For older people who are garden owners

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Tuesday 1 November 1664

Up and to the office, where busy all the morning, at noon (my wife being invited to my Lady Sandwich’s) all alone dined at home upon a good goose with Mr. Wayth, discussing of business. Thence I to the Committee of the Fishery, and there we sat with several good discourses and some bad and simple ones, and with great disorder, and yet by the men of businesse of the towne. But my report in the business of the collections is mightily commended and will get me some reputation, and indeed is the only thing looks like a thing well done since we sat.

Then with Mr. Parham to the tavern, but I drank no wine, only he did give me another barrel of oysters, and he brought one Major Greene, an able fishmonger, and good discourse to my information. So home and late at business at my office. Then to supper and to bed.

Whatever you say about Pepys, he recognises the value of networking. Mind you, with no radio, TV or internet what choice did people have? I sometimes wonder if there was no technology the sense of community would be greater, though admittedly the overall efficiency would be much lower.

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For some years now I have performed gardening work for the more senior section of the population so now is the time to summarize my advice and observations.

Where we live in Somerset it is more common for the husband to predecease the wife. A typical customer is a lady over 70, a widow, who finds that her garden is too much for her. ‘My husband used to do all that’. It is normal for the survivor, the person responsible for the garden, to have had a hip replacement, to have difficulty bending, to have heart problems, and for one reason or another not being able to perform garden operations.  I have lost count of the number of times a customer has apologized for not being able to do something as if it was their fault.

Meanwhile, the garden is deteriorating and becomes a source of embarrassment. It is good having Francoise (partner) with me when I see potential clients. She talks to them for at least 15 minutes, listening to their stories and explaining that it is part of getting older that you cannot do so much physical work. I found myself saying today to an older lady “Age is like the tide. It is coming in. Think of what you need to achieve then divide by two. Do what you can and enjoy it. If it ceases to be a pleasure then get someone to assist you”. If that does not work I say that one day I myself will become older and will need the same support as we are giving them.  That normally does the trick.

Older people feel vulnerable so I ask them what they want, then I tell them exactly what I propose then before I start the job I go over it all again and say that unless they are satisfied I will not accept payment. When the job is done I take them on a tour and tell them and show them what has been done and ask them if they are satisfied.

It is quite good to involve a daughter. Daughters are sometimes over protective so have to be charmed at an early stage. They need convincing that their mother is not going to be exploited and for this I do not blame them.

I find this sort of work very satisfying because older people do worry a lot (or is it general anxiety) and if you can show a substantial improvement, their joy is a sight to behold. It is also good to offer to return should they need you. The continuity gives security.

As  for how much to charge, this is always tricky. Some are well off and not concerned about the amount so long as the job is done and done well. Others who are living on a pension and have to watch every penny. I state a price but say that this is negotiable. I do not want to hurt their pride but you have to be adaptable. I do a bit of a Robin Hood act and subsidize the poor from the income of the more able payers.

There are few things better than being out on a sunny autumn day making a difference to someone’s life – and we get paid for it! Wonders never cease.

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