A friend of mine died last night. This was not a surprise, in fact we had a countdown, first “2-8 weeks”, then “a few days”, then “by the end of the week”. To give all concerned their due they were pretty accurate in their prediction. This has given friends and family the chance to say goodbye, not holding onto feelings until too late to share with the person who needed to know. I told him when the time came I would dedicate a post to him and I gave him a hint as to what it would entail. So here goes:
For a while I gardened for Tony, he lived in an elegant town house with a small garden that was heavily shadied. The fact that it was small had not dissuaded the previous owner from filling the garden, cheek by jowl, with some although beautiful, totally inappropriate plants. There were clematis and roses and potato vines, there were cotinus and fatsia and figs, and in the middle a carp pond (in which I dropped my secateurs on more than one occasion). He drafted me in to make some sense out of the chaos. Hopefully I managed this, at least in part.
On arriving to work one day three colossal pots had manifested themselves in the garden. These, he announced were to be filled with “big things”. So we went on a shopping expedition to the now sadly closed Koba Koba, driving his BMW with his knees it is a miracle he actually lived as long as he did. We bought many plants including an enormous cycad (mini one for me) and an equally large bamboo. However, in the nursery entrance there was a magnificent variegated banana that had caught Tony’s eye. When asked the owner told him it was not for sale “OK but how much do you want for it?”, again said the boss this rare specimen was for exhibition only “Yes, I understand but how much do you want for it?”. Every 5 minutes he tried again, sure that the owner would eventually cave in, but this time he had met his match, and we left with a car stuffed with monster plants, but not the Golden Fleece. Years later it still galled him that he hadn’t managed to buy that plant; he was not a man to give up easily or otherwise.
Most of all Tony loved olives, he loved to eat them (always with stones in) and spoke lovingly of the ancient olive trees in his beloved Greece. When I left Bristol I gave him my olive tree (not ancient at all) which was planted in a sunny pot in front of his house. He has assured me that his widow will tend for it for him.
He was not a perfect man, most that knew him would agree that he had his “Mediterranean” moments, but he was a man of passion and capable of sublime kindness and generosity. I will miss him and I was lucky to have the opportunity to tell him just that.