It was quite a big hole. About two feet across and a couple of feet deep, between the hollyhocks and the nasturtiums. I put in the coconut, hairy side down, sprinkled on a handful of bonemeal and covered the whole lot up with a light loam. Now it’s merely a question of waiting.
We gardeners are a patient lot. There’s no point in hurrying nature. It could take a decade, maybe more. But when Britain is a land fit for swaying palms, mine will be among the first. Likewise for pawpaws, melons and trees groaning with lush pomegranates. And I’ve just planted a banana.
Bill Giles started it. The BBC’s senior weather forecaster says he’s come “out of the closet”. After years of hiding his guilty secret under heavy clouds sweeping in from the west, bringing rainfall to all parts – some severe – he’s finally come clean and let it all out.
“Yes,” he admits, “global warming is happening and we’re going to see a distinct climate change in the next 20 years.”
People, he adds, have to think ahead. “They have to think what’s going to grow in their garden.” Says Giles: “I’ve been planting olive trees at my Oxfordshire home because it’s going to be the temperature of central France. Central France, unfortunately, will be like a desert. Some places will have to think of the tourism implications.”
While accepting that we, the family of man, are all in this together, from the Afghan warrior to the Eskimo, from the Hottentot tribesman to the Bondi beach bum, an Englishman cannot forebear to grin at the discomfiture of the French.
That a nation to whom superiority comes so effortlessly and whose culture is so self-evidently elevated above all others should be reduced to the haunt of tumbleweed and iguana is, as Bill Giles says, unfortunate. But that nature should see fit to transport the olive groves and the vineyards to Biggleswade and Bootle is surely taking matters too far.
But Bill knows whereof he speaks. You don’t get to be the BBC’s senior weather forecaster by licking a finger and sticking it in the air. It takes experience, talent and savvy to trade isobars with the likes of Michael Fish, Suzanne Charlton and John Kettley and come out on top. And when Bill’s treading virgin olives in Oxfordshire, I’ll be slinging a hammock beneath the eucalyptus fronds in North London.
He’s right about tourism, too. Soon the French, or what’s left of them after the wasteland advances, will be booking package holidays to sun-drenched Luton and Stevenage. Cromer, the Cannes of the Norfolk Riviera, will be host to beautiful people, mecca of millionaires. Tanned topless beauties will saunter along the front exuding mysterious Gallic allure, medium cod, chips and gherkin in hand. Blubbery movie moguls, outsize cigar in one hand and nymphet likewise on the other, will, expressionless behind dark glasses, up the ante at bingo. Landladies will advise playboys that English breakfast is served between 7.30am and nine, and that chamber pots are to be emptied before the room is vacated.
As for us natives, we shall have to adjust to a changing temperament as well as temperature. Indeed, it could be argued that, apart from the uncharacteristic blip of the Thatcher years, all our post-war economic history has been preparing us for a time of languor and siesta, of endless meals and balmy indolence. Are the British at last to inherit their birthright?
If so, is it too much to hope that when we are an island of white, palm-fringed beaches, of barbecue, calypso and limbo dance, the miserable pinch-faced health fanatics will join in the fun? Alas, I fear it is. Sun, they will remind us daily, is a killer. And the wages of indolence are death.
They were at it again last week, and it was surely no coincidence that the sun was shining at the time. The National Audit Office proclaimed in tones of doom-ringing solemnity that people in general, and women in particular, are becoming fatter by the hour. And so the great obesity scare rolls on.
At least let us be grateful that BBC television news has found some new footage of roly-poly people. As one who has become accustomed to seeing the same distended bellies illustrating the recurring story of national lard accumulation, it was refreshing to see a whole new set of seam-straining buttocks, gargantuan, drooping breasts, bulging thighs and outsize stomachs.
It may be the effect of global warming, or simply advancing years, but I find my memory is not as keen as in my youth, and one is grateful to the BBC for a visual reminder of the concept of fatness.
Similarly, TV news jogs stubborn grey cells into wakeful recollection by showing pictures of broiling flesh on sandy beaches to illustrate the regular wowserish items on sun-induced skin cancer. That footage, however, will soon be redundant. If Bill Giles is right – and when is he ever wrong? – if we want to see a vast, lobster-red, naked belly or two, all we need do is look out of the window and ponder whether the owner is French.