will not be surprised to learn that eventually, in a busy and eventful life, one earns the respect of one’s peers, and enters the heady world of the respected celebrity guru. So it was, when a few weeks ago I answered the phone and a young female voice asked me to confirm my name and address and then asked “Is that THE Mr Silas Silage the gardener?” I confirmed that indeed it was, and she said she was from the BBC, and looking for knowledgeable people to appear on a gardening programme.
She said “We’ve got Matthew Biggs, Eric Robson and Bunny Guinness on the programme, so I hope you can come along”. “Guinness?” I exclaimed. “Count me in”.
As you can image, Mrs Silage went all in a tizzy when I broke the news, and fussed around getting my old green tweed suit out, trimming my ears and nose with some electric jobbie she got from an ad on daytime TV, and making me have a bath.
The day dawned for the recording, and off I set for the studio in Bristol. I had to leave at six in the morning, such is the state of our transport system. Bus to Cary, then to Shepton, then to Gurney Slade, Radstock, Bath, Keynsham and finally Bristol. It was thirsty work, but luckily I had my trusty flask of beetroot burgundy, and there was an excellent alehouse in Radstock. And several in Bath. And one in Bristol too. Or was it two?
So I arrived at the studio as darkness fell, tired, but refreshed. The reception area at the studio was very busy, but I found the Gardeners Question Time queue. But surely there would be someone there to meet me? We shuffled forward and I found myself in a large room with black drapes and an eerie silence. I sat down with all the others, but I immediately spotted the mistake. I was in the audience, and I should have been with the experts, who I could see on the stage, shuffling paper and engaging in learned discussion.
I went outside, trying to find my way backstage. An excited thin young woman rushed towards me and said “There you are – we’ve been looking for you everywhere”, and she grabbed my arm and marched me along the corridor. “Quick, we’ve less than a minute!”
I was whisked into a side room and sat down in a chair. Two girls leapt on me, dapping my face with a yellow sponge, then before I knew it I was propelled into another room with bright lights and a big screen where a hatchet-faced Scottish woman was groaning on and on about something.
No sooner had I been dumped in a chair when she turned to me abruptly and said “Over to Bristol. What do you think is the cause of the problem?” The Thin One, now adorned with headphones and a clipboard pointed at me with a grand gesture.
When I’m stuck in a tight place, I always think it’s a good policy to buy time to think, so I scratched my ear and pulled out my beetroot burgundy flask and took a long, thoughtful, nip. “Well”, I said slowly and craftily, “It depends what you think the problem is. My main problem is that my knees aren’t as good as they used to be, and the moles have been a bit of a nuisance this year…”
“I just want to bring in the Bishop of York”, said the Scottish woman brusquely, with a startled expression on her face. “What do you think Bishop?”
A purple –clad figure on another big screen beside me came to life, but I carried on. “The big landowners are uprooting the hedges and destroying the habitat of rabbits, crows, badgers, and the other things we eat.”
“ An Englishman’s garden is sacrosanct ” I said, taking another pull at the beetroot burgundy, and I was just about to launch into my prepared speech when the Scottish woman started reading from the next day’s papers and said “That’s all we have time for, goodnight”. Some loud music was played, and the lights dimmed. I fell asleep.
Later I was awakened by the Thin One who said “There you are – we’ve been looking for you everywhere”. I think it’s the only words she knew. She handed me a brown envelope and hurried me towards the exit, and before I knew it, I was out of the revolving door and onto a busy Bristol street.
In the envelope were five crisp £20 notes. I took another nip of the beetroot burgundy and went to look for a bus. Funny place, the BBC. Funny place, Bristol.
Silas Silage’s Christmas special, with seasonal recipes and cocktail ideas will be coming in December. You still have time to leave the country! -Ed