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Forget Time – Alison Chadwick

Actor and coach, living in London

I’m a flower counter. A twisted flower counter.

I become obsessed at this time of the year. I planted 20 trumpets of bright pillar box red tulips 8 years ago. This year it looks like there will be 26 red tulips. They have birthed! I have 4 rather brazen white tulips that have been showing their skirts without fail for over 10 years.

I get ridiculously upset and quite dramatic if I dream that my bearded irises might not flower at all this year. Even though they always do. And in the end I will count them as they hatch their flowers like alien pupae between their green fans. One… two… three… and so on. Nine. Nine Irises! I do like an odd number.

I think I count flowers as they hatch in order to paint in my mind’s eye a picture of what’s to come. A kind of fantasy colouring by numbers.

I love how people’s wisdom can visit me at these times. ‘A garden is an illusion. It’s the creation of a picture’ – I think that was Sarah Raven. And my sister in law, a seriously talented horticulturalist who I phone if ever I am kvetching about pulling something up or chopping something down to its ankles. She laughs at me and says “ Ali. Who’s in charge?… You are!” Like it’s a garden mantra she learned at Horticulture college. 

I have had the best advice recently: ‘ Stay cheerful, Ali.“ I think that’s wonderful advice. I have 11 weeks to go as I ‘shield’ someone very vulnerable. Finding ways to stay cheerful might be exhausting. 

I’m only one week in and I am searching for a structure, but perhaps that’s the very thing I need to let go of. When I used to travel I loved losing count of the days. I loved losing a sense of North, south, east or west. It felt like the mark of relaxation to me. Dare I use this time to forget time? To stop counting. I’m hoping that in 11 weeks I won’t know what week it is. And that I will indeed be cheerfully smelling the roses