Wendy, you’ve kindly accepted to – Wendy? Are you all right?
Yes, I’ll manage, thank you. I’m just a bit tired. I’m on my last wheel, you know.
Which is why I’m very grateful for this interview. Just how old are you exactly?
I’m afraid I lost my birth certificate a long time ago. But I was here when you arrived and I was with the previous owners for about 30 years, so that puts me over 50, which isn’t bad for a barrow. Of course, if I’d been born into the bourgeoisie, sleeping indoors, hardly ever doing an honest day’s work, I dare say I’d still be in my prime. But I was never pampered. Slept outside, made to lug stones and earth and branches all day, with nary a word of encouragement. A tough life, it was, but in those days you didn’t complain. You just got on with the job.
You never thought of going on strike? Demanding better conditions?
I was all on my own. I’d never even heard of NUBGI so it wasn’t –
I’m sorry? NUBGI?
National Union of Barrows and Garden Implements. But I don’t know if I’d have joined in any case. Bunch of troublemakers as far as I can see. I’m not saying everything in the garden’s lovely, but we have to make do with our lot. If I’d been born with another wheel, I’d have been a bicycle, wouldn’t I? But I wasn’t, so there’s no point worrying. I wouldn’t have wanted to be one anyway. All those fancy gears and what not. More trouble than it’s worth. Down to earth, that’s me. Never led anyone up the garden path.
Well, that’s admirable, Wendy. But I still think you could have been better looked after in your old age. We have no photos of you younger, but in my research for this interview I came across a portrait which a visitor did of you in 2003. You were in quite good shape back then.
Yes, I remember posing for that picture. The artist was rather irritable, as I recall. Kept saying my features were too wooden. Heaven knows what he expected. For me to put on a steely expression, perhaps.
And how do you see the future? I don’t want to be too blunt but there’s not a lot of you left.
Do you think I don’t know? I’m all wheel and no barrow. I feel pretty rotten, to be honest. But I’m not ready to throw in the trowel just yet. Where there’s a wheel, there’s a way.