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Scones, seedlings and squaddies: the garden open day

June 11, 2010

Well, it’s over for another few years, thank goodness. Our open day for Scotland’s Gardens Scheme went very well in the end, thanks to the steady stream of well-disposed visitors and a tremendous team effort from gardeners, groundsmen, family, friends and the stalwart ladies of the Scottish Women’s Rural Institute. While we are still awaiting some final cost figures, we know that we have raised well over two thousand pounds. This means that, after the SGS charities take their bite, we have more than £900 to donate to Help for Heroes. That might be a tiny drop compared to the immense amounts raised by others but it all helps: I am immensely grateful to all those who supported our efforts.

Our area of Scotland is part of the traditional heartland of the Black Watch and has a fiercely strong loyalty to the armed forces, the army in particular. Whatever our several opinions might be of the previous government’s decision to send British soldiers into an apparently unwinnable conflict in a sovereign state half way around the world, many of us share the feeling that we, as a country, have a moral obligation to look after our servicemen and women once they are back home again. The government is not felt to be doing enough: hence the founding of Help for Heroes and the tremendous support it has from the British public. At a dinner party not so long ago, where many ex-servicemen were present, I heard someone arguing that in fact we have no obligation to the members of the armed forces, since – there being no conscription these days – they have chosen to enlist and are being paid to do their job like anyone else. Logically, I suppose he has a point. Emotionally, I revolt against it. (That’s the problem with the electorate, they will allow emotions to cloud the issues. No wonder politicians try to keep us at arm’s length, except when there is an election to fight.) The job that soldiers do is not comparable to working in a bank or a burger bar. And if we want young men and women to fight for us when the bullies get too close for comfort, then we had better show that we are willing to support them in the aftermath. Charities like Help for Heroes have provided a focus for all the ordinary men and women of Britain who want to do exactly that.

In addition to the moral obligation, as many of us see it, there is a utilitarian argument for looking after ex-servicemen and women. While statistics are notoriously unreliable, there does seem to be a consensus that a high proportion (up to 30%) of long-term homeless people in the UK are ex-forces. Discharged soldiers are also disproportionately more likely to suffer from mental health problems, alcoholism, or to end up in prison. (For more on this subject, see this article in It is pretty self-evident that society pays a price for all these issues, one way or the other. Therefore, it is in all our interests to try to improve the support received by servicemen during their transition back into civilian life. There are politicians, senior officers and numerous charities working together to do exactly that, and it is not my intention – I hope I’m not that pompous! – to criticize their efforts; rather, I applaud the fact that there is now a focus for us civvies who also want to help. If it’s just paying a few pounds to come to a charity garden open day, buy a seedling from the plant stall or a teacup from the bric-a-brac stall and finish up with a buttered scone in the tearoom, then that’s great. Every little helps.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. June 12, 2010 3:14 am

    You don’t have open day every year? The property next door to us, “The Ponds”, opened every year when the original owners were here. I know of the huge efforts they made to prepare; Joan was in the kitchen most of the day cooking scones! It was a very beautiful and popular garden and scores used to arrive. Unfortunately the garden is now neglected as the new owners live in Melbourne and only come up to mow the grass every couple of months. The grounds are still lovely though, prolific bird life.

    Your open day is worth the angst for a good cause; two of our soldiers were killed in Afghanistan this past week.

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      June 12, 2010 4:10 pm

      Some people open every year; some open several times a year. We don’t, thank goodness, although we do have many other events and tours where people have the opportunity to see the grounds and garden.

  2. June 12, 2010 9:20 am

    Sometimes across from my work I see a line of young men getting on an army recruiting bus. They are thin, lanky and often not yet out of their teens, and they shuffle around nervously. I honestly don’t think these boys know what they are signing up for, but they do know they have limited job options. They will be tested and set on different service paths based on whether they have the capacity to lead or just to follow. It’s gotten to the point now that I have to turn away rather than watch them.

    Gardens are so much better than military green.

  3. June 13, 2010 4:53 pm

    Cornflower led me here, and I’m so happy she did!
    What a delightful blog.
    I’m adding you to my blogroll immediately!

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      June 13, 2010 4:59 pm

      Thank you Pamela – and thank you, Cornflower!

  4. June 14, 2010 12:50 am

    I can only imagine how much work an Open Garden is to organize and prepare for!
    My cousin is preparing to leave for Afghanistan next week. He is leaving later than planned due to a newborn. I feel for his wife alone to care for the little one while…

    I also think the returning men and women are sometimes overshadowed by the ones who do not return. Their lives are often ruined, yet they have to continue, somehow.

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      June 14, 2010 10:50 am

      Exactly. They and their families. Wishing your cousin a safe passage.

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